Falling Leaves: the Ardes blog

I Shall Rant About Belkin KVMs Now

Ray Drainville

On a spare machine in the studio, we had a Belkin SOHO KVM DVI switch. We got it when Ian joined as a partner, so he could hook up his laptop & use the big screen as extra real estate. It was a weird setup: the monitor was VGA (one of those ancient 21″ Apple CRT Displays, a gigantic blueberry of a thing that gave you a hernia by just thinking of lifting it), but we knew that we’d eventually move to a DVI flat-screen, so we worked with DVI-VGA adaptors for years.

It wasn’t without problems. To get it working with the DVI computer & laptop to which it was attached, we needed DVI-VGA bridges; for Ian’s laptop we needed a (get this) DVI-VGA-DVI bridge, otherwise the damn thing wouldn’t work. When we first set it up, the damned thing would screech PIP every second or so when Ian’s laptop wasn’t connected—a frequent enough occurrence as he likes to work from home. We somehow, somehow got that to stop, but the trick was lost in the mists of history & sleepless nights.

When the display finally died, nearly a decade after its purchase, I promptly got a new flat-screen monitor, an Iiyama ProLite, which is pretty nice. Finally, we could rid ourselves of those DVI-VGA/DVI-VGA-DVI bridges. And that’s when everything started going very, very wrong.

You first have to hook in your DVI cables. OK, except for the bonheaded design of the switch: there wasn’t enough room for them. I used a crimper to pull off some of the decorative plastic in a couple of places to make room for the cables. But even then, they couldn’t fit as tightly as they should have. Oh, and the PIP was back, and it wouldn’t stop.

So I Googled other people’s experience of these switches, only to find that other Mac users were in a similar boat. What’s worse, to upgrade the damned thing, you needed a) a Windows computer—so we’re out of luck there, we only use Windows via VMWare Fusion; and b) a PS/2 port on that Windows machine. Despite the fact that it supports USB. Nice foresight there, Belkin.

So in a fit of pique I ordered a new KVM switch. As we were only connecting two machines to one monitor/keyboard/mouse, there was only one game in town: the Belkin Switch. Well, I clearly didn’t learn my lesson about Belkin, because I bought the damned thing, despite the negative reviews on Amazon. And of course, it wouldn’t work when I first started it up. The clue was that the switch button needs to be firmly inserted into the switch (as recounted in one Amazon review).

But then—surprise!—it worked. Great! Back to work. Until the installation of the recent Quicktime 7.6 update, where the computer had to be restarted afterwards. Whereupon the fucker didn’t work again. The switch button clearly wasn’t the issue: it hadn’t been dislodged. What to do?

That’s when I descended into Support Hell. You’ve been there, so you know that you have to tell them everything, model, OS, setup, shoe size, anal distension limit, etc. I got a couple of very useless suggestions (unhook everything, restart, hook it back up, piece by piece), which didn’t do anything, but reading about the Quicktime update suggested that some components need to be updated. I did that & the computer came back to life. Hurrah!

Until the next restart-required software update. Are you sensing a pattern here? What solved this was, essentially, voodoo: I restarted the computer again, cleared the PRAM three times, rubbed the cat’s tail around my left eye three times counterclockwise & we were back in business.

I have a suspicion that I’ll be engaging in multiple restarts for the rest of the KVM’s life…