back to article BOFH: The Boss, the floppy and the work 'experience'

"Ah! Simon, Steven - this is James," the Boss burbles, pushing a young lad forward like a ritual sacrifice candidate. "James is doing a 2 week placement with us as part of his further studies." "James!" I say, holding out my hand. "James is here to make some modifications to the software that imports people into our security …

Silver badge

Re: Ancient history

quality mate!

did it look like this?

to start it press start

7
0
Silver badge
Pint

...with my creativity and on-the-fly subtraction skills.

Gotta love a guy who can think on his feet! I'll raise glass to this one!

10
0
Pint

Enemy Territory

Have a beer for mention of Enemy Territory - such an awesome game

3
0

Re: Enemy Territory

Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory.

I was going to stop at a six pack but getting beer has never been so easy...

EDIT: Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory...

Just to be on the safe side. It is Friday after all.

14
1
Silver badge
Happy

Re: Enemy Territory

Can you get proper beer in 6 packs? And are they proper sized 440ml, ~pint sized cans or are they what our Ozzy cousins call stubbies? You me need many more for a proper Friday :-)

0
1
Coat

Re: Enemy Territory

You go for some cheap up votes and some sod down votes you...

Ah well

2
0
Pint

Re: Enemy Territory

440ml is not a pint!

A proper pint is 568 and a bit ml

5
0
Alert

Re: Enemy Territory

It has to be said that playing against Simon in ET, he is bloody lethal with that freakin' annoying noob-nade chucking gun.

And the laying of mines.

Grrr...

Ve need covert ops!

0
0
Trollface

Re: Enemy Territory

"noob-nade chucking gun"? If you're referring to the rifle grenades then I beg to differ! Seeing the perfect bounce shot with it was a thing of beauty :D Using it to lob grenades through the bunker window from the beach was incredible amounts of fun.

And land mines? Deep joy was had on many an occasion with those beauties! Place a little wide on corners to get the smart arses that think they're going round them, before or after doorways to get those that think they're going to jump over them. Mining downed enemies rather than finishing them off also provided some amusement when the medic went for the revive and heard the ominous "click".

1
0
TRT
Silver badge

... my sole output for two months a couple of years ago is in fact just over 500 lines of code - the majority of which was cut-and-pasted from a web example. I think I knocked the whole thing off in one afternoon ...

This. I didn't think I had it in me to become a BOFH, but ... this.

Also, I think they've employed the same security system on the DevOps here. AGILE seems to be, somehow, the wrong word.

12
0
Silver badge

I used the term 'AGILE' the other day to pour scorn over the mismanagement of a project I'm working on.

First time I've ever used it - I previously wasn't aware that it was synonym for 'Cowboy mode' :)

6
0
Facepalm

Oh, for the days of Cowboy mode

Decimating cowboy mode has been great for employment. I must be supporting a dozen guys whose sole purpose is to stop me from getting anything accomplished. I spend more time in meetings than I do coding. And let's not even talk about server auditing, which wouldn't be so bad if it was actually accomplishing anything. Seriously, monitoring for file changes but excluding the whole OS? And now we're going DevOps and Agile, with a bunch of people who don't know the difference between a scrum and a sprint. Not sure how we're going to do it, we have more gates than the stock yards. But hey, it gives them an opportunity to buy Jira, which they might be able to get installed, eventually. Got to have a meeting on it....

3
0
Silver badge
Happy

I detect a new PFY in the making...

9
0
Silver badge

@RyokuMas

two sidekicks? I thought the Sith only worked in pairs? The PFY better watch his step?

3
0
Silver badge

@chivo243

"two sidekicks? I thought the Sith only worked in pairs? The PFY better watch his step?"

To paraphrase Darth Vader: "Intern, you can destroy the BOFH. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the data center as new BOFH and PFY."

8
0
Silver badge
Joke

Change documentation

Surely there would have had to be full documentation of the changes they wanted to implement which would need to be reviewed and agreed at a local level, and then a senior change board, before the design for the changes could be architected, again to be approved at 3 separate levels and then the developers could look to implement... Oh, is your two week placement over already? never mind, we can take your good start and progress it from here!

12
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Change documentation

Yes, you start with collecting the business requirements, and getting those meetings alone with the higher ups will absorb most of that time as they all have to pretend they have a full agenda (kinda hard with IT having a feed of their Free/Busy status, but it serves both to maintain the illusion)...

4
1

amazing. The intern sees through him and lives to tell the tale. few have that privilege.

12
0
Silver badge

@Conall O

Well, the intern did play along for a while, and didn't seem to have too much attitude when the coin dropped. He just seemed to shrug it off, not making a scene worthy of the carpet and lime treatment...

4
0
Silver badge

Sounds like a provisioning system I once wrote. Everyone thought I was a god (obviously I am!!) but for some strange reason, as soon as I left, someone come in, looked at my code and rewrote the entire system from scratch!! Seemingly my self-documenting code wasn't :-)

And yes, most was cut 'n' pasted from the web. After all, why reinvent the wheel !!!!

6
0
Silver badge

Ah, I remember when I left my last workplace.

And they asked me how one of the access control integration features worked.

This was after I'd given them my "hand-over" time (chargeable because of the circumstances), during which they basically announced the intention to replace every system in the place with "their" systems. Which were universally just off-the-shelf products, in their default configs, losing almost all the features I'd had requested over the years and which the company were now reliant on, and each replacement system cost about 2-3 times more than the purchase price of the kit they were replacing, not counting their ongoing annual licence fees, etc. Oh, and with consultancy fees on top. If they'd had that kind of money available for projects when I was there, maybe they wouldn't be saying goodbye to me after 5+ years...

Well, I wrote the part that does that useful feature you demand, but which you couldn't find on the software feature list of your white-box, off-the-shelf junk that costs twice as much. Yep, it does basically what this story says - pulls in from AD, correlates with access control, does some jiggerypokery based on a number of complex company-specific conditions that you can't select in the interface, and then changes entries to make it all work automatically and seamlessly. A handful of SQL combined with a bit of scripting, but it worked.

Their techies didn't know how to support it.

Their engineers couldn't understand it (and, hell, it was only SQL and a script, come on!)

Their consultants couldn't match it.

They talked to the manufacturers of the system. A model that could do that existed, but required complete replacement of the whole system and software upgrades for everything, and didn't really work the same (I know, because I'd wrote integration scripts for that too), and was basically the same scripting in a prettier interface.

Then they talked to the access control people we used until they took over (who they were supplanting with their own contractors), the same people who put it in the original system and supported it. Guess what they told them?

"Oh, yes, we can do that - there's this guy who works for one of the places we support who wrote a piece of software to do that for you. We can put you in touch with him if you like, he's sold it to our customers a few times, and he's really good friends with our engineers."

(Guess who that guy was...)

For £1000, you can buy the license rights to my code so you can find ANY SQL coder to take it and do what they like with it.

For an extra £1000, I'll document that tiny little script I wrote so even non-programmer idiots can understand it (they'll try to change it and break it, obviously, but that's not my problem).

For £1000 a year, I'll provide support and "upgrades" for that script to continue to do what it currently does (new features or changes in working will cost you more, obviously).

Oh, clauses on intellectual property created as part of my work, you say? I refer you to the amendment in my contract that your predecessor put in after I insisted that they do so because that exact piece of code that I wrote was so valuable and they rescinded all rights to it. Leaving you only with "the right to use that particular version, on that system, for that company, without warranty or support, for free", which I gave them. Which is basically all you've got already - there's the script, it works.

I estimate they must have spent thousands at least fixing that, or doing without that functionality entirely (which all staff were dependent on). But it probably cost them 20x more than that to replace everything they'd seen with their white-box hardware, and they would have lost a lot of functionality and configuration along the way so it would be lost in the noise and chaos.

And, yes, every decision made while I was there was in collaboration with the bosses - when presented with "You can pay £10k for off-the-shelf that anyone can manage, or I can knock you up something equivalent for free with the caveat that nobody will support it", they always take the gamble knowingly. They saved TENS OF THOUSANDS by doing so, even if you include the above costs. Those bosses were really techy IT guys and understood the risks, but more often than not said "It can only be ten lines of code, or so, surely?" and then had me make it. We melded really well together.

When those guys were forced out, and the attention turned to trying to get me out (I was actually warned by one of those nice bosses it was going to be tried), I took on an IT audit (still have a copy of that), proved my systems were good, got them through to a good point of the year, and then when they failed to meet a single recommendation of the audit (that I aced) that was written for them, I left. And the only people left carrying the can were the "We can replace ANYTHING for less cost!" consultants that were brought in to replace me.

P.S. Had another job to walk into by that point, by word-of-mouth, via my ex-boss... Oh, he was good...

25
1
Pint

I look forward to the tales of BOFH & Co on a Friday. Entertaining, and a reminder it's not too long until Beer O'Clock.

Have one one me ---->

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Incriminating Evidence

get said Intern to commit or admit to an act that is usable for blackmail ( CEO's Daughter on work exp in accounts usually is a good one) or frame them if they are not future PFY material.

if they play the game then go to option 1) if you have to frame them go to option 2)

1) let them in on the secret and give them a machine and a copy of Risk to play for the remainder of their placement.

2) give the incriminating frame up evidence to HR. then wave goodbye to Intern.

(I did a months work exp Decades ago that for some reason got extended to three months. I was good at Risk by the end of it. and learnt lots about IT as well ;-) )

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Incriminating Evidence

im not sure you can be "good" at Risk, you'll be sat there on iceland with a huge army defending northeast canada, youve got guys on alaska, maybe kamchatka if youve been clever / not fucked over by isolated tribes in asia, and you own all of south america too, so loads of guys in brazil, low overheads, lots of extra armies every go and somehow, the bastard with a third of your army in great britain will manage to make the dice fuck you over then go rampaging through north america and then you are fucked.

or the guy sat in australia who sits there for the whole game just amassing 2 extra every go, for hours, doing nothing, and then splurges all over asia like some kind of honeymoon-balled dog with 2 dicks

europe - fuck that, too difficult to hold. africa, not worth it. asia - no chance, everyone will hate you immediately.

ahh Risk..

7
0
Silver badge

Re: Incriminating Evidence

by the way, did anyone ever play supremacy? risk with Nukes....i loved the little plastic mushroom clouds.

3
0

Re: Incriminating Evidence

We added airborne troops to Risk, forget which card was used to enable that move, probably the all three 'joker' card. Oh the howls and tantrums when you attacked a place with just a few armies on it and took someone's continent bonus away.

3
0
Bronze badge

Re: Incriminating Evidence

Oh those good games, sitting in Austrailia. - No, don't mind me, I'm sitting here looking inconspicuous. Look, I'll even move my troops so that you'll have a turn warning when I expand my glorious empire with bioengineered mutant spiders.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: Incriminating Evidence

@Spasticus Autisticus

good call mate. thats a good rule...

2
0
Silver badge
Happy

Like!!

Nice episode, but Simon could have gone for the 8" floppy option. I still have one lying around somewhere (original CP/M 2.0 disk, entire OS on just 128 kB), but I doubt your average intern could find one. You could certainly defend that as a valid way of ensuring security through obscurity.

4
0

Re: Like!!

about 6 bucks each on ebay, looking at the uk site someone has a drive.

2
0
Silver badge
Big Brother

No blackmail?

I was expecting that the reason why the BOFH was so cagey about his work was that it did a little bit of "detective work" and automatically created a dossier of material for blackmail gently talking round users to your point of view.

2
0
Pirate

We love college kids

The first thing they learn is how to make proper coffee. The second thing they learn is how everyone of the SysAdmins likes their coffee.

Once they've mastered that, they learn how to push change requests back on the requester for any asinine reason we can come up with.

You know, true IT work.

8
0
Silver badge

Alternatively ...

Just produce 400 pages of ALGOL code and ask the lad to implement it in Java, if he tumbles to the fact that the code is something else entirely just say, "Oh it must have been renamed, I'll see if I can find the previous version ... but don't worry, I've still got the flow charts ..." which of course was old faxes and now resemble Egyptian hieroglyphs after being left in the light for 10 years.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: Alternatively ...

Ahh, the good old stuff-on-thermal-printer-paper gambit...

"Oh yeah, I remember it now, couple of years ago... on that day the copy machine was broken or out of toner or whatever, so we made copies on the old fax machine. What? No, they wouldn't let us use the new laser fax machine on fifth, or their copy machine. Something about printing important reports and faxing them to head office. Yes, I told them they could e-mail them, but they sad that that was too complicated, what with "having to scan everything first". Yeah, I know, I know, right? You can lead a horse to the river, but you can't make it drink, so to speak. Where was I? Oh yes, so we had to make copies on the old fax machine. Meant to copy those on proper paper when we had a spare moment, but you know how it is... Come to think of it, I think I actually told one of the interns to do that once... Anyway, I'm quite sure I can remember most of it, what do you need to know?"

2
0
Unhappy

You know how in movies they can get with graphically killing hundreds of persons, but hurting a dog is a very delicate matter that usually they can't even show it?

It seems to be the same here... I never minded the line of dispatched bosses, the contractors, the it managers that ended up rolled in a carpet... but I *genuinely* felt bad for poor ol' James while reading this.

Perhaps it hit too close to home, reminding me of the bygone days where I went starry-eyed into my first job, ready to fix the world.

To paraphrase Iron Maiden, I'm sure James is now a sad and wiser man

4
0
Silver badge

You only kill your own when you absolutely have to.

Now, if James would have been on the way to getting his MBA, however...

2
0
Silver badge

maths trick

When subtracting two numbers that are the same except for some transposed digits (say 35 vs 53), the result is always a multiple of 9. The difference between 53 and 35 is around 20, so pick the multiple of 9 that's just less than that. So 53,000 - 35,000 can be quickly calculated as 18,000 with no need to do awkward carrying or the like.

7
0

Re: maths trick

Most all the tricks that work with base 10 9s work with hexadecimal with Fs. The same is true with 0, 1,2 and base 10 5 and 0x8.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Had a very clever bloke years ago at a previous employers who had written an audio conferencing program that allowed you to route the output of meeting rooms to different areas of the company (and also externally). He'd also designed the switch boxes that the software integrated with to allow selection of company sites, ISDN controllers/dialers for the stand alone ISDN cards and everything. It worked fine (we never had a problem with it in many years of happy use) and the old adage if it ain't broke don't fix it came into play here. You basically used the GUI to pick which sites you wanted to route the audio to (or dialed the number) and from and pressed the big go button on screen.

He retired when we were taken over and the new owners took one look at the Heath Robinson esque switch boxes and non web-based software and said we'll find a replacement. There were rumours that the new set up was chosen by the work experience who was tasked to find something as part of his 'experience'.

Were they true? I couldn't possibly comment.

*There were several software packages (and switch) as they couldn't find just one as a replacement. The fact that these didn't do exactly what we wanted them to do and they weren't as reliable is another matter.

5
0
Silver badge
Angel

I must humbly apologise

I see now the error of my ways.

I wrote a bit of code from scratch - no copy-paste - and I tested it before putting it out there. But the greatest crime of all was... it worked, and continued to do so for years.

Fortunately the factory closed down recently and the abomination is no more. I'm just hoping my soul is not permanently blackened.

5
0
Silver badge
Angel

Loved that picture of the control board

We used to use similar boards on IBM collator (085) and interpreters (557) and on Univac 1004/1005 units. They usually had a hard cover affixed to keep fingers out. I don't even want think about how many cards I put through those machines.

2
0
Coat

Count Your Blessings

Back the early nineties landed a 'computer' job for Dowty Fuel systems and spent the first week in the machine shop repairing punch tape readers. Vending machine tea flavoured with cutting oil and a hint of cyanide vapour from the plating shop across the car park, fond memories...

mines the one with the big hammer in the pocket

4
0
Silver badge

A good introduction to the desirability of decent documentation and comments in the code is to give a new graduate a reasonable task. When complete, move the graddy to something else, then after six months ask for some not-insignificant mods to the original code. That's the point at which the penny usually drops that what was obvious at time of writing is no longer obvious and that better comments are required in case it's necessary to revisit the code after it's been forgotten.

7
0
Silver badge

PMQs are a similar con too, .... but they aren't meant to be joke, are they?

Cheers, Simon T,

That tale reminded me instantly of ye olde song and dance routine practised at midday every Wednesday when the Commons is sitting ..... Prime Minister's Question Time, where fudge and waffle triumphs over questions of substance and import.

2
0

1..2..4?

What happened to episode three?

0
0
(Written by Reg staff)

Re: 1..2..4?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/17/bofh_2017_episode_3/

0
0
Silver badge
Happy

Not all interns are bad.

On one occasion (well, one of many), one of our sales-grunts got a little too eager and sold a customer four weeks of consultancy for a bit of code. The two interns assigned managed the task, including testing, in a week! Our shameless salesgrunt then ordered them to spend the remaining time "fine-tuning" it by adding in unnecessary loops, error checks and subroutines, till it was an unwieldy mess of about twelve times the number of lines as were actually needed.

0
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017