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Mac and PC Together: Gefen Extend It DVI KVM 2-in-1 Switcher

Using a Mac and PC with the same keyboard, mouse, monitor and speakers By Charlie White

We previously published a review of the Gefen Extend-it DVI KVM switcher, a small box that passes through DVI video signals along with USB and audio, enabling you to switch between two computers using the same keyboard, video and mouse (KVM). The review tested two Macs plugged into the same 23-inch Apple Cinema Display, but we wanted to see what would happen if we mixed a PC and a Mac together, and then tried to control them via the optional remote control. Would there be odd behavior when two worlds collide?

Here at the Midwest Test Facility, we need to be agnostic with both Macs and PCs. That means a lot of moving and shifting from desk to desk and monitor to monitor. This went on to. There is technology that can solve this problem. The answer? The Gefen Extend It DVI KVM 2-in-1Switcher, a small 7x3 inch box that would let me seamlessly switch from one platform to the other while using the same keyboard, mouse, monitor and speakers.

The setup of this switch is uncomplicated, and Im grateful to Gefen for including all the necessary cables in the box, unusual for products of this type. After connecting the DVI-out ports on both the Mac and the PC to the Gefen box, I then connected the included USB cables to both the Mac and PC. After plugging in the audio cables from each computer, all that was left was to feed the video, audio and USB signals out the other side to the keyboard, monitor and mouse.

Once all was plugged in, I followed the instructions, selecting each computer on the switcher and then booting each in turn until both were up and running. As soon as both computers were up and running, I noticed some odd behavior when switching between the Mac and PC. Switching from the Mac to the PC was immediate, but then switching back to the Mac from the PC, the Mac had gone into sleep mode. Consulting Gefen's website and also taking a quick look at the previous review of this Gefen KVM switcher by my esteemed DMN colleague, I noticed a few references to ?Pin 18. Apparently that pin is what's called the ?hot plug detect connection, where if Macs detect a certain signal through that pin, it goes into sleep mode. The solution to the problem is to remove that pin altogether, which is exactly what Geffen's web site instructs you to do in an operation akin to pulling a tooth with a pair of needle-nosed pliers.  

So out it came, where the main challenge was finding a pair of pliers that were small enough to reach in between those tightly arranged pins. Once that tedious operation was completed, the problem was solved. When I switched from the PC to the Mac, the Mac desktop appeared immediately. Hey, I do get used to this.

But all was not perfect. I noticed a slight anomaly when using USB peripherals. Because of the way this product is made, you're required to use a USB keyboard and a USB mouse. That's not an issue when dealing with a Mac, because most Mac keyboards are USB unless they are very old. That could be a problem with the PC, though, where many keyboards still use the PS/2 connector, the plug that looks somewhat like an S-video connector. So, I elected to use a Mac keyboard plugged into the USB 2.0 port in the switcher, and then plugged a PC-style USB mouse into the back of that Mac keyboard. The problem that I noticed was a slight delay when switching from one computer to the other, where the cursor wouldn't move for three or four seconds. I would have liked to have seen the cursor immediately responding after the switch. Then, when switching back to the PC, I encountered the same problem, where it looked like the PC needed to re-recognize that USB mouse. Although it was still usable, this was not good.

Another slight problem when crossing the Mac and PC divide was the lack of a Windows/start button on the Mac keyboard, which was a slight problem but not enough to make a huge difference. The Control key still worked normally as did the option key on the Mac which functioned normally as the Alt key on the PC. 

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Related Keywords:Gefen Extend-it DVI KVM switcher, DVI video, USB, keyboard, video and mouse, KVM, 23-inch Apple Cinema Display, but we wanted to see what would happen if we mixed a PC and a Mac together, and then tried to control them via the optional remote control. Would there be odd behavior when two worlds collide?

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