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Open Source

Hunting for programmer’s easter eggs with Google

Easter eggs

In this seasonal entry we’ll be hunting for some virtual easter eggs in open source software programs. Computer programmers and software engineers are a creative group, often with a sense of humour, so eggs come in an abundance. Easter eggs, as hidden features, are left for a variety of reasons and come with a varying degree of stealth. Some are left to make a project more personal to a developer, others as a creative outlet in a purely functional piece of software. Many are humourous in nature.

Our detective gear is simplistic in nature. Take one part Google Code Search, one part Regular Expressions, and garnish with a cleaver keyword. Apparently quite a number of easter eggs are labeled as “easter egg”s in source code’s comments.

\/\*.*?easter egg.*?\*\/
Here are some highlights from what comes up:
FreeBSD is rolling out their Plan-0

#include "util.h"
/* easter egg */
#include "plan-0.h"

Gaim’s plugin clears up for production, but look around line 506 to turn on bonus features

/* clear easter egg */
features->mode = 0;

It seems that one needs to be Colin’s girlfriend for this last one, but it’s an easter egg in an online bank account management tool. Interesting.

<?php if (isset($l) && $l==1)
/* easter egg for my S.O. ;-) */
if ($JEPUTuserid == 30 && $JEPUTlogin=='clo')

So here’s an open challenge – can you find a programming easter egg in the wealth of open sourced software? Blog about it (ping me with a trackback), or show off in the comments. Wrote your own easter egg? So have I! I’ll share the details in the comments, if someone talks about theirs first ;)

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  1. Posted by Apomb | April 8, 2007, 1:23 am

    Well this is an interesting Excel code easter egg that has something to do with flight Simulator, apparently its a must-see!


    Reply to comment

  2. Posted by Adam | April 9, 2007, 4:15 pm

    I personally find this story ironic, since it was an easter egg in the database Google ripped off that tipped off authorities. It was on Slashdot: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/04/08/1824210

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  3. Posted by Tony | April 9, 2007, 5:04 pm

    Adam – it seems like an error rather than an “easter egg”, though that’s a rather cleaver way to sign software. Building in unique hidden functions along the lines of easter eggs definitely adds to the unique makeup of the source code and would help to identify stolen intellectual property.

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  4. Posted by Adam | April 9, 2007, 5:09 pm

    Tony – actually… in one of the comments: “The most damning evidence IMO is that Google Pinyin actually produces the names of several Sogou employees(Zhao Liyang, Tong Zijian, Lu(v) Jieyong), which Sogou apparently put into their word database as a kind of signature.”
    I think that fits the description of an easter egg.

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  5. Posted by Tony | April 9, 2007, 6:08 pm

    Ah, you’re right. I haven’t read through all the comments.

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  6. Posted by Colin | May 13, 2007, 8:51 am

    So, someone actually read JEPUT’s source code! :)

    Reply to comment

  7. Posted by Tony | May 13, 2007, 11:42 am

    Haha, just the fun bit of it, Colin ;) Your code is indexed by Google though, so the unique parts will come up.

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