Jason Lindquist (jlindquist) wrote,
Jason Lindquist

I heartily endorse this product!

I picked up a new KVM switch at Fry's a couple of weeks ago, the latest rev of the IOGear MiniView USB (GCS634U). It's a 4-port VGA/USB/audio switch with hotkey port switching. The form factor is nice, matching the Mac Mini, if you happen to own one. It does almost everything right.

I've previously owned the MiniView USB KVMP and the MiniView III KVMP switches. They were good, but each one had some serious shortcomings that I had to just live with. The original MiniView had no hotkey support. IOGear assumed it would sit on your desk next to your monitor. My computers are a few feet away in a closet, and it's foolish to have three or four long cable runs instead of just one, so I had to get up to change the port selection every time. The MiniView III corrected that with hotkeys and an on-screen display. Unfortunately, its keyboard emulation only passed keys it recognized, disabling the Mac-specific volume and eject keys on my Matias Tactile Pro. What was truly annoying is that it would not honor the VESA power-saver mode monitor shutdown, which the earlier model did. IOGear insisted it was too complicated.

The new MiniView gets all of these right. Monitor shutdown is obeyed. Keyboard emulation does the Right Thing, passing all keycodes, and even providing key translation to use Mac- and Sun-specific keycodes with a standard PC keyboard. The on-screen display went away, but it wasn't a big deal to begin with. They also lost the auxiliary USB peripheral ports, to which you could connect other peripherals and switch them separately from the KVM. The only hiccup is that the hotkey sequence uses two strikes of (configurably) either [Scroll Lock] or [Control]. Control gets in the way of some PC games, and Scroll Lock isn't present on most Mac keyboards. I really wish they would have transparently accepted F14 instead. But at least I get my volume control and DVD eject keys back.

By the way, the image is showing two KVMs stacked atop each other, front and back sides showing. It's just a little over an inch thick by itself, 6x6 square. And "Keyboard emulation" is just that--all connected computers are presented with a keyboard device at all times. Irrelevant on Macintoshes, but BIOSes on most non-Mac x86 hardware won't boot without one.

Oooh... Matias is coming out with a successor, the Tactile Pro 2.0 keyboard next month. It adds an interesting hotkey system, using an "Optimize" button that replaces the Caps Lock key. All still using the same kind of mechanical keyswitches used in the original "Saratoga" Apple Extended Keyboard back in the platinum-colored ADB days. If a slightly-noisier $150 keyboard isn't your thing, there is a rubber-dome version called the Optimizer for $50, and a $30 rubber-dome called the OS X Keyboard which has a Control key where you usually find Caps Lock (this is a religious issue for many people, as workstation keyboards from Sun and others did this, not to mention the original Apple ][.)

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