Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tools I Use: Synergy

When I started working at my current company in 2002 as a "co-op" I was given a pretty basic, but at least new, Dell Dimension PC to use. Eight months later, after I graduated college and was hired full time, I was given a slower, older Dell Inspiron laptop to use instead. You see, they wanted me to have a laptop in case I needed to travel. Since the Vice President's laptop wasn't working correctly for him, my company opted for a new laptop for him, and a "new" laptop for me.

Not being utterly thrilled with dropping from a ~1.2 GHz P4 to a ~833 MHz P3, I requested that I could keep my desktop in addition to my "new" laptop. My request was granted, and all of a sudden I had two machines.

I started by just running e-mail on the laptop full time and then primarily using the desktop. This worked OK, but anytime an e-mail affected something I was working on over on the desktop, I'd think "boy, it would be nice if I could copy this text from my laptop over to my desktop."

In looking for a solution, I first stumbled on x2vnc. It worked OK, although I think it probably used way too much network bandwidth for what it effectively did, and it would relatively frequently drop on me.

Not long after finding x2vnc, I suggested it to a friend of mine. He gave it a try and then found a better solution which he recommend to me. What he found was Synergy.

From Synergy's website:

Synergy lets you easily share a single mouse and keyboard between multiple computers with different operating systems, each with its own display, without special hardware. It's intended for users with multiple computers on their desk since each system uses its own monitor(s).

Redirecting the mouse and keyboard is as simple as moving the mouse off the edge of your screen. Synergy also merges the clipboards of all the systems into one, allowing cut-and-paste between systems. Furthermore, it synchronizes screen savers so they all start and stop together and, if screen locking is enabled, only one screen requires a password to unlock them all.

Nearly three years after I went to two machines, I'm still using both a laptop and a desktop at work, but (fortunately) I'm no longer using either the old Dimension 2300 or Inspiron 8100. I am, however, still using Synergy, which has worked out great.

I also use Synergy when I bring my lappy home to share the keyboard and mouse connected to my PowerMac G5. It works just as well there as between two Windows machines (my original work configuration) or a Windows machine and Linux machine (my current work configuration).

If you have two machines on your desk, allow me to heartily recommend Synergy.

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