What modifications can I make to my work PC to make other people hate using it?
March 15, 2006 1:58 PM   Subscribe

What modifications can I make to my work PC to make other people hate using it?

I'm looking for changes I can make that I'll get used to after a few hours, but will only serve to piss other people in my office off. E.g.,

* Installing a laser optical mouse that has to be lifted inches off the desk when being reset
* Setting the mouse to require an unusually fast double-click
* Turning on "focus follows mouse"
* Setting the keyboard to DVORAK
posted by skryche to Computers & Internet (50 answers total)
The combination of ergonomic keyboard and trackball works pretty well for me.
posted by box at 2:00 PM on March 15, 2006

Set a scheduled task to remind you to take your meds every 30 minutes.
posted by bondcliff at 2:01 PM on March 15, 2006

set the screensaver to password-lock after 5 minutes. then they can't use it.
posted by jpeacock at 2:04 PM on March 15, 2006

Change the keyboard layout to Dvorak.
posted by kindall at 2:04 PM on March 15, 2006

Reverse the left and right mouse click. The easy way around it is to surf with your left hand, you get used to it pretty fast.
posted by furtive at 2:04 PM on March 15, 2006

Which you already said, but I do type Dvorak so I thought I'd confirm that it works really well. ;)
posted by kindall at 2:04 PM on March 15, 2006

Oh, put your Taskbar at the top of the screen or (ugh) on the left or right. Rediculous fonts are good too, Nothing looks more professional than comic sans serif or you could leave the resolution at 640x480 all the time. Animated cursors always drive me nuts.
posted by furtive at 2:06 PM on March 15, 2006

Even better, put Dvorak on and use Das Keyboard -- a keyboard with blank keys. If your cow-orkers are not touch typists, you don't even have to go the Dvorak route, as long as YOU either touch type or are willing to learn.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:10 PM on March 15, 2006

Alternative shells, such as bb4win or xoblite totally work for me. They take a bit longer of getting used to/learning/customizing but then no one has any idea how to use your machine - and in many ways I prefer them to the default shell.

My windows machine running xoblite just presents a blank black screen with a mouse cursor to the interested user.
posted by 31d1 at 2:10 PM on March 15, 2006

Little things like moving the taskbar to one side of the screen, setting it to autohide, turning the mouse-trails to the maximum, setting a password-protected screensaver with the minimum timeout (1min?), turning the keyboard repeat delay right down and the repeat speed right up. Whenever you leave the computer, unplug the keyboard and mouse. If you could get used to it, flipping the left and right mousebuttons would be inspired.
posted by matthewr at 2:11 PM on March 15, 2006

I wonder if there is a program out there that will shift the axes of your mouse movement 90 degrees. You could just twist the mouse to use it (makes clicking a bit tricky perhaps) relatively normally, but I bet they'd never figure it out.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:12 PM on March 15, 2006

I can't believe that in the time it took me to think about and write that, near enough every one of my suggestions was posted by someone else
posted by matthewr at 2:13 PM on March 15, 2006

- set an obnoxious screensaver to come on after one minute idle.
- turn on single-click only ('web style') desktop.
- turn the resolution up so that everything gets really small.
- set ridiculously strict security settings on your web browser.
- hide all your icons in a byzantine start menu maze (with keyboard shortcuts that you don't tell anyone about).
- use disgusting wallpaper or colours.
- have silly settings for your browser homepage/default new word document/etc.

Could probably come up with better suggestions if you said what people in your office are doing with the computer.
posted by reklaw at 2:13 PM on March 15, 2006

i second the trackball. its alot easier on your arm, and the amount of people who try it and then give up after 5 seconds is quite amazing.
posted by a. at 2:14 PM on March 15, 2006

what's wrong with just locking it?
failing that, trackball + dvorak should be more than sufficient.

but for the sake of adding something not already mentioned, you could rename every single application shortcut/data foldername/application install foldername into some code. I had a friend who renamed everything to be in 1337. which wouldn't be as obfuscating as some arbitrary code you came up with yourself, but would still take some getting used to.
posted by juv3nal at 2:15 PM on March 15, 2006

There's something that makes a Windows PC have a desktop interface that looks like a Mac. This is seriously off-putting.
posted by orthogonality at 2:58 PM on March 15, 2006

Don't just hide all your desktop icons, but actually take a screenshot of your desktop as it is now and make that your new background, THEN delete the icons so other people will click and click and click (using your trackball with reversed buttons!) and nothing happens.
posted by SuperNova at 3:01 PM on March 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

supernova-- genius!
posted by empath at 3:08 PM on March 15, 2006

I will second the switching of the mouse buttons. I do this because I am left handed. I have no problems switching hands, but most righties who try my mouse become very frustrated with the revesal of just two buttons.
posted by Macduff at 3:13 PM on March 15, 2006

I second the running a shell idea. I run Aston on my desktop, set all the shortcut menus to activate with a shortcut key -actually quite handy since they're all CTRL-F# keys. Nobody around here knows how to get to ANYTHING except me. ;)

When you turn on the thing you see NOTHING. Just a wallpaper. No taskbar, no icons, zilch. they can click and click and click...but nothing happens.
posted by Sallysings at 3:13 PM on March 15, 2006

I once let my sister use a laptop that had the Blackbox window manager on Linux running, and a Dvorak keyboard layout.

She thought the computer was broken.

Isn't their a Windows shell replacement that is something like the Blackbox X windows manager? It's easy to get used to, but it is VERY foreign to the average PC user.
posted by teece at 3:15 PM on March 15, 2006

Link your shortcuts to images of a crash of the corresponding program.
posted by Psychnic at 3:21 PM on March 15, 2006

furtive: "Reverse the left and right mouse click. The easy way around it is to surf with your left hand, you get used to it pretty fast."

this is ergonomic++ with a standard keyboard, so do it anyway. the numeric keypad pushes the right hand too far to mouse comfortably.
posted by kcm at 3:26 PM on March 15, 2006

If you're a good touch-typist, and other folks in your office are not, you can just rearrange all of your key caps (F and J excluded, since they usually have nipples). Anybody who's a hunt-and-peck typist won't be able to type anything, but if you're touch-typing you don't need to look at the keys anyhow.
posted by gwenzel at 3:37 PM on March 15, 2006

I am amazed at how much most people hate Microsoft Natural Keyboards. I have one and nobody wants to use my PC.
posted by teleskiving at 3:44 PM on March 15, 2006

if you don't want to go with Das Keyboard (which I've wanted forever), how about a one handed keyboard?
posted by drezdn at 4:04 PM on March 15, 2006

turn off all the buttons on your browser and learn the shortcut keys.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:28 PM on March 15, 2006

Well, I have my mouse setup for use with my left hand and as a fan of this layout I've switched my CTRL and CAPS LOCK keys. You'd be amazed how many people use CAPS LOCK to capitalize a single key and are totally disconcerted when it doesn't work. This is includes plausible deniability: "I'm not being difficult, this is just how I like my computer."
posted by cm at 4:35 PM on March 15, 2006

Put Dvorak on and use Das Keyboard.

I've done this. It worked too well. There are times when you actually want someone else to be able to use your computer!
posted by alms at 5:22 PM on March 15, 2006

you could also just lock your computer each time you leave it. They would need the admin password to log you off.
posted by jaded at 5:28 PM on March 15, 2006

Install Windows. That's enough to piss anyone off!

I quite liked geoShell once upon a time. Also makes it reasonably difficult for n00bs to use the system.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:43 PM on March 15, 2006

I'm surprised this one hasn't come up yet: Turn your mouse sensitivity all the way up. So unnerving to the unpracticed, so easy for the trained.
posted by anthill at 5:49 PM on March 15, 2006

You can change the shortcut icons for items on the desktop so they look like they are for different programs. Then change the 'name' of the shortcut. The next time they click on the blue e labeled Internet Explorer, Microsoft Excel opens. (wtf?)
Your way around it is to hide icons in the Quick Launch tray (next to the Start button) and hide all of them behind the >> so they aren't apparent, but they're easy to find. OR create a special bookmark folder and hide it on your desktop somewhere.

If folks use your computer for MS Word, there's an option in the Options menu where you can make it run with a blue background with white text. Some people swear by it, but if you aren't used to it, it's a trip.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 6:17 PM on March 15, 2006

I agree with the Trackball and Microsoft natural keyboard comments. I have been using my keyboard for so long that the letters are gone. NO one wants to use my computer.

In fact I have the same set up at home and work. My students hate it... my husband hates it.... I LOVE it.
posted by nimsey lou at 7:19 PM on March 15, 2006

I have to second (third, fifth, whatever) the idea of setting the keyboard to Dvorak. Not only will it prevent other people from using your computer, but once you switch you never go back!

Your hands will thank you.
posted by patr1ck at 7:34 PM on March 15, 2006

On my mac, I've found that getting rid of all the programs from the dock and using a launcher like Quicksilver or Butler will keep most people away. I don't know if there's a similar thing to do on PC, tho.
posted by drewbeck at 7:41 PM on March 15, 2006

I'm surprised this one hasn't come up yet: Turn your mouse sensitivity all the way up. So unnerving to the unpracticed, so easy for the trained.

I love that one too. xset m 10 2

It's expensive, but people hate to use my Kinesis keyboard (link goes to picture). Available in Dvorak, and programmable too!
posted by Aknaton at 8:08 PM on March 15, 2006

Lets seee... the ever popular:
  • Change the Internet Explorer link on your desktop to point to %SystemRoot%\system32\notepad.exe c:\haha\msn.html...
    They'll never figure that one out
  • I'll recommend running a third party shell like geoshell or litestep... they're confusing for people that don't know what they're looking at, but can actually help productivity.
  • Move toolbar to top, AND turn on auto-hide!!!
  • Get a travel wireless mouse, that has an on-off switch :-)
  • Set the default home page on IE to be some crazy pop-up ridden page (there used to be a lot of these, though I can't find them anymore

posted by hatsix at 9:42 PM on March 15, 2006

If you have a CRT monitor, you could try setting the refresh rate very low when you leave, so the screen flickers annoyingly.
posted by shifafa at 9:53 PM on March 15, 2006

If you're using windows:

1. Switch to the High Contrast theme (Display Properties -> Appearance -> Windows Classic -> High Contrast)
2. Put your start menu/task bar at the top of the screen
3. Change your keyboard layout to US-International. You'll need to press spacebar after every single quote or you'll get letters with accents.
4. Put your mouse on the left of your keyboard, start using the mouse left handed, swap the mouse buttons
5. Set the screen saver to go off after 1 minute
6. Use a really high resolution with small fonts
7. change to 256 colors
8. Use offensive desktop wallpaper
posted by blue_beetle at 10:14 PM on March 15, 2006

9. Change your user account to be non-admin/limited. You'll need to log into an admin account to install software or make any changes to the system.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:16 PM on March 15, 2006

The alternative shell "Litestep" and the mouse utility "Pop-Mouse" combine to make a Windows PC pretty alien to most people. Add thumb buttons to the mouse that pop up all sorts of stuff, and one of those split ergonomic keyboards (the original Microsoft model is still the best) and most people will recoil from your PC like it bit them.

Not that I've done any of those things specifically to discourage people from touching my PC, but it has that side-effect.

I do rather like the icons on the wallpaper suggestion too.
posted by krisjohn at 11:01 PM on March 15, 2006

I'm surprised this one hasn't come up yet: Turn your mouse sensitivity all the way up. So unnerving to the unpracticed, so easy for the trained.

Yes, definitely. I'm a very professional PC user and have no problems with keyboard shortcuts or whatsoever, but computers with very high mouse sensitivity always drive me crazy.
posted by bloo at 4:06 AM on March 16, 2006

At one place I worked as the IT manager, we had a few users doing things like this, mostly motivated, I think, by a desire to keep some personal stuff that they put on their work machines "private." Personally, I could have cared less, as long as it didn't result in support calls, and whenever it did, it was understood I'd just Ghost the drives back to ouir standard image, with no responsibility to "save" local profiles or files not put on our managed file servers. That all changed one day when the CEO was in the Customer Service department; he stepped into an empty cubicle to look up something on the intranet, and got a weirded up desktop on the absent-that-day worker's workstation.

About 10 minutes later, I had a memo to lock down all company Windows desktops to a "standard" configuration. Screwing around with machines you don't own, or storing personal stuff on them without consent or acknowledgement of their owners may not work out well in the long run. If you're going to do this, make sure you have management approval, at least.
posted by paulsc at 4:48 AM on March 16, 2006

All it's taken to put people off using my Win XP machine is the following:

(1) Have a keyboard with crucial letters like D, C, X, V, and M rubbed off.

(2) Install a dock program and a Mac theme—they'll have no idea whether it's a Mac or a PC.

(3) Move the taskbar to the left, top, or right of the screen and choose autohide. It'll drive potential users nuts, especially if it's on the left or right side of the screen, where it'll overlap windows they're working on and steal focus.

(4) Rearrange the start menu into your own system of folders.

(5) Use a computer that's several years old, so it's often slow enough to try the patience of those not used to it.

I'm amazed by all the brilliant suggestions above, though.
posted by limeonaire at 7:37 AM on March 16, 2006

teece: xoblite (or bb4win)
posted by 31d1 at 8:36 AM on March 16, 2006

I swapped my Control and CapsLock keys, simply because I find it more ergonomic (it was a registry hack on Windows; it's a simple switch on Linux). Now everybody gets quite irritated when they use my machine.

Oh, a TouchStream LP keyboard will help too. It's what I use at home.
posted by Netzapper at 12:45 PM on March 16, 2006

one more vote for dvorak and a trackball...

that's what i do anyway...
posted by MonkNoiz at 2:34 PM on March 16, 2006

What I did was switch the Caps Lock and CTRL keys on the left of the keyboard.

Now, no one can login, so they end up giving up in disgust.

Yes, I'm evil :)
posted by Arthur Dent at 7:57 PM on March 16, 2006

Bluetooth phone + Software which auto-locks your PC as soon as you go out of range.
posted by public at 10:19 AM on March 19, 2006

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