I was about to post about how pleased I was with Synergy in helping me tidy up my desktop clutter (by removing a keyboard and mouse from the surface). Ironically, I’m instead posting about a problem with the configuration that will cause me to throw it out and look for something else. Why the title? Because the default configuration of a Linux distribution nowadays has given me no way to fix this ridiculously simple problem without powering off the running PC, VMware guests and all.

The problem is that Synergy and the VMware console don’t play well together (I could have sworn that when I first started using Synergy I had no trouble with it, but there are a few hits around that describe problems like I’ve now hit). The problems people are reporting are that keys like Shift and Ctrl are not passed to the VM (some described here and here).

My problem is slightly different: the screen of my Synergy client (the one that’s running VMware) locked while a VMware guest had focus. Now, the Shift and Ctrl keys are not picked up by gnome-screensaver to unlock the screen. Even the real keyboard attached directly via USB doesn’t work. Big problem, for the following reasons:

* Thanks to password strength rules enforced on the Linux build I use, my password now has a Shift-obtained punctuation character.
* I can’t switch to a virtual console, since that requires Ctrl (e.g. Ctrl-Alt-F1).

Okay, so the keyboard doesn’t work. This client machine just happens to be a tablet PC, and I had hacked gnome-screensaver (to display the onscreen keyboard to allow the screen to be unlocked in tablet mode). I grabbed the pen and tapped out my password, but it *still* didn’t work: even the output of the virtual keyboard gets the Shift modifier dropped. Hmm… Starting to fume now.

Never mind, I’ll connect via the network…

* Fedora does not start SSH by default (okay, yes, and I didn’t make sure it gets started after I’d finished the install).
* There is no remote desktop (VNC server, XDMCP) configured.
* The shiny web-based management interface on VMware Server 2.0 only listens on (or is being blocked by the Fedora firewall).

So with no way to get access to the machine to try and fix it, a power-off is the only solution. Some readers are probably thinking “boo-hoo, diddums had to kill-switch his widdle poota, how tewwible,” but I hate having to do that; not because the system doesn’t recover, but it’s “problem resolution, Windows-style”.

Even though the real problem was between Synergy and VMware, I’m blaming the (perceived) need for security since without that I wouldn’t have a cryptic password that I can’t enter without Shift and a system I can’t administer over the network. Red Hat and Fedora doing everything in their power to ensure I don’t fall prey to nasty Internet fiends (rich analogies to governmental nannying, but that’s probably over-thinking things).

So in summary: Synergy is great, just as long as you’re not using VMware console and have a password with punctuation or uppercase… Remember to have your SSH or other network access enabled before you play!

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