Episode 38 BOFH 2000: Episode 38 SO I'm debugging an App I've only just cobbled together to monitor the browsing histories of senior management (just prior to contract renegotiation time as it happens) when the company cruiser walks in.
I hate the company cruiser. And every company has one - the person who doesn't really have a job outside of collecting stats on how winnable the Solitaire game on their desktop is. But so as to disguise this fact, they spend most of their time out of their office "working" with others.
"Morning," he burbles, unaware that his presence is about as welcome as Bill Gates at a Linux users' beerfest. "What're you doing?"
"Ah, just debugging an application," I respond, trying to maintain my train of thought.
"Oh yes, I used to do a bit of programming in my earlier days," he meanders, no doubt recalling the cutting edge of technical pressure of remembering to press return at the end of the line.
Now call me a pedant, call me ELITIST even, but if there's ONE THING that REALLY gets on my TITS, it's someone claiming to be a "programmer" because they had to type a PIN number in every day to operate a cash register, enter word processing documents or generally confuse the crap out of themselves
"We used to use the old black boxes." he continues, unaware of the "Did you ever use one of them? Tricky pieces of machinery, those, not like these days with all the help screens and things you have to make it easier. All we had back then was the F keys, and they weren't much help. No, you'd have to nut out problems yourself!..."
He meanders aimlessly and I start wondering how long it's going to take to get to the great Tab-key crisis of '83, and, more importantly, how full the skip at the building site down the street is, and if someone would notice a heavy 6ft computer cabinet in it..
"...The number of times I had to resort to F2-ing the document - can't recall what it used to do now, but it was a last resort that we had to use from time to time. Look - tell you what - do you want me to give you a hand, I was a bit of a dab hand with computers once, programmed quite a bit of stuff in the editor - all sorts of stuff!"
"OK," I respond, wondering if he'll leave me alone when he finds how out of his depth he is.. "What do you know about Perl?"
"Pearls, Uh, that would be the, uh, 30th anniversary," he burbles proudly.
"No,Perl, the scripting language," I say, through slightly clenched teeth.
"Is it like vi?" he replies, "I programmed in vi a couple of times - not a buff, mind, just a talented amateur, if I say so myself!"
My mind is now blanker than a blank thing, and welcomes the interruption afforded by the sight of The PFY at the door. He, and my last hope, disappear quicker than alcohol at a press release, JUST before the cruiser can catch sight of him and regale him with stories of how he was an assistant once and how Philips head screwdrivers are a lot easier to use these days, what with posidrive and all.
"Well it's not MUCH like vi - but what I'm trying to do is find out why an array appears to be overflowing on what SHOULD be a trivial amount of input, when I'm only selecting the first couple of fields from a varying length input string which is never null"
I'm faily sure he was with me up to 'array', though it can't hurt to put the slipper in a couple more times..
"So did you get that on your vi encounters?"
"Or was your work more of a scalar nature?"
"Well as I said, I'd done more in the way of programming on the Black Boxes we used in the old building - I tell you, sometimes you almost didn't know WHICH button to push!"
I realise the futility of the Dummy Mode plan - he LIVES there so he's immune to its effects. Which leaves the backup reserve plan..
"I can imagine!" I concur, "Actually, I think I know what the problem is - it'll be the 3rd array desynchronisation counter. The problem is usually in the hardware for those!"
"Hardware!!" he gasps "Now THAT I'm pretty good at!"
I mentally put aside the number of times we've been called to reassemble the PC of someone he's "helped" and continue. "Well you might be able to help then, here I'll show you..."
"It's an empty computer cabinet!" he cries viewing the box in front of him.
"No, the desynchronisation counter is mounted at the back. This is just the heatsink!"
"Oh yes, I see >clamber<. And this stuff, which looks like noise cancelling cloth - isa that some form of thermal insu.."
SO I'm debugging an App I've only just cobbled together when my thoughts are again interrupted, this time by the passing of a large truck carrying a very full skip.
Lucky I caught him.
Now lets see *strptr++ is WHERE precisely... ®
BOFH 2000: Kit and Caboodle
That's right, the whole shebang