Brad Wardell's site for talking about the customization of Windows.
Understanding it is the key..
Published on February 9, 2005 By Frogboy In Windows Software

What is Multiplicity?  It's a program that is designed to multiply the computing power of individuals by allowing them to manage multiple computers as if they were a single computer. 

It works by having N computers and at least N monitors but only 1 keyboard and mouse.  The keyboard and mouse are hooked up to the primary computer and with it, the user then controls each of their computers by sliding the mouse over onto the monitor that is attached to the corresponding computer. So in effect, it's like a multi-monitor PC except that I'm multiplying my overall computing power which in turn improves my productivity.

For power users, Multiplicity is the logical destination to maximize what one can do in a given moment of time.  I say that as someone who, for years, bought SMP machines with the hope of being able to never be interupted in what I was doing by the computer.  OS/2 SMP, NT SMP, etc. never quite did that. I always found myself having to wait for something. This become particularly noticeable when I started tossing more monitors onto a single PC.

Multiplicity eliminates that by letting magnify what I can do by simply tossing more "boxes" under the desk. And let's face it, many people these days have more than one PC.  Sure, at least one of them is probably not state of the art, but it's probably more than enough for reading mail, doing instant messaging, etc.

With Multiplicity, much of its goodness is in its usability (and for those who doubt this, they'll be able to download a demo version because if you're sitting there thinking "What about KVM switches?" or "What about program X?" then the solution is being able to see it for yourself).

It's not just that it provides a universal clipboard between all your machines. It's not just the idea that you can now control a PC and a Mac together.  It's not just that you can copy files and folders between machines with a simple copy and paste action. It's in the details. It's in the UI.

So how would one use Multiplicity? Kris Kwilas, who works at Stardock, has a few examples he can rattle off the top of his head:

Remote desktop, radmin, VNC, and the like are great solutions for bringing the remote desktops to your main PC.

Multiplicity needs another monitor hooked up to secondary PC (up to 6 of them). There's no getting around that for the moment (by design). If you don't have 2 PC's and 2 monitors, it's of no use to you.

Let me give some examples. Until you've used it, imho, you don't even realize that you've been missing something without it. Which is what the trial version will be for!

- Have you upgraded your main PC at home but the other one isn't quite ready to collect dust in the corner of your office? Have you ever emailed yourself a file or burned a CD to get it 6 feet across the desk to another machine?

- Do you have a laptop or a tablet? Are you on the road and when you come back to the office, you want to control everything from one place?

- Would you like to play games on one PC will still being able to surf the web and IM on the other? Or play multiple accounts in a MMO game at once (yes, people do this, I was surprised too!).

- Do you develop software for a living or hobby and need to test it elsewhere? Are you an artist and want to be able to work on something else while a render or filter happen?

- Do you have to test software on multiple configurations? Some people do have a half-dozen mice and keyboards on their desk.

- Do you need more "desktop" to monitor something that can go on a secondary machine while you continue to work uninterrupted in your main one?

As for myself, I use it at work because I do a lot of compiling one one machine and a lot of graphics design on the other and those of you in my shoes know how that can be.  I am thinking of throwing a crap box for a third and having it dedicated to instant messaging and chat and such.

It really came in handy on my recent media tour. I needed to get a bunch of screenshots of GalCiv II. But every time I ALT-ESC'd out of GalCiv, it would crash.  So what I ended up doing is having GalCiv II run on Machine A, hit print screen, then move my mouse to machine B and paste the screenshot into Photopaint.  Then I saved the files, zipped them up and copied them back to Machine A by right clicking on the ZIP file, choosing copy, then moving my mouse over to Machine B where I have my protable hard drive already hooked up, right clicking and choosing paste. And sure, with network shares I could have copied too but compare the productivity difference in just that one trivial example.

I also use it when my son and I play World of Warcraft.  We have two accounts. So he plays and I play. We sit next to each other (killing wolves and bandits together - father and son ).  But he's only 8 so he gets stuck.  He has the keyboard and mouse hooked up to his computer. But when he gets stuck, I can have Multplicity set to switch desktops with a hot key and then zip over there and help him cast a spell or deal with a complicated issue and then zip back to my desktop to keep going.

Most of the time though I use it in totally seamless mode. That is, just like a multi-monitor setup, I just move my mouse to the other screen and control that box. In our lab there are configs with many machines hooked up to it. It's very handy for testing.

That isn't to say we have dumped our KVM switches.  Our server room uses that and it works great for that.  It's not really designed to compete with that. But there are probably people who use KVM switches who would be better served with Multiplicity just as there are people who might be using VirtualPC who might be better served this way too. There's a lot of potential overlap depending on what you're doing.

Try out Multiplicity for yourself.


Comments (Page 1)
on Feb 10, 2005
This does sound quite cool. Even though I tend to use KVM's, I would imagine that being able to see all the environments (on each monitor), would be quite useful as well. The only thing that I see as a minor shortcoming (at least for the way I use my PCs) is lack of support for unix flavored boxes. Since I develop on several platforms (windows, OSX, and several flavors of unix), I'd like to see this ultimately work on a cross platform basis. I've looked at synergy, and while it may be suitable after some maturation, it's a little flaky right now.

Plus, I've had good experiences with Stardock's software, so I'd feel pretty comfortable that it would do what it says. I'm sure that this early in the development phase, it's understandable that platform support would be limited, but I think it would be worth the effort to support other platforms as development progresses.

on Feb 10, 2005
A Linux client is something we're looking at.  In the short term, Windows and Mac and then Linux eventually.
on Feb 10, 2005
That sounds great! I'm glad it's being thought about

I guess I'll have to play with the trial (at least) once it's available.
on Feb 10, 2005
I have a stand-alone main machine and 3 other machines connected to a KVM-Switch with a secondary monitor, Mouse and Keyboard. This is nevertheless quite handy. Using Synergy at the moment, but I think this one is worth a switch.
on Feb 10, 2005
Will one license do for all clients? i.e. if I get one of them mini macs will my windows license allow me use it on the mini mac....would I be able to move the mouse from windows, to a mac, and them accross to my linux box?
on Feb 10, 2005

would I be able to move the mouse from windows, to a mac, and them across to my linux box?

Linux isn't available yet.  But, yes.  One license to control all of them.  (Sounds like Lord of the Rings for Software).  If you have more than a Primary and one secondary, you need to buy the Pro license, but you do not have to get a license for each.

I am currently using it.  I honestly didn't even realize why I needed it until I started "testing" it.  I took one of the old, unused machines that were around the office and an old monitor and hooked them up.  Now I keep my web browser and other apps open on the old computer and run other stuff on my better computer.  I can also write stuff on my better computer (my primary) and copy it and paste it on to the secondary computer. 

I also have a laptop and desktop at home.  My laptop always has files on it that I need, but it's always been a hassle to use both machines.  Multiplicity allows me to use both of them with one keyboard and mouse, and I can copy and paste between them.

Most of our products here I instantly understand why I wanted it.  Until I started using Multiplicity, I could see how "some people" might want it.  Know I know why I *need* it! 

on Feb 10, 2005

I believe the license works as follows :

MP standard allows you to have 1 primary (mouse & keyboard to use plugged into this) & 1 secondary machine.

MP Pro allows you to have 1 primary and upto 6 secondary machines.  MP Pro also adds in clipboard support for files / directories.

As for supported OSes, we currently support Windows 2000/XP/2003 for primary & secondary as well as Windows XP 64 bit / 2003 64 bit for being a secondary only.  Taking the mac as an example, the plan will be to implement support for the mac to be a secondary first.  This would most probably be the same for linux support.

The next OS to get primary support will probably be XP/2003 64 bit.

As for if different licenses are needed for different OSes, I suspect not.  Though thats subject to change of course as thats not been discussed yet.

on Feb 10, 2005
Sounds good, I'm using a switch box at the moment (press scroll lock twice then up or down to switch between PCs) but it all goes through one monitor. Plus I have to copy lots of files over the network, to be able to use CTRL+C flick my wrist (oo-er) and CTRL+V sound like just what the doctor ordered.
on Feb 10, 2005
This sounds like an excellent tool! Though I will be waiting until it has at least OS X support to it since I have 1 Windows PC, 1 Powerbook and a Linux Server (though I can live without using the linux server with MP for a while... I already make a habit of when playing WoW to have the game and TeamSpeak running on my PC, and IM, Firefox (usually pointed to Thottbot.com) and email on my laptop and I'll bounce back and forth between them constantly. I also need an ergo keyboard and nice mouse to hurting my wrists, and it would be so nice to just keep using my main gaming setup (which is designed for comfort) on any of my other machines.

Brad, sometimes I think you guys are too smart for your own good. What's next? Software that creates electronic AI clones of yourself to do work for you?
on Feb 10, 2005
Can your second PC be a laptop?
on Feb 10, 2005

Software that creates electronic AI clones of yourself to do work for you?

Crap....who breached their confidentiality on that one?!?!?      

on Feb 10, 2005
Crap....who breached their confidentiality on that one?!?!?


I found out through my network of mutant monkey spies that I've seeded throughout your company. Sure, they look like marketing and PR people, but really they're mindless drones who do my bidding. They even think they're normal human beings... but I know the truth... MUWAHAHAHA *cough* *hack*

Err, sorry... time for my medication
on Feb 10, 2005
Island Dog:

I also have a laptop and desktop at home. My laptop always has files on it that I need, but it's always been a hassle to use both machines. Multiplicity allows me to use both of them with one keyboard and mouse, and I can copy and paste between them.


...From Karma's post #7
on Feb 10, 2005
I want Multiplicity.
on Feb 10, 2005
Didn't see that, sorry.