Controlling Media Center from a laptop

ok, so since i have my HTPC in my entertainment center, i decided to rid of the keyboard and mouse as that just looks sloppy. initially, i had a wireless keyboard and mouse hookup up and tucked under the couch, but the distance from the couch made typing and mouse movement finicky. i needed a better way to administer the box, despite having a remote.

i tried VNC from my laptop, but that was a painful experience over wifi especially when full screen video was playing. today, i found the solution… an open source project called Synergy. Synergy gives you the capability to use a single mouse and keyboard for multiple systems, which is perfect for what i needed since i found no need for displaying the video on the laptop, when my 37″ vizio is 10 feet in front of me. Even better since both the laptop and HTPC are dual booted, Synergy runs on multiple platforms, so it will work regardless of combination of Operating Systems i have running at the moment.

it was kind of confusing to get set up, especially since i didnt use a help file, but you have to specify a “text map” of how you have this set up. you need to install Synergy on both machines. Here is my example using windows:

Server (laptop)
The “server” will be the laptop therefore, use the Radio Button “Share this computer's keyboard and mouse (server)”. click configure. In the Screens list box, specify both the server and client(s) computer names or ip addresses using the plus button, in my case, dm-vista and imp. In the “Links” list button is the mapping. you need to specify that the client is left/right/up/down to the server, AND that the server is right/left/down/up from the client. this is what mine looked like on the laptop (named dm-vista):

Client (media center)
The “client” will be the media center, therefore the Radio Button “Use another computer's shared keyboard and mouse (client)” option should be chosen. Specify the laptop's computer name, which in my case in dm-vista. Click the auto-start option, and choose your start-up option.

After both services are started, you will see the icons in the taskbar, and in my case, i can now move my mouse all the way to the left to control my media center. I personally didnt choose a startup option for the laptop, because it is not always necessary. When i need to administer the media center, i will just manually start Synergy from the start menu on the laptop to control my HTPC. However the “client” should always be willing to connect to the server when its available, so that is why i chose to use an startup option for the HTPC. It takes a very short time for the services to sync up, but normally under 30 seconds or so.

Vista Limitation
Due to Vista's user-mode driver framework, you cannot choose the “when computer starts” autostart option, and you must use “when user logs in”. But since we are controlling a HTPC, which generally has automatic logins enabled, this really isnt an issue, unless you do something stupid like me, and use RDP to connect to the HTPC when your at work, thus locking the console, which in turn activates the UMDF for the login prompt.

A downside
I use a product called “Power Resizer”, which enables me to snap a window to half of my screen by dragging the application to a side of the screen, like you see in the Windows 7 commercials. After i installed Synergy, i lost this functionality, and lack the desire to determine how to get it back.

I am pleased. that is all.

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