The head's mid-life crisis and how a career in modelling leads to an executive position...

Year 1998 - Episode 4


It is truly pathetic. Sad male heads-of-department of a certain age, realising they're no longer in the youth, or even middle-aged category, suddenly attempting to alter their lifestyle to compensate.

And so it is that the head of IT, with designer-coloured cellphone and laptop and brand new convertible car, has appointed a flashy young smooth-talker to the position of executive liaison officer.

It's easy to see how her previous experience in the modelling industry is so close to information systems that a couple of days of reading glossy mags will have her up to speed...

"I can't see that she's such a problem," the boss cries.

"She can't even spell IT, let alone be in the position of making service delivery promises to all and sundry," I protest.

"She must know something about IT to get appointed," the boss responds, confirming my suspicion that he's a card-carrying member of Naivet´┐Ż International.

"I see. And how long did it take her to get her desktop machine going again?"

"The power switch is quite difficult to find," he replies, as loyal as a terrier.

My worst fears are confirmed when she decides to buy up a whole swag of network computers, "Because we won't ever have to worry about upgrading." This poorly researched decision has obtained the official stamp of approval and a purchase order has appeared on my desk for a 'technical sign-off'. I stuff it into the shredder quicker than the average user could say "Where's my hard disk gone?"

The boss is on the job in record time.

"These network computers are great," he gasps, flashing a glossy brochure.

"And why is that?" I ask.

"Because they act just like PCs without disks," he cries. "They're good because everything they need to operate is loaded from the computer."

"Sort of like a dumb terminal, with graphic and sound capabilities."

"Uh... no, much faster, and in colour."

"So it's a bit like changing a black and white TV for a colour one."

"Uh... Not exactly."

"So we're going to move from independent computers to ones dependent on a server - like ASCII terminal days. So when the main machine is down, no work gets done. Isn't that why we got desktop machines?"

"Ahhhh... No, not really."

"Oh. So they're different from, say, an NCD in what way?"

"Because we'll never need to upgrade the equipment. It'll be like your colour TV set," the boss blurts triumphantly. "Once you've got one, it'll never need upgrading - just upgrade the server software."

"Not even when the software grows and needs more memory?"

"No."

"Not even when the software wants to make use of whizzy new features like Nicam stereo, Dolby surround, and wide screen?"

"Look, we're bloody buying some, so sign off on them," the boss shouts.

What the hell, I scrawl out a signature. Not mine of course, but who's to know? Except the boss, should someone check it against his.

"In fact," the boss continues, "I think you should be using the same technology as users, so order a couple for the control room as well."

BASTARD!!

A few days later they arrive and are dispatched to the test cases in various departments. The PFY and I get ours into gear - true, we did replace the motherboard with that of a small-footprint PC with high-speed laptop disk drives, but to all intents and purposes it looks like the real thing.

Let the carnage commence!

SNMP management is a damn fine tool for a machine, especially when it lets you reboot the thing remotely. I patch a game of Network DOOM with sprites of the NC users' faces and get the kills piped to the SNMP reboot command. Kill a user, their Network Computer goes down.

Of course, it's not very sporting, so I ring the users and tell them, to give them a fighting chance. Well, as much of a chance as you can get using the apps-server-based copy of the game which only lets you pick up a handgun. Still, it's amazing how good a beancounter can get at pistol shooting when two hours of spreadsheet work are at stake and you have to win a game to use the Save option.

Surprisingly enough, the NCs weren't a hit with the users and were decommissioned after only four days (and 327 kills).

"I was thinking about a PC version of that game," the PFY comments.

"You mean the same game, except that it causes the Pentium Hang bug on their desktop machine?"

"You mean you've thought of it?"

"Thought of it, installed it, and am waiting for new players with the chaingun."