We have a desktop cluttered by two monitors, two keyboards and two mice. Wouldn't it be great to cut that down to a single keyboard and mouse? We are of the opinion that two displays are the minimum we can live with - one for the desktop machine and one for the machines in the computer room. So we tried out the two-port, ultra-compact Built-on-Cable KVM Switch from StarTech.com.Here in the Gearhead bunker we dream of one huge wrap-around LCD monitor on our desk (or if we must, three or four side by side), a single keyboard and mouse all linked to a single machine running Windows, Linux and any other operating system we desire.We're sort of there, save for the fact we still have multiple machines. But we can access multiple machines in the backroom from a single keyboard, monitor and mouse through a\u00a0Raritan Paragon KVM switch that we reviewed\u00a0in June. At the time we noted that: "The Paragon Matrix Switch system is awesome. It can support both small and large installations, it is easy to install and configure, it is easy to use, and it works flawlessly." After a few months of continuous use, we still have the same opinion.There's also the desktop machine to consider (it's hard to live without some easily accessible PC for loading CDs, plugging in cameras, scanners and the like), so we have a desktop cluttered by two monitors, two keyboards and two mice.Wouldn't it be great to cut that down to a single keyboard and mouse? We are of the opinion that two displays are the minimum we can live with - one for the desktop machine and one for the machines in the computer room.So we tried out the two-port, ultra-compact\u00a0Built-on-Cable KVM Switch\u00a0(BCKS) from StarTech.com. The BCKS lets you control two computers with a PS\/2-style keyboard and mouse ports for the reasonable price of $50. What is unique about the BCKS, as far as we are aware, is that the entire device is built on the cables, as the product name implies - no boxes, no power cords - nothing but cable. It has, as StarTech bills it, a zero footprint.The BCKS consists of a bulge at the end of a "Y" cable where you plug in your monitor, keyboard and mouse. You then plug the connectors at either end of the Y (one side is 2 feet long, the other 6 feet) into the correct ports of the computers you want to control.In place of a power supply, the BCKS runs on a miniscule draw from the monitor ports of attached computers. The switch supports Plug-n-Play and VGA resolutions up to 1,920 x 1,440 at 60Hz.To change from one PC to the other, you simply press the left-hand Control key twice and then either the button No. 1 or 2, depending on which computer you want to use. You also can toggle continuously between the two computers in auto-scan mode by pressing the left-hand Control key twice and then the F1 key. Pressing the F3 key instead lets you select the scan speed of 3 (the default), 8, 15 or 30 seconds.The BCKS apparently uses a mouse and keyboard emulation to ensure that the PCs always "think" there's the correct hardware attached, but we suspect that the emulation is a little flaky with our particular keyboard (a Microsoft Internet Keyboard Pro).Occasionally the desktop PC - a Sony VAIO RX670 running Windows XP Professional with Office 2003 Beta 2 (Note to Microsoft: Where is our update?) - will think the keyboard has Caps Lock on (this can be cleared by pressing a key with Shift and then letting the Shift go), or on rare occassions, the PC thinks a text selection has begun (again forcing a Select Text action and clearing it). We haven't noticed a similar problem so far with the Raritan Paragon User Station (that's the user end of the Paragon KVM system) connected to our Windows 2000 or Linux 9 servers.These odd problems notwithstanding (we will see if a new keyboard solves the problem), we now use the device to just switch the keyboard and mouse between the desktop PC and the Raritan Paragon User Station. This saves us acres of desk space we now can fill up with the usual detritus typical of working with computers.Now we'll see if we can get more oomph out of our Linux server - we're going to test VMWare and see if we can run Linux, Windows, Inferno (that's a future column) and who knows what else all on a single box! The excitement never ends.Calm down at firstname.lastname@example.org.