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Displays Portables Hardware

Laptops, Headless Servers and KVMs? 397

Posted by Cliff
from the portable-passive-displays-would-be-a-wonderul-thing dept.
Administration of headless machines can be a pain, and working on multiple machines can also be a bit of a bother. KVM boxes solve some of the problem, but sometimes finding a keyboard and a monitor to lug around to these machines is most of the problem. Is there a portable solution that might solve both of these problems? Wouldn't it be nice to carry around a specialized laptop that could act as both a portable display and input device? Does something like this currently exist?
KJH1138 asks: "I am looking for a hardware/software combination that would allow me to use my laptop as the KVM for a headless server before, during, and after OS configuration. What I have in mind would be a server KVM/USB to laptop serial/USB connection, with software on the laptop to provide KVM control of the headless device, with or without an OS. A PC Anywhere or Linux equivalent wouldn't work since they would require the headless system to already have an installed OS. I would prefer a Linux-based solution on the laptop, but would settle for a Windows option. I simply don't want the clutter of a keyboard and monitor."

PGillingwater has a similar desire: "Like many regular readers, sometimes I need to visit a customer site to diagnose equipment, like firewalls or routers. More systems these days use VGA output and keyboard input, which means having to scrounge a display and keyboard, then looking for a spare power socket in the machine room, which is not always easy! I am wondering if anyone has seen a laptop which also allows VGA input and keyboard output. This would be a cool idea. Use it as a normal laptop most of the time, then hijack the video and keyboard to connect to other systems when you need it."
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Laptops, Headless Servers and KVMs?

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  • What we do... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:06PM (#11340781) Homepage Journal

    If we can't ssh to computers or telnet to equipment (switches, etc) we have an OpenBSD laptop which we can use as a console via a serial cable and kermit. That's assuming a unixish system, though. If you're only running Windows on servers then why not install TightVNC and control it from your desktop? Assuming the machine is still on the LAN, of course. If it's not you'll probably just reboot it anyhow.
    • the poster said that he wanted to be able to use it before an OS was installed, so he could install an OS, your solution would work great for systems already installed but whatw ould happen if say, you had to reinstall the OS?
      • Re:What we do... (Score:4, Informative)

        by temojen (678985) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:17PM (#11340941) Journal
        Use a kernel build with a serial console on the install disk.
        • Re:What we do... (Score:3, Informative)

          by epiphani (254981)
          Take that a step further, at least with servers:

          1. set the console to the serial via boot flags, so the kernel will dump its boot to serial.
          2. Use a BIOS that contains the ability to pipe its POST to serial. HP/Compaq servers have this ability, and im sure others do as well.
          3. Cable them all to a serial console machine. Blade enclosures do this automatically, and work quite well.

          Essentially, you have a serial console with equivelent ability of being in front of the machine, at least in the unix/linux
    • Re:What we do... (Score:4, Informative)

      by jdray (645332) * on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @06:26PM (#11341921) Homepage Journal
      The best bet is a single user/single server KVM over IP unit, which is essentially a bridge between Ethernet and a Keyboard/Video/Mouse set. Here's one example [peppercon.com]. Here's another [ami.com].
  • Wow (Score:4, Funny)

    by cca93014 (466820) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:07PM (#11340786) Homepage
    1337 bytes in body

    Er, w00t?
    • Darn, you beat me to commenting on that. :)
  • by MPHellwig (847067) * <mhellwig@xs4all.nl> on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:07PM (#11340790) Homepage
    there are null-modem, lom ports, web-enabled bios configuration, web-enabled SCSI configuration, Ssh, remote desktop (free for admin usage) and you still wonder what the best solution is?
    Try talking up with a _good_ admin who shows you in _real_live_ the 1 & 2's.
    KVM switches are handy for non-server hardware misplaced in the network architecture, but any serious stuff has some or all of the above list.
    "Real" servers are not that expensive by the way, especially compared to the price of IP-KVM.
    • I have to admit the SSH and webmin where the first things that popped in my head. For Windows I guess remote desktop would be a good solution.
      The one time I can think of needing a keyboard/monitor would be for install and if something really really bad was going on in the hardware.
      • Webmin is nice but I am talking about (SCSI) bios with a tiny webserver in it. This is how it could go:
        Place the machine in the rack
        Write down the mac of the management NIC
        Kick the machine on with WOL
        Configure the bios and scsi via web
        The machine installs via PXE boot (you got that on your site don't you?)
        Configure it
        Test it
        Configure it
        Test it
        (repeat as long as needed)
        Then take it out of your test rack and place in the "Live" rack (what you don't have a test site?!?)
      • The one time I can think of needing a keyboard/monitor would be for install and if something really really bad was going on in the hardware.

        Bingo. Sometimes the shit does hit the fan, and there are times when a direct connection to a server is needed. LOM or serial stuff is OK. I use my Mac for that with a serial to USB adaptor, but some "real" servers do not have LOM or serial connections and do require a display and a keyboard.

        I too would like to see some solutions for those servers that do require
        • "Bingo. Sometimes the shit does hit the fan, and there are times when a direct connection to a server is needed. LOM or serial stuff is OK. I use my Mac for that with a serial to USB adaptor, but some "real" servers do not have LOM or serial connections and do require a display and a keyboard."

          Yes but if things are that bad, odds are pretty good that you will have to pull the server and put it on the bench. Frankly for install I was thinking of installing the OS. All software installs should be do able wit
    • Ah, but the question talked about a lot of low end type servers at client locations, so using remote management ports may not be an option. Heck, some of my less critical servers don't have full remote management if the network interface is offline.

      Being able to use a laptop as in place of a "crash cart" would save many admins many headaches.

      It would also need to support connecting as a USB keyboard for my use though.

      Sounds like a perfect application for a specialized PC Card or external USB 2.0 device,
    • We use a mixture of most of the above:

      IP based Console Server (via serial connection) to all Unix hosts.
      IP based KVM's with flatpanel monitor/keyboard trays in each rack to all hosts.
      Remote desktop for all the windows hosts
      SSH on all the Unix hosts
      Switches, routers, etc are all accessed via ssh. (some with a small single port "console server", if they don't natively support ssh).

      Basically the goal should be not to find the *best* way, but as many ways as you can, so when one avenue breaks down, you h

    • Dell sells a rack enclosure with a 1u sliding tray for an lcd, keyboard and mouse with a kvm switch. They have one in my schools network lab which doubles as its server farm.

    • Kindly show me a version of a Windows server that by default installs Terminal Services in Remote Administration mode, because last time I checked, neither 2000 server nor 2003 server did.

      I don't think I've EVER been able to remotely admin a Windows server unless it just happened to be a Terminal Server anyway. I'm actually about ten times more likely to find they have a copy of pcAnywhere running than Microsoft's own remote administration tools.

      - JoeShmoe
      .
      • And by "remotely admin" I don't mean tweak a service that's available from any MMC on the network, I'm talking about things like mucking around in the System control panel or removable hardware, and stuff like that.

        Not to mention...try running SFC from Remote Desktop sometime. You'll get a nice polite message saying it can only be run from the console...namely the actualy keyboard/monitor of the server itself. Now we are back to KVM solutions. Thanks Microsoft!

        - JoeShmoe
        .
      • Oh it's installed by default on 2003; but it's just not turned on. It's there on the System control panel if you want to look.

        But it can be turned on easily by Group Policy - this really handy thing where you can configure settings for a whole group of computers incredibly quickly in Active Directory.

        It could easily be set as such (ie: turned on) for your domain if you chose - just edit the Domain Default policy in Active Directory Users and Computers. (In our case, just one OU for Servers.)
    • Just an additional comment.

      Assume you have more than one nice server, at least two machines with ethernet connections, and all with bioses that understand the serial port (and yes, you can find x86 bioses that will do this):

      Consider daisy-chaining the machines together by serial port:

      +-[ Server 4 ]
      | ^
      | |
      | [ Server 3 ]
      | ^
      | |
      | [ Server 2 ]
      | ^
      | |
      +>[ Server 1 ]

      Now, when a server has problems, its always possible to connect through ethernet to the server 'one hop down' from it, then co

    • In my case, none of the above work because the boxes in question tend to be POS (and related) hardware built in a prehistoric era with their own operating system and only support monitor/keyboard.

      Or, in my other world, this would be handy when I forgot to enable that snazzy new serial port BIOS on my home server which isn't a "real" server anyway.

      Or, when a friend asks you to look at a server you know nothing about and he doesn't have a monitor handy...

      If I had a laptop that had keyboard-in and video-in
    • by ctr2sprt (574731) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:42PM (#11341276)
      The issue with network-based server management is that it isn't suitable for a large data center. For instance, a typical webhosting setup might have a couple hundred (or thousand) servers - the ideal target for remote management, because it's wildly impractical/impossible to put them all on KVMs. Each server will have one NIC for the "public" network, the one connected to the Internet. To help lock down remote access for SSH etc., you will also have a private network. We're already up to two distinct networks here, you'll note. Now add a third one for management, which incidentally is also going to require DHCP. The cost for building yet another discrete internal network - and managing it! - is going to be nontrivial. It's usually cheaper, and about as effective, to buy a couple cheap-ass carts and put monitors and keyboards on them. It means your NOC staff has to get off their asses every now and then, but... Is sparing them that really worth the $10k+ it will probably cost in network hardware (not to mention cabling nightmares)?

      Serial consoles are great, but not for PCs. In a big DC, you will not have the root password to every server. You will be logging in via some special authentication mechanism like SecurID and then doing sudo su (or just ssh public keys). So getting a login prompt is not going to be helpful; you'll have to reboot the server. On real Unix hardware, you can usually do this by sending a hardware break and typing "reboot" (or similar). This will work even if the OS is crashed or thrashing or whatever. On a PC, no dice, because it's purely the software which handles the serial connection. So you have to hit the reset button, which will probably solve whatever issue was going on anyway (while simultaneously destroying any in-memory logs of what the cause might have been).

      For us, in our DC with about 5000 servers, the worst servers to manage are actually the real Unix hardware, but that's only because we have just the one laptop (and because the Unix servers are all disasters held together by spit and baling wire, but that's another story). Also the laptop sucks ass and keeps breaking because it's 6 years old and has been dropped several times. That's something else to keep in mind if you're looking for a laptop-based solution: People Will Drop It. Not only that, if they have to step away from the server for a second, the laptop will get left on the floor, where some unwary soul will step on it or wheel a crash cart over it. Laptops are expensive, even secondhand. A crummy 15" CRT and keyboard will set you back $100, if that, and if they're on a cart that can be wheeled around they won't get dropped (often). Just make sure to buy monitors with fully-removable video and power cords, so when someone wheels the cart off without unplugging it you won't wreck the server's video connector and pull the PDC out of the rack.

    • I'm essentially *the* IT department for several small to medium sized businesses. This would be a great solution for me ... currently, I carry around an old 15" LCD monitor and an assortment of hardware (keyboards with various connectors, various mice) as a "crash cart" to diagnise the ... menagerie ... of hardware I find at client locations.

      You obviously work in a large IT department where you have the resources or authority to purchase actual server hardware. In smaller businesses, and for the technician
    • "Real" servers are not that expensive by the way, especially compared to the price of IP-KVM.

      I agree with you completely. You know, Linux is nice and fast and all but I feel like I've gone back in time 15 years to my PC tech support days when I have to lug a full-size keyboard, monitor, and mouse around just to reboot a box that's borked and won't network properly. Unix had it right back in the 70s with serial ports, why can't any PC BIOS manufacturers make a decent BIOS that only uses serial output? A
  • use avocent (Score:3, Informative)

    by wheatking (608436) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:07PM (#11340794)
    use avocent or any decent "kvm-over-ip" implementation....
    • Here's a link to Avocent's KVM-over-IP solution. I haven't used it, but it might be just what the poster is asking for...

      Avocent's SwitchView IP [avocent.com]
      • We use Avocent in a mixed environment of Solaris, Linux (three flavors), Mac OS X, and Windows. Very nice solution. We've had some problems when installing Linux (it detects the monitor resolution incorrectly), but other than that, it works great for maintenance, installation, anything you can throw at it.
  • Solutions:
    1) Invent a wireless KVM or
    2) Make really long cables

    We have two KVMs daisy-chained with 18 or so machines on them. Works fine. So just scale that up by making it wireless. Sit comfortably in one spot, and go!
    • Screw KVMs. Get a monitor that accepts both DVI and VGA input at the same time.

      One machine connects via VGA. The other machine connect thru a VGA-to-DVI cable.

      • Sure, I'll do that. Just give me a monitor with 18 of those ports and also has an included keyboard and mouse which magically forwards through the VGA and DVI ports. None of these people are talking about 2 machines here, they are talking about large scale setups...
  • I run a computer repair business where I have to move from station, to station, to station... (etc.) to get my work done. I was just thinking this morning how awesome it would be if I work on all of these computers (at least on the software side) without getting out of my chair. This kind of thing would be very handy, and probably allow me to get twice as much work done.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      without getting out of my chair.
      Chair
      With
      Wheels

      k, bye bye

    • I was just thinking this morning how awesome it would be if I work on all of these computers (at least on the software side) without getting out of my chair.

      You, sir, missed your calling. You should have been a UNIX sysadmin....

      Now, where ARE my sandals and suspenders, anyway?

      ObRealContent:

      But seriously, this is why real computers, at least servers, typically have serial console ability hard-wired in and drop back to it when running headless or without a keyboard. Sun has had this for YEARS, and lot

    • A KVM switch sounds like the answer for you. Run (K, V, and M) cables to all of the machines you want to work on, plug the other end of those cables into your KVM switch, and plug your monitor, mouse, and keyboard of choice into the switch.

      Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
  • Wimp (Score:5, Funny)

    by Odo (109839) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:08PM (#11340808)
    > Is there a portable solution that might solve both of these problems?

    Yes. Real techs just stick their tongue in the video port and jiggle a paperclip in the keyboard port. Only amateurs need dedicated hardware.

  • IP KVM card (Score:2, Informative)

    by unix_geek_512 (810627)
    These cards and related products from peppercon and raritan would do the job.

    http://www.peppercon.com/eric2.html
  • by Telastyn (206146) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:10PM (#11340820)
    Standard serial ports common on all Sun hardware [and most all networking equipment] and likely technology older than I am?

    Not for windows servers. For that my experience shows that the easiest solution is a monitor tied to a chair.

    [a chair you ask? Well standard carts generally don't have the maneuverability (or small footprint) required for server rooms.]

    • I used to work at a internet services company, where we had little carts with monitors, keyboards and mice so techs and colo customers could plug them into servers as needed. I grew to hate these carts, because there were never enough of them, the monitors were always going bad, and I kept getting the mouse and keyboard ports reversed.

      These "colo carts" were no good with the few Sun servers we had, since the default Sun console is a serial port. So if you wanted to console-in to a Sun server, you had to f

  • Maybe (Score:2, Informative)

    by N4DMX (614024)
    Is something like this [i-techcompany.com] what you are looking for?

    It is rack mounted, but it would be easier than to carry a monitor, keyboard, and KVM seperately.
    • Is something like [i-techcompany.com] this what you are looking for?

      It is rack mounted, but it would be easier than to carry a monitor, keyboard, and KVM seperately.


      The only thing that that is lacking from the request is that it is not battery powered and thus requires a power outlet, however since it's all in one nice unit that could be carried from site to site if your customer doesn't have one already installed. I have a feeling it's a little heavier than a laptop, but I'm sure it's still lighter than a CRT monitor. You
  • by Thauma (35771) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:11PM (#11340837)
    Google: IP KVM [google.com]
  • VNC? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LaPistola (813411)
    We use VNC all day every day.
    Works great.
  • HP Proliant servers all can make use of Integrated Lights-Out for remote administration, including a remote console through your web browser. I very rarely need a crash cart in the data center since we've started using iLO. A lot nicer to just open a URL, instead of wheeling the cart over to it.
  • VGA2USB (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaHat (247651) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:14PM (#11340875) Homepage
    Recently when trying to figure out why my PC in the livingroom (plugged into the TV) wasn't displaying any video, I longed for a easy device I could plug into my laptop to display video... rather than have to lug a monitor out to the livingroom.

    Sure enough, a company makes just such a device, the . [epiphan.com]

    It does nothing for your mouse and keyboard needs, but this (I think) solves the biggest issue of your question.
    • This is great! Keyboards and mice are easy to scrounge in a pinch, but monitors are always a pain in the ass. Admittedly, it costs $399.95, but that's cheaper than the other solutions I've seen. listed here today, plus it's about the same size as a cellphone, so it'll fit in your laptop bag easily.
    • Cheaper Method (Score:2, Informative)

      by BobPaul (710574) *
      You could also get a VGA to Composite Video adapter. Then you'd just need a video capture box for your laptop. Both can be had for about $100 or less a piece and do the same as the VGA-USB, albeit with a little more hardware, but for cheaper.

      If your laptop has Composite Video capture already, then you don't need to get a USB or PCMCIA capture card..
  • by farzadb82 (735100) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:14PM (#11340888)
    KVM over IP ? - I think some one has already mentioned this previously, however, they mentioned the plugin card variety. You can also purchase a stand alone box, similar to a regular KVM, however, it routes the Keyboard, Video and Mouse via IP to any machine that is network capable. The client is supplied either as a windows binary or as a Java applet (when you browse to the maintenance webpage. You can, in theory use a wireless PDA or laptop with a java enabled web browser to connect directly and control these devices.
  • Yeah, I've been thinking for years that it would be nice to do exactly this. However, I've *NEVER* seen a laptop that could do this. But...

    I've been watching the KVM-over-IP market for the last several years, and it looks like recently they've dropped from $3,000 down to under $500. I'm seriously tempted to get one of these. The ones I've been looking at, because we run only Linux, have been ones that are accessable via VNC, and allow you to control the keyboard, mouse, and read the display, even in te
  • by xutopia (469129) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:16PM (#11340921) Homepage
    when I had to run around and do that kind of thing. I brought everything in a cardboard box, mouse, keyboard and extra long wires with adaptors.

    The LCD screen was so small and light it was a pleasure to carry around (1024x768 native resolution). The long wires allowed me to sit comfortably wherever I was most comfortable.

  • The answer is simple: Use VMWARE GSX/ESX Server with virtual servers inside.
    You can attach to a vmware console over TCP/IP via their client and get full control over virtual server, reboot, enter BIOS, mount BOOT CD ISO for rescue and so on.
    It saved me a lot of time.
  • by RLMorgan (74446) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:18PM (#11340961)
    Usa a VGA to TV converter to a laptop with a video capture option. My ThinkPad A31p will do that.

    Then get one of those flex keyboards that roll up. http://www.compusa.com/products/product_info.asp?p roduct_code=309758&pfp=BROWSE
  • by Proc6 (518858)
    www.vmware.com [vmware.com]
    1 box.
    Lots of VMs.
    Accessible from anywhere over IP no matter what OS each VM is running and no matter what state the "machine" is in, be it hung on boot, crashed, or fiddling with BIOS. All doable from a remote location.
    • I have toyed with a crippleware version of VMWare and had Linux running withing Windows, and Windows within Linux ( not wine ). From what I saw the product was great and really lived up to the claims they made. It was too pricey for my budget so I had to turn it loose.
      • The price has come down to $200 for Workstation, and v5 (currently in beta) has some neat features for modeling networks, including bandwidth limitations and even packet loss between VMs.

        This kind of thing may already be available in the higher end products (ESX/GSX), but since I'm stuck with the lower-end stuff, I have to make do with being impressed by WS. :)
  • Do you know that there are KVM switches which have ethernet/IP access ? I.e. you do not have to physically sit there with keyboard and monitor and work from the comfort of your desktop instead. E.g. Tron [tron.com]

    Another good solution are the built-in consoles - 1U tall, you can pull it out as a drawer from the rack and open it as a laptop. It has a full size keyboard, some pointing device (trackball or trackpad) and a built-in LCD. Like this for example: rack console kit [www.ciao.de]

    So, no need to lug a laptop around. Not to

    • The serial stuff only really works with Linux or BSD. Something that has native console over serial support built in. We have ONE windows server (not 2003 but 2000) at our datacenter and it's the only reason I have a 1U keyboard drawer installed. All of the IBM stuff (and Dell/HP/Compaq too I would assume) allows you to redirect BIOS to the serial port. It's nice when you have hardware problems to be able to reboot a box and go in and change BIOS settings on the machine itself or the SCSI controller.

      FYI, w
  • I used to set up all my boxes so that I could plug my HP48G in to the serial port via a special cable that I made our of an old Microsoft mouse.

    This was nice for when X locked up (which it did occasionally) or for when the network was down or if I didn't have another box to get network access from -- I could still telnet in through serial, kill X, and be good as new.

    The only hitch was that most distros didn't come with the serial port enabled for this in the first place.

  • by kortex (590172) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @05:27PM (#11341094)
    Leave it to this crowd to come up with nothing but workarounds. I'm sure this person is aware of the multitudes of ways to console a box.
    I believe what he is asking - which I'm interested in as well - is a laptop where the key/mouse/mon can be independently connected to an external device - there are laptops out now that can play dvd movies without booting an OS - this would be a similar thing. This would be even more useful if you could use a keyb shortcut (kvm-stylee) to switch back and forth between your freshly rooted server and the laptops OS. I want one.
    • Are you familiar with the basic tenets of mass production? If the market for something is you and twenty other geeks, be prepared to pay $10,000 for it.

      If you think it can just be added to existing laptops for about $8, you're right, but it won't be, because most of the buyers of those laptops don't want the feature, and the manufacturer would prefer to keep the $8 x number of units for itself.

      P.S. Don't verb nouns if doing so would conflict with already extant verbs, idiot.

  • Most rack environments I've been around have been both short on available rack units and in need of a test/management PC, especially if diagnosing something that required client connectivity. They're also usually short on space period, meaning that if you're lucky you can scrunch up on the floor or immediately out on the hallway. If not, you're doing a lot of running around. And usually the flakiest ones have the least amount of space and have removed their displays and keyboards from the rack, too.

    A la
  • Synergy ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by niconico (39002)
    Checkout : http://synergy2.sf.net/

    Maybe not exactly what you're looking for but this excellent peace of GPL software lets you use only one mouse+keyboard pair to interact with multiple computer+screen pairs, may they be running Mac OS, Windows and Linux/Unix.
  • This question is sort fo a variant fo what I was thinking about. I was thinking that it might actually make more send and be more economical to buy the new headless mac, and carry that around, rather then an iBook. Lot's of places I go to teach or make presentations have monitor, keyboard and mouse, so all I really need is the itty bitty mini Mac.

    But there are occassions I want to take the Mini Mac with me and bring along a monitor as well. So I was thinking about some of those portable LCDs targeting the
  • I use one of these as a portable monitor for headless machines:

    Lilliput Touchscreen LCD display [allcam.biz]

    It has a VGA input and a USB connector. So far, I've only used the VGA input, and used a separate keyboard. In principle, you can install the appropriate driver (it's available for Linux!), plug in the USB cable and use the touchscreen cabability instead of mouse/keyboard.

    This thing's great. It really beats carting around a full-sized monitor.

  • ..in this isn't remote admin or even rack admin.

    1) Very compact and portable form factor display, keyboard and mouse. A huge bonus if its an actual laptop, too.

    2) When the laptop is obsolete as a computer, it's still a usable display, keyboard and mouse combination.

    I've tossed more laptops than I care to remember, but would keep them all (well, at least the 800x600 ones) if they could be used as displays at the very least.

  • You plug one end into your headless box, and the other end into your favourite I/O terminal.

    Need something to install the OS in the first place? That device is called a 'schlepper' -- you pay him some money, and he installs the OS on the machine for you.

    Hell, I've never even visited the state that my server resides in.

  • Not for "real" rackmounted server rooms, but for commodity hardware running headless servers, etc. I think it would be really nice if some laptop maker could make a removable drive insert (so you could swap it in for the CD drive, for example) with a VGA port connected to the laptop LCD, and 2 USB ports corresponding to the keyboard and trackpad/trackpoint of the laptop. Of course, the normal computer part of the laptop would be disabled for all this.

    Ah well, wishful thinking I suppose. There's no compa
  • I found that KVM cabling and setup was time consuming, anoying and expensive.

    My favoured solution is currently a laptop and SSH. Plus A KVM monitor,keyboard/mouse left in the data center with a few critical machines on and with a spare very long (2-3Meters) KVM cable to connect to any machines stuck on bios/boot screens or with failing SSH.

    Obviously this only works if you are Unix/Linux only. Remote KVMs would be useful though, can anyone recommend a secure one that isn't hideously expensive?
  • by zotz (3951)
    "Wouldn't it be nice to carry around a specialized laptop that could act as both a portable display and input device?"

    I have been talking about this exact thing for a long time. All it would need is a laptop with a built in kvm. One press you are controlling the laptop, one press you are controlling the external pc from the laptop.

    Someone build this for me please.

  • They have had this for years. You can remotely boot the systems over an IP network, go into the bios etc. It's a special card that acts like a video card that you can access over an IP network.
  • The cheapest solution is probably this card [supermicro.com] that integrates with supermicro motherboards.

    Remote admin is something you need to consider BEFORE you buy your hardware.

    An ideal solution would be able to
    - work when the machine has hung (usually means a separate IP for admin, thru a single ethernet port)
    - access/change bios
    - access to temperatures/fan speeds while OS is running
    - mount CDs for reinstalling an OS, even remotely

    IBM, Sun & Dell have rather expensive solutions in their servers. Admin i

  • If only there were some sort of mechanism, like a serial port, over which you could run a console through which control might be exercised. But then, I am going out on a limb here.

  • Choice quote: Truth be told, the bloodiest day in America's Army Game account history is still ahead of us and we got most of the information leading to that day from the bad guys themselves!

    Throughout the article this guy keeps saying "bad guys" like he was fighting for something tangible and sacred. Get some perspective man, you're booting cheaters from a game server, not saving babies in 'Nam.

    How about: Tampering with software and servers owned or used by the Army is cyber crime
    Oooooh, oh no! I'm not

  • There arn't a lot of consumer x86 boards out there which will redirect console to a com port, I have an old PPro board which will do it, but not to the extent it will let you enter and config the bios.

    Looking outside x86 however sparc64 would suit you, if there is no keyboard in the system it defaults to terminal via the first serial port (or whatever you set in OpenFirmware)
    This may be true of other OpenFirmware users (Only Apple springs to mind currently)

    I did have a point to this post, i think it may h
  • There are the ServView systems from BlackBox which are pretty much exactly what you are asking for, here is an image [blackbox.com]. They are made to be on slide-out drawers in a rackmount cabinet but you might be able to do some creative amputation to make it more portable :)
  • by Glasswire (302197) <glasswireNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @06:42PM (#11342113) Homepage
    He isn't looking for a new way to do KVM, he wants to be able to give Keyboard/Mouse/Video INPUT to the laptop so it can be the console to a KVM. Yes, software solutions exist, but that makes assumptions about compatibility between the console application and the OS on the laptop. The perfect solution is something (probably a PCMCIA card) that has input dongles to attach into the console KVM ports on the KVM unit AND a switch that toggles the laptop between KVM mode and laptop mode.
    Having said that, the poster that indicated earlier that anything only 20 geeks want will cost $10,000 is right, so I'm not holding my breath for the PCMCIA card.
    I would say, though, that it would be really nice if someone could come up with some cheap hardware with keyboard/mouse/VGA connectors that protocol converted to VNC APIs over IP over ethernet. There's a lot of people that could use a cheap KVM over IP solution like this...
  • by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:13PM (#11342487) Homepage
    'cause for every other type of server known to man, you simply run a serial console and use a laptop with a terminal emulator if your networked ssh dies for some reason.

    Isn't it great the problems needing a GUI just to do simple admin tasks creates?

  • Two tools together (Score:4, Informative)

    by petree (16551) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @08:40PM (#11343588) Homepage Journal
    Epiphan makes a product called VGA2USB [epiphan.com] ($399) and then buy a usb keyboard with a touchpad on it. (ibm sells one [ibm.com] for $100). This way you'd just have your laptop (which you would probably have out anyways) and then one keyboard/mouse combo. It's not perfect, but it'll get the job done for $500.

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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