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Sunday, August 24, 2014

How I got Synergy to work with Ubuntu Linux without any terminal work and remaining relatively calm

In a prior article I wrote about using the open-source program Synergy to link up my Mac Mini as the server and my Windows 7 machine as the client. The server’s keyboard and pointing device controlled both computers. I could also share the clipboard between the two machines and sent text & pictures between them.

Now I will teach you how to do this with Ubuntu Linux. By Ubuntu Linux, I include all the derviative distributions of Ubuntu cooked up by various people to meet their particular needs or fancies. In this case, I will show you how to use  Synergy with the popular distro LinuxMint 17. 

First, you need to download the necessary file(s) to make Synergy run. Go to their Web site They’ve had numerous Web sites over the years and this is their current one.


1 the download screen at synergy project


As I wrote in the earlier article, make life easier on yourself by spending $2.00 to become a Premium member. You get access to their help and (and!) get ad-free downloads. That, to me, was worth the $2.00. 

For their Ubuntu and Debian versions, they offer Synergy as both a 32-bit and a 64-bit download. Pick the one that fits your machine. I have a 64-bit machine so I chose 64-bit Synergy.

So you chose the appropriate file to download. You will download a .deb file, which is short for debian. Debian is the root source of Ubuntu and LinuxMint. Its installation files have the .deb extension. Think of them as the equivalent of OS X .pkg files. You want to save it for now.


2 this is a DEB file


Here is your Synergy .deb file in the Downloads folder. It’s just like the .dmg files you download to your Mac in many respects. But not all.

3 Synergy in the downloads folder

Click on the .deb file and it starts up the package installer program.

5 package installer of Synergy


In many cases, you will get a warning like this if you try to install a .deb file that you downloaded on your own.  Ubuntu comes with its own App Store called the Software Manager. It includes a wide-range of apps which you can install and uninstall from the Software Center. I’m convinced that Apple saw this and stole the idea for the iTunes App Store. 

You may find that only the older version of the program is available through the Software Manager. In this case, you will install the latest version of Synergy, 1.5.1, instead of the version available through the Software Manager of 1.4.


4 warning that you have an option


So just click on the Close button and proceed. Click on Install Package.

Synergy installs without problems. Where do you find it in LinuxMint? You would go to the Menu in the lower left-hand corner of your screen. You would go to the Accessories subsection and scroll down to Synergy. If you’ve used Windows during the past 10 years, this will be totally familiar to you. 

6 Start menu and accessories submenu and synergy


Configuring the Linux Synergy Server and the Mac Client

Now click on the Synergy icon in Accessories. You will see this screen allowing you to configure Synergy as either the server, whose keyboard and pointing device control all the computers; or as the client, one of the computer controlled by the server.

We’ll start with the server configuration. Click on the check box for Server (share this computer’s mouse and keyboard)


7 configure server

Note the server’s IP address, which you will need when configuring the client. 

Now click on the button Configure Server….

You will see the following screen:


8 initial server configuration grid


In the center of the 5 x 3 grid, you see an icon of a monitor with the server’s name on it. 

At the top left-hand corner,  you see a trash can. Drag a screen to the trashcan to delete it.

At the top right-hand corner, you see an icon of a monitor screen. Drag new screens to the grid or move existing ones around. 


So drag a new screen onto the grid:


9 drag the first client screen onto the grid


The new screen lacks a name, especially the name of the client computer. Double-click on it to rename it.


10 naming the Mac client


In this illustration, I changed the name from “Unnamed” to “thomass-mini”, the screen name of my Mac Mini. That provides sufficient information to Synergy to identify the client computer. 

Don’t worry about the rest of the screen’s options. For now, you only needed the client’s screen name.


In the screenshot, you see that the server and client computers have their names. Click on OK and proceed.


11 named server and client


This is the screenshot from the Windows version of Synergy 1.5.1. It’s the same for the Mac version. 

For the client computer(s), click on the box Client (use another computer’s keyboard and mouse)

The client’s screen name will be filled in by Synergy. You only need to add the server’s IP address. I said IP address and not the server’s screen name! Look back at the server’s configuration screen and you’ll see the IP address just under the check box for Server. You’d want the first one listed.

9 actually set up Synergy for Windows


Now for the final steps. You want to make sure you use an encrypted connection. For Linux and Windows, go under the Edit menu to its sole item, Settings.


12 the Edit menu and its sole item Settinggs


Click on Settings and you see this window:


13 the settings menu with password encryption

If you want to change the password, just backspace over the old one and type in the new one. Then click on OK.


For the Mac’s Synergy password, don’t go to the Edit menu in the Menu Bar. You want to go to the Preferences item under the Synergy item on the Menu Bar. 





And under Preferences, you ‘ll find the Encryption text box. 




Now click on OK in the open dialogue boxes and click Apply in the Configure Server and Client screens on the respective computers. 



If Synergy doesn’t work, check the following:

1) Do you have multiple instances of Synergy running on the Linux machine? If so, shut them all down. Now go back to Accessories and start up Synergy.


2) Still isn’t running? Click on the Configure Server… button and look at the configuration grid. Do you see the Server and the named client. 

If you don’t see a client, drag a screen down to the appropriate grid cell. Now name it after the client computer. Refer to the client’s configuration screen for the correct spelling. Word Case counts in this case.

If you see a client with the name Unnamed. Click on it and rename it to the client’s name. Make sure to spell the client’s name exactly as it’s displayed on the client’s configuration screen. Word Case counts in this case.

Did you enter the right IP address from the server when setting up the client? Check that. 

3) If you’re getting a “Protocol Error” you need to check the passwords. You need to set up the same password for both computers. 

4) Check the Ethernet connection. Try to access, say, from Safari. If you can, your Ethernet connection is good. If not, check a wired connection to make sure the cable fits snugly into the RJ-45 jack on the computer and on the router.

5) If it’s a wireless connection, make sure you have access to the router. Did you enter the password? And are you on the same wireless network as the server?



Synergy enables you to share keyboard and pointing device (I’m using a trackball with my Linux server) between several different computers. In the past, it has been tricky at best to impossible for even Macworld to set  up.  With version 1.5.1, it has finally improved to the point where I, a blogger writing in his shorts, can do it. 

If you’re going to use it on a wireless network, make sure to set up encryption. I recommend encryption in all cases.

Finally, it’s a thrill to see my cursor move from my Linux machine over to the two screen of my Mac Mini. 

If you like it, contribute some money to their efforts. 


Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog







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