back to article It will never be safe to turn off your computer: Prankster harnesses the power of Windows 95 to torment fellow students

The weekend is over and that means another tale of reader misdeeds to kick-start your Monday with our regular column, Who, Me? Surprisingly, The Register readership contains a small army of techies who, if they get a bit bored, are ready and willing to punish the unwary. "Joe" got in touch after last week's LaserJet …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    BOFH potential for sure

    Personally I am content that he does not get to exercise that particular potential in a major IT outfit of any capacity.

    I hate it when people think that they have the right to go and wreak havoc on someone else's computer and find that funny.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Joe Harrison

      Re: BOFH potential for sure

      I think I kind of agree. Having fun is one thing, tormenting people with less expertise than yourself, isn't.

      How would you like it if your doctor hilariously edited your test results with a few Theme Hospital style diseases?

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: BOFH potential for sure

        "How would you like it if your doctor hilariously edited your test results with a few Theme Hospital style diseases?"

        I hope the treatment for bloaty head has improved.

      2. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: BOFH potential for sure

        "How would you like it if your doctor hilariously edited your test results with a few Theme Hospital style diseases?"

        Or Blue Waffle Disease !?!

      3. ChrisBedford

        Re: BOFH potential for sure

        How would you like it if your doctor hilariously edited your test results with a few Theme Hospital style diseases?

        Next sentence: "Get off my lawn."

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Megaphone

      We once...

      ...worked on a device for a client who insisted on "quality" audio prompts.

      We added one which would only come up in diagnostic/maintenance mode:

      "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

      It was a simple matter to find the audio snippet on the web and convert it to 8-bit.

      1. Ian Emery Silver badge

        Re: We once...

        I remember that, although I cannot remember what the program was.

        Either that, or someone else had the same idea.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We once...

          I had that problem with a HAL 9000 computer about, mmm, 18 years ago. I had to take it to bits to deal with the problem. As far as I know, it still is in bits. HAL knows not to mess with Dave Bo - er, with me. (And, strictly speaking, he doesn't know, as long as all his parts are apart.)

          :-)

        2. Aus Tech

          Re: We once...

          Comes from "2001: A Space Odyssey" when Dave Bowman asked the HAL9000 onboard computer to "Open the Pod Bay Door" in the movie, I think.

      2. Manolo
        Happy

        Re: We once...

        I have exactly that as an error sound on my KDE desktop :-)

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: We once...

          But only really works if your name actually is Dave (or Rodney, of course).

      3. swm Bronze badge

        Re: We once...

        Someone changed their unix prompt to:

        Segmentation error - core dumped

        Really annoying.

      4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        Re: We once...

        I once replaced the windows switch off notification sound by "I'll be back!" (in an Austrian accent, naturally), and the e-mail notification by "Message for you, sir!". That startled a few users, amused others, and ultimately caused people to the sound theme I named "QUIET", which was a much better idea anyway.

        1. Guy Geens

          Re: We once...

          There was a popular shareware download manager back in the day. I can't remember the name.

          The author provided a number of sound files for this application, spoken by his sister. As expected, there were sound bites for "Download completed," "Download failed" and so on.

          It also contained replacements for the standard Windows sounds.

          I used just one of those.

          For a week, my PC would cheerfully announce "You've got mail!" for every incoming message. No regrets on changing it back.

        2. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: We once...

          My email notification got changed to "You got mail, fscker" with the s being changed from system to 'unit'? ....

          Mum was not impressed.

          I was 31, and married. She still wasn't impressed.

      5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: We once...

        audio prompts

        Audio prompts are (outside of clear use-cases like visually-impaired computing) the foetid droppings from his satanic majesties very own herd.

        Especially 'jokey' ones that the mouthbreather the other side of the office insists is "just a bit of fun". It might be (concievably) 'fun' the first or second time but, by the 200th turn is merely an invitation to going postal..

        Proper people turn the Windows sound effects theme to "none" and leave it that way.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: We once...

          This very much depends on your application. In an office with more than one person, hell to the yes. In a home, or small business where you may be 'afk' but waiting on a missive, they're handy.

          Having them turned on by default, imo, was microsoft's way of saying 'look how clever your new computer is'

          The target audience for other OS's wouldn't have needed telling.

          Before I get downvoted for being elitist... I was directly in Microsoft's win95/98 target audience, and MOSTLY pleased they let me know the functionality was there (see other post in this thread)

          I mostly do hardware stuff, not software. Need 10base5 hosepipe terminated using a vampire tap?, i'm yer man (err boy at the time).

          Need trumpet winsock installed? notsomuch, but i'll have a go. Icon because... god i'm old

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      @Pascal Monett -- Re: BOFH potential for sure

      Today I would agree with you. Back then, things were simpler, computers were new and not the heart of many companies. When I received my first computer at work (an IBM before the 286's came out), the boss said "run amok", play with it, you'll learn more screwing things up than by doing them right. He was correct. In today's environment....no way in hell would I do that.

      1. VikiAi Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: @Pascal Monett -- BOFH potential for sure

        That is pretty much the whole idea behind the Raspberry Pi - be cheap enough to let the kids learn-by-screwing-around/up with impunity. Not something you want them doing on a school labs or parental home-office machine!

      2. Wayland Bronze badge

        Re: @Pascal Monett -- BOFH potential for sure

        "Type anything you want, you can't break it." was true of the home PCs where you could not save data or programs accidentally.

        I think you can actually set fire to some computers by typing something. Like a crypto-mining rig that needs an instruction to lower the power usage before hammering the GPUs at 100%.

        1. ShortLegs

          Re: @Pascal Monett -- BOFH potential for sure

          Youre not old enough to rememebr the Commodore PET "poke of dearh" then? One POKE commnad that caused the screen to burn out ( and the PET to allegedly catch fire)

          Or even the assemble op-code HCF - hold and catch fire?

          1. AlbertH

            Re: @Pascal Monett -- BOFH potential for sure

            There was one of the Tandy / Radio Shack computers with an EPROM burner. It was possible to address the burner to the RAM, which caused physical damage to the machine..... Plenty of fun to be had in Tandy stores in the 80s!

          2. Ken Shabby Bronze badge
            Pint

            Re: @Pascal Monett -- BOFH potential for sure

            OSP - Open Six-Pack

            HGD - Halt and get drunk

      3. Luiz Abdala

        Re: @Pascal Monett -- BOFH potential for sure

        I learned more about computers taking an IBM Aptiva Pentium 100Mhz apart using IBM manuals than any book I've ever read before or since.

        Yep, run amok is the best way to learn computers... and cars.

    5. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: BOFH potential for sure

      "I hate it when people think that they have the right to go and wreak havoc on someone else's computer and find that funny."

      At school especially is where probably many including me cut their teeth in terms of PC's being networked, the Internet and the weird and wonderful things you could do on it at the time. I was naive and didn't know I was doing potential harm by downloading a trojan horse disguised as a sheep screensaver. No clue, didn't occur to me. To me it was fun to watch someone wonder why on earth the CD tray was opening or messages popping up in their screen. Do you know what too? It hadn't even occurred to the school IT department that there were nasties out there, no security software, no GPO's, no firewalls and no way of filtering dodgy stuff. That was the brave new world back then and its where people learned not only about what was possible, they learned from their mistakes. I got pulled up at school by the head of IT who'd somehow caught me trying to DoS the ISDN gateway of the school ISP. If he had been as unforgiving as you are then I'd probably have had a very different life after being suspended or expelled from school (which I was told had been a possibility). These days people don't get those chances to make mistakes and learn, I dread to think how many people out there work in IT now that actually don't know what they're doing. Trainee doctors are let loose on patients and may even sometimes make the wrong decision about their treatment until its reviewed. We've no equivalent really in IT as everything is locked down and secure. I miss those days gone where I really got to learn, I do relish having the experience.

      1. swm Bronze badge

        Re: BOFH potential for sure

        I was in charge of a computer lab several years ago when one of the brighter students discovered the insecurity of the X protocol. Soon, various machines had random messages pop up on them.

        At work I had a coop who came to me about trouble on her X-terminal. I looked and there was a flying saucer base in the upper right corner of the screen. Every 30 seconds a flying saucer would leave the base and try to catch the cursor. If successful, it would drag the cursor back to the base. You could evade the saucer but it really interfered with using the mouse.

        In both cases I just laughed and told the miscreants to stop. I certainly didn't want to stop creative exploring of the computer environment.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: BOFH potential for sure

          It sounds as if the difference between that and TFA is that in your case there was someone, you, who understood what was happening. In the TFA it cost the school money that could have been better spent elsewhere calling in someone to fix things that were perceived to have been broken.

    6. ChrisBedford

      Re: BOFH potential for sure

      I hate it when people think that they have the right to go and wreak havoc on someone else's computer and find that funny.

      Try to remember (a) what it was like when you were young, as opposed to a grumpy old man, and (b) what the computing environment was like back when Win 95 was a thing - specifically, nowhere near as mission-critical as it is today.

      I'll warrant 95 (yeah, 95) % of El Reg readers learned to be inquisitive about the workings of computers by doing (or repairing!) stuff like this.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: BOFH potential for sure

        Yup.

        Didn't get any formal training beyond what they taught is in a loose computer club at school, for about 10 years. I was already training people to use school computers long before that.

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: what it was like when you were young

        Let me see, ah, yes. The Internet was barely on its feet, computers were worth about as much as car, and a T1 was the Holy Grail.

        Pranking ? That bastard hadn't even been born yet. Oh, and the United States was actually viewed as the best country in the world.

        Got anything to add ?

    7. veti Silver badge

      Re: BOFH potential for sure

      Are you missing the bit about "high school"?

      This is what schoolkids do. They gotta learn the boundaries sometime, it's not innate knowledge, of course they're going to overstep them. It's why we give them their own systems, so they don't damage anything important.

  2. Marco van de Voort

    sad mac

    Hmm, last line of the article reminds me that "sad mac" would also have been a great shutdown screenshot

    My alltime favorite remains putting a screenshot of the desktop as background and hiding (all/most of) the icons

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: sad mac

      Next level evil, replace the "it's now safe to turn off" screen with a screenshot of the desktop

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: sad mac

        Next level evil, replace the "it's now safe to turn off" screen with a screenshot of

        a Mac desktop.

      2. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: sad mac

        For a long time I had a photo of a BSOD as the shutdown image on my old Sony Ericsson phone (a T610 - that dates the story!) - my girlfriend in those days borrowed my phone and though she'd broken it when that popped up.

        The same girlfriend who borrowed my camera for a trip after I'd forgotten that for a lark I'd changed the shutter sound to say 'paedo'. Cue phone call from her in Greece "Why does your camera keep saying paedo?" - oops.

        1. wayne 8 Bronze badge

          Re: sad mac

          I think I need more details on why you chose that specific word for the shutter click sound.

          Your girlfriend desired to know as well?

    2. Joe Drunk
      Devil

      Re: sad mac

      My alltime favorite remains putting a screenshot of the desktop as background and hiding (all/most of) the icons

      Not nearly as fun as:

      1) Taking screenshot of current desktop wallpaper with all icons

      2) Hiding desktop icons

      3) Setting desktop background to screenshot taken with icons

      4) Watch users frantically clicking on images of icons

      1. BoldMan

        Re: sad mac

        Don't forget the trick of switching the left and right mouse buttons over...

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: sad mac

          And invert your new screenshot wallpaper

          And flip the screen

          And flip the mouse directions....

          or is that too much to do before your colleague gets back from the loo?

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: sad mac

            or is that too much to do before your colleague gets back from the loo?

            There's probably a script for that. Fast, efficient, and repeatable.

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: sad mac

              I wrote one for the flip the screen part, you dont even have to be at the victims pc

          2. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: sad mac

            There was an Intel graphics driver that let you do that by pressing ctrl+alt+arrow keys. I presume for monitors that you can rotate to portrait mode.

            1. NotBob

              Re: sad mac

              I think it's a windows shortcut, and it still seems to work

              1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

                Re: sad mac

                im putting my money on intel driver ...

            2. Luiz Abdala

              Re: sad mac

              Yes, that thing annoyed me to no end... until the day I actually had a monitor that could rotate 90 degrees. But then, it didn't have the intel shortcuts ENABLED.

            3. JJKing Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: sad mac

              There was an Intel graphics driver that let you do that by pressing ctrl+alt+arrow keys.

              Went to a school that had a 17" CRT sitting upside down on the desktop case. Asked how long it had been like that and was told about 6 months. Previous tech was too useless to figure out the minor problem so he had turned the monitor over and left it. Took more time to put the monitor right way up than to turn the image. Some people are bloody hopeless and they get jobs in IT.

              Rant because I am now considered too old to be able to do this sort of work anymore.

        2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: sad mac

          Don't forget the trick of switching the left and right mouse buttons over...

          In the mid 80s the company I worked for at the time had mostly Sun workstations, the keyboards of which were very easily reprogrammable. One colleague made heavy use of the arrow keys when editing, so I set up a program on his machine that every 15 seconds logically rotated the arrow keys 90 degrees.

        3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: sad mac

          That's my partners default mouse setting - Drives me crazy when I have to use it.

          1. Simon Harris Silver badge

            Re: sad mac

            My work desk has a dual screen PC on the left and centre that I use for most things and a Mac on the right that I use for a couple of applications. Being left-handed my desk layout is

            PC mouse - PC keyboard - Mac mouse - Mac keyboard.

            Whenever my boss comes in to try something on my PC he always goes for the wrong mouse.

            1. the hatter

              Re: sad mac

              At least he has the opportunity in front of him to pick the correct mouse. A favourite in school/uni computer labs was to swap mice over where computers/benches are set up back to back, so everything looks normal, but someone else is using your computer's mouse and vice versa.

            2. murrby

              Re: sad mac

              https://symless.com/synergy

              1. katrinab Silver badge

                Re: sad mac

                Or Barrier is a fork of it that is still free.

            3. Criggie

              Re: sad mac

              Dude - go buy Synergy. Its absolutely gomsaggingly essential in your situation.

              You have one keyboard and mouse on the master, and the other machines have theirs removed or shoved around the back.

              All the clients simply look to the master for K+M inputs, and you move your mouse cursor from screen to screen just like normal. I run 2 clients and a master at work, and it support a lot more. Of course you can't drag windows from one machine to another, but you can (mostly) copy and paste data in the clipboard between machines. And if the master or clients have multimonitors of their own, that works great too.

              Its so simple its utterly forgettable. https://symless.com/synergy

              (Just a user, no connection)

        4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: sad mac

          switching the left and right mouse buttons over.

          After my dad got diagnosed with Parkinsons, he ended up having to use his mouse with his left hand[1] since his right hand no longer worked very well.

          The first time he asked me to fix his computer after that was (momentarily) somewhat confusing..

          [1] He also had to learn to write with his left hand since he no longer had the dexterity in his right hand.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: sad mac

            dexterity in his right hand

            Pun intended?

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: sad mac

              Pun intended by the (now sentient) English lexicon

            2. aqk
              IT Angle

              Re: sad mac

              I always KNEW that Parkinson's was a sinister disease.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: sad mac

        That's exactly what the post you are replying to suggested!

      3. Aus Tech

        Re: sad mac

        That's one of the oldest chestnuts around. Someone once tried it on me, and it took me all of 5 seconds to work it out, and fix it. Our whole class had been shown that when we were doing our PC Technicians course, back in the early 90's.

    3. macjules Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: sad mac

      Congratulations Sir, you win the "evil bastard of the day" award. Have a sigil.

      BTW I used to love replacing Mac users desktops with screenshots and then telling them that the mouse needed cleaning since it looked fixed.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        More chaos

        My tricks went back several years further to the days when loads of stores had things like Spectrums and Commodores on display. A few seconds with each was enough to cause a bit minor havoc.

        I had memorised a short program for the Spectrum that changed the screen colours to light/dark blue, cleared the screen, put "*** Commodore 64 Basic V2 ***", "64K RAM SYSTEM 38911 BYTES FREE" followed by "READY." and a simulated flashing cursor beneath. Result = many confused people. I even managed to convince someone that a C64 ROM had been put in the Spectrum by mistake.

        Another one was running a simple loop to copy the C64 ROM into the RAM and then POKEing a couple of locations to make everything run from RAM. Then I POKEd the locations that held the SYNTAX ERROR message to change it to something unpleasant. Walking away and waiting for unsuspecting people to then be insulted by the C64 was fun!

        The VIC-20 was the simplest. A single POKE would change the screen character width from 22 to 21 or 23, which meant that any program listing started to drift sideways.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: More chaos

          10 PRINT "Loading: Jet Set Willy"

          20 RANDOMIZE USR 1310

          ... I never remember girlfriends birthdays, bur I still recall address 1310 on the ZX Spectrum made it look and sound like a file was loading, but went on indefinitely. Just type it in, walk away, watch someone get excited to be able to play the latest new game, then see how long they patiently wait...

          1. Simon Harris Silver badge
            Alert

            Re: More chaos

            "I never remember girlfriends birthdays"

            That's a capital offence in our house! (as is plural girlfriends)

            1. wayne 8 Bronze badge

              Re: More chaos

              serial girlfriends that he was never serious about.

              1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                Re: More chaos

                "serial girlfriends"

                I wish!

                1. chas49

                  Re: More chaos

                  They were parallel girlfriends??

                  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                    Re: More chaos

                    Or one girlfriend with multiple birthdays?

                    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                      Re: More chaos

                      Just one girlfriend with a Multiple Personality Disorder ;)

                      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
                        Happy

                        Re: More chaos

                        You know her/"them"?

                        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                          Re: More chaos

                          Only some of the personalities.

                    2. katrinab Silver badge

                      Re: More chaos

                      If you are the Duke of Edinburgh, then that will be a reality.

                    3. Simon Harris Silver badge

                      Re: More chaos

                      Being Brazilian, my partner insists on having two Valentine's days - the standard 14th February one and the Brazilian version (Dia dos Namorados) on 12th June. Since those dates are also close to her birthday and our anniversary February and June are a minefield of present buying!

                      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                        Re: More chaos

                        Valentine's days

                        Wazzat? The day you buy a WW2 cruiser tank?

                        (Fortunately, t'missus doesn't do Valentines either. And she's put up with me for about 32 years so I can't be failing *too* badly.. We do, however, take the week off around the time of our wedding anniversary)

          2. Radio Wales
            Happy

            Re: More chaos

            Bastard! I remember that (im)patient wait being perpetrated on me.

            Net result was to get my own computer (kings ransom in those days) so I could learn revenge.

            My favourite was replacing the Windows 95 shutdown sound with: "Argh, You are trying to murder me - someone call the police" on a government computer - which for embarrassment reasons was never ever shut down until it died.

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: More chaos

              Boots, Swansea Quadrant, per-chance?

        2. Robert Baker

          Re: More chaos

          My favourite trick, when a PC was displaying a text prompt, was to create a smal batch file called XD.BAT which did MD followed by CD. I would then type something like:

          for %z in (this computer is total rubbish) do xd %z

          With the result:

          C:\THIS\COMPUTER\IS\TOTAL\RUBBISH>

          When Tesco had a laptop on display (running Internet Execrable) and unwisely not locked down, I changed the IE branding from "Internet Explorer provided by Tesco" to "this browser is cr@p, use Navigator instead".

    4. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: sad mac

      My alltime favorite remains putting a screenshot of the desktop as background and hiding (all/most of) the icons

      You and about a dozen others, to judge by the number of times this particular prank has appeared in these comments.

      We should run a pool on how long a comment thread can go without it popping up.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: sad mac

        My alltime favorite remains putting a screenshot of the desktop as background and hiding (all/most of) the icons

        You and about a dozen others, to judge by the number of times this particular prank has appeared in these comments.

        I did the Unix terminal equivalent to my boss once. Created a directory in his home directory that was spelled the same way as the output for ls(*), moved all other files and directories into it. The result was several minutes of cursing followed by "OK, what have you jokers(**) done?". Well, he did run the systems programming group, what did he expect?

        (*) Sadly it doesn't work these days because ls tends to flag up non-printing characters now rather than just sending them to the terminal.

        (**) I bowdlerize slightly.

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: sad mac

        I think we should run a pool on how long a comment thread can go without it popping up.

  3. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Happy

    There is a Cisco command that is meant to send out a "message" to anyone who's also logged in.

    So one evening, feeling "brave", I sent out a message that went like "This system is about to crash!". The appliance was a 6500. Core switch. With a very senior network engineer doing some work.

    He called me a few minutes later. He was hollering at the other end.

    1. Paul Shirley

      The one time I abused net send on WinXP to wind up one of the company graphics guys was slightly spoiled by inability to keep a straight face while talking him through the "piracy detected, the Microsoft security team are on their way" popup. The panic was real though, since he was the biggest pirate in the office!

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Pirate

        It would be a graphics/designer person. I always assumed that Adobe were never too bothered about people pirating Photoshop/Illustrator, because most of the pirates were young people who would learn design on their pirate copy, and then finally get a job at a real company which would say "well we can't let you use a pirate version, I suppose we'll have to buy a licensed copy for you".

        Thus the easy access to pirated versions of Photoshop, led to it being the default tool for most designers.

        Of course, they've fucked that up with their cloud based subscription bollocks, but serves them right.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Sadly (or not, depending on your point of view) the cloud based subscription are easily by-passed/hacked. Photoshop/Illustrator are both still free to pirate-minded sorts.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The Mac had a similar tool and on a training course I thought I'd be smart send the female colleague who started on the same day as me, and we got on well, the humorous lyrics of a song... Only, even though I selected her Mac from the list, I missed the check box that (by default) sends the message to every Mac that is online, even if you had selected an explicit Mac to send the message to!

        I had luck, the Macs in the classroom weren't on the general network, so I "only" sent the message to around a dozen Macs...

        Anonymous, because even today, over 30 years later I still go red, when I think about it.

        1. grahams_xwing
          Joke

          hmmmmm....... *thinks*

          either:

          "My mind is telling me noooooooooo..... but my body....my body's telling me yeeees" (how is this song 26 years old....)

          or

          "I like big....."

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Nothing explicit, something with good looking in it. Still very embarrassing.

            1. Sanguma
              Pint

              Not this one?

              I fidget with the digit dots and cry an anxious tear

              As the XU-1 connects the spot

              But the matrix grid don't care

              Get a message to my mother

              What number would she be

              There's a million angry citizens

              Looking down their tubes at me

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEiwzcbKq0Q

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          How explicit exactly?? Never mind.

          I'm guessing "System Addict" (1986, pop pickers) by 5 Star.

          "Boxes that go beep

          Little lights that leap

          Tapping on a keyboard

          What's happening to me?"

        3. anothercynic Silver badge

          "I'm too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts...?"

          Ahh, good old Right Said Fred. ;-)

  4. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Thanks to Microsoft's appalling attempt at obfuscation,

    This.

    Maybe it's me, but I have a thing about that. I don't mind stuff totally hidden because it's not for the user to meddle with.

    But I do mind stuff that users have every right to access being in pretend folders that make data transfers and backups more complex than they should be..

    Microsoft are bad enough. Android is fucking awful for this.

    I don't want the same photos (or music) appearing in more than one (apparent) place. Because I can't easily tell whether they're duplicates- wasting space- or just a different way of describing where the actual pictures are.

    1. Annihilator

      Re: Thanks to Microsoft's appalling attempt at obfuscation,

      Thing is, in this case it wasn't necessarily obfuscation - logos.sys and logow.sys were *technically* system files, so arguably it's correct (if not helpful).

      But I agree, the stupid pretend folders (junction points?) are a pain for running backups or transferring files from disks. More so when you move the user folder to a separate disk.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    net send user "Warning! The processor is overheating and now critical, please move away from your desk as soon as possible!"

    You should she how fast those office chairs can move.

    1. Simon

      > You should she how fast those office chairs can move.

      Ah Mr Bond, I enjoy your sense of humour!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wasn't there also a command by which you could remote execute things or was that later with NT and W2K?

      I was known for handling security related topics in those days, and at some point one of our devs came over and showed me that we had not locked that down at all in the company, and he couldn't get anyone to listen. After having convinced myself it wasn't a prank (I had great colleagues - it's the one thing I miss about that setup) I did some digging and identified the machine of the partner who ran that division and who happened to be hotdesking nearby.

      When he had confirmed he had everything saved (the benefit of reputation is that people don't argue much), I rebooted his machine from my command line while he was watching.

      The dev got all the attention he needed then. And the credit - I only broke the bureaucratic barriers. I deem it a matter of style not to take credit where someone else does the thinking.

      As an aside, it is exactly the politics and blatant dishonesty at higher levels that made me leave in the end. I like to move forward, having to watch my back only slows me down and I don't like to lie. In my experience, business made through trust lasts a lot longer than deception, and it's easier on the mind.

      1. KittenHuffer

        I remember pretty much the opposite once happened for me.

        I pointed out in one employment position that the C$ shares on all the machines were open for anyone to connect to, meaning that a virus that made it past the corporate firewalls would run rampant through all of the machines on the network.

        This went up the manglement tree, and then back down to the infrastructure IT dept. The reply was that this wasn't possible and could never happen. And I believe I had a black mark placed on my HR folder.

        Strangely, I noticed that within a week or two that the C$ shares had all been locked down.

        I suppose I was young and niave, and didn't realise what a bunch of twunts most manglers are.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          In my last job they left the "sysprep" file with the admin password that they didn't change or block and it was also the same password on every laptop and desktop system. I wasn't opening that can of worms while working as an analyst.

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge

          I suppose I was young and niave, and didn't realise what a bunch of twunts most manglers are.

          They have become that. If it's not their idea, then who ever mentioned it is not a team player, etc. That and they just don't like having their boat rocked for something they don't know or control.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        "Wasn't there also a command by which you could remote execute things"

        PSExec? Of course, these days Powershell is specifically designed to allow you to run commands on remote systems.

    3. smudge Silver badge
      Mushroom

      From university days - broadcast message: "System about to self-destruct. Please evacuate the building!!".

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Too much overkill.

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Happy

          Too much overkill.

          There is no 'overkill'

          Just 'Open Fire' and 'Time to Reload'

          1. James O'Shea

            Re: Too much overkill.

            Sgt. Schlock lives! Maxim 37 is my favorite.

  6. VonDutch

    It is now safe to turn on your computer...

    I remember being so conditioned by Win95 to push the power button after the PC had shut down.

    When we got our first Win98 PC (with a newfangled soft latch power button) it would briefly flash up the "safe to turn off" screen before cutting its own power.

    For months I'd go to "turn it off" then have to wait for it to do its boot cycle (ah the old RAM check...) before I could shut it down again. Eventually learned I could hold the power button to force it off.

  7. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Trollface

    Excellent start to the week. *snigger*

    Data save failure, eh? *snigger*

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

    I can recall the days of Windows 95, and it had all the characteristics of an erection: it only remained up as long as you didn't mess with it.

    USB was new in those days, and any install of a new device felt like it was trying to change a card in the bottom layer of a house of cards: one false move and you could start from the ground up. I'm pretty sure it's the scars from that time that eventually drove me to Linux and MacOS :).

    W98 was better in that respect, especially after SP2, and to be honest, that would have been enough. I'm pretty certain that running W98 of a modern machine would absolutely fly, but I no longer have a copy and I'd probably have to install Linux to run it in a VM to avoid driver hell anyway..

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

      Lucky you, I had a client using WinNT4 and somebody tried to add an USB device to it... they had to upgrade to Windows2000.... (and yes, it was that long ago...)

      1. Soruk

        Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

        I recall coming across a Dell driver for NT4 (but worked on the Compaq machine I was using) that enabled USB support for mass storage (including CD drives), keyboards and mice.

      2. Criggie

        Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

        I rememeber having to choose a Sony Mavica as the school's first digital camera in ~1999, cos it saved ~14 jpg files onto a 3.5" floppy disk. All the desktops were NT4 so no USB.

    2. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

      Didn't Windows require a separate USB device driver for all of those external disks until recently? At least it needed to "search for a driver" for each and every new USB stick and external HDD. Drove me nuts, especially since that had been solved under linux with a general driver. Ah, well.

      1. the spectacularly refined chap

        Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

        W95 only got USB support of any kind with the OSR2 release, retail versions never got it. Support was only basic on it and W98 lacking generic drivers so every USB drive came with it's own drivers that worked with it and nothing else. I believe third party generic storage drivers were available but we're difficult to track down. You got MS generic drivers from W2000 onwards, hardly "recently". Probably on ME too since it was of the same vintage but I only ever used it once.

        1. VonDutch

          Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

          Please don't mention ME. It triggers the PTSD.

          1. John G Imrie
            Thumb Up

            Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

            Dam having read the parent comment it took me 2 minutes to click on your up vote button.

          2. Antonius_Prime

            Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

            Ah, so it's not just me then that has that type of reaction! Good to know.

          3. CountCadaver

            Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

            and mine. I did some sub con work at a solicitors in circa 2005 replacing various machines and adding wifi, including a wifi card to the solicitor's own laptop.....which was running ME....(mentally noted not to use that solicitors....) damned thing fell down more often the town tramp after a 3 day bender....

        2. Soruk

          Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

          That was literally the ONLY thing about ME that was better than 98.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

            CE, ME, NT.

            That is all.

    3. Mage Silver badge

      Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

      The first Win95 didn't have USB, though stupidly had CD Autorun.

    4. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

      I think my record for having to reinstall WIn95 after something had totally screwed the system files was 12 in one month (on a single PC).

      I figured it out in the end, but by then I had the reinstall time down from ~2 hours, to about 40 minutes.

      I had my fun playing with the start up sounds; a recording of a Boeing 737 coming in to land, and some 100w RMS speakers, comes to mind.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

        25 minutes if you had the installation media on a second hard disc. CD drives weren't as fast as a spare Quantum Bigfoot...

        Yeah - I had to play the persistent-reinstall game like that tii.

    5. Alumoi

      Plug and pray

      As I recall those were the days the plug and pray system was first introduced. Plug in a device and pray it won't crash the system.

    6. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

      ...or Win 3.1 and TCP/IP (you had to buy it from a 3rd party because Windows didn't have networking)

      I can just hear BillG saying "Why would anyone ever want to *network* PCs?"

      // Paris, because.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

        Wasn't that still depending on the install of a Wollongong TCP/IP stack, or was that only DOS?

        Either my memory isn't what it used to be, or my brain is aggressively trying to prevent me remembering that time to prevent trauma. Probably both.

        :)

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

        I thought Win 3.1 was networked with NETX IPX

        1. Ian Emery Silver badge

          Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

          I think that was only "Win3.1 for Workgroups".

          Or more likely the coding was there, but disabled unless you paid extra.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

            Given that it was busy setting Microsoft's standards for stability (cough) we dubbed it Worries for Workgroups. If I recall correctly, reasonable TCP/IP support came later. I also have some vague recollections of swearing a lot at dialup setups, but I think that was W95/W98 territory - on W4W it was still easier to just drop back to DOS and use KA9Q.

            How time flies..

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

              reasonable TCP/IP support came later

              We used (from memory) Chameleon TCP/IP. Seemed to work OK although we did have issues getting the network bindings to work (it turns out that binding order *was* important! Who knew?).

              dialup setups

              Trumpet Winsock. It (mostly) worked..

        2. Long John Brass Silver badge

          Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

          DOS and Win 3.1 (Not 3.11) you had to install the NetBEUI DOS drivers (NDIS?) as a separate thing

          Although it was a while ago and my memory might be a bit worng.

          For TCP/IP you needed the TrumpetWinSock tool set. Win95 was the first that had TCP/IP built in?

          1. Chloe Cresswell

            Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

            Or Shiva winsock. 3.11 had the option of the MS TCP stack (but you had to get a copy to install it).

        3. MarkSitkowski

          Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

          Win 3.1 actually used a port of the networking code from BSD4.1c for networking. You could write client-server code on a Sun box, transfer it across, add "#include winsock.h", recompile it, and it ran perfectly. You could do the same on Win 95

    7. HorseflySteve

      Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

      Do you know that Windows 98 will BSOD the instant it switches to graphics mode during bootup (even in Safe Mode!) if you add any character before the initial [ in C:\Windows\Powerpnt.ini ? I was about to re-installed from scratch when I found that nugget online. If you delete powerpnt.ini, the OS makes a new one on bootup. I don't know why it's called that because I didn't have powerpoint installed. More iffy MS obfuscation, methinks.

    8. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

      Windows 98 will run a lot faster on a virtual machine than on bare metal on a modern computer, and anyway, you won’t be able to use more than one core/thread on your CPU, or more than about 384MB of RAM. Graphics performance will be particularly bad because there aren’t the drivers to support modern hardware. For best performance, you want a computer from mid-2000s.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

        I think a modern computer will emulate graphics faster than a PC from that era, but my challenge would be to still get hold of a working copy of Win98 :).

        Heck, I don't even have the Borland software from then anymore, and I did *stacks* of work in Paradox (mostly using dBRIEF because it integrated well). Oh, and Turbo Pascal, usually for a bit of glue code to prep the outputs of one program to feed into another one.

        Fun times :).

        1. IDoNotThinkSo

          Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

          Easy enough to get a copy of an old MS version.

          There are all here:

          https://winworldpc.com/library/operating-systems

          Trivial to install in a VM. Don't have nightmares...

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

          Paradox

          *Shudder*. I remember Pair-a-ducks.

          Fun times :)

          Nice rose-tinted glasses you have there :-)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

            LOL.

            No, for me it was genuinely fun - this was in the days when portable computing was taking off in the form of PDAs like the Psion Organiser II (the version "I" kinda sucked) and Intel had just discovered that things got more interesting with 80286 and 80386 CPUs.

            In those days there was little formal direction other than "get it to work" so I was grabbing reports from a VAX with Kermit, cleaning them up with a little Turbo Pascal filter and then pumping it into Paradox with some scripts making it more or less an analytical tool - its reporting gave me what I needed.

            Truth be told, I was using Paradox more for its application language PAL than as a serious database, although I rolled into this by being asked to repair another database which had stopped working. I've always been more of a fixer, although I never had a problem with going back on a fix to clean it up. Rule one of quick fixes is that you have to accept you're introducing a degree of erosion and error: you need to go back and clean it up when the panic is over.

            Anyone who expects error free perfection in emergency conditions has never been near an emergency :).

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: W98 was OK, but W95 and USB ..

      >characteristics of an erection: it only remained up as long as you didn't mess with it

      Over 50 eh? I feel your pain.

  9. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I remember those files..

    Changed them to some stupid on my home machine and got an ear full from my dad for messing with the computer again.

    On the flip side, I used to love getting win98 machines to give me Internet access without the hassle of logging in thanks to the helpful 'help' prompt that you could easily break out of and get onto the wider Internet on my college's computers.

    Happy days...

    (also just found out whilst looking for an example of this you could bypass the login screen altogether by just clicking 'cancel' on the win98 login screen.. I mean.... Really?!)

    1. KittenHuffer

      Re: I remember those files..

      I remember doing that round a friend's house while he was making the coffees.

      He was shocked to come back to find me already logged into his machine. And was completely gobsmacked to find that I'd bypassed the login password security by clicking the Cancel button.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: I remember those files..

        I ended up having to write a bit of code that ran on post-logon startup, examined the logged-on username and if it was null did a shutdown.

    2. TSM

      Re: I remember those files..

      You have to remember that multiple users in Win98 were a convenience feature, not a security feature. There *was* no security; everyone had administrator access to the machine because there was no other kind of access. Having multiple users allowed you to have separate document folders for everyone, individual preferences for wallpaper and desktop items and so on, but there was no reason to enforce logging in as an existing user if you didn't want to.

  10. the spectacularly refined chap

    My favourite Windows 95 prank...

    ...closing the Start button.

    I'm not sure of the precise details but from memory you right clicked the Start button to bring up a context menu. Among the entries was a close option. If you clicked it the button disappeared - taskbar still there, space reserved for the Start button, just no actual button.

    Only way I found to get it back was to bring up Task Manager and kill Explorer. It would be automatically respawned complete with a new Start button.

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: My favourite Windows 95 prank...

      Just checked this and it was actually accessed by pressing Alt+- when the Start menu has keyboard focus to bring up the System menu for the button 'window'. Missed the edit window for the post by a matter of seconds.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: My favourite Windows 95 prank...

        I enjoyed using the same technique to move the Start button to the middle of the taskbar.

        That slight difference, without any loss of usability, really creeped people out.

  11. Wokstation

    File not frammished

    Putting funnydos.exe in the autoexec of DOS machines never got old.

    1. Wokstation

      Re: File not frammished

      Somehow in the dark recesses of my brain the exit command just popped into the light.

      Pugh.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pre-windows

    I worked in an office where, as is frequently the case, there was an "accumulator" who managed to get his claws into any/all new kit arriving. Most of it sat on his desk unused.

    He never locked the machines (not sure if you could with DOS 3.3) so one lunch time I put a file called REM.EXE on all his DOS machines and a patched version of COMMAND.COM which had REM replaced by REN as the remark command in batch files. REM.EXE randomly swallowed or changed keystrokes and the more times it was executed the more frequently this occurred. The stream of cursing which followed was a joy to hear. After the third keyboard replacement I took the hacked files off and replaced them a few weeks later. Rinse and Repeat. From memory he eventually emigrated to Tasmania but I don't think that was related.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pre-windows

      You bullied someone because they had lots of devices?

      Cool story bro.

  13. DougS Silver badge

    Logout hacks

    I remember one of my few evil hacks was for a prank pulled on a guy who was a mutual friend with a group I used to hang with. He had an account on an Apollo workstation (this was early/mid 90s) and left himself logged in. I can't recall if he was overly trusting around us or simply forgot to logout one time - probably the latter. He was one of those people who are a bit full of themselves, and therefore a perfect mark for a prank.

    I wrote a script that would execute on logout from the GUI swapping all his filenames in reverse order (i.e. alphabetize them and AAA would swap with ZZZ, BBB would swap with YYY etc.) with a few exceptions for standard files that contained configuration of the desktop, shell startup and so on so things would appear to work normally until he wanted to open a file. The net effect was that the next time he'd login all his files would be hopelessly confused and he'd be certain he'd been hacked. The next time he logged in, they'd be fine. Then they'd be messed up again.

    The intent was that he'd find everything was screwed up, logout and seek help, logging in to demonstrate and finding everything was fine, go back the lab and login and find everything messed up, and so forth. I wasn't around to see it, but I heard it worked very well, until the senior admin for the Apollo network (who was present when I did this and thought it "couldn't happen to a nicer guy") took pity on him and let him in on it.

    1. Christian Harten

      Re: Logout hacks

      That may be an early version of the crypto trojans that are all the rage now.

  14. hittitezombie

    I once ran a BBS (mid-90s) and had an ANSI sequence which would detect Windows 95, reboot and start installing OS/2.

    So many people dropped the carrier at that point, it was hilarious.

    1. Gogugogu
      Happy

      The time of BBSes

      Had a batch that was pinging a my class C network (without myself and reserved addresses) with a modified ping including the +++ATH string. Suddenly download speed increased. Wonder why.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone remember WinNuke?

    I programmed my own version of WinNuke in visual basic. Having a map of all the college computer names allowed me to BSOD any machine on demand. It was great fun sending the packet to each computer in turn - usually as the tutor or administrator was walking past them. Rows and rows of computers going BSOD one after another in turn. I never got caught fortunately - but it did cause chaos and fury :) On the plus side, everyone learnt to save their work frequently.

    Other shenanigans involved using the RM networks hidden account to access features and resources I wasn't allowed (Such as internet even though I got banned for downloading viruses). Also found an exploit in the RM file space warning that prevented login when I had used up all of my allotted 10Mb space - by going in to the help system, it was possible to launch explorer.exe from a file / open menu and ignore said warning. This allowed me to keep a full copy of Quake in my account so we could have death matches on a lunchtime :)

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Anyone remember WinNuke?

      "On the plus side, everyone learnt"

      Ah, the distinctive call of the Common Git.

  16. Solly
    Trollface

    Leaning

    Almost all our PC's have dual screens, one of our users has a nice landscape with a flat horizon as his background wallpaper, same image showing on both screens. I loaded up the landscape image into an art program and rotated the image by about 3 degrees, I then adjusted the screens so the horizon lines up again between the two displays. But when he actually tries to do some work all his windows are now leaning by 3 degrees (until he re-straightens the displays). I'm a bad person...

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Leaning

      Now that's some magnificent bastardtry right there.

  17. Flightmode

    Sharepoint Shenanigans

    Early versions of MS SharePoint (15 years ago or so?) had an error page to which you could send any text you wanted in the URL - something like http://.../error.aspx?errmsg=Please+insert+credit+card+to+continue or similar. (You could probably obfuscate the URL with ASCII entities or something, but back in those days people didn't read the URLs they clicked to the same extent as today.)

    It was good fun to send people links saying "You won't believe what $female_colleague did Friday night!" and have the error message saying "Your request has been reported to HR".

    1. baud Bronze badge

      Re: Sharepoint Shenanigans

      Something like two election cycle ago, a MP candidate had a site which worked like this, it would show a message that was in the URL, without any validation. A webdev (I think) found it and shared it on Twitter, so that anyone could have fun with it. The candidate didn't found that funny and the guy got charged with hacking.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Sharepoint Shenanigans

        A reference for that story could be amusing. Did it feature on the Reg?

        1. baud Bronze badge

          Re: Sharepoint Shenanigans

          Well it was the French election so I don't think the reg wrote about it. I had removed that detail from the story, to keep it brief.

          1. baud Bronze badge

            Re: Sharepoint Shenanigans

            I only remembered the website (a blog called Korben) where I read about it, so it took some time to find it again. It was Rachida Dati and it was her personal website. And not during any election cycle (in 2012), even if it was related (one of the guy who got charged wrote a message announcing her candidature to a local election).

            Apparently it was an XSS vulnerability, but the links could be shared.

            Here's a pair of article if you read French/are ready to stomach a machine translation.

            https://www.numerama.com/magazine/31296-rachida-dati-la-faille-xss-et-l-absurde-severite-du-parquet.html

            https://www.lemonde.fr/pixels/article/2014/11/17/rachida-dati-face-a-l-humour-stupide-des-internautes-un-piratage-inedit-au-tribunal_4524464_4408996.html

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Remember logout screens?

    1986 or 87. VAX with green-on-black terminals, VT52, VT100, or thereabouts. When you left a terminal, you logged out, and after clearing the screen it displayed a logout screen whose centrepiece was a banner showing the username who had just logged out. None of this newfangled screensaver stuff (let alone power saving), it just displayed until the next user logged in.

    I caused some alarm when I replaced my logout with a script that displayed the logout screen, but showing "SYSTEM" in place of my username, before silently terminating my session. But I was too naïve to cover my tracks fully, and found myself the wrong side of the BOFH investigating an apparent security breach.

  19. aregross

    Back in the DOS dayz, I would edit the Command.com and change things like the 'Press any Key when Ready" message to things like "Hit the Space Bar, Stupid!"

  20. T-Bo

    Macs

    Macs were great for this sort of thing ... you could change pretty much any menu or dialog box in the System, given the proper editor. Anyone using my Mac would have found the Eject Disk and Erase Disk commands reversed ... the warning dialog for Erase was adjusted to reflect Eject also. Caught more than one unwary visitor with that one.

    Once dropped a little startup program on my roomate's Mac Plus ... used Macintalk to call him very rude names, in a loop. Only way to exit was to hold the mouse button down through 2 full executions of the loop.

    Ah, the 80's ... Fun times, those ... :)

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Macs

      I remember that, it was so you could for eg add command equivalents to menu items you used frequently. Also you could correct American spellings and word usages. It was a shame when they took that out.

      Probably due to to too many people like you.

  21. Marco van de Voort

    FreeBSD console

    In the late nineties, our computerclub had freebsd systems, multiusers systems off a shared NFS with the hardware also doubling as terminals.

    To make emergency login to the physical console possible without logging of the locally logged on user, they simply defined extra getty's on up to 20 terminals (F1..F10 and iirc ctrl-shift-F1..F10). The ctrl-shift-Fx combos (and the extra terminals on them) were a bit a secret.

    I was porting a full screen app, and experimenting with consoles in raw mode, and found a whole bunch of syscons ioctls. These included font manipulation. I also found out that if you execute a program with "exec xxx" on one of the hidden consoles, that the terminal stdinput handle remained valid for syscons ioctlrs and that the syscons didn't change the settings on a per console/getty basis.

    I used that for two programs:

    - one that created a lookup table for 2 x 26 characters (upper/lower) that shuffled the values. Then I set font and keyboard controller according to this table. So you would press the "E" key, and the "E" glyph was shown, but some other ascii code (like "v") was actually generated to the terminal.

    - I took the VGA font and did some bit twiddling (shift upper and lower rowes) to make them a bit cursive or mirrored. Then I started animating the font. (so slanted to the right, normal slanted to the level, normal etc).

    The program hooked sigusr2 which could be used (from a remotely logged in session) to turn these features on and off. Fun times, though in the end I didn't trick my main targets as badly since they had seen me develop it. We used it with a lot of fun next year on the new batch of students though.

  22. low_resolution_foxxes

    I recall many PC games on Windows 95/98 used .txt files to store the top 10 game scores with your name. Oh boy, once you realised you could be top of the leaderboard by editing a text file....!

    I really upset a dude on my production line by beating his record on a game he'd played for years (I played it for about 20 minutes), I "beat him" by 1 point and he had a raging fit. It was something really improbable, like 13,451 vs 13,450.

    1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
      Pint

      > ...and he had a raging fit.

      LOL, well done!

    2. VikiAi Silver badge
      Happy

      Heh. Elite + Disk Editor = effectively endless money.

      The value was stored in binary, but a quick round of save-game -> spend something -> save-game and comparing the save files for the difference was not too hard.

  23. Gogugogu
    Happy

    Half an hour wav file as startup sound.

    'Nough said.

    1. herman Silver badge

      Re: Half an hour wav file as startup sound.

      Better than a tone shifted slooow staartuup soouund?

      1. VikiAi Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Half an hour wav file as startup sound.

        Sounds pretty cool, though probably not during actual startup!

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnoX3E2WFcc

  24. fobobob

    The 95/98/ME animated startup logo was also fun

    Reassigning colors and doing a palette shift to orange, such that the clouds get color cycled, gives you "Windows is Blowing Up!". Looking back into it, the number of palette shifting colors is defined by some obscure bitmap header that gets lost by e.g. mspaint. I'm going to try tweaking that when i get home from work.

  25. Solviva

    Those were the days!

    In the Win95 days, knocked up my own little back door for the fledgling school network (anyone remember back orifice? No that wasn't mine...). Offered amongst other things, pop up a message box (similar to "net send" which also worked well), get the cd drive to do a merry in-out jiggle, launch some program e.g. solitaire just as the teacher was walking past... Fun times :)

  26. Wilseus

    I changed mine to say "It is now safe to piss off home!"

  27. ekky

    My edit was a little simpler. I just changed the bitmap to say "It's not safe to turn off your computer."

    My ceo thought my computer was hacked.

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Well of course it was.

      CEOs aren't always wrong (unless you're called Dilbert).

  28. onceuponatime

    Anyone remember the BSOD screensaver?

    I put it on my work computer and took a week's vacation.........................

    Fun times when I got back.

    1. raglits

      Re: Anyone remember the BSOD screensaver?

      Was waiting to see if anyone else used that. I installed it on all the Windows servers at the (small) company I worked at and had the boss in a panic saying they'd all crashed. When I pointed out that Exchange, SQL and the file servers were all still working he got really confused :)

      It was also the default screensaver on my laptop/desktop until I started working at places that locked them down

  29. TomPhan

    Desktop screenshots are for amateurs

    What you really need is a photo of the desk behind the monitor, adjust it to get the right size and perspective, then use that as the desktop. "Didn't you know we were getting the new see through monitors?"

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Oldschool - my youngest decided to prank my wife by taking control of our new smart tv and randomly switching channels - that almost resulted in serious injury to my son, hell hath no fury like a woman who's viewing of her favorite reality tv show is disrupted.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah yes, silliness will never die. Although humour can be a difficult concept...

      The (seriously non-tech enlightened) decision makers at the university hospital where I work decided it would be a good idea to block, previously unfiltered personnel internet access. Definition of "harmful content" was a bit murky though, including for example various webmail and social media providers. This pissed some off apparently.

      One clever person (still unidentified up to this day) coded a .sh and dropped it on one of the machines used for presentations. It was triggered by libreoffice, doing a really long sleep first, while LO went about its business. But, when the sleep period was done, it executed a looped firefox xdg-open, going through a rather large array of URLs of "ladies showing their substantial assets" (to be fair to the prankster, all above waist). While disabling user input. And appropriate sleep commands to ensure proper inspection of the shown image. Access to the "assets" was possible because, yes, the internet was filtered for "the common people", but not for management (of course).

      Unfortunate though that this "silent protest" kicked into motion when a Faculty board member was presenting his "IT investment plan"...

  31. trevorde

    Windows NT4 boot screen

    Years ago, I got some code (thanks, Mark Russinovich!) which wrote to the blue, NT4 boot screen. I managed to cobble together a Windows NT device driver which output a Linux boot log to the NT4 boot screen. The log ended with something like "Starting Windows NT as a user task...". It freaked out a lot of people who saw it but then W2k came and spoilt all the fun as the boot screen was hidden.

  32. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I changed the shutdown message to add the words "or press ctrl-alt-delete to restart" as no amount of clue-stick would get it into people's heads that they DIDN'T have to switch off and then switch back on again to use the computer.

  33. Wayland Bronze badge

    Startling Windows

    My brother set all the computers he touched to say Startling Windows instead of Starting Windows.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hardware hack

    Swiftly and quietly swap two keyboard keys around.

    Say the K and the S.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Hardware hack

      Much more fun if you replace "QW" with "AZ".

      NB: For French and German keyboards, reverse the swap for the same fun.

  35. Danny 2 Silver badge

    I was hospitalised by a psycho BOFH fan

    He rigged a monitor grounding plate to 17,500 volts and asked me to work on it. I survived, barely, and it was covered up so I couldn't prove anything, but I keep track of where he lives and he is top of my bucket list. There is a longer version of this story but I'll save it for when I am caught.

    When you write a jokey column it's maybe worth bearing in mind that some of your readers will actually be psychopaths.

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