Originally posted on April 1st, 1996, to a couple of Windows-related newsgroups. And then, a bit later, to alt.fan.pratchett .

August 1999 NOTE: This has nothing to do with the warnings about the "Wobbler virus" supposedly transmitted by email with an attached file called "California". That stuff is a HOAX. This is a JOKE which long predates it..!

New Windows 95 Virus Alert

Several software users have reported being affected by a new virus which appears to be specific to Windows 95 applications. The virus operates by rewriting an application to make it smaller and more efficient, padding the resulting file so that the total size is the same. If the size reduction is sufficient, the virus appends itself to the application.

The most obvious first sign that one's system has been infected is that Win'95 applications start to run more quickly, with decreased demands on system resources.

Current virus checkers do not seem to detect the virus. However, a binary search of an infected application reveals the character strings "WOBBLER" and "J2ALPHAC". The significance, if any, of these strings has not yet been determined.

There is no sign that the virus can be transmitted by sending or receiving E-mail.

Most, but not all, of the people who responded to this one got the joke. Some of them asked where they could get a copy of the "virus" to infect their systems with...

Post-facto optimization of an executable is possible in principle, I suppose, but it would be a big and complex program. It wouldn't float around as a virus.

The strings "WOBBLER" and "J2ALPHAC" are a reference to Terry Pratchett's novel Only You Can Save Mankind. One of the characters in the novel, nicknamed "Wobbler" by his friends, is a cracker who aspires to being a hacker. One of his creations is a computer game "called Journey to Alpha Centauri. It was a screen with some dots on it. Because, he said, it happened in real time, which no-one had ever heard of until computers. He'd seen on TV that it took three thousand years to get to Alpha Centauri. He had writte it so that if anyone kept their computer on for three thousand years, they'd be rewarded by a little dot appearing in the middle of the screen, and then a message saying, `Welcome to Alpha Centauri. Now go home.'"

Copyright (C) 1996 by Joel Polowin. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this material in any non-profit medium provided that its content is not altered and that this notice is appended. I would appreciate receiving a copy of any publication in which it appears: Joel Polowin / 18 Norice St. / Nepean, Ont. / CANADA / K2G 2X5

jpolowinXYZZY@sympatico.ca but remove the XYZZY - it's a little magic to baffle the spambots.

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