Return of Synergy

February 25th, 2010  |  Published in etc


I was going to get all “squeeeee!” about Synergy when it occurred to me that I’ve probably done that before. And I have. February of 2005, to be precise. Scroll down to “wow. just wow.”

Today I had to get a new work computer set up for me. It’s a Lenovo ThinkPad that came into the world with Windows 7 on it, but was busted down to Windows XP. I would be disappointed that I can’t play around with Windows 7, but the fact is that Windows XP running on a 2.0+ GHz dual core machine with 3 gigs of RAM runs pretty well.

I’m not really happy that I was given the thing. I don’t like Windows, I’m happy with the machine and software I’ve bought or assembled for myself, and the thought of being made to use Outlook makes my wrists throb.

At the same time, I’ve got no say in the matter. That’s just how the new bosses roll. So the only remaining issue is figuring out how to minimize the footprint of the thing.

My first thought was the Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection client. If you’re familiar with, say, VNC, you’ve got the gist of it: You turn on remote desktop access on your Windows machine, run the RDC client on your Mac, and you can control the Windows machine using your Mac. They share speakers, printers, and even folders if you like.

That works, but with some caveats, including really ugly fonts.

The next option is what all the “squeeeeee!”-ing was going to be about: Synergy lets you put two computers side by side and share a keyboard & mouse between them, sort of like a soft kvm (without the “m”). When you mouse off the side of one display, the cursor starts moving on the other.

Better yet, the two machines share a text clipboard, so if I’m doing something on the Mac using my preferred text editor, I can copy the material on the Mac, mouse over to the Windows machine, and paste the clipboard from the Mac into a Windows app. That’s like magic.

So I took my spare 22″ monitor, slid the laptop under it and cabled it all up, then set the laptop to “do nothing” when the lid is closed, which means it just sits there and runs.

There are some issues … there’s some weird latency now and then, maybe due to me having the laptop on the wireless network. I don’t know what will happen with this setup running over the course of a day. For now, though, it looks like a way to reduce some of the pain of liking one computer and being forced to use another.

Update: I connected the new laptop directly to my Airport Extreme, which provides a four-port switch. All that latency I noticed is gone now.

Oh … another update! Synergy on its own is neat, but for a Mac user, QuickSynergy is a must-have: It provides a handy GUI that makes setting up a connection between two computers a snap.

And Another Thing

That old entry from 2005 was sort of interesting, because goes back to a format I was using for blogging back then that I eventually gave up: I would open a text file at the beginning of the day, add to it as the day progressed, and it would autopost the next morning. Judging from the timestamp, I had the autopost trigger at 5:15 or so.

Oh yeah … there it is. 5:17.

I think this wasn’t called “dot unplanned,” then. I’m pretty sure it was called “Damn you, sir, you have killed me!”

Looking back, I sort of like that format. Pretty bite-sized, but positively outsized compared to all the tweeting the kids are doing these days.

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