Sunday, November 21, 2010

Setting remote desktop timeouts in the registry

If you're using terminal server you should be using the terminal server settings, or even better, group policy. However, if you are running an XP Pro install without a domain the only option is to modify the registry. Or if you have a domain but just want to change one XP Pro install it can be easier to do the registry modification instead of setting up a GPO for the single desktop. In my case there are two people with individual accounts accessing a single XP Pro computer remotely on occasion, but one of the two always leaves their session open so the other can never just log in without forcing the other's session closed. I set up an idle timeout on the XP Pro computer so now neither of them are allowed to let their session sit idle for too long.

You can change just about any remote desktop setting from within the registry, but the main two you're likely looking for since you're reading this post are MaxDisconnectionTime and MaxIdleTime. They can be found in the registry under:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE->SYSTEM->CurrentControlSet->Control->Terminal Server->WinStations->RDP-TCP

MaxDisconnectionTime is how long a session that has been disconnected can be kept alive. It is useful if you have users that like to click the X on the RDP bar rather than logout. MaxIdleTime is for how long an idle session stays alive, just in case you have users who should be logging out but always stay logged in regardless of whether they're doing anything or not. These values are set in milliseconds, and make sure to enter your value in decimal (unless you figured out your value in hex, but I'm going to guess most people wouldn't bother with that). If you want to limit the overall connection time, you could change MaxConnectionTime to define a limit for that as well.

In my example above, since I didn't want either user staying logged in to this particular computer, I set MaxIdleTime to 2 hours, which is actually a value of 7,200,000 in the registry (2 hrs * 60 min/hr * 60 sec/min * 1,000 millisec/sec). That way if their session is idle for 2 hours they get disconnected automatically and no one has to worry about forcing the other session closed.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Merge, extract, split, or rearrange your PDF files for FREE!

I love free software that is useful, and today I found PDFsam (PDF split and merge). It's an open-source program available direct from, or through Sourceforge, that allows you to perform various actions such as merging and rearranging on PDF files. Normally this would require Adobe Acrobat Pro, which is pretty expensive. Instead you could use PDFsam and accomplish most of the common things a person normally buys Acrobat Pro to do. It does require Java, but you can download and install that for free from, so that shouldn't be an issue. There are also installers for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, so it's pretty widely available.

The program might not be as pretty as Acrobat, but it seems to still work pretty well and isn't hard to figure out if you click around a little. I tried a couple of test runs with the merge and did have an issue with one, but the other worked just fine to create a new document. This makes me think PDFsam still has a few bugs, but it's still worth having in your arsenal.

If you're just looking to create PDF files from existing documents, check out my other post about DoPDF.

Viewing Illustrator files on a Windows PC for free

Using free, open-source software, you can view Adobe Illustrator .ai files and .eps files on your Windows PC. It's pretty simple too. If you're looking to modify the files this isn't going to help, but as long as you need read-only access this is a great way to avoid paying for the expensive Adobe Creative Suites package.

1. You need to download three packages: Irfanview, the Irfanview plugins, and Ghostscript. You can get Irfanview and the plugins from, and Ghostscript through

2. Install the three programs in the order above. First Irfanview, then the plugins, then Ghostscript. The default settings are fine, but keep an eye out for checkboxes trying to install other software that you don't need, such as toolbars

3. Once the programs are installed you're ready to open your file. Right-click the .ai or .eps file and choose "Open With". From there select Irfanview from the list. If it's not there choose Browse (or "Choose default program..." first, then Browse if on Windows 7), then locate the i_view32.exe (Irfanview program executable) file. It should be located in C:\Program Files\Irfanview\i_view32.exe. Click Ok. If you have a 64-bit version of Windows, the Irfanview executable is likely in the C:\Program Files (x86)\Irfanview folder instead

4. If you want to set this as the default program for all .ai or .eps files (you'll have to do each separately), check the box labeled "Always used the selected program to open this kind of file", then click OK

You should now be able to view .ai and .eps files for free on your Windows PC. This may not work for every file as the postscript decoding isn't perfect, but I don't complain when it's free.