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January 31, 2004

Tip: Stay active on iChat forever

A friend is considering ditching iChat, which he (or she) likes, because he (or she) couldn't figure out a way to keep it from going idle when, in fact, he (or she) is idle.

Why is it a problem that it works as expected? Well, the friend is concerned that his (or her) manager might use his (or her) instant-messenger status to determine when he (or she) might not be working.

I tried to AppleScript a solution, but it doesn't seem to matter if you've sent a message or not, or if your status is getting updated on a regular basis. Apparently, the only thing being monitored is whether there's been a keypress or a mouse-down event in the last hour.

Low-tech solutions to the rescue! I put a measuring tape down on my keyboard (the cursor keys, to be exact), and almost 24 hours later, that IM session is still showing the green dot. Presumably, some Scotch tape could fulfill the same function invisibly.

January 31, 2004 in Apple - General, Apple - Software | Permalink


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Open iChat prefs. Go to the Privacy panel. Check "Block others from seeing that I am idle." Now you will always appear as "Available" when you are logged in.

Posted by: Andrew Campbell at Jan 31, 2004 3:43:10 PM

Actually, it won't. It certainly seems like it should, but it only affects the status message -- "Available", etc.

That green button out to the left will still turn yellow, then red. In AIM, that's what's reflected in your idle/not idle status.

That was the first thing we tried, but it still changed colors even if I was sending messages, or updating the status, through an AppleScript.

Posted by: Frank Steele at Jan 31, 2004 3:57:40 PM

This is odd. For me, in every version of iChat this has worked. My little light is always green and all my friends always see me as available and never idle.

My motivation was sorta the opposite of your friends. While she always wanted to seem active, I always wanted people to think I might be away (so that I could choose whether or not to respond).

Another friend of mine often leaves his status as Away. He can still send and receive messages but again his idle status never shows up.

Are you using Rendezvous messaging? Perhaps it works differently for that.

Posted by: Andrew Campbell at Jan 31, 2004 6:03:16 PM


It may also be a function of your privacy level. Both he and I wanted to leave our privacy level as permissive as possible -- I have "Block Specific People" with a blacklist of people who have porn-spammed me. This is essentially "Allow Anyone" except those on the list.

What Privacy level do you have set?

Rendezvous only affects users on the same subnet you're on.

Posted by: Frank Steele at Jan 31, 2004 6:11:48 PM

Actually, there's a much simpler way. There's a setting in the iChat preferences, under Privacy, that says "Block others from seeing that I am idle." Checkmark that box, and your setting should never turn yellow or red. I've done that for weekends at a time and other than 5 or 6 chat requests wondering why I'm still awake at 3:50 in the morning, it's perfect.

Posted by: DakRoland at Feb 6, 2004 2:38:37 PM

Is it possible that Idle is showing on your machine, but that other's cant see that you are idle? Have you confirmed that someone else is actually seeing you as idle?
I've never had a problem with it.. and I use it all the time so my co-workers don't think I'm a slacker..

Posted by: Christine at Feb 14, 2004 9:21:32 PM