Control Two Computers from One Keyboard/Mouse

When you have several computers running all at once, you end up with a desk cluttered with multiple mice and keyboards. Invariably, you’re going to grab the wrong mouse or type on the wrong keyboard. Annoying. So short of building a custom multi-keyboard stack rig, or suffering from the inelegance of a KVM switch, you can use Win2VNC to control two computers from one mouse and keyboard. I have a Windows and Mac on my desktop, and I can smoothly move my mouse cursor from one machine to the other. It’s magic!

Win2VNC is a modification of a regular VNC client, which normally is used to control computers that you can’t necessarily see. To do that, it copies the contents of the screen of the remote computer to your screen; if you’ve used Window’s Remote Desktop capability, it’s the same idea. Win2VNC just does away with the screen copying (it’s not needed, since you have the other computer right in front of you), and adds code to seamlessly track the mouse as it enters/exits different screens.

It mostly works…you have to remember that the ALT key maps to the COMMAND key on the Macintosh, and that copy/paste is therefore ALT-C/ALT-P instead of CTRL-C/CTRL-P. You also need to run a VNC Server on the remote machine; for the Mac I’m using OSXvnc under Mac OS X 10.4.1 Tiger. There’s a small bug in it in which you have to write-protect the app to prevent it from corrupting itself (cd /Applications; chmod -R 555 or something similar). And sometimes copy/paste breaks…it may be related to this apparent bug with the Mac VNC Server.

Still, it rocks. If you used the KVM switch solution, you would have to press a button to switch from one computer to the other. With Win2VNC, you just move the mouse cursor off one monitor, and it appears on the other. It’s more much natural.

UPDATE: I just read about a commercial product called Multiplicity from StarDock Software. The professional version can manage more than two computers, which would rock. At the time of this writing (11/30/05) there is no Mac OS X client, though one is in development