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I've been asked to create reverse-KVM terminals in a small doctor's office. There would be a terminal in each visiting room and they would all control the same computer (the doctor's office desktop). I've never done anything like it before. My instinct is to use a tablet PC instead and a docking station in each room, but only because it seems much simpler than either wireless or running wires from the desktop to each room. I don't know how the wireless quality would be across 30 feet and 3-4 walls with varying amounts of EMI. Flickering video would definitely be bad. If it turns out that running wires would be a good solution (depends on the ceiling layout), would an HDMI extender between two 15meter cables be reasonable and non-lossy? Actually one side of the extender would split out to each visiting room so I guess it should be an extender/splitter.

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Can the Dr's desktop PC make it's desktop open for attaching from remote PC's using the Windows Remote Desktop? Since the SW feature is already there and proven, you needn't come up with a less-common hardware solution. Multiple VGA outputs are possible, but probably harder to manage than a Remote Desktop connection. Less hardware and built-in software helps keep the cost down.

Given that the Remote Desktop part works, you can find cheap, small (used?) computers in the visiting rooms because all they need to do is host the network connection and video screen. This again keeps the solution cost down and makes them easy to replace when they break.

Wireless network adapters (e.g. PCI cards) can be found pretty cheaply, so I'd first try plugging those in and running the experiment to see what kind of range you can get. The distance and the walls probably won't be a problem. The EMI might be more of an issue, but it is easily worth the trouble to try before trying to run the wires. Even if you do end up running Cat5e wires, they'll be a lot easier than trying to make long runs with video cables.

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The micro-PC in each room with 802.11 networking would truly be simpler, but I'm not a big fan of Remote Desktop (i.e. can't be logged in from two places, it logs you off the local machine, or at least last time I used it it did), but there are alternatives that solve those issues. But if the minimum per PC is $300, that would be tough to compete with the KVM extenders from Aten. At least, if it's possible to use something like the CE700A (~$180 for R&T) with multiple receivers. If the CE790 has to be used, that would be hella expensive ($600 for R&T, $300 for each extra R). – Matt Chambers Aug 5 '11 at 3:59
An alternative to Remote Desktop is VNC, which does allow for multiple connections to the same live desktop. – Shannon Nelson Aug 5 '11 at 4:10
VNC wouldn't be a bad option, depending on how many micro PCs you need. But if that's your only router, it's gonna get pounded everyday. . . – surfasb Aug 5 '11 at 4:22
If the Dr is the only user, the traffic shouldn't be a problem. – Shannon Nelson Aug 5 '11 at 4:40
To keep the cost even lower, the satellite computers can run VNC on Linux and not pay for the extra Windows licenses. – Shannon Nelson Aug 7 '11 at 6:18

Since these computers would be displaying the same data as what the doctor chooses, why not just have the monitors in each room and run a VGA to them. You can safely run a VGA cable 50ft without trouble. You can also use a VGA to Many adapter as the source for each Monitor.

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I don't know if you can run HDMI past 15 meters without the extender. It should still be decent quality, but that would get expensive (at least from retailers). – kobaltz Aug 5 '11 at 3:36
I have used a somewhat long (15ft) VGA cable before and there was very noticeable ghosting. Maybe it was just a bad quality cable. Also the pure video solution doesn't cover keyboard and mouse. The doctor has actually said she doesn't mind carrying around a wireless keyboard and mouse. Are there long range wireless K/Ms? I'm actually typing this on a HTPC with a wireless RF keyboard that only has a 15ft range (with no obstacles) and it gets really choppy when the HTPC is doing heavy wireless network traffic. :) – Matt Chambers Aug 5 '11 at 4:13

I personally don't like this option. Any terminal server solution would be hampered by bandwidth. I'd rather suggest all the computers simply be forced to boot into a guest account. Then customize The account as you wish. They can be wireless and no docking station necessary. If they need to fill out a form, a simple website can be setup that dumps the data into whatever format you desire.

Much much cheaper than running a bunch of wires and much much better performance. Plus, they are mobile and could double as tablets for employees.

Edited grammar ftl.

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By terminal server do you mean remote desktop? – Matt Chambers Aug 5 '11 at 4:08
@Matt Chambers Aye. The problem I see with a terminal server, and I assume you are running Windows, is you'll need to cough up money for Terminal server licenses. Plus it can be quite the doozy to setup and maintain. Having a website form that just dumps data to where ever you wish simply requires knowledge of PHP/ASP and Access/Excel/plain text. Much cheaper to maintain. – surfasb Aug 5 '11 at 4:19
Given that it is for a Dr's office, I rather imagine the requirement is to use a specific PC-based health care records application that has little to no way to export data to a web application. – Shannon Nelson Aug 5 '11 at 4:38

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