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November 14, 2012

Workflow sharing with Synergy

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 4:33 am

It has been a while since I’ve posted around here and the reasons have been entirely mundane — got a job, moved to a different country and lost track of everything open-source during the transition.

However, open-source is out there and every once a while you’re bound to stumble across gems that make life easier (and fun) no matter which line of work you are in and that’s exactly what happened to me today. Let me admit first, I have a fetish for multiple screens. If it was up to me I would have a circle of screens and sit inside them all day long, just to make revolving chairs lot more exciting. Take that, 3D!

Anyways, the issue with multiple screens is not only having enough video outputs on your graphic card(s), but also the sharing of resources. I want three different machines with different processors, hard-disks, heck even different operating systems to share their I/O devices. One option would be the KVM switches, but that would restrict me to only one “active” machine at a time, plus the switching button is too much of a hindrance in the work flow. Aristotle famously claimed that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, then cometh Synergy:

Synergy in action
(Click on the thumbnail for larger version.)

Three different machines sharing the keyboard, mouse and clipboard across five different screens and it even works across different platforms! Granted, there are some issues with the configuration which you have to take care about (especially on Windows 7+ platforms with UAC) but once it gets going it becomes one of those cute plus practical toys that make you wonder how you ever lived without them.

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January 24, 2008

Finally, we’re two!

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 7:51 pm

“Two heads are better than one.”

Not everything is going perfect (I’ll get to that later), but it is an awesome feeling to be able to manage different windows on a 2048-pixels wide workspace.

Dual-Head Setup Photo #1 Dual-Head Setup Photo #2
Dual-Head Screenshot

(Click on the thumbnails for larger versions.)

The laptop is providing the VGA output using the Intel driver that’s included in X.org. However, to get the thing working, I had to edit my xorg.conf by hand. Here’s a list of things that work:

  • The workspace “stretches” across the two displays by using xrandr commands outlined on this page.
  • Applications get sliced across the display using Xinerama and as seen in the first two screenshots, even MPlayer’s x11 video output is perfectly happy with it.

And a list of things that don’t:

  • For some unknown reason (which I’m too chuffed right now to be bothered about), if I specify the display modes explicitly for my laptop LCD screen on line 49 of the xorg.conf linked above, my VGA stops getting a display. Nevertheless, even without specifying display modes, the LCD resolution gets set as expected (1280×800 and 1024×768 for single and dual heads respectively).
  • Xfce’s panel insists on sitting in the right-hand VGA only. Other people are reporting the same behavior for Gnome’s panel and AFAIK, there’s no workaround available at the time being.

I have yet to try a 2560×800 (1280×800+1280×800) configuration but the current resolution is still more than sufficient for some kickass photo/video editing. Also, debugging on one display while vim-ing in the other is a programmer’s paradise. Size does matter, after all.

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