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I would like to show you our situation: two youngsters, who need their laptops to connect with the world: job searching, learning, online dictionaries, news, mails, etc. Sometimes I play with strategic games, but it is not casual.
My girlfriend had a pretty old Core 2 Duo based Toshiba notebook, I have a Core i5 based Acer notebook, with 4 GB ram, ATi 5650 discrete graphics and a 120 GB solid state drive. Why did I use past tense? Because her beloved system had died. Rest in peace, you have made, what you had to. We will never forget you, just like our purse. How can we replace this workstation? A new notebook starts at 300€, a used one at least 150€.
In this situation I have considered what I can do. My first idea was virtualisation with VirtualBox or VMWare. The idea was followed by action, the virtual machine run well on the host, but… simultaneous double input was a no-go. Either I was able to control the host, or the virtual machine. I had to admit that this idea was not my best. I had to arm Plan B! (Note: every time you have to have a Plan B. Either you will use it or you feel yourself more comfortable with your original plan.)
Plan B, here we go! I have searched a little bit on Wikipedia (God, bless Jimmy and Larry… and give them some hair… me too.) and found an interesting article about Multiseat desktop virtualisation. I have known that somehow the remote desktop service is hackable, but I wanted a clear and legal solution. (And it needs a second PC/laptop.) And here comes SoftXpand in my scope. Between the two home versions, which are targeting the home users, I have chosen SoftXpand Duo Pro.
After a fast and easy install and a reboot you can notice a black window on the user choose login screen:
With the proper key combinations you can pair the input devices (keyboard, mouse) to the monitor. The system saves your selection; you do not have to do it every login. Of course, in the Configuration Manager you can change the paired devices:
I want to highlight the first row in the lower section: you can configure shared devices. As far as I have a laptop without USB sound card, with this technology we can use the same sound card and speakers. It is also a good solution for pen drives, CD/DVD drives, etc.
In the Cluster Manager you are able to enable and disable SoftXpand, which is helpful before upgrades, driver updates, and installations.
I have prepared for you a picture, where you can see the laptop with the attached peripherals:
Despite of bad picture quality, remark the two trays on the two displays. And no, it is not Eyefinity! It is SoftXpand!
It works really easy and reliable. I can only recommend in such cases as our was.