"IdleManager" - Control your screensaver

  Development

The "IdleManager" informs the user of long inactivity and is also able to delay or even inhibit the screensaver.

Motivation

IT departments might define very tight screensaver policies. Such policies can prevent the user from changing screen saver settings. I needed a tool that does not require installation and that is able to give a hint to the user that the screensaver will become active soon. Therewith, the user gets to know when he is required to move the mouse to end inactivity to thus prevent the screensaver becoming active.

Description

Screensaver policies are implemented as a security measure by IT departments. The policy setting "ScreenSaverGracePeriod" was introduced by Microsoft to allow ending the screensaver without requiring the user to enter his password. The default is five seconds. After that period, the password is required to end the screensaver.

If the grace period is disabled by your IT department "for the sake of security", you might have a problem: An upcoming screensaver can hinder users to concentrate on their work. It can also interrupt presentations and disturb the speaker. Regarding security, the security policy is so tight that it even lowers security. If the user has to enter his password very often to unlock his workstation, the probability that the password is spied out increases.

As a solution against overacting IT departments, the "IdleManager" was created. It warns the user of his inactivity before the password protected screensaver starts. Then the user can enter a key or move the mouse and does not need to enter his password. This is much more convenient for the user and does not lower security.

Besides just acting passively, the tool can also emulate user activity and therewith delay the screensaver or even inhibit it completely. Note that this usage may compromise corporate security and is thus not recommended.

Implementation

The Windows tool "IdleManager" is written in C# using MS Visual Studio Express 2008. When executed, it shows up as a coffee cup icon in the notification area. After a defined time of inactivity, it shows a user defined picture in full screen. After any user activity, the tool hides in the notificaton area again. The tool can also be set to delay or inhibit the screensaver.

The tool does not require installation and is made up of a single executable. It can be used without administrative privileges and with security policies in place that disable changing screensaver settings. Event emulation cannot be done if explicitely prohibited by security policies.

References