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April Fools!

Apr 01, 1999, 17:15 (6 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dave Whitinger)

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By Dave Whitinger

Last April 1st, I decided that April Fool's Day had finally gotten out of hand, and was approaching ridiculousness. I was wrong. Last year's celebration was merely a mild smattering of short, obvious falsehoods. Today, I realized that when you combine the sheer power of cooperative development with a holiday of fooling your colleagues, you get some very convincing hoaxes.

For history's sake, here is an outline of the more interesting April Fool's Day hoaxes pulled today:

Most original: Humorix

Humorix noted that they intended to make their website appear to be hacked, but then they turned around and alleged that indeed they were hacked by someone else who did the job for them. The idea of a nested April Fool's Day hoax hit me as wildly humorous.

Least convincing: Salon Magazine

Salon Magazine published a ludricous story about the future plans of the major free software projects.

Scariest, and would-be most convincing: Linux Riots

Linux Riots turn violent when a Linux group staged a demonstration in front of the Silicon Valley Microsoft office.

Microsoft jokes: Anonymous Person and Fairfax IT

Late last night, an anonymous reader contributed a press release, stating that Microsoft announces MS-Linux

Fairfax IT says Linus will begin working for Microsoft, heading up a division to replace Windows 2000 with a flavor of Linux.

The Right Idea, but not very convincing: Linus moves to Moscow, MetaLab shuts down Linux archives

Linus Torvalds will move to Moscow, quitting his job in Transmeta to develop a Linux compatible OS intended to run on the E2K processor from Elbrus International.

The MetaLab website contained the following message:

NOTICE: Due to Linus Torvald's imminent departure from the US and the upcoming release of Windows 2000, we will begin systematically deleting our entire Linux archive over the next week and replace it with a new mirror of www.download.com. Download all the free software you can now before it's all gone!

Joke with a victim: Freshmeat.de

Is this a hoax? Is it real? Half-truth or full-false? Scoop (maintainer of Freshmeat) announced today his frustration that some schmuck in Germany had registered the trademark "Freshmeat" and "Slashdot", and had registered the domains "freshmeat.de" and "slashdot.de". Looks like someone else was pulling a trick on Scoop, or is there a more sinister design?

Winner: Segfault, UserFriendly, and BeDope get shut down

This particular prank was extremely well done, because it spanned across multiple sites and was kept nice and quiet until the prank was revealed as the hoax that it was. Starting a few days ago, rumors were reaching my mailbox about possible legal action being taken against these well-known community websites. This morning, I was alarmed to learn that the litigation had escalated to the point that these sites were taken off-line. A blue-ribbon campaign had even begun, although it has now been pulled (probably out of embarrassment for being "had" by this trick).

Bravo to the brains behind these sites. They smartly pulled one over on half of the Linux community.

As a journalist, the biggest challenge for me this year was sifting through all the news items that were contributed to us, making decisions on what to post, what might be real, what might be false... Next year maybe we'll just shut down the site for that 24 hour period. :-)