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I have this desire to "kill 2 birds with one shot". Currently, I have 1 server running round the clock, 1 laptop that runs about 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, and a desktop that runs about the same length of time. All 3 are ... old, to say the least. So there is a great need to upgrade (well, the server might handle its job for another year or so, but that only depends on how much time I have to put it to "work").

Now, I'm "dreaming" of only one PC. I'm thinking vmware's ESX. So there will be a VM for the server, a VM for the "laptop" and one for the "desktop". And obviously I'll have to somehow "link" a set of monitor/keyboard/mouse with one of the laptop/desktop VMs. The server doesn't need such things, obviously (it doesn't have them at this moment either).

Is something like this possible? ESX is not a requirement, it's just something I found that answers part of my problems, but there still remains the 2 KVM set that needs connecting and "linking" to appropriate VM.

Why I would want to do this? well, first of all, it's much cheaper to upgrade one PC than 3. Then, the power consumption is obviously lower. Plus the extra space.Plus it allows me to better separate networks and services.


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I don't understand why you need 2 sets of keyboards/mice. Shouldn't the difference in effort between switching your hands to a seperate keyboard/mouse vs. clicking on a different VM window be negligible? – NoCarrier Mar 4 '11 at 23:46
+1 interesting question. @NoCarrier I think he wants to have some kind of mainframe, with multiple users sharing one PC – aCuria Mar 5 '11 at 0:57
@NoCarrier: I use the laptop. My wife uses the desktop. I guess that answers and clears some things up :) – ciuly Mar 5 '11 at 16:03

You may be able to use Thinsoft's BeTwin to (help) pull off what you seem to be aiming to do.


BeTwin VS is the software that allows multiple users to simultaneously and independently share a personal computer running Windows Vista (Home Basic, Home Premium, Business or Ultimate Edition - 32-bit) or Windows 7 (32-bit). Installation is simple. Install a second VGA card/adapter and connect it to the second monitor. Plug in a USB mouse, USB keyboard and, optionally, USB Audio. Finally, install the BeTwin VS software.

They have a 2000/XP version as well as the 32 and 64-bit Vista/7 version.

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It's definitely an interesting find. Not good enough for me though, as I also need a linux server. 2 PCs are better than 3, but 1 PC is even better. so I'll wait soem more, maybe someone gets me exactly what I'm looking for ;) thanks – ciuly Mar 6 '11 at 13:29
How about 1 Windows host with 3 consoles via this (or alike), and then run Linux and your other OS(s) as VM's on those additional consoles. :) – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Mar 6 '11 at 18:14
to say the least, it's not secure. the linux server also acts as a firewall for the private network. This aspect could be resolved by a very good router, but then again, those don't come cheap. Whereas the linux firewall solution is practically free. And there is the issue of windows hosts that tend to eat up a lot of resources compared to an esx host for example, taht is a rather stripped version of a regular linux server. But the main issue is security: the internet must be plugged into the firewall. I'm a security paranoid user so that stays high for me :) – ciuly Mar 7 '11 at 17:50

I dont know what OS you use. Linux could have different useres instead of virtual machines, with each configured to use a different screen, mouse or keyboard. I guess. Unix, which is the grandpa of Linux was mainly used that way, back in the days.

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good point. The server needs to be on linux and at least one "VM" needs to be on windows (I'm doing win development, so there's no real good way around it). My wife can do her stuff of a linux box. This is one of the reasons I thought of esx, as I'll be needed at least 2 operating systems to run on the same time. – ciuly Mar 5 '11 at 17:55
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Finally, I managed to get my desired setup working. Partially, but the concept works.

The answer is indeed a hypervisor (like vmware ESXi which I use) and the actual answer I needed is VMDirectPath or generically: PCI passthrough (VT-d, on the intel platform (which I use))

The problem for this setup is that in order to passthough the video card to a VM, besides having a passthrough capable maainboard AND processor, you also need a special set of these (at least for vmware). There is a dedicated thread for this subject over on vmware: Be sure to read that BEFORE buying any hardware for such a setup.

My personal setup right now is to use an USB VGA "card". So I have all K,V,M on USB now. The only annoying problem I still have is that when the VM boots up, the default video adapter is the virtual one, so I have to login the vsphere client (form another PC) and switch around the adapters. I'm currently looking at some automated way of doing this and I think I'll find something eventually (worse case scenario, I record a macro :) ). After removing the default vmware adapter, all is ok now.

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VMs are the modern solution, but you can also run an Xvfb per user with the libvnc module and allow other users to connect to their sessions with VNC clients.

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I don't see how that eliminates the need for multiple PCs. It actually requires it. – ciuly Mar 5 '11 at 17:56

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