The patent's assignee for patent number 8639812 is
News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates generally to computer systems, and more particularly, to a system to enable a single user console to manage, control, simultaneously view, and share files and data among a plurality of host computers.
"There exist devices for interconnecting a single console or computer to multiple computers. For example, a keyboard/video/mouse (KVM) switch is a device that is generally connected to multiple computers in order to enable a single keyboard, video monitor and mouse to control each of the connected computers. In this way, a user may have access to multiple computers without having to invest in corresponding keyboards, monitors, and mice for each of the computers. When the user accesses a computer connected to the KVM switch, video signals are routed from the computer, processed, and displayed on the single video monitor. Generally, the user must utilize pre-defined key sequences, such as
"Regardless of how access to a particular computer is granted, for typical KVM switches, only the video output of the accessed computer is processed and displayed on the single video display unit. That is, a user is not able to view the video output from the other 'non-accessed' computers connected to the KVM switch because video output from the 'accessed' computer covers the entire video display unit. Allowing a user to view and access one computer while also allowing the user to view the other 'non-accessed' computers would not only provide greater information to the user, but would also provide the foundation for enabling quick and seamless navigation and sharing of files and data between all the computers.
"There are products available that allow a user to view the video output from multiple sources, such as the QuadView.RTM. XL by RGB Spectrum.RTM., but these products do not allow the user to actually access the connected sources. The QuadView.RTM. XL, for example, is generally used for simply displaying multiple images on a monitor or projector without allowing the user to control the sources themselves.
"There also exist devices for interconnecting multiple computers such that files may be transferred between storage devices and data may be shared between the processors of multiple computers. However, such devices generally require that a user be familiar with computer networking and file sharing and do not provide a familiar drag-and-drop or copy-and-paste interface that would allow a user to perform such operations in an intuitive fashion with little or no training.
"It is desirable, therefore, to provide a system that includes a management device with an intuitive user interface to enable the simultaneous output of video and audio from multiple computers, the seamless and intuitive switching of user control from one computer to another, and familiar drag-and-drop and copy-and-paste interfaces for transferring files and other data between multiple computers connected to the management device."
As a supplement to the background information on this patent, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent: "The present invention provides an apparatus and system for accessing and sharing data among a plurality of host computers using a single console and allowing a user to simultaneously view a 'windowed' display of the video signals from each of the host computers. In one embodiment of the present invention, a management device is operatively connected to a console including a single keyboard, mouse, video display, and speakers, to control and share data among up to four host computers.
"The management device of the present invention provides an advanced and intuitive user interface. The video signals from the host computers are processed for display on the video display of the console. Unlike KVM switches, which only allow a user to view the host computer the user is currently accessing, the present invention allows for the simultaneous viewing of all the host computers connected to the management device. The host computers are each displayed in a 'window' or frame, which may be moved and/or re-sized on the console video display. The management device is also capable of cropping portions of video displays from each of the hosts in order to suppress the display of certain portions of the windows that may overlap other windows on the console display. Furthermore, the management device can be configured to remove the background of the video display from each host and retain only the windows. In this mode, when the windowed video from each of the host computers is maximized and overlaid on the console screen, the windows from each host are simultaneously visible and appear as if they were all associated with a single computer. To perform this operation, the management device is configured to select, on a per-pixel basis, video data originating from any of the host computers or from the management device video processor, to be displayed on the video console.
"Furthermore, the management device of the present invention allows for seamless access to each of the host computers and automatically generates the necessary mouse and keyboard signals to interact with the host computers. The console mouse is represented on the console video display by a console mouse pointer. In order to access a particular host computer, the user simply moves the console mouse pointer over that host computer's window. If the user wishes to access a different host computer, the user may move the console mouse pointer off of the current host computer window and onto the window of the host computer desired to be accessed. If the user does not wish to access any host computer, the user may move the console mouse pointer to the non-windowed area, for example, the desktop area of the console video display. When all host windows are stacked and the backgrounds suppressed, software running on the host computers and management device can be used to interpret mouse movements or mouse clicks in order to activate the host computer associated with the particular window with which the user wishes to work. Because some operating systems and even different applications running under the same operating system may not interpret mouse actions in the same way, particular cases may require the user to enter an extra key stroke or similar action in order to activate the selected host computer. Accordingly, the management device of the present invention will maintain, as nearly as possible, the facade of a windowing interface.
"In addition to the mouse pointer provided by the mouse connected to the management device, each of the host computers has its own mouse pointer. Therefore, in order to maintain a seamless windowing interface, the management device of the present invention controls the display of all of the mouse pointers on the console video display. It is preferred that only one mouse pointer, rather than multiple mouse pointers, be visible at any point in time. Accordingly, when none of the host computers is being accessed, the display of the mouse pointer for the host computers may be suppressed and only the console mouse pointer displayed. Similarly, when one of the host computers is being accessed, the mouse pointer for that host computer may be shown, while the console mouse pointer is suppressed and the rest of the host computers' mouse pointers remain suppressed.
"When a host computer is accessed (i.e., the console mouse pointer is within the window of the host computer), the management device is able to position the mouse pointer of any accessed host computer exactly under the console mouse pointer by transmitting absolute information regarding the position of the console mouse pointer. At that point, display of the console mouse pointer may be suppressed and display of the mouse pointer of the accessed host computer enabled. The management device can manage the display of the mouse pointers by sending control commands to the host computer. Since one of the most common protocols for controlling a mouse is the PS/2 protocol, which only uses relative information to manipulate the position of the mouse pointer, software drivers may be loaded onto the host computers in order to convert the relative positional information to absolute positional information in order to properly control the display of the host computers' mouse pointers.
"The present invention also includes a communications channel interconnecting multiple computers and the management device. This communications channel may be implemented as either a wired or a wireless network. In one embodiment, the communications channel includes Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) networking hardware and protocols. In another embodiment, the communications channel includes Universal Serial Bus (USB) hardware and protocols. In still another embodiment, the communications channel includes PS/2 hardware and protocols.
"The management device uses the communications channel to enable the intuitive sharing and copying of files between the storage devices of each of the attached computers. When the user drags and drops a file from a window of one host computer to that of another using the console mouse, the management device automatically generates the file transfer commands necessary to copy a file from one computer to another over the communications channel. In addition, the management device allows a user to select and copy text or other data from an application running in the window of one host computer and paste the text or data into an application running on another host computer simply by using the console mouse as if the operation were being performed on a single computer. When a user selects and copies text or graphics from an application running on one host computer, that computer saves that text or graphics in its own 'clipboard' memory buffer. Software drivers running on that host computer then transfer the contents of the clipboard memory to the management device via the communications channel. The management device then automatically sends the copied information over the communications channel to each of the other host computers, thereby synchronizing the contents of each computer's clipboard memory. When the user then issues a paste command in any window displayed on the console, the host computer controlling that window pastes the information from its clipboard buffer into the selected application. Alternatively, if the communications channel is relatively slow, the management device can be configured to synchronize the clipboard buffers of the host computers only upon a special action by the user. The user can configure whether or not the clipboard buffers are continually synchronized. Thus, the management device presents the user with a familiar windowing interface, enabling the sharing of files and data between multiple computers with the look and feel of operating a single computer.
"The management device of the present invention also manages the audio signals from each of the host computers. In one embodiment, the management device will mix the audio levels from the four host computers, but afford the audio of the currently accessed host computer the highest volume level. In another embodiment, the management device will only allow the audio from the accessed host computer to be sent to the speakers.
"An alternative embodiment of the present invention uses a simplified video processor in order to provide most of the functionality of the complete system at a reduced cost to the user. In this embodiment, the simplified video processor in the management device allows the display of video from only one of the host computers at any given time. Small tray icons representing the other attached computers are displayed by the management device on the user console. The user may switch to any other of the attached host computers by clicking on the small tray icon representing that computer. Likewise, a user may transfer files between host computers by dragging a file from the currently selected computer to the small icon representing the selected destination host computer. A user may also copy and paste data from the selected host computer by selecting and copying text from the active computer, clicking on the small icon representing the destination computer, thereby selecting and displaying it, and then pasting the copied information into an application running on the selected destination host computer.
"A more complete understanding of the apparatus and system for controlling and simultaneously viewing a plurality of host computers on a single console will be afforded to those skilled in the art, as well as a realization of additional advantages and objects thereof, by a consideration of the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment. Reference will be made to the appended sheets of drawings which will first be described briefly."
For additional information on this patent, see: Leibow, Michael. Apparatus and System for Managing Multiple Computers. U.S. Patent Number 8639812, filed
Keywords for this news article include: Software,
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