Have you ever been frustrated with having too many headless servers that you need to connect to a screen and keyboard if the network suddenly drops or it is stuck in a reboot, and you cant keep them connected with their own set because your wife gets frustrated with all the cables laying around in you tidy living room? No? Well I have…
It might not be a common problem, and it might not actually be a problem at all, but I have two Linux servers filled with hard-drives and I have a few Raspberry Pi’s here and there. Every now and then there is an issue, like when my file-server cannot initiate its Ethernet when I power it from a blackout because of some driver-support for this particular type of motherboard chipset (silly and unnecessary problem, I know). I will then have to connect a screen and keyboard to the server, a server that is usually just a black anonymous box that doesn’t even make much noise and that my wife has grown to accept over the months and years (for now..).
So I have been dragging screens and keyboards with me when I go on a repair-mission, while in the back of my mind dreaming about KVM consoles. Not that they would really help in my situation, especially since they are mainly rack mountable (slides into a slot in a rack for multiple servers) – but they are awesome and they intrigue a hardware geek like me. Some of them even have multiple screens that you can fold out to the sides from the already folded and space-saving design. They can, by the flip of a switch, switch (true story!) between the many computers you might have in your server-rack when something goes wrong and you cannot access them through network.
But I didn’t actually want to drool over these consoles, I just accepted that I could use one of my extra LCD screens and connect it to an extra keyboard when I needed to do some on-site maintenance and repairs. I sometimes have to connect a mouse too, because some silly programs (you know who you are!) needs a GUI to be controlled. But usually it is just a keyboard and a screen. Not too bad, I know, but there is always room for improvements! It would be especially nice to have a portable unit that was easy to carry to the server when something happened, and extra nice when I will need to move it to my backup-server after I is moved to the outhouse/barn some time this winter.
So therefore I decided to look into making the screen and keyboard into a more portable solution. Almost like a KVM console, but not really since it cannot be connected to multiple servers at the same time. And I did just that by using a typical vesa-mount designed for hanging a screen flat on a wall. I just reversed it, drilling a couple of small holes in the backplate of the keyboard instead (using short screws, being careful not to break anything physical or by shorting the circuits with the screws) to attach one side and then attaching the other side to the back of the screen using the normal 100mm spaced holes.
It’s not the same as a KVM console (I have to detach and reattach the cables to switch between servers) but it’s and improvement. I am sure that if you are one of the (very few?) people that have this dire need in your life you could easily make this fake-KVM too without much trouble. But I will probably still make a short animated “how to” in the form of our another awesome digital learning content so that you can be easily guided through the whole process step by step. It will be hard to cover this for every LCD screen available, and for all types of keyboard and different vesa-mounts – but if I notice an interest in this subject and article I could always do some research into how it can be done with the most common brands and models available.
We will see what comes, it will all be done “in due time”. I am still very happy that you decided to read this article, and hope you share the same enthusiasm for this solution as I do. Thank you!