Top Ten Pranks

My top ten pranks were solicited by Bill, who, while I’m on the subject of weddings, was my best man.

Here are my top pranks, maybe not ten, and in no particular order.

The screenshot on Dave’s machine. On my boss’s PowerBook, we opened the control strip (a Mac OS 9 doohicky that runs along the bottom of the screen) and took a screenshot. Then we set that screenshot to be his desktop picture. If this doesn’t seem like a prank, think about it for a while. He re-installed his operating system while Mike and I snickered.

When I still worked with Joe, I installed a little trick on his computer that reduced the vertical and horizontal screen resolutions by one pixel every time the computer restarted. One pixel a day isn’t all that noticable. He finally figured it out when his screen size was reported by some installer as 784 by 584, or something along those lines. He was pretty pissed.

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of NetDino. That was always good for kicks in the pre-OS X days. You could remotely trigger a dinosaur running across the bottom of someone’s computer screen. I once set it off on my friend Steve’s computer in another school district (this was back in the pre-security days). Apparently he was in a meeting with his supervisor at the time. I later discovered that it didn’t play well with more modern Macs. But that’s a long story for another day.

Another one I pulled on Joe was after he got his original iMac. He was so in love with that machine, but the lettering on the front was smeared, and this upset him to no end. One day while he was out, I installed a program that causes the screen to dim to ten percent of it’s brightness within ten minutes. He played with for days before he figured it out.

And then there’s Sniff, my all-time favorite. Sniff causes your Mac to randomly cough and sneeze. I installed on several computers at Etown. One secretary thought it was so funny that she asked me not to remove it. As far as I know, she still has it, five years later.

It didn’t take me long to verify that Sniff had only three distinct sounds, each stored in the executable file as an SND resource. Hmmm. I’d been playing with SND resources since 1991. I quickly opened up QuickMail Pro, our district standard for email, in ResEdit, Apple’s trusty and crusty resource editor. I grabbed the two sounds for email (standard and urgent) and placed them into Sniff at the proper addresses (I had to duplicate the standard sound). Then I replaced Sniff’s icon, which usually looks like a nose, with an ATI graphics icon and renamed the file “ATI Graphics Accelerator”, or something equally devious. Then I sat back and watched everyone in my office suffer through total confusion, wondering why QuickMail was chiming if they had no mail. It was wonderful.

Joe then tried to duplicate my success, but somehow corrupted his copy of Sniff in the process. As a result, every time one of his victims’ computers was supposed to make a noise, it froze up instead. Unfortunately, Joe was out of the district the day after he deployed his trickery, so I had to deal with the fallout across the district office on that one.

Just the other day, I re-arranged the settings on my boss’s WindowsXP laptop. It was fun, but not especially satisfying. It didn’t affect the external mouse he was using, so it took him awhile to figure it out. But Mike and I did have some success at telnetting into his computer and randomly restarting it. That was satisfying.

For more dirty Mac tricks, I whole-heartedly recommend The Macintosh Joker.

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