The users are away from the office and - shock horror - the BOFH and PFY miss them. Surely this can't be right...

Year 1998 - Episode 10


Bored, bored, bored. The building is all but deserted as the company hosts its 'New Initiative W3' day for the workers - a disgusting event where the heads of the various departments report on the three wheres of existence - where we came from, where we are, and where we're going.

I notice that my overlay picture of a lavatory has been removed from the posters in the cafeteria. Perhaps that's why the PFY and I have the dubious honour of joining security in being the only staff not to get an invite.

It's surprising how bored an administrator can become without external distractions. The PFY seems particularly melancholy now that there are no users to bug him. A lesser man might be drawn to question his real feelings in the light of this knowledge. The PFY and I however have larger fish to grill - over the boss's under-desk heater as it happens.

Amazing what they'll do when you cover half the air inlet and disconnect the thermal cut-out.

In no time we're tucking into a tasty lunch - and crispy too, thanks to the PFY's discovery that by removing the safety cover you can place the food nearer to the bare heating wires.

"You know, it's funny," the PFY says as he gobbles the last of his fish buttie, "but in a way I miss the users."

"We should give Dr Robb a ring."

Dr Robb, is the company shrink. He used to come in once a week for huggy-feely sessions with the staff, but the presence of a video camera in the room seems to have had some effect on his popularity. I guess the deputy storeman never did get over his tape being played on the front-desk security monitor one Friday evening after drinks.

"Hello?"

"Hi Doctor Robb."

"Ah... hello Simon."

"How's the PC?"

"I don't use computers any more," he says nervously. "In fact I don't use any electrical appliances."

"But what about the phone? That's an electrical appliance of sorts isn't...."

CLICK "That's strange," the PFY comments. "He's hung up And what about that crap about not using electrical appliances?"

"I know - sounds like neurosis if you ask me. Sounds like he needs another dose of that shock treatment they go on about."

"What do you mean, another dose?"

"Oh, nothing. So it looks like we're going to have to deal with this problem on our own. I think the horrible truth is - we actually need our users."

"No!" the PFY is almost hysterical.

The rest of the afternoon is spent in sad contemplation.

Normality returns when the first W3 victim enters the workplace early to get some back-ups of his Linux box while the portable tape unit is free.

"Hello," I say, grabbing the phone.

"It's about my back-ups - they don't go through."

"That's because you back up all your applications instead of the data that is changing. You don't need to back up your applications because we keep copies of them all on the server."

"But I really do want to back up my applications," the user cries, not fooled for a second.

"Then you'll have to use the ultra-fast Non-Unwinding Longitudinal Length drive."

Dummy mode on.

"Duh... OK. What's that called?"

"/dev/null"

"OK. Hey, it is fast. How do you track it?"

"Uh, the command is 'cat /dev/null' piped to 'ls -alR /'."

"OK, thanks."

"Don't mention it."

"What was all that about?" The PFY gasps. "I thought we'd realised that we needed the users?"

"Don't be stupid. I'll never need a user while I have the Doom and Quake boxed set and the Internet. And grilled fish for lunch of course. Speaking of which, did you put the safety..."

A scream from the boss's office answers my question before the PFY can respond.

"Whoops," says the PFY.