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Laptops, Headless Servers and KVMs?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the portable-passive-displays-would-be-a-wonderul-thing dept.

Displays 397

Administration of headless machines can be a pain, and working on multiple machines can also be a bit of a bother. KVM boxes solve some of the problem, but sometimes finding a keyboard and a monitor to lug around to these machines is most of the problem. Is there a portable solution that might solve both of these problems? Wouldn't it be nice to carry around a specialized laptop that could act as both a portable display and input device? Does something like this currently exist?KJH1138 asks: "I am looking for a hardware/software combination that would allow me to use my laptop as the KVM for a headless server before, during, and after OS configuration. What I have in mind would be a server KVM/USB to laptop serial/USB connection, with software on the laptop to provide KVM control of the headless device, with or without an OS. A PC Anywhere or Linux equivalent wouldn't work since they would require the headless system to already have an installed OS. I would prefer a Linux-based solution on the laptop, but would settle for a Windows option. I simply don't want the clutter of a keyboard and monitor."

PGillingwater has a similar desire: "Like many regular readers, sometimes I need to visit a customer site to diagnose equipment, like firewalls or routers. More systems these days use VGA output and keyboard input, which means having to scrounge a display and keyboard, then looking for a spare power socket in the machine room, which is not always easy! I am wondering if anyone has seen a laptop which also allows VGA input and keyboard output. This would be a cool idea. Use it as a normal laptop most of the time, then hijack the video and keyboard to connect to other systems when you need it."

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What we do... (4, Interesting)

grub (11606) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340781)


If we can't ssh to computers or telnet to equipment (switches, etc) we have an OpenBSD laptop which we can use as a console via a serial cable and kermit. That's assuming a unixish system, though. If you're only running Windows on servers then why not install TightVNC and control it from your desktop? Assuming the machine is still on the LAN, of course. If it's not you'll probably just reboot it anyhow.

What we do... (grub, REVISED) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340810)


Read Slashdot. All day.

Re:What we do... (grub, REVISED) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340823)

No, "we" have a python script that looks for new articles in the subscriber queue and pings "us".

Re:What we do... (grub, REVISED) (1)

spitefulcrow (713858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340935)

No, "we" use Firefox's "Live Bookmarks" to display RSS feeds in a menu on "our" toolbar.

Re:What we do... (grub, REVISED) (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11341023)

Speak for yourselves, but "we" use foreign slave labor at a fraction of the cost. And "we" beat "them" with whips every time "they" fail to get first post.

Re:What we do... (0, Offtopic)

Aliencow (653119) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340822)

Terminal server is better than TightVNC (For servers, at least) - RDP for XP..

Re:What we do... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340855)

rdesktop is an excellent RDP client for Linux. More info here:
http://rdesktop.sourceforge.net/

Re:What we do... (2)

sndtech (738958) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340840)

the poster said that he wanted to be able to use it before an OS was installed, so he could install an OS, your solution would work great for systems already installed but whatw ould happen if say, you had to reinstall the OS?

Re:What we do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340853)

Where does he say that?
Administration of headless machines can be a pain, and working on multiple machines can also be a bit of a bother. KVM boxes solve some of the problem, but sometimes finding a keyboard and a monitor to lug around to these machines is most of the problem. Is there a portable solution that might solve both of these problems? Wouldn't it be nice to carry around a specialized laptop that could act as both a portable display and input device? Does something like this currently exist?

Re:What we do... (3, Informative)

ray-auch (454705) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340974)

Roughly here:

A PC Anywhere or Linux equivalent wouldn't work since they would require the headless system to already have an installed OS.

Re:What we do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340994)

You need to read down a bit further to see "A PC Anywhere or Linux equivalent wouldn't work since they would require the headless system to already have an installed OS.". NOTE: This isn't viewable on the main /. page but reading the entire story after clicking the link displays it.

Re:What we do... (3, Informative)

temojen (678985) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340941)

Use a kernel build with a serial console on the install disk.

1337 bytes in body! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340782)

anyone notice that?

Re:1337 bytes in body! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11341065)

OMF HAX!!!

Feline poop! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340784)

Fuck you, all you motherfucking LambdaMOOers you! That's right, fuck y'all! Damn!

Re:Feline poop! (0, Offtopic)

bjjohnson (572841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340819)

Hmm,
can we get this modded out of here? Sounds like this old jock is feeling a little bad about the fact the guys he picked on are now making 10x's as much as he is after graduation...

Re:Feline poop! (1)

DaFallus (805248) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341061)

You need to clarify that statment, it should say:

"Sounds like this old jock is feeling a little bad about the fact the guys he picked on are now making 10x's as much as he is after their graduation..."

We all know this moron didn't graduate from anything except maybe Pampers.

Re:Feline poop! (1)

bjjohnson (572841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341092)

Ding Ding ding... Nice Follow up. Or you can say... "They Suck Big Floppy..." (If you don't know the rest, watch the South Park Movie) BTW I haven't seen ANY of the LOTR or Harry Potter movies.

Wow (4, Funny)

cca93014 (466820) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340786)

1337 bytes in body

Er, w00t?

Re:Wow (1)

slavemowgli (585321) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340887)

Darn, you beat me to commenting on that. :)

Re:Wow (1)

cca93014 (466820) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340924)

l33t!

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11341029)

pwned!

Re:Wow (1, Insightful)

pcmanjon (735165) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341041)

I'd suggest just getting a mini-flatpanel LCD monitor, connecting it to a standard KVM, then get a non-extended PS/2 keyboard and mini-laptop mouse.

There! Instant KVM thats smaller than a laptop!

http://www.amdmb.com/article-display.php?Article ID =167
http://www.spysupplystore.com/Merchant2/merc hant.m vc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=LcdMini2&Category_Code =
For your micro-sized-flatpanel ^^^

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0 00 05NJ8R/102-5108035-1791351?v=glance
^^ Your mini mouse

http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000813025740/
^^ For your small keyboard.

See, doesn't take a genius ;]
I've built something like this for the same reason, not using the same brands as above but getting the small peripherials/monitor. It works great!

Pardon my ignorince but ... (3, Insightful)

MPHellwig (847067) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340790)

there are null-modem, lom ports, web-enabled bios configuration, web-enabled SCSI configuration, Ssh, remote desktop (free for admin usage) and you still wonder what the best solution is?
Try talking up with a _good_ admin who shows you in _real_live_ the 1 & 2's.
KVM switches are handy for non-server hardware misplaced in the network architecture, but any serious stuff has some or all of the above list.
"Real" servers are not that expensive by the way, especially compared to the price of IP-KVM.

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340824)

I have to admit the SSH and webmin where the first things that popped in my head. For Windows I guess remote desktop would be a good solution.
The one time I can think of needing a keyboard/monitor would be for install and if something really really bad was going on in the hardware.

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (2, Interesting)

MPHellwig (847067) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340984)

Webmin is nice but I am talking about (SCSI) bios with a tiny webserver in it. This is how it could go:
Place the machine in the rack
Write down the mac of the management NIC
Kick the machine on with WOL
Configure the bios and scsi via web
The machine installs via PXE boot (you got that on your site don't you?)
Configure it
Test it
Configure it
Test it
(repeat as long as needed)
Then take it out of your test rack and place in the "Live" rack (what you don't have a test site?!?)

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (1)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340988)

The one time I can think of needing a keyboard/monitor would be for install and if something really really bad was going on in the hardware.

Bingo. Sometimes the shit does hit the fan, and there are times when a direct connection to a server is needed. LOM or serial stuff is OK. I use my Mac for that with a serial to USB adaptor, but some "real" servers do not have LOM or serial connections and do require a display and a keyboard.

I too would like to see some solutions for those servers that do require a keyboard and a monitor. Oh, and KVM is simply not practical with large numbers of servers that already have multiple cables coming out of them.

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (1)

MPHellwig (847067) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341124)

Perhaps I don't have not enough experience with "real" server but every single server I had layed my fingers on in the last 6 years (did no servers before that), had at least 1 remote solution.
Yeah I forgot the management NIC port in my first list.
But it could be that in my view remote management is a requisit for a "real" server, so actually self creating truth :-)

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (1)

rarn (563521) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340899)

The question is how do you connect to the device "before, during, and after OS configuration."
ssh and rdp are great while the server is running, but what about bios access? Personally I like serial consoles, but you can't do that with windows servers.

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (2, Informative)

CharlieHedlin (102121) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340951)

Ah, but the question talked about a lot of low end type servers at client locations, so using remote management ports may not be an option. Heck, some of my less critical servers don't have full remote management if the network interface is offline.

Being able to use a laptop as in place of a "crash cart" would save many admins many headaches.

It would also need to support connecting as a USB keyboard for my use though.

Sounds like a perfect application for a specialized PC Card or external USB 2.0 device, capture and digitize the VGA, and emulate a keyboard. I guess the closest product currently availible would be to use some of the IP KVM equipment.

While not cheap, a few of the entry level 1 port IP KVM swiches listed here [kvms.com] would probably do the trick, but they still require power.

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340954)

I thought the main desire was to have it available even without an OS involved. All the things you suggested pretty much assume that the headless "server" already has all the stuff installed in it. How 'bout if you're starting from scratch and want to do an OS install without a K/V/M?

Maybe you're in a remote location and the machine is borken beyond recognition and it requires a reinstall.

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (2, Informative)

Kraegar (565221) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340967)

We use a mixture of most of the above:

IP based Console Server (via serial connection) to all Unix hosts.
IP based KVM's with flatpanel monitor/keyboard trays in each rack to all hosts.
Remote desktop for all the windows hosts
SSH on all the Unix hosts
Switches, routers, etc are all accessed via ssh. (some with a small single port "console server", if they don't natively support ssh).

Basically the goal should be not to find the *best* way, but as many ways as you can, so when one avenue breaks down, you have other points of getting in. And all of them need to be secure. If it's web based it needs to be ssl. Use ipsec. ssh. etc...
Also, the reason we have the KVM on the linux boxes serving up a green screen console to each rack is in case the console server goes down when the lan does. It saved us once when water hit the rack with both the network switches and the console server in it.

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (1)

Facekhan (445017) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341075)

Dell sells a rack enclosure with a 1u sliding tray for an lcd, keyboard and mouse with a kvm switch. They have one in my schools network lab which doubles as its server farm.

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (1)

JoeShmoe (90109) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341083)


Kindly show me a version of a Windows server that by default installs Terminal Services in Remote Administration mode, because last time I checked, neither 2000 server nor 2003 server did.

I don't think I've EVER been able to remotely admin a Windows server unless it just happened to be a Terminal Server anyway. I'm actually about ten times more likely to find they have a copy of pcAnywhere running than Microsoft's own remote administration tools.

- JoeShmoe
.

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (1)

JoeShmoe (90109) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341125)

And by "remotely admin" I don't mean tweak a service that's available from any MMC on the network, I'm talking about things like mucking around in the System control panel or removable hardware, and stuff like that.

Not to mention...try running SFC from Remote Desktop sometime. You'll get a nice polite message saying it can only be run from the console...namely the actualy keyboard/monitor of the server itself. Now we are back to KVM solutions. Thanks Microsoft!

- JoeShmoe
.

Re:Pardon my ignorince but ... (1)

dhammabum (190105) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341087)

What none of your solutions offer is console access to an intel box. I agree the original post glossed over non-intel equipment, but console access was the main point of the original post.

use avocent (3, Informative)

wheatking (608436) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340794)

use avocent or any decent "kvm-over-ip" implementation....

Re:use avocent (1)

CerebusUS (21051) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340901)

Here's a link to Avocent's KVM-over-IP solution. I haven't used it, but it might be just what the poster is asking for...

Avocent's SwitchView IP [avocent.com]

Re:use avocent (1)

_RiZ_ (26333) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340982)

It works and works well. We have them to all of our routers console ports and all solaris consoles. As long as you got what ever media, if any, you are good.

Re:use avocent (1)

saintp (595331) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341089)

We use Avocent in a mixed environment of Solaris, Linux (three flavors), Mac OS X, and Windows. Very nice solution. We've had some problems when installing Linux (it detects the monitor resolution incorrectly), but other than that, it works great for maintenance, installation, anything you can throw at it.

Solutions: (1)

sH4RD (749216) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340796)

Solutions:
1) Invent a wireless KVM or
2) Make really long cables

We have two KVMs daisy-chained with 18 or so machines on them. Works fine. So just scale that up by making it wireless. Sit comfortably in one spot, and go!

Re:Solutions: (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341068)

Screw KVMs. Get a monitor that accepts both DVI and VGA input at the same time.

One machine connects via VGA. The other machine connect thru a VGA-to-DVI cable.

If there IS a solution, let me know. (1)

wcitechnologies (836709) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340798)

I run a computer repair business where I have to move from station, to station, to station... (etc.) to get my work done. I was just thinking this morning how awesome it would be if I work on all of these computers (at least on the software side) without getting out of my chair. This kind of thing would be very handy, and probably allow me to get twice as much work done.

Re:If there IS a solution, let me know. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340829)

And gain twice as much weight!

Re:If there IS a solution, let me know. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340831)

It would also double the size of your ass.

Re:If there IS a solution, let me know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340886)

There are many solutions available. It depends on what your are describing. If these are multiple stations that are coming in for repair or having the operating system installed for the first time then KVM Switches are the way to go. Hook up the cables and work from one station. This is how all of our server rooms are set up.

If you have multiple machines that are stable and just different applications loaded you could use a remote control solution like VNC.

Hope this helps

Re:If there IS a solution, let me know. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340915)

without getting out of my chair.
Chair
With
Wheels

k, bye bye

Re:If there IS a solution, let me know. (1)

RedLeg (22564) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340949)

I was just thinking this morning how awesome it would be if I work on all of these computers (at least on the software side) without getting out of my chair.

You, sir, missed your calling. You should have been a UNIX sysadmin....

Now, where ARE my sandals and suspenders, anyway?

ObRealContent:

But seriously, this is why real computers, at least servers, typically have serial console ability hard-wired in and drop back to it when running headless or without a keyboard. Sun has had this for YEARS, and lots of higher end x86-based server hardware supports it as well. Plus, there's been support to one degree or another in the the Linux Kernel for a long time.

So, your solution, and I know this ain't the answer you were grepping for, is to buy hardware that supports a serial console, and use an OS which supports the hardware. For all others, particularly doing installs on PCs, a KVM is about as good as it gets.

Re:If there IS a solution, let me know. (1)

Betelgeuse (35904) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340958)

A KVM switch sounds like the answer for you. Run (K, V, and M) cables to all of the machines you want to work on, plug the other end of those cables into your KVM switch, and plug your monitor, mouse, and keyboard of choice into the switch.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Re:If there IS a solution, let me know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340971)

Check this. [42u.com]

KVM (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340803)

maybe

Wimp (5, Funny)

Odo (109839) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340808)

> Is there a portable solution that might solve both of these problems?

Yes. Real techs just stick their tongue in the video port and jiggle a paperclip in the keyboard port. Only amateurs need dedicated hardware.

Live with it (0, Offtopic)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340813)

Everyone has to push the crash cart around.

IP KVM card (2, Informative)

unix_geek_512 (810627) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340814)

These cards and related products from peppercon and raritan would do the job.

http://www.peppercon.com/eric2.html

You mean like... (2)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340820)

Standard serial ports common on all Sun hardware [and most all networking equipment] and likely technology older than I am?

Not for windows servers. For that my experience shows that the easiest solution is a monitor tied to a chair.

[a chair you ask? Well standard carts generally don't have the maneuverability (or small footprint) required for server rooms.]

Serial Killer (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341091)

I used to work at a internet services company, where we had little carts with monitors, keyboards and mice so techs and colo customers could plug them into servers as needed. I grew to hate these carts, because there were never enough of them, the monitors were always going bad, and I kept getting the mouse and keyboard ports reversed.

These "colo carts" were no good with the few Sun servers we had, since the default Sun console is a serial port. So if you wanted to console-in to a Sun server, you had to find a laptop and a null modem cable. Most of the other techs had grown up in the Linux world, and thought this exceedingly strange, but I'm old enough to remember when a computer with builtin video, keyboard, and mouse ports was a novelty. Indeed, it occurred to me that our jobs would have been a lot easier if we had configured our own Linux boxes to use a serial port as a console. Then we could have just run serial cables out to our own servers (we had about 20 of them, mostly for our own shared hosting business) instead of hunting for a colo cart every time we needed to console in.

It's another case of people doing things a certain way because of habit, rather than logic.

All of these solutions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11341116)

Are more complicated than the poster wanted. All he wanted is a flat panel moniter/keyboard combo that folds up like a laptop and connects to several computers at once. Portability was an issue here. How do you do the install if you need to adjust something before your null-modem/network services are loaded? i.e. change bios settings

Maybe (2, Informative)

N4DMX (614024) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340832)

Is something like this [i-techcompany.com] what you are looking for?

It is rack mounted, but it would be easier than to carry a monitor, keyboard, and KVM seperately.

uh.... (1)

caino59 (313096) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340834)

ssh/vnc/remote desktop/pc anywhere

if you're on the lan, any remote admin ap should work fine

out of the office? tunnel using ssh or set up a vpn...

Google is your friend (3, Informative)

Thauma (35771) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340837)

Google: IP KVM [google.com]

Re:Google is your friend (1)

ptomblin (1378) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341056)

I think you meant Just Fucking Google it:IP KVM [justfuckinggoogleit.com]

VNC? (2, Interesting)

LaPistola (813411) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340839)

We use VNC all day every day.
Works great.

PDA's? (1)

IA-Outdoors (715597) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340844)

Seems to me this should be something that a PDA could handle. Why complicate it with a laptop. Most PDA's have keyboards available that fit neatly into your pocket.

HP Servers (1)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340851)

HP Proliant servers all can make use of Integrated Lights-Out for remote administration, including a remote console through your web browser. I very rarely need a crash cart in the data center since we've started using iLO. A lot nicer to just open a URL, instead of wheeling the cart over to it.

Re:HP Servers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11341018)

iLo rocks!

We have our support teams in another state managing the day to day running of our HP servers. When a problem arises and the machine is hung or has had a panic, there is very little that VNC will do but with iLo/RiLO we can reboot, make BIOS changes, localling mount a cd and get the machine back online without having to be there.

Re:HP Servers (1)

DaHat (247651) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341054)

IIRC, Compaq also has/had a similar solution... I think they were called Remote Insight cards... I've always meant to grab one of those server type cards and see if it could/would work in a general PC.

easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340860)

ssh -lusername hostname startx

RemotelyAnywhere (For Windows Systems) (1)

WD_40 (156877) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340863)

I've been using RemotelyAnywhere [remotelyanywhere.com] on my windows machines. I am very impressed with it. You connect to a specified port using your web browser and you can remotely control every aspect of the machine via Java or ActiveX. It's very feature-rich and is working quite well for me.

Sounds a bit excessive (1, Informative)

digitalgimpus (468277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340864)

Personally I'd go with VNC, which is ok as long as your OS is running ok. It exists for just about every platform as both client/server.

I use it all the time.

If VNC isn't able to run, most likely there's a more serious issue. In that case, get the cart with the Monitor, Keyboard and wheel it over to the rack. That's not every day (provided you don't run windows).

I personally go months without a monitor. Just VNC into the box when needed.

Timbuktu is another option. Slightly smoother and faster. Though not available free.

Doesn't meet requirements (1)

lorcha (464930) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341028)

From TFA:
I am looking for a hardware/software combination that would allow me to use my laptop as the KVM for a headless server before, during, and after OS configuration. [...]A PC Anywhere or Linux equivalent wouldn't work since they would require the headless system to already have an installed OS
Like many regular readers, sometimes I need to visit a customer site to diagnose equipment, like firewalls or routers. More systems these days use VGA output and keyboard input,
If you know of a way to run VNC on a machine with no OS or some specialized blackbox router, I'd be more than happy to hear it. It sounds to me like a hardware solution is required here, though.

VGA2USB (5, Insightful)

DaHat (247651) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340875)

Recently when trying to figure out why my PC in the livingroom (plugged into the TV) wasn't displaying any video, I longed for a easy device I could plug into my laptop to display video... rather than have to lug a monitor out to the livingroom.

Sure enough, a company makes just such a device, the . [epiphan.com]

It does nothing for your mouse and keyboard needs, but this (I think) solves the biggest issue of your question.

That link should be... (1)

DaHat (247651) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340925)

VGA2USB [epiphan.com]

Re:VGA2USB (1)

mpathetiq (726625) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341110)

Interesting. I don't think it should be that hard to add a dongle for mouse and keyboard as well?

Terminal Service? (1)

L0phtpDK (711021) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340885)

If this is a windows machine, why not use a Terminal Server as a diag. tool? You could hook your laptop to their local ethernet hub and connect that way. And if you wanted to, you could make it public to allow yourself remote access for problems that are need of immediate solutions. But as for an external device, I have not heard of one.

Have you considered... (4, Informative)

farzadb82 (735100) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340888)

KVM over IP ? - I think some one has already mentioned this previously, however, they mentioned the plugin card variety. You can also purchase a stand alone box, similar to a regular KVM, however, it routes the Keyboard, Video and Mouse via IP to any machine that is network capable. The client is supplied either as a windows binary or as a Java applet (when you browse to the maintenance webpage. You can, in theory use a wireless PDA or laptop with a java enabled web browser to connect directly and control these devices.

Re:Have you considered... (1)

Psychotext (262644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341008)

Excellent bits of kit. In a previous company we specced them up and although they were pretty expensive they still looked to be worth it for reducing downtime and callouts. Finance didn't agree. :(

Running my own company now, and I've already said that as soon as it becomes neccesary we'll be going with similar kit. :)

for `nix, freenx (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340893)

Just install freenx on them. It's a really fast remote desktop server that runs over ssh.

In a perfect world... (1)

jafo (11982) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340897)

Yeah, I've been thinking for years that it would be nice to do exactly this. However, I've *NEVER* seen a laptop that could do this. But...

I've been watching the KVM-over-IP market for the last several years, and it looks like recently they've dropped from $3,000 down to under $500. I'm seriously tempted to get one of these. The ones I've been looking at, because we run only Linux, have been ones that are accessable via VNC, and allow you to control the keyboard, mouse, and read the display, even in text mode. Sounds like one of these and a cross-over cable in your bag would be just the thing.

Of course, many newer systems will allow you to, if properly configured, modify the BIOS over serial, and many installs of Linux now allow you to control them via VNC or serial, so that may be a lower-cost option to get you where you need to be.

Sean

How about your laptop running whatever OS... (1)

El-Kelvinator (759973) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340900)

And then you boot your lappy with this http://www.eskimo.com/~johnnyb/computers/stl/ [eskimo.com] . If you need physical access, and the boxes are not Winders, might as well serial.

Avocent SwitchView IP KVM (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11340914)

Try the Avocent SwitchView IP.
http://kvms.com/nav/item.asp?item=8252

It's a tiny little box that runs BSD. It goes between the monitor, keyboard and mouse and has an ethernet port. Sorry, no USB. You access it with a web browser.

You can get them from Amazon for about $700.00.

I used a small LCD screen (2, Insightful)

xutopia (469129) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340921)

when I had to run around and do that kind of thing. I brought everything in a cardboard box, mouse, keyboard and extra long wires with adaptors.

The LCD screen was so small and light it was a pleasure to carry around (1024x768 native resolution). The long wires allowed me to sit comfortably wherever I was most comfortable.

Vmware!! (1)

af_robot (553885) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340957)

The answer is simple: Use VMWARE GSX/ESX Server with virtual servers inside.
You can attach to a vmware console over TCP/IP via their client and get full control over virtual server, reboot, enter BIOS, mount BOOT CD ISO for rescue and so on.
It saved me a lot of time.

VGA to TV converter with ... (3, Interesting)

RLMorgan (74446) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340961)

Usa a VGA to TV converter to a laptop with a video capture option. My ThinkPad A31p will do that.

Then get one of those flex keyboards that roll up. http://www.compusa.com/products/product_info.asp?p roduct_code=309758&pfp=BROWSE

solutions (1)

voot (609611) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340972)

its been said over and over but your best bet will be: vnc, ssh, or a null serial cable

VMWare (1)

Proc6 (518858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11340996)

www.vmware.com [vmware.com]
1 box.
Lots of VMs.
Accessible from anywhere over IP no matter what OS each VM is running and no matter what state the "machine" is in, be it hung on boot, crashed, or fiddling with BIOS. All doable from a remote location.

Re:VMWare (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341064)

I have toyed with a crippleware version of VMWare and had Linux running withing Windows, and Windows within Linux ( not wine ). From what I saw the product was great and really lived up to the claims they made. It was too pricey for my budget so I had to turn it loose.

Perhaps this might help?? (1)

sanityspeech (823537) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341002)

While this does not exactly match the provided specs, it might be worth a look:

Wireless VGA [grandtec.com] [grandtec.com]

One thing to note -- It's a Class A device. So there are certain FCC requirements you must meet.

Cheers

A different solution to a similar problem (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341004)

I run several machines, several OS's, several monitors. I wish I could put the output of one or more machine's video card INTO a tiny window on my largest monitor.

I could cheat and use TV out on my Mac...

IP KVM (1)

Astrofugue (517915) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341012)

Yes, there are TONS of IP KVMs that have a client you can run on your laptop. ps2/usb/video to the kvm, then ethernet from kvm to network (or crossover into laptop). Easy setup, easy to use.

KVM switches (1)

janoc (699997) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341013)

Do you know that there are KVM switches which have ethernet/IP access ? I.e. you do not have to physically sit there with keyboard and monitor and work from the comfort of your desktop instead. E.g. Tron [tron.com]

Another good solution are the built-in consoles - 1U tall, you can pull it out as a drawer from the rack and open it as a laptop. It has a full size keyboard, some pointing device (trackball or trackpad) and a built-in LCD. Like this for example: rack console kit [www.ciao.de]

So, no need to lug a laptop around. Not to mention that pro gear has a serial console capability (yes, PCs too, not only high-end Unix stuff), which allow you to see even the booting process and change the BIOS settings. Connecting this to a standard terminal server is a no-brainer.

1337 bytes in body (0, Redundant)

pizza_milkshake (580452) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341019)

( Read More... | 1337 bytes in body | 42 of 56 comments | ask.slashdot.org )

oh /., you're so 1337

Multi-platform KVMing? (1)

amigabill (146897) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341036)

OK, KVMs are cool and I have a 4-port. But I'm considering adding a Mac to my rig. Can a Mac share keyboards/mice with PCs? If I trade up to a USB KVM and use USB->PS/2 port adaptors for the older machines I currently have set up that can't use USB keyboards or mice? And no - adding USB to them is not an option...

Or putting a KVM in my livingroom to share my wireless keyboard/mouse kit between my MythTV box, Gentoo server/firewall box, Xbox and PSX2? Anything recomended for that, though I think USB can be shared between all these for keyboard and mouse both if needed. console->USB adaptors as needed and all...

Since nobody seems to care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11341052)

these guys are asking for something that would work even if the machine DOES NOT have an OS already installed..... the only one that even comes close are the ones that suggested the rackmounted keyboard/monitor KVM and the VGA to USB thingy..... jeebus people read before posting

p.s. i am well prepared for a flaimbait mod since i don't, nor do i care for, an account here

HP48G telnet (1)

cheesedog (603990) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341055)

I used to set up all my boxes so that I could plug my HP48G in to the serial port via a special cable that I made our of an old Microsoft mouse.

This was nice for when X locked up (which it did occasionally) or for when the network was down or if I didn't have another box to get network access from -- I could still telnet in through serial, kill X, and be good as new.

The only hitch was that most distros didn't come with the serial port enabled for this in the first place.

kvm over cat 5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11341073)

hi,

this is slightly off-topic, in that it doesn't answer the question directly, but recently, working on a multiple machine installation art project

http://www.aec.at/sap_web/de/index.htm [www.aec.at]

we discovered KVM over cat 5 as a solution to working remotely. The machines could stay in the server room and we could be anywhere in the building. it's about $1000 bucks, but it was crazy worth it. It is essentially a KVM box on either end connected by cat5 in the middle.

- zach

Nobody seems to be answering the question ~ (3, Insightful)

kortex (590172) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341094)

Leave it to this crowd to come up with nothing but workarounds. I'm sure this person is aware of the multitudes of ways to console a box.
I believe what he is asking - which I'm interested in as well - is a laptop where the key/mouse/mon can be independently connected to an external device - there are laptops out now that can play dvd movies without booting an OS - this would be a similar thing. This would be even more useful if you could use a keyb shortcut (kvm-stylee) to switch back and forth between your freshly rooted server and the laptops OS. I want one.

Forget about IP KVM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11341099)

If you have to run Windows servers, buy some decent machines with remote access capabilities built in. HP/Compaq, IBM and Dell all have RAC (iLO) interfaces on some of their low end and all of their mid-high end machines. Spend that money from the KVM on some decent hardware. The downside is that you have to burn an extra port on your switch for the remote access controllers, but it is definitely worth it.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11341100)

Use a RILO-board or something. After I put the server in the rack I hardly ever see that thing again.

PC Weasel + terminal program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11341109)

If you didn't need graphical capabilities, you could use the PC Weasel http://www.realweasel.com/ [realweasel.com] , which is supposed to convert vga info into text (or something like that) and send it out over a serial port. Then use a null modem cable + a terminal program on your laptop to receive the data. Maybe that could work for your purposes.

Laptop with USB KVM capability would rock (1)

swb (14022) | more than 9 years ago | (#11341115)

Most rack environments I've been around have been both short on available rack units and in need of a test/management PC, especially if diagnosing something that required client connectivity. They're also usually short on space period, meaning that if you're lucky you can scrunch up on the floor or immediately out on the hallway. If not, you're doing a lot of running around. And usually the flakiest ones have the least amount of space and have removed their displays and keyboards from the rack, too.

A laptop that could be a monitor/keyboard/mouse AND a PC at the same time would be a godsend in those environments. At 1 U it would easily fit. It would also remain valuable for a long time as a compact one-device KVM for years after its computing ability went obsolete.

I've always wondered what "extra" circuitry was involved in doing this. It can't be much.
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