Use Your iMac as a Display

I have an Intel iMac (the white kind). It’s my personal machine. I like it. It’s nice. What I especially like about it is that it has a big screen (1680×1050).

I also have an Intel MacBook. It’s my work machine. I like it. It’s nice. But what I don’t like about it is that the screen is a bit smaller than my iMac (1200×800). Using the smaller keyboard and mouse isn’t so nice either.

What to do?

Well, there’s VNC. OS X even has a VNC server built in. So I could turn that on and then use a VNC client on my iMac. But that only gives me the keyboard and mouse and a 1280×800 window mirroring the MacBook screen. Not cool.

The same guy who makes this excellent VNC client also makes ScreenRecycler. ScreenRecycler turns your VNC client into an attached display. The monitor of the computer your VNC client runs on looks to OS X like just another monitor, plugged in through the mini-DVI port. So now I can work on my MacBook and have a 1680×1050 screen in addition. Joy!

But ScreenRecycler ignores input from the VNC client, so I can’t use my iMac’s keyboard and mouse to control my MacBook. No joy.

But some other guy on the internet makes Transport. Transport lets you control other Macs using your keyboard and mouse. Joy has returned!

So, the plan:

  1. Install and run ScreenRecycler and Transport on the MacBook.
  2. Install and run JollysFastVNC and Transport on the iMac.
  3. The VNC client finds ScreenRecycler via Bonjour. No sweat.
  4. On the MacBook, tell Teleport to “Share this Mac.”

All done! Now I can use my iMac as a second display to my MacBook and control my MacBook with my iMac. (I can even make the iMac the MacBook’s main display!) Using the power of Spaces, I can even have multiple workspaces, and keep (for example) Mail and iChat permanently displayed in the MacBook screen, no matter what workspace I’m in.

A caveat: Transport doesn’t seem to recognize the ScreenRecycler display, at least when one machine is Panther (iMac) and the other Leopard (MacBook). You have to arrange your virtual screens in Transport in such a way that they don’t share the same borders. Otherwise your pointer will get stuck on the MacBook.

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