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Multiseating Windows
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ZiNgA BuRgA
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Multiseating Windows
For those who don't know what this is, multiseating is the task of using one computer for multiple end users at the same time, ie one PC connected to two (or more) keyboards, mice & monitors.

Since my other computer somewhat died (I think the motherboard decided to screw itself up), I've been somewhat interested in this idea.

Apparently this is rather trivial in a Linux environment (just edit a few config files) but a fair bit more difficult to do on Windows (probably due to lack of software).
I did a bit of searching but only managed to find three programs which can do this:
  1. SoftXpand
  2. BeTwin
  3. AsterXP


None of the above are free unfortunately.

AsterXP and SoftXpand also only work on Windows 2000 and XP (32-bit) only.  BeTwin has Vista/Server 2008 versions (both 32-bit and 64-bit) but doesn't work on Windows XP x64 (from that, I infer that it also doesn't support Windows Server 2003).

SoftXpand appears to be the most advanced out of the three, offering features like load sharing.  I tried it on a clean install of XP SP3, however, since I cbf using my legit key (it's only a temporary install) and used AntiWPA (for some reason, XP decided not to give me the 30 days grace period), SoftXpand appears to cause a sort of log out where AntiWPA doesn't get activated.  So basically, I got a "please activate Windows" message every time I tried to use it.
Probably could've tried with a proper key, but since it only works on XP 32-bit anyway, I couldn't be stuffed.

AsterXP v2.5 kept crashing when I tried starting it up, but v4.5 worked well.  It's rather basic, but works quite well actually.  It bridges the monitor, mouse and keyboards correctly, however it doesn't handle audio, so the two terminals are somewhat stuck with mixed audio (it may be possible to assign audio away in some places, ie those which allow you to select an output device).  However, I did manage to network a game between the two, so it's fairly reasonable.

BeTwin is the only one of the three which had Vista versions, as well as the XP/2000 version.
Trying on the XP SP3 it works reasonably well.  It's got a bit more features than AsterXP - it can have the separate terminals running different users, and it can separate audio (you do need a second audio device though).  It seems that the account the secondary terminal logs into has to have a password though - weird, but not really that big of an issue.  The main issue about BeTwin however, is that it disables Direct3D, which kinda kills games and probably some video stuff too.  Running the DirectDraw test from the DirectX Diagnostic utility seems to be a little laggy too.  It doesn't appear that you can invoke BeTwin to start - it just automatically starts up when Windows starts (note that I haven't really checked the startup processes though), so the possibility of using your computer normally, with Direct3D, then starting up the secondary terminal when you don't need to game, doesn't seem possible.

I then tried BeTwin on Windows 7 RC1 x64.  Could get it to install by using compatibiilty mode, however, when the program was started, it would complain about some "Invalid time", "Unable to get License Info", "demo version" message thing.  Since it appeared to be some issue with the trial protection segment of the program, I tried looking for a crack to see if it could get around it, but couldn't find one for the Vista version.  So in short, I couldn't get it to work on Windows 7.

I then tried on Vista Ultimate x64 (no SP).  Not sure if it's an issue of Vista, or BeTwin, but I kept getting BSoDs when booting about two-thirds of the time.  I did finally manage to get it to work, both terminals active.  The theme turned from Aero to Vista Basic, so I went to check if the Vista version also disabled Direct3D.  The DirectX Diagnostic utility reported that Direct3D was active though, so I went to try a game, but then got a BSoD, so I just gave up.


So unfortunately, there doesn't really appear to be a *good* multiseat solution for Windows yet :(  AsterXP works well if you're on XP 32-bit and don't have many sound issues.  SoftXpand probably works well too, if you're also on XP 32-bit and not using AntiWPA (ie legit copy, still in grace period or different crack) - I might try it some time later.  BeTwin on XP is good if you don't need video/gaming capabilities on each terminal.  (if you could get it to work on Vista though, confirm if still allows Direct3D - I don't have much hope that it does considering the theme change)
10/06/2009 02:51 AM
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feinicks
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RE: Multiseating Windows
There are some hardware solutions... but really speaking I don't see why home users will need this (at least a majority).

However, using 2 mice is pretty fun (I used a Usb and a PS/2).

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10/06/2009 03:07 AM
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ZiNgA BuRgA
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RE: Multiseating Windows
feinicks Wrote:There are some hardware solutions... but really speaking I don't see why home users will need this (at least a majority).
Expensive from what I hear.
It's a cheap way to get two computers in one since you only need one mobo, case etc.
If you were designing a machine to act as a multiseat machine, then you may spend more on a CPU (ie quad core over dual core), GPU, HDD & RAM, but that also gives another advantage that if only one terminal is being used, it gets all the resources.
10/06/2009 03:37 AM
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feinicks
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RE: Multiseating Windows
ZiNgA BuRgA Wrote:
feinicks Wrote:There are some hardware solutions... but really speaking I don't see why home users will need this (at least a majority).
Expensive from what I hear.
It's a cheap way to get two computers in one since you only need one mobo, case etc.
If you were designing a machine to act as a multiseat machine, then you may spend more on a CPU (ie quad core over dual core), GPU, HDD & RAM, but that also gives another advantage that if only one terminal is being used, it gets all the resources.

One use that I can think of this is set up a media server or a local torrent box.

The hardware solutions vary from cheap to industry level expensive...

but the cheap ones are Chinese made... so..

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(This post was last modified: 10/06/2009 03:59 AM by feinicks.)
10/06/2009 03:58 AM
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ZiNgA BuRgA
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RE: Multiseating Windows
feinicks Wrote:One use that I can think of this is set up a media server or a local torrent box.
How would that be useful?
Multiseating is meant to be interactive - not something you run in the background.
This is for one computer, may as well run the server/torrent normally.

feinicks Wrote:The hardware solutions vary from cheap to industry level expensive...

but the cheap ones are Chinese made... so..
There really aren't that many hardware solutions from what I've seen.
10/06/2009 05:38 AM
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feinicks
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RE: Multiseating Windows
ZiNgA BuRgA Wrote:
feinicks Wrote:One use that I can think of this is set up a media server or a local torrent box.
How would that be useful?
Multiseating is meant to be interactive - not something you run in the background.
This is for one computer, may as well run the server/torrent normally.

Yeah.. but you can control the second box through VNC. Back when I was doing some work as network engineer, I saw that this was very this was very popular.

As for normal PC, not an isolated box.. I think that it would be nifty for multiplayer (2 people) gaming, both having full access of all hotkeys. Hmm... can probably be extended to other applications as well.

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10/06/2009 06:27 AM
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ZiNgA BuRgA
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RE: Multiseating Windows
feinicks Wrote:Yeah.. but you can control the second box through VNC. Back when I was doing some work as network engineer, I saw that this was very this was very popular.
There's no second box in multiseating.  You've got ONE box, and that's it.

I'm not sure you get what I mean here.  From the Wiki page:
[Image: Tetrahead1.jpg]
Note how there's ONE computer, but multiple sets of monitors/keyboard/mice.

feinicks Wrote:As for normal PC, not an isolated box.. I think that it would be nifty for multiplayer (2 people) gaming, both having full access of all hotkeys. Hmm... can probably be extended to other applications as well.
It's basically one computer acting as two.  You can use it for anything that requires two people to be doing something at once.
10/06/2009 04:35 PM
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Method
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RE: Multiseating Windows
Good for pranking lol


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10/06/2009 04:36 PM
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ZiNgA BuRgA
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RE: Multiseating Windows
Method Wrote:Good for pranking lol
Lol, not sure how that would work...  If you've already got networked computers, I don't think this helps (unless you need even more computers but are unwilling to buy any more).
10/06/2009 04:55 PM
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feinicks
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RE: Multiseating Windows
ZiNgA BuRgA Wrote:
Method Wrote:Good for pranking lol
Lol, not sure how that would work...  If you've already got networked computers, I don't think this helps (unless you need even more computers but are unwilling to buy any more).

I can think of a game...

who can type
"shutdown /t 1"
and "shutdown -a"
faster...

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11/06/2009 05:29 AM
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