What I really want

I've been fiddling around with multiple computers this year. I hate it. But I realized today that what I really want is this:

I want a single workstation for peripherals (monitor, keyboard, mouse) that allows me to hook into multiple machines. I want to be able to change computers as easily as changing desktops. It sounds so simple when I say it out loud like this. The solution seems obvious: on each desktop place a different VNC (or some kind of remote desktop) connection which is maximized. Will VNC (or equivalent) allow me to hook into the remote hardware the way I want? Is this really the solution that I'm looking for? Is it possible it will be this easy?

Probably not. But stay tuned just in case I've finally found the answer to life, the universe and multiple computers.

You want a SunRay. (but

You want a SunRay. (but probably don't wanna pay for it. They're awfully expensive!)

Synergy sounds like what you

Synergy sounds like what you want, with unison file syncing?

I was also going to suggest

I was also going to suggest Synergy.


Virtualize! Sell/donate/recycle the multiple machines, acquire one moderately powerful machine (desktops are crazy cheap these days), and setup virtual machines as needed. Easy to admin, you can setup VMs for any occasion, and uses less power than running a bunch of hardware. I like VirtualBox.

The only reason I have

The only reason I have multiple desktop machines is because VirtualBox doesn't work properly for audio capture and playback. Or perhaps it's more fair to say I've run out of time to tinker with getting sound playback working when it's not on bare metal and have to get back to actually earning an income. :(

This is more or less what I

This is more or less what I want too: to control any of my computers from any other one, preferably, the one that's right in front of me.

I mostly solve this with ssh. Sometimes VNC, if I need to control a GUI app that's already running. If the computers are sitting next to each other and I can see both monitors at once, I like x2x or synergy.

KVM That is what you want.


That is what you want.

There are solutions to this,

There are solutions to this, but internet latency is a PITA. For desktops in my office / cube / desk, KVMs and Synergy work nicely. With Synergy you hook each desktop up to a monitor describe the organization of monitors and then it routes mouse&keyboard to the appropriate machine. Beware that synergy is unencrypted, so your keystrokes may cross the network in the clear!

For further away, stuff like XDMCP can be configured. I've no idea how to use it, but as you can tell by the five letter acronym started by an X, it's an old technology.

Past that, there's some gnome supported VNC that kinda copes with latency and packet loss.

You could look into X11

You could look into X11 forwarding over SSH, to add to the suggestions.

Hi Emma Jane, That sounds

Hi Emma Jane,

That sounds like an awesome idea. This seems like something that we used to use XDMCP for back in the day on Linux, but I haven't tried similar things for a long time. XDMCP for X hosts and VNC for other boxes could be a possibility. :-)


Yeah, a KVM is like the exact

Yeah, a KVM is like the exact definition of what you need. Get one.

In my experience KVM switches

In my experience KVM switches seriously comprise the quality of display for LCD monitors. Note the shadow on all of the text:
monitor through a KVM

Maybe this is mitigated by

Maybe this is mitigated by using a KVM switch that supports DVI for display connection? I think DVI shouldn't suffer from such image degradation. Though it looks like such KVM switches are quite expensive (around $200).

There's no "right" solution

There's no "right" solution to this. Synergy, VNC, virtual machines, NoMachine's NX protocol or XDMCP all have their place, but which you choose depends on the machines you're connecting to and from, your network topology, and what exactly it is you want to do.

For driving one Ubuntu machine from the screen and keyboard of another, I favour XDMCP. It's an insecure protocol, though, so only useful in an intranet or over a VPN. I like it because it's trivial to setup and use:

* On the remote machine go to System=>Administration=>Login Window and enable remote access. You'll need to restart GDM (sudo /etc/init.d/gdm restart) or reboot.

* On the machine with the monitor and keyboard, press F10 (or click the Options button) at the login screen. Select the XDMCP option and it will go off and search your network for machines to log into. Double click the remote machine and login as usual.

This approach works especially well if you set up shared folders or a NAS so that you can easily move files from one machine to the other.

You can also use XDMCP when the local machine is a Windows box: http://www.peppertop.com/blog/?p=54

Last time I checked the

Last time I checked the telepathy guys are doing an awesome job integrating vnc with telepathy to create a super simple way of accessing other machines.

You are all thinking too

You are all thinking too small. Plan9 give you all of this!


Are all these computers

Are all these computers "local" (i.e. geographically co-located)? If so, allow me to suggest a KVM (keyboard-video-mouse) switch. I routinely use two computers, and work on others for various co-workers and the like. Rather than unhooking all the cables from my computer(s) and hooking them up to the foreign machines, I simply hook them to the spare cables on the KVM and then a keyboard combination (PrintScrn+PrintScrn) switches between computers.

If they're all Windows machines, Remote Desktop delivers a better desktop experience than VNC.

But I've used VNC to much acclaim, as well.

The Windows remote desktop

The Windows remote desktop does the same job and it is ready built in Windows. If you have another os systems then VNC is the only way to go I think. hannaO

Well it's a good idea towars

Well it's a good idea towars working on single workstation for all peripherals.I'm not well about hooking into remote hardware from VNC. anti gravity chair

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