back to article Exclusive: Windows for Workgroups terror the Tartan Bandit confesses all to The Register

With the copious behind of the weekend waddling off into the sunset, and only the leaner pickings of the working week to look forward, welcome to our weekly dose of Monday prevarication: Who, Me? This week's japery comes from a person who asked to be known as "Paul", who told El Reg of a moment of national pride that led to …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    FREEEEEEDOM!!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's a long time ago, but didn't changing the Windows desktop on Windows 3.x triggered two lovely side effects:

      - anything graphical was offloaded to the display drivers and most graphics cards at the time were optimized for text rather than large bitmaps and run an an ISA bus (i.e. Trident TVGA's). Drawing a single colour was slow, anything more complex required better hardware.

      - GDI.EXE was a 16-bit app with a 64KB heap. Any background that wasn't just a tiled bitmap used A LOT of the heap space, resulting in "out of memory" errors which dropped you back to DOS.

      So, between expensive hardware upgrades to support the change and less reliability, IT may have had some justification for their witch hunt.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Now the HR director of cultural awareness would demand that everyone had the right to their tartan on the desktop. Then they would be fired (with a huge payoff) and the new director would claim it was insensitive to non-scots and ban tartan, at which point they would be fired (with a huge payoff) .... repeat...

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Giving everyone their own tartan could be a bit expensive, we all have different ones. (It is a bit dubious.)

          1. S4qFBxkFFg

            "we all have different ones"

            Indeed, possibly apocryphal tale below:

            I recall reading about a tourist from the USA browsing one of the more "upmarket" tartan shops (i.e. the items were made of wool, and there wasn't a powerful loudspeaker just outside the entrance pumping "Scotland the Brave", and similar).

            The tourist expressed interest in buying a kilt in "his" tartan, only for the shop assistant to apologise, and start to explain that unfortunately he did not think that the clan Bernowitz had ever got around to designing theirs.

            This was the point where the manager/owner speedily takes control of the customer interaction, apologises for his new-and-still-inexperienced employee, and starts extolling the wonders of the Bernowitz tartan, reminding the customer that many tartans have a "hunting" variant, of which his own is a fine example, and that even if one already owns a kilt, why not go the whole hog and gain the magnificence of wearing a "great kilt"?

            The shop is, of course, prepared to accept dollars - "the customer is always right", after all.

            1. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

              is it a sikh family that owns all the kilt shops in Edinburgh? heard a tale along those lines anyway.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Not all the kilt shops but several tourist gift shops which, being in Edinburgh, sell tartan and kilts.

                The family have their own tartan now as well which is based on the Campbell.

                1. JetSetJim Silver badge
                  Paris Hilton

                  Pfft - Domino's Pizza have their own tartan, even.

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        well the tartan might have been a small tiled bmp ...

        1. NoneSuch Silver badge
          Big Brother

          What's the Statute of Limitations on hacking a police computing device?

          Given the new Espionage law under consideration, I wouldn't put it past them to go after him.

          1. Ted Treen

            The United Kingdom is almost unique in the world in that it has no statute of limitations for any criminal offence tried above magistrate level.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    only cosmetic

    I use this one when users say it looks different.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

    Every time it fired up had it intoning in an ominous voice "This is what happens when demented people play with powerful toys."

    On shut down it would cackle "Thanks for pressing the self destruct button!"

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

      Another good one was finding the file for "It's now safe to turn off your computer." and changing it to "It's not safe to turn off your computer.".

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

        I changed that to the Norton screen which read: "You computer is infected. Please perform a full scan." My colleague spent several hours trying to figure out what was wrong, I asked him several times "if he needed any help". Pride ... I eventually manned up and he had a go at my system ... changing the labels on buttons in taskmgr.exe.

        All good office fun ;-)

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

        On VMS I once redefined $ lo*gout to display "Logouts are currently disabled; try again later." for one of the operators.

        This caused quite a bit of bogglement. However, after having learned of $ eoj he left the alias in place.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Trollface

          Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

          On the same lines, but as a regular user.

          I wrote a little script to clear the screen and display a standard logout screen, but displaying the logged out user as SYSTEM. Then finally $ stop /id=0 so I was indeed logged out.

          Far too long ago to remember if there were any more nuances to the script, but it caused quite a panic.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

            Nothing sophisticated. I used to do support work with a slightly irritating kid who had a slightly snooty class teacher.

            So I used the class PC to record him saying "Hello miss" in an annoyingly cheery way. And yes, made that the start-up sound.

      3. Wisteela

        Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

        Somebody changed one at my college to say "It is now safe to turn off your cucumber"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

      Hmmm. Upvote for the laugh, or downvote for the likelihood you're an incredibly annoying colleague?

      OK, on balance, the former. After all, we're talking about the era of cat fart.wav >> remote:/dev/audio .

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

        Oh, that reminds me of the time we warned management NOT to have meetings in our demo room. In truth, that was because we had systems there that we needed access to, of course.

        We did indeed cat the mic device of one of the Sun pizza boxes to a file, and then played it back to one of the directors after the meeting.

        Did the job :)

        1. 0laf Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

          I changed the sound on my boss' pc in the very early noughties. Can't remember exactly which event I changed but he was on the phone to a particularly posh potential customer when his PC yelled out in Father Jack's dulcet tones, "Hairy Japanese Bastards".

      2. Baldrickk Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

        I would have thought that a cat fart would be a bit weak.

        Maybe something a bit more trumpeting would improve the effect?

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

          You've not met my cat - has some gastro issues that are akin to a brass band audition, at times

          1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

            Anyone who has endured a smelly labrador would shudder to think of one of those automated scent generators - I remember seeing a demo at HP Labs in the early 90's - activated through the transmission of a scent file. Anyone who has experience of labs knows they are frequently silent but deadly. Now tying one of them into a login/out script would be truly evil.

            My brother used to blame the dog routinely - until one day, my mum pointed out that our sister had taken the dog out 2 hours ago and they were still out!

      3. ricardian

        Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

        https://www.soundjay.com/fart-sound-effect.html

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

        momentarily tried to image what a cat fart sounded like, until I engaged my unix brain...

      5. Dr Dan Holdsworth

        Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

        A chap I knew changed the start-up sound on his laptop to "It's Alive!" from Young Frankenstein, using the phrase "We belong dead" as the shutdown sound.

        This is actually following on in a long, long tradition of messing with users' minds. For instance the Message of the Day "Yes means no, and no means yes. Delete all files (Y/N)?" was commonly used to upset users. In a similar vein, back in the days of mainframes with rooms full of terminals, some sysadmins invented a very useful way of enlivening those dull evenings of not very much happening.

        They wrote a root-level script which would choose two active terminal sessions at random, flag up on a display in the admin office which two had been chosen, then use the unix text messaging service to send the message "Message from user1: Hi there, you big hunky darling!" and similar to user2. Apparently many an impromptu meeting took place in the terminal room due to this.

        1. PPK
          Happy

          Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

          1990 - my student year at a video broadcast equipment R&D group. Most of the machines were Sun workstations.

          One day, my boss (Dave) foolishly left his office without logging off. On his return an hour later, it took all of 10 seconds before he called my name and said 'what the bloody hell have you done this time?'

          Every command entered into the command line (vi, ls etc.) would result in Douglas Rain's dulcet tones - 'I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that'.

          Lovely what command aliasing can do!

    3. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

      Mine were "Here we go again" from The Raccoons for start up, and "Just got to get, just got to get right out of here" by Queen for exiting....

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

      I had a friend who would pop round to my house; let himself in and boot up my PC to play games, without even bothering to ask or say "hi".

      I wired the sound output to a 100w poweramp and suitable speakers, jacked the volume to max and changed the start up sound to a recording of a 737 coming in to land...

      '

      '

      '

      and waited.

      .

      .

      .

      .

      I found him under the table in the foetal position.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

        737 land?

        What sort of land?

    5. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

      I missed that one. But loaded the executable of Windows (3.11 or 95, maybe both - it's long since) in a hex editor and searched for clear text strings. And replaced some of those with something "funny" (probably juvenile) - to no consequences, at least not for me.

      But can someone explain me how it was possible to lock down Win3.11? From what I remember we all where admins and could change the desktop background. And much else.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

        This was in the days when you could press cancel at the password dialog box and get in anyway, and of course you could change everything from MS DOS.

    6. VikiAi
      Terminator

      Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

      I've mentioned before that my current work desktop's startup sound is ORAC of Blakes7 saying tartly:

      "State your program requirements. They will be implemented when capacity is available."

      And shutdown, ORAC declaring:

      "I am closing down. I have much to do. You have engaged my circuits on your petty affairs for far too long!"

    7. Trilkhai

      Re: I changed the start up & shut down sounds.

      For a long time, I had my family's PC startup sound set to a cheerful game-host voice announcing, "you have won a fabulous day…chained to this machine!"

      My one nastily juvenile tech moment was when, as a joke, I created a large .wav file consisting of a very loud Macarena sample ("hey, Macarena! Ai, ai") that repeated the "ai, ai" for 20-30 seconds, then put it in a self-extracting .exe that'd replace the AOL 'got mail' sound and sent it to my boyfriend as a prank. I thought it'd just trigger once before he figured out how to fix it, but instead it consistently caused Windows to crash before he could reach his inbox, so he disappeared & reappeared from AIM over-and-over (much to our mutual friends' great amusement) for a good 45 minutes before he figured out how to fix it.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

    The story about win 3.11 wallpaer that aways comes to mind, is that it was customary when your collegue when on holiday to change their computers walpaper. For example, if they were an Aston Villa fan you would change it to the Birmingham City FC crest.

    However this went a bit far when someone changed a collegues wallpaper to a Page 3 girl.

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

      There's also the old trick of changing someone's wallpaper to a screenshot of their usual desktop - before dragging all the icons off the screen (which Win10 appears not to support ☹️).

      1. Casca

        Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

        There is an option to hide all desktop icons

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

          Yeah, but everything else remains functional. Back then, you could iconise Program Manager and drag that off screen as well(!)

          1. Wisteela

            Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

            You couldn't drag it totally off.

        2. VonDutch

          Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

          Screenshot wallpaper, rotate 180 degrees, set as desktop, screen rotation 180 degrees, hide all icons.

          a lot of confusion when the mouse is going the wrong way

          1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

            and a lot of flaming the IT PFY.

            At least its better than people stealing the balls from the mice.

            1. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

              Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

              a favourite way of "reserving" a computer at various educational establishments in the 80s.

          2. VinceH

            Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

            "a lot of confusion when the mouse is going the wrong way"

            Nice one. I've done the screen grab, and hide all the icons and task bar - never thought about the rotation though.

            Another option would be to use a suitably sized screen grab from an entirely different operating system. For completely pointless reasons, I did that to my own machine at one point. (I didn't hide the taskbar because I wasn't playing a prank, and I don't generally have many icons on the desktop.)

            1. PM from Hell
              Coat

              Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

              I think a lot of us ex-mainframe guys used to do that, I think it was a comfort thing

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

            Screenshot wallpaper, rotate 180 degrees, set as desktop, screen rotation 180 degrees, hide all icons.

            Nice! a subtle evolution of the wallpaper screenshot jape

          4. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

            Another way was to "flip" the screenshot such it was "backwards".

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

              Don't forget to swap the L+R mouse buttons...

              There was also a rather nice third-party add-on that allowed you to relocate the Window buttons from the top right to any other corner you wished and even change their design...

              It was a couple of these simple tricks that meant (for some strange reason) why a top end PC was never borrowed from my desk for demo's etc. ...

      2. Serg

        Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

        Totally one of my favourites.

        The other one was the BSOD screensaver. Which reminds me of a story... I did that to a colleague once while he was in holiday, and then forgot about it. I noticed him being increasingly grumpy for the first couple of days when he got back, and I asked what's wrong. He explained that his computer would BSOD a lot, usually while doing nothing, and he just couldn't figure it out. We spent a good 10-15 minutes trying to diagnose it before I actually remembered what I'd done.

        That's how good my pranks are, I even get myself.

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Terminator

          Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

          At $EMPLOYER-1 I once left my computer unlocked, this meant IT popped the Sysinterals BSOD screensaver went on and I learnt not to do it again...

        2. NogginTheNog

          Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

          In my first IT job I set up the BSoD screensaver on the team NT server. Very pleased with myself and used to get amused comments from other IT techies... until the day it BSoDed for real!

          Never used it again as it didn't seem funny any more after the week it took to rebuild..!

      3. OssianScotland Silver badge

        Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

        (which Win10 appears not to support ☹️)

        Easily done through group policy, though

      4. Hans 1 Silver badge

        Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

        Only half the fun if you do not invert both the image and the screen. Even if they manage to work out what is wrong, it is quite hard to undo the "move mouse left moves pointer right and up/down switched" ... unless you knew the Ctrl+Alt+↑ keyboard combi on Windows ... hours of fun!

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

          IIRC it was an Intel display driver that mapped the rotate screen commands to those key combinations. Of course, because using the onboard Intel graphics was the cheapest option, they were used far and wide across businesses and schools.

          Having the ability to rotate the screen is a useful, if somewhat niche, feature, but I never understood why they were enabled by default. Except perhaps to enable pranks.

        2. jfm

          Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

          Inverting the sense of mouse movements isn't nearly as bad as rotating by 90° — mouse up moves cursor left &c.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

      It could also kill remote desktops' usability.

      I once has to support a system in Borneo from the UK via dial-up modem, and somebody had changed the desktop from plain blue to an image and it *literally* took minutes to redraw the screen as it was not as massively compressible as the plain backdrop.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

        I once stupidly set a Win NT screensaver to that 3d pipe thing on a server. It took me nearly two hours over the net from the UK to turn it off in the Paris office as it took so much CPU everything ground to a near halt. I did think I might get flown out there again for another Camembert and baguette fest but no such luck.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

          did you see the teapot though?

      2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

        Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

        The better remote control products automatically disabled the wallpaper and screensavers because of this

      3. LewisRage

        Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

        Had the same when I was supporting random clients EDI systems in the early 2000's. We used PC Anywhere over dialup and because the systems weren't ours we had no control. I got good at making small talk about the kids/pets/holidays on various peoples desktops for the same reason.

        Working in front of full screen Notepad sorted things out to a degree, but I'd still habitually hit minimise all and get caught.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

      Just changing the system font colours to white on a white background was enough to keep me amused.

      1. Spanners Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

        We changed it all to black on black for our victim.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

          "We changed it all to black on black for our victim."

          I remember one guys computer in DOS days had used ANSI.SYS and a prompt with ESC codes to default to red text on a purple background. No, it wasn't a prank, he just preferred it that way. On the plus side (from his point of view) no one else would use his PC.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

            >No, it wasn't a prank, he just preferred it that way.

            There used to be many resources on the Internet that helped people (with dyslexia and/or sight problems) select appropriate colour combinations.

            Not had to deal with such matters since the world moved on from XP, so don't know the extent and ease that Win10 (and other 'major' OS's) support such creative colour schemes.

        2. Soruk

          Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

          > We changed it all to black on black for our victim.

          Enhancement: Add text at the bottom right (but leave space above the task bar) implying that the copy of Windows isn't genuine.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

      I pulled this prank at a former employer. I changed a coworkers wallpaper to a very tiny, tiled image of a vagina. The tiled effect made it almost impossible to see that it was what it was. He kept the wallpaper right up until he figured out what he'd been staring at the entire time. His scream of surprise was utterly priceless.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

        Huh. I, too, have done that exact same thing (in a moment of extreme boredom)

        Anything sufficiently small, then tiled, looks nice and abstract. No one would ever suspect...

        // changed it back to something SFW, anyway.

        // no sense poking the HR dragon.

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

          Upvote for 'Poking the HR dragon'. Will use this repeatedly from now on ;)))

    5. LewisRage

      Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

      I was sent to fix a computer at a car dealership, it was one of the sales guys so setup right in the middle of the sales floor. I sat down and minimised everything where I was presented with an extremely close up and detailed picture of a vulva.

      The guy was stood there and muttered something about it being a prank and he didn't know how to change it back "I just keep everything full screen" which is living dangerously when you have paying customers sat in a chair next to you.

      I changed it back and spoke to their head office who agreed that they needed to pay us to set up a policy to lock down the desktops.

      1. Diogenes

        Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

        When my younger brother was in the Plod , someone changed the wallpaper of one of the Clerks. Backfired spectacularly, clerk faints , falls off chair , off to hospital with concussion. It does get better, said clerk then puts in an EEO claim, gets a AUD 100k payout, and promotion out of that section

        1. queynte

          Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

          Wow.. The mind boggles.. Any idea what they changed it to??

    6. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

      End 90s I changed mine to the Pink Floyd Body Paint photo. Which I simply considered a work of art. Didn't run into too much trouble. Except with one person who, I assume, wasn't much of a Pink Floyd fan...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Coat

        Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

        Would someone who wasn't a pink floss fan recognise their photo?

        I'd recognise the sounds, but probably not anything visual.

    7. HandleAlreadyTaken

      Re: Changing Wallpaper can have career enhancing effects

      A colleague had set his desktop background to a photo of him with his wife, on a bridge. He left the machine unlocked once, so I replaced the photo with a photoshopped version, with his wife removed (the background being foliage, the clone tool did a pretty good job).

      The next day, when he turned on his machine, we all assured him his wife was only gone to do some shopping and will be back soon.

  5. Mage Silver badge

    I'm boring

    I replaced my Android wallpaper with a photo of my real wood physical desktop, after clearing and cleaning it.

    I was thinking of putting the view behind my laptop screen as its wallpaper.

    1. jmch Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I'm boring

      "putting the view behind my laptop screen as its wallpaper"

      transparent screen / augmented reality monitor!!

      1. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

        Re: I'm boring

        heads up display on the cheap. don't let capita hear about this though, they're absolute animals when it comes to cutting costs.

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: I'm boring

      Does that mean you'd have to use Pine as an email client?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I'm boring

        Elm has a much classier grain.

        1. Trevor Gale
          Joke

          Re: I'm boring

          Mutt can pee on any of those old trees...

      2. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Pine

        Sadly still stuck on Thunderbird. It's getting worse as Mozilla "firefoxes" it. Also I had to install a plug-in for import / export. I used to be able to copy the profile directory from Windows to Linux and edit a file to migrate. Doesn't work now. Used to use Eudora. The only value of Outlook seemed to be the non-email aspects such as meetings. Perhaps clue in name, it's really a Calendar/Meeting application that happens to insecurely (on defaults anyway) do email.

        I've tried other email clients.

        1. fredds

          Re: Pine

          Evolution is still being developed, and works on linux and windows (allegedly)

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I'm boring

      "a photo of my real wood physical desktop, after clearing and cleaning it."

      That would have been too drastic for me.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: I'm boring

        I tried that once and found a coal layer.

    4. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: I'm boring

      Every desktop background I have is a solid colour from the bluey-green range.

      Plus there are about four icons on the desktop and everything else is under a categorised and alphabetised start menu (Thanks, Classic Shell!).

      I honestly don't get the reasoning for having a bitmap constantly loaded on the back of the desktop at all times where you only ever see it when it's in the way of reading your damn icons.

      Wallpaper, screensavers, desktop icons, any sounds whatsoever (I know I clicked, my mouse clicked, I don't need the speakers to click too, and whoosh, and whatever other silly noises), side-bars, taskbar icons (except the essential). All disabled.

      Strangely, personal or professional, I just want to run the program I need, have it start, and then use it.

      Don't even get me started on that transparent window junk...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm boring

        After accidentally rebooted a remote server thinking it was I was logged on locally and also use remote tools - I find having my own desktop a nice visual clue of which PC I am controlling.

        Also I prefer my desktop to the boring corporate set by group policy, which I managed to errr.... get round in my own way!

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: I'm boring

          What tool are you using that allows remote reboot/shutdown as an option from the desktop screen without using a CLI to override?

          Get a better tool. Even RDP just removes that option, and you have to "shutdown /r" in a console to make it do anything like that.

          It's a technique I use - a nice red background for the admin users suffices to make things clear that there's danger ahead or you're in the wrong window. Because, obviously, you don't work day-to-day as an admin user, right?

          If only people who worked as administrative users on server-grade hardware remotely (e.g. for customers) could take a second to, say, double-check before they press "Restart Now"...

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

            Re: I'm boring

            You need to work with more servers via RDP. The shutdown-reboot command is NOT removed from the start menu for Server 2012 and higher. As far as I can remember it is the same for Server 2000 up to 2008 R2 - though I am currently not sure for Server 2003.

            Until you activate the full terminalserver capabilities instead of remote administration, that is the time when policies like hiding shutdown and reboot from the star menu kick in.

            As for the background: Red works indeed.

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: I'm boring

              Yes even on my personal PC, admin sees red title bars in windows instead of the default. for the same reason

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: I'm boring

        I'm with you half the way Lee D.

        I can't bear a screen full of icons. (Nor a start menu) but a nice picture in the background is something I do like.

    5. Flightmode

      Re: I'm boring

      When moving desks once, I took a photo of my new desk with all the cables arranged properly and even the monitor stand without the actual screen in place and used that as my desktop wallpaper. It worked out very well as an optical illusion.

      I eventually had to stop using it because I kept talking to a colleague who was accidentally caught in that photo at his desk behind mine even when he wasn't there.

  6. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Lync conferencing and sharing the desktop...

    ... soon teaches you to set the wallpaper to a solid colour.

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Lync conferencing and sharing the desktop...

      Wallpapers should have never been allowed to change from plain black, or maybe 18% gray,

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: plain black, or maybe 18% gray,

        Dark teal.

        Also on XP you had to have an image of the blank background rather than setting colour or the shadow on icon text didn't exist.

        I've now decided to train users to ONLY have mounted drives (local USB or LAN) on the desktop and use a panel (auto-hide) on each of the four edges. Top: Menus, Workspaces, open programs. Bottom: Status, keyboard state, Notifications etc. Left: Icons for local programs often used. Right: Icons for stuff that might need the Internet or LAN; such as mail, puTTY, Chat programs, Browsers, LAN browse, Package manager, Filezilla SFTP

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: plain black, or maybe 18% gray,

          When I move my mouse out of the way so I can see what's on screen clearly the last thing I want is some popup menu then obscuring it.

          Plain black background, subdued colours on screen, properly colour calibrated monitor, nothing at all allowed to provide notifications, popups or other onscreen (or audible) distractions or annoyances.

        2. Martin J Hooper

          Re: plain black, or maybe 18% gray,

          You might want to look at Fences by Stardock - Makes areas of your desktop you can put icons in. They can all shrink up to just the title bar of the Fence.

          Nice way to keep clutter of your desktop even though there are tons of icons on my desktop you wouldn't know it by looking!

      2. tekHedd

        Which blue again?

        Dark grey is better when trying to grab those single-pixel-wide window edges that are popular only with very old window managers and very new OS versions. Or a very dark navy blue, but that doesn't seem to display consistently across systems, making it a poor choice for remoting (as very dark indigo or very dark ocean blue is not at all acceptable.)

  7. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Devil

    I remember

    I was at high school when WFW3.11 should've been long-retired but was all that the IT 'department' could cope with.

    I got very adept at using notepad.exe to edit the win.ini and system.ini files.

    I particularly enjoyed setting the desktop theme to 'hotdog' - just think vomit-inducing mustard yellow.

    1. red floyd

      Re: I remember

      I remember seeing a third party theme called "Way Ugly". Imagine combinations of purple, green, yellow, and orange...

    2. BuckeyeB

      Re: I remember

      I loved hotdog stand

  8. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Childish but satisfying...

    As a pathetic but highly satisfying gesture of colleague-ship, I once rearranged the top row of the keyboard belonging to someone in our office to read "YOUAREBIGTW@"

    I meant it as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Childish but satisfying...

      One of my ex colleagues got rather upset when, coming back from his holiday, the top row of his keyboard read YOUWANKER

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Childish but satisfying...

        ...actually, on reflection, I think we'd made it spell out "DICKBREATH", that being the longest insult we could think of without any repeated letters...

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Childish but satisfying...

          There's a reason to hang onto old or broken keyboards.... gives more letters to use.

          1. VikiAi
            Happy

            Re: Childish but satisfying...

            I recall a post circulating on the internet some years back of an admin jokingly telling a user that if he bought his laptop back for repair one more time, he would give him a black eye.

            True to his word, the next time the laptop came in, it was returned with the beige letter 'I' key swapped out for a black one.

            1. Criggie

              Re: Childish but satisfying...

              I had a number of flakey MS keyboards, all same design but some were beige and some were black. Ended up making one working keyboard with opposite coloured letters vs number row, and so on. Looked quite good. Arrows were black and plastic surround was beige.

    2. qwertyuiop

      Re: Childish but satisfying...

      In a previous working life two members of my team had a friendly rivalry that occasionally wasn't so friendly. They loved playing practical jokes on each other.

      One week colleague A (let's call him John) was on holiday, so colleague B (let's call him Peter) decided as a practical joke to remove all the keycaps from John's PC and replace them in a random order that was nearly correct but not quite. We pointed out that this was perhaps a little foolish as he would be going on leave almost as soon John returned.

      On John's return he had considerable difficulty using his PC; log-on wasn't too difficult due to muscle memory, but anything else caused huge confusion. It took him a while to work out what was wrong nut no time at all to guess who was responsible and vow revenge.

      Fast forward three weeks....

      Patrick has just returned from two weeks' holiday. First morning back he sits down at his PC, examines the keyboard carefully, then looks up at John and observes that it was pretty pathetic joke to just copy what had been done to him.

      He then spends several minutes rearranging his keycaps into the correct order and logs in. Only he doesn't. The login fails. And fails again. A microscopic examination of his keyboard follows, even borrowing mine for comparison. Convinced the keycaps are in the correct place he tries logging-in again and fails again. After five tries he rings the helpdesk to get his account unlocked and gets them to change his password as - clearly - he's forgotten it.

      He tries logging-in yet again...

      ...and fails.

      It took him all morning to realise that his keyboard had been remapped as a Hungarian one

      1. Alien8n

        Re: Childish but satisfying...

        Most pranks at one place I worked at were limited to placing folders on people's desktops with rude names, but phones were where the fun was really had. Anyone left an unlocked phone anywhere near the IT department would soon regret it, unless you were pretty good at remembering where the language settings were or could read Chinese or as often was the case, Turkish.

        A later company and I kidnapped the clip on koalas that a co-worker brought back from Australia, then took a photo of them each day and set it as his desktop background.

        Day 1 showed 5 koalas lined up with paws bound and blindfolds.

        Day 2 had one koala's head photoshopped onto the floor with a red smear under it.

        Day 3 showed 2 koalas performing a sex act on each other (while still bound and blindfolded).

        and so on for the week.

        Best bit was the department head was in on the joke so I knew I wouldn't get into any trouble so long as the koalas were safe.

      2. Solarflare
        Trollface

        Re: Childish but satisfying...

        One week colleague A (let's call him John) was on holiday, so colleague B (let's call him Peter)...

        ...Patrick has just returned from two weeks' holiday

        Who is Patrick??

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Childish but satisfying...

          I think the OP slipped up and gave us the name of one of the culprits.

        2. Justin Case
          Unhappy

          Re: Childish but satisfying...

          Some poor sod caught in the crossfire...

        3. EVP Bronze badge

          Re: Childish but satisfying...

          Patrick == Peter, of course. John and Peter got quite a bit pissed off at OP when he laughed at both of them (each at a time), so the two gentlemen decided to rearrange OP’s keyboard too. He is almost adapted to the new layout now, but not yet completely. He seems to be using Macbook Pro >2015, clue strlen(“Peter”) != strlen(“Patrick”).

      3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Childish but satisfying...

        The keyboards delivered with our Gateway computers had a feature that allowed changes to the keymap*. No need for malicious pranks: sooner or later everyone would accidentally hit the magic key combination that performed a remap.

        * Why?

        1. Killfalcon

          Re: Childish but satisfying...

          Probably so they could sell the same keyboard both sides of the pond, or in the UK, to PC and Mac offices (do Macs still use the American keymap in the UK? They certainly used to, stuff like shift-apostrophe giving double quotes instead of @, which admittedly makes sense).

        2. eionmac

          Re: Childish but satisfying...

          Answer to 'why'. When both English and Russian is in daily use. The user set 'her/his' language of choice before pounding the keyboard used as the only common computer between people in office. $ people - one computer.

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: Childish but satisfying...

            It couldn't really have been to accommodate different keyboard layouts between users. The keys had to be mapped one at a time, so a complete remap would have taken a lot of work, and the keycaps would be all wrong.

            I'd guess it was actually intended for keyboard macros, which were also a thing in old versions of Windows.

      4. MOH

        Re: Childish but satisfying...

        Even worse, he never noticed that his name had been changed to Patrick while he was away

      5. swm Silver badge

        Re: Childish but satisfying...

        In the 1960's on the Dartmouth Time Sharing System all terminal entry was in ASCII. There was a translation from ASCII to a 6-bit character code and another translation table from the 6-bit character code to ASCII. One day, in a moment of boredom, we caused all ASCII 2's to be converted to 3's on input and vice versa. Users would type in programs and print them out but the line numbering (BASIC) had 3's before 2's etc. Childish, I know, but we were college students.

        When we were patching the translation tables we changed the 2's to 3's and then realized we had no 2's we could type in. Second attempt we changed 2's to a's, 3's to 2's, and a's to 3's.

      6. pirxhh

        Re: Childish but satisfying...

        I was really bored once... wrote a (DOS) keyboard driver that randomly introduced spelling errors, but only when typing fast. When the victim tried to troubleshoot, they'd type slowly, so nothing unusual happened. Once they sped up, the errors were back.

        1. David Woodhead
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: Childish but satisfying...

          Oh you bastard. That is the nastiest one I've ever come across, with the possible exception of the program you could invoke in autoexec.bat (in green screen days) which displayed the message "Your hard disc is being cleaned ..." and played the sound of a washing machine spinning up to full speed on the little system speaker.

          I'm very jealous.

          1. Trevor Gale

            Re: Childish but satisfying...

            And then there was the one which on boot came up with the on-screen warning "Water detected in drive A:/, please wait while spinning dry." and the floppy would turn on accompanied by the crude 'water sound effect' based on a toilet flush ending coming from that diddly system speaker!

  9. defiler Silver badge

    The lengths you have to go to...

    Even using Group Policies there are so many hoops you have to jump through to lock down a desktop these days. And then, just when you think you've got it figured out, you realise that users can arbitrarily browse the C drive in Chrome. So you block that, and suddenly a dozen people can't open PDFs from emails because it writes to a temporary file in C: and they have the file association set to Chrome... So then you have to revert them to Adobe Reader (or other).

    I don't believe it's possible to have a usable corporate network and have users literally unable to muck about with it. I think we're pretty close, but even now we find the odd oddity.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: The lengths you have to go to...

      What are you afraid of users doing to the C drive with Chrome?

      1. Killfalcon

        Re: The lengths you have to go to...

        If you can 'arbitrarily' browse C:, I assume that means you can get into Program Files or Syswow or whatever, then delete random bits and bobs. "Sorry boss, computer's down again. I've called helpdesk, popping to lunch early while they try to fix it. You'd think they'd give me one that works!"

        And then there's the ones who just want to 'work smarter', installing random crap because an ad banner told them this is the best way to "delete all virus from youre esktop", or they wanted to write a macro and ExcelFixings.blagspot.co.uk said they should install this addin instead...

        1. defiler Silver badge

          Re: The lengths you have to go to...

          Nah - they can't go around deleting stuff. We do have ACLs and such.

          Of course some applications are so shoddily written that they demand local admin permissions to run (and developers wonder why we get so annoyed at them...), so in that case it's imperative that the user has these things hidden from them. It's not perfect, but sometimes it's the best we can do.

          Also, it stops them trying to save things onto their C drive. That means that everything goes into a file server where it gets two volume shadows a day and a backup overnight (which is duplicated offsite). That makes it our problem if they lose something. By taking away that temptation we save ourselves the headache of somebody losing a file from a system that may only be backed up weekly because it's not data-bearing. I have 4 drives visible for different things, and none of them are local.

          Also, in a multi-user system (XenApp), we don't necessarily want the users to see who else is on that machine (by snooping in the c:\users folder).

          In short, there are a bunch of sort-of-adequate reasons to hide the local drives, but absolutely no reasons to not hide them. And since it's controlled by Group Policy, of course, admin users get to see the local drives or we wouldn't be able to do a whole lot!

          1. Killfalcon

            Re: The lengths you have to go to...

            "Also, in a multi-user system (XenApp), we don't necessarily want the users to see who else is on that machine (by snooping in the c:\users folder)."

            I've done that one myself! Usually because we wanted to restart a machine and didn't want to force-close session without letting the user save their work, but once because of some poor life decisions forcing me to do heavy processing in a user session on Xen box, and I wanted to hog as much CPU as I could...

            1. Hans 1 Silver badge
              Paris Hilton

              Re: The lengths you have to go to...

              taskmgr, anyone ?

              1. defiler Silver badge

                Re: The lengths you have to go to...

                That's blocked too. That's one of the first things to go!

          2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: The lengths you have to go to...

            I'm currently working in an environment where there is no access to C:. This may be OK for people who just do spreadsheets and documents, but the slow access to the network resource is a killer for development work.

            Oddly, the hidden share is accessible, so "net use D: \\localhost\C$ /persistent:yes" solves most problems.

            1. defiler Silver badge

              Re: The lengths you have to go to...

              And that's why Run is removed from our Start menus too! Interesting that you have no C drive but you can use the admin shares, though...

              We have users that break 2.5GB of RAM on Excel, and have problems with Word using Profile Redirection on certain documents, so some users can abuse the systems just as hard as you when they "just do spreadsheets and documents". Not that long ago that that level of resource was used to forecast the weather...

            2. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: The lengths you have to go to...

              Somewhere in my past I worked where the C: was locked away from the file manager. But WORD would let me navigate to it perfectly easily.

    2. Wisteela

      Re: The lengths you have to go to...

      The NT 4 computers at my college had been been ridiculously locked down, yet I could get a command prompt by embedding it into a Word document. Can't remember the EXE name now.

  10. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

    TCP/IP?

    I thought it was all NetBEUI in them thar days? I remember having to install some sort of third party software to get TCP/IP working properly. I believe you could tunnel NetBEUI through TCP/IP somehow, but I mean proper networking.

    1. nichomach

      Re: TCP/IP?

      There were a number of third-party TCP/IP stacks that worked with Windows 3.x and LAN Mangler (Beame & Whiteside leap to mind), but Microsoft did provide a TCP/IP stack for WFW (I believe it was labelled a beta when it shipped, and I don't know if they ever shipped a release version) which worked OK.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: TCP/IP?

        The release version of TCP/IP on WFW3.11 was very good and 32bits. It wasn't installed by default on Win95 originally because NetBeui uses much less ram.

        1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

          Re: TCP/IP?

          Thanks guys. We were on 3.11, then 95 on our laptops. Don't think I ever used WFW. Had to be able to ping, telnet, ftp equipment on customer sites either whilst there or remotely. Win 95 was a right pain.

          1. red floyd

            Re: TCP/IP?

            3.11 WAS WfW. 3.1 was plain Windows.

            1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

              Re: TCP/IP?

              Didn't know that. By the time I was out and about at customer sites I'd have been on 95.

            2. defiler Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: TCP/IP?

              Not entirely. There was Windows for Workgroups 3.1 as well.

              I have a nagging suspicion that there was Windows 3.11 (sans workgroups) too, but I can't find any evidence. It was basically 3.1 with bug fixes, and without the networking component.

              Still, 25 years ago now - I don't suppose there much reason to care!

              1. nichomach

                Re: TCP/IP?

                There definitely was; we had install disks for W 3.11 where I was working at the time - not that we ever used them!

                1. defiler Silver badge

                  Re: TCP/IP?

                  I'm suddenly reassured that I've not quite lost all of my marbles yet!

                  1. Solarflare

                    Re: TCP/IP?

                    Give it time :)

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: TCP/IP?

      Put a Winsock in it....

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: TCP/IP?

        "Put a Winsock in it...."

        Blowing your own Trumpet?

    3. defiler Silver badge

      Re: TCP/IP?

      Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was contracting at a little finance company that would rhyme with "Eh - gone". They were pushing out Windows NT4 at the time to replace all the OS/2 machines, and alongside that they were binning the Token Ring network for 100 base T Ethernet. So far so good, but I got chatting with one of the senior guys there (I was "just a contractor" and therefore left in the dark about most things). He told me that the biggest snag they were hitting was that one of their applications ran on NetBEUI, and most of the office had to use it. There were over 2000 seats in that building. NetBEUI is unroutable. The only reason it had worked in the past is because of the Token Ring. It gave everyone an equal shot at the network, and stayed up under heavy load. Once it went onto Ethernet it just collapsed every time in testing.

      I left before they got that resolved. Wonder whatever happened... Only place I ever worked that actually used NetBEUI, rather than just having it installed because that's what Win95 ran. Everywhere else has been IP/IPX. Even the Win3.11 sites.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: TCP/IP?

        ... they were binning the Token Ring network for 100 base T Ethernet.

        Well, they couldn't have been ALL bad, then. :-)

        // TR was the Devil's network

        // ...whose time had come...and gone.

        // 16Meg TR was the worst.

        1. defiler Silver badge

          Re: TCP/IP?

          I never actually had to lay my hands on that part of it, so I don't bear the battle scars. However it did handle the reckless loads they were putting on it better than Ethernet.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: TCP/IP?

            Networking on WFW was client server

            AFAIR two programs needed to be ran

            NETX

            IPX

            Can't remember much else but that was how mine was connected.

            Login, start Windows.

        2. bobajob12

          Re: TCP/IP?

          That era used freakishly heavy cabling too. You'd have cables about 1cm across connected via 9-pin D shells to the NIC, and woe betide you if you didnt screw the little buggers in tight. And at the other end you had these things called MAUs where the connector was the size of a baby's fist. I had a job at the time that involved a lot of moving PCs and moving the cables was an utterly miserable experience.

          At the time the successor to TR was supposed to be ATM. 155Mbits compared to the measly 10 of Ethernet (and IIRC 100Mbit was still stuck between Fast Ethernet and HP's 100Mbit VG technology). But ethernet was 10x cheaper and worked well enough. The rest is history.

  11. MJI Silver badge

    Swap N & M

    Most confusing pair to swap

    1. Ryan 7

      Re: Swap N & M

      You have to swap them in the registry AND physically for best effect.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I needed to get a users laptop in for an OS update but they kept ignoring me.

    So I renamed the ntldr.dat file.

    They brought the laptop in pretty quick after that.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      The Union Rep

      We used to remove a machine from the domain if we wanted to find a machine that had got magically moved elsewhere on-site & wait for the inevitable "My PC won't connect to the internet scream", ocassionaly we had to resort to editing the boot.ini file.

      Then came the union rep who wouldn't tell us where the machine was as it had his members grievences against the company & didn't want IT accessing\reading it. The fact we could access the files remotely, not that we as contractors gave a flying fuck or that its a company owned resource, anything on it belongs to the company.

      Removed from domain & waited.

      Edited boot.ini & waited presuming he would get his members critical files back.....

      I can only assume the machine turned up sometime after I left & the site leveled.

    2. Montreal Sean

      Ntldr.dat

      I seem to remember doing that as well..access the C$ drive over the network and rename the file.

      Next reboot and the user shows up at the IT office right quick!

  13. Jedit
    Devil

    Newbies beware

    In our office, we have a "lock PC while AFK" policy. People who did not learn to follow it quickly enough would often return to their desk to discover that their display was now upside down. If they didn't know the keyboard shortcut to revert it - and being clueless they usually didn't - then they'd spend a frantic few minutes wondering what had happened before they were invited to step away for a minute so it could be fixed.

    1. Jimboom

      Re: Newbies beware

      Ahh, the old screen flip trick. I still see people facinated to this day when I show them that (after one of their colleagues has flipped it usually, or if they are fat fingered and do it by mistake).

      I recall back in Win98 days when the admin at a company I worked was not aware that all C$ shares were open to all authenticated users by default... which allowed for some fun little photoshopping of the company issued wallpapers as all you had to do was replace the file with one of the same name. Que a friend on mine who got it in the neck for "messing about" with his managers wallpaper and me trying hard to contain my laughter.

    2. OssianScotland Silver badge

      Re: Newbies beware

      Once went on site to find the receptionist had her monitor upside down on her desk (tilt and swivel base in the air, probably with a bowl of petunias on top).

      Looked at the monitor, her, then back at the monitor, so she told me "I did something and the display turned upside down... so I fixed it..." On the one hand, ten out of ten for creative thinking, on the other, minus several million for basic stupidity....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Pint

        Re: Newbies beware

        Petunias? Damn, you had me looking for a hitchhikers reference!

        She sounds far too good to be a receptionist ...

        1. VikiAi
          Happy

          Re: Newbies beware

          There actually is a Guide reference in there.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Newbies beware

            Two I thought.

    3. Montreal Sean

      Re: Newbies beware

      Ah yes!

      The lock the screen when you leave your desk is so ingrained in me that I do it without thinking, even when at home and no one is around...

  14. sandman

    Revenge

    One company I had the pleasure of working for had a particularly unpleasant sales person who hated the IT Department (someone must have told him he couldn't have a new laptop sometime in the past). He particularly hated one member, who to be fair did have an incredibly loud and annoying laugh. While said sales drone was on holiday, we replaced all his Windows sounds with a recording of the laugh. Being technically completely ignorant, he couldn't find out how to remove it. Since his manager and the CEO were in on the joke he couldn't even get any joy by whining to them. Eventually, he had to abase himself and ask us to fix the "problem". Oddly, he still hated the IT mob after that incident...

  15. Camilla Smythe

    Stock Control System

    Company ran one that allowed three concurrent users for the free version and was too tight to pay for a licence. Cue lone zombies walking about the place asking to use other logged in zombies computers or asking them to log out. Somehow one day the company discovers it has six concurrent users and non of them can log out or use the system even if they turn things off and on again. They end up still being logged in and the instances seem to be frozen. The real ones, all three, are running on a computer at the back of the stock room. The others are....

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Stock Control System

      That is really evil I like it.

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Stock Control System

      Sometimes our scientists buy software that has to be used with a dongle (and don't bother getting the licence server[0]); this leads to people running around shouting who's got the X dongle...

      0) Licence servers are the work of the devil, I understand why companies want to use them, but they seem incredibly unreliable. -->

      1. Killfalcon

        Re: Stock Control System

        I once had the joy of having a dongle-based system migrate from serial-port dongles to USB dongles at a slightly different rate to the hardware refresh (which was getting rid of machines with serial ports).

        Upgrading to a licensing server meant I never had to wander around a room checking the back or everyone's PC to see if they had the right ports, though they are sometimes a bit of an eggy-baskety situation! Once the licence server went down and no-one can work at all - the failover machine was working perfectly, but the client machines were configured to check a specific IP and the network folks had built the failover with a different IP to the primary licensing server.

        Once we got that kink out of the system, though, it's been flawless for seven or eight years straight.

      2. defiler Silver badge

        Re: Stock Control System

        Last time I had to use a USB dongle (and it's been a while) it was for a voicemail server. The hardware was on its last legs, so I pointed out to management that for much less than buying a new server I could shore up the VMware system and buy a network->USB device. Axis box, from memory. That way the VM could still see its USB dongle, and I could still vmotion around when required.

        Maybe something worth looking at - save losing the dongles too, because they can stay under lock and key!

        1. Ribfeast

          Re: Stock Control System

          We use AnywhereUSB for this purpose, works well. Has 5 USB ports, and you can send some of them to one server, others to a second server etc.

    3. Killfalcon

      Re: Stock Control System

      ...zombie processes?

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Stock Control System

      We used to have a Vax 780 with 15 or so chip design engineers doing chip designy things on it and someone decided there was enough spare CPU to stick about 60 secretaries doing what passed for word processing in those days. Most of the time it was OK but certain things only launched batch jobs and got less than 1% of the cpu and so took hours rather than the minutes they had previously done. For some reason I had a bit of code that I could get to crash out in supervisor (or whatever VMS speak for that is) mode and I could up my batch job priority to finish asap which would of course leave everyone else cursing for a few minutes and the system managers flailing about while there terminals went to about 0.2baud. My job would finish and everything would return to normal and the system managers would look around the system and find no reason for the problem.

  16. N2 Silver badge

    Aye laddie...

    Those were the days,

    When you could get fired for introducing a virus on a 'non registered' floppy disc or heaven forbid, a registered one!

    Even though your boss refused steadfastly, to deploy any sort of AV software.

    1. Alien8n

      Re: Aye laddie...

      One company I worked at you could get fired for receiving a virus by email. You didn't even have to open it, just receive it. Several of us tried to explain how idiotic that policy was but the IT boss was a egomaniac and refused to back down.

      1. Swarthy
        Angel

        Re: Aye laddie...

        How long before someone e-mailed the boss a virus?

        1. N2 Silver badge

          Re: Aye laddie...

          How long before someone e-mailed the boss a virus?

          Indeed,

          Unfortunately upper management seems far too heavily infected by this sort of twonk attitude.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Aye laddie...

        Send him one!

        Bye bye boss!

  17. Christoph

    On computers running Cromemco's 'Cromix' Unix-like operating system on Z80 machines, there was a command which could change the function of keys. So that for instance pressing the Return key would operate as a backspace.

    This could be particularly effective for someone who knew all the alternate ways of telling the computer to run a command (such as to change the keys back) and could alter all of them except the obscure one which nobody else knew.

  18. Bob Wheeler

    Office pranks

    I spent 30 minutes changing everything that could be changed on a mates WfW PC. The colour scheme, width of the borders, the works. All the settings held in the WIN.INI file. Then changed the file attribute to READ ONLY. Everytime he reset everything, it could not save the settings, but never gave any warning message that the system couldn't write to the INI file.

    The fun lasted a week before I took pity on him.

    Bob (Retd)

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Hotdog Stand... how iconic.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time to dig back to 2015!

    https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/all/2015/04/11/journey_through_the_crystal_maze_in_our_hunt_for_a_spare_cat5/#c_2488025

  22. thePirate

    ABS

    I was a student for a large french telecoms organisation back in 94.

    The company had altered the windows startup image to be a graphic with the words Alcatel Business Systems. The day before I finished, I changed the text to say Alcatel Bordel Systems and updated the login scripts so it would appear on all desktops on next boot up.

    I thought it was a bit of a joke, but the company didn't seem to think so. I didn't find out about it until my tutor told me after the summer break. :)

    1. N2 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: ABS

      Nice one, how the truth hurts!

      I wrote a little Access script once, to change the text title in the db window effectively suggesting some ones right arm was significantly stronger than their left.

      If I remember correctly, it only triggered on 29th of Feb so it took years to discover.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Police forces and wallpaper...

    I used to work in ops for a police force which employed a graphic designer whose signature was a cartoon monkey. Every design would feature the monkey tucked away somewhere unobtrusive, and on one occasion he popped our simian friend on the backseat of a squad car which was part of a collage featuring various aspects of police work (including bobbies on the beat, the police helicopter and said car). This then became the forcewide wallpaper, and it had been in place for six months or so... until one Sunday morning when one of the high-ups spotted it and all hell broke loose. Obviously it couldn't wait another 24 hours so various people were dragged in to sort it out. I never did find out what happened to the graphic designer.

    It didn't help that CHIMPS is a slang term for Community Support Officers (Completely Hopeless In Most Policing Situations)

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pranks

    I remember we had a period of developer team pranks, obviously including unplugging mice etc.

    My colleague went the whole hog with another developer though when he:

    0. Blutacked the mouse to the desk

    1. Unplugged the mouse

    2. Removed the mouse ball

    3. Uninstalled the mouse driver

    Just so we could watch the guy progressively "fix" the problem and find another barrier to a working mouse.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Set yer bouzoukis to malky...

    There was a Certain University where, back in the 90's, the business school had a rather nice network of shiny new machines running Win95 with their c:\ drives shared rw to the world without a password, they were told, they ignored the warning, the wags in the other departments had a field day messing with ini files, wallpapers, default system sound files etc. etc.

    Where the bouzoukis come in...

    At roughly the same time these wags were playing with the Win95 boxes, I was busily faffing around with our Sun workstations, for shits and giggles, I set a Perl script running on one of the Sun workstations which, at varying random intervals depending on time of day, day of week etc, and, importantly, if I wasn't logged in, would play the Zorba's dance music...

    annoying, but not quite annoying enough...

    As I was messing around with networking code at the time, I seriously fiddled with the script late one night, and, within a couple of days, this script, running on an old Sun 3/60, would then randomly trigger off the mass playing of said Zorba's dance on all the Sparcstations dotted around that I had access to...seriously bloody annoying, that midnight outbreak of sillybuggeritis satiated, I promptly forgot about it.

    A couple of months later, as they were going to be doing a bit of work in the labs, I went on holiday for a fortnight..

    Remember what I said above, the script wouldn't trigger if I was logged in?

    The Sun 3/60 was, more or less, my desktop machine, I usually never logged out and left the machine locked when I wasn't around, but as I was on holiday some idiot decided he wanted to use the it, he didn't have admin rights (actually, he didn't have an account on it, I'd removed it as he was/still is (by all accounts) a grade 1 fuckwit who had no need to be anywhere near the machine in the first place), so he rebooted the thing...

    The two weeks of randomised aural torture emanating from multiple Sparcstation internal tinny speakers that they subsequently suffered was their own bloody fault¹...

    No-one had a clue as to how it was happening or how to stop it (short of shutting down all the machines, which they were unwilling to do), but they most definitely knew who was responsible..

    Did I mention, I wasn't anywhere near a phone whilst on holiday?

    ¹ I do however, owe a belated apology to the poor external contractors who were working in the labs at the time...

  26. bpfh Silver badge
    Headmaster

    32 bit file access?

    Those were the days of FAT16, 8+3 naming, 32 kilobyte clusters and 255 files in the root directory. And FAT12 on diskettes if my age addled brain serves me correctly.

  27. Daedalus Silver badge

    Multiple Personality Syndrome

    It felt brilliant at the time, but was probably common knowledge in some quarters.

    I refer to the trick I discovered for booting Windows 3.x with different personalities on the same PC.

    You will have heard of the "Windows directory". Perhaps you haven't come across the fact that as far as Windoze was concerned, the "Windows directory" was the directory containing WIN.INI, not the one containing win.exe. Sooooooo, having two kids and one PC (soon thereafter fixed with visits to the PC recycler) I did some jiggery-pokery with DOS boot disks and some creative command line stuff, and each kid could have their own settings, wallpaper etc. while leaving Dad's settings alone.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The story

    Anon for obvious reasons.

    In the 90s and in college being taught Pascal, really enjoyed it at the time, would carry on studying it while at home in evenings. Taught (more on that later) myself how to take what was written in DOS and save to a file. Ooo, fun. Seemed advanced for me at the time. Then it came to me. So many people would turn on the PCs and leave them on the C drive and type "login" then enter their details before realising they hadn't changed to the network drive first, so the login program didn't work as it wasn't on C.

    I think you know where this is going. So I created a Pascal program and called it login.exe and stuck it on the root of C. It would take their user name and password and stick it on the root of C in a file called something like assignment.doc as people would also leave their assignments all over the PCs drive. Most wondered why the login program wasn't working, mostly not noticing the password wasn't starred out like the real program (I hadn't worked out how to code that) and just switch to the network drive.

    Anyway. The reason I created it? To wreck the place? No. To do nasty stuff with the user details I'd got? No. Just pure curiosity to see if I could get the program to work and see if I could actually get some login details. I was never that good a programmer, this made me feel like I knew what I was doing.

    I remember one login password to this day, "masterofpuppets". I used it, IT WORKED! I stayed on for about 30 seconds before logging the user off and that was it. I told 3 "friends" on the course and they were amazed (none of us were that good at programming). They watched as we logged in with the masteofpuppets account.

    Anyway. I told them NEVER abuse it. It was just a bit of fun to see if I could get this code to actually work. "If any of you abuse it and get caught then you don't talk. Its you're own fault". Luckily the fateful day I was bunking off and said idiots got caught "resetting" PCs. The rule had come into place that if you were caught pressing the reset button on the PCs when the lecturer was near, then you must of been up to no good. They got pulled up because one said idiot had been using a basic cartoon animation program that was on the PCs to create stupid, offensive cartoons about some of the lecturers and students and said idiot was caught with it on his floppy. I can't remember the exact details but they also then got questioned about the login.exe program. I think one of them may have had it on his floppy disc.

    They were all interviewed over it then the whole year had a meeting in the hall. Pointing out the presence of the rogue login program was an illegal act under the computer misuse act (maybe the shit security back then didn't help their case). Anyway. We were then told (I already found this out) that 2 of the "friends" had be kicked out of the college and the 3rd one suspend for a week or two. They never did tell anyone that I'd created the program. They said in their interviews (questioning) they were told "Tell us who created the login program if you know. It was very well written." I told them they are fishing. It wasn't well written. Why? Because it was out of the fucking Pascal help file, that's where I got pretty much all the code from. I just had to adapt it for their environment.

    And that was it. It all went quiet after that and we kept our heads down. About a year later I found a very basic encryption routine for Pascal. One of the flaws with the login.exe was when it wrote the .doc file, it was all in plain text. So open it and it's obvious what it is. With the encryption I added, it would encrypt the assignment.doc file. You'd take it home and unencrypt it later. All the encryption did was roughly take the ASCII value and add 20, then write the result back to the file. Reverse it for the decryption. But if any of the network engineers found the file, they'd just think it was a Word doc that yet another student left on the machines, so would just delete it. However, I never did use it again in college.

    Another year passes and mentioned the whole thing to my cousin who was at Leeds uni training to be a doctor. He said they used a similar login system at Leeds Uni, could he have it. I stupidly said I'll adapt it and now it has the basic encryption it will be harder to spot. Never heard anything after I gave it to him. Never knew if he used it or not. He eventually became a qualified doctor so if he did use it, he clearly never got caught with it.

    And there's the old story. Maybe more serious than changing the background image in Windows 3.11 but still a lot of fuss at the time over nothing. However now I'm more deeper into security back then, I can now see the seriousness of it. They obviously didn't know if it was being used maliciously or not or where the login.exe file had come from. Before that we'd been hit with the FORM virus so I guess the appearance of the rogue login file gave them another headache.

  29. mrdalliard
    Happy

    Fun and games....

    I remember working for a company called Seagram in the late nineties. They decided on a policy where you weren't allowed to change any settings on your PC whatsoever, including the wallpaper. We all had our wallpaper set to the "Seagram" coat of arms. When I logged in each day, I'd routinely change it. Because I changed the settings, a particular tech support drone who felt it was her need to enforce this would tell me off each morning as I started to work. My old wallpaper would get removed from the PC overnight and reset to Seagram's corporate standard.

    So, one night I decided to keep the coat of arms, but using paint.exe, I rearranged the letters of the company name and came up with the nice anagram of "Arsemag", instead of Seagram.

    The following morning, the drone just said to me, "You're not funny, you know". I never had the settings reset again.

  30. steviebuk Silver badge

    Bluejacking

    Bluejacking (different to Bluesnarfing) we always used as harmless fun. I say we, there was a website for it back in the early 00s for the "hits" :)

    I have two specific memories. One was being in town between a row of shops and sniffing for Bluetooth devices. Found a printer, assumed it must of been in one of the shops very close by. Either the bank or WHSmith. I sent a message to it so it would print it out. I oddly never sent any swear words. Much like I must of be one of the very few who used to go into WHSmith in the 80s and type 10 Print "Hello" 20 GOTO 10 and NEVER put anything profane :) I was very innocent back then.

    The best Bluejacking incident was on the Isle of Wight ferry. Because the distance for picking up devices was low I scanned the area near me. Only found one device and there was only one guy in the area. On the sly I took a photo of him, then via Bluejacking sent it to him then quickly walked off :) I never knew if he looked at the message then looked around to see who sent it :) I could of just quickly moved but kept him in view. Oh well, was still fun.

  31. steviebuk Silver badge

    The little spiders

    I'm hoping someone remembers the screensaver or program from the 90s. At college and we had Windows 3.11 for workgroups. I got the program from a magazine floppy disk. It either was a screensaver, acted like one or was just a shareware time waster app.

    Anyway. You'd set it up and after a set time it would kick in and loads of tiny spiders would start eating the screen. I'd set it on the machines in the study room. Was a bit of a dick move really because everyone used those computers not just IT people. But just move the mouse and it stops but so many didn't realise. Was in the room once when a student was typing her assignment and it kicked in. She panicked thinking she was losing her work and I kept quiet. I feel like a cunt now. But all she had to do, which she eventually discovered, was move the mouse.

  32. Wisteela
    Happy

    Oh yes, fun with .ini files. Those were the days. And really like that tartan wallpaper too.

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