It will never be safe to turn off your computer: Prankster harnesses the power of Windows 95 to torment fellow students

Who, Me? The weekend is over and that means another tale of reader misdeeds to kick-start your Monday with our regular column, Who, Me?

Surprisingly, The Register readership contains a small army of techies who, if they get a bit bored, are ready and willing to punish the unwary.

"Joe" got in touch after last week's LaserJet shenanigans to tell us how he upped the ante thanks to some of the more lax approaches taken by the designers of Windows 95.

Our tale takes place in the fine US state of Maine, while Joe was still in high school. Things were simpler then, and the school's computers needed someone to push the "Off" button after its fleet of Windows 95 desktops had been shut down.

"As a moderate computer nerd," said Joe, "and a bit of a prankster, I was always after ways to mess with people subtly.

"One day while playing with my home machine, I found the file for the 'it is now safe to turn your computer off' message."

Greybeards will remember the logos.sys and logow.sys files that were actually little more than bitmaps informing a user that Windows 95 was shutting down and that it was OK to pull the plug.

Thanks to Microsoft's appalling attempt at obfuscation, "this opened a whole new vector of pranking".

"I created a few different versions of it, with things like 'do you really think it's safe to turn off your computer?', 'it will never be safe to turn off your computer', and my favorite: 'Data save failed'."

The latter, we feel, displays a level of evil and cunning that should have seen Joe elevated into a senior position within one of today's tech giants.

Our man would pitch up with a 3.5" floppy of fun, load up the library computers "and wait for the carnage".

To be fair, some kids didn't even notice, while others just asked for help. "One kid," said Joe, "really freaked out about 'Data save failed'. It didn't matter that he had his work printed out, and saved on a disc that was in his hand, he swore it was all gone at that point."

Ah, happy carefree school days.

Sadly for Joe, the computers were taken out of service for engineers to work out what was going on. "I ended up having to out myself," he told us. "Still worth it."

Despite showing an aptitude for malevolence that should have seen him go far in the software world, Joe ended up in the field of automotive repair, and is now responsible for a fleet of delivery vehicles.

"My punishment," he told us ruefully, "is having to log all my work on a network that is slower than dialup."

Ever made Windows 95 exhort its users to buy a Mac during shut down? Or found yet another way to alarm the unwary? Of course you have, and you should tell Who, Me? all about it. ®

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