Years ago, before I became enlightened, I toiled over Windows based machines where I did lots of graphic work and design/data entry on spreadsheets and data bases. One day, I attached an extra monitor to my computer and discovered that two monitors doubled my desktop space and made my work life a lot easier. Duh, why didn’t I think of that before? When I switched over to Mac, my iMac did not have a video “out” of any kind, – so much for running two monitors. My work-around was simply to run two computers. OK, it’s not exactly like doubling my desktop space like I did on the Windows machines, but it is still pretty handy, for example: When I write, one machine has the working document, while the other machine is used for, and displays, the research; or, one machine works on artwork, while the other renders, and my final example; when working in Photoshop, one machine displays the original photo, while the other is the working copy, for comparison. The downside to this though was the extra foot print of the second computer, and as well, an additional mouse and keyboard. Then adding to all this, I added a third computer, a server, with monitor, mouse, and keyboard.
The console was loaded with hardware, and short on room. The server space problem was resolved quickly. I removed the keyboard, mouse, and monitor from the server, and managed the server either through an html screen on my browser, or by using a SSH tunnel from my iMac to the server. For my two desktop computers, I was able to run both of them on one keyboard and mouse by using a piece of software called Synergy.
Synergy is elegantly simple, assuming you are using two or more networked based computers (if they are not on a network, then all is not lost. You will at least have a keyboard for each hand). You set up one computer as the Server, and the other(s) as the Client(s). In all Synergy variants, the Server is the computer with the keyboard and mouse attached. Most programs now have a GUI, and you will enter either the computer name, or network IP address and designate which function (Server or Client) the computer is taking. The software also will show a “chart” with the Server in the middle, and the client can be inserted Top, Top Right, Right, Bottom Right, Bottom, Bottom Left, Left, and Top Left of the Server. Once the software knows the computer name, position, and you have the software running on both the server and the clients(s), all you have to do is move the mouse off the screen in the direction of the computer you want to use, and the mouse will “magically” appear on that computer, where the mouse and keyboard now perform the same roles as they did when they were “on” the Server. For the most part, that is pretty much it. Yes, there are some advanced configuration options if you so desire, hot-keys, etc. Also, Synergy isn’t really finicky about operating systems being used as either client or server. I have used Mac/Window, Mac/Linux, and of course Mac/Mac. In addition, you can copy and paste text from one computer to the other. Finally, when you use Synergy, always remember to shut down the Client first (think about it).
In the recently declassified photo at the left, you can see the iSpeakApple Control Console. The PowerMac at the extreme right of the picture, has its monitor sitting to the right of the iMac. Also, notice only one keyboard, and “Track” pad. As a sidebar, barely visible beneath the desk is our Enterprise grade, Unix NCC-1701 File Server, with two Western Digital Lithium Crystal Warp Drives of 1 terabyte each; as mentioned above, there is no monitor, keyboard, or mouse connected to the server (the keyboard drawer under the desktop on the right is empty).
Now, for those of you that like to spend money, there are hardware solutions that will do the same thing (some even allow you to share speakers and microphones as well). Prices go from $20, and UP (mostly up).
Synergy is free/donation-ware. Here are a some variants: (I am using QuickSynergy for the Server, and SynergyKM for the Client, – for no other reason than I had SynergyKM already installed on the PowerMac, and I wanted to try QuickSynergy, so I installed it on the iMac).