Bad Signs

I caught another revealing crash screen over on The Daily WTF.

Travelex Crash Screen

Although the folks at WTF did not draw attention to the fact, a close examination revealed that the dialog box on the crashed screen is rotated 90 degrees.

If you step back and look at the sign, it makes sense. The folks at Travelex wanted a tall poster-sized electronic bulletin board to display currency information and promotions. Unfortunately long screens are rare and LCD screens of unusual sizes are extremely expensive. Travelex appears to have done the very sensible thing of taking a readily available and low-cost wide-screen LCD television, turned it on its side, and hooked it up to a computer.

Of course, screens have tops and bottoms. To display correctly on a sideways screen, a computer needs to be configured to display information sideways — a non-trivial tasks on many systems. If you look a the Windows “Start” menu and task-bar along the right side (i.e., bottom) of the screen and the shape of the dialog, it seems that Travelex simply didn’t bother. They used the screen to display images, or sequences of images and found it easy enough to simply rotate each of the images to be display 90 degrees as well. They simply showed a full-screen slide-show of sideways images on their sideways screen. And no user ever noticed until the system crashed.

It’s a neat trick that many users might find useful but most would not think to do. Although they might after seeing this crash!

A close-up of the screen reveals even more.

Travelex Crash Screen Closeup

Apparently, the dialog has popped up because the computer running the sign has a virus! Viruses are usually acquired through user interaction with a computer (e.g., opening a bad attachment) or through the Internet. It seems likely that the computer is plugged into the Internet — perhaps the slide-show is updated automatically — or that the image is being displayed from a computer used to do other things. In any case, it’s a worrying “sign” from a financial services company.

Author: Benjamin Mako Hill

Rebel with rather too many causes.

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