Two Computers with Shared Keyboard and Mouse

Ok so I totally geeked out over the weekend. After spending an entire day working on a slipstreamed XP installation and backing up and wiping drives, my family was a little upset at the computer parts strewn across the floor. Unfortunately I didn’t have a longer cable so I ended up stretching a cable as far as I could. I ended up fixing this issue by bridging connections and using the wireless on my laptop as an internet connection. But I knew I needed to take it a step further.

You see I don’t have a spare mouse and keyboard. When I’m working on another computer I simply use the mouse and keys I have tethered to my laptop. But after I set up the new computer now snug across the room out of the family’s way I found myself very much wanting a normal mouse and keys for my laptop.

After some searching I came across Synergy an open source, multi-platform, network keyboard and mouse sharing program. Unfortunately it has been out of active development for a couple of years now. That didn’t stop it from working like a charm once I had RTFM’d.

To save you some trouble I’ll let you in on the gotcha’s. Basically what you do is download the Synergy program to each of the computers your going to share. In my case this new desktop had the keys and mouse connected to it so it was the host computer. On the host computer you need to configure screens and links. It’s a little confusing but once you know the trick it’s easy. Synergy identifies computers by their computer names. So in my case I’ve got a computer named desktop and one named laptop. If your not sure of your computers name just right click on My Computer and choose properties. You’ll need to add a screen for each computer. Now once your screens are in place you need to add links. For my purposes I have a link set up that looks like ‘desktop is to the left of laptop’ and another set up that says ‘laptop is to the right of desktop’.

Now if all goes well hit start on the host computer and it should fire up. Next on the client computer, in this case my laptop load up Synergy and just connect to the host. You can apparently use the computers name to connect but if that doesn’t work you can use the local ip address of the host computer. To easily get this information on the host computer go to a command prompt and type ipconfig.

Hopefully if all went well you should now be able to zonk the mouse all the way to the right and presto. Your keys and mouse should now work fine on the client computer. If you have any problems check out this longer tutorial at LifeHacker.

So now I have two computers side by side, sharing internet, mouse and keys. Pure geek.

Bridged Connections Makes Your Laptop an Internet Provider

I’ve had this ongoing struggle with internet in my house. My router is conveniently located near most of my computers but I happen to sit across the room. Now normally I’m on my laptop and my wireless works great so this is a non issue. But I do repair work on computers and like to tinker on a few older boxes from time to time and so I did what any geek would do and nicely laid down some cable under the rug.

Except I must have hammered through the cable when I was securing the rug back to the floor. Because it isn’t working.

So every time I work on a computer I’m left with the guts strewn across the floor with a barely reaching cable stretched across the middle of the room. It’s not a very pretty site and with a toddler about it just doesn’t work.

This weekend the answer came to me though. My laptop has internet just fine via wireless. In addition it has a standard Ethernet port which isn’t being used. Perhaps there was a way to utilize this?

The whole thing turned out to be really simple. You need a crossover Ethernet cable. You should be able to buy one at the store or do as the true geek does and make your own. The tools to make a decent cable may cost as little as a store bought cable so it’s an investment that pays off very quickly. You can’t use a straight cable because you intend on hooking two Ethernet cards together instead of into a shared router.

The next part confused me for a second. At first I thought I’d have to turn on Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) and jump through some hoops. But it turns out ICS is only used if your providing routing for the entire network. To share the connection between our two computers all you have to do is highlight the working wireless connection and the working Ethernet adapter with your crossover cable connecting them. Then choose Bridge Connections. After a bit everything should authenticate and both computer will have Internet connectivity.