Use a Laptop For Single Machine KVM?

Okay, here’s a silly question: I want to use my laptop as the monitor and keyboard for a server. Kinda like KVM over IP, but I only need to attach to a single server.

You might ask, “Bob, what sort of ridiculous thing are you trying to do?”

I’m glad you asked! Basically I have a bunch of machines deployed all over the place where there aren’t monitors. I hate dragging a monitor with me when I go to visit them. Sometimes there are even KVM-over-IP switches, but no monitor, and getting a network connection to use the KVM-over-IP is a bunch of hassle. Sometimes the machines can do serial console redirection, but not universally and that doesn’t seem to work nearly as well as I’d hope. Plus the serial port is in the back, and that means fishing around to connect it. Some of them could have their second NICs configured so I can use a crossover Ethernet cable and get in, but not all of them. Standardization? Maybe in five years but not now.

The one thing they ALL can do is VGA and USB. I already take a battery-powered monitor and keyboard with me in the form of a laptop. How do I combine these two?

11 thoughts on “Use a Laptop For Single Machine KVM?”

  1. I’ve looked into it. Possibly impossible.

    Best likelihood is to find an old laptop that has a video card not integral to the motherboard, and a keyboard/mouse encoder that’s also off the board. Rip it open, rewire everything, rip out everything but battery, charger circuitry, and video/keyboard/mouse hardware.

  2. This came up on the SAGE-members mailing list recently, and the consensus seemed to be that it’s not doable right now. There was one piece of equipment mentioned that was supposed to do all this — USB (I believe) to your laptop, keyboard and VGA to the server — but it turned out to be buggy as hell and more or less useless.

  3. Awesome ideas, all. I’ve been busy today but have been looking at some of them, and those devices look darn cool. I’m willing to spend $400.

    Darren, I can’t do rdesktop because I can’t depend on having a working network connection on the boxes. That’s part of why I need this to be VGA & USB.

  4. if someone could come up with software to connect two machine by nothing but a usb cable, like vnc over usb, that would be cool

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