Making 1 computer act like 2 computers with dual screens.

I'm trying to figure out if this is possible, and I'll explain exactly what I'm trying to do.

What I want to accomplish is this. I want to set up one computer, but have to screens, that are running two versions of the exact same software.

This is a lot more complex than it sounds.

I literally need one computer to act like two computers are running. I'm thinking that to accomplish this I'm going to need some combination of a partitioned hard drive and running some sort of virtualization.

Here are some of the things that I need to make this work.

Two versions of the same program need to be running at the same time.

These programs are network programs. They run from a central server. The software isn't actually installed on the computer I'm talking about. It's not simply something I can install in two places and run two copies of it. There is however a "starter program" that starts up this networked software. This can and will need to be set up in two different places, possibly on different partitions of the hard drive.

This set up requires the use of two different IP addresses. It needs to think that there are two separate computers here, or the software won't work properly. This is why I'm thinking about some sort of virtualization.

I need this entire set up to be automated to come up at boot. I need it so that when you turn it on, it automatically loads up both versions of the software as well as whatever virtualization software is running.

I need this to be stable, and idiot proof. My customers that will be using this set up will not have a clue how to do anything with this and it will not be worth the time or effort to explain what their system is doing. I know this one is asking for the sky to be green but whatever.

This set up also needs to make use of two separate mouse and keyboards.

What I'm trying to do is save some money for my customers plus gain an edge over my competitors. They sell the same stuff and do the same work. If I can tell my customers that they can buy one computer instead of two, then my estimates and proposals will be lower than the next guys and I'll win more bids.


Need one computer that does the following
Two ip addresses
Run two versions of same software
Uses two separate mouses and keyboards
Is stable and configures itself on boot.
6 answers Last reply
More about making computer computers dual screens
  1. Frankly I think that the support costs for this kind of an oddball configuration are going to be more expensive than just buying a second computer. Computers are cheap, particularly when you consider that you're going to need two monitors anyway. If I was a knowledgeable customer I'd avoid this sort of thing.

    The "approved" way to do something like this would be using Windows Server 2008 R2 with Remote Desktop Services and two client PCs to access it. But that's going to cost you more money because you'd need the server and its license.
  2. Computers are cheap. You're right. But all in one touch screen terminals are not. It's not about saving a hundred dollars. The difference in cost is around a thousand dollars.

    It certainly is an oddball configuration, but I don't think impossible. And I'm not sure that supporting a set up like this would be too terrible if I can figure it out how to make it stable. If it goofs up a few times a year that's fine, and even expected in my line of work regardless of the set up. We get paid for our service calls just the same, and nobody expects their equipment to work flawlessly all the time.

    I'm thinking that the proper way to do this is to set up a partitioned hard drive. Install a virtual machine on it. Install a copy of windows xp on the virtual machine. Set up the virtual machine like I would a second real computer. Then the details need to be sorted out. How to make the machine boot up to two screens with the virtual computer automatically load to one side with the software running and the other screen to load the software by itself.

    I think that it's very possible to make this work, and if I can figure out the way I will make my company more money and make my boss really happy which is never a bad thing.
  3. seefizzle said:
    Computers are cheap. You're right. But all in one touch screen terminals are not. It's not about saving a hundred dollars. The difference in cost is around a thousand dollars.
    I'm not following you. You said you wanted one computer to service two screens - if the screen is the expensive part then how are you saving that much money by using only one computer?
  4. Sorry. Simple touch screen monitors aren't that expensive. But the "terminals" we install aren't simple touch screen monitors. They're all in one pc's. So the touch monitor and computer are all encased in the same enclosure.

    By the way, I'm talking about point of sale software. These terminals are cash registers.

    So fundamentally I'm trying to accomplish this as a more cost effective way to offer better prices to our customers as well as make our bids lower which will allow us to win more jobs.

    I could break it all down for you. A regular touch screen computer might cost 1,200 dollars. We sell it for 2,500. Two terminals is 5,000

    One regular computer = 250 dollars. Two touch monitors = 300 dollars. Total of $550. So we could sell two "stations" at a price of maybe $2,200 or $2,500. And since they don't need to buy two terminals now, our customers will save any where from $1,500 to $2,000. Thus, when we go and bid a job, we could literally be several thousand dollars cheaper than our competitors.

    Does all that make sense? There's definitely a very sound reason behind what I want to do. I'm not looking to just set up some goofy stupid crap just for the fun of it. lol.

    I'm going to do some work to try to figure all of this out coming up this week at work. If I can manage something and it's stable, maybe I'll even shoot a little video and post it here. I just wanted to ask around here to see if anyone had any ideas.
  5. OK, I guess I understand what you're getting at. But it still seems to me that the difference between 1 computer and 2 computers is still only $250 dollars, which should still keep you quite a lot under the "competition". The other thing I'd be quite concerned about for a POS application is that putting everything on one computer gives you a single point of failure. Customers won't be happy if both of their POS systems go down and they're unable to conduct business.

    Sorry, I know I'm not answering the question you're asking, but these seem like significant issues to me.
  6. Linux can do this easily and without virtual machines. My campus has a few set up like this. (and its free!)

    The windows equivalent is called "multipoint"
    google for more information
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