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Top 10 (Mostly) Harmless Geek Pranks

March 31, 2012

Top 10 (Mostly) Harmless Geek PranksBeing a geek amongst the non-technical has the advantage of making you seem like a wizard, and your magical computer skills can come in handy on April Fools’ Day. Here are our top 10 favorite (mostly) harmless geek pranks for a fun, tech-savvy April Fools’ Day.

10. Turn the Internet Upside Down

Top 10 (Mostly) Harmless Geek PranksAlthough it’s a prank that’s a bit obvious and likely won’t fool anybody who’s aware of what day it is, a fun and harmless choice is to literally turn someone’s internet upside down. If you’ve ever edited IP tables this won’t be a particularly difficult operation. All you have to do is redirect your victim’s traffic using the instructions over at Upside-Down-Ternet. With everything in place, your victim’s web browser will display every site in reverse.

9. The Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) Screensaver

The BSOD Screensaver is a classic geek prank that loads a fake Windows error screen to trick the viewer into thinking their computer just experienced a major crash. The user can even enter commands and interact with it. This is likely to cause a bit of panic, and can be especially fun if you’re the victim’s go-to tech support person. They’ll call you up for help and you’ll get to resolve the issue with two simple words: April Fools’.

6. Trick Your Friends and Coworkers into Talking to the Printer

If you’re actually stuck at work on April Fool’s Day, make the best of the situation by tricking your coworkers into talking to the printer. These realistic upgrade notices make it look like the printer has voice commands. Readers will start to recite the commands and get absolutely nowhere while you watch and enjoy from afar.

7. Control a Computer from Afar

Top 10 (Mostly) Harmless Geek PranksWhen friends need computer help, I often help them over VNC. Whether we’re in the same room or not, it generally freaks them out to see their computer moving around without their control. If people get freaked out when they know what’s going on, imagine how they’d respond if they didn’t expect the computer to suddenly start using itself. Controlling another machine on the same local network is very easy. All you need is to set up a VNC server on that machine and connect to it from your own laptop or desktop. Using VNC with Windows requires a little bit of setup, but it mainly involves installing a VNC client and server like TightVNC. Macs can just use OS X’s built-in screen sharing feature. To turn it on, open up System Preferences and choose the Sharing section. Turn on Screen Sharing and then add yourself as a user. Alternatively you can click the Computer Settings button and enter a VNC password so you can access the computer with only that password. Either way, when you’re done you can just go into the Finder on your computer and press Command+K. From there, type in vnc:// plus the IP address of your victim’s computer. That will load their screen and you might just be able to fool them that a ghost has possessed their computer. If they watched PBS in the early 90s, they might have a reason to seriously believe that.

6. Enable Dvorak Keyboard Support

Most of us are used to the QWERTY keyboard layout, but the Dvorak Keyboard was designed to try and make typing faster. Some people swear by it, but generally they like to have a keyboard that actually represents the location of the Dvorak layout. If you were to turn this layout on with a normal QWERTY keyboard connected, pressing most keys would not produce the expected result. ZDNet offers up some good instructions on how to enable Dvorak support on Windows so you can make the target of your prank wonder why their keyboard seems to have lost its mind.

(via Ed Bott)

5. Commandeer a Television Set with a Remote Jammer

Top 10 (Mostly) Harmless Geek PranksWant to control just about any TV with one, all-powerful remote? The Ninja Remote is capable of controlling practically any television without the need for prior configuration. It works by quickly blasting practically every remote code in the book so your commands will work on any infrared device that receives them. On top of that, it can bomb a television and cause it to randomly change channels and volume for several minutes. Finally, you can even jam other remotes from functioning so you’re in complete control. It’ll cost you $30, but you’ll be able to reuse the prank on several people all day long.

4. The Rapid Toilet Paper Dispenser

Top 10 (Mostly) Harmless Geek Pranks This toilet paper overdispenser is hard not to love even if you’re the butt of the joke. It’s just really funny to watch, and it’s hard not to feel flattered when someone puts that much effort into adding a crazy motor to your TP roll. If you want to show your DIY prowess and pull a great prank at the same time, just follow this Instructables post and learn how to pull it off.

3. Install the Troll Face Inside Someone’s Monitor

Top 10 (Mostly) Harmless Geek Pranks

While it’s no simple feat, installing the troll face inside someone’s monitor will supply you with pranking joy that’s pretty much equivalent to the effort you put in to the prank itself. As you can see from the video to the left, you’ll have to do a bit of work to take your victim’s monitor apart and install a lightly transparent print out of the troll face image, but once you’ve got it in there your victim will be wondering how it got there and how to get it out. If the troll face isn’t your style, this prank works just as well with any image. If you know something that will creep out and confound your victim more than the troll face, by all means use it instead.

2. Use Text Expansion to Replace Common Words

Top 10 (Mostly) Harmless Geek PranksIf you’re not familiar with text expansion, it’s a term for a tool that lets you type a shortcut (e.g. “phone#”) that will expand to a different and often larger block of text (e.g. 323-555-1234). Text expansion apps work with entries called snippets, which include the word you type and the text it expands to. As a prank, you can enter common words as shortcut. For example, if your friend’s name was Harold you could enter a shortcut that expands Harold to the word Dumbass. (My apologies to any Harolds out there—I’m sure you’re all beautiful, smart people deserving of all the love in the world.) It’s a very simple trick to play and you can be as creative and detailed as you want. You can also be as appropriate or vulgar as your relationship with the victim dictates, making it a safe prank for most everyone. If you want to try this prank but need a recommendation for text expansion software, check out our top picks for Windows and OS X. You can even do it on an Android or iOS device.

1. Spoof Texting

Top 10 (Mostly) Harmless Geek PranksImagine if someone your best friend hates ended up sending them a text message to confess their undying love. That probably wouldn’t actually happen, but with text spoofing you can make it look like it did. Text spoofing is an incredibly simple yet effective prank that lets you send a text message that appears to come from any number you want. It’s not hard to think of many ways you could freak out a friend or family member with a spoofed text, so it can be a lot of fun on April Fools’ Day. That said, don’t go crazy. You don’t want to actually cause real trouble for anyone and that is easy to do when you can put any words in practically anyone’s mouth. When the person receiving the spoof text replies, it’ll actually go back to the real person. This is a great trick, but use it carefully. With great power comes great responsibility, and all that.

So how do you actually spoof a text message? There are a number of services to help you out. The one I tried was called SpoofTexting, which is a hack for jailbroken iPhones. It worked very well and sufficiently creeped out a couple of my friends. If you don’t have a jailbroken iPhone, you can send spoofed texts through your browser using SneakSMS. Generally these services cost money to send a text, but it isn’t terribly expensive to buy a credit or two for the occasion. There are also options for earning free credits, so you can avoid paying if you’re willing to do a little work.

Photo by Marc Dietrich.


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