Monday, December 20, 2010

IOGear GCS632U KVM Switch Hotkey Mode

I've really enjoyed the use of my IOGear MiniView Micro USB Plus 2-Port KVM Switch for a couple of years now. I'm not certain why IOGear felt the need to give the device such an elaborate name. We'll blame their marketing folks for that.

While I'm passing out blame, there's an important usability problem to pin on IOGear's technical writers. Let me explain.

The IOGear Model GCS632U KVM switch is a really great device for sharing a single keyboard, video device, and mouse between two computers. The switch is conveniently operating system independent; I use mine to share a keyboard and mouse between a Microsoft Windows 7 and a Ubuntu 11.04 machine. It operates on built-in code, so there is no special software required on the host computers. Best of all, there are a few user-configurable settings to customize the user experience. The features are accessible via a special key sequence that will place the user in "Hotkey Mode". You can read more about the settings in the IOGear device's User Guide [PDF].

One of the configurable features is to change the default port switching key from Scroll Lock, Scroll Lock to Ctrl, Ctrl; the change that I wanted to complete. The User Guide provides specific instructions to make this change by first placing the device in Hotkey Mode. To do this, the user must "(1) Press and hold Num Lock key for two seconds; (2) Press and hold Minus key [ – ] for one second; and (3) Release Minus key [ – ] and within one second also release Num Lock key."

With such precise timing specified in the manual, one might suspect that this was a really, really critical point. In fact, I spent way too much time trying to get the exact timing down just so I could simply change the default port switch key. Boy was I mistaken, and the technical writers sure made it much more difficult than it needed to be.

For those of you who have been trying unsuccessfully to enter Hotkey Mode on the IOGear KVM switch by following the manufacturer's instructions, here's the trick. You only need to press and hold the Num Lock key for about one second (e.g. "one thousand one"), then casually press the Minus key and immediately release both keys at the same time. You should see the keyboard's Caps Lock and Scroll Lock status lights blink alternately signifying that you are in Hotkey Mode. Then you can configure the KVM switch as desired.

I'm embarrassed to admit how long it took for me to get this key sequence down right. Hopefully by sharing the information here with you, I will have saved you some time and trouble.