KVM switches for the desktop
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Wether we want it or not, the 2020 pandemic changed the way the 
industry works. For me, it meant working remotely 90% of the time. I 
could bring my company's docking station, screen and laptop home, to 
work from here. This sounded cool until I realized how small my « desk 
» really is [0] ...

On this desk are connected my personnal computer (tower build), work 
laptop (docked) and a PS4. I can fit them all on this desk ! Hooray ! 
What's tedious though, is switching between them. Let's cconsider 2 use 
cases:
 
- Switching from my tower to PS4
- Switching from my tower to the laptop
 
 
So here I am, chatting on IRC or browsing the gopher space on my 
computer, when a friend calls me up to play video games. It takes quite 
a few steps:
 
1 - Turn on the PS4 using the  controller
2 - Plug in my headphones to the controller
3 - Switch monitor input to HDMI
4 - Replug the mouse from my tower to the PS4
5 - Plug a new keyboard to the PS4
 
And I'm set ! A few explanations here. I must plug headphones to the 
controller because the PS4 only has 2 USB ports, which I use for 
keyboard and mouse. And as my monitor doesn't have speakers, I must use 
the controller for sound output.
I use another keyboard rather than the currently plugged in to avoid 
having to unplug 2 devices from my tower. It's more "convenient". When 
I'm done, I just put it away. When switching back to my tower, I just 
do the same tasks in reverse. 
 
 
Now, here is my « working commute » (switching from tower to work 
laptop) :
 
1 - Turn on/wake up laptop from the dock
2 - Switch monitor input to Display port 
3 - Turn on the wireless mouse
4 - Swap cable connected to my keyboard
 
This is a bit simpler. I use a wireless mouse plugged to the dock so I 
don't have to swap my main mouse which is plugged behind my desk, and 
thus hard to reach. Same goes for the keyboard, which is why I have two 
cables that I can plug to the keyboard to « switch » computers. So 
switching between my tower and work laptop doesn't require going under 
the desk, Yay !


 
You certainly understand how tedious this is, and when I heard that we 
might eventually keep working remotely for a few more months, I decided 
it was the time to optimize that workflow. That's when I bought a KVM 
switch, which stands for « Keyboard, Video, Mouse switch » [1].
 
It's a device that lets you connect your KVM devices to different 
computers, and switch them using a simple button press. I bought one 
with 4 inputs, with HDMI support. Its main advantage is its 
compactness, and that plugs are packed on only 2 sides, helping with 
cable management.
 
Since I have this device, switching between my 3 computers is as simple 
as pressing a button ! I use the same mouse/keyboard everytime, which 
is much more comfortable as well.
 
I though that KVM switches were a datacenter thing. Nope, and I wonder 
how I did without it all these years !
--  
~wgs
 
[0]: gopher://z3bra.org/I/u/tiny_desk.jpg
[1]: gopher://z3bra.org/I/u/kvm_switch.jpg

20201216.0450