While the Bastard's away, his replacement sees a career opportunity - forcing the PFY to deploy shock tactics...

Year 1997 - Episode 38


It's a dull day on holiday. My newly befriended educational contact is working, so I duck back to the city for my daily intake of e-mail, (seaside Internet cafes are a little difficult to get into at the moment - what with concerned parents picketing them).

Logging-in from home I notice the latest correspondence from the PFY appears to be a long one, so I crank up my espresso machine and set it on stun. I open the PFY's dispatches. It's an epic document depicting the struggle of the competent network engineer in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Apparently the boss's temporary network supervisor moved quickly from the 'humble and unassuming' persona to 'sneaking and conniving' persona in a few short days. True, this is pretty much par for the course and expected of the position, but he could have waited until I'd been fired.

The PFY realised quickly that the new boy's networking and Unix server knowledge was second to none - even nearer than that in fact - none whatsoever.

The PFY's well-tuned nasal instincts detected hint-of-rodent so he slipped a call monitor on the boss's phone. His instincts proved correct - his new supervisor and the boss were mates from way back when electricity was invented.

Further investigation revealed startling similarities between his CV and my own - word for word apparently.

Almost like the boss had e-mailed it to him. Having identified a position worth coveting, my stand-in invested every working hour brown-nosing support and managerial staff, playing up his role to the detriment of my memory. From the PFY's observations, he was either after my job, a Nobel Prize, or both.

Operations resumed with the new me wanting to distinguish himself by discovering evidence of negligence on my part, leading up to a stirring half-hour that will long be remembered. I have to rely on the PFY's version of events...

"Something strange has happened on the mail server machine," he blurted to the PFY, smelling glory, "There's a process running the pop program coming from outside the company. I think we've got a break in."

"Where's it coming from?" the PFY enquired, already suspecting the answer.

"A machine called bofh.DieGeekDie.com."

The PFY, recognising my domain name and penchant for keeping abreast of e-mail, knew it was best to defuse the situation before it got out of hand.

"Yep, it's a hacker all right," he confirms.

"What should we do?" the temp boss gagged, already thinking about the book rights for his Internet crime detection novel.

"Should we disable logins on our machines?"

"Hmm no" the PFY advised. "That'd just annoy them. Best run a disinfectant across the network."

"How?"

"With the spray command. Use spray: HOSTNAME minus c one million minus l two thousand, AMPERSAND. Do it for all hosts in the hosts file. That should disinfect the network while I get a coffee."

The PFY returned to anguished cries. "The bloody network's down."

"No, no" the PFY commented "It's still up and running, just very slow, for some reason."

From then on, it was all downhill. Convincing him that configuring all the 10/100Mb Ethernet switch ports to 100 non-switched, "for improved performance reasons", was a masterstroke - although the 10 per cent of 100Meg capable users were quite pleased with the performance that a 90 per cent network outage provided.

In an effort to win back some client goodwill, he proactively upgraded the router firmware with some new-release software clearly unaware of the firmware golden rule: never trust an unpatched release of anything.

That accounted for another hefty outage when some obscure bug caused the slip lines to have the highest priority path to the network. Which came as a surprise to the PFY as he hadn't had time to login to the routers to do it manually.

I'm just about to disconnect when a late-breaking news report comes in. Apparently, there's been a nasty workplace accident involving my phone. It appears the receiver cable had been rubbing up against a power cable and had worn through the insulation on both causing my replacement's professional looking headset to become a boost not only to his ego.

Luckily, it's always been networking operations' policy to have earth leakage detectors on desktop mains, but unluckily one of the PFY's extremely heavy manuals was inadvertently leaning on the reset switch at the time.

The ambulance crew eventually managed to coax him from underneath the desk with a couple of chocolate biscuits and a warm blanket, but it looks like I'm going to be called back early. No rest for the wicked. Or their supervisors.