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back to article BOFH: The admin gene

"Woah!" the PFY breathes, looking up quickly. "Woah what?" the Boss asks, looking around cautiously, as I re-enter the room from the passage to the server room. "Nope, it'll be OK," I say to the PFY, ignoring the Boss for a moment. "What'll be OK?" "Are you sure?" the PFY asks. "It was quite noticeable." "What was …

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The gene

It's true, it must be. It's the same gene that means my wife can try something electronic or mechanical 3-4 times and it won't work, but when *I* reach over and push the same button - bingo first time.

Ah, I can feel a warm smug weekend coming on...

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I think I have it too

I too have the ability to try something that anyone else has tried several times without success and instantly get it to work.

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Coat

WOAH!

Great story, wish I could hook up the idiots here who think filling in eight timesheets a week is good for productivity! Now what's that diy cattleprod webpage address again.

Mine's the one with the keys to the time machine!

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Happy

its the same gene I have

Yes the ... did the lights just flicker.

sense.

Fan speed changes....check

its all true........

sensing small changes in pressure to predict a thunderstorm, (also noticing cloud formations) actually I am pretty sad with that one :)

but at least I disconnect the copper lighting conductor in the back of my router.

another great BOFH blog entry :)

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Go

Other side effects

The admin gene has a few other surprise side effects

1) You can see through M$ error messages and understand what is actually wrong

2) 'Magic Fingers' mean that all sorts of problems disappear in your presence

Downsides are that everyone asks you the questions that no-one else can answer

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Stop

I have a different gene

Mine grants me the ability to make something new break in such an unpredictable and expensive way that the visiting technician visibly trembles and quietly mutters this exact line: "It's never done that before."

Happens every time.

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Alert

Oi!

“So what do I have instead?”

“I dunno – what’s the one that causes Asperger's?” the PFY asks unkindly.

Hey! I resent that remark!

And also, they aren't mutually exclusive - I've got both.

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lol @ Steve

haha know exactly what you mean, it happens every day in the office

User > My e-mails not working, it just keeps coming up with an error

Me> [click send and receive] looks like its working fine to me

User > but ... but ..... I tried that 100 times already

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tit-le demanded,

aye, it's also known as "the knack".. though, I have started referring to it as "the shinning" as the inevitable dementia sets in after many years exposure to the IT industry.

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Go

thats what it is...

I have always called it computer karma. The ability to have a fault spontaneously resolve itself after 10 secs of contact with the offending piece of equipment.

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Admin Gene

I think the gene also gives you the ability to explain exactly why there is a primed bear trap just outside the server room door, in such a way that the boss signs off the purchase order for the next batch and then goes for a server inspection... <snap>

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Happy

@AB

In our house, I have the admin gene (things fix themselves in my presence) and my wife has the 'other' gene (the one that breaks things in unpredictable ways).

She gets extremely wound up after trying to get something to work for 1/2 hour before reluctantly calling for backup (she knows what's about to happen) I turn up, press the same two keys that she's been trying for 1/2 hour and it just works.

I don't help by saying "there you go, what's wrong with that?"

cue bun-fight :D

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Happy

Beeps

Yea, I think I might have this gene too. My head turns at the sound of only 4 beeps rather than 5 and it takes me a couple of seconds before I even know why my head's pointing down that particular corridor.

Some people seem to have an aura too - when all they need do is appear, before the naughty computer stops acting up - anyone else noticed this? Makes me feel a bit like NeoJesus

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Well it passes the time...

GE-NI-US! :D Been a long time since I read such a great one-liner :-)

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Happy

@Dave Walker

yea i have that happen to me quite alot i've put it down to a machine aura that just magically fixes problems without me having to touch anything

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Happy

@Anonymous Bastard

Same here- I can break things just by thinking about them and solve apparently impossible problems.

I put it more down to the incompetence of others than my brilliance.

Though clearly we're all pretty brilliant...

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Coat

Me too...

It's almost uncanny. Problems disappear when I walk into a user's office and try the same thing they've just tried 15 times.

For additional info, also see Dilbert "The Knack"

Mine's the one with the paycheck stub showing approximately half the salary of most of the users I support...

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Dan
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@David Ross Smith

Actually, I think there's a very fine line between the two, if there's any line at all (think about it - rather similar aren't they?). I know I've got both.

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Happy

he heee

Anonymous Bastard are you my old supivisor she had that to?

I can relate to this story

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Anonymous Coward

@ David Ross Smith

I do too!

i wonder many of us read the reg

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True

Really. There's something in this. It's not training, you just know.

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and me

I can hear problems with fans, speakers, hard drives air con you name it and problems disappear in my presence too.

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Boffin

same here

problems disappear like magic

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drip, drip, click

I too can sense when things feel .. different. Only the other day I was able to pick up the sound of the aircon starting to drip water across a noisy room..

As for user problems magically fixing themselves just by walking into a room - I thought that was down to the user actually taking more care to read the message and click the right box when I'm watching them than when they're complaining over the phone... Once or twice I even carried a magic wand and just waved it to make problems go away :)

Steve.

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IT Angle

Not just me then?

All of the above is true.I have met others with the gift. I think we are in tune with 50Hz mains and can resonate with the stuff.

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It's not just computers

We used to have an Amstrad VCR bought brand new back in 1991. It never worked properly from day one... I was the only person who was able to get a video tape to play on the bloody thing.

I don't know what it was exactly, it was just knowing to push the right buttons at the EXACT right time (you had to listen to the sounds the VCR was making). I tried teaching other people but they ended up with bad tracking problems (if they got the tape to play at all!)

Anyway, the thing finally went band a few years ago, by that time DVDs had already hit mainstream.

Incidentaly, the Betamax VCR that was bought before I was born (I'm 23) is still working perfectly!

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Insight and Knowledge

This is why the question "can you tell me what you just did" has to be answered in the negative. It's not about knowing stuff, it's about understanding stuff. Instincts are rarely pure instinct - they're the distillation of knowledge and experience over many years into finely tuned behaviour.

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BOFH: The admin gene

Briliant and so very true!

The ammount of times I've been in a room and heard the slight change in pitch of a fan and started ripping the box open to remedy it, or tuning my hearing into a room full of racks to find the one box with a failing hdd, baffling onlooking co-workers with my 'supernatural' powers must be reaching tripple figures now.

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Happy

Very Funny

Another great BOFH.. and so true.

Most readers here probably have the gene. I found out when I was 16 and supported and office of 50 recruitment consultants on my own. Just me being there stopped problems happening.. That and moving the mouse on the NT server to stop the 3d Pipes screensaver zapping all the server's CPU.. ;-)

Mines the one with the 3d screensaver.

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MiG
Coat

@some of the above

Whatever we call it - those that have it, are clearly gifted and just get on with it. Those that don't know what we're talking about, are either lusers or bosses.

Case in point:

User: My laptop won't open a web page.

Me: Are you connected to the network/modem?

User: Yes, I haven't unplugged anything since yesterday and it was working then.

Me: [presses wireless 'on' button] There..... try it now.

User: [click] It's working. What did you do?

Me: I pressed that button [points at wireless on/off button] and turned the blue light back on. That's why it wasn't working.

User: Oh, I turned that off last night, it was bright and annoying. Can't it work without a blue light?

Me: [muttering x%^$%*£ under my breath, grinds teeth]

And yes, he was a very successful, well-paid manager. I'm sure we've all been there.....

[Mine's the one with the Sonic Screwdriver in the inside pocket....]

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Happy

The gene... of experience

It's definitely true. I can detect, from some distance away and across many noises, the sound of hard drive activity ceasing (which means the three-hour procedure has finished, yay) even if it's on the quietest drive in the building. Or the sound of a fan changing its note. If my brother's with me, he'll usually detect the same thing at the same time, and we'll both KNOW that the other has sensed it... leading to conversations as bewildering to outsiders as the BOFH/PFY one here. And the more crucial the situation, the less likely that anyone will get any information out of either of us.

And the boss.... fails the test. BAHAHAHAHAHA!

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Boffin

@ David Ross Smith

Wow, just read up on Wikipedia and it looked like I might have it. Then I realised I was just an unsocial clumsy oaf.

There is a fine line between madness and genius - I often step over the line.

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Coat

Too true

Sometimes, things just aren't in order. Just being able to pick out a machine that feels 'different', being able to pull an instant backup off its Data-partition only to hear it go >>KLENGKLENGKLENG<< less than 5 minutes afterwards, it just feels Jedi :)

Mine's the one with the ieee1394 drive in the inside pocket.

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Definitely exists...

There's a few side effects that haven't been listed yet...

1. The ability to annoy co-workers who doesn't have it.

(Me walking up to one of my co-workers and glancing at the screen for 2 seconds, then rattle off a two-minute speech of what is wrong and how to fix it isn't always appreciated after they've been fighting the problem for the last hour... )

2. Dowsing...

I can find water and some power lines using two metal dowsing rods.

Anyone else?

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Funny but true!

PMSL. loved it, love how it looped back when another person entered the room, classic!!

And it is also so very true and I smiled as I read the story. Many a time I've entered a room and noticed a different hum, knowing a fan on a PC needs a good clean and lube, or smelling a fried pc components smell and knowing sommething isn't right!

11/10 excellent writing!

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@ Steve, Andy, Dave et al

That's a different talent - An aura that machines sense, and they know you're not to be messed with. Demonstrating percussive maintenance on one box can cause a whole server room to behave.

http://www.icw-net.com/howto/funstuff/maintnce.htm

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Paris Hilton

The gift

I was beginning to think it was just me that could hear when a PSU was on it's way out, or the first tell tale signs of a failing drive, or the slight shimmer of text on a screen telling me the refresh rate or resolution is just off.

Paris because she loves the hum of a NAS.

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Unhappy

Magic touch

Great BOFH

I have it too with regards to computers, I just wish I had the magic to chat a girl up :(

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The admin gene

Yeah, it seems a lot of sysadmins have the admin gene. My freinds and family dubbed it "the laying of hands" with me years ago. The ability to walk into a room, stare at a computer for 2 seconds, then just "know" what's wrong.

They are getting some wierd error about the SATA controller, but every test they can run, and everything they do comes back that it should be working, yet it still crashes windows?

*pulls the soundcard*

Voila! It works!

The completely flabbergasted looks on the faces of users and otehr admins alike is priceless. I do like many of the other names for "the laying of hands" however. Seems a common enough thing amongst reg readers!

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also works on non-IT stuff

Yeah, this also works on cars/motorcycles/airplanes. It's "the touch" - all I have to do is look at it and it will run just fine, forever after.

Except lawnmowers.

(Almost) all your spark plugs are belong to us!

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Anonymous Coward

Tape Drive

Add to that instinctively knowing when to pop into the server room to change the backup tape when passing by. Love it when Iwalk in as the tape ejects...

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Coat

When technology is threatened, it behaves.

@ Dunstan Vavasour, tfewster, all.

"This is why the question "can you tell me what you just did" has to be answered in the negative."

I also have the gene, and I have an answer.

When I get this question after I repair something, I always say to the user(s)

"The amount of difficulty anyone has with a piece of technology is inversely proportional to the proximity of a technician who owns a very large hammer."

Mine's the one hanging over the handle of the 10 lb sledgehammer, thanks.

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Anonymous Coward

Works for me...

I worked in a place where our machines were constantly breaking through overuse. Often I'd go make a huge pile of copies, thousands of sheets, not realizing that the copier was "broken" and a call had been placed. I'd go in, it would happily grind out my copies, and obstinately refuse to work for others.

No clue why that is, except I like machinery and talk nice to it, with the unspoken threat of violence hanging in the air. To paraphrase a saying attributed to Al Capone, "Kind words and a hammer will get you farther than kind words alone".

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Paris Hilton

The Gene

I have the gene, unfortunately I'm lazy, let me explain:

Me: I think that harddrive is getting old, I think it's going to start failing anytime now.

[does nothing]

[2 days later, drive fails]

Apparently, shipping a drive off to a data recovery center is "easier" than doing a backup.

Paris: because she KNOWS she's got it... well, something at least.

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Reminds me of this AI Koan

This uncanny ability (which I've also got..) to (to the untrained eye) do nothing, turn on a machine, and have it work, reminded me of something, which I finally found.. this is one of the "AI Koans" from the MIT AI lab from the 1980s sometime:

A novice was trying to fix a broken Lisp machine by turning the power off and on. Knight, seeing what the student was doing spoke sternly: "You can not fix a machine by just power-cycling it with no understanding of what is going wrong." Knight turned the machine off and on. The machine worked.

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It works both for good and evil....

The abilities to detect problems before they are a problem, fix things by merely being within 10 yards, and break things in ways that noone would ever consider possible, can be a curse.

For example, when a luser calls you saying "Its not working". You walk all the way accross the building, click the same button they have (or they say they have) been pressing, and it all just works as it's supposed to. You put it down to idiocy on the part of the luser. Then they call an hour later, you do the same. Repeat untill the luser gets so pissed off he tells your boss, who insists there MUST be a problem, and you spend days looking for a fault you know is just a PEBCAK.

Discovering problems early makes work for you, when you COULD just wait for the kit to blow up and have it fixed under warranty.

And as for breaking things in unpredictable ways, well, it's fun but once again it creates more work for you.

I wish I didnt have the gene. Things would be a whole lot simpler....

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Dex
Flame

Missed BOFH Episode Gene?

Ok so who knew about there being no episode last week and didn't tell me? :@

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Boffin

WHOA!

Damn, the lights didn't just flicker this very moment, they went off for a split of second!

Anyway, I passed the preliminary test as I sensed that electrified doorknob a mile away, but I'll see how I'll do on my computer networks test tomorrow morning...

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For a long time....

It seems that I have had some sort of thing like this. I am reminded of a time when I was having lunch with a couple of friends from work (it was around 1980 or so), and the music playing in the restaurant was interrupted by a brief spurt of the (USA) EBS tone. We both looked at each other with the look like "that shouldn't happen!". A bit later they did the standard "this is a test of the emergency broadcast system..." and we breathed a sigh of relief!

The other time was a few years earlier when my (then) boss poked a grounded soldering iron into a live AC (mains) circuit. After it vaporised the terminal (think BOFH cattle prod) and as I was walking over to supply to get another tip he indicated "when did they ground soldering iron tips?"

I got my BOFH training early (and admin gene).

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Coat

Those that don't have it

And they work in Desktop Support. I have it and guess who they come to after banging there heads on the keyboard for about an hour.

Mines the one with the Clueon dispenser.

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