Saturday, March 31, 2007
April Fool's Pranks for Nerds
Geeks love April Fools' Day.
Once a year, we get to take advantage of our non-geek friends' and co-workers' flimsy grasp on technology.
The best geek pranks involve making a gadget or a piece of software appear "broken." Since the tech savvy will quickly notice these pranks, they are best performed on the inept, the perpetually preoccupied and the woefully unaware.
I'd recommend starting with the suits in marketing or the over-50 guy who refers to his workstation as his "confuser." Actually, anyone who frequently steps away from his or her desk for any more than 90 seconds should be considered fair game.
Also, since you can swoop in and come to the rescue of a co-worker stranded in technological hell, pranks make great ice-breakers. Try these on the new girl in sales -- you'll be her knight in shining Linux T-shirt.
April Fool's Day falls on a Sunday this year, which is a day off for most of us. But don't let that little technicality stop you. It's the spirit that counts.
One thing you should definitely not do is break anything. Only make the device appear broken. The point when the joke can't be reversed is also the point it ceases to be funny. Trust me.
Switch Their Keyboard to Dvorak
The only reason people use the antiquated QWERTY keyboard layout is because they've never experienced the power and flexibility of Dr. August Dvorak's simplified eponymous layout. Make it your job to school these people. Yd.f-nn ydabt frg nay.p
To switch a keyboard layout in Windows XP, go to the Control Panel (make sure it's in "Classic View" mode) and click on Regional and Language Options. Under the Languages tab, view Details. Click on Add and find "United States-Dvorak" in the list. Now you'll see Dvorak show up in the drop-down menu of default input languages. Choose it and click Apply.
Mac OS X is much easier: Go to System Preferences, click on International and select the Input Menu tab. Click the checkbox next to Dvorak. You might also check "Show input menu in menu bar" at the bottom of the window. A tiny icon menu will appear in the top right corner (next to the clock), allowing you to switch between keyboard layouts with a single click.
Put the Mac to Bed
Newer Apple hardware comes with that cute little Front Row remote. Use it for pure evil by randomly putting the prankee's Mac to sleep. Perfect for Starbucks! Any Front Row remote will work (just hold down the Play button for a few seconds) as long as the person hasn't disabled the remote sleep option or paired a specific remote with their machine. But who does that?
New Key Layout
Manually rearrange keyboard keys with a Keycap Puller. Swapping letter keys only works on noob hunter-peckers, but you can still prank everyone else by reversing their 10-key keypad. When reversed, it looks just like a telephone, so they won't notice anything is amiss until they start typing numbers.
Blue Screen of Death
Install the Blue Screen of Death screen saver. When the screen goes to sleep, the machine looks like it crashed. Be mindful the victim might lose data if they pull the plug.
Mangle the Mouse
Hide the mouse ball. It sounds far too simple to actually fool anyone, but you'll be amazed at how long people will curse and slam their unresponsive mouse onto the desktop before actually flipping the thing over. On the bottom of most mice, you'll find a plastic ring encircling the ball. Loosen it with a twist and pop the ball out. Dropping the mouse ball into their coffee cup will render it magically invisible.
Berlitz the Phone
Change their mobile phone's language setting to Spanish. Almost every modern phone sold in the United States has English and Spanish as the two selectable languages. The setting is usually pretty easy to find in the menus, too. You Canadians should choose French, unless of course you're in Quebec where everyone speaks both French and English (in which case you're totalement vissé).
What's wrong with this picture?
Everyone on Twitter has an RSS feed, setting the stage perfectly for some micro-mayhem. Create a Twitter account, get your friend to subscribe to it, then put their Twitter feed through a tool like rss2twitter. It publishes any RSS feed through your Twitter account, so whenever your friend posts, they'll see their own Twitters echoing back at them. Po-tweet? So it goes.
Right Is Left
Go into their mouse settings and swap the mouse buttons. Set left-click as right-click and vice versa. This one is so simple, it's best reserved for the truly helpless. While you're at it, slow down the double-click speed to add an extra helping of annoyance.
Prank Calls Via the Web
Use the web to reach out and touch some one. http://www.phonemyphone.com/
Take a screenshot of your friend's desktop and make it their desktop wallpaper. Minimize any open applications and hide all of the desktop icons or ferret them away in a folder -- don't delete anything. Then, set the Windows taskbar to auto-hide. Go to Control Panel, click on Taskbar & Start Menu then choose "Auto hide." On a Mac OS X machine, go into System Preferences, click on Dock and choose "Automatically hide and show Dock." Hang out somewhere close by so you can hear the frustrated clicking grow louder and more urgent.
Early Birds Welcome
Every year April 1 falls on a weekend presents a perfect opportunity to dust off an old favorite. Set up a fake garage sale post on Craigslist. Sat it starts at 7a.m. "Early birds welcome!"