It's a very sad time of the year. Having spent the Christmas period in the office, neatly combining the filling in of a timesheet liberally scattered with numbers in the 'overtime' column with the avoidance of certain members of the family, it's terribly irritating to see all these hung-over employees dragging themselves miserably back into the office with the sole intention of breaking my network.
You see, during the shutdown period I received not one single support call, confirming my theory that my network is indeed perfect, and that all faults are user-inflicted.
It would seem from the system logs that I wasn't the only one in over Christmas: looks like the head of engineering has been around, faxing out dozens of orders for bits and bobs to put in the new shake-test line they're hurrying to build down in Quality Assurance.
The gossip around the office, though, is that the CEO is really mad - the line was meant to be running in time for the New Year, and from all accounts, it's nowhere near completed.
The most interesting snippet from the network fax log is that the software patch I installed on the server seems to have kicked in for at least one outgoing call ...
It's an entertaining little patch, and fixes the most common problem with all networked fax systems around the world - the fact that they're terribly dull.
The update in question is simple, yet brilliant: the network manager specifies search and replace filters for outgoing messages, which can brighten up messages immensely if used properly. You can even program it to divert faxes to a different country according to your own parameters ...
The phone rings.
"Good morning, you're the first caller of the year, how can I help you?" (Sometimes, my charm surprises even myself)
"Chief engineer here. Is the fax system working?"
"Certainly is, in fact, I've just been checking it a moment or two ago. Why? Are you having problems?"
"Yes. I ordered some kit for the new QA line before the break, but the supplier reckons the fax never arrived. Can you check it out for me? I sent it on December the 22nd, and it claimed to get there OK. The purchase order number is PE4456."
A quick 'grep' on the fax log turns up the fax in question.
"Well, it's here in the system log, and it certainly went OK. Quantity 48, product description 'Vibrator (three-phase, heavy-duty)'. Perhaps your supplier is trying it on."
"Yes, that's probably right. Many thanks."
I wonder ...
The phone rings. CLI says it's Goods Inwards.
"Goods Inwards here. We have a delivery with no contact name. The supplier says it was ordered by fax - can you find out who sent the order with that fancy gadget of yours?"
"Sure, no problem. What's the order number?"
"Let's see ... Yes, that was ordered on the 22nd of last month, by the head of engineering."
I'm sure I hear sniggering as the phone is put down.
Time, and several levels of Doom III (beta, naturally) pass uneventfully before there's a knock at the door. Deftly switching Doom to 'Boss Mode', I motion the chief engineer to enter.
"Something's wrong with your fax system," he blurts.
"Really? How come?"
"You know that fax I mentioned? I just tried to re-send it, but it hasn't got there."
"Well, let's test the system."
I compose a quick fax on my PC, plug one of the old fax machines I've got lying in the corner into a spare line, and click 'send'. The machine springs into life, faithfully reproducing the test message.
Well, it would, wouldn't it - I didn't put the word 'vibrator' in my message ... so it didn't get redirected to Siggi's Sex Emporium in Rotterdam ...
"There you go," I proudly exclaim to my spanner-wielding colleague. "Nothing wrong with that. You'll have to tell your suppliers that their machine is on the blink."
"Oh well, thanks for checking."
Serves him right for doubting my systems.
The phone rings again.
"Machine room, BOFH speaking."
"CEO here. Tell me, have you seen Bradshaw from engineering? They tell me he was on his way to see you about a system problem."
"Yes, he just walked out of the door. Why?"
"Oh, I'm just wondering why Goods Inwards have brought me a box containing four dozen three-speed sex aids, as ordered by our engineering friend from Siggi's Sex Emporium in Rotterdam. Don't suppose you can shed any light?"
"Well, I can certainly go through the fax log for you - it's all here in black and white ..."