Frogs and Vim

Young frog in a library working on a computer, digital artJan 30, 2024 3 min readby Daniel Nagy

This is a story about a prank I pulled on one of my classmates in CS.

I had a friend from class that liked to read books. One day I asked them for some reading recommendations. They gave me a list and on that list was a short story called The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. So I read it and let's just say that is time that I will never get back 😄.

In a subsequent class we were given access to the university's linux server. Everyone in the class received an email from the server administrator informing us that a user account had been created for us and that our password was our student PID. I was a little shocked when I read this because our PIDs were public domain. If you knew another student's PID then you could log into their account. It wasn't very difficult to find a student's PID.

I had to capitalize on this oversight somehow. I thought it would be fun to log into another student's account and pull some kind of prank. But what could I do? I could change their password so they couldn't log in but that seemed excessive. I didn't want to inconvenience them too much. After thinking for a bit I came up with an idea. How funny would it be if every time my friend logged into their account the terminal read The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County?

This seemed like the perfect prank. It was bizarre enough that they would know they're being pranked and, given the context, they would likely suspect that I was behind it. So I logged into my friend's account and copied the story to a file. I then edited their bash_profile to open the file immediately after login. But I did't just simply cat the file to stdout. Instead I opened the file using vim.

The prank was successful. My friend had never used vim before so they were very confused. Getting locked in vim is a rite of passage for any software engineer. I hope you enjoyed reading my story. I can't say that I would recommend reading The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.


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