Monday, April 30, 2012

Roland VS-2400CD vs Lantronix Spider Duo IP KVM

The Roland VS-2400CD has been in this blog a lot.

While it is an excellent digital audio recorder, its keyboard, mouse and video interfaces are only PS/2 and VGA . Those interfaces are now considered "legacy". Most current computers use USB interfaces for keyboard and mouse, and some sort of digital interface for video, either DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort. This makes it a lot harder for the VS-2400CD to coexist with other equipment, especially on a KVM switch, if one wants to share the keyboard, mouse and monitor.

For many years, I have been using the following combination of devices to solve this problem :
  1. To switch the keyboard and mouse between my various computers and the VS-2400CD, I use an Iogear GCS84B KVM switch. This is a PS/2 and VGA KVM switch. I don't use the VGA connection on the switch. I change device through hotkeys or the pushbuttons.
  2. To convert the VGA video output from the VS-2400CD to DVI, a  video signal converter
  3. To switch the video between my various computers and the VS-2400CD, a Gefen EXT-DVI-441N DVI switch
There are several problems with the above solution :
  1. It requires two different operations to switch the keyboard/mouse and the display. One hotkey on the keyboard, plus one press on the DVI switch. The ergonomics are lacking. A proper KVM switch should switch them all at the same time.
  2. The 3 computers I connected to the Iogear KVM switch no longer feature dual PS/2 connectors for mouse and keyboard. 2 of them only have one PS/2 connector. The third is a laptop and has no PS/2 connector. This means I had to buy 3 PS/2 to USB converters. I tried 10 different models before I found some that worked for all cases ! 2 of them are noname, one of them is Belkin. This gets pricey and was very time consuming.
  3. The Iogear KVM emulates a regular mouse. This means I cannot access all the features of my Kensington Expert Mouse trackball on my computers, in particular all 4 buttons.
    Edit : I found this very nice free software, called X-Mouse Button control which does the job nicely, much better than the original Kensington software.
  4. The signal converter only converts the VGA analog signal to 640x480 DVI single-link. Two of my monitors, a pair of 30" HP LP3065, do not accept this resolution. This model will only work at 1280x800 over single-link DVI, or 2560x1600 dual-link DVI. It also has no VGA analog input . This means I cannot display the signal from the VS-2400CD on these 2 monitors at all.
  5. My third monitor, a Gateway FHD2401 does accept 640x480 over DVI single-link. However, due to space issues on my desk, I am now running it in portrait mode, vertically. The VS-2400CD firmware does not have a portrait mode of operation. And the Gateway monitor does not have a way of displaying the video signal at a 90 degrees angle. Thus, when I use my VS-2400CD, I now have to pivot the monitor back to landscape mode. However, there is not enough space, and if I do this, it protrudes in front of one of the other monitors
The first 3 problems are inconveniences that I have been willing to live with, but with the addition of a second HP LP3065 monitor recently, the last 2 are now a major issue.

The 4th problem might be solved with a video scaling device. I don't know if one exists that outputs at 1280x800 or 2560x1600 . If it does, it's probably very expensive.
Edit: I found an inexpensive scaler that worked, the AT-HDView from Atlona. It was only $99 at Fry's.

The 5th problem is much more difficult to solve. I don't know of any device that will turn the video around at a 90 degrees angle. I am not sure if any monitor exists that has this function built-in.

Because of all the problems, I attempted a different approach. I purchased a Lantronix Spider Duo KVM switch. This is a KVM that has 2 PS/2 ports for keyboards and mouse, and one VGA port for video. It connects to the local network via Ethernet. The device connected to the Spider Duo can be accessed via a Java application over the network from any computer.

This was a very appealing solution to me, because I would no longer have to try to convert these legacy PS/2 and VGA ports on the VS-2400CD to modern 21st century technology.

After speaking to Lantronix support and being told there was a 95% chance that it would be compatible, I ordered the $200 Spider Duo from Provantage. I received it on April 25. I hooked it up. The keyboard worked fine. The video worked. Unfortunately, the mouse signal did not work at all, either remotely or with the included local KVM cable. I spoke at length with Lantronix support and, it was determined that the Spider Duo is incompatible with the Roland VS-2400CD. My Spider Duo is now on its way back to Provantage for a refund.

At this point, I am really wondering if there is any device on the planet that can solve my problem. I may try other IP KVMs, but the prices can get very high as these are typically enterprise devices. The Spider Duo was the least expensive IP KVM I could find.

I welcome any ideas on how to solve the issues and simplify my switching situation. Please feel free to comment on the blog. Suggestions from KVM manufacturers are welcome, too !

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