There's been no shortage of April Fools' Day pranks in the tech world this year, and the Linux community is no exception.
It was still Thursday night, in fact, when I began to receive reports of an exciting merger that had just been announced by five of the major Linux distributions.
"We are pleased to announce the birth of the Canterbury distribution," began the announcement on the Debian site. "Canterbury is a merge of the efforts of the community distributions formerly known as Debian, Gentoo, Grml, openSUSE and Arch Linux to produce a really unified effort and be able to stand up in a combined effort against proprietary operating systems, to show off that the Free Software community is actually able to work together for a common goal instead of creating more diversity."
The resulting Canterbury distribution, it went on, "will be as technologically simple as Arch, as stable as Debian, malleable as Gentoo, have a solid Live framework as Grml, and be as open minded as openSUSE."
Across the Web the initial gasps of disbelief were soon replaced by LOLs, of course, but there's no doubt the prank was a good one. Are there Linux fans in your life in need of a little loosening up? Or are you a Linux fan yourself and looking to have a little fun? Here are a few pranks you might try.
1. 'Switch' a Linux PC to Windows
This is always my favorite prank for this time of year because of the horror it tends to elicit in its Linux-using victims. A few years ago there was a version that made Ubuntu 9.04's GNOME look like XP, but today there's an updated equivalent for Ubuntu 10.04 that produces the appearance of Windows 7. Imagine their surprise when they find themselves suddenly catapulted into a Windows world! The fun just doesn't get any better.
2. 'Swap' Office Software
In a similar vein, fans of free and open source software tend not to use Microsoft Office for their productivity software needs, so that's another great way to mess with their minds a little. A fun trick is to swap the splash screen on OpenOffice.org, for instance, with a trick one that makes it look like Microsoft's product is launching instead. Bwahahaha! They'll never know what hit them.
3. Tamper with Autocorrect
No matter which office software they're using -- hopefully by now it's LibreOffice -- you can always get a laugh by tampering with the word processor's autocorrect feature. Why not replace all instances of "windows" with "Linux," for example?
4. Blue Screen of Death Screensaver
To further remind Windows users of why they should switch to Linux, there's also the ever-popular Blue Screen of Death Screensaver. Slip it onto your victim's computer and then sit back and wait for the groans of agony! In no time at all they'll be begging you to help them install Ubuntu instead.
5. Mess with Their Desktop
Always fun for users of either operating system is the old trick of taking a screen shot of the user's desktop, packing all their icons into a single folder (or temporarily disabling them) and then setting the screen shot as their desktop background. Hours of entertainment are in store for them -- and you -- as they try in vain to click on those static icons!
6. 'Do Not Fool' Add-on
Finally, once you begin to tire of the merciless manipulation, you may want to alert your victims on Linux and Windows alike to Mozilla's brand-new "Do Not Fool" add-on for Firefox. Next year, maybe they'll be better prepared.