When is a USB keyboard not a USB keyboard?

by Tom Bridge

With my laptop now back in the shop again, I have returned to my pair of Mac minis. Not entirely pleased to suffer the bonds of VGA, I pursued a DVI KVM. The only one I could find was an OmniView KVM from Belkin. On the PC Connection website, it indicates that the OmniView is Mac compatible, as does follow-up research at the Belkin site. Excellent, I think I have found my beastie! I order it and await its arrival.

A few days later, I unpack the unit, unpack the separately ordered KVM cables, and hook it all up. The design of the KVM itself is a bit odd, it is not your typical rectangular box, but in the right sort of situation odd design can triumph over beige boxes. Included in the box was a transformer plug, complete with L shaped AC adaptor. There's a slight problem in the design here, plugging in the L-shaped adaptor either blocks a USB port, or it blocks the Monitor DVI port. Suddenly, I'm wondering who made that design call. Attaching the Belkin-issue KVM Cables made a second design flaw fairly obvious: you have to nearly crimp the cables to get the sheath to stay on the back.

What really got my goat was what happened next. With everything in place, I was greeted with the sort of beeping a piece of life-support equipment might make if I'd suddenly had a heart-attack. A glance at the manual showed nothing, but a phone call to Belkin revealed the true nature of the problem: Belkin doesn't recognize Apple's USB Keyboard as a USB Keyboard. Unless you have a PC-compatible (whatever that means, I was under the impression that USB keyboards were USB keyboards...) keyboard, it won't stop the beeping.

The tech-support representative wanted to walk me through the process of flashing the firmware on the device, except that to do this you need a PC with a Parallel Port. I would argue that this device is, in only the loosest of terms, Mac-compatible, for to do anything with it, you'd need PC accessories, which likely Mac users will not have. Saying that it will work with any DVI machine, while forcing you to use one set of accessories is barely compatibility, and Belkin ought to reconsider the language on their site.

Seen a good DVI switch? Had a similar experience? Let me know.


5 Comments

joeaguy
2005-03-23 15:46:03
i've had similar trouble with another belkin kvm
I have a similar probelm with Belkin's 4 port analog KVM switch. I got it because its had USB and audio. I found similar wiring problems, and many of the keys on my mac keyboard would no longer work. So I went back to running a cable extention from the monitor and manualy switching cables and using multiple keyboards.


I recently bought a 2 port, usb, analog, all in one KVM switch from ioGear which has worked great to switch between a Mac and Linux.


I've found Belkin likes the Mac bandwagon and has a good relationship with Apple, but their engineering usualy has some windows only gotcha. They are still at least a little better than most hardware makers who ignore the Mac completely.


If you Google for "mac dvi kvm" you'll find a lot of products other than the Belkin that might do a better job for you.

Oyku
2005-03-24 02:51:30
Thank You (a million times)
Recently I spent hours in front of the computer to find where I can get a Belkin KVM with 4 ports. I could not and I postponed the issue. But having read your comments, I feel lucky. I was considering to get one to connect my new mac mini, linux workstation and pc notebook with an additional port to plug in many machines passing by my table. I was really fed up with plugging unplugging alien machines which only spend two or three days in under my table before being sent to where they actually belong :) I was dreaming to have less cables around and I'm really thankful that I've read your article before getting pissed off
Dougmc
2005-03-24 07:00:51
Work around for Belkin KVM
I was in a position to pitch the Belkin Omniview KVM switch I was using a short time ago. However, the work around that I had in place to eliminate that annoying beep was to plug any old keyboard into the USB port labled for the keyboard. I then tucked that keyboard back behind everything and out of the way—it wouldn't be used.


Then I plugged the keyboard I intended to use into one of the additional USB ports.


I'm not using a IOGear MiniView ADC KVM switch and really like it. Much more than the Belkin product.

donotdespisethesnake
2005-07-27 03:14:05
Not even PC compatible!
To be fair, this product seems very fussy even with keyboards designed for a PC, as well as having the design faults you highlight. I have been through two keyboards so far, neither work. Belkin do not mention this in their product spec. They do highlight the flash upgrade feature, but this is not documented anywhere, and the software is poorly written and gave me numerous errors. It now seems to have disabled the keyboard port completely.


I've wasted a lot of time and money with this product. I beg you, don't even think of buying it.

AkleyMac
2006-04-11 14:57:55
Hey,
I had exactly the same problem - surprised they are allowed to call themselves mac compatible, but I think I may have a solution for you. Belkin have recently released firmware that will allow you to plug your keyboard into a device port as any other device - it performs ne checks into what the device actually is. Take a look at this:


http://www.belkin.com/support/download/downloaddetails.asp?download=1299&lang=1


I have not yet tried it myself - I have lost the cable for updating firmware - gonna have to order another one from Belkin. You should give it a try.


Good luck!
AkleyMac