Synergy for Media Center Remote Control (Saturday, September 6, 2008)

Some time ago, I purchased a Vista system to use with my 50 inch television as a sort of "media center" computer. The real trick is being able to use it without a connected mouse and keyboard. Now, I use a laptop in my living room for work and entertainment, and I planned to use that as a sort of "remote control". Trying to control Vista remotely from a laptop running Ubuntu Linux isn't as hard as you might think. I initially set it up to use VNC, which worked great for controlling the system, but was painful for any sort of graphical program — which is sort of the whole point of the media center — playing movies and video games. So I knew that VNC wasn't going to be a long term solution.

So after much research, I discovered Synergy, an open source utility that when set up, allows me to use one keyboard and mouse for multiple systems. It's really nifty. I've got my laptop, and I am using it normally, but if I move the mouse off the right side of the screen, it appears on the TV, and suddenly, all of my mouse and keyboard commands are going to the Vista system. And it works. Flawlessly. Between Linux and Vista. It's really quite impressive. As a result, I was able to watch a video using the media center, while working away on my laptop, and whenever I needed to control the video, I just mouse over, click a control, as easy and as seamless as if I was just running with two displays on one computer. Except I'm controlling two computers. And apparently the software will support any number of systems. That's really slick. So if you find that you have more than one computer, each with its own display, and you don't want to have to deal with a KVM or any other fancy solution, Synergy is the way to go.

—Brian (09/06/2008 4:26 PM)