Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Two Computers, Two Displays, Together and Apart: TeamViewer, KVM, and Input Director

I had just installed Windows 7, after working out networking hassles between two computers.  I had set up a home network.  Now, following up on a previous post, I wondered whether I could use TeamViewer and Input Director to permit smoother use of those two machines.  The general idea was that I had two networked computers, each with its own monitor, and I wanted to use one or both of those programs to facilitate a seamless desktop experience.  This post describes my exploration of related possibilities.

I decided to start with Input Director.  The purpose of this program was to let me use a keyboard and mouse on computer A to do work on both computers A and B, without needing a keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) switch.  To give this a whirl, instructions advised installing Input Director (ID) on each computer.  I started ID on computer A, turned aside for a moment to attend to something else, came back to computer A, and found that ID had disappeared.  I restarted it and clicked "Enable as Master," and likewise enabled computer B as slave.  I started to change the default hotkey from the way they had it set up, which looked very complex but apparently just meant left-Ctrl-Alt-Break -- but then ID disappeared again!  It wasn't in the system tray either.  It had just died.  But on retry, it was OK.  I wasn't sure what happened there.  I went into Master (or Slave) Configuration.  Not to much to do there.  On computer A, I clicked Add and then tried to figure out what I should use as Hostname and Port for the slave I was trying to attach.  I tried just using the name of computer B.  This brought an error, "Slave 'ComputerB' didn't respond," and on computer B I got a popup balloon saying this:

Unauthorised access
A request to direct input by the unauthorised system ComputerA was rejected.
I thought maybe this was because computer B wasn't set up yet.  So in its Slave Configuration tab, I clicked "Allow computers only on this subnet to take control."  It asked for Network and Mask, which I wasn't sure of, so I clicked "Select from list."  I had VMware on this computer, so there were a couple of options for that, but I went with the one for the Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller.  I also clicked on Add and typed in the name of computer A as Master Hostname.  Now both computers were visible in the Master Configuration tab on computer A.  In the Master Preferences tab, I cleared hotkeys, since I didn't think I would want to use them and didn't want them interfering with other programs.  And then, what do you know, it was working.  The mouse on computer A was able to keep going rightwards, past the right edge of the computer A display, and move across onto the monitor for computer B and do things there.  The keyboard was still going where my KVM set it, so I unplugged it from the KVM and plugged it directly into the computer.  Wow, just like that, the monitor that I selected with the mouse was also the monitor where the keyboard was active.  If I moved the mouse to the monitor that was plugged into computer A, I had a keyboard on computer A.  If I moved the mouse over to computer B's monitor, I had a keyboard there instead.  Basically, a mouse-controlled KVM.

To get adjusted to this new arrangement, I unplugged and rearranged mice and keyboards and rebooted both machines.  Now, suddenly, computer B was unable to go online.  It had been fine until now.  I disabled Input Director and rebooted.  The disabling was not persistent; ID was back.  I uninstalled Input Director and rebooted again.  Now, for a moment there, my customized Start Menu was broken.  I still was not able to go online.  Unfortunately, I now discovered that System Restore had somehow gotten turned off -- on computer B only, despite having set it up from a mirror of computer A, where System Restore was still working -- so I had to restore an image of computer B.  While nothing is certain, these problems were new.  They seemed likely to be due to Input Director.  As soon as the mirror was restored, I uninstalled ID.  The problems did not recur in the next 24 hours of fairly intensive work, so it looked like ID was the culprit.

Without Input Director, I hoped that something of my multiple desktop vision would remain.  From my understanding of TeamViewer, it did not seem that I would have the option of switching my two computers and two monitors back and forth between dedicated and dual-monitor formats.  But maybe I still could, with a KVM.  To investigate that, I had to get TeamViewer working first.  I installed and ran it on both computers A and B.  It started with a dialog that gave me a Remote Control tab containing a session ID.  I typed the session ID appearing onscreen in computer A into the dialog box on computer B and chose the Remote Control option.  It said, "You have entered the ID of your own computer."  Well, that was true.  Both machines were showing the same ID.  So apparently I was not doing this right.  But there did not seem to be an alternative.

I stepped back and reviwed the concept.  I wanted to use computer A to control either computer A or B.  This, again, was to be a KVM-type solution without using a KVM.  Instead of switching between computers (e.g., changing the focus of my mouse and keyboard from computer A to computer B) by hitting a hotkey or physical button linked to the KVM, I would switch between computers by clicking on a button onscreen or by hitting a hotkey linked to Teamviewer via the network cable.  In this way, I would not need the KVM.  But I was not sure TeamViewer was ready to play this game.  The solution, someone said, was to click on Extras, at the top-right corner of the first Teamviewer dialog, and go into Options > General tab > Incoming LAN connections > accept.

Instead of doing that, at this point I decided that I was already getting the functionality I needed for the time being.  Hence, I decided to shelve this project until later.  The KVM situation was acceptable.  GoodSync had recently begun to provide much of what I had thought I wanted from Teamviewer.  Also, that brief taste of Input Director had caught my attention.  That seemed to be the next step forward in this area.  The Teamviewer concept, or an alternative, seemed to be something that I should review later, after I had some experience with this setup, and after waiting a bit for possible improvements to Input Director or for good alternatives to it.



Thanks, your post helped me get past the error "Unauthorised ..." :)