We received our Spider straight from the manufacturer. The packaging is very secure, with thick foam encasing the device, and the box containing everything you need to get going—including the Spider, a serial cable, a quick start guide, and a disk with the manual and other information.
It’s a handheld size, about 5" long, 2" wide and 1" high. The Spider has one cable with multiple connectors, as well as three RJ45 Ethernet jacks on the device body, labeled as Ethernet and Cascade. There is also an RJ45 Serial port on the cable end of the Spider that we'll explore shortly. (Lantronix includes a null modem DB9F to RJ45 serial cable.)
The Spider is powered via a USB connection from its host server, and no power supply is included, although one is available as an option. This is a nice space saver, but a possible limitation, which we’ll discuss.
The Spider software interfaces are completely web-based, so there is no need to install an application on your machine, which is efficient. The device doesn’t include an Ethernet cable, but considering the target customer is a small-to-medium business, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Lantronix makes two versions of the device: one version with two USB connectors and a VGA connector; the other version with one USB connector, two PS/2 connectors, and a VGA connector (Figure 2). We tested the PS/2 version in this review.
Figure 2: The connectors on the PS/2 version of the Spider
For most of my testing, I used a Windows XP Pro machine as the host, which functions as an FTP server on my LAN. I’ve configured this machine with Windows Remote Desktop Connection (RDC), and set it up to run with only an Ethernet connection, similar to how a Windows-based server may be configured.
The Ethernet port is where you connect the Spider to your LAN. The Cascade port is where you connect another device, either to daisy chain Spiders or connect another LAN device. It is good that they are clearly labeled (Figure 3). I tried connecting the Ethernet cables backwards, but the device wouldn’t pull an IP address or allow access via IP, rendering it useless. No harm done, and straightening out the connections brought it back online.
Figure 3: The Ethernet and Cascade ports
The Cascade port was useful, as for my testing I only had one LAN drop per server. The Cascade port allowed me to connect the Spider to my LAN and the target server to the Cascade port. This allowed me to access my target server both via the Spider and RDC.
The manufacturer says that up to 16 Spiders can be daisy chained via the Cascade port, but latency will increase with the number of connections. The Lantronix press release states “the Spider compresses video, keyboard and mouse signals, sending them over the network or Internet to a remote PC or handheld device running industry standard Web browsers.” I mention this because when you use the Spider’s web interface to access the desktop of the host machine, there is some slight lag to input from the mouse and keyboard. The mouse pointer lags to user input visibly. The lag is small, but noticeable.