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KVM Laptop

Laptop with built in KVM features
  (+16, -1)(+16, -1)
(+16, -1)
  [vote for,

Pretty much every laptop has a keyboard/mouse in and video out port. I propose having input/output switches for these ports, to allow you to convert your laptop into a monitor/keyboard/mouse for another computer. That is, if the video out was switched to 'video in', then another computer could use the laptop monitor. Similarly, if the keyboard/mouse 'in' was switched to 'out', you could use the laptop mouse and keyboard to control another computer.

This would be handy for those old laptops that are too slow for day to day use, but the LCDs and keyboards are still good. You could keep your old laptop around to use as an extra monitor for your desktop or for another, newer laptop. Unfortunately, there are no old laptops of this type around, that I know of, but someday new laptops with this feature would be eligible for this role.

You'd probably also want the ability to operate the keyboard, mouse, and monitor without having to fire up the laptop CPU, thereby saving electricity and HD wear and tear.

Another use would be for attaching to rack mount or generally stand-alone computers that normally have no keyboard, mouse, or monitor of their own. The kind of computer you'd dedicate to internet firewall, router, or VOIP use, and usually just leave running in a closet. When the time comes to do a bios upgrade (or OS change, etc) on it, instead of having to haul out a desktop monitor, mouse, and keyboard for the occasion you could just hook up the laptop.

Ansible, Mar 17 2007

Rxtx http://www.rxtx.org/
Parallel port I/O library project [Smurfsahoy, Mar 18 2007]

Synergy http://en.wikipedia...ergy_%28software%29
Share a keyoard and mouse between computers [spidermother, Mar 18 2007]

(?) Rack-mount KVM http://tripplite.co....cfm?productID=3150
The idea of a rack-mounted KVM is not new [yakatz, Mar 20 2007]

The device deos what you describe! http://www.epiphan....7u4oCFQImUAodVUsXPg
As the owner of an outsourced IT firm we've thrown this idea around in our shop. After I test one out I'm going to make this a standard piece of hardware in all my technicians laptop bags. We are always working in customer server rooms and when we can't remote into a machine we are always hauling in a keyboard, monitor and mouse. [temp, May 26 2007]

Wireless KVM switch Wireless_20KVM_20switch
My concept at the switch - just extend it to the laptop [phoenix, May 14 2008]

(?) How to use Laptop as KVM Switch http://hubpages.com...tch-kvm2usb-review/
More detailed review of the updated model of Epiphan's KVM2USB. I think there is nothing better (and more portable) is available that could fit into pocket and convert any laptop to KVM console. [gesman, May 26 2008]

USB Laptop Console converter http://dmtz.com/usb-laptop-console/
Another Laptop-to-KVM-converter. [jutta, Mar 29 2010]


       On the face of it this is a good idea. The reason laptops can't do this already is that it increases costs and not enough users want it. Remember that you're asking for another graphics card (VGA to lcd panel driver card), and two more keyboard/mouse interfaces even if you reuse the current connectors.   

       You wouldn't save much power by not running the CPU as you'd still have to power up the PSU to drive those interfaces.   

       The best solution to your last paragraph (under XP at any rate) is to remote desktop into whatever servers have no keyboard/mouse/monitor. I know people with multiple servers in small flats who do exactly this.
wagster, Mar 17 2007

       You could definitely hack yourself a parallel port thingie that could do such actions for you, if you wanted. (added link for the java to port interface) Maybe not all at once, though, that's a lot of data. I'm not sure how many bits an LCD requires to be sent to it on a constant basis. Keyboard and mouse both could probably be done with just 3 data pins, though.   

       It would, however, require a considerable time investment, a trip to radio shack, some soldering and programming knowledge, software on both computers, and both would have to be fully powered and running.   

       But if you think it would be really cool, and if you have several computers lying around whose monitors you want to use, it might be worth it.
Smurfsahoy, Mar 18 2007

       //I'm not sure how many bits an LCD requires to be sent to it on a constant basis// - That would be 16 bits per pixel for 1024x768 pixels, 60 times a second. 754974720 bits/sec. Just over 750mbps or about double the speed of USB 2.0 or Firewire or 47 times faster than a parallel port (in the wrong direction). Not totally impossible, but your average geek with some Radio Shack bits and a soldering iron isn't going to cook it up.
wagster, Mar 18 2007

       Jeez, that's craziness. Well, the garage hacks would work for keyboard and mouse at least.   

       As for video, I can definitely envision some company out there finding a big enough market share to justify making and selling some graphics card that comes with coax (or whatever LCDs need) connecters on it for the few people who are interested. You still might not be able to install it without voiding most warranties though, I'm not sure.
Smurfsahoy, Mar 18 2007

       Wouldn't that involve some sort of coded interface with every possible program being run on the source somputer?   

       Or do you mean something like writing and then unpacking .jpg style data for every frame of the screen output? If it is possible to code and decode that quickly, then it could conceivably transfer via parallel port as well, at just 15mbps or so on average.   

       And of course, if you don't care about high quality video or gaming, you could just send every other .jpg only, and make do with de facto 30 fps (repeat every frame twice), which is passably smooth.
Smurfsahoy, Mar 18 2007

       A sort of reverse-engineered Flash, maybe?
wagster, Mar 18 2007

       Not quite the same as your idea, but there's a utility called synergy that lets you share one keyboard and mouse between two networked computers. Both computers have to be running (of course). The developers plan to allow for monitors to be shared also.   

       Remote desktop type logins are another way to access a computer that doesn't have a screen and keyboard. This effectively uses the screen, videocard, keyboard, and mouse of one computer, the CPU of the other, and network resources of both.   

       I'd recommend trying both these methods if you want to share the resources of multiple computers.
spidermother, Mar 18 2007

       I use VNC all the time to access computers remotely, and it works quite well for many things. Microsoft remote desktop is even better - I think it does some of that 'send the instructions to create the image and not the image itself' stuff. Its faster than VNC but inconvenient to me because of its weird security requirements   

       However, for video or video games VNC and remote desktop are both pretty useless. Its also useless for tweaking the BIOS on the computer, or for installing a new OS. To me, its also not responsive enough for serious use even as a word processor - I like my GUI to respond faster than VNC does. Its ok for occasional access for things I need to do, but I wouldn't want to work under VNC all the time.   

       These days you can buy a motherboard with built in video out for only 30$ - I'd gladly pay that much for having my old laptop still be useful 10 years on, even if its just as a display.
Ansible, Mar 20 2007

       I've wanted this for a long time too. We used to talk about it at work all the time because we do a lot of in-the-field work and installations and it's really a pain to travel with keyboards and monitors. I think the Eiphan USB device linked above is close to what I want, although I really wish they'd make an expresscard version so it could use the direct connection to the faster pci-e bus (more than 5 times USB2.0) to get higher color depth and framerate (since what I do is graphics intensive). Plus then you might be able to get away with just a dongle and not need that whole box. They also need a optional VGA/USB dongle in addition to the VGA/PS2 one.
sparkyb, May 14 2008

       Ian, you suggested, "Instead of conveying each pixel of video data, simply send concise instructions on how to recreate what's on the screen."   

       This is pretty much what the X-Windows system does, which is the software that Linux, BeOS, Solaris, and other Unix operating systems use to display windows on a screen. One of the wonderful things about this, is that you can easily run any program on a Linux machine while watching it and controlling it from another machine, over the network. I used to do this at university all the time: I'd run big simulation programs, interactively, on the beefy quad-CPU server across campus, from the comfort of my dorm room, and it was exactly as though they were running on my laptop -- except much faster! And this doesn't take any special setup -- you can do it with just about any Linux machine, without installing anything nonstandard.   

       Still, there are situations where Ansible's idea would be much more useful (e.g., when working with a Windows machine, or installing a new operating system), so I give it a hearty bun. I've wished for his exact suggestion many times in the past: I carry a screen and a keyboard around with me all the time in the form of my laptop; I should be able to use them as such!
TerranFury, May 17 2008

       // The reason laptops can't do this already is that it increases costs and not enough users want it. Remember that you're asking for another graphics card (VGA to lcd panel driver card), and two more keyboard/mouse interfaces even if you reuse the current connectors. //   

       So don't have these built in; make them an add-on that connects to a special socket providing a direct interface to the LCD, keyboard, etc.
Bukkakinator, May 27 2008

       Is there any chance of sending compressed screenshots down the wire? That would lower bandwidth consumption a bit.   

       I suggest using LZW, which is fast both ways, patent free and was designed in the first place for high speed data transfer. LZW is also easy to code.   

       I also suggest lowering the color depth, as it can make the image far more compressable without much impact on image quality. 24 bit would be hard to compress in many cases.
Bad Jim, May 27 2008


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