back to article BOFH: This laptop has ceased to be. And it's pub o'clock soon

You know what it's like. The Boss asks you some technical question, you give him a non-technical answer and he suddenly thinks you're lying to him – or worse – that you don't know what you're talking about. He needs it explained to him in a manner that sounds technical, but isn't too technical for him to stack overflow. ON A …

  1. Robert E A Harvey

    I am having exactly that sort of day

    We have a carefully written and reviewed suite of user manuals, but our customers are too dim to read them, so they have written their own. It is apparantly now my job to proof read it and to "make it easier to understand".

    My Grandaughter is deeply involved with literature about one Peppa Pig, and even she could understand it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am having exactly that sort of day

      O M G, W T H

      Almost every day is that sort of day for me. The boss has his daughter prototype a design and *I* get blamed for it the next morning after it fails to 3D print correctly. I try to get something done and get blamed / question as to why I am "wasting my time on it"'; conversely, when it isn't done I get yelled at for "Why doesn't this [work / display / respond faster / etc.].

      Sometime I fail to understand why I've stayed.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: I am having exactly that sort of day


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          3D printer?

          Actually we have 3 in-house at the moment, maybe better to say two 3D printers and one 3D milling machine with several more off-site. Our business makes high use of their output.

          And trust me, you have a point: one of the machines is practically all but useless and we are currently in debate with the manufacturer / distributor that if they can't make it work better, they can take it back and keep it.

    2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Re: I am having exactly that sort of day

      Lost me at buffer something or other.

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: I am having exactly that sort of day

      @Robert E A Harvey

      Personally I'd be the kind of person that sends them a friendly email back: "What you wrote yourselves is not fit for purpose. Here is the manual we ALREADY wrote and was provided with the system."

      I've also on more than one occasion suggested we get an 8 year old to proofread a maintenance instruction. If they don't understand it there's something wrong. Sadly no-one seems to ever understand I'm being deadly serious about it. This involves work instructions to be used on very sensitive high tech machines by inexperienced (to that particular job) workers of many different nationalities, for many of whom english isn't a first language. If an 8 year old is going to interpret something you wrote wrong a Thai 32 year old under time pressure is likely to make similar mistakes.

      1. oldcoder

        Re: I am having exactly that sort of day

        My first thought was to wait a week, then take their cover and put it around the original document, send it back - and say "looks fine, thanks for the edits".

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: I am having exactly that sort of day

          There's a brick somewhere with a 3d-milling machine carving of your name on it...

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    Oh, the PFY

    "Oh it's dead." I say. "It's got Windows 8 on it."

    A technical discussion in count down to pub time... Yes, getting to be that time!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh, the PFY

      So.. Windows 8 is the new OS/2?

      1. Daniel B.

        Re: Oh, the PFY

        Nah, OS/2 was actually useful.

        1. Rob Moir

          Re: Oh, the PFY

          It was better than Windows 8, but lets not get carried away here.

  3. 100113.1537

    Schroedinger's laptop...

    ... has to be the best description of web services I have ever heard. They "work" until you look at them and then are absolute toast once you lift the lid. Quite brilliant.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Schroedinger's laptop...

      I think it's more like a Health & Safety Assessment, or a request for investigation into any similar circumstances.

      Are we secure? We don't know until we look.

      But looking will collapse it into a state permanently. We will discover, forever, whether we are secure or not. And then have to do something about it if we're not.

      And I guarantee the answer is "not" because there's always something that someone will find, no matter how unlikely and unexploitable and necessary it is. Because the second you "look", you've given someone the job of finding something, probably at great expense to yourself and great profit to themselves. And, thus, they will find it. And they will prove that you were "insecure".

      I had an audit at my previous job. The recommendations summary (of a 100 page report into IT) was a four page-list, split into two - one for IT, the other for stuff my employer would need to do to support IT. The IT section was actually a bullet-point list in the top row of a table on landscape A4. You couldn't have got a smaller list out of an audit if you'd TRIED to do so, so I consider that "passing with flying colours". The rest was ALL recommendations for my employer.

      One of the items on the bullet-list for IT? I needed to "write a policy document on the web-filtering policy" at my workplace. That's seriously how petty it got. Another was "Tackle any existing issues raised". But... that was the point of the audit wasn't it?

      But the problem for my employer? The rest of the four-page recommendations **summary** document listed countless things that THEY were doing wrong. Not enough ITstaff, not enough paid hours, not enough holiday time taken from holiday allowances, unrealistic expectations, that IT weren't notified of things and had to play "be a psychic" too often, that all the other staff were not trained enough on IT (seriously: ALL), that they needed to carry out detailed studies into several projects that had never got off the ground (not due to IT but which would have helped immensely), that nobody but IT was taking responsibility for things (and then everyone trying to blame IT when they wouldn't make the decision themselves), etc. etc. etc.

      The audit guy and I couldn't stand each other, but he did me two huge favours - the audit recommendations showed me that I wasn't being anywhere near as awful as I was being led to believe, and that six months later, I could walk (with a clear conscience) having completed all my audit recommendations to my employer's satisfaction, but without A SINGLE ONE of theirs having anything done to it. And one of them was "Decide who should be in a user steering group for IT to liaise with". Seriously. Not done. They "Hadn't had time". I walked.

      My next employer did query things, obviously. I furnished them with a copy of the report. They made a phone call to my previous boss (who'd also walked). I got the job and never heard another word about it. But I guarantee my previous employer still hasn't done anything recommended on that report.

      When you open the box, you'll find a can of worms that you can't put back in there, or hide, or pretend doesn't exist. That's why some people prefer not knowing.

      1. I Am Spartacus

        Re: Schroedinger's laptop...

        Seriously? You walked with an internal company security audit?

      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Schroedinger's laptop...

        And one of them was "Decide who should be in a user steering group for IT to liaise with". Seriously. Not done.

        When it comes to appointing a person responsible for an existing problem suddenly the fingers all start pointing somewhere else... Yeah, sure, this needs to be tackled now. But it's not an IT problem is it, this belongs with admin. Yeah sure, but this is not an admin problem is it? This should be handled by finances. Yeah sure, but it's not a finances problem is it? This should be taken up by management. Yeah sure, but this is not a management problem is it, this belongs with the IT department.... Ad Infinitum.

        I did a stint as an intern engineer at a company building hydraulic equipment at the logistics department, looking at packaging and quality problems for parts coming from Low Cost Countries (China). In the end I didn't get much done, partly due to falling of my bike and breaking my ankle, putting me out of the running and partly because NOONE felt responsible to take any sort of control of the problem. My final recommendation was basically: "It doesn't matter WHO takes up the control over this, but SOMEONE needs to do it or things won't change". Mostly engineering kept pointing to logistics (because it was "a problem with boxes") and logistics kept pointing to engineering (because designing safe packaging was an engineering task that logistics didn't know anything about). When I suggested they might want to find someone "sort of inbetween" to handle matters I got blank stares. As far as I am aware they are still having the same problems.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Schroedinger's laptop...

          Packaging? not rocket science not shiny enough for engineers, should have outsourced to an MPAS registered contractor - heh heh heh

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Schroedinger's laptop...

            You'd be surprised how much engineering can go into packaging. Depends entirely on the product, but if you're shipping millions of an item it can be worth it to invest a bit of though and design into the packaging of that item to prevent DOAs and make the shipping as cheap and efficient as possible.

            Or possibly if your item costs several million per piece, you'd want to be pretty sure your packaging is up to scratch. You don't just throw a satellite into a cardboard box.

            ---> Because even the engineering behind the humble beer cask is pretty interesting -->

  4. earl grey Silver badge

    Yes, it's that time.

    Have one. Got my laugh for the day.

  5. Anonymous IV


    I hate to quibble, but is the BOFH not closer to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle than to Schrödinger's Cat?

    But now I'm not so certain...

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Quibblage

      Well, they're both quantum phenomena but this is closer to Schrödinger: the bomb will go off but the time cannot be known, ergo two quantum states until observed.

      Heisinger's principle is that knowledge of some aspects is mutually exclusive. So you can know the laptop's speed but not where it is. You'll come across this in BOFH's labyrinth game…

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: Quibblage

        Alternatively you can know the charge in the cattle prod or the location of the cattleprod but not bot<BBZZZTTT>

    2. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Quibblage

      More like the Pauli Exclusion Laptop, no two laptops can ever be in the same state.

      1. Efros

        Re: Quibblage

        Or Hund's Laptop Rule of maximum multiplicity, no two laptops on the same floor can occupy the same desktop if another unoccupied desktop is available.

        1. Diogenes

          Re: Quibblage

          What is the Law called that states 2 identical computers (sequential serial numbers even), with exactly the same configuration, with 2 identical USBs will take wildly different time to complete a program instillation ?

      2. Chika

        Re: Quibblage

        no two laptops can ever be in the same state.

        Oh, I'm not so sure about that. Give me two laptops and a sledgehammer and I could probably disprove that theory.

        1. Remy Redert

          Re: Quibblage

          As soon as you smash either laptop into rubble, it stops being a laptop. Since it is no longer a laptop, its state is irrelevant.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Quibblage

            If it's on a desk, it isn't a laptop, it's a desktop. Whatever happened to palmtops? Or did they mutate into mobiles?

      3. Andrew Moore Silver badge

        Re: Quibblage

        surely that's "no two laptops will occupy the same orbit while there are empty orbits available"

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. wyatt

    Almost pub-O-Clock and I'm out of beer. Need to ready my beer carriers (the kids) ready for a trip to the off license!

  7. Florida1920 Silver badge

    "So you'd maim a security guard just to prove a point?"

    Whatever became of the cattle prod? It's not the security guard that needs maiming. After reading that exchange I'm pining for a beer and it's barely lunchtime.

    1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: "So you'd maim a security guard just to prove a point?"

      Security guards ALWAYS need maiming, sooner or later. It's just easier to do it at a time convenient for you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "So you'd maim a security guard just to prove a point?"

        Well, as we were working with (actually a pretty shit UKUS) supermarket to impose a little bit of rationality on their physical and related esecurity, I spent three months (really) working as an occasional 28 hours a week, possibly above the median, security person.

        Ok, cto of a really really small company (more than ten of us though) but it was a reminder of two things (btw small companies, we love to be flexible on roles :-)

        (1) actually most of them are just doing a reasonable job - I was there as some regular shit came through dragging about 1k of alcohol - I kid you not) and only abandoned it when he could not get the stuff through the door. Security staff coul get in the way to prevent the trolley going, but not stop him.

        (2) they do what their managers desire. I attended many management meetings as both security drone and later as the person reporting on shortcomings. On one occasion a manager actually had the grace to be ashamed at his and his managements behaviour. Only once.

        So easy to give them a hard ride, but....

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: "So you'd maim a security guard just to prove a point?"

          " Security staff could get in the way to prevent the trolley going, but not stop him."

          I find that odd.

          Many years ago I met an ex-SOCO, now local station sergeant in the local supermarket. He told me he was following the store detective. He suspected she was slipping stock into customers' shopping baskets and then detaining them and getting them arrested for shop-lifting when they left the store. I think he eventually caught her.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "So you'd maim a security guard just to prove a point?"

          Security staff coul get in the way to prevent the trolley going, but not stop him.

          Sure they could, they just don't want the harassment that follows from various do-gooders, spineless management slime-mould siding with the do-gooders and of course plod (who don't really want to be involved if there's .... like .... actual work on the end of a call).

  8. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    A one-bit self signed SSL key

    A three figure BMI

    Two phrases which have put a huge smile on my face. At least it's some compensation for all the DevOps ads.

    1. John 104

      At this point, I think it would be well received if Simon were to do a BOFH on dev ops...

  9. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    So, what you're saying is that jobsworths security guards don't need maiming? I think we know who's buying the next round…

    Pint of Sammy Smiths for me, please.

  10. Toltec

    Pub time?

    Time is an illusion, pub time doubly so.

    Well, doubles are definitely involved at least and starting on Wednesday helps with the illusion that it is nearly the weekend.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pub time?

      If you are going to quote DNA please get it right...

      "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."

      "Very deep," said Arthur, "you should send that in to the Reader's Digest. They've got a page for people like you."

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    I'm not at all sure about this

    Coul'd it be that if you only half-open the box then the laptop just turns into a tablet?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a Brexit laptop

    Just don't open the box!

  13. FeRDNYC

    Drive Me To Drink, Or Not To Drink

    I can completely understand the BOFH's position on this. After contemplating such heady concepts as website security and Schrödinger's Laptop — on a Friday afternoon, no less! — I'm definitely ready to duck out for a Heisenbeer.

    1. Andy Landy

      Re: Drive Me To Drink, Or Not To Drink

      heisenbeer - the glass is both full AND empty?

      1. willi0000000

        Re: Drive Me To Drink, Or Not To Drink

        works fine if you drink from a Klein bottle.

      2. Chika

        Re: Drive Me To Drink, Or Not To Drink

        heisenbeer - the glass is both full AND empty?

        Of course! Full of beer and empty of air. At least to start with!

  14. Daniel B.

    Windows 8

    The BOFH is right, the laptop is already dead!!!!!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like the idea of Schroedinger's hosting

    We have just moved several of our customers from one set of operating system/hosting locations to another. After the move, a certain component failed. This was a surprise as it doesn't do anything fancy, and the new platform was running later but almost entirely identical software.

    Closer examination revealed that the component was broken. It had been broken for years, but the conditions to break it had only arisen after moving location - it would have failed in exactly the same way if it remained where it was (in fact, it did, to be sure we replicated the error on the old configuration).

    There are two possibilities here

    1) We had been entirely fortunate in never running in to this design flaw

    2) The software was just fine, provided it was never touched. The moment we looked at it, the waveform collapsed, space/time continuum distorted, and a set of rogue code changes propagated five years in to the past, infecting all source control and future builds.

    I like to think it's option 2 - seriously, how likely is it that a trivial but fatal component bug never hits fairly easy to replicate conditions in five years of use?

    1. John R. Macdonald

      Re: I like the idea of Schroedinger's hosting


      Well I've witnessed a version of your option 1 in the late 1960's. A production program (PGMA) blew up after three and a half years of faultless running.

      The actual cause was an uninitialised numerical variable. Why didn't PGMA fail earlier?. Because the program (PGMB) that ran before PGMA left memory contents in a state such that the uninitialised variable in PGMA actually contained valid numerical content. Then one day PGMB was replaced by PGMC that left memory contents in a different, i.e.non numeric, state and PGMA subsequently failed (during the graveyard shift IIRC).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I like the idea of Schroedinger's hosting

      Just a gypsy curse init!

  16. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Today, at 4:30...

    I had to talk someone out of taking down a server to move it to a different UPS. A server that had been running with at least a year of uptime and no maintenance.

    They were worried the UPS would die and take the server down over the weekend, and I had to explain the futility of doing something like this on a Friday, when assuredly it would fail to come back up, wreck their whole evening, Saturday and Sunday too, and not get fixed until Monday anyway, just like if it were to die of natural causes over the weekend. I had to explain how the universe does not reward cocky behavior such as this except with misery and failure. Finally I managed to talk them out of it.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Today, at 4:30...

      "the futility of doing something like this on a Friday"

      This is actually OK. You just have to budget for spending your entire weekend fixing it. Providing you do that either (a) everything will work just fine or (b) you'll still not have everything fixed by 27:00 hours on Sunday evening. This is the consequence of the uncertainty principle running into time dilation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Today, at 4:30...

        You just have to budget ...

        This will guarantee a failure - Especially in my case, I can always use all the extra money I can get.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank You Simon.... the BOFH rocks!

    Dodgy web security, explosions, a management fatality/maiming and some fatuous physics ..... just what I needed for the weekend

    Make mine a Guiness and please carry on. Keep it gruesome, it's the only thing they understand.

  18. Peter Quirk

    This BOFH article crashes the Register's Windows 10 app

    Clicking on this article in the Windows app causes the app to terminate. Other articles are OK,

    1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: This BOFH article crashes the Register's Windows 10 app

      thanks for the heads-up, Peter. We are no longer supporting this Windows app.

      1. Mad Chaz

        Re: This BOFH article crashes the Register's Windows 10 app

        You should do an article on how everyone is leaving the windows store

      2. Number6

        Re: This BOFH article crashes the Register's Windows 10 app

        Tech support worthy of a BOFH, not our problem because we no longer support it. Have a pint!

        I wouldn't support anything to do with Windows 10 (except uninstalling it) either.

  19. LesC

    Laptop solution is about 2'09 in but the rest is very funny. Still.

  20. KeithR

    How much shorter would this article have been if the boss' question:

    "So how secure is it?"


    Ha-ha and all - very funny - but this is exactly the smartarse, "you're not in on the joke" bullshit that so many techies are hated for. And rightly so.

    1. Number6

      Wow, the boss has a Register account :-)

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Yup, looks like something landed close to home.

        I hope the article was instructional.

        The next question would be "How pointy is your hair, then?"

        (Plus, if the answer had been straight, the boss would just have said "I don't believe you because my nephew says it's very secure and he's in third grade!" and this would just have resulted in an accident in the server room a bit later.)

    2. fajensen Silver badge


      YELLING: "Is that a straight enough answer? or do you want to taste the Righteous Fist of Golden Rings too!?"

      About that long!!

      *)The sound of the clue-bat reconfiguring a face into a new configuration.

    3. Richard 120

      Ah, the boss

      The answer to all your questions is "How long is a piece of string?"

  21. imanidiot Silver badge

    The archives down?

    I don't know if anyone notices but the 1995 to 2000 archives site seems to be down. Anybody know if it will come back at some point? Seems to have been down for a while.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: The archives down?

      I can tell you either when it will be back up OR where it will be located...

  22. BenBell

    2 hours...

    ...into an all nighter upgrading multiple SQL servers. My patience is already wearing thin and this has just bought the next person to phone and ask "when's the system going to be back up?" or "Is there a problem with the server?" or "is the new database hard drive downloaded yet?" an extra 30 seconds of life.

    (yes, all legitimate questions from people today)

    So, from them and me, thank you Simon :)

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