The Bastard gets non-PC...

Year 1995 - Episode 4


So I'm in the States with Sharon, the ex-boss's secretary, to check out some new networking hardware and software. The boss couldn't make it after unfortunately having a disagreement with the CEO when the CEO somehow got 'listen-only conferenced' into a telephone call between the boss and the CEO's wife. (The bit about the boardroom table got to him apparently). Being the only other person familiar with the whole deal, Sharon, a young, part-time aerobics instructor and non-subscriber to the motto "Don't screw the crew", was obliged to accompany me.

What a tragedy.

Strangely, it couldn't have worked out better if it were planned. (You know, someone telling Sharon to familiarise herself with only 10 of the 1000 or so documents that pass over her desk every month; someone accidentally tampering with the exchange configuration to allow listen-only conference calls; someone tampering with the exchange to make it auto conference calls to the CEO's home number back to the CEO's private phone that no-one but his secretary has the number to...) But of course, that's ridiculous.

Of course I blame myself. If I hadn't taken the boss for a 'working lunch', bought him 10 pints and mentioned the CEO's wife had a fixation on him, perhaps none of this would have happened.

Sigh. Oh well, at least I did my duty by the firm and made the most of it; difficult though it was. I must remember that at contract renegotiation time.

We book in at a modestly priced hotel - (modest by the standards of the Royal Family that is) and suffer an upgrade in rooms when it is discovered that due to some computing glitch a Mr Babbage and a Mr Pascal have been double-booked in our economy rooms. It's funny the number of times that has happened to me...

I ring my temp to see how he's doing in my absence. The phone rings about 50 times before finally being diverted to talking clock. At least I know he's read my Site Management Bible...

I then ring the boss's temporary replacement from the bar.

"How's it going?" he asks keenly, disguising the fact that he's annoyed at not being here.

"Well, we're having some trouble tracking down the supplier's tour dates, but we figure we'll track them down through computing magazines. Speaking of which, can you wire me another thousand quid for...miscellaneous expenses - the computing magazines, phone calls etc."

"I sure can," he replies amiably. "Of course, you'll be bringing these magazines back with you when you return so our accountant can rectify all this with the bean counters upstairs?"

Sneaky bastard - he's just upset that he didn't get to go and is obviously going to cause problems. Best to nip this in the bud right now.

"No problem - could you make that three thousand quid, the air freight costs are likely to be quite high for the 250 odd magazines..."

"Perhaps that IS unnecessary," he says, thinking about his plummeting operations budget.

"OK. Well I'll get back to you in a couple of days," I reply.

He hangs up and immediately I whip back to my room and dial through to my private modem pool at work.

I wait 10 minutes for the temp-boss to type and print the expense memo, then ethersniff his text and digitised signature on its way to the printer. I quickly bash up another expense report for a couple of hundred quid requesting some 'photographic' magazines from a dealer in Amsterdam appending his home address as the delivery point. I 'accidentally' queue it to print at Bean-Counting-Brown-Nose-Central then logout.

Knowing the religious background of the CEO I expect to find yet another empty desk on my return. Just applying the first law of networking - loose ends are bad, termination is good.

To enhance my job security, I make another phone call to a number that's permanently etched into my memory. In a darkened comms cupboard on the 5th floor, the call is answered by a 'Home Security Dialup Unit' and I type in my pin number. Then type a three-digit code and hang up. The clock starts now.

Six minutes and twelve seconds later the phone rings. The helpdesk has found me which can only mean that the temp-boss has given out my contact number, which in turn must mean the CEO is displeased.

"Something's wrong with the network!" the operator cries.

"I see. Put me on hands-free and tell me what's going on," I reply in a business-like manner.

The earpiece tells me I'm on hands-free, speaking to, if my calculations are correct, the helpdesk operator, the temp boss and the CEO (who likes to be around when major panics are in session to get firsthand knowledge of what the problem really is).

"What's the problem?" I repeat.

"The network appears to be bridged out somewhere in the computer room."

"OK, have you looked at the network topology in the documentation cabinet?" I ask, playing the knowledgeable and helpful network-person to the hilt.

"Your temp's trying to get into his office but there appears to be a lockout on the comms room swipe-card lock."

"Really? It sounds suspiciously like we've dropped a breaker in the distributed UPS Unit."

No-one has a clue what I'm talking about at this stage, but they also don't want to appear ignorant.

"Uh huh," the help desk operator says (probably accompanied by en-masse nodding in the room).

"OK, call the operations room, tell them to open the third UPS cabinet from the left, and they'll find a breaker, number 15 or 16, has tripped. If they reset that, the computer room repeater should come back to life and the door access system should start communicating with the office again..."

Five minutes later I'm back in the bar, with one of the safest contracts since Al Capone was alive. The CEO thinks I know each circuit breaker personally, and that my temp will have to go as soon as I get back. Situation Under Control.

Good networking depends on good planning.