The BOFH and PFY help sort out a rival's PSIC problems...

Year 1997 - Episode 10


It's time for the last site visit on the site tour agenda, and this one is the tough nut ..

The control room is straight out of Science-Fiction Land - a veritable security command centre and treasure trove of sophisticated equipment.

My fingers start itching almost immediately, but caution is the watchword The PFY also notices the security overkill and follows suit.

A phone rings next to me and I answer helpfully, planning to use the old FDISK problem solving utility but the telltale beep of the voice-recorder tells me that anything I say can and will be used as evidence against me. I choke out some useless but unhelpful advice, then hang up in time to see my counterpart watching me with the smug expression of one who knows exactly how bullet-proof his set-up is.

The bastard!

A tour of the comms room reveals state of the art equipment that I'd sell the boss for glue to obtain - which just adds to my general misery.

"Quite something isn't it?" My opposition comments. "I suppose you'll get this sort of equipment ... one day ..."

Double bastard!

By lunchtime I've almost given up hope - It seems that the tide's completely against me. Even in the cafeteria I note the telltale black dots of a micro camera lens. Except ...

The PFY interprets my snatched glance and moves into blocking position for the fraction of a second that it requires to flick the old standby - a couple of laxative chocolates - into my counterpart's dessert. True, it's hardly sportsmanlike, but like they say, all's fair in love and networking.

According to plan, a couple of hours later my counterpart receives a priority one call from nature and the PFY and I get to work. He accidentally trips over a cable and face-plants the CCTV recording console, sacrificing a couple of bruises to the cause. With the security cameras in Alzheimer's mode, I turn on SNMP reporting on every single piece of hardware that will allow me to do so remotely.

In seconds a guy I can only assume to be the counterpart's boss bursts in ranting about horrific network response. But it can't be that bad, or those 400 odd PCs around the building wouldn't be delivering SNMP trap info every second ...

"Looks exactly like that PSIC problem we had with that new kit a couple of months ago." I comment.

"PSIC?" their boss enquires

"Yeah, Pseudo-Standard-Interface-Conflicts" I reply "A lot of the new state-of-the-art kit doesn't actually adhere to any standard, which is fine so long as it doesn't get plugged into a network with anything else. If it does, sooner or later there'll be problems ..."

"... when it gets into protocol loops with standard kit" the PFY finishes, knowing where I'm heading.

"What can we do?" asks the boss-type. "My Network Engineer tells me nothing!"

"You're joking!" I counter in horror "You mean he doesn't fill out daily reports of what he spends his time on?"

"Of course! Good lord, next you'll be telling me he doesn't have any network procedures documentation!"

"He doesn't!"

"But that's a workplace priority! No wonder you're having problems with all this new kit!! Look, I don't like to speak out of turn, but I think he's been leading you on with technical mumbo jumbo ...

Tell you what I'll do - because you know my boss and all, I'll loan you some of our kit and we'll take yours to iron out the protocol problems in your stuff."

"Would you?!?!" he gushes, networking salvation on the horizon.

"Sure! Well, that is unless you think you'll be talked out of it with more mumbo-jumbo, buzzwords and geek-talk?"

"NO, I'm quite capable of making technical decisions. Tell me what we need to replace and you can take it with you when you go ..."

"Well, that Gigabit Ethernet switch did look little dodgy" I reply.

"Don't forget that handheld LAN analyser and tracker" the PFY adds.

... five minutes later ...

"And lastly, that Dual Audio Channel Enhanced Video Display"

"You mean the CEO's new 29 inch Stereo Colour TV?!?!?" he bleats.

"I bet that's half the problem all by itself" I reply

Within half an hour all their comms room is missing is a couple of tumble-weeds. I organise a shipment of networking kit so old you can watch the bytes travelling, then make plans for the negotiation round that's soon to follow.

I can't wait to see what the "vetting fee" will be for each piece of kit we "pass" as being of suitable standard ...

This experience stuff really is worth it ...