Barroom Blitz...

Year 1999 - Episode 13


I stumble into work early (well, in time for morning tea) to find one of our boundary routers has crashed overnight, requiring the PFY to be called out to restart it. And, with the boss getting extremely tight on overtime, the PFY has been forced to take time in lieu for the late-night call-out, instead of being paid for it. At least, that's the official version.

The Bastard-interpreted version is that the PFY was out on night alcohol manoeuvres (network people must network), forgot about the Tube times and had to get a cab home - only he'd spent all his pennies in the relentless pursuit of boozing. He would have jumped on the chance to get a work-paid ride back to his humble abode, with time off to heal his battle scars.

Plan 17B from the Big-Bastard Book of Bludges: toggle the power to an important unit, wait an hour, turn the kit back on, then grab a free cab home, with in-lieu recovery time to boot...

Checking the top drawer of the PFY's desk, in case he'd been forced to 'upload some data' during 'call-out', all seems well, so I settle down to read the paper. A few hours later, the PFY stumbles in, looking like his face has been used as a doorknocker.

I eventually get the PFY's story - he was at the local pub doing some late-night 'birdspotting' and followed a 'migration' to an after-hours cocktail drinker. Upset by the Tom Cruise wannabe behind the bar, he'd apparently flicked a lit match onto the spillage of spirits on the bar...not what the big bouncers would call acceptable behaviour. You get that on the big jobs.

So, as expected, he's not feeling great, and wouldn't do our name any good if I sent him out with the Client Unserviceable Equipment list..."Ah, here's that Client Unserviceable Equipment I was talking about yesterday - if you could just visit them and check out what's wrong with their kit?"

What the hell. I'm sure he'll appreciate the chance to counsel a user on the correct approach to the contrast versus brightness dilemma on their monitor...I open a window to the CCTV in the fourth-floor cubicle farm, and crank up the inbuilt microphone to listen to the PFY's first mission...

"So your meetings always get scheduled an hour after everyone else's?"

"Yes. Do you think it's my clock setting?"

"Possibly," the PFY murmurs slowly. "But we should really seek out the root of the problem."

"Maybe it's daylight saving?" the user suggests, helpfully.

"No, that's just a complication. The real cause is most likely to be the inability to find the disk-based Time-Zone configs."

Ah, Find and Disk in the same sentence - he's going for the old F(ind)DISK approach.

"So it wouldn't be the RAM battery on the motherboard?"

"?" utters the PFY, recognising a tinkerer and discarding the FDISK plan.

"You know, that keeps the clock ticking."

"Well, if it were that, your clock setting would reset every time you booted your machine," the PFY points out.

"Oh."

"Mind you, it could be a battery capacitance problem!"

"Battery capacitance?!"

"Yes, you know about Nicad Memory, also called internal resistance?" the PFY says, appealing to the geekal lobe of the user's brain.

"Uh, yes."

"Well, batteries also have a capacitance, storing a reverse charge, which, when a machine is off, reduces the battery voltage, causing a reduced junction voltage in the oscillator controlling time generation."

DUMMY MODE ON!

"Duh-huh."

"So, what do we do?"

"Well, it so happens that I have a booster capacitor kit in the office, which can remove any stray capacitance in the battery..."

Five minutes later..."Isn't that a strobe light with a lead coming from where the lamp should be?"

"Ha ha ha," chuckles the PFY. "No, I admit it looks like that, but that's just a...Capacitance Shield."

"Oh."

"Now, we just connect these leads up like so, plug her in, turn your machine on...stand back...and switch her..."

One small explosion later..."Lucky we found that dodgy nicad!" the PFY gasps. "That could have caused problems."

"But my machine's ruined!"

"No, it's not - look, that processor would make a lovely pendant! And those DIMM cards - they'd be great in a mobile!"

"B...B..."

"No, no, don't thank me - just think yourself lucky we caught it in time! Oh!" he adds, catching sight of a case on the desk. "Does your laptop have the same problem?

"NO!" shouts the hapless user, clutching the machine to his chest.

"Well I'll be off then." Another dissatisfied customer...