Software developers are a creative lot, and they often like to surprise users with unexpected gifts. These hidden nuggets, called Easter eggs, might be pictures, lists of credits, jokes, or even mini-games that require special knowledge (or blind luck) to find them. And as more software is Web-based, many of the top Easter eggs today can be found online or downloaded from the Internet.
Google Earth flight simulator
Google Earth, free software you can download to your computer, has a mind-blowing Easter egg hidden inside. Just press "Ctrl+Alt+A" on the keyboard after launching the program, and you'll find yourself flying across the globe in a flight simulator. You can choose between an F-16 fighter jet and a Cirrus SR-22 prop plane. The simulator even lets you use a joystick.
Google barrel roll
If you're interested in learning more about barrel rolls -- an aerobatic maneuver pilots perform to rotate the plane -- type "do a barrel roll" into the Google search field. Not only does Google give you a list of Web pages discussing the topic, it also gives you an on-screen demonstration as the entire page spins around on the screen.
If you're curious about the role of robots while using Mozilla Firefox, one of the world's most popular Web browsers, you might get a surprise when doing your research. Type "about:robots" in the address bar to get a greeting from the supposed robots themselves. When you click the "Try again" button, you're warned not to click it a second time. If you do, the button disappears.
Related: Mozilla: Firefox
Picasa bear attack!
Picasa, a free photo organiser and editor, has had an Easter egg embedded inside for years that still works today. Just start the software and press Ctrl+Shift+Y on the keyboard. A large teddy bear appears on the screen. Keep pressing those keys, and your entire screen will soon be covered by these cuddly beasts.
Amazon's David Risher Easter egg
David Risher was once a senior vice president at Amazon. When he left in 2002, Amazon hid an Easter egg on its website, proclaiming Risher to be "Amazon.com's favourite site surfer." For years, the Easter egg was hidden in an invisible link at the bottom of Amazon's home page. Although the link is no longer there, you can still find the page by typing "david risher easter egg" into a search engine.
Related: Amazon: Thank you, David Risher
Star Wars traceroute
When Ryan Werber designed a traceroute -- a technical tool used by developers to see the path taken by data across a newtwork -- Easter egg on the BeagleNetworks.net website, he had no idea the hidden treat would go viral. Werber used a series of IP addresses on the network's routers to display a series of messages. Going to a traceroute website for the first IP address would give you the opening storyline from Star Wars. Unfortunately, Werber had to take it down in February 2013, but this is what it looked like.
Related: Beagle Networks: Reverse traceroute
Google's Zerg Rush
Do you know what a Zerg Rush is? If your answer to this question is no, Google may not be the best place to go looking for information. When you type "Zerg Rush" in the Google search page, the results are quickly attacked by a swarm of falling zeros.
Related: Urban Dictionary: Zerg Rush
The Yahoo Yokel
The name Yahoo was originally coined by Jonathan Swift in his classic book, "Gulliver's Travels." The Yahoos were a race of brutish, uncultivated people. Perhaps to remain true to this origin, the Yahoo website includes an Easter egg hidden in the exclamation mark at the end of the Yahoo! logo. Clicking on the exclamation mark results in a yodeled "Yahoo!" erupting from your computer speakers.
Google has its own audio Easter egg hidden in its site. To find this one, go to Google Translate, select "English" as the source language and "German" as the translation. You can then type or paste "pv zk pv pv zk pv zk kz zk pv pv pv zk pv zk zk pzk pzk pvzkpkzvpvzk kkkkkk bsch" in the English text field. The "Listen" icon changes to "Beatbox." Click it to hear the music.
Related: Google: Translate
No Chuck Norris
Legendary film star and martial artist Chuck Norris is renowned for being tough as nails. Playing on this fame, Google and NoChuckNorris.com are doing their best to maintain Norris' reputation as a tough guy. To find this Easter egg, type "Chuck Norris Google" into the Google search page and then either click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button, or click on one of the first two results that come up. You'll soon discover why Google won't search for Chuck Norris -- and you probably shouldn't, either.
If you try going to a Web page that doesn't exist, you normally get a 404 page, which just tells you that the page you are looking for doesn't exist. Many web developers also use these pages as Easter eggs. One great example is on the Spore website. Try going to spore.com/lol and you will find yourself face to face with one of these strange looking creatures from the Spore game.
Related: Spore: 404
Kickstarter is a popular place for anyone looking to fund a new project. And the site hosts one of the most subtle Easter eggs you will find anywhere. Several photos of Kickster's independent creators are at the bottom of the homepage. Click on the scissors below the photos and they begin cutting the dotted line. Click them two more times and the bottom of the page is cut away, revealing even more photos.
YouTube snake game
To activate this Easter egg, navigate to YouTube and go to just about any video. Pause the video at the beginning, when the timer is still at "0:00" and then quickly press the "Left" and "Up" arrows on your keyboard at the same time. The video transforms into a snake game. Use the arrow buttons to direct the snake before it hits an obstacle or the edge of the frame.
Apple Voice Control
Your desktop computer isn't the only place to find Easter eggs. The iPhone and iPad have several hidden in the voice control system. To find one such example, hold the "Home" button down until the Voice Control opens. Ask "What is the answer to life, the universe and everything." This is a reference to the Douglas Adams science fiction novel, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe." The correct answer, of course, is 42.
The end of the Internet
Many people don't know that the Internet itself has an Easter egg. Well, almost. If you go to HMPG.net, you will discover you have reached the end of the Internet. The page congratulates visitors for finding it and recommends they find something useful to do with the rest of their lives. As an added bonus, the page displays a download window that indicates it is now downloading the entire Internet to your hard drive.
Related: HPMG.net: The end of the Internet