On Tuesday 27th September I presented on my home computer setup at the DC4420 meeting. This setup has taken me some time to establish, has been through many iterations, and features a considerable number of monitors and KVMs - and so I hoped I could serve as an example, or as a warning, to others.

The presentation was well received, with the friendly audience showing joy, concern, enthusiasm, and despair.

While I like the practice of writing up blog posts of talks my preferred method of delivery owes more to my very, very shallow knowledge of the PechaKucha style of presenting... and less pretentiously, a lot of watching the PBS Idea Channel, and so doesn't really suit this written medium.

So rather than try and write up the whole thing, below I've listed a summary of the technical advice, and technical issues, that I've discovered along the way. For the full version, maybe you just had to be there.

KVM notes:

Aten CS533: This is the Bluetooth KVM I use, also called the Aten Tap. The IOGear GKMB01 appears to be the same thing. It supports two bluetooth devices. Do note that sending commands to it requires using the Alt key combined with F1 to F6, and that can't be changed, which might clash with other keyboard shortcuts you've got. For unknown reasons this device didn't work for me when I plugged it in front of the Avocent Switchview listed below, but does when I use it in front of the Raritan.

Aten Masterview CS-9138: This is the 8 port KVM I currently use. It has a small choice of HotKeys, and thankfully doesn't have a buzzer. For unknown reasons the keyboard indicator lights don't work when I'm working through this, but bear in mind it's "behind" an Avocent KVM, and at least one USB to PS2 adapter... I think. so that's probably why.

Avocent Switchview 4SVPU20 MM2: This is the 4 port KVM I now use, I have two. It takes USB or PS2 input along with VGA, but doesn't need the VGA port to be used to work. This device has a relatively massive choice of HotKeys, and using the command "<HotKey> <HotKey> <B>" you can completely disable the buzzer... the KVM won't make a sound unless it's powercycled. It has independent KVM, USB hub, and audio allocation - so you can move the audio to a different system without moving the other functionality at the same time. Also the audio ports have no "direction" and are just physical connections, so by putting the audio ports of two of these KVMs in line, and connecting audio inputs to one and audio outputs to the other, I can direct any of four inputs to any of four outputs.

Belkin F5U119-E: Unlike some of the cheaper USB to PS2 adapters I've used, this adapter tends to work with everything I connect it to.

Belkin Omniview F1DS104U: the original 4 port KVM I used. Bear in mind it will beep when you change screens using hotkeys, and doesn't like being chained. Also the firmware upgrade to make it silent is difficult to find, requires a bespoke cable, and doesn't work.

Belkin PRO2 OmniView 8-Port KVM Switch F1DA108T: The original 8 port KVM I used. It will beep when you change to a different device, and removing the speaker ( known as a "speakerectomy" ) appears to cause electrical problems. Also it has male VGA ports, which is quite unusual.

HP ChromeBook 11: this uses a SlimPort connection for video output and for power simultaneously. If a SlimPort to VGA, or SlimPort to HDMI, adaptor is used, this device will drain its battery even if the power supply is plugged in.

Raritan SW4-USB-Combo: This is the other type of 4 port KVM I now use. As well as independent KVM, USB hub, and audio - as per the Avocent above - it has a small choice of HotKeys, and "<HotKey> <HotKey> <S>" turns off the buzzer for most functions, but it'll still beep if you make an error.

Sivitec Black 8 Way SURGE Protected 5m Extension Lead Switched NEON 8 Gang: this is the only 8 socket gangplug I've found with a cable longer than 2 metres.

Other notes:

Monitors: if you have the money, and the time to look up the different options, do buy monitors with the best capability, i.e. VGA input, DVI input, HDMI input, an audio jack, a VESA mount, and with the configuration buttons located somewhere accessible.

Peripheral Sharers: The USB peripheral sharers I found that were "too clever" were the StarTech 4-to-1 USB 2.0 Peripheral Switch, the Kensington ShareCentral5 K33901EU, and the Aten US421A.

Synergy: I'm still suitably suspicious of this software, but at least one person came up after the presentation and explained that they found it reliable and useful. If it looks like what you need do check out http://symless.com/synergy/ .

Window Managers: The Tiling Window Manager I use, with flexible mapping of virtual screens to physical screens, is Xmonad. If you want to look at alternatives then try i3, dwm, or spectrwm.

Xorg: It's a very high level summary of what I've done, but to get X working on four independent screens my configuration was built using the following incantation: run the command "nvidia-xconfig –enable-all-gpus –separate-x-screens", your xorg.conf file should only have a single “screen” section, and use the line Option “BaseMosaic” “on”

Thank you to the audience for getting into the spirit of the presentation, and if you've any questions do ask them in the comments below.