When you need a few spares, why not depth-charge your boss' Minesweeper game and use the replacement parts to leave him shell-shocked

Year 1998 - Episode 43

The boss is screwed. After I'd installed the software on his brand spanking new laptop, I slapped a "Warranty void if seal broken" sticker across the front of it.

The beads of sweat on his brow and twitching fingers - as he contemplates getting his hands on the thing - speak volumes about his state of mind. He's obviously in Minesweeper withdrawal - even though I replaced the version on his old laptop with one that always explodes a bomb in the first move.

I leave him to his personal trauma.

Sure enough, he's cracked under the pressure, and enters my office 15 minutes later.

"That bloody laptop doesn't work!" he bellows.

It's not surprising considering the PFY and I gutted all but the keyboard, power supply and screen to provide the heart and soul for our latest and greatest project, the IT cleaning droid - which is infinitely more intelligent than the floor polishing droids they release into the corridors at night. I wrote the code myself, even the image recognition and seek-and-destroy - I mean seek-and-clean - code. It's a work of art.

"What happened?" I ask.

"Well, I opened it up an..."

"You opened it up?!"


"And voided the warranty?!"

"I couldn't use it 'til I'd opened it up, could I? The keyboard's inside when it's closed."

"Oh, I see what you mean. I thought you'd broken one of those warranty void seals!" I cry, faking the kind of relief some people pay large sums of money for.

"Ah, well, there was one seal I had to break, but that was the one over the 'open' latch."

"You mean you didn't get an engineer to install it?!" I gasp.

"You installed it!"

"No, I only put the software on it via Target-Mode SCSI upload. You need an engineer to provide the inherent firmware personality modes." (Dummy mode on.)

"But it's a bloody laptop, not a mainframe," he sniffles.

"Yes, but the engineer has to set the localisation on the machine for you, and personalise the unit, passwords and stuff."

"I see. Well, you'd best do it."

"You're joking aren't you? They're not going to touch it with a broken warranty void sticker."

"Why not?"

"Because you could have set the localisation to Peru, or something. That'll all have been stored in permanent non-volatile, doubly redundant, device-specific, static RAM." (Dummy mode cranked up.)

"What does that mean?"

"It means all the components have stored the fact that your machine is installed in Peru, Antarctica, or wherever it configured itself for. If that location conflicts with what the GPS tracker says..."

"My laptop's got a GPS inside it!" he cries excitedly.

"Yes, but if the hardware conflicts with what it says, well, it may as well be a machine with no motherboard, memory, floppy or CD-ROM - it won't ever go."

True, Ray Charles could have seen that coming, but who gives a toss - it worked.

"W...w...what should I do?" he burbles, contemplating the full horror of a whole day without his favourite game.

"Well, we could buy in the parts and replace them, and I could perform the engineer install. But it'd never be under warranty."

Quicker than you can whisper "executive decision" down a scrambled phone line, the boss has agreed to purchase the aforementioned items.

I, of course, slap all the old stuff back into the boss's machine - being sure to leave a couple of scratches on the casing and have a couple of screws left over so that it looks like a real engineer worked on it - then kick it into life (literally) and hand it back to the boss.

So everyone's happy. The boss has his new laptop, and the droid has brand spanking new hardware. I fire up the droid and get the PFY on the remote console to give my code a good, hard seeing-to. I've offered him a pint for every error he can detect.

"It won't go near walls," the PFY murmurs, without looking up from the console.

Dedication is his middle name. At AA meetings, anyway.

"No, it has an object back-up of a foot so people don't walk into it."


"Meaning it backs up a foot from any object."

"I see," he says, "and what about moving objects?"

"It keeps a foot away from them," I respond, anticipating his plan. "So you're not going to run it into a wall at top speed, nor is it going to let you run up to it and 'physically reboot' it the old-fashioned way."

"The thought never entered my head," the PFY replies, offended. "I was just wondering what it would do in this situation," he says, pointing at the video monitor showing the boss entering the lift with his new laptop.

"So you've not heard of a lag to prevent hysteresis?" the PFY burbles smugly (and drunkenly) at the pub later that evening.

"Uh-huh," I mumble, "where are we up to now?"

"Ah, I think we're up to where the droid backed up from the lift wall and into the boss, then backed up from the boss, over his laptop and into the lift wall. For the...11th time."

Ah...my job beats playing Minesweeper anyday.