Multimachine insanity

Most of my computer hardware is getting rather old – the newest major component is my PowerBook, which will turn three early next year – and bits of it keep packing in. A particular problem I’ve been bitten by is the shift from VGA to DVI graphics connectors, especially when my desktop Mac drives ADC and VGA, only the VGA socket got nuked when my old 15″ LCD blew up back in January. But running Macs with just one screen… damn, that isn’t right, so here’s how I have things set up right now:

My PC is running RealVNC, and is headless. My PowerMac is running Chicken of the VNC to control it, displaying the result on its 17″ ADC flatscreen. My PowerBook, meanwhile, is driving the PC’s 17″ Mitsubishi CRT as a second display, then it’s using Teleport to fling keyboard and mouse control (and clipboard) over to the PowerMac (and hence, by extension, the PC). Consequently, the PowerBook has the PowerMac’s keyboard and mouse plugged into it. The PowerMac, of course, has the best part of a terabyte of drives hanging off it, and is hence acting as a file server for the PowerBook.

The result is that I have:

  1. Three computers and three monitors.
  2. Everything controlled from one keyboard and mouse.
  3. No KVM switchy nonsense involved anywhere.
  4. Absolutely no idea which files stay where when I unplug the PowerBook and carry it with me.

If this sounds confusing – damn right, it’s confusing. Entirely baffling. On the other hand, in use it’s surprisingly straightforward. You see a desktop; you point the mouse at it; and interactions happen. It’s only mind-bending when you stop to think about the layers of keyboard emulation that are being applied.

And the real question is: can I survive for six months in Dublin with the doddery old PowerBook? If I can, then a Mac Pro (or at least an iMac) is on the horizon next Spring. If not… ouchie.

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