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2000 Newspaper Press


While IT pros dream of developing the next big e-thing, R J’s busy developing the next badass e-gag.

Case Study: A bad day at work
You log on to your computer and as the Desktop comes on, you notice a folder that wasn’t there before. And guess what? It’s called Company Promotions Plan (2001-2002) and it’s sitting right there, waiting for you to see if your name is in it.

Quickly looking around, you click on it. However, even before you can scream “F1”, a Windows dialogue box appears, telling you how you just deleted your entire hard disk - that too successfully.

After helplessly watching your files and documents apparently vanish into nothingness, a small screen comes on, telling you that it was only a joke - some smart aleck colleague just pulled a fast one.

Gaggin’ ’em silly

Nice to know that there are folks with enough sense of humour to run a business on. Meet R J of RJL Software, the only IT company in the world that develops killer pranks like Fake Deletes/Formats, Backward Mouse, Stealthy Screensaver changer and the like.

From sisters to systems
indya.com: What made you take to gag designing? It's a pretty exclusive profession, isn't it? Were you fond of pranks as a kid?

RJ: My childhood was rather normal. Because I have three sisters, I always had a "girl" to play a trick on. Throughout grade school and high school I was labelled the class clown and jokester.

It wasn’t until our high school was equipped with computers (ancient 486 DX), did I earn the hacker title. I did break into the computer teacher’s grade database and changed all of the test grades to A+’s.

Developing pranks and gags is something of an oddity, it takes a very open minded individual to be able to see the big picture of the prank being developed.

indya.com: Which came first -gags or customized software?

RJ: Back in ’96 I created an application called Black Screen and uploaded to my personal website. Black Screen was introduced as a security program that would lock your Windows desktop by displaying a screen capture of the desktop, but not allowing anything else to work.

It was an overnight success. I received hundreds of emails telling me how people copied it on to their friends’ machines to play a prank. Then I did custom development projects for companies worldwide and later created my first “official” prank - the Fake Delete. So I guess you could say that custom software came first.

indya.com: How do you develop a gag? And does it involve a moral/ethical regime, which sets limits to the extent you can go?

RJ: Coming up with the idea for a prank is the most difficult part. We brainstorm for ideas that’ll be popular among the general public. There’ve been good ideas, but many deal with those areas of Windows that only ¼th of everyday users even know about.

Some of our more serious pranks are exclusive to our CD-ROM, Fool’s Tools - a collection of classic computer pranks (such as Backwards Mouse, Blue Screen of Death, Random Farter and Mouse Mayhem; For details, go to: www.rjlsoftware.com/cd )

Designing how the prank is going to freak someone out is one aspect, but letting them know it was only a joke is another. The best solution we have found is a screen informing them it was a gag.

We have many policies in place for any pranks that we create. It must be a stand-alone (not require any external files). It must not write anything to the registry or hard drive. Also, it must not need an installer and should always be easy to stop. These policies help RJL Software’s pranks become the most widely used gag software in the world.

Pranks as e-marketing tools!
indya.com: How many other IT companies do you know of that are making gags? And do you make money from these gags alone? Or does the money come more from the customised packages you make?

RJ: As far as we know there are no other companies that do IT software and pranks. There is also no other company that produces the range of software that we do. We have truly discovered a niche market.

We designed and developed ComputerPranks.com throughout 1999, and launched it in August. As you found, that website is aimed to be the one-stop shop for computer related humour. Moving forward, we see our ComputerPranks.com website as an archive for everyone’s computer pranks and RJLSoftware.com as a developer of IT and prank software.

RJL Software creates all of the pranks and gags for free, so there is no money coming from our pranks. We strive to give users the tools to make computer work enjoyable. As mentioned, we do have a CD-ROM of pranks for sale. However, the profit from this type of venture is minimal.

Our main revenue is from consulting and our shrink-wrapped IT software sales. We also earn revenue from our website hosting and design. The pranks and gags we create is just a way to attract visitors to the site to inform them of the other product and services we offer. The prank software has become our #1 source for online marketing.

indya.com: What'd be a dream gag for the RJL folks?

RJ: We don’t really have a dream gag. We’d like to develop more involved pranks that cause user suffering on a different level, for instance a Remote Internet Prank. It’s something that’d allow the users to control actions or tasks on another machine through the Internet.

However, this type of gag would be considered a virus and we aren’t in that industry. We do have several TCP/IP network pranks that allow remote control of mouse movements and program launching. But that fun software is for internal use only.

indya.com: Don't you infringe copyrights when you tailor Windows’ dialogue boxes? And do you get hate e-Mail often?

RJ: There’s no copyright on the dialog boxes that appear within Windows. The Windows operating system itself is copyrighted, but we are only mocking up the screens or dialogues that appear.

Luckily, we’ve never been attacked by any outraged user, and we are keeping our fingers crossed. Hate e-Mail is an every day occurrence for us; we get between 10 and 20 hate e-Mails every day. Most of the mail is from confused end users who received our software via e-Mail from a friend or an anonymous user. These outraged users assume that we have magically sent our software to them in a plot to ruin their day.

Made-to-order crazy!
indya.com: Customisation. What kind of stuff do you usually do? How do you go about the customizing process and how much does it cost?

RJ: Some 99 per cent of our customisation are for companies who want a solution to problems within their organisation. However, we have done several odd requests:

Pioneer Electronics - created a custom orbiting screen saver for their high-end plasma flat screen display. This screen saver sent proprietary command to the COM port to issue instructions to the flat screen.

Compaq Computers - created a custom installation solution for their internal employees. This solution was needed so it would prevent cancellation and deletion of this install.

Motorola - created a custom version of our Message Manager product for employees performing daily tasks for their company Intranet.

Our custom software development prices range from $100-150/hour depending on the complexity and technology used on the project. We also do virtual website hosting from our Internet web servers, and website design.

Arnab Ray Ghatak

You can download your own free set of e-pranks at : http://www.rjlsoftware.com/