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I have some extra (old) Macs and PCs around the house and a MacBook that's sometimes overworked. I'm looking for tips on using multiple computers effectively.

Basically, I'd like to add to the following list. Here's what I'm using so far:

  • Teleport: lets you use a single mouse and keyboard to control several Macs, like Synergy
  • Built-in file sharing: lets me run programs on another Mac, but only maintain one copy of the data
  • Bazaar: distributed version control
  •, Thunderbird, etc.: IMAP for my mail accounts
  • TuneConnect: control iTunes on another Mac with a nice interface, using the library on my MacBook (if I choose it by pressing option at startup) over file sharing
  • OmniFocus: syncs across computers pretty seamlessly
  • Web browsing across computers
  • VNC/Remote Desktop
  • Running X-windows programs using ssh -Y hostname for headless operation (but they die when I sleep the connecting computer -- something like GNU screen would be ideal)
  • Plain-old ssh with GNU screen

Really, a better idea of what I do might be necessary. Generally though, I'd like to distribute tasks across more than one computer when possible, but not have much overhead in doing so. The perfect solution? An Xgrid-like program that pushes processing across multiple computers automatically and seamlessly (although that seems unlikely).

Here's what I have, in case it makes a difference:

  • MacBook (Dual 2.16 GHz, OS X 10.6.3)
  • eMac (1.25 GHz, OS X 10.4.11, soon to be 10.5)
  • Dell Dimension (800 MHz, some version of Ubuntu) -- no dedicated monitor
  • PowerMac G3 (400 MHz, OS X 10.4.11) -- no dedicated monitor
  • iMac G3 DV (400 MHz, OS X 10.4.11) -- currently in the kitchen for recipes, email, web browsing, music, movies (DVDs), etc.

(Total, they cost me around $650, mostly for the MacBook. Freecycle is wonderful, just in case you haven't heard of it.)

I'm really only using the MacBook and eMac at this point, but I'd like to push more onto it and possibly the PowerMac and Dell.

share|improve this question
Here, I say "overhead" to mean "I don't want to have to do a lot of work to have another computer do something useful." That is, I'd like to push 2 or 3 buttons/keys max. – Benjamin Oakes Feb 25 '10 at 16:59
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Here are some suggestions that I would make for some of your headless (No monitor machines). I am against VNC for the most part as X11 forwarding does an ample job when I need it.

The things that I see immediately are forget using iTunes (very inefficient for just playing music), use MPD on one of your low power *nix servers for music around the house. There are a variety of MPD clients for all platforms (even firefox extensions) so you could easily control that server from any computer or even a phone. It takes a little time to configure, but is ridiculously lightweight, and very powerful. The n curses client NCMPC is the one I use the most over SSH. Ario is a good graphical one to look at. You can also configure streaming with ice cast, (or even pipe audio output to a socket and let another computer pipe in from that socket :-P, )

If you use BitTorrent you could use the same computer as a seedbox running rtorrent, another CLI program that configured correctly can be very powerful. I use it on my seedbox to categorize downloads based on the watch folder I upload the torrent on and use rsync to pull the data to my media servers.

These are my few suggestions, but I will be watching this thread looking for other peoples since this type of thing interests me. Only real bound is creativity.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the response. iTunes is kinda bloated ever since version 7. But it is quite featureful and syncs with my iPhone, so that's a big part of why I use it. The nice thing about TuneConnect is that my girlfriend could use it to skip songs, etc when we're both using our computers. (She has a Mac mini.) Piping other audio and having a BitTorrent client are both good ideas. – Benjamin Oakes Feb 24 '10 at 17:24
For what it's worth, I've switched to using MPD. It's worked out better than iTunes (even with the Apple Remote on my iPhone), but I have to maintain two libraries. Either way, the Linux box it's running on does a good job with it. :) – Benjamin Oakes Jan 18 '12 at 17:25

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