How to share loads of peripherals between two or more computers.
February 8, 2008 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to simplify my computer wiring situation, and could use some strategic advice. I have a bunch of devices, and 3 machines. How can 2 (or preferably all 3) machines share all the peripherals? My little KVM doesn't quite cut it.

Here's the list:

USB keyboard
2 VGA monitors
USB mouse
USB printer
USB scanner
Speakers (mini-jack)
Firewire webcam
USB microphone
USB card reader
Firewire iPod
periphals as yet unpurchased..

Mac Mini
Dell Precision
and bonus, PowerPC
posted by swift to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are all three computers on all the time? Are they networked?
posted by box at 2:41 PM on February 8, 2008

Response by poster: The PC and Mac are always on, and they all share a network.
posted by swift at 2:43 PM on February 8, 2008

And what, exactly, are you hoping to achieve?

(This is just an example: I've got, among other things, a laptop and a scanner. But there's no reason I'd ever want or need to connect the two. The scanner stays at home, right next to the desktop computer. The desktop's always on. And whenever I'm at home, the laptop can see the desktop's shared directories.)
posted by box at 2:47 PM on February 8, 2008

Best answer: Synergy
posted by cmiller at 2:47 PM on February 8, 2008

Keyspan makes some USB server products, but Googling indicates their support and customer service may be lacking. Caveat Emptor and search for other manufacturers. Most of the rest can be taken care of with an A/V KVM. You may be out of luck and have to choose a single location for the FW devices, though.
posted by rhizome at 3:01 PM on February 8, 2008

Response by poster: And what, exactly, are you hoping to achieve?

I tend to use the PC (mostly for work), my wife tends to use the Mac. We both tend to use all the rest of the stuff.

I want to make it so I can, for example, keep Skype open while (supposedly) working on the PC. However, the webcam and microphone are connected to the Mac, where my wife tends to spend time, and who also uses Skype.

Is there some sort of switch/hub combination that achieves this sort of thing?
posted by swift at 3:05 PM on February 8, 2008

Best answer: Addlogix PowerReach Dual-Link DVI KVM, FireWire Edition seems like the only KVM that exists that does Firewire, and it doesn't do VGA monitors, unless possibly with an adapater.

IOGear makes a dual monitor KVM.
posted by smackfu at 3:28 PM on February 8, 2008

Since most of the devices are USB, I wonder if you can plug them into a USB hub, then plug the hub into one of the KVM ports? Anyone ever tried this? As for more than two machines, there's ones that support more than two, you'll just need to upgrade if/when you get the multiple devices working.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:30 PM on February 8, 2008

Oh, and there must be a firewire to USB 2.0 widget available somewhere.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:31 PM on February 8, 2008

Best answer: A kvm is most useful for sharing mutiple computers plus peripherals for one user, even those (like avocent) models that let you switch the usb hub and sound independently of the keyboard/video are designed around one master keyboard running all, whereas you need two users having access to one set of peripherals.

Still. Lets say you've got an avocent SwitchView MM2 4 Port KVM Switch (vga. They also do a dvi-i version). You plug each computer into a kvm usb port. The mac mini has its own display and keyboard direct to itself, the pc and powerpc run video and keyboard inputs via the kvm, with the master keyboard with the dell screen. Each runs sound stereo minijack and (new) microphone minijack via the kvm, with one set of speakers to the kvm. Usb periperals also connect via the usb hub on the avocent, with an extra hub off it if you need more devices.

With the master kvm keyboard, you can switch sound and/or usb hub independently between the 3 pcs, independently of the keyboard/video. The 'master' display can display either the dell, or the powerpc video and keyboard. Since the mac mini has its own screen and keyboard directly, it can be used while the dell is being used. You can switch the printer, usb mic, and scanner to any of the pcs.

firewire in kvms is very rare. You can get a separate firewire switch, though it's probably cheaper to buy a 2nd webcam!
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:37 PM on February 8, 2008

cmiller has it

Synergy is what you want, it's fantastic.
posted by mattoxic at 6:22 PM on February 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I'm going to check out Synergy and if that doesn't work, look at one of these boxes.
posted by swift at 10:28 PM on February 8, 2008

BTW, it doesn't solve your tricky problems, but I really like this IO Gear KVM. It is designed to sit underneath a Mac mini and it has worked flawlessly with all my gear. It comes with all the cabling to connect 4 computers, it has keyboard switching, it does USB keyboard / mouse (essential for the Mac), and it's $50 less now than when I got it. I love it. It beats the crap out of the Belkin one I had before, that was flakey and inelegant.
posted by smackfu at 8:39 AM on February 9, 2008

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