back to article Which keys should I press to enable the CockUp feature?

The person sitting next to me has confessed that sometimes he likes to do it sideways. Apparently this way he can make use of the full length without straining his neck. He’s lucky: not everyone has the facility to rotate their computer display. Even those that do often don’t realise they can. A manager I worked for quite a …

  1. Brenda McViking

    I've been april fooled

    Dabbs you Bastard.

    I've messed up my displays reading this. Ctrl+Alt+right arrow isn't undone by Ctrl + Alt +Left arrow, not when you've got two screens. Arrrrggghhhhhhh. They seem to be sequentially changing and I can't revert them both.

    And of course display options where I could fix it is blocked and requires administrator priviliges. HELLDESK? HELLO? I'VE BEEN AN IDIOT....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've been april fooled

      With respect, you have been a fool, rather than April fooled, for the simple reason you tried it !.

      Maybe try pressing ALT-F4 instead of the submit button when constructing your reply - it speeds things along nicely :)

    2. joeW

      Re: I've been april fooled

      It's Ctrl+Alt+Up to revert to a normal orientation.

      The old "Desktop rotation" is usually used as a first warning to those who don't lock their machines when theyu walk away around here.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Daniel Hall

      Re: I've been april fooled


      One of the calls I get regularily.

      From doctors and people that are meant to save your life!

      1. raving angry loony

        Re: I've been april fooled

        Ah, because you expect people who have spent years training and learning about biology, anatomy, and other things that help them save peoples lives are ALSO supposed to be expert at the intricacies of shitty computer operating systems*?

        Tell me, why would being expert in one field automatically make one expert in a totally unrelated field?


        * they're all shitty computer operating systems. The rest is personal preference.

        1. Martin Summers Silver badge

          Re: I've been april fooled

          Nothing to do with being an expert. Sometimes it's plain common sense. Plus this has bugger all to do with the intricacies of Operating Systems and more to do with Intel Graphics card driver software.

          1. raving angry loony

            Re: I've been april fooled

            You think that it's "common sense" to know that Ctrl-Alt-RightArrow changes the monitor, and how to change it back? Or for just about any other accidental shortcut in any operating system?

            Or for someone to claim that because they're doctors they should know about such foibles?

            You've been working in this industry too long. Your reality is very distorted. Take a break.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              This is an Intel-specific piece of idiocy

              Having rotation as a driver thing was useful in WinXP, but not since then as the rotation became an OS option in Vista.

              But Intel, in their eternal stupidity, not only kept the driver option but also the keyboard shortcut to do it.

              One of several reasons why I hate Intel Integrated Graphics.

            2. TeeCee Gold badge

              Re: I've been april fooled

              No. it's common sense not to go around pressing weird key combinations on the offchance they might do something. For a start, if they do, you'll then have no idea how to undo it. Especially if you happen to be the sort of person who believes that because you're a highly qualified ${professional} you have no need to study how to use one of the key tools of your job properly.

        2. Daniel Hall

          Re: I've been april fooled

          You really have missed the point.

          Its not that they dont know how to use the computers, thats what we're here for.

          But when they've used said computers for "years of training and leaning" you would think they would know

          - where the start button is

          - what internet explorer/chrome are

          - how to right click


    4. John Presland

      Re: I've been april fooled

      Ctrl+Alt+Right arrow another three times and you're back to whwee you started

      1. Lypscratch

        Re: I've been april fooled

        I couldn't make this work with two screens. The combo just keep moving from one screen to the other, never getting either back to landscape. It got so confused.

    5. Lypscratch

      Re: I've been april fooled

      As soon as I saw that keyboard combo, I tried it. I, too, have two screens. And oh my. I was panicking. I eventually figured out how to get to Control Panel :: Display, where I could individually change them both back to Landscape.

      It's very strange to move the mouse sideways, when it thinks it's moving vertically. But that fixed it. Hope you didn't have to call HelpDesk. But at least: now you know.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And I always thought the cockup key was

    The "Any" key...

  3. Edwin

    There was only ever one proper gag on Windows...

    In the early Win95 days, the preferred office prank was to take a screenshot of the desktop, hide all the icons under the recycle bin icon and set the task bar to autohide.

    This was especially effective for people with a 101 key keyboard since they didn't have a Windows key to use (surprisingly few people know the alternative key combinations).

    To be fair: we only did this within the IT department. Anyone in IT who falls for that for very long is in the wrong business anyway.

    1. PNGuinn

      Re: There was only ever one proper gag on Windows...

      But it would have been so much more fun to do it to the beancounters, No?

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: There was only ever one proper gag on Windows...

        "do it to the beancounters"

        Never mess with the people who are in charge of your paycheck.

        1. Edwin

          Re: There was only ever one proper gag on Windows...

          That - and who do you think has to fix it?

          The telecoms engineers in the company would have been an acceptable target, but I suspect they were capable of much nastier pranks in retaliation...

    2. Sparks_

      Re: There was only ever one proper gag on Windows...

      The prior gag was to apply the soldering iron to switch the horizontal scan coil wires in the back of the TV. Surprised student/owner claims Auntie has her evening news subtitles backwards to all and sundry until a few puzzled channel changes later....

    3. Lypscratch

      Re: There was only ever one proper gag on Windows...

      We did this in the Test department, too. Or take a screenshot of all black or all white. Ahhh. Good times!

  4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    You can use the screen rotation functions to countermand pranks.

    Like when someone has rotated your 21" CRT that weighs in at 40 kg. And you have one arm in a sling.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I avoided a prank once

    I've had my share of pranks done to me (yeah, including the image-is-sideways one), but I generally learn from them. One thing I was quick to learn is never leave your PC unlocked in an office - there's always some smart aleck somewhere who thinks he's hilarious.

    I was the new guy in an office one day and someone thought he could trick me into leaving the PC unlocked. He gave me a stack of documents to take someplace, shoving them into my arms and telling me it was very urgent.

    He thought I was just going to shove off and leave my keyboard to his enjoyment, probably relishing the following admonishing he was hoping to give me about "never leave your PC unattended".

    I just reached down with my unoccupied hand and did Win-L, leaving with a smile. Apparently he didn't know that combo.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: I avoided a prank once

      My boss has a penchant for to be waiting for a member of our office team when he quite often forgets to lock his machine. Of course his first mistake was to admit he was squeamish with such things.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I avoided a prank once

      I worked in an office where if you were thoughtless enough to leave your pc unlocked and unattended, emails went out expressing unrequited longing and inappropriate amorous feelings towards your coworkers.

      I remember walking down the hall away from my cubicle, passing a coworker going the other way.

      Went on a few steps and it hit me: I had left my pc unlocked.

      He had the same thought at the same time: I turned around and he was hightailing it to my cubicle.

      God, the bastards were fast - and always looking for that opportunity.

    3. AustinTX

      Re: I avoided a prank once

      Oh my... I do admire your *amazingly* large hands, sir!

    4. Lypscratch

      Re: I avoided a prank once

      I didn't either. thanks for the new shortcut!

  6. EddieD

    A long time ago..

    Windows 95 had the "It is now safe to turn off your computer" message on shutdown. This technician thought it was a witty jape to edit the image by copying the t of to and pasting it over the w of now, and saving the image on all the machines in they department computer lab.

    None of the students noticed, and I felt a complete heel when a completely genial, but venerable, emeritus professor rushed up to me in a panic, apologising frantically because he thought he messed up my computer. I stopped witty japes shortly after.

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: A long time ago..

      I've seen a variation of it, used as a desktop wallpaper:

      It is not safe to turn on your computer.

  7. imanidiot Silver badge

    Office "pranks" are one of those thinks that will make me hate my collegues with a passion. Whatever workplace I've had it's never been tried more than once before people got the message to not do that sort of shit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I just made sure that the consequences of attempting such a prank were sufficiently dire that only the very brave or the utterly foolish would try it again. Even in the large company I was in, the supply of very brave was limited and the remainder was enough to stop the rather larger quantity of the utterly foolish from making such a mistake for fear of becoming what the US military euphemistically call collateral damage...

      I've been a BOFH from quite early on :)

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Come on, if you are going to downvote me, atleast have the balls to tell my why.

      No I'm not one of those humorless drones that can't take a bit of fun, I am perfectly fine with having some fun outside of work. But when it gets to business related stuff I actually WANT to be productive and get shit done. And not have to deal with your shit because somehow it's always when you most need to be productive that people go and bug you.

      (And possibly I am just that slight bit of nerdy/autistic that comes with being a techie. I just don't like people messing with my shit. So stay the hell away from my desk)

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Heh, maybe your downvoter is one of the guys you "educated" in the past ;)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Come on, if you are going to downvote me, atleast have the balls to tell my why.

        I only downvoted you now because reacting to downvotes is futile :). As for the original article, I upvoted you because yes, sometimes you just need to get the job done and the sheer lack of considering consequences by such idiots is maddening.

  8. Mr Dogshit
    Thumb Up


    I like it.

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: widdershins

      Yeah, that term is not in common parlance outside of mystical circles (literally as well as figuratively).

      Perhaps he should have told the manager he had to dance round his monitor deosil, to would fix it. Or maybe sacrifice a small rodent by drowning it in his coffee to appease the monitor gods for disturbing the alignment of their altar.

      1. Darryl

        Re: widdershins

        It's the opposite of Turnwise, as in going against the turning direction of the Disc

    2. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: widdershins

      I was looked at very strangely last weekend when I used the word "widdershins" (we were walking around a kirk, and it reminded me of a story I read many years ago*). That my wife didn't know it wasn't a surprise (English as a second language), but I was disappointed that my English friends didn't get the reference. By the time I'd explained that it meant going anti-clockwise, and that, no, I didn't know the etymology of the word, I wished I'd been quiet ... and so did they, probably!

      * "The Man Who Walked Widdershins Round the Kirk" by Sorche Nic Leodhas, in the Second Armada Ghost Book. Sad, aren't I?

  9. Fortycoats

    Windows-L..... or else!

    I used to work in an office where any unattented unlocked PC was used to send invitations to the entire team for breakfast the following morning, paid for by the "sender". This was a quick lesson in desktop security. Some were very quick on the draw (i.e. bastards), the victim was only away from their desk for a couple of minutes and BANG. It was very impressive how fast they could switch to outlook, type and send the meeting request in less then 30 seconds. Luckily I was warned of this practise on my first day. Windows-L is your friend!

    Even managers got involved. It was rather ironic when we got an inivitation from a manager whose responsibilities included security (he was pranked by a fellow manager sharing his office).

  10. Franco

    Ah, CTRL-ALT-Right Arrow. I discovered that particular keyboard shortcut quite by accident when I was playing Doom in DOSBOX and attempted to fire and strafe at the same time.

    My wrath was swiftly moved from Mars based demons to the numpty at Intel who thought that shortcut was a good idea by default, although at least it was easy to disable "hot keys" as Intel called them.

  11. Anonymous Custard

    Which keys should I press to enable the CockUp feature?

    Which keys should I press to enable the CockUp feature?

    Probably the infamous "any" key?

    The screen rotation one is an oldie but a goodie, and is still usable on a surprising number of semi-innocent victims and new intake.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Which keys should I press to enable the CockUp feature?

      "The screen rotation one is an oldie but a goodie, and is still usable on a surprising number of semi-innocent victims and new intake."

      Yes, it continues to surprise me how many users have never been taught the basics. Pretty much anyone in an office job may (or may not!) get some training in the use of specific programmes but everyone is expected to already know how to use Windows, either because they've been doing the job for some years or because they just came from school/college/university..

      And yet very few general users even know how to log on without using the mouse to accept the corporate T&C's that appear after pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del, tab between name/password fields or press enter to start the log on process. So many people still keep reaching for the mouse to advance to the next step.

      The users don't know that they've not been taught the basic because they can still do the job and the bosses don't think to check. Even the wet behind the ears direct from education types don't appear to have been taught this this stuff. You'd almost think the teachers and bosses didn't know the basics either.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Which keys should I press to enable the CockUp feature?

        cos they don't. (Which I suspect you knew really).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rotated screens and "pranks"

    The interesting thing about rotated screens that they are perfectly fine when viewed using remote control software. So when the "Georges" on the service desk keep passing these calls through, I just remote in and open up the Intel system tray thingy set the screen the right way up and disable the hotkeys bit.

    I have seen some of those pranks in the field - the screenshot,set as wallpaper, hide icons. All the user did was call IT to sort it while he went to lunch (think it was logged as "Mouse button not working"

    The other bloody joker had changed the desktop to the default Windows XP desktop that had a "Windows is formatting c:" dialogue box superimposed.

    What do the victim do? Panic, switch off the PC and call IT, demanding high priority call to resolve it. Fair enough, it was in the A&E department of a largish hospital after all. Was very close to putting in an official complaint.

    1. PNGuinn

      Re: Rotated screens and "pranks"

      I'm feeling old.

      Many moons ago I came back from lunch to my CIT101 (JapeneseVT100 clone with quite the best keyboard I've ever used) and logged on to the VAX.

      Hit return only to watch the logon text scroll as 1 vertical line rapidly down the screen. Someone had set the terminal column width to 1.

      Happy days.

      1. Graham Newton

        Re: Rotated screens and "pranks"

        You didn't need access to the terminal. You could send the user a messages with the control characters embedded in the text to get the terminal to do all sorts of things when they opened the message.

        Happy days indeed

      2. RainbowTrout

        Re: Rotated screens and "pranks"

        My favourite "prank" 20+ years ago involved telneting into colleagues SGI's making sure the $DISPLAY env was correct and firing up xlock.

    2. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: Rotated screens and "pranks"

      Back in the Windows 3.1 days I pranked a colleague by swapping the function of the left and right mouse buttons and setting the vertical sensitiivity to max and horizontal to min, so it looked like you could only move the cursor up and down.

      Arrived next day at the office to find the BOFH running malware scans on it. Ho ho ho.

      Not long after, the same machine, along with most of the others in the office, had its memory nicked by "RAM Raiders" (for a time, the value density of DRAM was greater than gold). The thieves had, very courteously boxed the PCs back up again after removing the DIMMs so the reason why none of them would boot up wasn't immediately obvious. Guess where the finger of blame was pointed?


  13. Fihart

    Falling like leaves.

    Have yet to witness a "utility" which beats the one that caused the letters on the screen to fall into a heap at the bottom.

    As for the Mrs Doyles, how many of us have had to tape over a wall socket to stop the ladies of the night unplugging IT stuff for the Hoover.

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: Falling like leaves.

      I remember that one.

      The smiley face that wandered randomly around the screen changing letters was good too.

    2. herman

      Re: Falling like leaves.

      I never experienced the falling letters virus, but shortly after hearing about it, I had a migraine which caused the letters on the screen to move around and was sitting there, wondering how on earth one could possibly write a program to do that on a Hercules Text screen... and then, the head-ache kicked in.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Falling like leaves.

      We grew up in South Africa where the mains is 240V and the plugs 3 pin of similar design to the UK but are unfused and have round pins.

      He had a project to install computerised tills in a large department store and knowing the habit of cleaners to unplug devices to get power to their polishers and vacuums but the requirement for tills to remain powered and connected for batch jobs running overnight needed a way to stop cleaners unplugging the tills. (Actually unplugging wasn't an issue if the till was plugged back in again afterwards.)

      So the project came up with the idea of using UK leads and plugs for the tills. Coming in one morning to find the system hadn't done some overnight task and going out on floor found the tills unplugged and some damage to some of the sockets where our Mrs Mops had tried to fit their local round pinned plugs into square pinned sockets.

  14. groovyf

    Windows RG

    I recall once going round a room full of PCs with a colleague and firing up the Windows RG flash jape in Internet Explorer then going full screen with it.

    Amusing somewhat!

  15. Kubla Cant

    Which keys should I press?

    We used to have a lot of PCs (Gateway?) where the keyboard included a keystroke macro feature. Essentially this meant that most of the keys could be programmed to do something completely different from what was on the key cap. The potential for pranks was endless, but in fact most of the problems arose from users accidentally programming their keyboards.

    The BSOD screen-saver was good for a (brief) laugh.

    In the days before computers, desktop phones offered opportunities for pranks. Call person A, then transfer the call to person B and hang up, so they're left arguing about who called who. Sellotape the buttons on a receiver rest so the user can't answer calls. Worst of all, put double-sided adhesive tape on the earpiece of somebody's phone.

    Eventually, we grew up.

    1. GrumpenKraut

      Re: Which keys should I press?

      > Worst of all, put double-sided adhesive tape on the earpiece of somebody's phone.


      > Eventually, we grew up.

      Now that is just silly!

    2. Mark 85

      Re: Which keys should I press?

      The ultimate evil was a put a layer of Vaseline on the earpiece and tape the handset button (the one on the phone that did hangups) down. Then call the victim. Ear full of Vaseline while phone keeps ringing.

    3. herman

      Re: Which keys should I press?

      Sellotape over the earpiece - then he keep yelling louder, while the other side keeps speaking softer with the handset an arm's length away from his head...

    4. Skribblez

      Re: Which keys should I press?

      The phone trick I remember was to coat the inside of the ear piece on the black plastic receiver with black shoe polish. Once you notice it all over your ear, the stuff takes forever to wash/wear off...

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Which keys should I press?

      "keys could be programmed to do something completely different"

      That worked on any MS-DOS PC which had ANSI.SYS installed and judicious use of ESC sequences.

      Ah, the innocent old days when a feature was "cool" and no one would ever do anything silly with it. <snort>

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Johnny Foreigner

    Had a colleague from Brussels visit HQ years ago while I was a PFY with Windows 3 days. Used to borrow people's PCs, set the keyboard to French layout, never set it back then borrow someone else's PC, set the keyboard etc etc.

    As the junior IT support, I was getting the calls about dodgy keyboards that worked on my PC and in DOS, but not Windows. Ever since then when ever I get a call about a keyboard typing different letters, my first thought is "Has a Frenchman used your PC?"

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Johnny Foreigner

      I use the Dvorak keyboard layout. For some reason known only two MS, RDPing to a server from a workstation with that layout sometimes caused the server to change to that layout, making me extremely unpopular.

      But on the plus side, it was pretty hard for people to use my workstation if I walked away without locking it ...

  17. Nick Woodruffe

    Audio sounds

    I seem to remember setting up an audio sound for the insertion of 3.5" floppy discs into an Apple Mac. Once the user inserted the disc the mac would reply loudly with a sultry female voice "oh, it's so big".

    On windows machines we would set the startup sound to be of a noisy couple making love and then make sure the speaker volume was turned up high. Works great for female users who are more embarrassed than men.

    Back in the old days of green CRT, you would turn the vertical position knob so that the command line was off the bottom of the monitor or turn the brightness way down so although it was powered up, no display was seen.

    1. Peter Kavanagh.

      Re: Audio sounds

      In my industrial placement year out from uni (1990 - god I feel old...), I worked in an R&D group at a manufacturer of broadcast equipment. Desktops were Sun workstations or our own-brand Unix machines.

      My manager (Dave) foolishly left his machine logged in when he went for a meeting. On his return I just heard him yell my name from his office - can't think how he figured out it was me. No matter what command he entered to his command prompt, the dulcet tones of Douglas Rain would softly say "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that..."

  18. 8Ace

    Screen rotation .. Pah !

    Taking the back of a green screen monitor, slackening the deflection coils and rotating them 180 degrees before tightening everything back up.

    An office where every desk had the screen upside down with the base vertical, now that was a sight

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Re: Screen rotation .. Pah !

      Or do the full 2-step.

      1) disconnect the scan coils and reconnect backwards. Result - upside-down display

      2) Pick up VDU, and place on desk upside-down.

      Colleague (who had it coming :-) ) comes in in the morning, goes "ha ha very funny" and returns the VDU to stand-down orientation.

      Presses power button.

      Is greeted by ":uıƃo⅂" in the bottom-right corner!

      Cue much "F* bastards!" :-) :-)

      1. Stumpy

        Re: Screen rotation .. Pah !

        ... ah, so it wasn't just me who did this then :)

  19. Ochib

    Open remote coffee cup holders

    I find this powershell script to be fun, and to spook users on the network

    Function Eject-DiscDrive




    [string[]]$computerName = $env:COMPUTERNAME





    ForEach($computer in $computerName)


    If($computer -eq $env:COMPUTERNAME)


    $sh = New-Object -ComObject "Shell.Application"

    $items = $sh.namespace(17).Items()

    ForEach($item in $items)


    If($item.type -eq "CD Drive")








    Invoke-Command -ComputerName $computer -ScriptBlock {

    $sh = New-Object -ComObject "Shell.Application"

    $items = $sh.namespace(17).Items()

    ForEach($item in $items)


    If($item.type -eq "CD Drive")











  20. Anonymous Coward


    Apart from keeping Mr. Dabbs in money and wasting 15 minutes of my time was there any real use for that article?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: ¿Puzzled?

      There's no use for any of Mr Dabbs' articles on El Reg - at least so far as I can tell. That's the charm of them. And probably why they turn up on Fridays - when I should be phoning a customer about Legionella control - but I know it's going to be a looooong conversation, because he's not going to like the answers.

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: ¿Puzzled?

      Here we go again. 15 minutes. Why is it that the "I've wasted X minutes of my life" crowd are such slow readers?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ¿Puzzled?

        Here we go again. 15 minutes. Why is it that the "I've wasted X minutes of my life" crowd are such slow readers?

        Ooooooooooh, QUALITY!

        This is one of those moment I wish I was able to upvote more than once.

        BTW, Google appears to have given a rather interesting answer to the question of your article. Their 1st of April Gmail stunt backfired rather spectacularly (if it was real - always hard to establish, certainly because they control the means by which you will find it in a week's time). I guess it's hard to judge the consequences of your actions if you lack the most basic respect for the sanctity of people's data. At least we now know just how much they value non-paying customers..

        1. Alistair Dabbs

          Re: ¿Puzzled?

          The failed Google stunt today also highlights the problem I raised the other week about positioning dangerous buttons too close to everyday buttons in the UI. If you're going to add a "Make me look like a flighty, sackable twerp" button to your email system for a laugh, it's probably best not placed adjacent to the Send button.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: ¿Puzzled?

            Yep. Among all the "me too" prank comments here today it's too easy to lose sight of the real reason for such venom

            Was (is) it too difficult for designers to keep the "often needed" buttons away from the "burn everything" buttons. Never mind rotating the screen. Having the wide "caps lock" next to the A key was always going to cause problems wSN@T IT.

            Or putting the mobile phone email client's space button a finger nail above its " exit immediately " button.

          2. Queasy Rider

            Re: ¿Puzzled?

            I live by the right click/context menu. NEVER use keyboard shortcuts (can't even remember my own cell phone number). So you can imagine how many times I've seen the message, "Are you sure you want to move this file to the Recycle Bin?" That damn 'Delete' needs to be well and truly moved away from ANY other selection. And maybe coloured red.

            Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: ¿Puzzled?

              So, from the replies the general opinion seems to be that the articles are useless and that's why you read them. As they say from my part of the world, there's nowt so queer as folk.

              1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                Re: ¿Puzzled?

                If you're reading Dabbs articles to become informed about tech issues, you're probably doing it wrong.

                If you are in possession of a working sense of humour, and wish to read (or join in) a good old grump about tech issues - then you have arrived at the right place.

                If you don't find his stuff funny, then don't read it. Journalists have bylines for a reason.

                I'm sure he'd say that the only point to his articles is so that he can get beer from the other side of the bar to the one he's standing on. If some people happen to find them amusing, then it's much more likely that the flow will continue.

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: ¿Puzzled?

                  Well put Not Spartacus.

                  Dabbsy's articles aren't for the deeper enlightenment of the IT gurus, but rather is an amusing rant at the annoyances that the IT world manages to inflict on itself and the civilians.

      2. Patrician

        Re: ¿Puzzled?

        No use what so ever, they're just fun to read; but the trick is that you don't have to read them!

      3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: ¿Puzzled?

        I've just found another use for the El Reg Dabbs article. Most weeks there seems to be someone who doesn't get it, posts something grumpy, and the Dabbs rejoinder is usually a pleasure to read.

        I'm normally Mr Nice on forums. Rarely venturing further than Sarcasm Junction. But I do appreciate a quality bit of creative snark.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ¿Puzzled?

        >15 minutes.Why is it that the "I've wasted X minutes of my life" crowd are such slow readers?

        Minimum billing period. I can get a full days work done in ten minutes.

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: ¿Puzzled?

      Keeping our Dabbsy* in money so that he can keep regaling us with his antics, offer intellectual sustenance and moral guidance is a very, very real - not to say excellent - use for this and any other article.

      *aka The Great Aleister Dabbs who must be hailed by all right-thinking IT people

    4. Mark 85

      Re: ¿Puzzled?

      Then why bother reading his articles at all. You can spare maybe 5 seconds to read the byline, right?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ¿Puzzled? @Mark 85

        >Then why bother reading his articles at all. You can spare maybe 5 seconds to read the byline, right?

        You mean like DM readers. No, I actually like to read what I'm going to comment on. I know it might seem a novel idea but, hey, it's just the way I am.

  21. Teiwaz


    Not a jape or other office-related drollery, but there was a ppa for enlightenment for ubuntu a while back that when installed and loaded presented the Enlightenment desktop upside down and mirrored due to a bug.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Another one from back in the day...

    Terminals in the Company's HQ (connected to the Mainframe in a different location) were always in short supply. Despite the claims from Manglers that "of course I use mine all the time!!" we had our doubts.

    So I came in early and disconnected them all at the patch panel, sat back and waited for the support calls to come in. And waited and waited...

    Eventually over the course of a couple of days they were re-connected as said Manglers actually tried to use them. Then a few months later, a call came in "I can't logon, come and sort it out now!".

    Yup, you've guessed it - one of the terminals we'd disconnected months back that was "used every day".

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Practical jokes? Try this.

    An acquaintance of mine used to work on a rocket firing range and his friend was an inveterate practical joker. Prior to one test launch, when a high ranking military type was due to attend, said joker managed to get hold of the special binoculars for use by said high-up ( he seemed to have keys for everything or was able to pick locks said my mate) and rubbed burnt cork around the eyepieces. The test went ahead and the high-up was less than happy with his Panda looks. The hoo-haa and subsequent inquiry it generated made the Spanish inquisition look like a Sunday school tea party.

    Now that's practical joker risk taking!

    1. Queasy Rider

      Re: Bah!

      I remember seeing that prank on M.A.S.H.

  24. picturethis

    "Press any key" - true story

    I once leaned over the receptionist's desk at a dentist that I used to go to and I saw on their PC's keyboard a piece of tape with the words "any key" placed on the space bar. When I asked him about this, his response was "some of my previous receptionists had difficulty finding the (press) "any key" to continue that a certain software package occassionally emitted when using it". I shook my head understanding what he meant..

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: "Press any key" - true story

      Yup. One of the uses for my labelmaker.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stupid functions required to justify 300-meg driver

    Peeved Rant alert! As per title, I downloaded the latest driver for my display adapter having had no choice but to take the entire 300 megs because obviously everyone want the entire dot-net-based 10-minutes-to-load-up application and 2000 preprogrammed game profiles.

    And an update system that on the one hand sensibly shows you the version numbers but on the other does not explain why those version numbers don't work like regular version numbers even if you count all the dots correctly and 'driver packaging version' bears no relation to anything vaguely numerical even though part of it looks like it might once have been seen near 'driver release version'.

    Or maybe let me select the thing from a list because I have no idea what stupid definition has been used for 'desktop' or 'workstation' and the drop-down selector on the website doesn't work properly half the time and I have the sodding model number right here and if you are protecting me from myself selecting the wrong one then why do I have to click that 'yes I agree' box?

    And the stupid thing it was actually far less pointlessly annoying back in the neolithic card+accelerator days.

    Next up, I have a whine about the WTF 800 megs I kid you not for the motherboard chipset.

  26. CT

    Pivot 45 degrees

    Still more pivot pranks - pivot the screen itself to 45° and move all the desktop icons to a heap in what is now the bottom corner.

  27. Teiwaz

    Powerpoint Sideways

    Funny, I've never considered anything done in Powerpoint to be within the realms of 'import work'.

  28. Efros

    MSDOS/Apple DOS prankage

    A batchfile silently executed on boot to display corrupted messages to the screen with a C: drive failure message, used this frequently to stop weekend use of my PC and the instrumentation it was connected to by arseheads who wanted to play Dungeon and/or Star Trek.

    Best one I saw/heard was someone in the same lab who had setup an Apple IIe with some speech synthesis (yeah it was that long ago) set to scream "Get your Effing hands off me" should anyone touch the wrong key combination to unlock the IIe. Measures taken to prevent budding computer experts (in their own estimation only, in everyone else's they were pillocks) faffing about with some carefully crafted 6502 assembler.

    1. AlbertH

      Re: MSDOS/Apple DOS prankage

      Back in the days of pre-history, when terminal access to a computer was rare, we used to use "GE 635 BASIC PLUS". One of our guys wrote a neat little programme that emulated the "system screen", so "Library" commands would reply with the location of the nearest Public Library, "Run" would be met with "Please WALK in the corridors" and so on. Each command received a smart reply and did nothing. It frequently took users several minutes to realise that they were looking at the output from a programme, rather than at the actual system terminal output!

  29. toughluck

    Oh well, my best was to prevent mice from working

    And not by sellotaping over their sensors, that would be pedestrian (plus it fails most of the time). I used that invisible tape over the middle two connectors in the USB port.

    The mice lit up, appeared to be functional, but they did not transmit any data to the PC. It resulted in several people calling IT because they needed to replace their faulty mice.

    1. raving angry loony

      Re: Oh well, my best was to prevent mice from working

      Technically, they were. Broken that is. If the prank isn't obvious, then it's sabotage, not a prank. And you've wasted the time of the people whom you did it to, AND the time of the IT folks who had to respond to silly shit like this rather than actually get on with more important work, such as making sure the beer fridge in the server room was at the correct temperature for the weekend shift.

      1. toughluck

        Re: Oh well, my best was to prevent mice from working

        It wasn't this year, it was years ago on a Tuesday. IT actually brushed off those calls asking if they checked for everything since it was April fools and most of these problems were pranks. It took a whole five minutes for everybody affected (three people) to fix this which discouraged me from trying to prank an office of IT hobbyists...

  30. Potemkine Silver badge

    I greatly encourage that kind of pranks among the team

    It learns the little padawans to lock their screens and to begin to take security seriously.

  31. AndrueC Silver badge

    Waaaaay back when I was at Polytechnic I discovered that ^S in text would dump the BBC computers we used as terminals back into BASIC. Even better I found the codes to change screen mode. Nothing says 'ha ha!' better than dumping some electronic engineer (programming was only a small part of the syllabus back then) into Mode 2 and BASIC.

    Although if we found someone who wasn't using a password creating the files '*' and '-rf' in their home folder would eventually teach them a valuable lesson.

    For the record I'd like to say that was back in the 1980s when I was young and stupid. I am no longer young :-/

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A while ago... school, when the school's entire complement of twelve BBC Micros was in one room, some friends and I managed to hide all the computers and most of the peripherals in the cupboards and pin a note on the door on local authority headed notepaper, addressed to the school's one IT teacher, informing him that the computers had been repossessed.

    Of course, if he hadn't let us sixth-formers have a key to the room...

    We did own up and put them all back in place before he needed them for teaching, but it was quite a laugh watching his face when he read the note and looked in through the door.

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: A while ago...

      BBC Econet network stunt.

      I wrote a Basic program at school that faked the prompt and intercepted commands, returning some like 'dir' correctly, and returning most with 'almost plausible' error messages and locking out key shortcuts for break etc. The teacher left the room once without logging out and I loaded it on his machine and left it running for his return....


      Unrecognised command


      Loads of entertainment as he got increasingly puzzled and frustrated until he turned the machine off at the back.

  33. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

    I can't believe this worked!

    This article is like that old joke of the lazy[1] virus, that was nothing more than an email asking you to delete all your system files and forward the message to your contacts.

    So Dabbs politely asked his readers to bork their displays themselves, and people did it (me included!!). Awesome

    [1] usually related to some nationality stereotypically portrayed as lazy or dumb.

    1. Mark 85

      There's two types of folks who seem to read El Reg and especially Dabbsy's articles.... those who are skeptical to the point of being paranoid, and those who are intensely curious. Try this rule of thumb for anything from any article you want to try: Do it on someone else's PC.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Try this rule of thumb for anything from any article you want to try: Do it on someone else's PC.

        In true BOFH fashion I would suggest that this is the exact purpose of having colleagues nearby :)

  34. ben kendim

    (In the US) set the VT240 terminal to 50 Hz refresh...

    ... gave them a headache in 15 minutes, they never knew why...

  35. Squeensnex

    Tangentially related

    When text paging was new, a friend of mine was making a presentation when his pager went off with the message "Your fly is open!" A quick check showed his zipper was actually up, and he continued the presentation. A few minutes his pager went off again, this time with the message "Made you look!"

    He never did figure out who sent the pages.

  36. RJFlorida

    "inexplicable aroma of freshly roasted coffee"

    Man you really like to jump to conclusions don't you.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We repaired some anti-theft tags..

    In the early days of anti-theft tagging, they were tinfoil spirals with two holes in which the cashier would place a device that blew a fuse in the design and so broke the resonance loop.

    What does a bored group of service engineers do? Of course, figure out how they work, fix the fuse, then drop a couple in the pockets of site managers. *Days* of fun :)

  38. Benno

    Optical mouse mat

    Anyone remember the Sun (and possibly SGI) optical mouse mats? The ones that were required to be in the correct orientation, lest the mouse action be 90 degrees out. That one could keep people busy for ages...

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Optical mouse mat

      At my polytechnic they used to keep the optical mouse mats locked away in a cupboard because they were pretty reasonable mats for ordinary mice too and used to go missing(*). These were on (IIRC) bog standard '286 machines running some kind of CAD software though, not Sun workstations, and the mice would not work without the mats.

      The Poly as a whole was VAX / VT220 with a very small number of Apollo workstations for the graphics stuff. From memory the engineering department had one room of original PCs (8086) for general use, one room of XTs for teaching, the aforementioned room of 286es (all running DOS) and all other work was expected to be done on the flock of VAXen via the terminals and printed out on the line printer. Special forms had to be signed in order to use the laser printer...


      (*)Not guilty. At the time I was running RiscOS at home on an Archimedes, which was light years ahead of the PCs in the usability stakes. Around that time I also bought my own laser printer. My traditional mouse ran very nicely on a 3M "precise mousing surface" mat which seemed to have a surface made from teeny translucent pyramids, meaning that not only was it quite "grippy" on the ball, but it tended to clean the ball as you worked. Every now and then a quick wipe-down of the surface ensured continued pleasant mousing.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Optical mouse mat

        Ooh, CAD on Apollo workstatons! Been there, early 1990ies. Very nice boxes. But the CAD program (developed by one of the profs and sold by a company he was a partner iin) left a lot to be desired, to put it 1990ies

        1. IanDs

          Re: Optical mouse mat

          We used Apollos too, in fact I think we had the first colour DN660 in the UK -- when Motorola were late delivering the 68000, Apollo built a bit-sliced clone of it out of 2900 series ECL logic. From memory the CPU filled 4 PCBs about 20" square each, in a massive card cage in a box the size of a washing machine that warmed up the office nicely but wasn't what you'd call reliable. Its one redeeming feature was that on top of the card cage was a space exactly the right size for sliding in a pizza to keep it hot ;-)

          And we wrote our own layout tool to run on it, gesture-driven from a tablet like the old Applicons -- it was faster to use than anything commercially available, watching an experienced user drive it was like magic, them scribbling away on a pad while polygons literally flew around the screen...

  39. Ripper38©

    Bless you, Dabbsie!

    Wadayouknow! I pressed Ctrl+Atl+RightArrow on Linux and found it changed workspaces. I pressedCtrl+Atl+UpArrow and it brought up all 4 workspaces... mine's the one with the copy of "Linux for《insert favourite adjective》.

  40. fpx

    No Euro Sign

    For many months I was unable to type the € sign which my German keyboard has assigned to AltGr+E, while @ (AltGr+Q) and Greek µ (AltGr+M) worked fine. I was frustrated and resigned to using "Insert Symbol" from Word's Insert ribbon (starting Word and Copy-Pasting the Euro sign into the desired app if it wasn't Office). Fortunately as an engineer I don't do many invoices.

    By accident I eventually stumbled across the preferences for Avaya's IP telephony app, and noticed that it used AltGr+E as the hotkey to end a call, and of course it intercepted that key combination even if no call was active or if it was just running in the background.

    Speaking of µ, Office thinks it's fun to capitalize the Greek µ to a Latin M if it happens to be at the beginning of a sentence or just after a decimal point. Micrograms to Megatons, just a spell check away!

  41. MontaraMike

    Photo Theives

    The thing I find the most interesting is how a photo of a good friend of mine was used for this article without his permission. WTF I thought the Reg was a reputable outfit.

    1. GloomyTrousers

      Re: Photo Theives

      "Photo By ShutterStock"

  42. 4cAtS

    One step further

    Unscrewing the display from the mount, turning it upside down and then rotating the display 180° using the hot keys is quite good fun too.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Undocumented keystrokes are just a small child away

    My 1 y/o wiped my browser history, bookmarks and passwords with one bash of the keyboard.

    Hence giving her an old PC to play with.

  44. Diogenes

    An older variant of the typography baseline shift

    Sent an auditor insane playing with Advanced Function Printing for the IBM 3800-3. Firstly I moved individual characters in fields around, and wrote a little proggie that intercepted the print stream & moved lines in what was supposed to be a sorted list around into random positions (I was "loaned" a Red book with the internal commands by a friendly IBM SE)

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon