In lieu of actual work

Things were downright complicated when I was a student, but a bit of applied creativity could work wonders: judiciously-chosen margins, innovating page-numbering (nobody ever reads page 6), and careful choice of fonts (the replaceable Selectric ball was truly a godsend) could yield a ten-page paper from a thousand words or less.

Today, you just turn in a file that won’t open:

File Destructor … is a tool that should only be used for emergencies. Basically, it’s a tool that creates a fake file that you can send to your teachers. You can choose the extension as well as the size of the file, and when your professor can’t open the file up, you can just blame it on your computer. Of course, many teachers are starting to not accept these excuses, so be careful when using this.

Especially since you can’t claim that your robot dog ate your homework.

(Via Joanne Jacobs.)


  1. fillyjonk »

    6 January 2009 · 10:24 pm

    I wonder if there is a way for a professor to determine if an ostensible file was created using this app. Seeing as Turnitin exists to detect plagiarism (or its downmarket DIY cousin, Googling specific phrases out of suspect papers), there should soon come a way for profs to be able to defeat this particular ruse.

    It’s just another example of the evolutionary arms race in action. Just as certain song birds have learned to recognize – and then destroy – the eggs of would-be nest parasite birds, so do profs learn ways to defeat potential cheating. It sucks that we have to expend that energy, but that’s life in this imperfect world.

    Not to be smug or anything, but I found that actually doing the work tended to take less time than figuring out and employing convoluted modes of cheating.

  2. CGHill »

    7 January 2009 · 7:02 am

    I suspect that there’s a bit pattern left behind when the file is rendered kaput, and that professors will be able to spot it by opening the file in a text editor rather than in the application called for by the extension. Then the next version of the program will do a better job of cleaning up after itself, and the cycle repeats.

  3. fillyjonk »

    7 January 2009 · 7:40 am

    Another thought: other than buying the perp (yes, I think of people who cheat as “perps”) a little time, how does this really help? No prof in the world is going to pat a kid with a destroyed file on the head and go, “That’s OK. You did the work and the big bad computer ate it. I’ll give you a pass without seeing the assignment.” No, the response would be more on the lines of either:

    a. “I expect you to have a perfect reconstruction of the paper to my office by 8 am tomorrow”


    b. “Sorry, I don’t accept late assignments; you should have printed a copy before sending.”

    Personally, I don’t like to accept e-mailed assignments; all too often the student is writing it in some odd incompatible program that I have to do all kinds of trial and error to get the file to open properly. Even when I tell them to send it as a Word document or a .pdf file. (Heh. You should see the heads explode when I ask for .pdf files)

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