When the BOFH bugged the boss's office he wasn't to know the kit he'd installed would double up as a vehicle to crack the head beancounter's nut

Year 1998 - Episode 46


The PFY and I are in the office teasing users by toggling their switch ports whenever their pop-client opens a connection to the mail server when an urgent alarm starts ringing on the network monitor.

"BSD?" the PFY murmurs, "What the hell does BSD stand for?" Double-clicking on the icon concerned, he continues: "It's in the boss's office."

Sensing my suppressed panic, he returns to his original tack. "So what the hell's a BSD?"

"It's a new tailor-made piece of kit I conceived and installed," I reply.

"It's a network device, then?"

"Yes, in that it delivers an SNMP trap in response to certain predetermined criteria occurring."

"Criteria no doubt linked with its cryptic acronym?"

"Precisely."

"An acronym that stands for?" the PFY sighs, losing patience.

"Bullshit detection."

"Bullshit detection?"

"Yeah, bullshit detection. I've decided that I can't be arsed spending a couple of hours a day sifting through the Boss's office conversation tapes just to see if he's planning something, so I've developed a piece of hardware and software to do it for me."

"Which is?" the PFY asks, his curiosity peaking.

"Ah, a bit of voice recognition software that parses conversations for keywords used in close proximity to each other."

"Keywords, like what?"

"'Purchase', 'buy' or 'invest in' - in conjunction with 'new technology', 'updated software' etc., plus lots of other little bits and pieces that can only mean trouble."

"You mean words like 'maintenance budget'?"

"The very same. There's no legitimate reason why the boss should be talking about that unless he's going to increase it, and that's unlikely to happen following my efforts yesterday to migrate those beancounters from that archaic tower subsystem they use for hot back-ups."

"Your efforts to migrate users ... Oh, you mean when you set the machine on fire and pushed it out of the third-floor window?"

"I most certainly did not set the machine on fire! That was spontaneous hardware combustion - just like the human kind the tabloids talk about. Besides, throwing it out the window was the safest thing to do given that there was no fire extinguisher at hand."

"There wasn't one three floors below either, was there?" the PFY asks snidely.

"I don't suppose there was, but I can't see what that..."

"When the chunky, burning machine plunged through the open sun-roof of the head beancounter's vehicle, which just happened to be parked there - setting it on fire."

"Coincidence, pure and simple."

"Coincidence?"

"Yes, and I resent ... actually, is there a point to all this?"

"No, no," the PFY counters innocently. "Just asking. So, this bullshit detection, what's it running on? Not a piece of kit that the boss is going to discover - or discover missing from where it should be?"

"Well, that's the beauty of it. Because he's got so many machines in his office, he had a ventilation fan installed, which just so happens to be the cooling that other tower machine users have already been migrated from."

"Not that monstrous chunk of iron from the sixth floor that you said was using parts from Chernobyl and expelling dangerous levels of radioactive waste?!"

"The very same."

"I never thought they'd buy that."

"Well, not at first," I sigh, "But once I'd taken that black marker to the chest X-rays in the med centre they couldn't wait to get rid of it"

"True," the PFY grudgingly admits. "So, how'd you get it into the ceiling?"

"Well, Janitor George gave me a hand lifting it into the roof as he wanted the real fan for his bathroom at home."

"A fair exchange," the PFY says. "So, what's the warning mean?"

"Well, it's a simple traffic threshold MIB: the more bullshit in the office, the more network traffic the machine reports. That way, no-one will give it a second thought."

"So what's it up to? What's the machine's owner name field say?"

"100 per cent, and Dave C.

"So, that means Dave C is in the boss's office talking up a storm about hardware that we should be buying, money that he should be spending etc.."

"He's a borderline DIY geek, isn't he?" the PFY asks warily.

"Correct. Rumour has it he installed his own keyboard once, but you know how users talk."

"But is it bad?"

"Oh, yes," I respond, leaning past him to point at the display. "See the 30-second average level? That's really the boss's level of disagreement."

"But it's at zero!"

"Meaning?"

"He's going to let Dave spend our budget."

We both break for the door at the same time to steer the boss away from the foolish.

But before we can get into place the God of Computing acts.

Later, the PFY and I piece together what had happened.

"So, apparently, Dave tried to fix the noisy aircon fan by prodding the roofing tile with the boss's umbrella, upsetting the BSD machine's delicate balance on the rafter and causing it to plummet through the roof and strike the DIY cowboy," the PFY finishes.

Now that's justice for you.