Whether you're the manager of a large Windows NT lab at a university or a systems administrator at a company where several shifts of workers share computer systems, you must have a way to avoid potentially serious security breaches and ensure that your users log off. Bouncer 1.08, from Bamboo Software, offers a solution.
Bouncer works on a simple principle: The software monitors your computer (i.e., server or workstation) and logs you off after a predetermined period of inactivity. After Bouncer logs you off, it can perform one of several functions (e.g., execute a logoff script or reboot the computer), depending on how you configure the package.
Installation and Configuration
Installing Bouncer requires almost no effort. After I downloaded a test copy from Bamboo Software's Web site, I unzipped the file into a temporary directory. I ran the setup program, which copied Bouncer's files to the appropriate directories on my hard disk. The software then started the Bouncer NT service, which monitors your computer's idle time.
Bouncer includes a configuration utility that lets you specify an idle timeout limit (i.e., the amount of time your computer can be idle before Bouncer logs you off) and the type of action you want the software to perform if it detects an idle timeout. You can choose one of three options using this utility: Logoff, Shutdown, or Reboot. Screen 1 shows the configuration utility window with the software's default settings. In most cases, selecting Logoff is sufficient. However, in environments in which systems are intelligent enough to power down when they shut down (e.g., ATX motherboard-based systems), selecting Shutdown might be more appropriate.
Testing the Software
To test Bouncer, I loaded the software on my Micronics system's NT 4.0 server. I accepted the software's default configuration to log off the current user after 30 minutes of inactivity, started the NT service, and waited. As I expected, the software logged me off after half an hour and returned me to the standard NT logon prompt.
Bouncer includes several advanced features. When an idle timeout occurs, the software automatically forces all programs to close. (In some instances, active programs might prevent an otherwise idle system from shutting down.) Bouncer also executes logoff scripts. You provide the script's filename in the software's configuration. (Scripts can be .com, .exe, or .bat files.) The software logs its activity to a specific file, for which you provide the filename.
By default, Bouncer monitors network activity and counts network activity as system activity. For example, if the network is active (e.g., you are accessing files on your hard disk from another computer), the software won't shut the system down, even if the computer is idle otherwise. You can configure Bouncer to ignore network activity when the software determines an idle timeout.
You can configure Bouncer to place the software's icon in your system tray when the software is actively monitoring a computer. The system tray is the section of the toolbar on which the date and time appear. In some environments (e.g., in an educational computer lab), you might not want the icon to appear. Click the appropriate option within the software's configuration program to remove the icon.
You might wonder why you'd use Bouncer when an idle-timeout screen saver is available for free. Unfortunately, to use the WinExit screen saver provided with the Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit, all user accounts must have write access to a Registry key located in the HKEY_ LOCAL_MACHINE hive. Thus, using this screen saver might present a security problem in some environments.
A Bargain for Large Environments
Bouncer's price is reasonable for the features the software offers. Bouncer is a bargain for large environments that use the software on hundreds of computers. You can download a free copy of the software from Bamboo Software's Web site. Bouncer is a utility well worth the investment, especially in environments in which you want to prevent security breaches.
—Michael P. Deignan
Contact: Bamboo Software |
Price: $49 per workstation, $750 per site license
System Requirements: Windows NT Workstation 4.0 or NT Server 4.0