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Joining/interfacing computers...

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August 22, 2009 10:18:27 AM

don't lambast me like the G3-to-pc supercomputer guy, but i'm wondering about joining up several PCs...

i have, or shortly will have, 2 laptops and 2 pcs, all running windows (two xp, two vista)...i'd like to not waste them all. of course my main laptop will be used as the primary, carry around computer, and my new desktop pc will be the muscles, but i was wondering if there was a way to network or otherwise link them into one central interface (monitor/keyboard) so that i could switch between them in a quick, reasonable manner.

i'm out of the computer loop, so be kind--but in my fantasy world it'd be great to multi-task between them, like have one cruise the net/download torrents, one process tasks like photoshop or 3D rendering, and one as a media PC, playing music or videos, and toggle between them via one simple interface and dual monitors. (desktop icons for each system would be way cool.)

is simple networking the key here, or is there some more complex answer? or is it simply no?

my girl and i really only watch shows via the PC now, so it'd be great to have that going on one system on one of the screens while i work or another (as not to tax one system doing both) but be able to control it from a single keyboard/mouse. like a command center.
one laptop/one pc are new, the other have been replaced due to necessity but were otherwise great pcs in their own right.
a b à CPUs
August 22, 2009 11:07:03 AM

A KVM is definitely the best way. You could also remote desktop into one from the other (you'd want to remote into the one that is processing tasks, since remote is a bit slow for something like gaming or playing videos).
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August 22, 2009 11:09:50 AM

The chepest way would be to network all of your PC's and use remote desktop to login to each pc as and when you need them on one of the monitors - for your purposes this has a number of benefits:

1) the rendering / downloading pc's can be out of the way in an attic or basement somewhere

2) cost. a kvm which allows you to output a different pc to each monitor i.e. watch video from your media pc while having the output from another pc will cost upwards of $500.

In my opinion you should have the PC playing media connected to the two monitors (playing video in a remote desktop session is awful) and then use remote desktop to control the other PC's on the second monitor.

But that's just my opinion, the exact requirements and physical constraints you have dictate what the best solution might be.
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August 22, 2009 11:12:17 AM

Just thought, the other option is to have your media centre pc connected to one monitor permanantly and have the other three pc's connected via a KVM to the other monitor - you could still use the same keyboard and mouse for all four pc's
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August 22, 2009 6:38:41 PM

this sounds really cool.
a few questions:

KVM set-ups cost a lot?
can you share data between the computers with this set up, or would that require an additional networking of the pcs as well?

thanks for your replies...
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a c 172 à CPUs
August 22, 2009 7:23:18 PM

A good 4 port KVM switch with all the cables will run about $200. That's about what my Cybex Switchview cost about 7 years ago. I have a gaming and multimedia PC, a workhorse PC, and a PC for downloads running. I reserve the 4th set of cables for system testing. I am really popular with friends with broken computers. :) 

That lets a single keyboard, video monitor, and mouse control up to 4 computers. If you want to pass data between (among?) the computers, you will need to network them together.

Depending on the capabilities of the KVM switch, it may be difficult connecting a laptop.
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August 22, 2009 9:21:50 PM

A simple KVM doesnt cost a lot, but a dualt monitor kvm costs a little more - importantly on all the ones ive seen - the monitors have to both be the same computer so useless to you if you want to have one monitor showing video from your media pc and another monitor showing the output from a different pc.

I suspect you're talking a lot of money for a kvm that allows you to select the source for your second monitor independantly of the first monitor and indded the pc being controlled.
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a b à CPUs
August 22, 2009 9:55:12 PM

well, if you have gigabit network, you could probably use vnc to connect to the different computers, also on a gigabit network you may even be able to play games through it
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August 23, 2009 9:40:51 AM

sounds like i need to mull this over. ebay seems to have available 4 port switches for dirt-ass cheap (under $20), which i'm sure would do the job i want. i'm not running a business or servers or trying to have four halo missions going at once. really, my main wish is to not waste what were fairly descent computers. the old laptoppy was great til the screen quit--so i upgraded.
it'd be a great wireless torrent downloader, full time--
and my old desktop was a pretty fast single core--3.06ghz--it'd be a great single-task-at-a-time workhorse, wouldnt it? for like music recording, photoshopping or better yet, 3d rendering in poser or daz?

repeating, i know, but i guess i'm saying all this to ask you guys if a cheapo kvm would be ok. i think the better solution for dual monitors would be to send the second monitor from one of the single computers, and designate it the media pc. rather than pay so much extra for a dual monitor kvm...

something else i didnt meantion is that space is a concern. if i could have four desks i would, but i live in a studio apartment adjacent to my art studio space, and i have a neat old antique roll top desk that just isn't right for more than one pc. i 'm thinking of just building a computer cabinet to house all the comps on a shelved unit, which would be great for my recording rig set up to be always ready to go...

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August 23, 2009 12:50:04 PM

just network them and use remote desktop, for better speed You might want to invest in gigabit ethernet instead of 100Mbps. For basic setup regular wireless router with 4 lan ports will do.

I have wireless router(54Mbps wireless+100Mbps wired) with 4 ports but one is reserved for video bridge so only 3 usable , I have hooked up 8 port switch to it which takes one port on the routerand one on switch so I have 2 free ports on router and 7 on switch. I have My main PC, server and two network printer hooked up to the switch and 2 laptops connected wirelesly. My server is without monitor, keyboard and mouse and I use remote desktop from main pc or laptops to access it. Files are shared used regular windows file sharing between my pc's and some are on ftp server so that I can access them away from home.
This works quite well only problem is that I cannot watch HD video's over the network because it is too slow. SD works fine. I am looking to upgarde my network to 300Mbps wireless/Gbps wired.
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August 24, 2009 9:34:17 AM

i'm going to buy a KVM tomorrow, so i'll let you know how it works.

another thing: audio. yes, i know i can buy a KVM w/audio support, but is there another route?
i do not use comp speakers, i run the comp line-out from the headphone/out 1/8" jack via a headphone-to-rca cord into my 400w stereo's aux port.
only one aux port, so is there a way to run into an audio switchbox as well?

i bet the kvm w audio is the best bet...
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a b à CPUs
August 24, 2009 10:09:28 AM

Quite frankly, I think KVM is ridiculously overpriced... for $200 I'd rather get another screen.
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August 24, 2009 12:26:10 PM

i dont get the discrepancies you all state in prices. you can buy a 4 port usb kvm basic switch box for less than $20.

you can buy a good 4 port brand-named usb kvm w audio support for around $60 it seems. yes, there are some that are a lot more $$ buy i dont get what would make them better, less you are running multi-servers for a company or something. for basic home computer goof-offery, why not get one of the $14 ones?

i have a + paypal account so im getting a cheapy to try. i have nothing to lose
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a b à CPUs
August 24, 2009 12:33:52 PM

quality and feature is the two big ones

good kvm has both the button toggle, and a key board toggle (example, ctrl + numlock bring up a screen for 8 computers) or remote toggle (usually not, unless for special purpose and expensive). it should also have connectors for usb and ps/2 and DVI and VGA, if you only go with say DVI + usb, that will not cost you too much as if it a whole digital affair and nothing analog (which is more expensive due to the interference shielding). Other things such as does it crap out and die with in a month also comes into effect.


also, Laptops can be connected to a KVM easily, especially if you are going all digital and your laptop has DVI connectors.
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August 24, 2009 3:14:29 PM

I don't understand why you can't just run with your laptop and the new desktop? If you have a decent quad core CPU and two HDDs in the desktop then you can download/game/media centre all on the one machine (assuming that you don't want to play games and watch a movie at the same time!) As long as you are downloading/media centering to and from one HDD and gaming/using programs from the other then you will be sorted. You could then just get a cheap KVM to plug your laptop into the same keyboard/mouse/monitor and be done with it, or not even bother with a KVM at all, just network the two together...
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a b à CPUs
August 24, 2009 3:48:18 PM

he said he has 4 computers in total that he will use for various tasks, so a simple it is not that simple of a solution lol

i know for a fact that most monitor now a days have both VGA and DVI inputs, if he only has two computer he can use that as a cheap "KVM" while having an extra set of mouse + KB or go wireless and switch receivers.
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August 25, 2009 1:05:48 AM

yeah, i *think* for the most part i'll only be joining up 3, leaving my good laptop out for portable use.

for reference it's a toshiba w an amd dual core, which was my first and last amd chip. bought new just over one year ago.

my new pc is an hp p6140f, intel q8200 quad core. bottom of the line as intel quads go, still better than all but one amd *according to benchmarks which i'm told are pointless references. but fine for me, i think, i'm moving up from the other pc, a single core hp pentium 4 3.06ghz. i'm upgrading the ram in it to the full 4gb and will use it as a media/recording pc. the other laptop is an older toshiba, from 05 i think, with a single core intel celeron M.
not for hardcore processing, but not trash yet, either. i'd still be using it but the screen died. that's why it and the two desktops would be great to join up and just let the older comps do menial tasks like run music and shows and download torrents or whatever.

i just dont want to waste them.

anyway, all that said,
and all the talk about KVMs aside,
i was told today by a friend tat a KVM switch will drive me mad in practice and that i'm better served going with the remote desktop idea.
he said KVMs are either frustrating junk (affordable) or too expensive (kind of like our talks here).

so. thoughts?
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a b à CPUs
August 25, 2009 1:14:43 PM

well, your friend has hit the nail in the head there, the cheap stuff (that I've used) are always the ones that makes your screen go blank or other junk due to they can't switch properly or something, then eventually you need to power it off to reset everything to default, that can get tedious if it degrades or happens too fast out of the box

judging by what you have atm, the more expensive stuff is likely out of the question, so remote desktop is the way to go

and btw an hint, dont bash amd around here there is squads of ppl gona jump on ya, like about how its a laptop, and amd laptop chips sucks and their desktop rocks, which is only true now with Ph IIs and not Ph Is or the A64 X2s when C2D was out, and may change again when I5 comes out, but that remains to be seen.
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August 26, 2009 4:39:00 AM

eh i'm not bashing amd--i'm just saying i never used one before and i'm less than impressed by my laptop. even in what you said, there were a lot of caveats about them being good. i dont know, and i'll be the first to admit i don't know hardly anything about computers anymore. i've spent the last few years broke and using what i had, which was a laptop traded for a job i did. now that i have money, i'm trying to re-educate myself about computers, but for now i'm basically done with that (having purchased the HP desktop).
oh and about the benchmark, i was wrong, there are two AMDs ahead of the q8200 (i'm speaking of the rendering benchmark, character rendering via blender).

but for all those offended by my statements against amd, my complaints are against my computer. it's not some brand loyalty or statement of preference, it's just that my computer kind of sucks (the laptop i mean). when i get it back from the shop i'll see if it's any better. hopefully it will be--i was told today they replaced the motherboard and cpu as well as screen---so it might be great.

back to the subject at hand--

do i need all the computers to be running the same version of windows to pull this off?
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