Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Power User: Controlling multiple computers from one

Many of us have gotten used to having multiple monitors on your computer - simply drag your mouse off the edge of one screen and onto the other.  Administrators have for years been using "KVM" switches - Keyboard/Video/Mouse switches - to share keyboards and mice across computers.

However, the day finally arrived I have been dreading for years.  The little monitor I've had on my desktop for some 15 years finally died - and I no longer had an external monitor.  So, in searching for a solution that would allow me to use another computer across the network as a monitor, I came across a free, open-source utility called Synergy, that basically makes multiple computers behave like a single one with multiple monitors.  The most beautiful things about this software, are:
  • It works across platform - Windows, Mac and Linux
  • It supports clipboards - so I spent several hours today taking screen shots with Snag-It on a Windows machine, and pasting into Word on the Mac
  • It is fast and reliable
  • A simple setup dialog allows you to control the screen positions (e.g. dragging off the right edge of WIN001 goes to MAC005)
The machine you want to use the keyboard and mouse on, you set up as the server (check Server and then Start).  The others are clients.  You must add each machine by name to the server before you try to connect from it, this provides a bit of security for you.

The project is free and open source, but if you do end up using it, I highly recommend that you donate to support the software.

I did find a commercial utility that allows you to use another Windows PC as a monitor, but that to me seems wasteful - and I do not want more than one Windows machine at home.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Family Dinner: Tradition or History?

Ok, not really a geeky subject, unless you count it under food geek. So I read this story on NPR a while back (with the title of this post), and wondered if perhaps Allison Aubrey is perhaps living in a circle of what I call convenience lifers, or am I living in my own cushy bubble of food geeks? Our family is near one end of the extreme: we actually grow our own food, buy most of it from local farmers, and the food we eat is almost entirely made from scratch with natural raw ingredients (the most complex ingredient in some of our dishes is ketchup - Organic, of course).

True, we know a few people who never cook, or whose idea of cooking is to heat up frozen dishes. However, it seems without having an actual survey, that most of the friends, family, and neighbors cook and eat at least some meals at home. At our house, it is a rare evening that not all 6 of us is at the table for dinner. And we are a busy family. In fact, the busier we are, the more important it is to take the time and prepare meals (and eat them together). 

My wife Lisa often teaches classes on cooking, including the organization and planning of it. With our lifestyle, our meats are bought in quantity and frozen, so we have to plan ahead (and make fewer trips to the store for them). On very busy weeks, we have our "fast food": dishes that are done ahead or quick to cook, that we can hear up from the freezer -- or cook in the crock pot so we can leave them unattended for long periods of time. 

So if this is truly a bygone ideal, then I say that family and cultural traditions are also bygone ideals, and we may as well live like a pack of individual animals.  How about you?  Do you live a modern life of total convenience, where you have become separated from how and where your food is grown, when it is in season, even don't care about the ingredients?  Or are you the veritable pioneer, living off the land, suspicious of any store-bought foods?  Or somewhere in between?   Do you think that social values are disintegrating in this age of convenience and technology?  Or do you strive to make it more relevant?  Respond in the comments below.