A KVM is a great tool for administering a number of different computers without cluttering one’s desk with extra peripherals, or for having to re-connect the keyboard, video, and mouse to each new machine as needed. For local administration this can save a ton of time and headache. For remote administration, though, a virtual KVM is needed, and although these solutions are pricey it’s possible to build one around a Raspberry Pi for a fraction of the cost. This one adds even more functionality by also switching the ATX signals from the motherboard and simplifying cable management to boot. Continue reading “Pi-Cast Adds ATX Signalling To KVM”
Many of us will have the problem of several computers on the same desk, and to avoid clutter we’ll use a KVM switch to share the peripherals. [The Turbanned Engineer] has an interesting solution to this problem in the form of a USB triplexer. It’s a device that routes USB data lines depending upon which of its connections is powered up.
The circuit is simple enough: a CMOS analogue multiplexer does the routing, and a set of opto-couplers do the selecting based on the power inputs. A set of USB A sockets connect to the computer, and a USB B socket connects to the peripheral.
We’re not entirely sure whether an analogue multiplexer chip would be good for the higher-speed USB data rates, but since keyboards and mice talk at the slowest data rates, we think he’ll get away with it. Either way making a USB switch however basic with such mundane components has something of the hack about it. What he does with the display we’re not so sure about, but at least his keyboard and mouse woes are dealt with.
Other similar switches we’ve featured have been somewhat more basic.
[Michael Lynch] has been a solo developer for over three years now, and has been carefully cataloguing his attempts at generating revenue for himself ever since making the jump to being self-employed. Success is not just hard work; it is partly knowing when the pull the plug on an idea, and [Micheal] has been very open about his adventures in this area. He shares the good news about a DIY project of his that ended up becoming a successful product, complete with dollar amounts and frank observations.
About a year ago, we covered a project he shared called TinyPilot, which is an effective KVM-over-IP device, accessible over the web, that could be built with about $100 worth of parts. [Micheal] found it to be a fun and useful project, and decided to see if he could sell kits. However, he admits he didn’t have high expectations, and his thoughts are probably pretty familiar to most hardware types:
I questioned whether there was a market for this. Why would anyone buy this device from me? It was just a collection of widely available hardware components.
Well, it turns out that he was onto something, and the demand for his device became immediately clear. He’s since given TinyPilot more features, an attractive case, and even provides a support plan for commercial customers. This is an excellent reminder that sometimes, what is being sold isn’t the collection of parts itself. Sometimes, what’s being sold is a solution to a problem people have, and those people are time-poor and willing to pay for something that just works.
It’s great to see [Michael] find some success as a solo developer, but his yearly wrap-up covers much more than just the success of TinyPilot as a product, so be sure to check it out if you’re at all interested in the journey of working for yourself.
For administering many computers at once, an IP KVM is an invaluable piece of equipment that makes it possible to get the job done over the network without having to haul a keyboard, monitor, and mouse around to each computer. The only downside is that they can get pricey, unless of course you can roll one out based on the Raspberry Pi and the PiKVM image for little more than the cost of the Pi itself.
The video linked below shows how to set all of this up, which involves flashing the image and then setting up the necessary hardware. The build shows an option for using HDMI over USB, but another option using the CSI bus would allow for control over options like video resolution and color that a USB HDMI dongle doesn’t allow for. It also makes it possible to restart the computer and do things like configure BIOS or boot from removable media, which is something that would be impossible with a remote desktop solution like VNC.
The creator of PiKVM was mentioned in a previous post about the creation of the CSI bus capture card, and a Pi hat based on this build will be available soon which would include options for ATX controls as well. Right now, though, it’s possible to build all of this on your own without the hat, and is part of what makes the Pi-KVM impressive, as well as its very low cost.
Remote access is great, but if the machine stops booting, ceases to connect to the network, or needs low-level interaction like BIOS settings or boot management, remote access is worthless because it’s only available once the host computer is up and running. The usual solution is to drag a keyboard and monitor to the machine in question for physical access.
For most people, swapping cables in this way is an infrequent task at best. But for those who work more closely with managing hardware or developing software, the need to plug and unplug a keyboard and monitor into machines that otherwise run headless can get tiresome. The modern solution is KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) over IP, but commercial options are expensive. [Michael Lynch]’s TinyPilot on the other hand clocks in at roughly $100 of parts, including a Raspberry Pi and USB HDMI capture device. It does have to drop the ‘M’ from KVM (meaning it does not support a mouse yet) but the rest of it hits all the bases, and does it all from a web browser.
What exactly does TinyPilot do? It provides remote access via web browser, but the device is an independent piece of hardware that — from the host computer’s point of view — is no different from a physical keyboard and monitor. That means keyboard and video access works before the host machine even boots, so even changing something like BIOS settings is no problem.
[Michael] demonstrates his design in the video embedded below, but we encourage you to check out the project page for a fascinating exploration of all the challenges that were part of TinyPilot’s development.
The Arduino platform is one of the most versatile microcontroller boards available, coming in a wide variety of shapes and sizes perfect for everything from blinking a few LEDs to robotics to entire home automation systems. One of its more subtle features is the ability to use its serial libraries to handle keyboard and mouse duties. While this can be used for basic HID implementations, [Nathalis] takes it a step further by using a series of Arduinos as a KVM switch; although admittedly without the video and mouse functionality yet.
To start, an Arduino Uno accepts inputs from a keyboard which handles the incoming serial signals from the keyboard. From there, two Arduino Pro Micros are attached in parallel and receive signals from the Uno to send to their respective computers. The scroll lock key, which doesn’t do much of anything in modern times except upset Excel spreadsheeting, is the toggle switch between the two outputs. Everything is standard USB HID, so it should be compatible with pretty much everything out there. All of the source code and schematics are available in the project’s repository for anyone who wants to play along at home.
Using an Arduino to emulate a USB input device doesn’t have to be all work and no play, the same basic concept can also be used to build custom gaming controllers.
[Radishmouse], despite the handle, is not a mouse guy. Give him a keyboard and he will get around just fine in any OS or program. As it is, he’s got a handful of ThinkPads, each running a different OS. He wanted to be able to switch his nice mechanical keyboard between two laptops without the hassle of unplugging and replugging the thing. His solution: a DIY KVM foot switch.
He’s been learning about electronics and 3D design, and this problem was the perfect opportunity to dig in and get his hands dirty. After learning enough about the USB protocol and switches to figure out what had to happen, he made a prototype from a pâte tub. Though undeniably classy, this vessel would never survive the rigors of foot-stomping in feline territory. Fortunately, [radishmouse] has also been learning about 3D design. After some trial and error, he came up with a sturdy, curvy 3D-printed two-piece enclosure. We particularly like the blocks built into the bottom piece that shore up the USB ports.
There are lots of reasons to build input controls for those under-utilized appendages at the ends of your legs. You could control your ‘scope with a probe in each hand, or use a foot switch to relocate an inconvenient power button.