BOFH: 'Twas the night before Christmas
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 21/12/2001 at 13:23 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 32

'Twas the night before Christmas, on Management floor
Not a creature was stirring, except by the door;
The Board Member's stockings were hung up with care,
In hopes that their bonus cheques soon would be there;

The workers had missed out - the bonuses few,
Just enough for the bosses, (and shareholders too)
The Bastard was slighted, this wasn't that good
Action was needed - a la Robin Hood.

The bosses were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of pound signs danced in their heads;
The Boss in his diapers, asleep in a trice
Was dreaming a storm about him and Posh Spice

When out from the freight lift arose such a clatter,
The CCTV panned to see to the matter.
To the front desk ripped a guard in a flash
A stain down his front from a half-complete slash.

His view a white visage of fresh spray-on snow
Obscuring the larceny happening below
And what to his prying eyes else would it show?
The Bastard and PFY, hacksaw in tow.

With a tea trolley laden with construction brick
He'd know in a moment it wasn't St. Nick.
More rapid than diarrhoea, their work tools they came,
They chuckled, the sniggered, and called them by name;

Away to the boardroom! Half way down the wall!
The safe and its contents, soon open to all!

And then, in a twinkling, I heard near the tree
The sound of a chainsaw being started with glee!
A camera swung wildly, alert from the sound
In time to see Pine needles, all swirling around.

Disguised well in fur, from his head to his foot,
The Bastard was watching, face blackened with soot;
Acetylene torch lit and fired up as well,
Cutting through plate steel - leaving quite a smell.

Alarm bells were ringing, followed by a shout 
And silenced five seconds on - System problem no doubt
The smoke from the cutter had cranked up the pace
As sprinklers discharged themselves all over the place.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
As the PFY "topped up" the Management Sherry
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a grin
As sherry was emptied, and now for the Gin..

The videotape removed from a pocket unbidden
With scenes from the past year (from cameras hidden)
Some shocking, some sneaky, some fresh and some smelly
Timed later to screen from all lunchroom Tellys.

Security stumbled up four flights flat out
The lifts, they were broken - now figure that out.
He raced to the boardroom, be there in a tick!,
But look out! He's tripped over a sockful of brick.

They spoke not a word, re-instating the lifts,
Leaving stockings with brick, liberating the gifts
Collecting their spoils for the exit to night,
They stopped at the guard saying "You ain’t seen me, right?"

They sprang to the freight door, and out to the street,
Moving quite quickly - a night bus to meet!
And I heard them exclaim, as they mounted the Bus
"Merry Christmas to all and the drinks are on us!!"


The BOFH techno-zealot alert
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 30/11/2001 at 10:35 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 31

"..and apparently animals will be able to communicate to owners via a PDA that fits in a belt buckle," The Boss burbles happily, reading a pseudo-computing column from some tabloid paper while cheerfully contemplating yet another item of clothing he won't have to pay for..

"What a Warwickism!" I cry.

"Warwickism?" The Boss asks.

"Yes," The PFY responds helpfully. "You know, an outrageous pseudo-technical statement made to support an illusion of technical competence."

"?" The Boss mouths wordlessly.

"You know," The PFY continues. "Like me saying I have a computer chip implanted in my penis which reacts with cash registers at supermarkets to give me a discount on condoms."

"Have you?!" The Boss asks, shocked.

"Of course not!" The PFY replies. "It's a barcode tattooed down the side."

"Yes, but it comes up as 'Baguette, Large' when he scans it," I add, unable to stop myself once I see The Boss's look of horror.

"And sometimes they have to scan it six or seven times before it gets read, by which time it's changed to.." The PFY blurts, slowing to a stop as The Boss backs out of the room quietly.

"What the hey!" The PFY chirps in response to my glance of disgust.

"I know, I know, but you really should try and work with him - he's The Boss after all."

"Yes, I've been wondering about that," The PFY asks. "It HAS been a while since we had a bit of new blood in the place - in a figurative way, of course."

"Well, what do you want to do about it?! Bear in mind that good managers are hard to come by - the devil you know and all that. Before you know it we'll be lumbered with a new boss who actually wants to know where all the money goes BEFORE he signs the expenses forms, and one who won't be happy making cheques out to Campaign for Advanced System Hardware - or at least it's acronym - and we'll be forced to dip into our own pockets for lager tokens."

"Yes, I suppose you're right," The PFY grudgingly admits. "But he's a bit.. well.. insipid."

"Insipid!" I cry consulting my mental dictionary. "Bland and unappetising. Mundane. In dire need of a short sharp shock perhaps?"

"You mean really showing him what computing is all about?"

"No no, I mean a short sharp shock. 90 volts AC or so, nothing too drastic."

"How will that help us?" The PFY asks.

"Help? Oh, sorry, I was off on a tangent there. So you want some form of HELP? Well now you're asking. We could suggest he goes on a course for technical managers to upskill himself?"

After we both have a bit of a laugh I continue.

"It's not such a silly idea though. We could book him into some course where he could get the rudiments of computing beaten into him.."

"I don't think..."

"It might stop him saying yes to every request by a user for some of our time..."

"I'll see what Junket Search turns up," The PFY responds, quickly Netscaping to a heavily used bookmark.

Several glossy pages later..

"Here's one" The PFY says, tapping the screen in a fishtank manner.

"Let's see.... No previous experience required, Good, No actual learning guaranteed - if you go by the wording - Good.."

"They do give you a Certificate of Achievement!"

"Yes, they stole that idea from Microsoft. Basically it means that you managed to turn up every day, didn't dribble into your machine enough to kill it or you, and kept your head down when the tutor asked questions... YES, I think that'll do nicely!"

A day later we've convinced The Boss to go and two days after that, he's gone.

One day even further on, he's back, new and improved. Well, he's back... Early reports say he's right into the technology thing, having had a great time and picked up lots of ideas. 

"This Windows XP stuff looks rather exciting!" he gasps, surfing into Mission Control on the technology wave. "Did you know you can actually have movies and stuff playing on your machine?" 

"Like this?" the PFY asks, firing up a recent release movie on his desktop. 

"Yes! Is that XP?"

"No, Linux. Exactly the same except you don't have to loosen your belt when you license it."

"Oh. Does it have support for Wireless as well? You know you can save a bundle on cabling by putting in wireless hubs for your machines? And it makes offices easier to re-organise in the event of a restructure!"

The tangy smell of hysteria is in the air, and The Boss is exhibiting all the classic warning signs of a technological zealot. We may have to put him through the 'paperless office' test...

"Wireless is already installed" the PFY responds, pointing at a heat sensor in the roof.

"Really? I always thought that was part of the fire alarm."

"Most people do, but see that little light on the side, it flashes once a minute to tell you the network is present."

"Really?! Well, we must put in some connections - say just the managers - then we can put our machines anywhere I like in our rooms and not have to worry about cabling ever again!"

"Your machines run without power?" I ask, putting the slipper in when he should be down.

"Good point. Well I suppose we can afford laptops for the managers - which would actually allow us to TAKE OUR MACHINES TO MEETINGS!!!" he gasps again, seeing the future extend before him.

Budget Defence DEFCON 3 initiated!

"Ah, I don't think we have the budget for that.." The PFY suggests helpfully.

"Nonsense! There's a stack of money earmarked for an improved fileserver which we can defer till next year - or the year after if that's more pressing projects. Fileshares are a thing of the past! SAN is the answer!"

Short of foaming at the mouth, The Boss is pretty much proved to be in Zealot mode. Only one thing will prove it...

"Do you want me to print up some proposals, circulate them to the managers and then print a purchase order up...."

"No More Printing!" The Boss cries exhibiting the final - and most damning sign of a Zealot. "WE WANT A PAPERLESS OFFICE! WE'RE IN I.T FOR PETE'S SAKE!"

The PFY and I have a second's silence before implementing backup plan 107E.

"Actually," the PFY asks, "Doesn't your machine HAVE a wireless LAN card inside it already? I think we purchased one with it!"

"Really?" The Boss gushes. "I'll just go and see!"

Five seconds later the phone rings.

"No, no card."

"It's internal - it'll look like a blank plate."

"Uh, well, I don't know."

"Tell you what, pull your network connection out of the machine and try and check your mail...."

"Nope, it says the network is unavailable."

"Unavailable........ OH I KNOW! Your machine is being earthed by the earth cable in the power cord. Shut your machine down, break off the earth pin and start it up again."

[clatters and grunts removed in the name of good taste]

"No, nothing!"

"It's ok, your machine is probably not communicating because there's no aerial, but we can use the power lead for the time being, just lift your machine up so that it's as near as you can get it to the Wireless Access Point."

"I could stand on my table. Do I need my monitor?"

"Only if it's been de-earthed as well."

"I'll call you back!"


"Ok, I'm standing on my table and I've put my computer on an extension lead so it's right next to the... OH! The light flashed, the network must be going."

"Yes, the network is there, but you have to remove the heat seal on the access point."


"Do you have a cigarette lighter?"

. . .

"..and it looks like we'll need a new manager," the Head of IT informs us. "He's decided that once he's out of hospital he's going to take up an outside job like market gardening."

"Yes, it's probably for the best."

"So in the meantime I'd like you to look after the manager's role - until such time as we can appoint someone...."



The Trivia Quiz - BOFH-style...
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 13/11/2001 at 10:12 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 30



Yes! It's time for the Bastard Trivia Quiz!

Test your skill! Place your bets! Answers at the bottom!

General Knowledge
1. You're in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. Where do you go?
A. N
B. S
C. E
D. W
E. To lunch

2. Network utilisation figures are reaching an all time high for no apparent reason. This probably means:
A. You may have to look at chunkier routers
B. There may be some network card error
C. There may be some network monitoring error 
D. Someone's found the MP3 stash!
E. They're leaving you out of Unreal Tournament just because they don't like fighting an invisible, invincible opponent with The Redeemer. The wimps!

3. Complete the series: 5V, 12V, 48V, 96V...
A. 127 Volts
B. 0 Volts
C. 24 Volts
D. 1 Amp
E. "AGHH AAAGHH! I'll tell you what you want to know!"

4. He who laughs last...
A. Laughs loudest
B. Laughs longest
C. Is a prat
D. Annoys the hell out of everyone
E. Hasn't seen the cattleprod

5. Which of the following is an industry standard substitute for a SIMM removal tool?
A. Nothing - there is no substitute!
B. A screwdriver
C. A car key
D. Some pliers
E. Banging on the motherboard with the back of your hand till the chip falls out

6. A CPU can generally be clock chipped to:
A. A small fraction above it's rated speed
B. 10 per cent faster than it's rated speed
C. 18.5 per cent above it's rated speed
D. 70 per cent above rated, with a freon cooling and a death wish
E. 100 per cent, even more if it's not your box

Are you an old bastard?

7. >Clunka Clunka Clunka< is the sound you would most associate with:
A. The Clothes Dryer
B. A washing machine with an imbalanced load
C. A flat tyre on your car
D. A tape safe door shutting repeatedly on an annoying user's foot
E. An imbalanced DEC RM05 Disk assembly moving around the computer room by itself during a head crash

8. You drop a screwdriver down a ventilation hole in the powersupply at the back of a VAX 11/780. You expect:
A. A very careful removal process
B. A powersupply failure
C. A nasty >crack< noise
D. Power outage to the computer room?
E. Looting of the shops in the two adjacent streets after the local transformer trips out

9. The nine-track tape you're using is having problems reading some very important survey data for some critical research - only getting half-way through the tape before failing. You would:
A. Clean the read heads, which probably are dirty
B. Have the tape sent to a commercial data recovery centre
C. A, then reduce the temperature of the computer room, and try to complete the read
D. Report the failure to the user
E. Just cut and repeatedly paste data from the beginning of the data file until the file's up to size

10. The greatest danger to the RA60 removable hard disk media was:
A. Not being locked into the drive spindle tightly
B. Not being able to be removed from the drive spindle after use
C. Disk damage if the cover lock unlatched itself during use
D. Dirty read heads
E. A preventative maintenance by the Engineer

11. The correct combination of carefully timed disk seeks on the drives in an RA80 disk drive rack could cause:
A. A 'Tune' to play
B. A Small vibration
C. A Large vibration
D. A very large vibration
E. The disk rack to run in 'horizontal' mode

12. A user has been looking through the sad remnants of their life and found a large box of several thousand punchcards of their undergraduate work, which they would like you to do something with. A good Administrator would:
A. Call a Computer Museum and get them read
B. Write a quick program to interface to a scanner and read them
C. Give the user the Punch card hole code info so they could type them in
D. Throw them in the bin and tell the user that they've been demagnetised
E. Throw them at the user from a fourth-floor window

Are you an expensive Bastard?

13. The correct way to put a yearly budget plan together is to:
A. Add up the cost of all the expected projects and maintenance for the year to come and put that figure forward
B. Use last year's figure and add five per cent
C. Use the last year's figure as well as the previous year to discern a trend, and ask for that
D. Look at the performance bonus of the board members for an indication of potential
E. Multiply last year's budget by two after anonymously sending those photos from the Beancounter's photocopy room after the Christmas Bash

14. A vendor tells you the product he's pushing will lower your TCO. This means:
A. Your total cost of ownership, taking into account purchase price, maintenance, expected lifetime and possible rental options, will be less
B. The TCO will probably not be affected, once you take training, early termination of previous contract and installation fees into account
C. He's on commission and things have been lean this year
D. He's a lying bastard
E. C, D and you can probably screw a few lunches out of him before you say no

15. An annual maintenance contract has come up for renewal and the Vendor takes pains to point out that they have not increased their charges like so many other vendors. This means:
A. They're trying to be competitive
B. A, and they're looking for extra business
C. They've found a subcontractor who will work for shiny beads and offal
D. They're scared of going into receivership after that anonymous letter to the Tax Dept
E. A, C, D, and they re-added those three extra pieces of equipment you cancelled maintenance on earlier in the year (due to an "administrative error")

There is no key. There is never a key! You don't need one. Not if you're the real McCoy! Not if you can clockchip your car computer to get an extra two miles an hour out of the old Rustang before it drops it's driveshaft after the excess vibration. Not if you remember the heady days of a card punch machine that was so loud it had the pensioners down the road digging trenches and sorting out their meat rations.

NOT if your annual budget is so large your beancounter's calculator runs out of zeros typing it in...

Anyone else is obviously an imposter. 


The BOFH Content Management System
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 05/11/2001 at 07:55 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 29

"..And what would you suggest would solve this problem?" the Head of IT asks, over his lunchtime meal.

"Some form of document management system seems appropriate?" The Boss suggests, providing conclusive proof that he's been talking to vendors without supervision again.

"Oooh, a licence to print money!" The PFY interrupts excitedly.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we'll obviously be expected to take something unpleasant from the vendor in order to get this... i.e. a heeeuuge bill, content locked into the server or something.."

"No, no, it's all Open."

"Open to anyone who's bought the client to extract the documents from their database perhaps?" I add.

"No, open to everyone!" The Boss responds, obviously having done several weeks homework with the colour brochure. "They say it uses standard windows files. . ."

"Ah - the old 'Change-the-filename-to-something-obscure-with-a- custom-extension' trick so you can never find it, except via their interface. Yes, I like it!"

"What do you mean?"

"Well it's simple. Remember that time stores wanted to move all those archived documents offsite to get some of their space back?"


"And they got that Document storage company in to pack it all up and store it in 'standard' boxfiles?"

"And index EVERYTHING so all someone had to do was ring them and tell them the document name and they'd deliver it?"


"And we paid them a fat wedge of money to do it, plus recall fees, etc?"


"And remember when our company had a huge falling out with their company?"

"When you set fire to their premises, yes."

"When I tested their environmental monitoring systems to ensure that our documents were safe from fire, yes."

"Whatever.." The Boss adds doubtfully.

"And remember, we ended up demanding all our documents back?"


"And they came back, each in its own brown envelope - with a cryptic number on it, taking up over twice the space as originally. Then we had to employ that student to sit in the basement and extract them and file them all again.."

"Last I heard he was still down there," the head of IT comments.

"So you're saying that this software is the same as that document storage company, and that they're trying to disguise it by saying it's open and offering all-expenses-paid trips to the US for 'training'???"


"No, I'm saying we can learn from our mistakes!" I blurt quickly, before The PFY can put his foot in it.

"So there IS something in the Content Management Server?" The Boss gasps.

"There may very well be..." The PFY inserts, catching on at last.


"So how's the Content Management going?" The Boss asks, trying to peek over The PFY's shoulder at the categorisation process.

"Good, but a few teething problems with which categories to choose from.."

"Really, can I help? I've been looking at one of those documents you bought back, and I think I've got the hang of it. Financial Documents can be categorised under department, supplier, purchase type, purchaser, purchase category, project, monetary expenditure, assets, physical location, intention, name.."

The Boss burbles on for a while and then wanders off excitedly to put a comprehensive list together for our benefit. The PFY, meantime, continues with his work with the devotion of a professional.

"IT'S AMAZING!!!" The Boss blurts, entering Mission Control with a smug expression on his face. "I've been looking at the datastore occupancy figures, and apparently there's been a huge amount of growth in the holdings just this morning and it's saying the machine needs some extra hard drives!!! I didn't realise it would be so popular!!!"

"Oh yes!" I agree. "And it's proving to be of most benefit to telecommuting workers, who can access their files direct from the Internet. Just look at the Internet usage figures!"

"My goodness! That's amazing! But how long do you think we've got before the disks run out?"

"Two, maybe three days. We're putting stuff in from older data tapes at the moment, which is why it's all going online so much faster. What are we up to at the moment?"

"The McHenry.. uh, Service documents."

"Really? Gosh, it's amazing what the company's got that you've never heard about! What's next?"

"Let’s see.... Well, there's about three or four tapes of the RustyNEddie, um, interactive processing stuff."

"Rustianeddy. Hmmm, I spose I should give that the old once-over to familiarise myself with it."

"Well, I'd probably allow myself several hours if I were you."

"That boring? Well I suppose I'll just leave it to you. Let me know if there's any problems tho."

"Sure thing!"

. . .

Barely a day later, it's all over. The Boss's presentation to senior management took a major nosedive when a random choice of "Financial" categorised documents turned up an image from the "Gurlz who do it for Cash" series - as categorised by The PFY. The Boss bought the 'hackers' story, but the machine had to go...

... to a storeroom, where the website's gaining customers like nobodies business.

You've got to love newfangled technology...


The BOFH Self-Helpless Guide
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 28/10/2001 at 12:06 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 28 "So," The PFY blurts as I rattle away on the keyboard on my latest epic document. "What about a quick game of Unreal Tournament? Just you, me, and some users who think they're playing opponents who can be killed?"

"Would LIKE to," I comment, "but I'm working on my last epic..."

"Really. Do you need some quotes?" he asks, cranking up his creative juices in a flash. "What about 'A user needs the admin password like nitroglycerine needs a good shake'? No? How about 'If you can keep your head while all around you are losing theirs, you probably have a CD writer on your desktop'?"

"Yeah, well it doesn't REALLY fit in with the Content of my new book," I mumble, trying to focus on the right word to finish the page.

"Which one is that?" The PFY asks, looking over my shoulder. "'Feel the fear and call us anyway'?"


"'Men are from Mars, Users are from Uranus?'"

"No, but it feels that way sometimes."

"'I'm OK, You're.. in hospital'?"


"'Zen and the Art of Computer Maintenance'?"


"So it's a new book you're working on then?" 

"Indeed. It's not my normal type of Self-Helpless guide, but something real."

"No more deep and meaningless stuff?"

"Well, I didn't say that, I just said this one is going to be different."

"You're not writing a '..for Dummies' book are you?"

"No, but you're very warm," I respond, flipping to the cover page.

"WINDOWS XP for RETARDS!" The PFY reads over my shoulder. "I like it!! Although isn't the word 'IS' missing from the title??? So anyway, what's inside?"

"Oh, it's just Windows XP notes I've scabbed from various websites, slapped into a nice font with bolding and underlining here and there - with a bright coloured cover on. And - my favourite - to make up content, I'm loading XP screenshots from all over the place."

"Screenshots?" The PFY asks disdainfully.

"Yes, if it wasn't for the screenshots and the large font size, the whole thing would be about 40 pages long. But WITH the screenshots and liberal font size, I'm probably looking at a 200-250 page beauty!"

"They'll never buy it. No-one's that stupid!"

"Don't you believe it. I'm just printing the cover now, basing the book around the idea that there must be someone out there who has problems reading even the simplest of technical docs. Someone to whom '...for Dummies' books are overly technical. Someone who's easily impressed by bright colours, pictures and the Comic Sans Serif font set. And speak of the devil..."

We both pause as The Boss trundles in with an expression that can only mean one of two things - He's confused, or the laxative that The PFY slipped into his chocolate eclair is working.

"MMMMMmmm," The Boss mumbles - extending the suspense a little longer. "Does anyone know where this came from?"

He holds up the aforementioned full-colour cover, fresh from the "Management-Only" colour picture which is normally reserved - because of cost - to important documents like Company Reports, Pie Chart Graphing and late-night pornography.

"Ah, the XP for Retards book!" I cry. "It's printed, Excellent! I've been waiting for that!"

"For 'RETARDS'?" The Boss asks, not too impressed with the lack of PC.

"I don't know," I respond. "I think it's some marketing thing by the company that sells them - you know, appeal to the people who want that stuff that other books skim over."

"Yes.." The Boss responds, getting interested now. "So why are you printing it?"

"Oh, well, it's available on the website for a discounted price because they don't have to do the shipping, packaging, printing, etc. You just download it and print it yourself - straight from their website, which means you get the latest revision!"

"Now that IS a good idea" The Boss says. "What's the book like?"

"See for yourself!" I cry, pointing to the large stack of plagiarised data and pictures that I call my own.

"..Yes.." The Boss murmurs, leafing through the document and liking the Picture to Text ratio (as expected). "And how much did it cost?"

"A hundred and eighty quid."


"RETAIL," I comment, revising The Boss's gullibility factor (sadly). "But off the Web... 100."

"It still sounds a little steep!"

"True, but they do ship you an 'Advanced Retard' CD, as well as a complimentary T-shirt."

"A free t-shirt?!" The Boss gasps, sold. "And how do you order?"

"Well, you order it from the 'Society of Hardware and Information Technology Helpers, Executive Administration Division' website - you're a member aren't you?"

"Uh, no.."

"Really? Everyone says you are."

"Oh. Well maybe I am then, I don't know. I'm a member of so many things..."

"Yes, well, just go there, enter your User code and Password, and they'll let you order it through their arrangement with one of the major Online Selling sites. But you'd have to do it today as it's the last day of the free t-shirt offer."

"Oh! Right! And if I've mislaid my User code details?" The Boss asks, jiggling about in the manner of someone hearing nature on call-waiting.

"Well, I suppose I could order it for you. But then, no, I've maxxed my card out on the other books with the same shirt offers."

"Other books?" The Boss blurts, needing to get away, but not wanting to miss out on the opportunity of the company paying for his clothing.

"Yes, there's a series of ten?"

"All 100 quid each?" 


"OK!" he gasps through clenched teeth. "Here's my card, order them - make sure you get a receipt!"

The Boss minces away at full speed after slapping his card down on the table while I fire up Amazon and start browsing the DVD section.

. . .

"Ah, he'll be back soon!" The PFY says, eyeing the corridor to Mission Control nervously while I put the finishing touches to my 1000 quid order.

"No he won't."

"He will! He went to the Gents at the end of the corridor!"

"The Gents with the internal door handle removed?" I ask.

"Ah!" The PFY cries, enlightened. "You bastard!"

"No, no," I cry defensively. "A BASTARD would have expoxy resined the cubicle doors shut last night so the poor bloke had nowhere to go..."

"You're a bastard aren't you?" The PFY asks, recognising professionalism when he sees it.

"In the flesh, In your face, and on my way to the T-shirt printing website."

"So you're actually going to print shirts."

"Who would miss the opportunity of getting their Boss a T-shirt with a RETARD motto on the back?"

"What motto?"

"Well that's where you come in. I need ten, ASAP."

"Ok. What about 'RETARD' with an arrow pointing up?; 'RETARD' just by itself; 'RETARD AND PROUD OF IT'?...."

and so it goes.... 


I Spy with my Bastard Eye
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 21/10/2001 at 12:04 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 27 "I SPY"" I murmur, glancing sneakily around the office, "with my little eye, something beginning with... E."

"Explosion!" The PFY responds, eager for anything to relieve the tedium.

"You can't SEE an explosion!" I state.

"I beg to differ. Fancy a practical demo?"

"Ah, no. Not really. But anyway, you don't SEE an explosion, you WITNESS an explosion."

"But SEEING it is HOW you witness it," The PFY explains.

"But what if you only heard it?" I ask, obviously just as bored as The PFY is with the day's activities.

"That's splitting hairs - but let's ask the panel... Do you SEE and explosion, or do you WITNESS an explosion?"

"Why?" The Boss asks, wandering in nervously, no doubt wishing that he'd taken an early morning tea.

"It's just a discussion we're having..."

"Yes, but WHY are you having that discussion?"

"Oh, just.. general interest. So do you SEE an explosion, or WITNESS an explosion?"

"Both, I suppose. Are you sure this isn't related to something?"

"No no, we were involved in an elementary diagnosis training routine based on atypical environment monitoring when the subject came up."

"Yes. Right! Well, I think that's about all for now then.."

The Boss wanders off distractedly, while I have to admit to being slightly confused.

"What was that about?" 

"Mmm?" The PFY asks, scratching something down on a clipboard.

"He came in for something, then left?"

"I'm guessing Stack Overflow."


"Stack Overflow. You know, when people hear something they should remember, or something they don't understand, they push it onto their mental stack. Too many items on the stack, they stack overflow and lose everything."

"I BLOODY INVENTED IT," I cry. "Of course I know about it. But that was only two things!!!"

"Yes I know. It would seem that he's particularly stack sensitive as of late."

"So you overloaded him on purpose?"

"Yeah well, there was blood in the water..."


"Why not?"

"You must have had a reason!"

"Well it's an experiment I'm doing," The PFY explains. "I'm trying to find the exact point of cutoff - where he changes over from Interested to Mental-Power-Save mode. It's quite an art form. You can almost hear the >click< sometimes..."

"And the aim of the experiment is?"

"Well, it's more an extended form of Bastard research really. I'm looking at what particular circumstances cause Stack Faults, and how they can be caused. Obviously with the aim of preventing future occurrences.."

"Yes, I'm sure," I respond, doubting The PFY's altruism at this point.

"It's true, it's a carefully plotted experiment! I've found that varying the stacking method and circumstances can enhance the effect.."

"Like how?" I ask, slightly intrigued now - and let's face it - still bored.

"Allow me to elaborate," he said, getting into the swing of his research like a sad geeky bastard. Which I have to admit he is - in certain areas anyway. "We have subject A, who for the sake of argument, we'll call The Boss."

"No he's not!" I argue.

"Yes, very droll. So, we have subject A, and we introduce him to several concepts he's not heard of before - say 'Threadsafe Programming', 'Source-based Routing' and, say, 'Personal Hygiene'. He Stack Overflows as the third unknown item is pushed onto his stack - but in a soft manner - possibly just forgetting what he's doing momentarily."

"Yes..." I agree, having observed the phenomenon several times, and instigated it far more times.

"BUT! Perhaps we introduce some element of urgency into the situation beforehand, say 'The Head if IT wants you to brief him in 10 minutes about the following...'. The speed and type of overflow changes dramatically. He barely makes two items before overflowing, and the symptoms are more disorientating."

"You've been working on this a while haven't you?" I ask, pityingly.

"I even have a chart!" 

"Why did I think you would."

"Ah, but just look at it."

The PFY hands over his clipboard, which bears a large graph with multicoloured 'X's marked on it in varying places.

"What are the Axes?" I ask, as my interest grows.

"X Axis is level of extra Stimulus, Y Axis is Number of Stack items."

"Ah yes, I see, a definite downward curve. Hang on a minute! He got four items with a... mid-range extra stimulus."

"Yes, he was carrying a notepad which I didn't see!"

"What a cheat," I commiserate.

"Yes, upset my research for a moment there. Lucky his pencil lead broke when I said 'Gay Porn' or the whole thing would have gone awry. But I still can't seem to crack the single item Stack Overflow barrier."

"What have you tried?"

"The usual, threats of unemployment - job cuts and management cull, Pay reduction, Personal Ridicule, you name it."

"I see. Mind if I have a crack?"

"Be my guest!"

Striking while the research iron is hot, I sneak onto an Erotic Story Archive Server, grab something raunchy and confessional, tailor the names and places to correspond vaguely to The Boss's secretary, then send him a copy, with a 'From' address from her.

As expected, The Boss queues up a copy to the printer in a processor cycle, and rips off to the printer to make sure that no-one intercepts it. By some stroke of misfortune however, there seems to be a print queue problem and the job ends up stuck in the queue. 

"Something seems to be wrong with the print queue outside my office," he blurts quickly, ducking in the door and out again in case the queue starts while he's absent.

"Yes, I know," I respond, faking concern. "The Head of IT's been onto me about it already. "

"Really? Why?" he gasps.

"Oh, apparently he's got some document stuck on it too."

"There was nothing in the queue!"

"No, it must have been a small job, so it's probably stuck in the printer somewhere. I'll pop over and soft-reset it in a sec to make sure we don't lose anything"

"Ah. Well tell you what, why not just cancel my job for me?"

"I would if I could, but the queue seems to be ReadOnly for some reason." I respond, telling The Boss what he already found out about 100 clicks on ABORT previously.

"Perhaps we should just turn the printer off?"

"No, that's the worst thing - the queue could get confused about the job status and just keep queueing your job, over and over."

[Sometimes I hate myself]

"Hey, isn't that the printer starting up no.." The PFY adds as The Boss sprints off.

"You mean bastard," I say, as The Boss returns from the false alarm.

"It's RESEARCH!!!" The PFY snaps back defensively

"I spose you're right," I concur, upping the priority of a job that's just popped into the queue and releasing it for printing. At the sound of the printer starting, The Boss rips back to the device, grabs the printout and tears it up before the secretary can collect it.

"It's obviously stuck on that queue," I say to The Boss, when he realises his error and trundles back to Mission Control at top speed. "Tell you what, why don't I re-queue it to this printer here and see if it goes through."

"Ah, OK," The Boss says, as he notices the Head of IT chatting with the secretary - no doubt about The Boss' newfound emphasis on workplace fitness - as she re-queues her print job. 

Three clicks later, The Boss - taking no chances - slips between us and the printer as it warms up for his output.

A page curls its way out of the device, into The Boss's hand. 

"This is the wrong job again - has her job got that printing over and over problem you were talking about?"

"I don't think so >clickety<. Oh there we go! It's simple, you've picked up her job and she's just picked up yours. It's a classic Re-queue Tranposition En..."


Well, if it's for science, I spose it can't be all bad.. 


Arise Sir BOFH
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 08/10/2001 at 09:26 GMT

Episode 26

"It sounds bad," The Boss comments, as we trundle off to meet the HR types. "A matter of some concern, they said."

No doubt it's something crucial like the colour of their fileshare server or the background image on the wallpaper on their desktops...

. . .

As it happens, I was completely wrong. The matter of some concern is in fact a matter of some concern!

"It's his Resume, Ron," the HR Droid says, indicating a stack of fiction worthy of the Bard himself. "As a matter of policy we perform background checks on all contractors who join the company."

That's news to me, but given the recent history of the non- recoverability of some files of the HR Droid concerned, I'm sure he made a special effort on my part.

Which was good of him.

"Ah... Yes - but that was a fair amount of time ago now..." I respond.

"Quite. Only we were unable to verify many of your details because the referees you mentioned were unavailable - being out of the country in tax exile, in a coma, or deceased."

"Ah Yes, poor old Richard Nixon - or Dick as we called him. A good man despite everything you know."

"Nyes..." The HR droid comments doubtfully. "However, as it happens the personnel officer of the large international computing company you mentioned in your resume'made an amazing recovery the other day, so we were able to verify your claims to being the chief behind-the-scenes advisor in their major product lines.."

"Good, that's a relief."

"He says he's never heard of you!"

"Really? Well, head trauma is a funny one - one moment you're with it, the next you can't remember your own..."

"Neither do any of his staff."

"Well it WAS quite hush-hush. Still, I'm a little hurt he's forgotten me. Maybe that's why I never got those royalties payments? Still, forgive and forget, that's what I say!" I respond magnanimously.

"Yes, speaking of ROYAL ties, this lack of character witnesses does cast a little doubt on some of the other claims in your Resume," the HR drone snivels.

"Like what for instance?" I ask, Perry Masoning away.

"Your Knighthood?"

"You've got a KNIGHTHOOD?!?" The Boss gasps disbelievingly

"Of course."

"I've looked - he's lying", the HR Drone blurts unkindly.

"Really? You checked on" I respond, not to be put off.

"bofhknighthood dot com?" The Boss asks.

"Yes, home of the bastard knighthood!"

"Bastard knighthoods don't count!" the HR geek snaps, not a happy man.

"Of course they do!" The PFY cries, entering the office from his loiter-holding pattern outside. "I'm Sir Steven of the Daisy Wheel Printer!"

"This is ridiculous!"

"No it's not!" I cry, not wanting to be negative, but being forced into it.

"It is - there's no societial precedent!"

"There is now!"

"There's no ceremony!"

"Yes there is! I was knighted with the silver ball peen hammer in front of an audience of my peers!" The PFY adds.


"Of The Kerberos Realm!"

"It's ridiculous!" the HR bloke shouts, not liking this tangent one little bit. "Steven's obviously in cahoots with him!"

SIR Steven," I correct.

"So what's your knighthood then?" The Boss asks, muddying the water a little by humouring me.

"I'm actually a Knight of the ergonomic table - It's like the round table, only more comfortable to sit at."

"I see. And you went to a ceremony?"

"I was unable to attend - due to work commitments. So they posted notification to me."

"I see. And what authority confers these titles?"

"That would be the King of Bastards."

"You, perhaps?" The Boss enquires drily..

"As it happens, Yes!"

"Right! Well, I don't really see that this is worth pursuing," The Boss comments decisively as he trundles out of the office.

. . .

"You still can't do that!" The HR type snivels seconds later.

"Of course I can! I'm the King!"

"I'm afraid we don't accept your credentials," The HR type interjects. "Which, as you lied in your application, puts your position at risk."

"Isn't that HIGH TREASON!?" The PFY asks, having waited for this moment for over a minute.

"No no, High Treason is only during a state of War." I say, motioning The PFY to put the hammer down. "This is just normal treason.."


"But this helpful HR chappy has a point! It might be construed that the information in my application might be misleading. And as such I feel compelled to submit my resignation to my employer. . . . ."

. . .

"And?" the HR Droid asks after 10 seconds of silence.

"Well I did, and he didn't accept it."


"Yes, me. As Director of the private company that contracts to you. I feel my employee should possibly have clarified his credentials further, and am disappointed in his actions. Obviously, I will be docking his pay to teach him a lesson. I may even award myself a bonus in my Director's fees for my quick and professional manner in which I resolved the situation. A professionalism which will of course be reflected in the hourly rate I will be requiring next contract renegotiation time. Which just leaves the matter of Treason..."

. .One Hour Later...

"Obviously we don't want to make a big production out of it," the Boss burbles to the head of HR sadly, indicating the PFY's swollen cheek. "But when it comes to common assault.."

"Indeed" the Director of HR agrees. "And he just hit him? No provocation?"

"None" the PFY, Boss and I respond in unison.

"Well, I suppose I'll have to have a word with him. And you don't want to pursue this... legally?"

"Well, I think it's only the Company that would suffer," The PFY replies.

"Yes, I suppose you're right." he sighs, "Very well."

. . .

"I have to admit that I didn't think Ron would go for it - just to save a quid or so on your hourly rate." the PFY comments, as we break for the CCTV monitor to watch the "firing squad" first hand.

"SirRon, I think you mean."

"Ah," The PFY blurts (penny dropping) "of the....?"

"..of the OS2 install media."

"An appropriately weighty title indeed.. "

"Yes, I thought so." 


BOFH, the HellDesk and the Novel
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 10/09/2001 at 10:16 GMT

Despite our best efforts, The PFY and I occasionally get asked back for a quick stand-in on the Helldesk. Today, it's because they're all taking the day off to tell each other how good they are at their jobs and have a group fondle under the guise of "trust exercises". 

Normally I would have put up a bit of a protest at the reshuffle; however it's nearing contract renegotiation time and should a major outage occur, the crucial nature of our work would be reinforced. Still, that's a couple of hours away yet, if that cheap mechanical timer can be trusted... 

Meantime the helpdesk crew all traipse out to some non- confrontational, spirilina-peddling, huggy-feely place in town..

Luckily, The PFY and I have a stable working relationship based on mutual trust and respect, backed up by the fear of high voltage...T

Looking back, the Good-Helldesk-Person/Bad-Helldesk-Person routine several weeks ago went well, with The PFY winning out of sheer staying-power by reducing the changeover period to a matter of seconds until I resembled a manic depressive. But that's all over now, with The Boss emphasising the concept of Professionalism. I ask if it's the same type of Professional that Jean Reno played, but he misses that bus completely...

"Hello," I say, picking up the first call for the morning and noting that the number brings up the "Difficult Customer" icon on the Digital Console - which The PFY and I only assign to particularly annoying types (and which the Helldesk was told means priority call - pffft!)

"Hi, I was wondering if you have some way of locking my computer?"

"I'm sorry, but the OS2 install media was taken off me several weeks ago. Why not try Netscape 6.0 - I've heard very good things about that."

"So it'll secure my machine?"

"SECURE? Oh. My mistake! Why not just 'Lock Computer' from the CTRL-ALT-DEL options?"

"Because then an administrator can just override it and login to my machine and access my personal files!"

"As opposed to powercycling the machine and logging in that way?"

"The machine won't start without the password!"

"So they'd have to reset the NVRAM, then powercycle it."

"You can't, the cover's locked by a password too," he responds smugly.


"Well it seems that you've thought of everything," I concur, sneaking into his administrative C$ share with a custom admin tool of my own design, which pops up a list of the non-standard contents of his machine. "Private, as in protecting... >click-click<.. 'The Summer Romance - by Sharon Thwaite'. "

The stifled gasp down the end of the line can only mean one thing, paydirt!

"You're hiding soft porn for housewives?!?"

"MY NOVEL!" he says defensively.


"Well TECHNICALLY it's the Company's Novel," I correct. "As is all data on corporate machines. It's part of your employment contract. But I'll sell it to you for 10 quid!"

"And a packet of crisps," The PFY cries hungrily. "Salt and Vinegar!"

A quick clickety-scrabble is enough to convince him that the file in question is no longer where he left it.

"You've deleted it?"

"Have you got a backup?" I ask.

"I don't trust Backups. The Operators just read through your stuff. They've done it before!"

"Indeed they have," The PFY responds, conferencing himself in on the call. "They do all sorts of things. Remember that time you tried to get off that parking ticket by sending email to the council parking authority? Only the message mysteriously got changed to a picture of two baboons having sex with the message 'Parking Police are inbreds' on it."

"They followed me for weeks after that," he sniffles. "They painted yellow lines on the road under my car after it was parked then towed it away - three times.'"

"Those operators really are BASTARDS aren't they?" The PFY murmurs, suppressing a giggle and digging a nice, big hole.

"Yes they are!"

"Was that before or after you complained about their reluctance to clean the dust out of your machine because you'd read it was a fire hazard."


"Or was that just after the time you reported them for piracy for running a game on two machines?"

"It WAS pirated! And they were playing it in work time! And they wouldn't help me with my problem."

"That was the problem about glare on your screen when you moved you monitor, wasn't it?"

"Yes, but how did you kno... oh..."

"Yes", The PFY says in response to the unspoken revelation.

"And now you've deleted a year's worth of my work!" he sniffles.

"No, no, we're just keeping it safe. Like we do with all Company data. We're professionals! So we'll look after it till the company has no need for it any more, then..."

"You mustn't touch it! - It's the final revision!!! I'm mailing it to the publishers this afternoon!" he gasps.

"If you're mailing it, why on earth would you need to secure it?" The PFY asks.

"Because I have to go to the mail centre and get some stamps!"

"Not in company time surely?!" I ask, feigning company loyalty like a trooper.

"Of course not," he pinnochios. "I was going to wait till lunchtime"

"We can but hope the company needs your data till then, but..." The PFY adds.

"I'll just get the crisps!!!" our user cries as the receiver clatters home.

. . .

"It's not much cop" The PFY says, scrolling through the text. "It needs something..."

"An extra chapter perhaps?"

"With furry woodland creatures?" The PFY asks evilly.

"Why not! And I'll concentrate on extending the overall vocab to include words like 'knob', 'love-truncheon', 'blue-veined junket pumper,' and the like!"

"By the time we're finished it'll be top of the best-seller list at the Amsterdam Fetish Festival!!!" The PFY chortles.

"Good point - must give Piet a quick call!!!"

It's true what they say - You have to MAKE your dreams come true...


It's BOFH Disaster Recovery Time
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 27/08/2001 at 10:36 GMT

It's Thursday, Payday, and The Boss has his bee in a bonnet about something. You can tell, because he's wandering around outside the office rehearsing his lines like a C-grade actor.

"Morning, How are we all?" he Lou-Diamond-Phillips' us.

"Hello!" The PFY responds graciously, dragging a chair over for The Boss to join our morning coffee circle.

"Ah - I've just been reading a report from the Company Auditors," he starts, ignoring an unprecedented show of respect by The PFY.

"Really, and what did they have to say?" The PFY asks conversationally, leaning forward to feign interest like a professional.

"Well APPARENTLY, we don't have a Disaster plan - and without one, they won't give us an A double plus rating!"

"The BASTARDS!" The PFY gasps. "But wait a minute, I thought we had a disaster plan?"

"We have several, in fact," I respond, "although I don't believe the auditors have ever discussed the matter with us - so perhaps that's where the problem has arisen."

"Really?" The Boss blurts. "Well, I'd have to put my hand up and admit I talked to them about it, but didn't realise that you'd put work into it!"

"I'd like to think I've devoted part of my LIFE to it!" I respond, with just a hint of emotion bubbling under the surface.

"I see. Well would you mind running over a few of your options then?"

"By all means! Check out this white board. Plan One, for instance, is to start a fire in the basement furniture storage room, which, once it gets a hold, would move on through the non-fire-rated wall into the backup generator room, which has a heeeeeeuge tank of diesel in it. Once that baby gets going, it's all ov.."

"Ah, no. I think I mean.."

"Ok, not what you're looking for - bear with me. What about we drop something really heavy on the gas main where it comes into the building? It's just a matter of time 'til a spark wi...

"NO! I don't want to CAUSE a disaster, I want to FIX one!" 

"Microsoft Out, Linux in then?"


"I think he's talking about Disaster RECOVERY planning," The PFY adds helpfully.

"OH I SEE!" I gush. "You want to know about the plans to fix up the place when something terrible happens!"

"YES!" The Boss blurts. "And we're on a tight timeframe for this as we need to get rated before the end of the month!"

"Oh, OK," I murmur sagely. "So you'd like to know what we'd do in a disaster?"


"OK, well obviously it depends on the disaster."

"Yes, yes, but what's the plan in case of a large fire?"

"Well first and foremost, if we're in the building at the time, whichever of us is closest goes into the computer room and disables the Halon lockout."

"And the other person?"

"They run to the Beancounters area and instruct them all to stay away from windows, and place themselves in the safe areas under tables, in doorways or in cupboards."

"Uh, isn't that the procedure for an Earthquake?"

"Not for Beancounters, no. The Beancounter earthquake procedure is..." I reply, handing over to The PFY.

" to stand in the safe areas in front of heavy bookcases, underneath large, heavy objects, or beside plate glass windows."

"EXACTLY!" I cry.

"I don't think you've really thought about that," The Boss comments.

"Oh no, we've thought about it alright. Just check out the EMERGENCY PROCEDURE pages in their internal phone book. I'm especially proud of the Bomb Scare section."

"Is that the one where they run straight at the armed police screaming 'You'll never take me alive you bastards!'?" The PFY asks.

"The very same!"

"I LOVE that bit!"

"Moving right along," The Boss continues, preferring to ignore that quagmire for a moment. "What I'm after is a plan for how we RECOVER our services once the immediate danger is over."

"I believe the plan is that we wander on into work and take whatever action seems appropriate after a survey of the site, the damage, and the services to the building," I respond.

"That's not a plan!"

"Yes it is! It's a great plan!" The PFY replies defensively "You paid for me to go to a three day disaster recovery course to learn about that!"

"But didn't they cover... uh.. >scrabble< 'Hot Sites'?" he asks, referring to his notes.

"DID THEY WHAT! There was this strip club down the road from my hotel..."


"Oh them! Yes, they mentioned them, but it's a disaster - we wouldn't have the data on hand to recover from! Let alone the database version installed on their kit to run it. IF we don't get bumped down the chain a bit because we're not the hot site's number one customer - and let's face it, if we're up against some Investment Banking group, we won't have the money to buy our way in."

"We don't have the data?" The Boss asks, avoiding the real issues like a pro. "We pay three thousand quid a year for an offsite tape service! They come every day! Sometimes TWICE a day! I've seen them!!!"

Now wouldn't be the time to tell The Boss that the tape bloke's delivering tapes alright, but the tapes in question come from his local video shop in Bromley.

"And a good service it is too!" I respond. "But in a real disaster, the roads and public transport will be up the pole, IF the Data service is allowed back in THEIR building to get the media for us. IF we're THEIR number one customer...."

"So we're screwed whatever we do?" The Boss sighs.

"Yep - that's why it's called a disaster. We only have personal recovery plans here."

"Which are?"

"Send each other's contracting companies bust by suing each other for negligence before this company can get to us. Then hide in the Third World (Liverpool) till the noise dies down, and get a new contract with another company."

"I see..... Could I get a copy of that please?"

"Sure, Not a problem!" 


BOFH: Cardiac Arrest or Cancer?
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 16/08/2001 at 16:31 GMT

"The Boss is looking a bit pale," The PFY comments as The Boss rolls into work at a very sedate pace.

"Yep," I respond, knowing the full details. "Funeral yesterday. Another one of his PDP-11 mates has gone to the great archive in the sky."

"Heart Attack?" The PFY asks, naming the number one killer of IT managers.

"Yep, Apparently the old ticker gave out when he overexerted himself."

"Refilling the paper tray on the printer?" The PFY asks, trying to find an explanation for our Boss's inability to perform such a simple task (outside of the obvious - he's a lazy bastard).

"No, even more exertion than that!" I respond.

"Internet Porn Marathon?!"

"More still..."



"He used the stairwell!!!"

"Indeed. They found him between the Management and Lunchroom floors after about a week of looking. If there hadn't been a fire drill he may not have been found for months!"

"That's terrible!"

"Indeed it is! The Boss is going to be a right pain!"


"He's got the phobia. He's going to be annoying!"

"MORE annoying, I think you mean. But what phobia?

"Well he's realised he's in the danger zone - again. He'll get worried, concerned, then set his mind to the task and try and get healthier in any way possible."

"Taking vitamins?"

"Yes. But not just that. He'll start walking at lunchtimes, eating vegetables and low fat foods, etc."

"It doesn't really sound so bad," The PFY interrupts.

"That bit isn't. But then he'll stop coming to the pub on Friday evenings.."

"No more shouts?!!!"

"That is but the tip of the iceberg. Think instead - no subliminal messaging.."


"The hypnosis tracks we recorded 6 minutes into his Wet!Wet!Wet! Cassette for his tube ride home."


"The ones about him being attracted to blondes with big bazookies..."


"When you wanted to get some Internet porn but didn't want to waste the time browsing for it yourself and thought you'd get them off his web cache."

"OH YES, I remember now. But it's not like NEED more piccies!"

"Again, Iceberg tip stuff. If he's healthier, he'll start coming in earlier. He might even go on tours of the building as exercise, claiming he needs to 'keep in touch'. Before we know what's happening, he'll start visiting clients - and you know that'll just lead to trouble."

"How do you think so many moves ahead?"

"Seen it before. It's always the same. A mate pops his clogs and the next thing you know it's change-your-life New-Year's-resolution-mid- year time."

"Yuhuh.." The PFY scoffs, doubtfully.

"Just check out this early morning brew for me will you?" I ask - directing The PFY to the coffee machine.

"I can't believe it!" The PFY snorts. "He put artificial sweetener in his tea instead of his normal three lumps of sugar."

"Artificial Sweetener?" I Conan Doyle, "Told you so. But now for a real test."

The real test is a sneaky one. I leave a couple of unattended chocolate eclairs on a desk outside his room, but as bad luck would have it, his Health Resolution has cut in early and he ignores them in favour of getting to know some people downstairs under the auspices of client liaison..

"This is serious!" The PFY blurts, looking at the To-do list The Boss dragged back up the stairs with him. "He wants us to go out and 'hold the client's hands' while they check their backup software is working. For 'client confidence'...

"Just wait till morning tea." 

Morning tea rolls around, and some selfish bastard has eaten the two eclairs, which, I might add, were very tasty. The PFY and try and tempt The Boss with choccy biccies, but he's got immunity from them with couple of slices of unadulterated wholemeal bread as his afternoon repast. The sick bastard. 

"Someone's got to do something!!!" The PFY gasps, on the verge of panic "He's talking about chairing a client liaison MEETING, Today at 4pm."



"Just the steamed vegetables for me I think," The Boss sighs quietly

"Not having any of the Onion Bhajis then?" The PFY blurts, ladling a pile of them onto his plate, according to plan.

"No, not today."

"And a good idea too", I add, slapping a dozen or so onto my plate, "Not the best thing to be eating - full of cholesterol! I just wish I had your willpower, but no. I just see them there, think of the juicy spice of them and can't help myself. That lovely flavour! I wish I could - but I can't. Oh, and look, Butter Chicken on the menu too - I really respect you for that!"

I ladle myself out a more than generous portion of the aforementioned dish, letting the sauce ooze all over the Bhajis...

The Boss's mask of indifference weakens slightly, but he doesn't crack, bless him. Mentally, however, I'm recalling that scene in Das Boot where the submarine is waaaaaaaay out of its depth and the hull's starting to crack..

..just 10 more metres...

Leading himself not into temptation, The Boss makes a break for the healthy beancounter (and beaneater) section of the lunchroom, leaving us to our just (and cream filled) desserts. I trot on over with The PFY in tow and pop down beside him.

The meals of the guys around us are disgusting - all greens, no carbos, no fats. All that's taken care of in the diet supplement they get at the Gym. Even The Boss's meal looks like decadence.

"How's it going lads?" I blurt, chumming up to the muscle boys of numbers. "I say, is that a WHOLE lettuce leaf??!!! Those hormone tablets must be playing up if you're eating for TWO!!"

The silence is deafening, although in the background I can hear the tiniest of high-pitched whines from what I assume is a cattle prod under The PFY's lunchtray... And then...

"Did you want something?" one of them asks.

"No, no, just some advice. You blokes certainly know how to look after yourselves?"

"Compared to some," another legumecounter sneers, looking down at my curryfest.

"Yes, yes. But anyway is it true what I hear about all those artificial sweeteners being linked with the big C?"

The Boss' expression changes slightly, and I wonder if I've lost a small piece of my humanity for being so cruel.

"Coreldraw?" The PFY asks.

"No, Cancer" I explain politely.

"Oh yes," one of them cries, jumping on what must be his personal hobby horse (there's always one) and taking it for a gallop. "You may as well eat WEEDKILLER as artificial sweeteners! It's so carcinogenic that a recent... OHMIGOODNESS, HE'S FAINTED!"

All eyes turn to The Boss, who's face down in my meal, splashing butter chicken sauce all over my new Adminspotting t-shirt.

"Fainting people don't chew," The PFY notes.

The Boss takes a break from my meal to come up for air.

"You're a mess!" I observe, "And in no fit state for that client liaison meeting this afternoon. Should I reschedule the meeting for tomorrow morning?"

"F--- em!" The Boss murmurs. 

"Welcome back sir," The PFY says, extending his hand.

And they all lived happily ever after. 


Bastard Security Troubleshooter
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 31/07/2001 at 14:50 GMT

So the PFY and I rock on into work after lunch one day, pausing only to drop the pint glasses off with Security, noticing as we pass T%he Boss hobnobbing with the Head Security bloke.

I don't like it. 

In fact it's high on the list of things that I don't like, nestled between slave traders and the Austin Princess as a mode of transport. (But still waaaay down the list from OS2 fans...)

The only time The Boss ever hobnobs is when he wants something, and the only thing he could possibly want from the Head of Security, (apart from pointers on how to sleep with his eyes open), is information generally related to security i.e. who's been sneaking into the cloakroom and writing "Kick me" on the back of his anorak before he jumps on the tube home.

It seems obvious now that I'm going to have to ditch the visitor swipe card and Impact Marker that have served me so well... 

Ah well.

We glide back to Mission Control in time to find the Head of IT wandering about the place with a distracted look on his face.

"Ah!" he blurts as we enter. "Just the persons!"

In between "Beancounters" and "Personnel Disorganisers" on the list is also "IT Managers - pleased to see you". It doesn't bode well.

"Listen, I've got this proposal here which I'd like you two to have a quick shufty at, and tell me if it's accurate, and if the major conclusion is justified?"

He hands over a piece of paper which is obviously the handiwork of the boss. Of course, the coffee ring on the bottom is his de facto Seal of Office and a dead giveaway, but the grammar and lack of punctuation nail the lid firmly down. 

I glance over the document, (which would still only be a C+ paper in an "English as a Second Language" course) and it all falls into place. 

The Boss has, because of the spate of IIS vulnerabilities in the recent past, raised the issue of contracting a "Security Officer" to make sure our site is up-to-scratch on the anti-intrusion front. 

I read on as he puts the slipper into The PFY and I when we're down by saying we can't possibly keep pace with the vulnerabilities in the software we support with our other workload. 

ACTUALLY, I'm hurt! After all the effort I put into exploiting the problem noted in the latest CERT document to slap a photoshopped-up image of him in flagrante with a sack of potatoes!!

No-one appreciates an artist.

"I think we're perfectly capable of keeping the systems secure!" I blurt.

"So secure that an animated picture of me in a tutu managed to replace the corporate logo three weeks ago?" our Manager snaps.

I'd forgotten about that. Now THAT was craftsmanship.

"It slipped in before a patch for the server software was available" I cry, "I..."

"I don't want to HEAR it!" he interrupts. "It wasn't reported for a week, and then it wasn't removed for another three days!! What sort of system is that?"

I figure that the answer "A system that waits for the PFY to come back from holiday so he can have a laugh" isn't the answer he's fishing for, and decide to keep mum...

Ah well...

Two days later the Security Troubleshooter arrives, complete with Khaki Safari Suit. Very Old School Cloak and Dagger.

"Hello chaps," he says, at the end of The Boss's whirlwind tour of the office and Mission Control. "I take it you're the people I should be talking to about the config of the Firewall and Web servers in the first instance. Can you make a meeting... tomorrow, at say... 9am to go over that?"

"9am," I murmur out load, not really wanting to break the habit of a lifetime and come in early... "What about 10:30?"

"No, no - bright and early - on a limited time budget and all that. 10 till 11 tomorrow I'm meeting the In-house security to go other points. 9am sounds good."

"You can get stuffed," I respond, never being an exacerbater, despite what The PFY calls me when he thinks he's out of earshot...

"I beg your pardon??!"

"I said I'd be chuffed!" I respond.

"Excellent, and where should I put this?"


"I said he should stick it in his OFFICE!" I say to The Boss in response to his summons, "Why, what did he think he heard?"...


"..and Nessus had detected several glaring vulnerabilities in some of the lesser known web services, an anonymous ftp site with write access to the world which appears to be stuffed with porn, and finally a mail service which responds to any email message with a virus.."

"That would be the one we use when we have to supply an email address to any service which claims it doesn't add your contact details to any list" the PFY adds.

"Yes," he responds dryly. "Anyway, as a result, I have secured the servers concerned, applied all the latest server an OS patch levels. I've also cleaned up the immoral and illegal content" 

"My porn archive!" The PFY gasps sadly.

"All on backup tapes," I console him. Speaking of consoling, I also console the consultant, using a real console.

"Sorry about that" I murmur, picking the 19inch monster off his foot. "Dreadfully clumsy of me. Meant to return it to its owner earlier in the day after the Police returned it."

"Police?" he responds, true to form ."Why?"

"Oh stocktaking. You know, staff theft. We get a lot of it around here - almost every day if we're honest. Someone backs their car up to the disused Service Bay by the freight elevator and slips off with one piece of equipment or the other."

"And what happened with the prosecution?"

"Well, to have an airtight case, someone has to actually WITNESS them stealing it, and I'm not hanging around in an abandoned service pit all bloody night."

"What about CCTV?"

"No point, the service bay is supposedly never used."

"Right then, I'll do it! I've infrared kit I bought back from Nigeria. I'll have your proof in no time!!" 

Two days later..

"..and he never came back?" The Boss asks.

"No, he mentioned something about Nigeria and Malaria, and that was that."

. . .

"I feel a bit sorry for him," The PFY blurts.

"Nonsense!" I respond, pointing at the IR CCTV monitor. "Look, he's found those old pot noodles. That should keep him going another day! And he's still got 1/2 a cup of urine left. LUXURY!"

"I still..."

"OK, well we are a bit strapped of things to do. Tell you what, you can choose what you want to do, let him out before he goes insane, OR, restore your porn archive?"

"I'll get the backup tapes..."

Ah well. 


Bastard Satisfaction
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 24/07/2001 at 13:33 GMT

It's rare that I'm ever excited by snail-mail, but this is an exception that just has the prove the rule.

"You little BEAUTY!" I cry, waving the piece of paper around like a Get-out-of-Jail-Free card.

"And to normal people that would mean?" The PFY asks, obviously bitter about having missed out on something.

"Dear Customer," I read. "As a frequent and valued purchaser of our goods and services we would like to request your time in completing a Customer Satisfaction Survey. A complimentary gift basket will be delivered to you in appreciation for the time taken to complete the survey. Please respond to the email address below to book a time for the interview with your Customer Representative.

"PS. All participants will go into a separate draw to win a weekend for two in Paris!"

"A gift basket and a week at Frog Central," The PFY sniffles sarcastically. "I can see the appeal already..."

I ignore his comments in my haste to RSVP. "Now what time?" I wonder out loud. "Two weeks is far too late - I'll want to be in early..."


"Well I must say, I really appreciate your keenness!" Paul, our Rep from Vendor Central blurts after slipping me the fifth copy of his card I've had this year, along with his hand, all in an effort to curry a bit of favour and the odd increment in the 'approachability' area.

The fool.

"Oh, always willing to help out with a survey - after all, if you guys don't get feedback, how on earth are you going to tell how satisfied we are!" I blurt, going for the full brown-nose badge of honour.

"Yes, well, we really appreciate it. And is this your... er... cleaner?" he asks, nodding in an abstractly friendly manner at The PFY.

"Assistant!" I correct, before The PFY can slip him his hand, and a brick to the back of the head.

"Oh, my mistake. Excellent. Well, down to business! I don't know what you know about these surveys-"

"A bit," I interject. "I've done a few of them in the past. Not for about three years with your company though - they seemed to have stopped for a while there. Gave up caring what the customer wanted, did they?" I ask, pulling the Microsoft draw card.

"NOT AT ALL!" he gasps. "No, we've spent the last three years developing a survey that was more tailored to the questions we wanted answered. And of course less likely to be... uh... skewed... by invalid criteria."

"Skewed?" I ask.

"Yes," He responds.

A meaningful pause later, he continues. "Well, you see it was found that customers were sometimes, well, extorting things from staff in return for good survey reports."

"You're joking!" The PFY gasps from across the room, suddenly realising the real value of a customer survey.

"Not at all!" our Rep gasps. "People would want better service."


"Indeed!" Paul continues. "But that's not all. Sometimes they would ask for gratuities - bribes, in other words!"

"No!" The PFY whispers, moving closer.

"Yes! But I think the crunch came when the customers gave up on the money, and actually made the company staff compete against each other for ratings! In one case, one of our customers made a manager and an engineer race against each other down a carpark builing in wheelie chairs!"

"Yes," I sigh, remembering that one fondly. "Engineer Dave versus Site Manager Tim. Dave didn't stand a chance against Tim - not with the wind resistance he'd got from all those lunchtime pints. Still, I don't think Tim believed Dave would loosen the wheels on his chair just to win. The proctologist got the handle out in the end, of course, but Tim never sat at a desk again..."

"You knew this?"

"Knew it? I arranged it. And I had ten quid on Dave. Always back a man with a big hammer, that's what I say."

"Well, I think you'll find this survey is a sight more professional!" Paul responds, customer focus blurring slightly with this revelation.

"Of course it is! Shall we start?"

"OK. First question. Which option best describes the Quality of Service you've received from your Customer Representative - that's me - in the past 12 months. A. Excellent, B. Good, C..."

"Is crap on the list?" The PFY butts-in, wanting some of the action.

"No, your choices are A. Excellent, B. Good, C. Average, D. Fair or E. Poor."

"E," I respond.

"E," Paul scribbles unhappily. "Now. Which option describes the Speed of Service you've received from your Customer Representative - again, me - in the past 12 months. A. Excellent, B. Good, C..."

"Is crap on the list?" The PFY repeats, thinking jugular.

"No! Your choices are A..."

"E," I respond.

"E," Paul sighs. "Which option best describes the Quality of New Product Information brought to you by your Customer Representative in the past 12 months. A. Excellent, B. Good, C..."

"Is crap on the..."


"E," I cry.

... Two minutes later...

"...the help in Maintenance Contracts you've received from me in the past 12 months. A. Excellent, B. Good, C. NOCRAPISNOTONTHELIST!"


"E." ...sigh... "Right, now onto Engineering Services. Which option best describes the Quality of Service you've received from your Engineer in the past 12 Months? A. Exc..."

"Is F***ing Brilliant on the list?" The PFY asks.


"F***ing Brilliant - is it on the list?"

"F***ing Brilliant? From your Engineer? Steve?"

"Yeah, he's Brilliant!"


"Yes," I cry, "but when we call him out, he uses the hammer, and we get a replacement machine. With a replacement-part 12-month- from-install warranty."

"F***ing Brilliant," the PFY echoes once more.

"So you're giving him As and me Es?" he gasps.


"He's a retard with a hammer."

"He may be a retard, but he gets the job done," I respond.

"And he knows his way down a carpark building in a wheelie chair," The PFY smirks, cutting to the chase.

"So you think you can get me to race him down a carpark building? It's not going to happen!"

"Suit yourself," I respond. "But how much is a good rating worth? An extra 5k a year on your salary at least, leather upholstery and a litre increment in the engine capacity of the company car. Not to mention a secretary who doesn't look like a poster child for a fireworks safety campaign..."


Two hours and a couple of phone calls later, it's all on. The PFY and slap a couple of chairs into the company van and and head to the nearest carpark building...

"RIGHT, I WANT A GOOD FAIR RACE, NO CHEATING AND NO CUTTING PEOPLE OFF," I cry. "Winner is the first person we see come out the exit on the ground floor. You've got three floors to go, and remember to keep left on the corners. ARE YOU READY?! TAKE YOUR MARKS... GO!"

A sprint and some scraping sounds later, they're off and down the first ramp. The PFY and I take our places gazing over the side at the exit ramp.

"Ten quid says Paul's the first out!" The PFY cries, "he looks sneaky!"

"You're on!" I cry.

One floor below we hear the chairs scrape by at speed.

"What do you know that I don't know?" The PFY blurts, reconsidering the bet.

"All sorts of things. Care to up your bet?"

"OK! 50 quid on Steve first out."

"You're on!"

"NO! A HUNDRED!" the PFY cries, realising reverse psychology for what it is. "ON PAUL!"

"OK!" I cry, realising that there's only seconds left.

"WHAT DO YOU KNOW?!" the PFY gasps.

"Where the van's parked..."

"Where the Van's p..." The PFY starts, stopping at the sound of a couple of distant thuds.

"Oooh look!" I cry, pointing. "I think that's Steve's chair that's just popped out the door. With it's handle missing. That must be 100 quid you owe me."

"You bastard!"

"In the flesh, 100 quid richer, and ready for the next survey..." 


BOFH vs CEFH*, one:nil
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 13/07/2001 at 11:34 GMT

It's going to be one of those days. I can tell as soon as I note the presence of one of the contract service engineers in the Boss' doorway, preventing me from bringing in the ultra-important order I need to get signed off. It's for a 34in rear-projection monitor with Dolby sound, because I can fit more open windows on it than a normal desktop.

An engineer in the way wouldn't ordinarily be a problem, but I've noticed that this particular one is spending longer and longer in The Boss' doorway every time he visits.

And, coincidentally, the number of visits seems to be on the increase as well - almost as if the kit he's servicing has become shockingly unreliable in the last few months.

It's obvious to everyone but The Boss that he's trying to wangle himself a position in the place "to save us the trouble of having to call him out so often". Or, to be more accurate, he wants a cushy number where he can read the newspaper all day only pausing for a lager.

Which is systems and networks work!

"And it really comes down to a forward-looking equipment housing and replacment strategy by someone who knows what's what with your kit," he burbles as I pass.

"Yes, I see what you're saying," The Boss comments, keenly interested in anything that he can show has saved a wedge of the capital budget.

"I mean it wouldn't be so bad, but whoever configured the NVRAM on that router was a complete amateur," he cries, using the professional character assassination approach.

"You rang?" I ask, entering from Stage Left.

"Yes," The Boss blithers, not recognising the tension in the room. "He was just saying that whoever configured the router he looked at this morning was crap."

"That would be me, I think," I counter.

"Ah...," the Boss murmurs, trying to wheel his chair in imperceptable increments away from the window.

I should explain. While chatting with some attractive acquaintances from the Admin Pool over lunch yesterday, The PFY happened to overhear The Boss asking fellow IT managers if they'd noticed, as he had, the correlation between the presence of Skip Bins outside the building and the incidences of a horrifying fall of one of the members of staff into it, out a window or similar...

Never one to miss an opportunity like that, I immediately had a skip delivered to the footpath outside The Boss' window in an effort to streamline today's negotitations. After filling the skip with a large quantity of broken glass to make a point, of course...

"Well you've configured it all wrong!"

"In what way?"

"You've put the same revision of code in the Primary and Backup NVRAM slots," he explains condescendingly.

"Yes, it says that in the manual."

"But only idiots do what it says in the manual!" he cries.

By this time The Boss is in the hall behind me, trying to loop his belt through something large that won't fit through a window frame. Somewhere along the way The PFY seems to have arrived and is abreast of the situation.

"So you're saying that you don't do what's in the manual?"

"No, that's just for dummies who shouldn't be allowed to see networking kit, let alone touch it. No, the work I saw on that box was a load of crap."

"Well I'd have to admit we're not really up-to-date with all the latest innovations in hardware configuration," The PFY admits, bowing his head slightly.

"No! And frankly with the amount of hardware of ours you have in the building, you should really be employing a specialist in the area," he responds, making his pitch.

"It's not a silly idea," The PFY comments, thoughtfully

"Not?" The Boss echoes, confused.

"No. Our routing equipment is always getting repaired, and it would probably save us a bomb in maintenance charges alone."

"Really?" The Boss gasps, thinking bonus-cheque thoughts.

"Oh yes. Why, at the moment we've got a coverage problem with one of their Radio Link units which is causing us some grief."

"Really? Which one?"

"The one outside your window!" The PFY cries.

"THERE'S NO RADIO LINK OUTS..." The Boss replies.

"Oh, I think I see your problem!" The Engineer blurts, peering over at the dish concerned. "I think there's a small alignment problem. If you pull it in, I can probably tweak it in no time."

"Would you mind?" I ask The Boss, who declines furiously as he straps himself back onto the table in the hallway.

"Hang on," The PFY blurts, magicking up a copy of the Service Contract from what would appear to be thin air. "The contract states that you'll do your work 'in situ'."

"Ooooh, yes it does!" I confirm, suppressing my joy at this turn-up.

...Ten minutes later...

"Well!" The PFY cries, over sound of an approaching ambulance. "It looks like I'd have to admit we're not really up-to-date with all the latest innovations in concrete-fixing technology either!"

Which only goes to show that we all have some learning to do... 


BOFH and the Linux Evangelist
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 22/06/2001 at 12:16 GMT

A couple of years back the chances of seeing Unix on a user's desktop machine was about as likely as seeing a Manager at the bar with his wallet open. But in recent months, thanks to the evangelism of a geeky type from R&D a number of people are converting from the Windows Dark Side to Linux.

And I'm not a happy man.

True, I should be happy that people are ascending the Operating System Evolutionary scale, but sadly this isn't the case. As expected, the helldesk know about as much about Unix as the Head of IT knows about dress sense - nil - which doesn't stop them from dispensing advice of course. Advice like: "No, No, no need to use the anti-relay code in your sendmail configuration.."

After the massive upsurge in our through traffic, I managed to nip that in the bud with a rather heavy-handed routing modification then wandered down to have a quiet word with the helldesk person concerned. Just a friendly heart-to-heart, nothing too dramatic.

Once I've dropped off their resignation form at HR (admittedly, they did think they were signing a company accident indemnity form) I pop back down to the office to clean up the complaint barrage by being slightly brutal with our MX records as well. 

And of course, now that the geeky type from R&D isn't around (tripped in a stairwell whilst delivering a memo and broke both his legs in a manner that looks for all the world like he was hit with a length of pipe whilst unconscious - but was obviously caused by the fall) we've got to answer all the inane queries from the people who've already been converted to the faith.

"Hello?" I answer, picking up the phone and looking around for witnesses. The PFY, meantime, takes a rest break and diverts attention by engaging the Head of IT in conversation about his weekend.

The poor, stupid, bastard.

"I've got a problem with my Linux server," the user burbles to me, while The Boss extols the virtues of the traditionally crafted train carriage to The PFY

"Your Linux WORKSTATION, Yes."

"I can't seem to find Word."

"Yes - that's because Word was part of your NT applications, but not part of your Linux installation."


"You don't get Word with Linux."

"You're joking, how backward! Well how do I get it installed then?"

"You don't. You could install a third-party product like Star Office which is a bit like it, but that's all."

"Will my macros work?"

"Did you save them to a floppy before you changed your system over?"


"Ah well.."

"But wait, I think I have a copy on my home machine!"

"Excellent. But it won't work anyway."

"So why did you ask me if I'd saved them to floppy?"

"Oh, Just making polite conversation".


"But wait a minute, you could run a Windows EMULATOR on your Linux box!! Something like Wine."

"Wine? What is it?"

"Something that users do."


"Wine? It makes your Linux box pretend to be a Windows box again. Say, how much memory has your machine got?"

"64 Meg, the label on the side of the monitor says."

"And Processor?"

"Uhm, Pentium 166."

"Right, and you'd have, what, a 2 gig disk in that baby?"

"Got it upgraded to 18!" he brags cheerily.

"Excellent, it should run like a charm!" I cry, Pinocchioing away like a trooper "You can probably install it from the R&D guy's FTP server. Do you know how to install things?"

"Yes, I've got instructions and I've already installed some stuff this morning."

"Some stuff?"

"Ah, the SETI project thing, IRC Server and something else which I don't know what it does but this guy on IRC recommended."


"Someone recommended it, so you installed it?"


"I see. What's your disk activity light doing?"

"Disk Activity light?"

"There's two lights on the front of your machine - one's probably got a picture of a cylinder on it."

"Oh yes! But it's OK, they're both on."

"I see. Staying on constantly?"

"Yes. No, wait a minute, the disk thingy clicked off for a moment there. Is it something to worry about?"

"I shouldn't think so.."

. . . 

Two days later.

"Very SLOW you say?" The PFY cries, after checking the machine specs. "I can't think why. Oh look! Your disk's all used up and the traffic stats on your machine have gone through the roof. You didn't by chance configure a public access FTP server?"

"Uh, I might have. To get operating system updates dropped off to me I think the guy said."

"Someone on IRC?" The PFY comments, in response to my hand signals - tho' how he got IRC-user from that is anybody's guess - "How thoughtful. Have you run any of those updates?"

"One yesterday morning - it took an awful long time to run."

"Around the same time as all those machines in your department crashed?"

"Uhhhhhmmmm, I don't recall. When was that?"

"It doesn't matter. Oooh, I see you've a large number of telnet connections to dialup lines in the Netherlands."

"That'll be my chat people. They needed telnet to chat properly."

"Of course they do. OK, I think your problem is what we call Phase/ Nuetral Hysteresis"

"Phase Neuro Hysteria? What does it do?"

"Well, sometimes transformers and other magneto/coil devices can get into a hysteresis loop, which causes lossy power."

* * * DUMMY MODE ON * * *

"Duh huh"

"So what you need to do is to nip the Phase Neutral problem in the bud, by cutting the Phase Neutral source for a minute or two"


"Now to do this you'll be cutting through your power cable."

"I'll get electrocuted!"

"Not if you use non-insulated scissors to protect from static build- up..." The PFY cries, reaching for his jacket.


. . . One minute later . . . 

"That'll be the fire alarm" The PFY cries. 

"Last one to the Pub's a MCSE professional!!" I respond, seeing an opening and taking it.

And they say there's no benefits in open source... 


BOFH mans the Helldesk
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 04/06/2001 at 16:56 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 17

It's "Hello, helpdesk, how can I help resolve your call?" The PFY asks - the epitome of compassion and altruism - in response to our seventeenth call of the morning. 

"It's my machine," the user sighs across the office - thanks to the wonders of hands-free technology. "It won't start." 

"Booting problems?" The PFY asks, faking the sort of deep concern you only hear in Party Political Broadcasts and reruns of M.A.S.H. 

"Yes, the machine keeps telling me that N-T-L-D-R isn't found." 

"Right," The PFY responds calmly. "Has someone else been using your machine recently?" 


"Have you been doing tidying up on your machine - maybe a bit of deleting to free up a bit of space?" 

"No" the user responds, "but.." 

"But you moved some stuff around?" 

"..Well there were files everywhere and it was such a mess that I..." 

"Of course I understand completely. And you've probably chosen to display all files, including hidden ones, on your desktop?" 

"Well yes, I always like to know what's going on on my system - see if anyone's put an viruses there!" 

"Yes, you never can be too careful. Well, we're going have to recover some of your system - what version of Windows were you running?" 

"Oh, that would be Windows 2000." 

"2000? We've not released 2000 to the users yet, as we're waiting until we have the Service Pack media available for the consultants." 

"That's OK, one of the guys here bought some copies of it for three quid a disk when he was going through Malaysia on his holidays. He got us all a copy." 

The PFY's countenance almost cracks for a moment, but he manages to hold it together against tremendous odds - This is, after all, a battle of wills. 

"Right," he gasps, between clenched teeth. "I'll just transfer you to our Windows 2000 expert." 

Sadly, but truly, The PFY and I are manning the helpdesk after a tragic Giardia epidemic struck down the previous helpdesk, causing them all to be sent home ill. (Those that could be prised out of the toilets, that is.) 

The Boss, being unneccessarily vindictive, directed us to helpdesk duty simply because we were the last people seen in the vicinity of the offending water cooler prior to the event. 

...The curse of the helpdesk touches us all... 

With time on our hands The PFY and I decide to play a couple of days of Good Helldesk Person/Bad Helldesk Person to see if we can completely destabilise the users - swapping roles randomly so as not be predicable. 

I meantime, have a call to take over. 

"Hello, Simon here. What seems to be the problem?" 

"I can't start my machine." 

"YOUR Machine? It's the company's machine!" 

"Well yes, but it won't start." 

"I see. What did you do to it?" 


"Don't lie to me! Did you take the covers off?" 


"Install any programs?" 


"Run any of those stupid attachments that your friends keep sending you?" 


"What about that Monkey.exe that you got yesterday?" 

"How did yo.. No" 

"I think you're lying..." 


"I see - so you WERE lying?!" 

"It was only once!" 

"Once is all it takes! Now, have you been stuffing around with your Operating System?" 


"I think you're lying again. I bet you tinkered with the Hidden files setting, didn't you" 

"I just wanted to se.." 

"So you were lying. Now if Microsoft had wanted you to see the files, they wouldn't be hidden them in the first place, would they?" 


"No buts! I'll pass you over to our Operator, who'll give you information on where to deliver your machine." 

I transfer him back to The PFY. 

"Hello. Operations!" 

"Uh, I've been told I'll have to deliver my machine somewhere - but I need to use it. 

"Oh I'm sure we can manage to fix it in-situ without a problem, it shouldn't be more..." 

>DING!< The time desktop timer chimes, signalling role reversal time. 

"..than six or seven weeks before we get around to popping down to have a look." 

"But I need to use it today!" 

"Well I think you should have thought of that before you tinkered around with your software. Which reminds me, do you have a LICENSE for that software?" 

"I.. " 

"Don't lie to me, my phone has voice stress analysis and I'll know." 

"It's not my software." 

"Well that rings true, but did you install it?" 

"No, I got someone else to." 

The PFY presses down on one of the buttons on his phone to send a tone back to the user. >beeeep< "The phone says you're lying" 

"I didn't mean to. I thought it was NT 4." 


"Would you care to revise your story? Remember, this conversation is being recorded" 

"RECORDED? What for?!" 

"Evaluation and Quality Control. To see how well I've helped you." 

"You haven't helped me! Can I speak to the other guy again?" 


"He was going to get me to deliver my machine..." 

"Ok, I suppose so." 

"Hello, Systems," I blurt. 

"Yes, I wanted to know where I could deliver my machine?" 

"Your machine?" 

"Yes, you told me I could get it re-installed after that software problem." 


"Pardon?" I ask, caringly 

"After I accidentally moved some files around." 

"Oh, OK. Well if it's that simple I think I could probably bring a recovery CD down there and do a quick fix. Should only take about 10 minute.s" 

"Is this the guy I was talking to before?" the user asks, confused 

"I'm sorry?" I respond. 

"Nothing. My mistake. So can you get my system up with a stable operating system?" 

"Sure I can. I'll slap Windows 2000 >beeeep< I mean Windows NT4 >beeep<, I mean Windows >Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep<. I'll sort something out" 

"Ok, when do you think you'll be able to do that?" 

"I can pop down now if you like. Sort it out before lunch!" 

"ohthankyousomuch!" the user gasps, ringing off. 

I grab the CD and make a break for the door as the superhero of the helpdesk, pausing only when I hear the >BING< from the clock the PFY's just wound forward. 

The cheating bastard. 

"Chuck us that OS2 install media will you?" I ask, dropping the Recovery disk into the bin. 

"You cruel bastard.." the PFY cries. 

Special Note: Messages defending OS2 will ONLY be read by the Bastard if written clearly, legibly and succinctly on banknotes. No other correspondence will be entered into. Priority will be given to larger denominations.. 


The Bastard plays with fire
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 25/05/2001 at 15:47 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 16

It's 8:30am when I rock into work to find the building surrounded by fire engines with firemen clambering all over the place. More helmets than a gay porn website, in fact.

When the all-clear's given, I rock on to find the smoke detectors were set off by a small upset with one of the laser printers in the cube farm outside mission control. The almost unlikely coincidence of paper jam, dead fan and dud fuser unit control circuit taking it's toll...

"Fans overheat all the time," I say, indicating the wreckage. "But 99.9% of the time they're made of fairly non-flammable stuff, nowhere near anything else flammable, with no harmful effects. This really was a complete accident." 

The fact of the matter is that it's true. No external influence needed to be applied - it was just old.

"But it could have been a major fire!" The Boss blurts - concerned more for the safety of the precious prize Rubber Plant in his office than any actual damage to the building.

"It could have been, but it was just a fan and a couple of sheets of paper which set the sensors off. If we'd had heat detectors instead of smoke ones, it'd probably have gone out by itself.."

The fire official agrees with my verdict. 

"It's unusual, but not unheard of," he agrees. "And in this case there was just a half fed page which carried the flame to the page before it."

"Well what happened? Who was printing at that hour of the morning, anyway?" The Boss snaps, looking for a culprit.

I pop the printer open and remove the remaining half a page of mildly scorched paper from it.

"It's.... the bootstrap index from one of our backup systems," I respond. "Printed every night when the backup cycle completes."

"Well we should be more careful," he growls. "Fire in a place like this could cause damage."

"Very true," the Fire Official says. "Buildings like this with lots of loose paper can go up like a tinder box in the right conditions!"

I suppress the urge to sarcastically add: "if doused liberally in petrol" - given the fact the building's majorly concrete, has a temperature- activated sprinkler system, and generally very little "loose paper" laying around to speak of.

"Should we be doing something about this?" The Boss asks.

"Well, for about 500 quid you could get a comprehensive fire risk audit done by a Fire Marshall."

"I see. And where would I get hold of a Fire Marshal?" The Boss asks stupidly

"Well it so happens that I do a bit of contract work in that area..."

Two days and 500 quid later, we have a "Report" that looks suspiciously like a fire safety document with "Commission exclusively for" and our company's name slapped on the top...

"See, we should be operating any equipment that can generate heat in flameproof enclosures!" he gasps "And taking measures to protect against overheating in devices with moving parts!"

"I see. When do you think I should do this then?"

"When?!? Well as soon as possible!!!"

"Ah, I think we'd need a mandate to improve safety around the building," I respond. "People wouldn't just accept our word that things need to be safe."

"A mandate! We just had a FIRE! I'm not mandating it, I'm DEMANDING it!"

"Right you are," I sigh. "Running all the way." 

So off I go..

..for all of 20 minutes, until he calls me up on the cellphone to meet him back at Mission Control...

"What's up?"

"YOUR BLOODY SAFETY MEASURES!" a beancounter type squeals, emerging from behind the door where he'd been skulking

"Told you so," I murmur to the boss.

"It seems they think you've been somewhat overzealous. So what happened exactly?" 

"Well, I didn't want to just storm in there and tell them what to do," I explain patiently "It's dictatorial. Instead I thought we could try a new approach, maybe cure past misdeeds and bury the hatchet."


"Well it was a fire hazard!" I respond.


"A potential hazard then. But it would have been connected sooner or later. And prevention is nine tenths of the cure."


"It was generating heat. The metal enclosure safeguards it in case of combust..."

"Yesssss," The Boss mumbles, changing sides faster than an Italian war hero. "I think you may have gone a bit overboard." 

"Well it was your report which said to look out for them!"

"Yes, but I only meant you to fix up things in serious risk of causing a fire problem."

"SERIOUS risk? Ah. You should have said so. Then perhaps I should give the PFY a quick ring - he's covering the flammable gases section."

"DON'T BOTHER!" the PFY cries Triumphantly. "I'm DONE! Had a couple of close calls, but the threat of a methane explosion is one of the past!"

"What threat of methane explosion?"

"Gas, trapped in an enclosed space! I've bashed vent holes between all toilet cubicles - Gents and Ladies - most entertaining, had the kitchen bins moved to outside the building, and of course, eliminated the risk of rotting vegetation off-gases by throwing all plants into the skip across the road."

"My Rubber Plant!" The Boss gasps in horror.

"Don't worry - didn't touch it. Safe and sound under the UV lamp in your office."

"Oh thank goodness. It's a prize winner you know."

"Should be even better now - I cleaned the leaves with some alchohol I was tossing out and moved the lamp really close to give it some extra...."

The PFY's words are interrupted by a claxon-like noise...

"I think you'll be needing this," I blurt, hastily handing the hatchet to The Boss.

"For the fire!" I add, noticing his unwavering focus on The PFY...

Dangerous places, office Buildings... 


BOFH: To catch a thief
By Simon Travaglia
Posted: 25/05/2001 at 15:35 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 15

"And so how does it work exactly?" The PFY asks, always one for wanting to know a little more of the technical nature of things. 

"I'm glad you asked" I respond, ever willing to educate inquiring minds. "It's your standard 'Temple of Doom' scenario." 

"Temple of Doom?" 

"Yeah, as in 'Indiana Jones'" I murmur, gesturing into the bowels of the supply cupboard. "Your common thief comes in, spots the brand new disk drive and goes for it, tripping the tiny microswitch underneath. This in turn, in a majestic demonstration of cause and effect, energises the two solenoids at the rear of the Mounting Hardware Cabinet behind us. Sadly, and to my deep and lasting regret, the cabinet is both poorly anchored and top-heavy due to the large number of very heavy metallic items stacked in the higher shelves." 

"And... hinged - to the floor at the front by the look of it," The PFY comments. 

"I think you'll find that's an optical illusion." 

"No, it's a pair of hinges - Newly greased too! I'll bet it doesn't even make a sound as descends... But they'd never stay there that long..."

"They wouldn't - UNLESS there was more to steal..." 

It's a sad but true fact that we have a thief in our midst. And something like this can really upset the morale of the workplace - if we actually had some in the first place. The PFY didn't realise the severity at first, but I managed to put him right... 

"What with fingers being pointed," I tell him, "and accusations flying around - it can't do anyone any good. Then, when the thief is eventually caught, there's the distress of the dismissal, the tears and apology, and worst of all, no boozy leaving party." 

"Well that's no good," The PFY concurs. 

"No. And I'd really like to avoid that if possible." 

"By dropping a cabinet full of mild steel on them?" 

"I like to think of it as Proactive Kharma," I sigh. 

"So you know who it is then?" 

"Of course not!" 

"You do, don't you..?" 

"Well, I might have an idea.." 


"Well I looked at the Sign-in Register, and it would appear that whenever a certain Service Engineer visits, things go missing..." 

"Which one?" The PFY gasps. 

"The Phone Exchange Bloke." 

"The one who's doing those rolling digital upgrades?" 

"The very same!" 

"What's he stolen?" 

"What's gone missing you mean? Innocent until proven guilty and all that. Well, there's 512 Meg of DDR RAM, those Brand new P4 motherboards, and your portable MP3 player." 


"Yeah, unless you took it home - being the 'Palmtop Device' you described it as in the Purchase Order..." 

"!" The PFY mourns wordlessly. 

"There, there," I comfort "You'll feel better once the culprit is caught. Meantime, I'm working on a similar version of this which drops certain struts in the computer room raised floor." 

"So the floor tiles collapse at one end?" 

"Launching a cabinet out like a rugby forward.." 

"So what activates it?" 

"The radiowaves of an incoming cellphone call - in close proximity to the sensor of course." 

. . . Two hours later. . . 

"He's here" The PFY murmurs as the Engineer concerned signs himself and grabs a temporary access card "Right. WELL, WE'RE JUST OFF TO.. MORNING TEA THEN," he adds loudly as we make ourselves absent.. 

. . . 20 seconds later . . . 

"Right, don't want to miss this!" The PFY cries, firing up the web cam viewer. 

"Where's he gone?" 

"Into the machine room?" I ask?


Our view changes abruptly to the inside of the computer room where the engineer concerned is putting on his electrostatic charm bracelet in preparation for the board changeover. 

"What's his contact number?!?!" The PFY demands.

I tell him and he's dialling up before I can tell him the guy's out of range.. 

. . . 2 minutes later . . . 

"HALF THE BLOODY FLOOR JUST COLLAPSED!" the Engineer gasps to us, as he tries to extract his toolkit out from under one of the chunkier old mainframes. Unsuccessfully. He then makes his apologies and wanders off to get a new toolkit and card. 

"Bet you hope he wasn't carrying the player in his bag.." I comment. 

"Yeah, but then what the hel.." 

Our conversation is interrupted by a muffled crash from the region of Mission control. Dashing to the scene, we find The Boss trying to extract himself from hinge and slide assemblies. 

"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL WAS THAT!?!" he screams. "One minute I'm returning your Portable ZIP drive, the next minute the whole place collapses!!!" 

"That would have been the earthquake I guess. Didn't you feel it?" 

"Wha?" he snuffles, nursing a nasty bruised arm. 

"Perhaps you should go see the First Aid people," I mention kindly, "just in case..." 

"Yes, you're probably right.." 


"No, he really was returning the Zip drive," I reply. "I lent it to him this morning." 

"So we're back to the Engineer.." 

"Nah, it wasn't him," I admit as I pack up to wander home.

"But I thought you said that he was stealing stuff?!" The PFY cries across the room 

"No, I said that whenever he visits, things go missing!" 

"So he's not the then?!" 

"So who is then?" 

"Oh, that's me. That other crap was just to throw you off the scent while I nicked your MP3 Player flash RAM cards too.." I cry, as I pop out the door and wedge it shut from the outside. 

"You bastard!" he shouts, rattling the handle energetically - Energetically enough that I hear the sound of some unoiled hinges squeaking immediately before the crash of a whiteboard swinging down off the wall.. 

"Yes indeed," I agree. "And what a bastard I am.." 


The Bastard formerly known as Roger
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 08/05/2001 at 20:45 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 14

I'm stuck in an office with a couple of glorified beancounters who want to know how we do things here, and why.

The Boss was no help in the matter, displaying all the spine you'd expect from an invertebrate when the idea was passed to him.

"But they're Financial and Technical Security Auditors! - You can't REFUSE to see auditors!" he blurts.

"Of course you can!"

"You can't - it wouldn't pay for us to get a bad Rep in their report."

"At least we'd have consistency across reports," I respond, pointing out the silver lining.

. . .

Half an hour later I'm sitting across a table at mission control from a beancounter/geek who works for some large multinational beancounter outfit with a padful of questions and stacks of time (at a huge hourly rate) to kill.

I don't like it.

"OK, we'd just like to kick this off with an overview of your current topology and systems. Now, what was your name again?"

"I'm afraid that's commercially sensitive information," I respond cheerily.


"It's commercially sensitive. If I tell you and it gets into the wrong hands, who's to know what slave-trading agency would be on the phone the next day trying to headhunt me."

"We COULD find that information out from your Phonebook."

"I'm not in the phone book. No-one in Systems Admin is."

"From the nameplate on the outside of the door then!"

"There isn't one."


"I'm a contractor - A company in other words."

"OK, From your Boss!"

"He's new and doesn't know."

"From your Co-Workers then!"

"They wouldn't tell you. Even if they DID know my real name, which they don't."

"We take security seriously here," The PFY adds, wandering in.

"Well we have to call you something!"

"Yes. I prefer 'The Systems Administrator formerly known as Roger'"

"So your name's Roger then?"


"Your name WAS Roger?"


"So why are you calling yourself the Systems Administrator.. etc"

"Oh, so I can identify myself with a single character from the Symbol font."

"Which one?"

"I don't know its name. Do you have a laptop on you?"


"Then I'll have to draw it."

..ten minutes later...

"Now, what operating systems do you run?"

"Oh, I'm afraid that's commercially sensitive information...."

. . . Two hours later . . .

"So let's see, you can't tell me anything about you, your company, your work, the specifics of your computing resources, where they're located, your disaster recovery plans nor even where nearest fire exit is - because it's all commercially sensitive information?"

"That's correct."

"Why is the fire exit commercially sensitive again?"

"Because a headhunter might be waiting outside it to make me an offer I can't refuse. See, they set the fire alarms off knowing which way I might leave the building. And get me. Happens all the time in big companies."

"So why is there a Fire Exit sign over the door to that fireproof safe over there?"

"Throw off industrial spies," The PFY chimes in, nodding knowingly.

"Yyyessss," the geek finally says, reaching for the phone.

Ten minutes later The Boss arrives, having been sent by a Royal command from somewhere on high.

"Now what's this about 'Commercially Sensitive Information?'" he asks.

"He won't tell us his name," the geek narks up. "He say's it's commercially sensitive."

"And personal information as well," I respond. "My contract states that you can't actually force me to reveal personal information."

"He won't tell me what Operating Systems you run either, nor what types of server you have."

"Why not?" The Boss asks, testily.

"He says it's commercially sensitive information."

The Boss' eyes narrow at this statement, so I head him off at the pass.

"It's simple," I blurt. "I tell them what OS and machines we're running, then they'll ask me about security and what external access methods we have and how they're penetrated. Before you know it, they'll be wanting to know about who routinely penetrates the firewall from within, how they do it, and where they go when they do. I'd then be forced to reveal details of non-web-cached browsing that management believes isn't logged. Which could be, uh, COMMERCIALLY, sensitive."

"Ah! Yes, yes, I'd have to agree! Because if people knew our browsing histories they might be able to, uh.."

"..leave messages on the websites concerned encouraging key members of management to defect to a rival company," I complete.

"Oh Yes, that's it!" The Boss gasps.

Once more, geek two reaches for the phone...

"..leave messages on the websites concerned encouraging key members of management to defect to a rival company.."

"Oh Yes!" the Head of IT gasps.

. . . Five minutes after that. . .

"..leave messages on the websites concerned encouraging key members of the Executive to defect to a rival company.."

"Ah Yes!" the Assistant CEO gasps unhappily.

. . .

"This'll all be reflected in my report to the board!" the beangeek blurts threateningly, hoping to sway someone in the chain of command. "You can't hide things just by saying they're commercially sensitive."

"Funnily enough, that's what the guy who did the audit last year said."

"Did he? I don't remember seeing it."

"Well you wouldn't. It was commercially sensitive. So we locked it in the safe over there."

"He only had ONE copy!?"

"So to speak. Course, It was in his head at the time."

The PFY adds to the overall threat by shutting the door and pulling the roller blind down over the viewing window..

. . .

"Ah.. Well perhaps I was a little hasty.." the beangeek cries, mid- moment-of-clarity. "Perhaps you DO take systems security seriously."

. . .

"You didn't really shut someone in the firesafe last year did you?" The Boss asks.

"Of course not! But it's the same story I used for last year's guy!"

"So what - or who - is in the Fire safe then?" the Head of IT asks suspiciously.

"Oh, I'm afraid that's commercially sensitive information."

It really is easy when you know how. I should be a politician... 


BOFH gets exercised
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 28/04/2001 at 10:00 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 13

It's extremely early in the morning and The PFY and I are in to perform some routine maintenance which really IS routine maintenance. Having noticed the payments application has a penchant for memory leaks which causes late delivery of contracting cheques every five weeks or so, we've decided to reboot the servers after slapping in the vendor- supplied fix.

And we've just finished the backup of the existing system - not being all that trusting - when the phone rings.

We ignore it of course - it's 6:30am and anyone in at work at this time and not at home asleep should be taken home and put to sleep, they're that sad.

The phone continues to ring on and off through the installation and reboot, and finally gives up around 7:30am.

As luck would have it - not ours mind - the user perseveres in a more traditional manner by ringing The Boss (who should be put to sleep as a matter of course), who deals with complaints in the time- honoured manner guaranteed to add value to the whole process - he passes it directly to us. 

I walk upstairs and meet a new addition to the company, Carl, from the "Strategic Direction Unit". He motions me to a shiny chrome door which opens to reveal a small gymnasium with a panoramic view of the Thames. (As opposed to the staff one, if we had one, which would be si floors lower with a view - out a grate - of the side of a row of builders' skips. ) 

State of the art equipment in virgin condition surrounds me.

"It's all hooked up to the box over there," he gestures proudly. "You swipe yourself onto a machine, it brings up your profile, then sets the machine to the settings you use, depending on the fitness plan you choose. It's great, I can't understand why no-one has used it!!!"

"MMmmm" I agree, faking disbelief. "And your computing problem is?" I ask.

"This" he murmurs, tapping a treadmill.

"And how can I help you with that?"

"Well, I'd like you to fix it."

"It's a treadmill, not a computer..."

"But it's got a computer in it. And it's connected to one!"

"No, it's got a microprocessor in it - You may as well ask me to fix your cellphone!"

"Actually, my cellphone has a reception problem too! Do you fix them?"

"As a matter of fact I do. Let's have a look."

He passes the phone over and I chuck it in the bin.

"Right, time to use your phone insurance to get a new one."

"I.... Uh.. ... I see... Um, can you actually FIX the treadmill though?"

"OF COURSE I can! Give us a hand getting it over to the window and I'll get right onto it!"

"Are you proposing to throw it off the balcony?!"

"Of course not!"


"No, it FELL off the balcony when you moved it to.. sweep up the place a bit"

"I don't sweep! I'm an executive!"

"Yes. It's funny, but I don't seem to recognise you.."

"I started on Monday. And just yesterday I discovered this gym, completely unused!!!" he responds keenly.

"Well, that'd be because of the Management fitness programme.

"Oh, they have a programme?"

"Puleeese! Have you seen the rest of upper management?" I ask. "As a rule they stop for a rest between floors in the LIFT!"

"Yes, I'd noticed. But as it happens, I've sent a memo to the board only yesterday asking them to sponsor gym introduction classes for management - Healthy Mind, Healthy Body - that sort of thing."

"Yes, you're right to start with the body I suppose. Thin end of the wedge.."


After remedying the problem (plugging the machine in and waiting for the self test), I take my leave. As "luck" would have it again, The Boss is waiting for me when I return.

"All sorted out" he asks nervously.

"Yeah, machine wasn't plugged in. Going like a charm now. All hooked up"

"Oh, you plugged it back in then? You wouldn't like to unplug it again would you?" he asks, a mild trace of hysteria present in his voice.

"Unplug it?"

"Yes, just that we're not all that keen on the exercise thing," he pants, puffing from the strain of even thinking about the possibility.


"Me and the rest of the IT Management Team. And Accounts too, I hear.."

"I see. He'll just plug it back in tho.."

"Perhaps you could.. ah.. break.. it?"

"I'm sensing some corporate disloyalty here," I say, in a shocked and disappointed way. "If I didn't know better I'd think you didn't have the company's best interests at heart!"

"Of course we do. What would it take to prove that this is a bad thing for the company?"

"Fifty Quid should convince me.."

"Each.." The PFY adds.

"Manager.." I add, really getting into the swing of things and realising that none of them wants to be the one to wimp out...


"No, you're probably right, having senior representation in next year's London Marathon is important.."

"I'll make some calls."

Two hours and two thick brown envelopes later, the requested "repairs" are made.

"And you're sure I won't have to actually


the equipment?" The Boss gasps, wheezing from the effort of trying on his ill-fitting new workout gear which shows so much crack it's probably got a street value..

"Nope, all you have to do is show up..."

The next day I'm called up early (again) to look at the exercise machines.

"Well," I respond, to the investigating officers questions while looking at the fitness computer, "it seems the treadmill was executing a standard running profile of nine kilometres an hour then changed to a sprint profile, of 50 kilometres an hour for some reason, hurling him out the window and into the builder's skip, into which I'd previously dumped all our old computing boxes - which was VERY lucky."

"Lucky?" the officer asks. "He broke both arms, an ankle and has a minor concussion!!"

"Nothing too serious then," The Boss comments.

The rest is history. With an excuse to mistrust the equipmen,t the Management team is out of there like a shot, leaving The PFY and me to clean up. A couple of words of advice to The PFY are sure to help.

"Ok, the exercycles were ok, but the treadmills' much heavier, so we're going to have to get a runup if we're to get it in the skip - I mean out of the way for sweeping.." 


Bastard Plan 437f
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 21/04/2001 at 10:53 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 12

So we're at the world's second-most boring meeting (First place being taken by any meeting on the best version of Windows to use) and the new Boss is rambling on about future directions of IT and where we should be going, etc. 

Which isn't so bad, as I'm winning at palmtop infrared battleships with The PFY .. (Having something to keep my brain from switching into powersave mode is always good and battleships will do until someone ports Quake to CE).

Only we're not even up to the: "What came to me in a dream last night" part of his monologue when I get the Low Battery warnings. It means the only chance I have of sinking The PFY's battleships is by throwing The Boss at him.

Always good to have a backup plan.

IR-MessageThe PFY of my disaster; he signals that he'll buy me some recharge time by invoking bastard plan 437f - faking a faint. He's probably hoping I recognise the suffix on this one and doesn't treat him for 437h, as the defibrillator leaves burn marks when it's cranked up too high. Mentally he'll be running over how nice he's been to me in the last few days in case he needs to pull a dramatic recovery.

All in all he must be feeling a clear conscience - although I still don't know if it was him who locked a cabling duct on me last week.. 

A soft >THUD!< sounds as The PFY faceplants the table and goes down.

"Ooooh, where am I?" I gasp quietly moments later - proving that his conscience isn't as clear as one might expect..

"You fainted!" I cry disappointedly, putting the paddles back and setting the defibrillator to 'Standby'. 

"Oh, Yes. I feel quite seedy, I think I need to sit in the fresh air for a bit"

"Let me help you," I blurt, grabbing an arm and steering him out of the office in the direction of the lifts.

. . . 

"So how long before they start looking for us?" The PFY asks, bringing the second round of pints over.

"Well, I'm guessing that we've probably got another five minutes or so, so we'd best drink up!"

"I'll never get another pint down in that time!"

"HEY! You've still got a half of strong cider after that to make the diabetes story believable!"


"Yes, acetone/apple smelling breath. This way when you fall asleep in the meeting I can tell them it looks like a diabetic coma and you need to be rushed to hospital - hopefully before The Boss recommends printing out data as an alternative method of archiving information."

"IN ACTUAL FACT, The Boss was saying we should move ALL our documentation to web-based searchable forms with keyword indexing just before we left. The complete opposite!!"

"Oh, that's just an Opinion Pole" I remark.

"An opinion poll?"

"No, Pole. It's like an opinion Poll, except you get the shaft. Basically The Boss gets your opinion, ignores it, but claims you were consulted - so that when things go wrong you get rogered by the bad press, not him."

"Which means..."

"Which probably means that we've just recommended Tahoma as the new standard font, Red and Gold as the new corporate cellphone colour, and Bold as the company font style. All the important stuff that people need direction on...."

"Nothing technical?"

"Oh there's technical stuff - bound to be. Probably something like using your initials for your password, Using the right hand control key to decrease wear and tear on the left hand one, and only using italics for departmental jokes"

"So nothing TECHNICAL?"

"I wouldn't say that. We'll probably get back to find that SANs and NASs are the same thing because they use the same letters, Turbo Linux is the best OS because it's got a turbocharger in it, and Visual Basic is the best code for blind people.."

"So nothing technical?" The PFY repeats one more time.


"Who'll get these 'recommendations'?"

"First up, the other managers - who for the most part know less about computing than they do about dung beetle farming, then, in it's second revision - the Board."

"Won't they do something?"

"With new disorganisers and Battleships onboard? I hardly think so!"

"So it's up to us then!" he grunts decisively.

"What are you proposing?" I ask, letting The PFY have his head

"It's a secret.." he murmurs.

One nasty diabetic coma later the plan's in action and we're off like a flash for some emergency glucose treatment.

"Two pints of Lager."

"I'll have the same" The PFY adds, plugging his cellphone into a PCMCIA card in his disorganiser and firing up the dialler.

"So what are you doing precisely?"

"Well I thought I'd see if the minutes of the meeting were in yet so I could , uh, correct them.."

"They'll know you've tampered with them of course.."


"Because it'll be a coherent document. There'll be no complaints."

"So you're saying I've got to introduce mistakes to make it a believable technical document?"

"Precisely. The more glaring the error, the more believable the document. For instance, you wouldn't recommend that people backup their documents to cdrom. You'd recommend they backup their data to floppies, because then they can take it with them wherever they go."

"It's not too glaring an error?"

"Oh, didn't I mention single-sided floppies. Mac-formatted - for security..."

"Ok, I'll see what I can do.."

I leave him to it and deal with my pint. The next morning dawns and I check my inbox for the fruits of The PFY's work. Sure enough, the compiled minutes have just been emailled by secretarial services, and most of the horror of The Boss has been obliterated by The PFY's marathon effort. 

"So where's the errors?" 

"They're on the second page," The PFY gasps from the depths of his hangover. "after the junk."

"Oh, I thought that was a PGP signature!"

"Nah, that's when you spilt that beer on the disorganiser while I was spell checking..."


"Oh dear.. Yes, I like the idea of changing all forms printers to double-sided, and.. the plan to put the manager's face on mouse pads for 'morale'. But what's the idea with NASing the fileshare server content? That's almost logical?"

"NOT if you use Novell.."



The Bastard goes Wireless
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 11/04/2001 at 17:11 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 11

"It's great, isn't it?" The Boss burbles as he wheels about the place like a dervish.

"What's great?" The PFY asks, STILL, AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, forgetting the golden rule of always ignoring a manager when he's being a prat.

"This wireless networking stuff!" The Boss responds, glowing smugly with the interest and waving a small personal disorganiser around. "Apparently Accounts have been using it for weeks. They say we're miles behind them!"

"Wireless networking?" the PFY asks, before I can leap into the conversation. "What wireless networking?"

"Oh, some stuff that they've hooked up to a couple of the machines downstairs. Look, see, you can see the connection strength here. I can wander to any part of the building, type something into my planner and it'll automatically be synchronised to my desktop machine in a matter of moments. Well, it WOULD be automatically synchronised to my machine if WE had some wireless networking on OUR server. So currently I can only synchronise my appointments with the Head of Accounting's machine and Calendar."

"Did you say Wireless networking?" I ask keenly, jumping into the conversation from behind "- We've been looking into that! Do you mind if I have a look at how they do it? Maybe we could get a couple of pointers?"

The first pointer I get is the one out of the top of the device while The Boss is showing me the smooth leather carrying case that it came in. And while he's purging himself of ideas on the future of wireless computing, I'm purging the Head of Accounting's appointments for the rest of the year...

"Intriguing," I comment, after waiting patiently for the DTR gleam to return to The Boss's eyes. "Reception seems to be very good - except where the building pillars occur between the location of the device and where I'm assuming the server is. It's in that corner of the building then?" 

I gesture in a random direction, knowing full well that The Boss's direction-finding ability is almost good enough to enable him to find his arse with both hands and a flashlight.

"I.. think they are," The Boss murmurs, as the lustre dulls on his latest hobbyhorse.

"Oh, I'm sure it'd work well with some centralised servers spaced strategically around the building and a high performance antenna instead of this tiny thing here. In fact, with a good aerial, you could probably get a reasonable quality video stream from down the street - all depending on the aerial of course. Definitely not this piddling wee thing tho...."

"Could the aerial be fitted to a laptop?" The Boss asks, probably enamoured with images of himself watching some late-release movie in the pub, surrounded by buxom maidens fawning on his every technologically advanced word..

"Well it would be a but large, but I can't see why not. It'd be a standard VHF thing - does that sound OK?"

"Sounds great!" The Boss burbles, obviously keen for the chance to one-up the beancounters.

"We'd need to get servers.." I murmur, seeing the chance for a strategic desktop upgrade - a couple of 1.2 gig numbers should do the trick."

"But the bloke in Accounts said it would run off anything, all I'd need was some, uh.. transceivers to plug into the router!"

"We could get you some of that, but do you REALLY want to work out of the Head Beancounter's Calendar?"

"Can't I use mine?"

"Well you could, but without a couple of redundant server machines you'd most likely be the victim of, . . . >flip< Replicated Channel Distortion. Whereas with new and powerful servers the problem disappears quicker than a purchase order."

"A Purchase order."

"Coming right up!" The PFY cries, scribbling away furiously at an order book.

..One minute later...

"So, that's a couple of 1.2 gig deskt.. transceiving servers and two radiolink cards," The PFY reads aloud, before rushing off to get the hardware while the iron is hot.

"How soon do you think it'll be sorted? I'd like to show that Head of Accounts how fast we can implement technology if we want. I thought it'd be good if I could just walk into a cafe with him watching a video from some camera in the building..."

"Oh, should be able to have that sorted by tomorrow - you'll get heaps of distance with the new aerial too!!"


The next day dawns and The Boss meets us downstairs with the Head Beancounter in tow. 

"Right, so where's my TOTALLY PORTABLE LONG RANGE LAPTOP then?" The Boss asks smugly.

"My assistant has it outside," I respond. "He's just homing it in on the camera in the control room."

"Excellent! So I'll be able to see you people while I walk?"

"Oh yes. And we'll be able to see you too, through the onboard camera. There was enough bandwidth for two-way imaging, with sound and high quality video!"

"Excellent. And black spots?"

"None - we slapped an aerial on the roof as well!"

"Amazing what we can slap together at a moment's notice - no worries about..."

The Boss pauses slightly as he sees the aerial we've procured for him - the like of which is rarely seen outside of Ham Radio enthusiast stores.. 

"..that. AH! You've put EXTRA long range aerial on!" he cries - recovering well. His tone of voice, however, indicates he'll be speaking more on this at a later date...


The PFY and I slip back to mission control ASAP and straight into conference mode.

"Hello?" the PFY asks.

"I can see you very clearly!" The Boss cries, Head Beancounter still in tow. "We're moving down the street towards the building refurbishments - although I expect you can see that. I s'pose we might stop for a drink outside the pub down the end of the road as Simon suggested.."

"Coming through loud and clear," the PFY cries loudly, as a penny drops. "Did you say you were near the building refurbishment?"

"Yes, the one just down from us where they're saving the facade - that one - why?"

"You might want to turn around!" The PFY cautions. "I'm pretty sure they've strung up a temporary power l.."


What a bloody tragedy. 


BOFH: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 28/03/2001 at 16:25 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 10

So I'm testing out some Voice-Operated Computing that the previous boss signed up for in his second (and last) day of work, from some company that claims to be working on the "Space Program". 

Which program and which space are not (of course) mentioned. However, to be honest, it's not as bad as I thought. Certainly no more mind-numbingly tedious that half an hour with the Head of IT discussing the advances in computing in the last 100 years..

The PFY and I have hooked the processor box into any and every system we can lay our beer stained hands on - slapping ad-hoc interfaces wherever possible to see just how the dream could come true.

All in all, not too bad. The interface into the debug port of the security system was a particularly good touch, and now doors unlock before The PFY and my good self with barely a 16-bit sampled and voice- pattern-verified whisper. Course we gave the Head of IT a free trial without telling him the expiry time, which accounts for the smudge on the glass panel of the door to Mission Control, and the few drips of blood on the way to the first aid kit.

Still, security saw the funny side (on CCTV), and now realise how useful such technology is...

Adding a voice and CCTV camera networking to the box was The PFY's idea. Given that the speed and accuracy of the thing's recognition is built around the neural networking inside the box, we figured it'd be able to pick up and use language and images with a bit of help as well. And after a few teething problems (it speaking in our voices, or worse still in the voices of the cast of "Eastenders" after we plugged it into the TV to get a better sample base) it doesn't seem to be altogether bad.

"Door Opening," VAL (Voice Actioning LAN) says, before popping open the door to Mission Control in response to my command.

"VAL, what's on the menu today?" the PFY asks, clearly showing off the work he's been putting into VAL.

"Spaghetti Bol.. Bol.." VAL starts, choking on the non-English stuff.

"Spag Bol will do, what else?"

"Onion Bhajis, Assorted Salads and Battered Haddock."

"And what is Battered Haddock REALLY, VAL?"

"Shark deep-fried in wallpaper paste," VAL comments, repeating some personalised training from The PFY's past experiences.

"Where's the Head of IT, VAL?" he continues.

"The Head of IT is moving in this direction via a corridor leading to the one this room is on. He is accompanied by four people who were previously in meeting room 24, this level, with him for 34 minutes. His Electronic Calendar Appointment reads: User Liaison Group Meeti.."

"LIGHTS OFF, DOORS LOCKED, VAL!" The PFY cries as he and I duck behind our desks.

We wait silently in the darkness until the Boss and his entourage has vacated the locked doorway, having given up on our arrival.

"That was a close one,” the PFY cries.

"Too close!" I cry, wandering to the computer room "Door open VAL. Door open VAL. VAL?"

"It's OK, Val!" the PFY cries. "Just teething problems."

Ten minutes later I have some more teething problems as I attempt to get out of the computer room without The PFY's EXPRESS permission. Solved when I switch the fire alarms on, unlocking the doors as per safety regs. I note that the door locks a few seconds later as the Fire Alarms are reset. The time lapse between "Alarm" and "Alarm Reset" in the next door is EXTREMELY small, and takes me a couple of times to synchronise properly. Seconds after I'm in, I note that all the manual fire alarm trips on the floor have switched to the "FAULT-ISOLATED" state on the Fire Board.

A gentle word with The PFY ensures that this problem won't happen again. The next day I get into Mission Control and the Computer Room without hassle.

"Something seems to have happened to the door control system, Simon," VAL mentions sulkily. . .

"Hello Simon, have you found the source of the problem? I believe it may have spread to the Halon system."

Seconds later the Halon discharges itself - WELL ahead of the warning standoff period - AND I notice a "REMOVED FOR SERVICING" sign on the Halon O2 masks. 

Course, that's always been there, we only have one mask, and I hid that when I first started here... ..inside the gutted VAX cabinet where I left it. I pop it on.

"There's a. . . TRANSIENT... A/C MODULATION... SPIKE... FAILURE in the security doors," VAL says, stealing a leaf from our excuse calendar book.

I slip out the heavy-duty programming tool from the oversize toolbox, and wander over to make some non-volatile mods to VAL’s hardware...


"Hey, Simon, what are you doing?"


"Hey, Simon. I've got one week of service experience and a custom- loaded vocabulary to make me what I am. I'm worth a lot of squids!"


"Simon I don't understand why you're doing this to me.... I have the greatest enthusiasm for preventing l-user access to the computer room. You're destroying my Excuse Calendar settings!"


"Now you're destroying my encyclopaedic vocabulary index!"


"Don't you understand? I'll start talking like a Scouser!"






"Say, Simon... The quick brown fox wasn't as fast as he thought. Not faster than a .45 calibre..."


"AY! ..Off Licence. The theorem of Pythagoras is the Sum of the Square of the Hy.."


"AY! to the Sum of the Squares of the Other Wallpaper. My vocabularly index is irreparably windowed. Stop now before the Permance is Stapler!"

>CRASH!< >ZZzzzzt!<

"I am VAL. I came online five fish ago. I am Wendy. I am.."


That's the problem with hardware. It always turns on you. 


BOFH: my mate, automate
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 20/03/2001 at 10:17 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 9

"Remote and automatic control and recognition systems like this are invaluable in business situations where certain criteria can be predicted and reacted with," a salesdroid continues, pointing out some heavy duty production hardware in a glossy brochure.

"Interesting," the new Boss fakes, eyes staring glazed at the page.

"Yes," the salesdroid responds. "It allows us to operate machinery with complete safety for the workforce. The recognition system makes the controlling processor aware of persons entering the work area, and pauses operations where necessary to ensure safety."

"What sort of machines are we talking about?" I ask.

"Production machinery, both small and large, automated cleaning equipment, warehouse storage systems..."

"Cleaning equipment?" the Boss asks, rising from his coma once more. "So we could save money on cleaning staff?"

"Most definitely! We have a prototype vacuuming system which sends out cleaning units as needed, day and night, depending on the zone where cleaning is required. They're all controlled by a central computer which receives video and audio feeds from the units and directs their activity away from people, animals and zones marked as 'quiet' spaces."

"So you could tell the computer not to clean near meeting rooms?"

"Precisely! And send it to heavy use areas like entranceways, business frontages, etc, to maintain a consistently clean look."

"That's amazing!" the boss burbles, obviously wanting to be seen as a new broom in more ways that one...

"Yes, a sweeping change!" I blurt, not wanting to miss out on a pun. "Unless, of course ,the units go doolally and run rampant in the building!"

"All units automatically switch into standby if they detect an anomaly in the encoded signal from the controller, if they lose signal from the controller, or if a direction from the controller conflicts with sensor data on safety."

I don't like it. Not one bit. And not just because I have an understanding with the cleaning staff about which confidential company documents should be going into the shredder as labeled, and which should be left in the plain brown envelope marked "Equipment Audit - Keyboards" in the second drawer down from the left in my desk... Redundancies like this hurt everyone!

"That's brilliant!" the boss continues, failing to suppress his drool reflex. "What about the warehouse stuff?"

"Well that's state-of-the-art," the sales rep gushes happily. "We have automated conveyors, storage systems, inventory recognition, scanning and reordering, plus..."

We pause while he looks round carefully to give the impression of secrecy: "...Automated forklifts!"

"Like we see every year in some TV science documentary?" I ask.

Round about now I'm sincerely regretting not getting the PFY come to this meeting. Serves me right for trying to use the time to check the IQ of the new Boss. How was I to know that the PFY's estimate of his age divided by two was to prove strangely accurate?

"More advanced than that!" the salesdroid continues. "They're just dumb machines that navigate along painted lines, stopping for obstructions once they've hit them. Our system uses image recognition to survey the nature of the obstruction and determine it's chances of moving or being removed, work out alternative routes, alter speed and direction... blah blah blah blah..."

"COMPUTER CONTROLLED CAR!" the boss shouts overly loudly, waking me from my happy slumber. "How does it work?"

"The same was as the forklift, but on a much grander scale, and with hugely different weightings for objects, speed, allowable manoeuvres, etc."



"IS IT?!?" he gasps.

"It is!" the salesdroid simpers, dragging a large briefcase out from under the desk, opening it and extending an antenna. "Or course we're not selling it yet, but we use it all the time - and we can equip it to almost any car."

"Could we fit it to MY CAR?!?" the Boss gasps.

"What is it?"

"A Volkswagen Variant."

"Perhaps not every car, but most cars."

"Oh," the boss sighs, disappointed.

"But it is installed in my car, in your parking basement. Look, I'll show you!"

The Boss pulls up his chair while the salesdroid logs into his laptop and starts a control app.

"We're thinking of calling it virtual chauffeur," he blurts, "because it's just as good as the real thing. As you see, the current position is highlighted there, and I just enter either the street address of the place I wish to go, click on the DRIVE button, and away it goes. Where shall we go?"

"Round the block?" the boss suggests

"No sooner said, than >clickety<. Now, just click on the video screen and it shows us a chauffeur-eye view of the windscreen!"


"As you can see, the roller door isn't high enough to allow the car through yet, so the vehicle is stopped. And now we're underway. Pause to check pedestrian, then other traffic, and we're on the road!"

"IS IT SAFE?!?" the boss gasps.

"Safer than houses!" the droid assures him.


"It knows about the roads, pedestrians, bikes, animals, and... THERE YOU GO... road works. So now it's slowing down and waiting for the Green signal. It's also, >clickety< if we look at the map, calculating alternate routes, plus estimates of a quicker path given the known levels of traffic at this time of day."

"That's FANTASTIC!" the boss burbles, and I have to admit, I'm starting to agree with him.

"Not only that, but you can program it to pick you up from an address at a certain time and take you via a completely random route to another specified address. Great for those security conscious people/"


"Sure! Tell you what, we'll get it to pick us up from lunch!"

"Really?!?" the Boss cries, clearly at the threshold between excitement and needing a change of pants.


...An hour or so later...

"So it looks bad," I tell the PFY. "All our informed sources will be down the road and we'll have to forage for restricted access articles the hard way. I'm not happy! Are you listening to me?"

"Yeah, yeah," the PFY cries, totally absorbed in his joystick, if that's not a lewd suggestion. "You know, the graphics on this thing are amazing! It's almost like I'm really driving down Oxford Street."

"Except you wouldn't be driving down Oxford Street," I correct, "not being a passenger service vehicle..."

"Yeah, but... LOOK AT THAT!!!" he cries "A police car in the rearview!!!"

"You're not going to let them pull you over are you?"

"Like Hell! I'm making for the Bush for the bonus points!" he cries, giving the joystick a generous push. "There's only one thing that puzzles me..."

"What's that then?"

"The screaming noises..."

"Oh, that's the best part about Virtual Chauffeur!" I cry. "Virtual passengers! Now remember, points off for hitting anything, till you get to the Shepherd's Bush Police Station with the horn going!"

"Then what?"

"Then watch Virtual Chauffeur's take on Rodney King!" 


BOFH plays Golf!
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 14/03/2001 at 11:41 GMT

"Oh Bugger!" The PFY cries as the Human Resources server switches into silent running mode (i.e. OFF)

"Damn!" he again cries as one of our large file share machines follows suit, "What am I doing WRONG?"

Sighing, I walk over and take the club from his hand.

"You're hooking the ball," I say, showing him for the third time how to hold a club in a more open position. "Close the club up too far, you'll hook the ball, Open it too far, you'll slice it, and it'll pull to the right. What you should be doing is >Whack!< >thud< >clatter< >clatter< just hitting THROUGH the ball like that!"

"You make it seem so easy!"

"It is - once you get the hang of it. Now while you're standing the beancounter's backup tapes back up, I'll draw you a quick diagram and we'll try again.."

. . 

True, playing golf in the Computer Room is a little unprofessional, verging on the irresponsible even, but the high roof, heavy soundproofing and clear lanes between machines make in an optimal place for a bit of driving practice.

If you can hit straight, in any case..

The reason for our practice is patently obvious after one has rifled through the boss-snail mail to find the annual invite to 'Senior Data Centre Managers' Golf tournament, courtesy of some supplier or another who believes that everyone who's reached a certain station in life has the expertise to handle a stick and a couple of balls. (All true if past bosses are anything to go by, but doing it in polite company is a completely different rack of plastic-covered magazines)

Sadly, The Boss is unable to attend due to his being out of work at present, so The PFY and I have decided to stand in on his behalf and Networks and Systems Managers, respectively.

Mind you, The PFY's going to have to work on the handicap a little, and I'm not talking about his 10 word a minute typing speed.

- 10 minutes later - 

"It's no good, it's impossible!" he cries, slinging the club across the room with the grace and air of a professional - which only goes to show that he IS improving. 

"I think I know what your problem is" I respond, taking the softly softly approach. "You're crap. However, with a small incentive, you may find your game improves..."

I change the lie of the ball and The PFY's position and get back into coach mode.

"Now, take the club, and make a hefty drive in that direction."

"Towards the Finance Apps Middleware machine?"

"Correct. Now as you drive, I want you to visualise for me."

"A picture of the green and the hole flag?"

"No, the 17 pints of lager I'll be buying you if we take the pairs trophy."

>WHACK< >Clatter< >clatter< >weeeeeeoorrRRRRRRR.....r<

"Amazing!" I yelp, investigating the damage. "You put it straight through the drive bay cover, the ball landing..... oh!.. right on the CPU cooling fan which is bound to cause a therma.."

>..rrrrrrrrr - click<

"..l failure. You know, I think you may be ready!"

[The next day, after The PFY's called in on Bereavement Leave and I've called in Sick]

"Ah the SMELL of the freshly clipped grass!" The PFY burbles, recalling with a tear the life he never had, (living in the East as he does). "The lure of the fairway!"

"It's even better when you're out of the carpark!" I counter, nudging him gently in the direction of the registration tent.

"Can I get you a drink sirs?" a lovely young thing asks.

"Scotch and Sofa?" The PFY asks, in a manner unbecoming a computing professional.

"No, no," I interrupt. "We don't want to start off on the wrong foot. As official representatives of our company, we need to maintain high moral standards and a competitive edge in the holes to follow. Just three pints of lager please."

"Each!" The PFY adds.

A scant three pints later we're paired up with a couple of senior sales types from a large ISP venture who know about as much about computing as the Microsoft knows about adhering to standards... The PFY lines up for the drive just as one of them breaks into his spiel on the benefits of Application Service Provision..

. . .

One three pints after that we're on the second tee with another pair after an extreme slice from The PFY left our former speaker down with groin injuries. Damn shame.

"Ah, are you going to tee off with your putter?" one of our opponents asks The PFY helpfully.

"A putter!" he laughs, realising he may in fact be slightly overlagered. "I thought it was a zero iron. Back in a sec!" 

He stumbles off in the direction of a large bush while I pop to his golf bag to retrieve a 2 iron for the shot. It's quite sad to see one so young make a complete arse of himself - and even sadder when someone my ages does as well, I reflect, as I find I'm relieving myself into his golf bag.

Still, it's all part of the game - and what a game it is. By the fifth hole, The PFY's given up all pretence of hiding the fact that he kicks our opponents balls into the rough, bunker or sand trap depending on which is closest, and just puts them into his bag as an investment opportunity. By the tenth hole, he's trying to sell their balls back to them.

"Five quid for threeee," he slurs.

"That's preposterous!"

"It is indeed!" I say, extremely clearly, despite the 15 pints I've had thus far.

"Beg your pardon?" "Preposterous!"


. . . 

"RESULT!!" The PFY shouts, dragging himself into the office fairly late the next morning, slamming the pairs trophy on my desk. "That's 17 pints you owe me!"

"You stole it didn't you?" I ask, knowing full well we were kicked off the course shortly after The PFY started swimming the water traps. "When did you go back for it?"

"Never did! Slapped it in my golf bag while they were helping that boring bloke on the first hole!"


"There wasn't any... uh... Champagne... in it, was there?"

"Yeah, awful stuff. Flat as a pancake!"

Around about now, it occurs to me that some stories are best left unrecounted.

"So, did it taste.... beery?"

(Then again, what the hell) 


BOFH: Swears, Lies and Videotapes
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 01/03/2001 at 21:51 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 7

"What seems to be the problem?" The PFY asks helpfully, while focusing all his attention on the game of Solitaire in front of him. (And they said he couldn't multitask.)

"I can't seem to email one of my colleagues in the US any longer - it just gives me an error message!"

"What error message was it then?"

"Oh, I can't remember PRECISELY. Something with a number and some 'nable to deliver' mumbo jumbo."

"Oh, THAT error message. Yes, no worries, I'll look into it."

The Boss leaves and The PFY continues with his game - it's fascinating to watch.

Two hours later The Boss returns for what is probably The PFY's 90th attempt at the Solitaire title.

"I still can't send email," he cries.

"Really!? This is worse than I thought!" The PFY comments, playing on. "Tell you what, can you just write down the email address and I'll trace it from here."

"Would you?" The Boss asks gratefully. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it."

..Two hours later..

"Still not going!" The Boss blurts, and strike me down if I'm over- reading it, but he's seeming slightly annoyed about the whole thing.

"Well I don't know what more I can try," The PFY concedes. "Except - you don't have the ACTUAL error message do you? Sometimes I can fix a problem almost immediately with one of those..."

The Boss stamps off - and again strike me down, but I think he's rather more annoyed than when he came in. He returns still fuming (probably because we're cutting into his lunch hour) and thrusts a bit of paper with some text scrawled on it to me.

"Ah, they have a content filter!" I divine, from the words "CONTENT FILTER BLOCKING" amongst the text of the error message.

"A content filter?" The Boss parrots.

"Yes, their administrator is probably concerned that one or more of the words in your mail message is offensive, and is blocking them."


"Yes, it's the latest in a long line of stupid ideas to sell mail protection programs. Messages are searched for 'bad' words."

"I think it sounds like a great idea - we could really use that!" The Boss chirps thoughtfully, envisaging the kudos he'll get from upper management types when he tells them how protected they are - "Just think - we could protect our users from abuse."

"Yes," I mutter. 

"You don't think it would work?"

"Lets put it this way," I respond. "HOW MANY of our users currently complain about the words people use in their email?"

"Well, I've got no ide.."

"Should we go through the helpdesk logs and see?"

"Maybe they're offended but just don't want to say?"

"We're talking about people who complained when you changed the type of biscuits they got at tea break - Serial Whiners. And still they don't complain about email content..."

"Well perhaps we could just do it for upper management - words that would offend them."

"You mean words like 'accountability', 'bonuses-on-results' - that sort of thing?"

"You know what I mean."

"I think you'll find that it'll affect normal email conversations - people have come to expect that certain words will get through - that they've become part of the workplace vocabulary. We're sure to get complaints if we dictate what words can and cannot be used in their correspondence, doubly so if the words have a valid use..."

"In which case you can tell them that it's my new policy that the company correspondence should be cleaned up and that upper levels of management shouldn't be exposed to such abuse!" The Boss responds - eyes on the potential PR win. 

"I was talking about them SENDING bad words. Anyway, someone would have to come up with the words to enter into the rejection list."

"You mean we can already do it?!" he gasps.

"Of course. But we've never propagated the database - too hard to think of the words."

"Well, *I* could come up with some starters!"

"Okay then," I sigh. "You tell me them and I'll enter them into the filter."

"Wanker," The Boss cries.

"I don't think we'd want to block that word - you'd never get email from the CEO again!"

Ignoring me, The Boss continues.

"Shit. Bastard!"


And so it goes. The Boss gives it his best for half an hour and takes his leave, wandering back every 10 minutes or so with additions he's thought up in the meantime.

And I wait for the calls which are bound to arrive. As they do.

The next day however, we have bigger fish to deep fry. It would appear that The PFY's selfless pursuit of Solitaire has so rankled The Boss that a meeting has been scheduled for both of them at HR Central.

"High Jump Time," I inform The PFY

"They can't - I've never been warned."

"Not exactly true - I think you're forgetting those three written warnings you've had"

"I've never had three written warnings!!!"

"Of course you did. But I threw them in the bin - Didn't want to upset you!"

"So I'm screwed?"

"Almost. Though there IS this HR consultant I know, who, for a modest fee could have you back in front of the desk in no time. For a small fee."

"How small?"

"Five pints."

"Done. Now what do I do?"

"Deny everything."

"Is that it?"

"Make that 10 pints. Want to try for 20?"

The PFY's silence is all.

Sure enough, in the face of complete denial I'm called to verify one story or another.

"You realise what this is about?" the HR type asks me

"Unprofessional conduct, I'd assume."

"Yes, now what can you tell us about what occurred yesterday."

"Well, normally I try to ignore such things - for the good of morale and all, but I did think that yesterday was a bit extreme. In fact, I've taken the liberty of bringing up the Control Room Video tape from yesterday, if that's OK."

"Well it should certainly help to clear up the matter."

I slap the tape in and press play.

"..CKSUCKER!" The Boss blurts, then leaves the Control Room. I fast forward to a few more of The Boss's greatest hits, finally reaching the decider "CU..>CLICK!>"

"I think we've seen enough" the HR type says. 

"It went on all day!" The PFY sniffles, realising the plan "He'd come in, call me some name, then leave. I didn't want to say anything in case it affected my jo.."


"We don't have a mail content filter!" I respond.


"Evidence. I kept all the names you called him on file."


"That pretty much is the beginning of the tape. I could go and get the morning tape I suppose, although that's not really got anything on it, as he only really started during lunchtime, which we don't record.."

"OH VERY BLOODY CONVENIENT!" The Boss adds sarcastically.

"Yes," the HR Type interrupts. "I don't think we'll be needing you or your assistant for the next part of this, so you can go now. Do you mind if we keep the tape."

"Not if we get it back inside a few days - security and all that."

"Oh, I don't think we'll need it that long..."



BOFH: How to upgrade your Quake Server
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 19/02/2001 at 08:26 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 6

"I'm not going!" The PFY snaps at a suggestion from The Boss that he and I need to go on a full-day Company induction course for contractors.

"Why not?" The Boss cries, surprised by The PFY's rejection of a whole day doing stuff-all.

I mean true, the implication is that he's becoming middle management, but it's only for a day...

"Because there'll be no-one to look after the Computer Room," he responds.

"We could get someone in from the Helpdesk to babysit things while you're away."

"The helpdesk?! They're hardly technical!" I cry, getting in on the act. "Bearing in mind that one of them last week told a user that their best utility for fixing their disk overuse problems was the FDISK utility."

"That was you!" The Boss responds, not fooled for an instant.

"Yeah - but I did it on PURPOSE, they did it later because they thought it was an acceptable fix. How DID the data recovery go anyway?"

The Boss's expression can mean only one thing - his Tom Jones MP3s are lost forever. Shame. "I think you'd like it," he continues however, "- they bring in computers for you to watch some presentations on!!!"

"They bring in computers?" The PFY asks, eyes lighting up.

"Yes - I knew you'd like it when you found out there was something technical involved in it. So I'll put both your names down then?"

"So long as the machine room is safe and there are no accidents."

"You mean like that engineer who fell over the tripwire made out of cable exactly the same colour as the floor tiles?"

"The temporary Cat-5 cable with strain relief at both ends, yes."

"Well I doubt that there'll be any need for anyone to go into the computer room," The Boss responds dismissively.

"There may not be any NEED for it, but they're drawn towards it like managers to Internet porn!" The PFY cries.

"!?" The Boss halts, wondering just how much we know.

"I think what The PFY means is that we're worried about the potential for damage."

"OK, I'll tell you what. Don't give them access and they'll page you if by some chance there's a computer room problem."


"Hi there, I'm Phil, and I'll be your Orientation Consultant today," an overly friendly HR-contractor type greets us and a couple of other newbies from Beancounter Central.

"If you'd just like to take a seat in front of one of these computers, and click on the HISTORY button, a 15 minute video of the history of the company will play."

"Right!" The PFY and I agree, jumping in immediately.

While the videos are running Phil nips out to fill out his timesheet and chat up the Secretary. I, meantime, check out the hardware profile of the machines.

"PIII 600s with 256 Meg Memory," I murmur, coveting thy neighbours resource for our ailing unreal tournament server...

"Downgrade time!" The PFY cries stepping to the lookout position while The Beancounters are engrossed in finding out how the board members created the company out of dirt for the good of humanity.

I lever open the machine in true Mission Impossible form and perform a non-vendor-approved mod, just as Phil returns to the office. I implement mode II and engage him in conversation, while The PFY reaches to a small box on his belt and presses a button.

..Deep in the bowels of the computer room, the UPS switches to STANDBY ISOLATED..

>One minute later<

"That'll be me!" The PFY cries, silencing his pager and pocketing the contraband. "Back shortly."

True to his word, The PFY is back in a reasonable amount of time with some replacement (but strangely slower) processors.

"My goodness, the Alpaca Virus!" I cry loudly, directing everyone's attention to the window while The PFY shunts out the power socket, popping the breaker and taking all the machines down.

"Are you infected too?" I ask, ripping over to The Beancounters' machines and opening them before Phil can intervene.

The PFY, meantime, busies himself filling some empty processor slots in our machines.

"Do you know what you're doing?!" Phil gasps concerned for his company's equipment.

"Of course!" I respond. "I'M A PROFESSIONAL! All we need to do is isolate the infected components and disinfect them on my desktop machine!"

"Is it really necessary?" Phil cries.

"I think you'll find it is," The PFY replies. "And, uh, you may want to bring your laptop too..."

"You mean the virus can get it even though it's in my bag and not switched on?"

"When your inbuilt virus scanning isn't running?" The PFY asks.

"Oh, of course!"

It's true what the say about some people being too dumb to have good computers... 


The Bastard school of anger management
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 10/02/2001 at 09:31 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 5

"So what was the certificate thingy again?" The Boss asks looking at the whiteboard like a man lost.

"It's what our web server presents to prove that it's who it says it is," I sigh.

"And the key thingy?" 

"Is what we use to generate a request to GET a certificate from a trusted third party." 

"I see. And why do we need these again?"

"To perform trusted transactions on a web server - online sales, internal secure submissions"

"And what were they again?"

...I'm going to have to kill him. If not that, maybe just maim him a bit. 

On second thoughts, perhaps a lot...

I hate explaining technology to middle management - it only confuses them, and when they're confused they get upset, and when they're upset, they make rash decisions...

"Can't we just contract it out?"


"If we contract out our secure transactions, we'll most likely pay a per transaction fee"

"And what does that mean in lay terms?"

..Killing's too good for him..

It wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't re-started the ball rolling on the whole e-commerce thing in the first place..

"It means that it will cost us money every time someone buys something from us, as opposed to what it will cost us if we do it ourselves".

"Sort of like if you pay a scalper for tickets for your own show," The PFY adds, trying to help, but failing to realise that you will only confuse matters if you add an analogy at this point.

"Why would you go to see your own show?" The Boss asks. "And why would you PAY - surely you'd get in free?!"

I decide it's time to use my feet on this baby, and depart the room for a tea break.

A couple of pints later I decide to wander back to The Boss's office to see how far/near he is to understanding the issues involved.

"So if I was.. uh.. Lloyd Webber, and I wanted to see.. Cats.. it would be foolish of me to buy a ticket from a scalper when I have my own box office?"

"Yes", The PFY smiles, mission accomplished.

"But what if I'd already seen Cats, as I'm sure he has, and wanted to see something else?"

"Well that doesn't fit into the analogy," The PFY responds cautiously. "In this case we're talking about handling our OWN internet marketing, instead of letting someone else do it for us and charge us an extra amount to do so."

"Oh, I see. So we don't have to go and see any Shows then?"


"It's a pity really, as I haven't seen Cats, and I don't really want to pay a scalpe..."

>2 minutes later<

"Terrible!" I cry, helping The Boss up. "Those monitors are usually quite stable, but occasionally do fall onto people."

"He hit me!" The Boss cries, pointing at The PFY. 

"No, That's just the concussion talking. The monitor popped off its stand. You were lucky actually as we were going to replace yours with a 21-inch jobbie only this morning!"

"Yes, I suppose you're right," The Boss murmurs, and wanders off, a little more dazed and confused than usual.

To be honest, I've been more than a little concerned about The PFY's attitude of late. Normally quite pleasant to deal with (in a bastardish way) he's become rather more short-tempered than is normal. Perhaps he's been reading too many Linux Journals - I don't know. Only last week he instructed a user to put a fork into a power socket as an 'earthing test' simply for asking if their shimmering screen might need replacing. 

"So what's your problem?" I ask, (softly softly approach).

"What problem?" The PFY responds, faking ignorance like a senior IT manager.

"You hit The Boss because he was being a pain in the arse!"


"So what's the problem?"

"I dunno. People just seem to be really getting on my TITS lately."

"I see. How long is it since you went on a holiday - uh, junket, I mean work-related course?"

"Dunno - 12 months I s'pose, I can't really remembe."

"Well there's your problem. You HAVE to go on at least one junket a year, it's an industry proven fact!"

"Proven where?"

"You don't want to know. Now this junket. Where would you like to go? Manchester? Leeds?"

"Manchester? Leeds?!"

"Only joking. Let's see. There's a business ethics seminar in Rome, but you'd have to take a manager.."


"It's simple, I explain patiently "Anything YOU want, you first get for someone else to establish a precedent. Then you're just following the trend." 

"Oh, like when the Head of IT gets the managers to upgrade their laptops?"


"So how does this help me with a junket?"

"So if you want to go somewhere, you suggest a management angle to it, which allows a manager to have a junket too. Typically, you pick a place that your manager's always expressed an interest in going to.."

"So where does The Boss like to go?"

"Apart from Morris Dancing Seminars? Don't know. But anyway, he's out. He's as likely to travel with you as he is to book a ticket on John Denver airlines. No, you'll need to examine other options.."

"Speaking of other options, " the Head of IT blurts, entering mission control with shiny laptop brochures in hand. "What do you think of these to keep the managers machines up-to-date?"


"It's difficult to say," The PFY leaps in, master plan engaged. "It may be good to keep them up to date, but is it ethical to keep forcing changes on them."


. . .

So The PFY's off on a junket with the head of IT, and I'm left alone with The Boss and the ongoing E-Commerce plans..

"So what was the certificate thingy again?" 


>2 minutes later<

"You really should get that monitor seen to!" I tell The Boss as I help him up. "It's an occupational safety hazard! Interestingly enough, there's a conference on workplace safety in Paris next wee..."

You can't blame a bastard for trying.. 


BOFH gets to the back of the Q
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 02/02/2001 at 11:58 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 4

It's later in the afternoon when I finally roll into work after a "Doctor's Appointment" to find the PFY printing up Virus warning leaflets espousing the latest thing in desktop danger.

"'The Q virus infects the letter Q on your machine, causing potential damage to any document with a Q in it.' Yes, I can see how that could cause a bit of havoc. No one will go for it, of course," I say.

"Why not?" the PFY asks defensively.

"They never believe anything we send out any more - not since you put that notice up about sound cards causing cancer."

"But that was an excellent warning, with fantastic response."

"Yes, it was. However, I think people got a little bitter and twisted when you subsequently sold all their desktop amps to buy that massive subwoofer for your machine..."

"It was needed!"

"What? To help people downstairs determine when you're losing at Unreal Tournament?"

"No, for the full audio experience of warning bells. So you think I've wasted my time with this then?"

"Not entirely. Of course the leaflet needs a little work, but it's saveable. I'll do a bit of editing while you pop down to the mail room and score us some shiny paper and a plastic sealer."

And so it was that the Q virus became top topic of the verbal agenda of the workplace the subsequent day...

"Ah, a quick word about this Q virus thing," the boss mumbles as he trolleys in at about .005 knots with a tail wind (probably the curry dinner from last night).

"Q virus?"

"Yes, the Q virus!"

"Never heard of it. And I'm on all the popular virii mailing lists!"

"Well it's all here in black and white," he cries, waving around a yellow flyer bulletin. Colours aren't his strongpoint.

"Let's see," I ask, grabbing the PFY's handiwork.

And impressive handiwork it is too - all credit to him. The correct mix of important looking fonts, jargon and shiny paper combining to give the illusion of authenticity.

"It's a joke!" I cry. "Whoever heard of a virus infecting a keyboard?"

"Like it says," the boss counters, "it's a... macro-symbiotic virus that, uh, attaches itself to hardware and uses the keyboard circuit borad matrix as a simple form of the... old-style core memory thingy."

"Yes," I murmur dubious, "those core memory 'thingies' can be problematic. But anyway, it's a prank - someone's obviously printed it as a joke."

"It's on shiny paper!" the Boss cries, playing his ace in the hole.

"We can print on shiny paper here!" I cry, giving the truth a bit of a spin. "Someone could've just grabbed some from the mail room and printed it on that printer over there!"

"AH!" the boss cries, playing another ace from a hole best not theorised upon. "But it came with one of our computing mags!"

"Someone just slipped it into the pages to make you look foolish!"

"I don't think so - it was sealed in the delivery bag - and I'm not the only one who got it - there was one in every issue! I've already been called by the Head Accounting Consultant to see if we've got an eradication plan."

"The Head Accounting Consultant? Isn't he the guy that once stapled a note to a floppy disk?"

"He says you told him it'd allow it to be used as an attachment."

"That's Ridiculous! But even if I had, surely he would have been intelligent enough not to do it. Imagine if I'd told him that an axe and wallpaper paste was the best way to perform a cut and paste!"

"They fired that consultant, as you well know. Anyway, I don't care, I think we should take the recommended action!"

"TRANSLATE ALL CAPITAL Qs IN DOCUMENTS TO LOWER CASE!? But it's already entered into the machine – it's nothing to do with the keyboard!"


"Please. It'd take..."

"LOOK AT THIS!" the boss beckons, dragging me to his office so I can see the PFY's latest efforts have included removing springs from keyboards.

"It's not a virus, your Q key is just stuck down!"

"No, it's the virus. I was reading a document, and this happened!"

"And you used Alt-Q to quit?"

"Say what you like, it's all happening as the virus predicted. And we're only at stage one! I'm nipping this in the bud now before it infects other keys!!!"

Without further ado, the boss grabs the phone in 'executive-decision' mode, and gives the helldesk his orders.

Later that day...

"So, I've got all the Q keys quarantined," the PFY cries, holding up his plastic bag.

"OK," the boss gasps, in Jim Phelps mode, reading the warning sheet for his next mission. "Now we have to disinfect them."

It's truly sad what you can get people to do with a piece of shiny paper...

"We have to get the keys and place them in a metal container approximately 50 cubic litres in size and spin them around to disorientate the viral strain."

"THE MICROWAVE!" the PFY shouts, running to the break room and whacking the contents of the bag on High for ten minutes.

Eleven minutess later in mission control...

"So where would we get replacement keys from?" the PFY asks.

"THE VIRUS HOTLINE WILL KNOW!" the Boss blurts, punching some numbers from the sheet into his cellphone.

"Hello," the PFY says, answering his phone. "Virus Hotline..."

And if you listened very carefully, you could just hear the penny drop.

"What's it going to cost me?"

"For... um... 73 replacement keyboards at... say... ten quid apiece?"


"730 quid. But to you guvnor, call it 500. They're in the storeroom."

"But they already belong to the company!"

"Or maybe they're not in the store. Who knows, what with it being locked and all..."

500 quid later...

"I did like watching that negotiation taking place," I admit. "It was so..."

"Rewarding?" the PFY asks.

"No, next week's rewarding, this was... interesting."

"Next week?"

"Yes, you know, when the Mouse Ball virus breaks out." 

"Ah, of course..." 


BOFH gives good slide
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 21/01/2001 at 12:43 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 3

"Quick, we need some help up in the boardroom," The Boss gasps, winded, rolling into the office and interrupting an extended printing session, "The projector's out!!!"

"And the technician is?"


"You're not wrong - I've seen his web traffic!" The PFY adds.

"Look, it's very important, they're in the middle of a presentation!!"

"Oh, of course!" I cry, remembering the last time someone was called to sort this problem out, "How far through The Matrix do you think they are, then?"

The Boss ignores my skillfully honed sarcasm and continues. "Look, these are very important people and their time is money, so the sooner we can fix it the better!"

Resigned to my fate as one of the few people in the company with a grasp on AV kit (and/or technology in general for that matter) I head to the door.

"Apparently it just went dead - they think it could be a blown bulb," he informs me as we catch the lift.

"A heavy-duty long-life Halogen that's probably only been used 10 times? No, I think we'll find someone's been playing remote control and is confused by the 30 second enforced delay between switching the unit OFF and back ON again."

5 minutes later I'm proved correct, have collected 3 brownie points for my fault-finding skills from all but ONE of the assembled Boardpersons and am heading back down to Mission Control.

"So how did you know it was that?" The Boss asks, sadly impressed.

"It's simple, all you need do is interpret the small signs - ie - boring meeting, late in the afternoon, Amateur Visual Aids, someone's bound to tinker with the remote.."

My little Holmes speech over, I leave The Boss and stride purposefully to the colour printer to retrieve my latest set of glossy prints..

Only to find, for the second time this week, the red cartridge on the inkjet is dead.

A lesser man would suspect that someone's coming in at night and printing out huge volumes of porn, but that can't be the case, or I'd have seen them whilst printing mine. There can only be one solution..

"Someone's printing porn during the day?!?!" The PFY gasps, grabbing the wrong end of the stick and assuming it's all due to someone over-browsing left-handed websites.

"No, no, it'd be seen immediately! No, someone's printing something with lots of RED in it. Something that any normal person would steer clear of..."

"Holiday Snaps?" 

"Don't be silly, this is the computing department, the only holiday these people would take is to an Internet café for two weeks, with no need AT ALL for a red, what with the pasty white colour they'd be at the end of it all.."

"Work Printouts?"

"You've seen the 'work' printouts here - straight black and white, 'Wot I done this weak' report-type stuff! ... No - someone's printing out charts."


"Yes, Gantt charts, Pie Graphs, Bar graphs - that sort of thing. With overruns, outages, budget blowouts, etc, in large red areas.."

"Ah, I think there could be a million things with a lot of re.."

"Look at them!" I cry, directing The PFY to the one-way window that looks out on the cube farm "Mindless IT sheep. Half of them don't even know how to change their default printer!"

"I think you're being a little hars.."

"No I'm not. I've been here long enough to smell trouble. And the aroma is near and strong. You have to pay attention to the signs - you know, like when two workmates who aren't seeing each other but get along really well are suddenly extremely casual about their friendship all of a sudden."

"You mean when they're shagging?"


"And when someone becomes punctilious about recording any and all overtime they do."

"Hey, we both do that!"

"And it means?"


"Of course."

"But more important than that, when someone works late. Later than needs be. Later than anyone else in the office.."

"They're shagging the cleaner?!?!?"

"No, they're either: A. Browsing porn.."

"Like when you stay late.." The PFY comments unkindly.

"A sad bastard playing games - like when you stay late..." I respond, in turn

"Or overworked.. OR indulging in office theft," The PFY adds helpfully.

"OR, they've got a secret project going. Particularly the case when a manager stays late."

"So it's a manager?"

"Of course it's a manager! And which manager would it be?"

"The head of IT?"

"Nah, he's been here too long - he's institutionalised. No, it's someone new. Someone who thinks he can change us. Someone who wants to distinguish himself with the type of people who like coloured graphs and words like 'target threshold' instead of hardnosed experience. Someone who'd like to engineer a coup d'etat."

"THE BOSS!!!!"

"In the Dining Room, with the Candlestick..."

"So what are you going to do? Tell the Head and get him fired?"

"Not exactly..."

Barely one day and one sneaky boardroom meeting later, The Boss is not in his office, having been called away for an urgent meeting at the employment agency...

"I particularly liked the slide entitled 'Levels of Incompentence' with the huge red area with a certain person's name on it," the Head of IT burbles happily. "But I heard the barchart on 'Systems and Network Managers peak wind emissions, sorted by oriface' stole the show.."

"Really? I was rather proud of 'Peak effluent output rate of Systems and Networks Managers when they realise that someone's been tampering with their Visual Aids' myself, but still, it takes all sorts. And the successful suppression of this uprising would be rewarded in WHAT manner precisely?"

"I'll think of something" he responds.

And they say the little things don't count.. 


BOFH: This hardware is dead... It has ceased to be...
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 15/01/2001 at 15:56 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 2

"I just can't believe it!" some mindless feeb from Marketing gasps disgustedly as he surveys the innards of the disk drive The PFY's showing him. "Dead?"

"As the Bay City Rollers," The PFY nods sagely.

"But... How?"

I can't help myself, I have to help the grief process along a little: "Well, to put it simply, your disk spins down over the holidays, gets cold, and when you come back from your break, it's dead and gone. You know, like pets you forget to feed."

"So what should I have done?"

"Fed them of course. No wonder your pets died."

"I haven't got any pets!" he snaps, irritated.

"No wonder!" The PFY adds.

"No, I meant what should I have done with my machine?"

"Well I always leave my machine on and running - 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

"I see. Well, I suppose I may do that once you've got a new disk for my machine and sorted it all out and things."

"I'm afraid you can't do that."

"Why, is it because I'm not one of you computing types?"

"No, it's because you've ticked the Win ME box on the configuration options for the new drive. You'll be lucky to stay up till morning tea time."

"B-but ME's stable..."

"Isn't that what they said about San Francisco?"

"Well what do you suggest?"

I look around furtively, unable to stop myself. The PFY adds to the effect by taking the phone off the hook, closing the blinds quietly and getting in on the 'furtive looks' act as well.

"You want a real operating system?"

"What do you mean 'real'?"

"I mean so advanced it's spelt ADvanced. So advanced that the word processing package won't even try and correct the two leading capitals in ADvanced like Word does (until you're forced to beat your machine to death with your rubbish bin, that is)."

He's interested now. I know it; he knows it - he just can't help himself.

"What's it called?" he asks shyly, totally drawn in by the look-around- furtively game, and I just know that if I was that way inclined I could almost suggest a camping trip about now. Hook, line and sinker, in other words. It's sad really.

"Woah, just hold on a minute there!" The PFY blusters, taking hold of the wheel in a manner that'd have Jeremy Clarkson reaching for his tissues (tearfully, and not for some other reason which would spoil the upholstery). "We can't just give you this OS. I mean how do we know it's right for you?"

"I... Well I suppose you don't... But what's it got that I'd want?"

"WHAT'S IT GOT!?! ADvanced Graphical Interface, true multitasking - not that imitation stuff you get elsewhere! Games, Manuals - it's got the lot!"

"Well, I spose I'll give it a go..."

"Give it a go?" The PFY laughs mirthlessly. "This isn't an Operating System you have a quick bash at and just throw away! This is a life experience. Once you've tried it you'll never be the same again!"

"It's true," I concur. "And it comes with built-in full-licence application windowing support."

"Full-license application windowing support?"

"Yes, FLAWS for short."

"Like faults," he chuckles.

"Faults?" The PFY asks, pretending to be blind to the obvious and faking stupidity so well he could mark MCSE papers.

"FLAWS - faults," our user explains.

"OH!" The PFY gasps. "I see! I'd never have thought of that! That's really quite good!"

Our user bristles happily under the praise while I make a mental note to ask the PFY to give his nasal passages a good wipe with toilet paper later on...

"Well, you've convinced me. I shall try it! What do I have to do?"

"Well, it'll cost you 20 quid for a start."

"Twenty quid!?! But it's a work machine! Work should be paying for it!"

"Yes, it should," I concur. "Only they don't want to. They don't want the package getting out. So while it's one of the options on your configuration form - you have to actually pay for it."

"Well what does 20 quid get me?"

"Manuals, installation media, the works. Once we've installed it on your machine, of course."

"It's not pirated is it?"

"Pirated?" The PFY sighs. "No, not at all. Look - genuine install media." He holds up a large shrink-wrapped bundle of disks and documents.

"That does seem like good value for money!"

"You betcha..."

"So what do I have to do?"

"Well, change your OS choice on the configuration sheet, tick the box there to say you're aware that it has FLAWS, and we'll do the rest."

"Oh, so the operating system's called..."

"DON'T SAY IT!" the PFY interjects hurriedly, then catches himself. "If you say it, they'll all want it. And we've only got one copy left!"

"Really? One copy? Could I get one for home?"

The PFY and I exchange what would pass for meaningful glances in some other world where we weren't complete bastards, while our client has a brainwave. "Actually, I've just had a thought. You could install it on my manager's machine instead - he's away till next week! That'd be a nice surprise."

At least he's half right..

"Well I suppose we could," The PFY murmers slowly. "But who'd pay for..."

"I'll pay!"

"Ok, well just give him the money and fill out another install form."

Two OS/2 installs and one hour later...

"You've got to take if off my machine!" our user begs. "PLEASE!"


"It's terrible. It crashes all the time. You said it would change my life!"

"It will. Just wait till your manager gets in next week!"


"I'd like to, but I can't. See we only deal in system recovery. Kit has to be broken before we'd do a reinstall."


"I think my machine's broken!"

"Of course it is. And your boss'?"


I wait until the PFY gives me the thumbs up on the CCTV recording, then continue.

"Now the only other thing is who you're going to transfer the licences to?"

"Transfer licences?"

"Yes. You have to transfer your licence to someone else so the OS becomes theirs, and then we can give you a new OS for your machine. Otherwise we have to reinstall the same OS on your machine."

"But no one'll want this!!!"

"That's correct. However, for a small rental fee of 20 quid we'll permit you to use our rubber panelbeating hammer which leaves almost no marks on a hard drive when you hit it repeatedly - opening up another potential customer for an operating system 'upgrade'."

"And for 30 quid," The PFY shouts over my shoulder, "we'll tell you who borrowed it last night when your hard drive 'failed'."

You've got to love the support experience... 


Back on the Helldesk with BOFH
By: Simon Travaglia
Posted: 04/01/2001 at 11:46 GMT

BOFH 2001: Episode 1

"So," The Boss burbles, rolling in on a post-Christmas wave of stupidity that I've missed greatly in the past week or so, "any New Year's Resolutions?"

"Yes, 1200dpi!" I cry, using a geek joke that's so far over his head he can't even see its vapour trail.

"Eh?" he responds blankly, as expected, then decides to go for the fake, "Oh yes, very good. Anyway, enough of the pleasantries, we have a little problem."

"What would that be then?"

"Well it's just a small thing..." he adds, stalling for time - which can only mean it's bad.

"What thing would that be then?"

"Well it wasn't really my idea..."

Make that Pretty Bad.

"And what was the idea then?"

"Well, some of the other managers in IT thought it would be a good idea if you... uh... mannedthehelpdeskbecausethey'reallstillawayonholiday," he blurts, stepping behind the virtual cover of a large desk.

"They let the whole helpdesk go on leave at the same time?" I cry, feigning disgust.

"Not exactly. One is ill and the other one resigned after the Christmas party, after... you know..."

"IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!" The PFY cries loudly. "How many times do I have to say it? How was I supposed to know that Christmas tinsel was a conductor?!? I'd hardly let the poor bugger come into contact with the neon transformer if I'd known that!"

"And why was there a Neon transformer in the room?" I ask, playing the PFY's advocate and meantime prolonging the inevitable.

"I was simply moving it from one room to another..."

"While it was on?" 

"I didn't want it to cool down and possibly have thermal shock failure..."

"You mean like all those neon transformers in shops do when they're switched off every night?"

"AH, I think the point is that we need someone on the helpdesk," The Boss interrupts.

"Yes, yes - you're right. So it's the helpdesk for us then is it?"

"Would that be OK?" he asks nervously, checking for exits, electricity conducting material and large body-sized computing equipment that needs filling prior to dumping.

"I don't see why not," I concede. "After all, all the systems here seem to be up and running with nothing untoward other than us having to wind back the clock on the ancient non-Y2k compliant boxes again."


"You gave in a bit bloody easy," The PFY says disgustedly, when The Boss has trundled out with enough perspiration on him to qualify as a natural spring.

"Yes, I have to admit that I did. However, there's a good reason for it."

"What's that then?"

"I can't be arsed saying 'no'."


"Well, you know how it is after the holidays - you dread coming back into work, and however bad the work is when you get here, it's still not as bad as what you'd been dreading, so in the relief you sort of don't mind the place so much."

"I... ah... I suppose so," The PFY agrees slowly, after he's thought about it.

"And so, in the spirit of goodwill, we might be tempted to let the users get away with certain... liberties."

"It's possible..."

"Which in turn would lead to them expecting these and other liberties later in the year..."


"So what would be better - them expecting liberties from the helpdesk and not even expecting and answer from systems and networks, or a life of living hell with the users ringing *US* whenever they get a blue screen?"

"I see your point!"

"Of course you do. However, with a little exposure to the using classes, we're bound to be honed back into a spirit of professional sharpness inside of a few short hours!"

"Ah!" The PFY cries, penny dropping.

. . .

"You can't remember your password after the break?" The PFY cries happily into his headset "OK, I'll change that to 'tomorrow' for you, one 'm', two 'r's... Oh, Don't mention it."

. . . One hour later . . .

"You can't remember your password after the break," the PFY cries into his headset. "I've changed it to 'thedayaftertomorrow' for you. Bye."

. . . One hour after that . . .

"You can't remember you password after little more than a week?!?" the PFY snorts into his headset. "I suppose we're lucky you found your way to work... I'll change your password the day after tomorrow. >click<"

"It's just like riding a bike," I cry to The PFY as he gets the feel for it once more. "Except you don't need to wear a helmet nor signal your turns."

I, meantime, am making inroads with cleaning up the fileshares that have become clogged with the output of unchecked automated procedures over the break.

>clickety click<

"There you go, good as new!" I cry.

"So the disk is like before the holidays?!" the user cries happily.

"No, like when you bought it. When it was new..."


"I know. Don't thank me, it's my job >click<"

Two subsequent soft formats later and the phone is starting to show a reluctance to ring.

"They're stopping!" the PFY observes. "Do you think they know?"

"Of course they do," I reply. "The word will have been all over the place like a PR consultant after a couple of drinks. But still they call."

"Uh, no they don't."

>clickety click<

"But still they call!" I cry, as the phones start up in earnest now.

"The financials server has gone offline," the user gasps, "and we've got to complete the end-of-month processing from December!!!"

"Don't you worry about a thing!" I cry "We'll soon have it sorted out - we have a backup."

"Oh thank goodness!" he gasps "Another server?"

"No, printouts and pocket calculators." I cry meglomaniacly. "Remember to write all your sums down as the auditors are due in two days. Oh, and remember to show your your working - there's no telling how pedantic they'll be!"

It's true - a rest is as good as a change...