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I want to hook the two Ubuntu computers together vie an Ethernet cable. I would like to access both via one monitor and keyboard. Is there a quick and easy way to do this?

What are my Ubuntu options?

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2 Answers 2

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That is really two different questions, but yes it's both possible and easy. For future reference, please keep in mind that the more details you provide in your question, the more detailed the answers can become.

I'll provide an example here. It'll be some text, but it really is quite simple. I'm assuming a desktop that has a large monitor attached, and a laptop. You want to use the laptop as a keyboard and mouse for the desktop by connecting it to the desktop using a ethernet cable. In essence, the desktop will feel like an extension of the laptop.

The networking

There are two steps for this procedure. First you need to setup network. There are many ways of doing this, but the easiest way is to open the network icon > Edit connections on your desktop. Select the network interface to be shared with your laptop and click Edit. In the dialog that appears, look under IPv4. There is a box called Method. Select "Shared with other computers". That's all there is to it. You can now just connect the laptop and desktop using an ethernet cable, and they will be in communication automatically. The laptop will get access to the desktops internet connection as well.

Showing the Network Manager dialog for sharing an interface

Make a note of your computers hostnames. You can do that by simply opening a terminal. You'll see username@hostname:~$. If you don't like the names they have, then you can easily change them by running sudo nano /etc/hostname. Edit to something you'll remember, such as bambudesktop and bambulaptop. Only use a-z 0-9 and dashes. If you do change them, then you need to reboot afterwards.

Connecting the laptops keyboard and mouse

The next thing to do, is to enable using the laptop as a keyboard and mouse for your desktop. This is also very easy. First, install the package named quicksynergy on both your desktop and laptop. It's in the archives, and you can click here to install it.

Run Quicksynergy on your laptop. In the "Share" tab, enter "bambudesktop.local" in the top field and click Execute. That is the hostname you've chosen + ".local".

The computer to control with. In this case the laptop.

On the desktop, in the "Use"-tab, there are two fields: server and screen name. The server is the hostname of the laptop, so enter "bambulaptop.local". As a screen name, enter your desktops hostname; "bambudesktop.local". Click Execute.

The computer to be controlled. In this case the desktop.

Your desktop will now connect to your laptop. The laptop is the server. That is important to remember, as it might feel a little strange, though there are good reasons for it. You can now move your mouse pointer from the laptop and onto the desktop screen by moving it up from the top of your screen. When the mouse pointer is on the desktop screen, you can use the keyboard from the laptop. To move it back to the laptop, of course, you just pull it through the bottom of the desktop screen. It's like having an external monitor attached to your laptop.

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Since the question was about using a single screen and keyboard, I don't think that the answer pertaining to Synergy is what bambuntu is looking for.

If you have a single screen, keyboard, and mouse that you want to use with several computers you have two main options:

  • connect the computers via a network and have one display its screen contents in a window on the other; or
  • using a specialized piece of hardware known as a KVM switch which was invented to solve precisely this particular problem.

The network-based solution can be implemented using a large number of different softwares, and you can install and try them to find which you find works best for you. Some good starting points on your Internet searching quest are VNC, RDP, NoMachine, and SSH X-Forwarding. I would recommend NoMachine above the others, since I've found that it outperforms the alternatives. The main benefit of this approach is that once set up, you can easily make it so that you can access your computer(s) via the Internet as well as via your local network, if you wish. The main drawback is that depending on what you do, the network transport is relatively slow, so you can't run e.g. graphics- or input-intensive applications this way (such as games).

The hardware-based solution requires a small investment in a KVM switch, but it may be well worth it. You hook it up to both of your computers via cables, and it allows you to switch between computers easily. The main benefit of this approach is that it works just as well should you at some point choose to run e.g. Windows or OSX on one of the computers (for games, Photoshop, or Microsoft Office, for instance) since the OS just sees the KVM switch as hardware that has been plugged in.

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