The Bastard meets an unexpected guest - the opposition's BOFH...

Year 1996 - Episode 17


It's a calm morning network-wise when I arrive at the office to prepare for a site visit and to continue defending my company's recent bad name and business from the potential takeover.

I realise once more why I discourage site visits normally. Their only purpose is to pretend to a customer that the stuff really does work like it says in the brochure by finding a site that's worked out where the manual went wrong and fixed it.

If it wasn't for the free lunch and the chance to blackmail a good price for our next order, they'd never make the front door.

The visit should follow typical form: supplier lies to customer; I extort goods to support this flagrant misinformation; a walk-around tour; a free lunch, and promises from me to help out if they have any future difficulties.

In other words, a day that would turn Pinnochio into a kindling machine.

As 10am rolls around, I get a call from the front desk about my visitors.

A quick look at the CCTV shows me everything is as expected; our supplier with his customer. Except for one small thing; the visitor is none other than the head network guy of our rival company. Something smells a little rotten, and it's not the Danish cheese in the staff cafeteria.

I slip downstairs with the boss wondering exactly what the purpose of this visit is. Some show of strength probably, but what form this will take is unknown. Obviously a lapse in reporting on the part of the Pimply-Faced-Youth which I'll rectify with a cattle-prod at our next meeting.

The technical competence of my rival is identified when I notice his rubber-soled isolator shoes. The electric doorknob was a waste of time ...

... but then again, perhaps not, as the supplier gives himself a belt he won't remember in a hurry, along with his name and who he works for.

The opposition immediately identifies himself as a network professional by perusing the bosses swipe card PIN number, 'accidentally' shutting the bosses hand in a door - twice - then snaffling the access card while the boss is busy blubbing. Smooth - 11 seconds in total.

He flexes some more muscle by popping a couple of earth leakage detectors as he passes by some equipment. The old high-powered-transmitter-inducing-current-in-the-leakage-wire trick.

His attempts at conquering the comms room in the same manner fail dismally, though. I operate under the assumption that anyone who should be playing with electricity knows the dangers and wouldn't need safeguards anyway...

It's the price you pay for being good. And who'd lose a whole network just to save the mind of someone who's playing with something they shouldn't?

Getting to the point, my counterpart speaks in crypted 'NetSpeak'.

"What's that unit like?" he asks, gesturing at the supplier.

"A little 2400. No actually, this one's probably 300 synchronous. On a good day."

"Yeah, it was transmitting nulls earlier".

"Nothing a repeated Control-Alt-Delete wouldn't solve."

The boss returns in bandages for the free lunch. And over lunch, my counterpart and I talk turkey.

"I favour the previous configuration," my rival states.

"Yeah, a bit too much SNMP at the moment, but that's always been the case."

"Yeah, me too. So ... a reinstall of the original specs..."

Two weeks later the takeover threat is but a memory. I have a brand new Bean Counter department in the sights and am raring to go. Some of the upper middle management who favoured a protracted takeover as grounds for a pay rise took early retirement - the 40s are such a difficult time of life, especially when you find a photo of yourself in women's underwear (in the confines of a very progressive Soho club) in the top drawer of your desk.

I get a call from my counterpart on the secure line.

"All clear?" he asks.

"Yep. You?"

"Not a worry. Had to let your PFY go, you know how it is. A real pity."

"Not to worry, he's back at his desk, playing with the temperature of the fridge which is storing tomorrow's chicken lunches. I'll probably eat out..."

The world is full of networking victories - this has been one of them.