UNIX Practical Jokes

Robert Crawford has a post over at Server Specs about practical jokes for mainframe programmers. That got me thinking about all the stuff that I’ve been witness to:

  • The ever-classic snapshot of my desktop as my desktop background. Yawn.
  • Tape over the laser emitter on my mouse. Double yawn.
  • Setting a user’s shell to a copy of Eliza.
  • Setting a user’s shell to an emulator of another OS.
  • Setting a user’s home directory to a floppy disk.
  • Setting the shell prompt creatively, or very long, or very short.
  • Setting the shell prompt with bell/^G characters in it. I currently don’t remember how this was done, probably echoing something into a .profile.
  • Setting the resource limits for a user to very small values.
  • Moving everything in my home directory to a hidden directory. Thankfully the prankster was good and left all my email in the right spots.
  • Moving everything in my home directory to a hidden directory named exclusively with special characters (hyphens, etc.).
  • Adding ‘logout’ to the end of a user’s .profile, .cshrc, etc.
  • Sending mail to me from my own account. Boring but effective.
  • Starting a process to slowly eat all the RAM on my desktop.
  • Starting a process to slowly eat all the CPU on my desktop.
  • Starting a process to slowly fill the process table on the desktop of the guy who did the last two to me.
  • Removing my sudo rights to my own desktop and changing my root password.
  • Adding cron entries to write things to my own terminals. Ingenious.
  • Changing someone’s terminal settings. This is sort of boring, but I’ve always wanted to try setting someone’s terminal so that the key mappings are messed up. For example, set the ‘e’ key to backspace or something. I just haven’t had time or occasion to figure it out yet. 🙂
  • Changing a user’s shell to /bin/false. Boring.
  • Changing a user’s shell to /usr/bin/perl. Much more effective when it’s actually a script which tells them they’re in Perl.

The best ones are ones that do absolutely no damage and require the victim to figure out an equally creative workaround. Or they have a very simple and possibly non-obvious workaround, like running a command via SSH to rename .profile.


5 thoughts on “UNIX Practical Jokes”

  1. Back in the Windows 2000 days, a friend of mine write a crafty little program. It mostly slept, but it would randomly wake up and lock control of the keyboard and mouse for half a second or so. The mouse cursor would then jump across the screen. The idea was to make the victim think their system was under a heavy load or needed to be reformatted.

    The plan was to load it onto the bosses computer and see how long it took to figure it out. Unfortunately, a debug version of the program was loaded that didn’t sleep very much and blocked input for more than a second. Needless to say, he figured out we had tampered with his PC within 5 minutes.

  2. I ran that screensaver for a while. Problem was that I got sick of my coworkers coming to meetings and telling me my desktop crashed, ha ha, and then the ensuing argument about how I wasn’t even running Windows, so how can I get a BSOD… After a while it just got old. 🙂

  3. If you can futz with the networking, the <a href=”http://www.ex-parrot.com/~pete/upside-down-ternet.html”Upside-Down-ternet is always good for a laugh.

Comments are closed.