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What is PCjacking ?

Short version : PCjacking is sticking Linux Live CDs in computers located in popular department stores, to let the customers know that something other than Windows exists (see pictures below). If you think it's an useful thing to do, try it yourself ! PCjacking is totally safe for the hijacked PC, and leaves it completely unaltered.


A few people are beginning to talk about PCJacking on the Internet :


A "Linux Live CD" is a CD that can help you run Linux on your computer without touching the hard disk, thus leaving Windows completely unaltered, if it is installed. You just insert one of these CDs, reboot the computer, and voilà, you got Linux running (the computer just "booted on the CD").

I thought this was a tremendous opportunity to let people know that there are other systems out there, that work better than Microsoft Windows, don't cost a cent, and have neat and easy to use interfaces. I believe that people chose Windows not because (they think) it works better, nor because they think they wouldn't be able to use another system, but just because they don't know that there exists other systems apart from Windows. So, I just went to a few stores in the center of Paris (where I live), and used these great CDs on the shown machines, the let the customers know ! Of course, well, I didn't tell the staff about that, I'm not sure they would have been okay with it :)

The pictures

All right, I'm not a photographer (what do you mean, you already noticed ?), so the following pictures are sometimes a bit blurry. This is also because I couldn't use the flash (or a tripod), and the light in there was not quite sufficient.

The CDs

I prepared three CDs of the Knoppix live Linux distribution (a "distribution" is just some version of Linux). These "CD images" (that you can directly burn onto a CD with any burning program) are available free of charge (just like most Linux distributions) on the internet ; I got mine from here (file called "KNOPPIX_V4.0.2CD-2005-09-23-EN.iso").

Then I wrote something on each of these CDs :

This is written in French (so that the guys working in the stores can understand it) and it says "This is a Linux CD to protest against the forced sale of Microsoft Windows with every computer bought in this store. This CD leaves the computer totally unaffected. Just take the CD out of the drive and reboot to let the computer back in its original state."

So, with those CDs and a camera in my bag, I took my bicycle and had a look around for nice stores... Of course, each time I used a Live CD, I left it inside the computer, so that people can have a look and try the system all day long, after I'm gone ! That is, unless a sales representative notices it and decides to reboot with Windows. But considering that I could open the drive, put a CD inside, reboot the computer and type a few options at boot time without being noticed, I believe that Linux will keep running several hours before they notice something !

Fnac Digitale (Paris)

"Fnac" is one of the biggest department stores in France for electronic stuff, DVDs, CDs and books. Paris has dozens of them. This one is located in the "quartier latin", in the very center of Paris, boulevard Saint-Germain (three huge floors of electronic stuff).

This one was not easy because lots of people were always walking around the laptops, and the desktops were too close to where the sales representatives stood (click on the pictures to enlarge -- sorry about the blurry pics).

PC City -- Cluny (Paris)

"PC City" is some kind of "computer supermarket" : you can only find computer-related products inside. And it's a huge surface in the heart of Paris (just next to the Sorbonne university).

This one was easier, considering that very few clients were wandering around (lunch time !), and the staff seemed busy reviewing other stuff (click on the pictures to enlarge -- sorry about the blurry pics).

Fnac Forum

The "Forum des Halles" is the most central commercial center in Paris, located in the nearly perfect geographical center of Paris. It has its own "Fnac" (on three floors).

This one was the hardest : I can't even understand how I made it :) The computer I used was on the bottom-right of some kind of "screen wall", just in front of where the sales representatives stood, and very obvious to anyone. Anyway, Linux looks great in there !

What is this system we see on the screen ?

This is the Knoppix Linux live distribution. I usually prefer Ubuntu, both install and live versions, but it required me to first answer a few questions using the keyboard before it really starts, and this makes pcjacking harder. So here's what you're seeing, in a cleaner view (screenshot) :

Other PCJackers

Wanna PCjack yourself?

Well, that's easy ! Here's how to do it :

  1. Get a Knoppix CD image, or another Linux Live CD, and burn it to a plain CD-R. Make as many copies as you need to perform your pcjacking.
  2. Write something on the CD so that people working in the store undesrtand what this is for, and how to get their Windows back.
  3. Take your CD and a camera to a popular PC seller, and look for your prey. It can be a desktop or a laptop, but you need to be able to access its CDROM drive, and hopefully, its keyboard.
  4. Before inserting the CD, take a look at the screen resolution in Windows settings. Set the sound volume to its minimum, so that the Windows "byebye" sound won't be heard in the whole store. Then put the CD in, and reboot the computer.
  5. When the Knoppix startup screen appears, you need to let it know the screen resolution it should use (this might not be necessary, but I found that using the default boot options sometimes leads to a "out of range" message on the screen, the guys at Knoppix need to raise the default value or provide a better detection of the screen). For example, type "knoppix screen=1024x768". Careful if you don't live in the US : the keyboard layout is the US one here. Then press enter.
  6. Go a few meters away. You're safe now, even if somebody notices, they won't know it was you. Wait one or two minutes for the system to boot, then take out your camera and take a few shots at your masterpiece. Who knows, maybe you don't have anything to do with this, but you happen to know Linux, and you found it funny to see it running there, so you just wanted to take a few pictures :) Leave the CD inside the PC, and leave the store with an innocent face.
  7. Put your shots on a web page somewhere, and send an email to pcjacking@manucornet.net to let me know, and I'll link to your pictures from this web page.
  8. Enjoy having made the Open source world advance, even if only a tenth of an inch !

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