Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Multi-device PCs with single keyboard and mouse

In today's digital age, it's common for people to use multiple devices for their work or personal use. Whether it's for multitasking or switching between devices, using multiple keyboards and mice can be a frustrating and inefficient experience. Fortunately, there's a solution to this problem: using a single keyboard and mouse for multiple PCs. This setup not only saves desk space but also improves productivity and reduces clutter. In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of using a single keyboard and mouse for multiple PCs, the benefits it offers, and how to set up this configuration for optimal performance. So, let's dive in and learn why using a single keyboard and mouse is a game-changer for those who use multiple devices! 

Dell KM7321
Dell KM7321 multi-devices keyboard and mouse, as advertised on Dell's web. This keyboard and mouse can connect up to three PCs; one PC with a Bluetooth dongle and two PCs with embedded Bluetooth or additional Bluetooth dongles.

PC setup 

Here is my setup using three PCs (two desktops and one laptop).

Keyboard + Mouse: Dell KM7321W (KM7321WYG) 
Technology: Bluetooth (universal pairing receiver)

I mainly used two PCs as follows (with a laptop as an optional third device). It also works for three PCs; however, since the third is a laptop on a different table, it will make my work more complicated than using two PCs. 

PC1: Iiyama (Dell Bluetooth dongle) 
I set the universal pairing dongle in this PC Iiyama. The OS is Ubuntu 20.04. Other hardware may not directly impact the performance, but I used the following; 95 GB RAM, RTX3090 (full four monitors), with i7-10900 CPU. Should work on other hardware too,

PC2: HP Omen (Embedded Bluetooth) 

The second PC is the HP Omen 30 L (2021). GPU is RTX 3090, 64GB RAM, and Ubuntu 20.04 as the OS. I intended to use this PC as a computing unit, while the first one, PC Iiyama, for all tasks (paper writing, computation, etc.). For bigger computation, I used another PC with double RTX 3090. Result There is no software configuration needed. The only problem (previously) is to connect the keyboard to the second PC. For connecting the mouse, both PC 1 and PC 2 can connect smoothly. To connect the keyboard, we need to input six characters shown when pairing to the PC (shown in the PC). Since it was a keyboard, I didn't understand how to input these digits (like a smartphone or tablet). I tried it on Windows, and it shows a similar requirement (asking to enter six digits for the keyboard). I tried to push the number shown on the PC via the keyboard button (without knowing the pressed digits were correct) and then pressed enter. Whoala, the keyboard is now connected to the second PC. I tried similar things on Ubuntu, and it works. Finally, the image below is now my working workstation (two desktops, both the first and second PC are not shown since it is hidden under my table, only the monitors are shown).

A single keyboard to rule all three PCs.

PC3: IIyama 17" (Optional, just to test, embedded/buil-in bluetooth)
The third PC is a laptop with Windows 10. So, besides multi-device, this setup can also work in multi-OS. Since it is a hardware-based, different approach from software-based like Synergy, it is expected to work on any OS as long as the hardware supports Bluetooth.

Note, as advertised, the mouse and keyboard support Swift pairing (without inputting the digits with a close distance between both devices). But, as I reported, this feature fails on my PCs. It may be too far. Being able to connect both devices (keyboard and second/third PC) via a physical button is enough to make the device work as intended.

Update after a week of use

Adjusting the monitor position is important. I used three monitors for the main PC (PC IIyama) and one monitor for the second PC (HP Omen, mainly for coding).

Since I have an additional mouse (the old one), I just need to change the keyboard only for two devices. It is smoother than changing both the keyboard and mouse.

It is also more convenient to use a single keyboard and mouse than using "ssh" for remote work. The use of GUI-based remote control like TeamViewer has been banned in my office. So, this solution is worth trying.

Does it work with an external Bluetooth dongle?
I haven't tried it yet (still ordering a Buffalo Bluetooth dongle). I will report here once a test has been performed.  Yes. It does work with external Bluetooth. See the manual page for details.

 [1] https://www.dell.com/support/home/en-us/product-support/product/dell-premier-multi-device-wir-kybrd-mse-km7321w/docs
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