Lantronix’s SecureLinx line of KVM switches allows remote control of both Intel-based and Macintosh computers over standard IP-based networks, independent of the computers’ OS. I tested the SecureLinx Spider, a single-system KVM-over-IP unit that’s unique in its design, requiring no rack space; it’s lightweight enough to hang from the back of a system. The Spider is cascade-able, allowing many Spider units to share a single Ethernet port.

The Spider does provide the convenience of browser-based remote control of host computers. Using it, I was able to connect to a remote system and complete typical operations there. Unfortunately, however, my overall experience wasn’t ideal. In my testing, I encountered lags in screen updates, inconsistent mouse operation, and features that didn’t work consistently.

You can configure the Spider and control the attached computer through one of two interfaces: a Web interface and SpiderView, a GUI that requires Windows XP and ActiveX support. SpiderView is primarily an administrative tool, letting you discover Spider devices on the network, and includes a wizard to guide you through the device’s initial configuration. SpiderView also includes a remote control interface.

The Spider’s embedded Web server and Java applets provide access to its full complement of features and configuration options. Remote control through the Web interface requires that the client run a Java Runtime Environment (JRE). I tested the PS2 version of the Spider with a variety of setup and remote control configurations. I found that some options worked much better than others.

Mouse support for the PS2 model is configurable between USB and PS2 compatibility. You should avoid the PS2 mode; in my tests, the indicated mouse pointer frequently lost synchronization with the host system’s mouse pointer location. Fortunately, newer systems support USB mouse devices, and configuring the Spider to use this option worked fairly well.

Media redirection is an interesting Spider-supported feature, letting the remote system use data present on your local computer or a network share. This capability is handy when you don’t find it convenient to map to a network share from the remote system. From the Virtual Media menu of the Spider’s embedded Web site, Spider will mount a diskette image file (up to 1.44MB) as an additional read-only disk drive. Similarly, Spider will present a CD-ROM image file (up to 800MB) present on a Windows Common Internet File System (CIFS) share to the host system as a drive letter.

The Spider’s user experience wasn’t quite as clean as I hoped for. Although more than adequate, the video refresh wasn’t the fastest I’ve seen. I was also a bit annoyed that I needed to keep my browser window to the Spider’s Web interface open to maintain the Java console window. Overall, I find it difficult to recommend this unit. Considering that administrators generally do much of their work from one or two workstations, a full-featured, performance-optimized remote control client—with support for rapid connection to and switching among your usual servers—would be a big improvement. Considering the Spider’s per-server price, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.