System Alert!! (!)

A while ago I went on a spree of collecting banner ads and popups that masquerade as system alerts. You know the style:

It took a bit of effort to build my collection. In the course of normal daily browsing, I would only occasionally run across them. All too often I would see the same one over and over.

Searching for these things was an interesting exercise in suppressing all sanity-preserving impulses ("popup blocking" first and foremost). I found myself using IE. I found myself clicking on banner ads of other types, hoping they would lead me to system alert style ads. I made painstaking efforts to visit dumber websites--- archives of pop music lyrics were particularly good. When the chips were down, I would pick a random dictionary word and hope that www.[word].com was being squatted on by a company that had a thick directory of the Internet for me to browse through. In the end, I got a good sampling of system alerts, so in the spirit of the last post, I present a system alert bestiary. (Warning: Animated GIFs. May cause seizures.)

Hey idiot, you won something

Who among us has not clicked where we should not due to false promises of filthy lucre in the offing?

A sterling example is given by the more dynamic cousin of the banner above:

What? Not falling for it? Would a "banner ID" number change your mind?

What if the whole thing were shaking even faster?

This last example of the genre I find notable only on account of its sleeker, more modern, and decidedly Windows XP look:

Its filename was "Fake_Windows_Dialog_!.gif" on the ad server. It doesn't bother me that they did this. It bothers me that they didn't put a little more heart into it.

They're out to get you

Another popular type of system alert is the appeal to paranoia:

A subgenre of alerts trades on your dim awareness of the concept that your computer has an address:

Note the "Advertisement" coyly placed in a nondescript location. I think the idea is that we are too busy shitting our pants to notice it.

Bars and dials

These alerts target the natural male instinct for tuning up, customizing, tricking out, and so forth. If you don't know anything about computers and you have testicles I think you are most likely to click on these. Imagine it--- you paid hundreds of dollars for your computer, or maybe you're forced to use somebody else's computer (maybe a girl's computer), and you know the damn thing could be running better--- but you haven't the faintest idea how.

Help is on the way!

Get it? "Tune up"! Like it's a car! You can click on it and still be a man!

Blast that shit! Blast it!

... Okay, we're not going to insult your intelligence with bars and dials. We're going to give you the cold facts--- in techspeak, no less--- and leave the informed decisionmaking to you.

Before you laugh at this next one, read on to the end of this post.

Unclassifiable but brilliant

The bestiary ends, the cautionary tale begins

Before we have too much fun with "Windows Core Matrix Unoptimized," we should acquaint ourselves with the following facts:

  • Somebody thought it would be a good idea to take the company responsible for this phrase and this popup to court.
  • He probably intended to become an Internet hero.
  • Recognizing that "Windows Core Matrix Unoptimized" is more or less meaningless and expressly designed to scare the non-computer-literate, he assumed that he could win a lawsuit against the company by showing that it had misled its customers.
  • Things didn't work out as planned.

I'll excerpt from the judicial opinion on this case, one of the funniest things I've read this year.

Imagine being the guy who had to listen to both sides and then go home and write this.

I regret having to write this opinion. But the plaintiffs’ lawyers have given me no choice, having failed to acknowledge their own responsibility for wasting the time of this court and of a defendant in this purported class action by filing false pleadings and failing to produce documents clearly within the scope of a valid request for production.


In summary, this lawsuit was filed as a class action. The proposed plaintiff, Heinrich Beck, was, the complaint suggests, an unsophisticated computer user duped into buying a software product that he thought would improve the operational efficiency of his computer, but which, in reality, did not.... After costly proceedings in the Superior Court, this case was transferred to this court. Beck filed a proposed amended complaint soon thereafter... In the proposed amended complaint, as well as in the original complaint, Beck was specifically alleged to have purchased the product in question.

So far, so good...

In the course of discovery and briefing, it became clear that, contrary to representations in the original and proposed amended complaints, Beck had not been deceived and had never purchased the product in question, “Window Power Tools.” In actuality, Beck observed an Internet popup ad for the product, believed the product did not work, and initiated a lengthy series of e-mail communications with the software developer in which he made numerous misrepresentations in order to elicit responses on, among other premises, the false basis that he could influence a school district’s bulk purchase of the product. Beck waxed eloquent on his personal Internet web page about his triumph in duping the developer.

...and we're back to "Oops."

Beck posted his "lengthy series of email communications" on his own webpage prior to filing the lawsuit. A sample:

AHA! So that’s what the Windows Core Matrix is! I thought Lawrence Fishburne would come to my house with a blue bill and a red pill! If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn, been in the family for years… hate to sell it, but… but I digress. Wanna catch a BIG WEASEL? You need BIG WEASEL BAIT!

Needless to say, this and similar epistles did not have a favorable effect on the judicial proceeding when they became known.

Long story short (read the full opinion if you want juicier details), the plaintiff was found guilty of being a dick. The final judgment:

1) dismissing this action with prejudice as to plaintiff Beck; 2) enjoining Darrell W. Scott and Eric J. Roth, and the law firm of Lukins & Annis from participating as counsel or plaintiff in any suit against defendant Atlantic Coast relating to the Window Power Tools product, DMI, or Zafar; 3) requiring plaintiff Beck, Scott, Roth, and Lukins & Annis to be jointly and severally liable to pay Atlantic Coast and the Register In Chancery the sums of $25,000 and $2500 respectively; and 4) requiring Scott, Roth, and any attorney Lukins & Annis to submit a copy of this decision with any motion for pro hac vice filed by any of them. Counsel for Atlantic Coast shall prepare an implementing final judgment and submit it within ten days, upon notice as to form to Beck’s counsel. Beck shall bear each side’s costs.

*cue Dragnet theme*


Bravo! A veritable tour de

Bravo! A veritable tour de kwak! I'm going to link to this for it's educational value alone.