Mirroring your PC screen to multiple cities
November 4, 2014 3:49 PM   Subscribe

I have a Windows 7 computer A in city X that I live in and have full access to. I need to set up TV screens (that could be connected to computers) in city Y and city Z, and then ensure that all of the TV screens display the same thing that's on computer A's monitor(s). The screen(s) will be active every single day (it's an informational panel). How do I best do this? Bonus: can the solution work with multiple monitors?
posted by ajackson to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Set computer A up as a VNC server. TVs should be powered by a computer that has a VNC client running that connects to computer A.

Alternately, if your refresh rate isn't that fast (say, once per minute), you could write some scripts to capture the screen and upload it to a website/server somewhere; TVs would then just continually refresh and display the last-most recent image.
posted by suedehead at 3:57 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

How is computer A generating the dashboards? Is it possible for the computers in city Y and Z to do the same thing?
posted by phil at 4:11 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Attach cheap netbooks (or similar) to the screens and use VNC (as suedehead said) or, if you don't want to deal with the technicalities, gotomeeting screen sharing can do it for you.
posted by The Bellman at 4:21 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it possible to host your information panel directly on the web, instead of going via computer A? Some types of dashboard software are set up for this.
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:33 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

For an information panel, making your panel a website is really going to be the easiest way. You can set the page to automatically refresh itself periodically and just update the content on the server. Or be all modern and update it through AJAX calls, like most dashboard software does.
posted by zachlipton at 4:47 PM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's not safe to make VNC available over the public Internet. If you use VNC, use a private network or VPN service, or someone will break into your host computer and you won't like the result. I'm not sure if VNC handles multiple simultaneous client sessions. I don't believe it handles multiple monitors.

I'm not sure that GoToMeeting can handle a 24/7/365 meeting, as it uses Citrix's servers as a middleman to the meeting and they may eventually time out your connection.

You need something that's peer-to-peer, allows multiple client sessions and either traverses NAT devices or just use a private network.

LogMeIn Central and Free or Pro allows multiple sessions to one computer and possibly VPN as well, but not multiple monitors. On a quick read, TeamViewer and GoToMyPC both support multiple monitors, but I'm not sure about multiple sessions.

You're also going to need to look at how to reconnect those devices when their clients crash or when they're disconnected for whatever reason.

zachlipton really probably has the best answer here. Get dashboard software, make your content a website, or just replicate your config to the three machines (which is probably easier than what you're doing) and manage them independently.
posted by cnc at 5:09 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your local Super Awesome Pc Recyclers Inc type shop will have a bunch of AMD-powered thin clients that were made for exactly this. They run all the "dashboard" screens like this i see in grocery stores saying "8 lanes open! average wait time 5 minutes" and other stuff like that.

Every time i've seen these, they were like $30-50. They're usually HP branded. You need as many of those as you have TVs, TVs with VGA input(any cheap LCD will do), and some flash drives to install damnsmalllinux on and make a script to just auto-launch that web page and connect on boot up, with locked X server resolution settings and locked down everything else. Those things, running firefox on some flavor of linux run all the bus stop time-dashboard signs in my city as far as i know.

Seconding that this is a crappy thing to use remote desktop for though. Set up a web page. If that doesn't seem feasible right now, work on why it's not and what you'd need to do to make it one.

A web page is also just way less likely to fail and need intervention than some remote desktop solution. The failure mode of the webpage is it doesn't update, the failure mode of some VNC/RDP/teamviewer/citrix thing is that it just doesn't connect, or drops constantly in some way you have to perpetually troubleshoot or times out easily.

Also, the web page can be pretty simple. It doesn't need to even be dynamically updating. Several setups i've seen like this just had some auto-refresh plugin installed in the browser on the client that reloaded the page every 30 seconds or something. Look long and hard at any reason a webpage doesn't seem good enough.
posted by emptythought at 5:15 PM on November 4, 2014

Try Xibo. Digital Signage is a real thing™ as mentioned above, so you can use software specialized for this purpose along with thin-client hardware.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:23 PM on November 4, 2014

posted by Sebmojo at 4:07 PM on November 5, 2014

Absolutely fantastic responses! Any recommendations on the best dashboard software? Cost is less of an issue, ease of use and ability to be dynamic and connect to various data sources is of more importance.
posted by ajackson at 5:59 PM on November 6, 2014

If cost is not an issue, just buy Scala (not the programming language) and be done with it. :)
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:22 AM on November 9, 2014

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