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Anyone use KVMs with Macs?  I've used a ton of KVMs over the years, and some time ago I even had a couple of my vintage Macs set up on a KVM as I have a couple of DB-15 + ADB to VGA + PS/2 converters that worked well with my older PS/2 KVMs.  

 

I'm looking for something now that will work with a wide variety of systems, including modern Macs, vintage Macs, Windows PCs and Linux boxes.

 

The thing that makes it more complicated is that I really want remove KVM over IP capabilities.  The older (circa early 2000's) solutions I've used have an embedded VNC server in the KVM (or an add-on remote unit like the SV1110IPEXT from StarTech).

 

The issue I've often run into with Macs of any era and remote KVM is mouse synchronization.  With Windows, if you turn off mouse acceleration, the mouse pointer synchronizes perfectly with the local (KVM client) one.  However, with Macs, it seems ALWAYS a problem.   I did find a command to supposedly turn off mouse synchronization:

 

defaults write .GlobalPreferences com.apple.mouse.scaling -1

But that didn't help. 

 

I looked for a more modern solution, with USB and HDMI support instead of VGA, but there don't seem to be a lot of them out there.  Not sure why, but even the vendors like StarTech that used to have decent solutions don't seem to be making them anymore.  There are high-end providers like Raritan, but I just can't see spending thousands of dollars for a KVM for my "hobby". 

 

One of the reasons I'm so interested in this is that I like to run a lot of my machines headless, using screen sharing / VNC / Remote Desktop to access them when I need to.  But, eventually one of them will lock up and be inaccessible, and unless I'm willing to drag out a monitor / keyboard / mouse, I just have to hard power cycle them and hope it doesn't happen again.  Yes, I could just have a normal KVM (which doesn't have the mouse sync issues as remote VNC KVMs do) but then I still have to go down to my basement where my rack is to deal with the problem.  Hence the appeal of KVM over IP solutions. 

 

I would love love love someday to be able to run a couple of my vintage Macs like this in my basement, and use them remotely whenever I felt like Mac'ing out.  Less clutter in the office too.  Perhaps one of them could serve up a website or be an AppleShare server. 

 

I'm curious if anyone else has found good solutions for this.

 

Edited by pcamen

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I use an old Dr.Bott ADB KVM with 4 of my old macs, I also have a 12 port BlackBox ADB KVM. For USB Mac you could use any of the normal PC KVMs (I use Belkin models).

 

For remote control there is software for the Mac/PC called Timbuktu that works into the OSX era if you have Ethernet (the 68k and OSX versions are probably not compatible).

 

 

 

 

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I've also got several of the Dr. Bott KVM's.  Certainly great for a local experience (sitting in front of a Mac) to have multiple Macs share a single KVM. 

 

But it still leaves the remote part out.  The problem with Timbuktu, and all other software solutions like it, is that they can't access the machine when it borks up with issues that affect the network, or it is going through for example a repeated boot screen level reboot cycle.  A hardware remove KVM would allow bios level access from afar.  That's mostly what I'm interested in. 

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I never really seen the point of remote access unless you are running a server at some remote location (something you would not do with vintage gear).

 

For me actually sitting in front of the machines working on them is the fun of it. I use KVMs because I want more then one machine available for use but not a separate monitor for each (space issues).

 

If you want to remotely use Macos without any special hardware needs then just go emulation.

 

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I run quite a few machines at home.  I also have a slate of machines at my company in a server room.  For the server room, it's essential to have bios level remote management for dealing with problems while off-site.  But those are almost all windows machines, so the older remote KVM units work ok.  But I do have one Mac there as well that I use to download internet ZONE files daily, as well as scrape our local business license database looking for changes (list of companies locally that register new business licenses or let them lapse).  That's what I do a lot of, taking an older Mac machine, like a 2010-2012 Mini and using it for a specific purpose.  I have another I use for torrenting.  I have an Intel NUC that I use for my video surveillance server.  I have a new Mini with large RAID drives I use as a server.  Almost all of these are on or near my rack in the mechanical room of my house.  It's a small thing, but sometimes it is just more convenient to be able to deal with a boot-level issue and not have to go back and forth to my basement, or if I am away. 

 

So yea, for playing with Macs, being in front of them is nice, using the old keyboards, mice, and CRTs.  But in some case not having to be in front of machines, even some vintage Macs used for specific purposes, is nice. 

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I have two belkin omniview adapters designed for just this purpose of connecting macs to an off the shelf PC KVM- ps/2 keyboard and mouse and vga monitor to mac adb and 15 pin monitor.

 

I'm interested in letting them go as I've taken my classic Macs out of my rack and no longer use the KVM...

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As far as your scaling using remote kvm- this is kinda a thing that happens in general- an IP KVM is not for day to day use pretty much pure and simple. I definitely used mine with an IP KVM, but OS level mouse acceleration is always at odds with the kvm...

I even have issues with this on "Supported" windows machines...

 

personally, I'd look into USB over IP and Video over IP solutions, and couple them with a PROPER manual kvm where your computers are, that way there's no virtual scaling or wierd web ui induced lag/interface.

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Unfortunately, these kind of issues haven't ever been particularly well solved on the Mac. The Sophisticated Circuits products were pretty much the best Mac server administrators had until the XServe, which added a serial port and if I'm remembering correctly, a Mac-only out-of-band hardware management tool, which you needed a desktop OSX mac to manage, and which would be a bad idea to run on a production Internet-connected network today. (But, it would be fine on a management vlan that was properly separated.)

 

My understanding is that most rack-level remote management tools evaporated starting around 15-20 years ago when PC OEMs started adding out-of-band and lights-out management hardware directly to server motherboards. At this point, even ultra-low-end PC servers have this built in, or available as an upgrade.

 

My solution to this, with VTools (because I looked at the sophisticated circuits thread and I can't swing what's being asked for the USB-based restart dongle at the moment) is to leave the machine in a place where I can hit the reset button on it on a regular basis. I'm also trying to suss out a reasonable schedule to just reboot it as a preventative maintenance effort, although last time I went to go do that, it hard-locked when trying to end processes, after only a week of uptime.

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4 hours ago, pcamen said:

The issue I've often run into with Macs of any era and remote KVM is mouse synchronization.  With Windows, if you turn off mouse acceleration, the mouse pointer synchronizes perfectly with the local (KVM client) one.  However, with Macs, it seems ALWAYS a problem.   I did find a command to supposedly turn off mouse synchronization: 

You need to keep an alias for ADB Reset on every desktop so you can tab to it and run it from the KBD to get the mouse back online.

 

I've been using this setup on and off for many years:

 

ADB-PS2-USB-Switching.2p.jpg

Next time I set it up I've got a four port MiniView to put into the mix with the Mac Adapter and Mac Mechanical KVM. Got everything new in the nineties. Did the diagram for fun in this thread:

 

 

I think we have several KVM threads kicking around in peripherals.

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5 minutes ago, defor said:

personally, I'd look into USB over IP and Video over IP solutions, and couple them with a PROPER manual kvm where your computers are, that way there's no virtual scaling or wierd web ui induced lag/interface.

I've definitely seen quite a few remote KVM over ethernet solutions where you simply extend the KVM from one spot, over the network, to a receive at another spot.  Might solve my problem half-way enough.

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@Trash80toHP_Mini Yea, those MiniView's are what I was referring to. They are great!  I'll probably end up just having a local KVM setup in my mechanical room for my headless Macs and other computers.  I used the MiniView in the last iteration I had like 10 years ago. 

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