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  • Using Synergy to Leverage Strengths of Linux and Windows

    by Dan DeRoeck on September 9, 2012

    Synergy for Linux and WindowsUsing Linux for its strengths – stability and efficiency – can cost you in productivity switching between systems to get your work done.  Until now.  I recently ran across a neat piece of open source software that allows you to experience the best of both worlds right at your fingertips – it’s called Synergy.  This dynamite little application allows you to access both Linux and Windows using one keyboard and mouse and dedicated monitor for each. To me, this is as good or even better, than using virtual machine, such as VM VirtualBox because it allows you to be in dedicated mode for both.

    When I stumbled upon this application, I thought I was in seventh heaven.  The concept was brilliant.  But with the accolades, came some trial and error trying to get it working properly.  So I made this quick tutorial in hopes of helping others trying to get this same configuration to work [Linux Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick and Windows 7].  This tutorial also assumes the configuration of Synergy with Linux acting as the server and Windows the client.

    Step 1. Download and install the most recent version of Synergy for Linux.

    Note: you will need to find out which version of the operating system you are running 32 bit or 64 bit – here’s how you determine which version you need for Linux.

    Step 2. Now, we need to gather some information for use in step #6. Get the host name for Linux – simply type in the command hostname in the Terminal window as illustrated below [click image to enlarge].

    Hostname for Linux

    Step 3. Get the IP address of the Linux machine by typing the command ifconfig as illustrated below [click image to enlarge].

    Find IP Address in Linux

    Step 4. Get the host name for Windows – Start>Computer>System Properties as illustrated below [click image to enlarge].

    Find Windows Hostname

    Step 5. Get the IP address for Windows – Start>Accessories>Command Prompt as illustrated below [click image to enlarge].

    Find Windows IP Address

    Step 6. Create a configuration file through gedit, to allow Synergy to run on the Linux machine.

    Open a terminal window and type the following command: sudo gedit /home/username/.synergy.conf. You will change “username” to the User Name of the computer.

    Step 7. Now, let’s throw some code into the synergy.conf to configure the server and client.

    section: links
    end section:
    HostnameOfServer: IPAddressOfLinux
    HostnameOfClient: IPAddressOfWindows

    Step 8. Add the following code to specify physical layout of the monitors.  In my case the monitor for Linux is on the left, and Windows on the right.

    section: links
    right = hostnameOfWindows
    left = hostnameOfLinux

    Step 9. Download and install the most recent version of Synergy for Windows.

    Note: you will need to find out which version of the operating system you are running 32 bit or 64 bit – here’s how you determine which version you need for Windows.

    Step 10. Install and configure the Windows Client as illustrated below [click image to enlarge].

    Windows Synergy

    For one reason or another, you may experience the application no longer works. All you need to do is kill Synergy killall synergys and then start an instance using synergys.

    Linux and Windows side by sideYou should now be able to connect Linux and be well on your way of enjoying the ability to seamlessly navigate Linux and Windows through Synergy.  The end result is an increased level of productivity, accessing Windows only when you need:), and subsequently enjoying your Linux environment even more!

    I hope this post helps you if you are struggling getting this wonderful app to work with your Linux and Windows environment. As you can see from my desk to the left [click image to enlarge], using Synergy promotes an uncluttered, streamlined look and feel – my Linux machine is on the left, and the Windows on the right. I can move from Linux to Windows and back again, with a flick of the mouse — very cool application, give it a try.  Please leave comments if you have anything to share about this application.

    { 5 comments… read them below or add one }

    Emile September 13, 2012 at 3:45 am

    Now this is what I call innovation. In this case, the old saying that necessity is the mother of invention’ could not be more applicable. I have been wanting to use Linux along with Windows XP, but I have stayed away from it because of the complications it can cause to your OS, especially when you need to reformat your system. Having to restore 2 OS is a nightmare.

    Timothy September 14, 2012 at 1:27 am

    I am sure there are plenty of advantages to being able to run Linux on a Windows PC, but I only know Linux to be a good web hosting platform – or is that Unix? Thank goodness I have a good web hosting company to handle that the hosting of my websites, otherwise, I’d be lost. I’d rather focus on the creative side of design and development.

    Steve September 17, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Synergy is an appropriate name if ever there was one for a software that bridged two different platforms with one another. That is precisely what the cyber world needs more of: compatibility. I say this because there are so many different types of languages each competing against one another, trying to make the other obsolete. You have i-pads vs. tablets; i-phone vs. Android ; and of course, Oracle vs. Red Hat on the VM platform. It just makes it harder for the consumer.

    Mary September 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    I have been hearing for years about the virtues of Linux and I don’t doubt that it has its strengths and benefits. But the problem has been that not everyone has the money to own a dedicated Linux computer. So while this provides a solution to bridge and use two operating systems, I have my doubts about running 2 OS on 1 computer – if for no other reason that it makes it harder to reformat the system.

    Dan DeRoeck October 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Hi Mary,

    I run Linux Ubuntu on a Lenovo laptop. I see what you mean about funding multiple computers, but having a spare computer lying around has almost become the norm these days. Because Linux demands much less CPU than Windows, you can probably get by with less horsepower than a Windows.


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