(nil): Akis Karnouskos (akis(@)ceid.upatras.gr)
Ημερομηνία: Τρι 10 Ιούν 1997 - 18:01:14 EEST
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL STORIES
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #1
It's backup day today so I'm pissed off. Being the BOFH, however, does have
it's advantages. I reassign null to be the tape device - it's so much more
economical on my time as I don't have to keep getting up to change tapes
every 5 minutes. And it speeds up backups too, so it can't be all bad.
A user rings
"Do you know why the system is slow?" they ask
"It's probably something to do with..." I look up today's excuse ".. clock
"Oh" (Not knowing what I'm talking about, they're satisfied) "Do you know
when it will be fixed?"
"Fixed? There's 275 users on your machine, and one of them is you. Don't be
so selfish - logout now and give someone else a chance!"
"But my research results are due in tommorrow and all I need is one page of
"SURE YOU DO. Well; You just keep telling yourself that buddy!" I hang up.
Sheesh, you'd really think people would learn not to call!
The phone rings. It'll be him again, I know. That annoys me. I put on a
"Oh, I'm sorry, I've got the wrong number"
"YEAH? Well what's your name buddy? Do you know WASTED phone calls cost
money? DO YOU? I've got a good mind to subtract your wasted time, my wasted
time, and the cost of this call from your weekly wages! IN FACT I WILL! By
the time I've finished with you, YOU'LL OWE US money! WHAT'S YOUR NAME -
AND DON'T LIE, WE'VE GOT CALLER ID!"
I hear the phone drop and the sound of running feet - he's obviously going
to try and get an alibi by being at the Dean's office. I look up his
username and find his department. I ring the Dean's secretary.
"Hello?" she answers
"Hi, SIMON, B.O.F.H HERE, LISTEN, WHEN THAT GUY COMES RUNNING INTO YOUR
OFFICE IN ABOUT 10 SECONDS, CAN YOU GIVE HIM A MESSAGE?"
"I think so..." she says
"TELL HIM `HE CAN RUN, BUT HE CAN'T HIDE'"
"AND DON'T FORGET NOW, I WOULDN'T WANT TO HAVE TO TELL ANYONE ABOUT THAT
FILE IN YOUR ACCOUNT WITH YOUR ANSWERS TO THE PUURITY TEST IN IT..."
I hear her scrabbling at the terminal...
"DON'T BOTHER - I HAVE A COPY. BE A GOOD GIRL AND PASS THE MESSAGE ON"
She sobs her assent and I hang up. And the worst thing is, I was just
guessing about the purity test thing. I grab a quick copy anyway, it might
make for some good late-night reading.
Meantime backups have finished in record time, 2.03 seconds. Modern
technology is wonderful, isn't it.
Another user rings.
"I need more space" he says
"Well, why don't you move to Texas?" I ask
"No, on my account, stupid."
"I'm terribly sorry" I say, in a polite manner equal to that of Jimmy
Stewart in a Family Matinee "I didn't quite catch that. What was it that
I smell the fear coming down the line at me, but it's too late, he's a
goner and he knows it.
"Um, I said what I wanted was more space on my account, *please*"
"Sure, hang on"
I hear him gasp his relief even though he covered the mouthpeice.
"There, you've got plenty of space now"
"How much have I got"
Now this REALLY *PISSES* *ME* *OFF*! Not only do they want me to give them
extra space, they want to check it, to correct me if I don't give them
enough. They should be happy with what I give them *and that's it*
Back into Jimmy Stewart mode.
"Well, let's see, you have 4 Meg available"
"Wow! Eight Meg in total, thanks!" he says pleased with his bargaining
"No" I interrupt, savouring this like a fine red, room temperature "4 Meg
"Huh? I'd used 4 Meg already, How could I have 4 Meg Available?"
I say nothing. It'll come to him.
I kill me; I really do
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #2
I'm sitting at the desk, playing x-tank, when some thoughtless bastard
rings me on the phone. I pick it up.
"Hello?" I say. "Who is this?" they say "It's me I think" I say, having
been through a telephone skills course "Me Who?" "Is this like a knock
knock joke?" I say, trying anything to save myself having to end this game.
Too LATE! I get killed.
Now I'm pissed!
"What can I do for you?" I ask pleasantly - (one of the key warning signs)
"Um, I want to know if we have a particular software package.."
"Which package is that?"
"Uh, B-A-S-I-C it's called."
>clickety clickety d-e-l b-a-s-i-c.e-x-e<
"Um no, we don't have that. We used to though.."
"oh. Oh well, the other thing I wanted to know was, could the contents of
my account be copied to tape to I have a permanent copy of them to save at
home in case the worst happens.."
"Well, like they get deleted or something..."
"DELETED! Oh, don't worry about that, we have backups" (I'm such a *shit*)
"What was your username?"
He gives me his lusername. (What an idiot)
"But you haven't got any files in your account!" I say, mock surprise
leaping from my vocal chords.
"Yes I have, you must be looking in the wrong place!"
So first he spoils my x-tank game, and now he's calling me a liar...
"Oh no, I made a mistake" I say
Did he mutter "typical" under his breath? Oh dear, oh dear..
"I MEANT TO SAY: That username doesn't exist"
"Huh? >wimper< It must do, I was only using it this morning!"
"Ah well, that'll be the problem, there was a virus in our system this
morning, the... uh... De Vinci Virus, wipes out users who are logged in
when it goes off."
"That can't be right, my girlfriend was logged in, and I'm in her account
"Which one was that?"
He tells me the username. Some people NEVER learn..
"Oh, yeah, her account was just after we discovered the virus." >clickety
click< "..she only lost all her files"
"But don't worry, we've got them all on tape"
"Oh, thank goodness!!!"
"Paper tape. Have you got a magnifying glass and a pencil. SEE YOU IN THE
MACHINE ROOM!!!! NYAHAHAHAHAHA!"
I'm such a prick!
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #3
So I'm working so hard I barely have time to drive into town and watch a
movie before I told people their printing will be ready. The queue's WAAAAY
too long to have everything printed (and sorted) by the time I told them,
so I kill all the small jobs so there's only 2 left and I can sort them in
Then, after the movie, (which was one of those slack Bertolucci ones that
takes about 3 hours till the main character is killed off in a visionary
experience) I get back and clear the printouts.
There's about 50 people waiting outside and I've got two printouts. That's
about average for me. I thought I'd killed more tho. Anyway, I put out the
printouts and walk slooowly inside, fingering the clipboard with "ACCOUNTS
TO REMOVE" in big letters on the back. No-one says anything. As usual.
. . .
I'm sitting back in the Operations Armchair, watching the computer room
closed circuit TV, which just happens to be connected to the
frame-grabber's Video player (sent off for repair, due back sometime in
'94) when the phone rings. That must be the 2nd time today, and it's really
starting to get to me!
"Yes?" I say, pausing the picture.
"I've accidentally deleted my C.V!" the voice at the other end of the line
"You have? What was your username?"
He tells me. What the hell, I AM bored.
"Ah no, you didn't delete it - I did."
"I deleted it. It was full of shit! You didn't ever get more than a B- in
any of your subjects!"
"And that crap about being a foreign exchange student, that was your
girlfriend and we both know it."
"Your academic records. I checked them, you were lying.."
"How did y.." He clicks. "It's you isn't it? THE BASTARD OPERATOR FROM
"In the flesh, on the phone and in your account.... You shouldn't have
called you know. You especially shouldn't have given me your username.."
>clickety< >click< "Neither should you have sent that mail to the System
Manager telling him what you think of him in graphic terms..."
"I didn't send any.."
"No, you didn't did you? But who can tell these days. Not to worry though,
It'll all be over VERY soon.." >clickedy click< "..change my username back,
"b-b-b.." he blubs, like a stood-up date
"Goodbye now" I say pleasantly, "you've got bags to pack and a life to
I hang up.
Two seconds later the red phone goes. I pick it up, it's the boss. He
mumbles the username of the person I was just talking to, mentions
something about a nasty mail message, and utters the words "You know what
to do...", with the dots and everything.
Later, inside the Municipal Energy Authority Computer, as I'm modifying the
poor pleb's Energy Bill by several zeros, I can't help but think about what
lapse of judgement - what act of heinous stupidity causes them to call.
Then, even later, when I'm adding the poor pleb's photo image over the top
of the FBI's online "MOST Wanted Armed and Dangerous, SHOOT ON SIGHT"
offenders list, I realise, I'll probably never know; but life goes on.
A couple of hours later, as I see the SWAT vehicle roll up outside the poor
pleb's apartment I realise that for some, it just doesn't.
But tommorrow is another day.
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #4
It's a thursday, and I'm in a good mood. It's payday. I think I'll take
some calls. I put the phone back on the hook. It rings.
"I've been trying to get you for hours!" the voice at the other end screams
"Not, it can't be hours" I say, putting Blade Runner back into it's cover
and looking at the back, "it was more like 114 minutes. I was on a long
phone call with the big boss, trying to get you users some better
Hook; Line; and Sinker... "Oh. I'm sorry."
"That's ok, I'm a tolerant person" I make a mental note to change his
password to something nasty in the next couple of days.
"Um, I need to know how to rename a file" he says.
Oh dear... Hang on, it's payday isn't it?! I'm in a good mood.
"Sure. You just go 'rm' and the filename"
"No worries" (Now I'm in a REALLY good mood. I think I just might write
that script to make saving impossible on rogue at random times like I've
been think- ing about)
The phone rings again.
"Hi there" I say
"Is this the Operators?"
"Yes it is" I say, nice as pie
"Could you get my printouts out please. I need them urgently, and I printed
them over 5 minutes ago"
"Your username?" I ask
He gives it to me, and I write it down for later. "No worries at all!" I
say, and head to the printers.
There's a HUUUUUUUGE pile of printouts there, and sure enough, his is at
the top of the pile. I pick it up, split it out of the rest and pour our
ink- stained cleaning alcohol all over it, run it over a couple of times
with the loaded tape trolley then slam it in the tape safe door some times
"Here's your printout" I say "Sorry about the delay, we've got a few
He takes a look and shits himself.
"Well, can I print it again?" he asks, worried
"Sure you can" I say "But no promises, the printer's a bit stuffed today"
"Well can I print it on laser - is that working?"
"Yeah of course, but that'll cost you" I say, oozing compassion for the
"It doesn't matter about the cost, THIS IS URGENT!"
I slide-on back into the printer room and put in the toner cartridge we
save for special occasions - the one that prints thick black lines down the
middle of the page and is all faint on one side. It took me quite a while
to make it like that too. The printout shoots through and I bring it out
immediately - I don't want to miss this!
"W-w-what's happened to my printout?" he geek-squeals at me. Lucky I wrote
that username down - I'm really starting to develop a taste for torture.
"Well nothing. I mean sure, it's a little soiled, but that cartridge has
already done 47 thousand pages and been refilled 17 times. It's quite good
compared to some we get"
Geek pays up and starts blubbing.
"Hey now. There's no reason to cry! Have you got a disk with your work on
He gives me a box of diskettes and I step inside and run them across the
bulk eraser. I come back out again.
"Sorry, I just remembered, our machine is on the fritz, you'll have to take
these to the other side of campus to the machine there, it'll print them
ok, and it had a brand-new toner yesterday."
"No worries. Oh, and hold the disks above your head the whole way there,
the earth's magnetic field is particularly strong today."
"No arguements, just do it."
He wanders off, hand held high. Shit I hate myself sometimes.
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #5
I'm bored senseless, so I pass the time by reading users email. I must
admit that today's lot is PARTICULARLY boring, not one good message in all
of them. I was expecting at LEAST some veiled reference to a grope in a
storeroom, but nothing. So I'm bored senseless by the usual drivel about
some relative's surgery and how the weather is over the other side of the
world - that sort of crap.
To relieve the boredom, I remove a e-mail party invite from a user's mail
and post it under the senders username to to
alt.singles.with.severe.social. dysfunctions on news, and make a note in my
diary to be there with my camcorder. Should be a blast!
Next in line is the online medical records database, in which the company
doctors store the current medical histories of the staff. I grep it quickly
for "herpes" and "syphillus" and sell the results to the local scum
newspaper. I cover my tracks by adding an entry to one of the doctor's
online electronic diarys for yesterday saying "$500, Med Recs To Paper" I
think that's all it should take..
I move some tapes from the racks to the trolley to make it look like we
really use them, then start looking thru archie listings for a hidden x-gif
site. I find one then start a batch job running under some user's account
to get them all back, charged to him. I make sure he's got enough disk for
the job by removing any files not related to the task at hand. Like all
those "Doctorate Final Report" papers that have got quite large in the last
couple of weeks.
I go back to the mail now, as something's bound to have happened. I do a
grep on all mail files for the words "pregnant" and "family way", and post
them anonymously to the local general interest newsgroup.
Then, before anything can happen, the power goes out! The next second, the
"Hello?" I say, annoyed - the coyote was just about to kill roadrunner
"Has the comput.."
I hang up. This is a matter of life or death. Quick as I can I rip the
computer power cable out of the UPS and plug the TV in. Damn! Wylie missed
Meantime, all the alarms are going off like crazy as the disks spin down,
but that's ok, because my Mac and Terminal are hardwired to the UPS in any
case; and I'm at the Beer Factory level in Dark Castle too.
The phone rings, so I pull the PABX breaker on the UPS switchboard and it
stops. Now to look like I'm working. I break out the puck and the hockey
stick and play a little one-on-wall. From the observation window it'll look
like I'm being blindingly efficient, as per usual.
10 Minutes later, the power is back and we're two HDA's down, but what the
hell, I haven't lost a man, I'm onto the final screen, and there's more
The phone rings, it's a luser. (What a surprise)
"Computer Room" I say, being efficient
"Hello, when will the compu..."
I hang up. I'm doing well in the screen, all I need do is get past the
wizard who throws spells at you and I'm in!
The phone rings again. I put it on hands free
"Computer Room" I shout, still deep in the game.
"I've lost my files" a user whines over the loudspeaker
"You bet you have" I say, as my concentration lapses just long enough for
me to get zapped by the wizard.
"What was your username?" I say, all sweetness and smiles
He tells me, I look, and he's right. Shit, and I didn't even do it!
Not to be outdone, I change his login directory to the null device, set his
path to "." and redefine the command "news" to execute a script in his old
login directory to send a nasty message to the equal opportunities officer,
then delete itself.
Now that's trying!
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #6
It's friday, so I get into work early, before lunch even. The phone rings.
I turn the page on the excuse sheet. "SOLAR FLARES" stares out at me. I'd
better read up on that. Two minutes later I'm ready to answer the phone.
"Hello?" I say.
"WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, I'VE BEEN TRYING TO GET YOU ALL MORNING?!"
I hate it when they shout at me early in the morning. It always puts me in
a bad mood. You know what I mean.
"Ah, yes. Well, there's been some solar activity this morning, it always
disrupts electronics..." I say, sweet as a sugar pie.
"Huh? But I could get through to my friends?!"
"Yes, that's entirely possible, solar activity is very unpredictable in
it's effects. Why last week, we had some files just dissappear from a guys
account while he was working on it!"
"Straight Up! Hey, do you want me to check your account?"
"Yes please, I've got some important stuff in there!"
"Ok, what's your username..."
He tells me. Honestly, it's like shooting a fish in a barrel. Twice. With
an Elephant Gun. At point blank range. In the head.
(Do I really need to tell you the clicky clicky bit? I think not)
"How many files are in your account?" I ask
"Um, well there should be about 20 in my thesis writeup, 10 or so with the
data for it, and another 20 or so in a book that I'm writing"
"Hmmm. Well, I think we caught it just in time. You've still got 2 files
left... .cshrc and .login"
He sobs into the receiver a bit - it really turns my stomach.
"What can I do?" he sniffs
"Ok, do you have any of your stuff backed up on floppy?"
"Some, but it's weeks old!"
I fire up the bulk eraser.
"Ok" I say "How about I come out and load all that data onto your account
pronto so you can get some work done?"
"That'd be great, but it's all at home" he wimpers. "I spose I'll just load
it all in myself tonight"
"Sure. But remember what I said, solar flares are bad for disks and
machines. Protect your disks from solar activity to prevent them losing
"How do I do that? Wrap them in tin-foil?"
"NO! TIN FOIL'S THE WORST THING! YOU KNOW WHAT TIN FOIL DOES IN A MICROWAVE
"Then don't use it. There's only one thing that protects disks from solar
"MAGNETS. Wrap your disks up in a pillow case with lots of magnets - Solar
Flares hate that"
"No worries at all..."
Shit I'm good!
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #7
So I manage AT LONG LAST, to get a couple of hours off for lunch, AND,
because I can't leave my desk unattended, I get the janitor in and have him
sit in my chair. I tell him that all he has to do is make sure the receiver
doesn't accidentally get put back on the hook. He agrees and I'm off.
First stop, the bank. I change a $50 note into quarters and then ask to see
a balance of my account. Then I yank the power lead out of the teller's
vdu. It dies. I say I'm in a hurry and is the manager around?
He rolls over like a man-sized twinkie and asks what the problem is. I say
that all I want is a balance of my accounts. I cross my fingers. YES! He
finds the vdu lead out, plugs it in, and logs in, TO THE MANAGER'S ACCOUNT.
Now's my chance - I slip up against the counter, slopping 200 coins across
the counter. The manager ignores it, but all the tellers dive for the
money. I watch, unobserved, as the manager types in his password at the
breakneck speed of one character a minute. At that rate I should've got
$100 worth.... He finishes typing. "MONEY". What a toughy! Well, that's my
mortgage taken care of tonight...
A user that I recognise from "D(eletion) day '89" approaches. I think he's
going to talk to me. Even the bank manager is shaking his head furiously.
But it's too late, he stops.
"Um, excuse me, Could you tell me what is the best computer to buy to do my
"You've heard of Commodore 64's?" I ask
"Avoid them like the plague! Not many people know this, but computers
aren't made to handle that much memory - it's over 64,000 things, more in
some cases. It's a recipe for disaster!"
"Try something safe and proven. A ZX81 with dual cassette drive if you can
get it. The 1K ram model. Write that down. Don't buy a disk drive - You
know how they're always failing, but music cassettes last forever!"
"No worries. What was your username again?"
He tells me. Just in time for D-Day 92. You'd think they'd learn.
I get back to work and the janitor's asleep at the terminal. I ask him if
he wants to work here too, but he likes the ability to bust in on people
when they're in the toilet...
I put the phone back on the hook, and straight away it rings. I hate it
when it does that, it takes me AGES to get my walkman phones in.
It's the hottest hosemonster I've ever met, and she's got a computer
problem! I love it when that happens!
"What's your username?" I ask
She tells me (as if I didn't know)
Quick as I can I read all her e-mail (mostly boring stuff), then grep
everyone else's mail files for her username. Nothing. Excellent!
"What's the problem?" I ask, all smiles and charm.
"I can't save my documents, it says something about space."
"Not a problem for long" I say, and delete everyone else on the same disk
as her. "You should be fine now.."
"Thank you so much" she gushes. I make a mental note to do something to her
account again tomorrow. "No worries."
The phone rings almost before I've got it on the hook.
"My files are all gone!" a voice whines out at me.
"When did this happen?" I ask.
"Just now..." he says, through the tears
"I see. Well, I wouldn't worry, there's three days till the end of the
semester, if you work day and night until then, you should get at least a
He sobs a couple more times then hangs up. What a wimp.
THE PHONE RINGS AGAIN!
"The screen on my PC is really dim" The woman at the other end says "Should
I wind the brightness knob up?"
"NO!" I scream "Don't touch that knob! Have you any idea of the radiation
that comes out of that thing when the knob gets wound up?!!!!"
"Well I..." she says, all uncertain
"TAKE MY ADVICE!" I say "There's only ONE way to fix a dim display, and
that's by power surging the drivers"
The words "power surging" and "drivers" have got her. People hear words
like that and go into dummy mode and do ANYTHING you say. I could tell her
to run naked across campus with a powercord rammed up her backside and
she'd probably do it... Hmmm...
"Have you got a spare power cord?"
"Oh well, never mind, we'll have to do the power surge idea... Ok, quick as
you can, I want you to flick the power switch of your PC on and off 30
"Should I take my disks out?"
"NO! Do you want to lose all your data!?!"
"Oh. No! Ok.."
I listen carefully.. ..
...clicky..clikcy...clikky.. .. .. ...clicky. ...cliccy.. . . BOOM!
Amazing, it probably made it to 27 - the power supply usually shits itself
at 15 or so...
"MY COMPUTER BLEW UP!!!" she screams at me down the line
"Really? Must've been a dodgy power supply! Lucky we found out now! Is your
machine still under warranty?"
"Dear oh dear. Well, Best get it repaired then. Did you backup your files?"
"Yes, to the system, Yesterday, but all this morning's work is gone!"
"Oh dear. What was your username, I'll just check that your backups worked
She tells me....
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #8
I'm at my desk as usual, and a user calls.
"Hello Computer Room, Simon here, How can I help" I answer
"I can't get into my account!" A user mumbles at me.
"What was your username please?" I say
They give me their username. No worries. I look in their account.
"No worries, it was just a badly made login file. I've fixed it, you should
be able to login."
"No worries. Have a nice day!"
WHAT IS THIS? you're asking yourself. Has the BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL
turned over a new leaf? Sold out?! GONE INSANE?!!! Nope. The BASTARD
OPERATOR FROM HELL is being logfiled. And if that's happen- ing, I'm being
bugged as well. So I'm being nice till I can find the bugs. It shouldn't be
long - bear with me.
Ah. One in the phone handpeice. Basic. But then the boss is a sneaky sort,
so there's probably a couple more. Ah! And another in the base of the phone
and one inside my keyboard. Time for a mad coffee-spilling frenzy. This is
a big job, so I bring the whole jug over and wait for a witness. The System
Manager comes in.
"Where's that report of mine?" he asks in a surly manner - he's obviously
pissed that I haven't implicated myself yet. Antagonist Identified. As the
Principal of "BASTARD OPERATOR SCHOOL" (me) will tell you, "There's no
problem so large it can't be solved by killing the user off, deleting their
files, closing their account and reporting their REAL earnings to the IRS"
I pull his printout from under the coffee jug where I put it, and the
coffee splashes all over the phone and keyboard, which for some reason were
stacked on top of each other.
"Woopsy!" I say, mock horror on my face. The System Manager's face tells me
I was right in my guess.
"Don't think you'll get away with this!" he snarls and stomps off.
I click on the ethernet monitor and watch the traffic coming out of his PC.
Ah! A memo, authorising the termination of my contract, going to the laser
in the director's office. I make a few alterations to the file in the spool
directory and let it go to it's destination. I run my dinky little program
that deposits -522 to the PC and our mainframe shits itself.
Later, while booting, I'll remove that nasty logfile business.
Next, I wander into the comms room and plug my earphone into the spare
RS232 port in the Directors office. It's amazing how simple it is to bug an
office once it's got data lines going to it!
Director: "Are you sure about this?" SysMgr: "OF COURSE!" Director: "You
don't want to reconsider?" SysMgr "NEVER!" Director: "Very well, I'll fax
it to staffing now.." SysMgr "EXCELLENT!"
Two seconds later the System Manager strolls in smiling. "Well, I'll really
miss you Simon.." he says, full of himself.
"Oh?" I say, all sweetness and charm "Where are you going?"
"No Simon" he says, with glee "You're going"
"A PROMOTION!" I say "You've finally written that letter to the head of
staffing telling him he's a bum-sucking arse bandit and that you quit?"
"Are you sure? It's much better than the one about me being fired.."
"Y.." His eyes widen slightly
It's like clubbing a seal to death with a foam cushion. He runs to stop the
fax. Only, having just resigned, >clicky cklikcy< his card key no longer
The Phone rings. It's the same guy as before
"I can get into my account now, but I've run out of disk"
"Hang on, I'll see what I can do"
>clicccky<... rm -r *
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #9
I'm driving to work and I'm stuck behind this old guy, the classic slow
driver >From hell, whose car red-lines at 20 mph and can't take corners at
more than 5. I honk my horn but his hearing aid's probably turned way down
to "whisper", so I'm stuck.
I make a mental note of his license plate. In fact, I did that 60 times a
minute for 15 and a half minutes. Oh dear.. oh dear.... Looks like another
call to the DMV Database to register a vehicle as stolen by out of town
I get to work, flick the excuse page over. "ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION FROM
SATTELLITE DEBRIS". Fair enough, it looks like it's going to be a good day.
I log into "FUCKYOU", (the help-desk enquiries username) and go into mail.
There's 3 new messages, the first of which is 117 lines long, so it's
obviously a storyteller. Shit, I hate that. Instead of saying "My account
needs more disk space" they tell you about how they're doing this bit of
research for a lecturer and how it's got to be in yesterday, and they
almost had it but their second cousing twice removed had a perforated
herpes scab and lost a lot of blood and had to be rushed into hospital...
etc etc. I delete the message.
Second message I read, but it's one of those people who can't handle the
mail interface and send a null message, so all you get is headers. I reply
to the message saying "No worries, we can do that by next tuesday". Hope it
The last message I leave for tommorrow, because Saturday would be a dull
day if I ever had to work then.
The phone rings. I thought I'd fixed that!
I put it on hands free so I can slop some pizza into the microwave.
"Yes" I call
"Something's wrong with my Boot disk, I can't login to the server"
"Have you got your disk with you?"
I go get the disk and put it and the pizza in for 5 minutes on
Six minutes later, he rings back.
"It still doesn't work, and now my disk makes a funny noise and smells."
"OH SHIT! It's that electromagnetic radiation from satellite debris again!"
"Really? I think I heard about that!" (What a tool!)
"Yep, I'm sorry, you'll have to buy another disk"
"Oh, that's ok, I don't mind, the old one was getting worn. Thanks"
"Sure, no worries. And be sure to run it through our virus checker FDISK
when you get a lot of important data on it..."
"I will! Thanks!"
"That's Ok - it's my job!"
Xcbzone is running really slow so I kill off a whole lot of database
backends that seem to be hogging all the cpu and get back into my game.
It isn't easy on the frontline, work work work...
I go to the cafeteria for a quick 2 hour snack - they're so nice to me
there. They always have been, ever since that computer glitch that
registered their kitchen as an organ recipient - very messy. I grab a
couple of cans of coke and some cheese things and cruise on back to the
office via the first year computer funamentals lab. I look in the window on
the scene that unfolds it- self to me - a lab full of first years with no
WELL I'LL JUST HAVE TO HELP!
I walk on in.
"Right, I'm your temporary replacement demonstrator and today we're going
to put our assignments aside for half an hour to learn about the REMARK
function, or, as it's known to the computer literate world, rm.."
I should have been a teacher you know - I've got this way with people...
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #10
I get invited to a lecture as a guest speaker in "Computing Operations
Fund- amentals", so I leave the control room in the capable hands of Sam,
the janitor and cruise on down.
The lecture starts and goes ok, then there's a 10 minute period where
students get to ask a "real operator" questions that they have about
I get out my pad and pen. "Before we get started" I say, "could you just
call out your username before you ask me a question, I find it easier to
apply your problem to terms you would understand better" The lecturer eats
all this up - the personal touch really gets to them. "First Question, You
"What do you think of the privacy of individuals on a shared system?"
"What was your username please?"
>Scratchy scritch< "Computer Privacy... Hmmm. This is a toughy really. You
mean stuff like reading the email between you and your counsellor about you
not wanting to come out of the closet?"
"AH. Well, he seems to have left - must have picked a bad COMPLETELY RANDOM
example. Next question. You, over there..."
"CMS1136. I was.."
"Ah yes, 1136 the only person on campus who subscribes to
"It's purely for research purposes!"
"I'm sure it is. You do a lot of story posting for a researcher don't you?"
Two minutes later, the lecture theatre's empty. That's the problem with
students today, they just don't want to learn.
I go back to control and Sam's asleep at the console again. I think he's
after my job. I make a mental note to tap into the salary database and
cancel his health and accident insurance payments. You can't be too
I put the phone on the hook for the first time this afternoon and it starts
ringing almost immediately. THAT'S IT! I redirect it to 911 catch a bit of
shuteye. That'll teach them. OOPS! Almost forgot to turn over the excuse
calendar. "STATIC FROM NYLON UNDERWEAR" Nope, too plausable - although in
some cases I could do an on-site check. Nah, can't be stuffed. I'll pick
another one. "STATIC FROM PLASTIC SLIDE RULES" Now THAT'S one with a
I un-redirect the phone and drag the rubbish bin so it rests on the
printer's stacker - another job well done. The phone rings - this could be
the big one!
"Hi, Um, how do I spell-check my file?"
"Simple, just type `spell' and the filename"
I'm so bloody nice this morning. Especially as I know that my version of
spell introduces errors instead of detecting them. Things like changing
friend to freind and vice-versa. What the hell.
The phone rings - it's them again.
"There's something wrong with spell"
"What makes you think that?"
"Because my file is all corrupt now!"
"That doesn't sound like spell to me. Are you logged into thru PC?"
"Yes, but I can.."
"Please, leave the technical diagnosis to me... Now, is there a plastic
ruler somewhere on or in the desk?"
"Um >clunka<, yes..."
"Right. You've got a static buildup on your hard-drive caused by the
changing electrostatic field generated by the ruler - the same one that
makes bits of paper stick to it when you rub it up and down your arm..."
DUMMY MODE ON
"Oh. What do I do?"
"You know how you get paper off a ruler by hitting it on a table lots of
times? Well do that with your PC. Say 20 times - lift it about a foot off
the desk & drop it."
"Um, the screen went dark"
"That's ok, it's supposed to do that - keep going. And when you're
finished, do the screen as well, that static may have gone up the wires to
I hang up. I get up and go out to the public area to put honey in the
floppy drives when a guy who looked like Lee Harvey Oswald runs up to me
and shoots me, only the sound comes from the machine room, and I can hear
the ex System- Managers chuckle....
Later, in the ambulance, I realise. I forgot to get the guys username...
Then everything goes dark
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL LIVES! #11
The darkness cleared as we got out of the tunnel and it occurred to me that
I couldn't be all that injured. Then again, maybe I was. Someone was going
Of course, a true BOFH considers this not really as dying, but more of
going home for the holidays.
Five seconds later, I'm getting the upside of 15Kv across the nipples.
(These ambulance guys sure know how to party).
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL LIVES!
Three weeks later I'm back on my backside and feeling rested at relaxed
behind the console again. The rest has done me good, I feel *great!*. I
catch up on everyone's email then let the students know I'm back by
performing an impromptu preventative maintenance in the middle of lab time
by kicking the restart switch (They love it really)
I flip today's excuse card, "GLOBAL WARMING" YES YES YES! What a welcome
It's the end of the month so all those automatic email reminder programs
will be sending messages all over the place. I set the system clock back 7
days to buy some peace and quiet and swap the printer ribbon for the three
year old one with holes in it.
I sort through my snail mail and crack open the BOFH Monthly Newsletter,
"kill -9" and check out the articles therein. There's a nice peice of
making OS2 slow, boring and painful, but it looks exactly like the OS2
installation instructions to me... Ah, who knows. I head straight to the
BOFH Wizard section to see if any of my articles were published. All of
them!!! Even the one about the c compiler that randomly removes one line
from the source code it's compiling!
The phone rings.
"The Screen on my PC is blank!!!"
"It's the power cord" I say
"No, I checked that. When I switch it on, it does nothing!"
"It's the power cord" I say
"No, I checked and it's all plugged in properly. There's no lights on the
keyboard or anything"
"It's the power cord" I say
"Oh. I just noticed, the cord's not plugged in properly!"
"The power cord?" I ask
"No worries at all" I say "Is it all working well now?"
"Yes, I think so. I'm sorry, you WERE right all along"
"Yes, we're getting a lot of this, it's due to the current Global Warming
problem. It causes random thermal expansion and contraction resulting in
temperature induced movement of friction based holding mechanisms.."
I listen carefully. Nothing. In other words, <DUMMY MODE ON>...
"You can fix it permanently tho'" I say
"Well it's all to do with lowering salt deposits on the metal contacts"
"Oh!" (Dummy mode irrevocably engaged)
"All you need to do is just take the power plug out deposit some dilute
mineral salts on it. Do you have some dilute mineral salts on you?"
"Ok, no worries, just stick it in your mouth drool into it. But make sure
you wipe the plug first to get rid of any germs, and TURN THE SWITCH OFF ON
THE MONITOR before you do - we don't want a nasty accident!"
I hang up as the receiver hits the floor. Disk space is too good for them.
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #12
I get to work and I'm a bit tired so I plug a thick hunk of copper across
the three phase supply and throw the switch. The room is plunged into
darkness as the circuit breakers trip and for once the machine room is
I like it.
I pop the phone off the hook and close the curtains on the observation
window. Now it's *really* dark in there. I wouldn't be surprised if someone
had an accident in here..
I lift a couple of floor tiles up in the darkness and call our maintenance
contractors saying the mini popped the breaker again, then replace the
fuses in it with a couple of nails and short the power supply to ground.
You can't just hope for this sort of thing, you've got to MAKE it happen.
15 minutes later the engineer arives and falls down the hole. I pop the
floor tiles back on just as the System Manager (a new and very thorough
individual) comes in, telling me to watch out, someone could really hurt
themselves in the dark...
I nod & tell him that we can't really afford all the downtime, and should I
just throw the breaker and hope that there was no major fault. After
thinking about the negative publicity we're getting already, he makes the
last decision of his short career and tells me to go ahead.
Later, when the smoke clears I examine the smoking remains of the mini. Not
a pretty sight...
"Strange that the breaker jammed shut, isn't it?" I say to our manager as
he packs up the personal things in his office. "One in a million chance. A
pity that someone saw what you did and posted the whole story to comp.misc.
You'll be lucky to get a job managing a car computer after all that
I go back to the machine room and throw the rest of the breakers to liven
everything up, then login and start deleting users' email. I spot an
interesting off-the-record sexual proposition from our male consultant to a
member of the men's swim team which will make a good motd, so I copy it
there, modify root's owner name to be "Winker" and password to be
"ljkadlkajflkj" (then call the big boss to report a suspected intrusion).
Should be at least a couple of hours of login time before we can sort that
out. In the meantime, people are just going to have to read that message...
I realise the message has been read when I hear the gunshot from behind the
consultant's closed door.
I edit the online helpdesk information and change the phone number to the
System Manager's - he'll probably appreciate the extra calls at such a sad
I hear another shot and realise he won't be answering any calls today.
I put the phone back on the hook and flip today's excuse card. "Poor power
conditioning". Too plausible. "STATIC BUILDUP". Still a bit too plausible
for my liking, but I don't want to run out of cards before the end of the
year, so I decide to run with it.
The phone rings almost as soon as I've got "Top Gun" in the video machine
so I pause the video and put the phone on hands-free.
"I think I've bought a bad floppy disk"
"Yes?" I wonder if I've suddenly become the consumer's watchdog?
"Well, I've got this disk and it won't format. All the others in the box
did so I thought I must have a bad disk"
"Why are you calling me about this?" I ask
"Well, the disk says guaranteed; where do I go to get a replacement?"
Ah! Of course.
"Well, let's see. Are you sure it's the disk, and not just some problem
with static buildup?"
"Static Buildup, you know, static electricity that's passed from you to the
"But I'm wearing a wrist strap!"
Around about now I realise I'm deep in dweeb country. Wrist straps aren't
fashion accessories in my part of town...
"Of course you are, but your average wrist strap has a 1 meg resistor in
series with it, a *really* poor earth. What you need is a direct earth
connection. Hang onto the frame of something that's earthed properly."
"What, you mean like our stainless steel bench?"
"Excellent. Now, have you got a paper clip to discharge the static with?"
"Hang on. Yeah"
"Ok, with your other hand, poke the clip thru the ventilation holes at the
back of the unit, and just touch the contact at the end of the thick red
"The one going to the power supply?"
"Yep, that's it"
"....Hey, isn't that the li... >kzzzzt!< >clunk<"
Another call solved by the helpdesk from hell...
BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #13
I'm busy with my new shell replacement login script, and it's almost
foolproof. Let's just say it pops up with:
"Yes means No and No means Yes. Delete all files [Y]? "
upon login. I'm really starting to worry about the number of account
breakins we've been having recently.... The manager isn't though. His main
concern appears to be the number of computer-related fatalities on campus.
Funny world, isn't it?
I flip the excuse card. "DOPPLER EFFECT" Sounds implausible enough that
it's plausable - with a little work of course.
The phone, the bane of my existance, rings.
"Hello, Computer Room" I say, being helpful
"Is this the Technicians?" The caller asks.
Amazing the number of deaf people that use these things. What the hell, I'm
"Yes it is" I lie (Nixon could've done with me)
"I've got a problem with my floppy drive, it doesn't seem to be reading all
"Hmmm. How old is the drive?"
"About a year.."
"And it sometimes fails and sometimes works, but it's starting to fail more
"Yeah, it's the Doppler effect of magnetism.."
"I thought that only happened with light and sound?"
>Bullshit mode ON<
"Yes, well it's been found that on a spinning surface, like a disk, the
particle's magnetic alignment changes, especially when the head is
stationary and slightly magnetised in respect to it."
"So, what you need to do is to demagnetise the head. Have you got a disk
head demagnetising loop?"
"OK, we'll have to do it the hard way. Have you got your original diskettes
for your software?"
"Right, chuck them in the drive, one by one, and format them."
"Don't worry, it won't work - remember the drive is failing. All that
happens is that the virgin magnetic field of the disks realigns the
magnetic field of the head, because they weren't written by a doppler
"So, when it gives you a write error and asks if you want to continue, you
say yes. Do it with all your original diskettes, then, to complete the
demagnetising process, run a head cleaning diskette through the drive as
well, which will pick up the stray magenetic particles clinging to the
"Oh. Ok. Thanks"
"Don't thank me - IT'S MY JOB"
I put the phone down, it rings again. It's the big boss.
"Simon, could you come to my office please?"
Quick as I can, I press the panic button on our LAN-Analyser, or to be more
precise, the "Generate 90% random traffic" button
"Sure, would you like me to come now, or.."
The other phone rings. I chuck it on hands free
"Hello, Computer Room, Simon Here, How can I help?"
"THE NETWORK IS DOWN, ALL OUR PCS HAVE SHIT THEMSELVES!" the voice on hands
-free screams into the mouthpeice of the other phone
"I see" I say calmly "Yes, our Monitor shows it up, it looks to be a bad
segment of thinwire - please hold the line while I unplug it"
I press the "I just got a raise" button (AKA "Stop Traffic Generation") on
the Lan Analyser, and almost immediately the user shouts back "Excellent,
it's working now, thanks"
"That's ok, don't mention it. Have a nice day"
The big-boss has been listening to all this, so I reckon that the trip to
his office won't be so bad after all. I tell him I'll be right down as soon
as I secure the net and hang up. On the way down, I invent a new buzzword
which always keep management happy. Complete Transient Lockout. Sounds much
better than pulling the plug. Like Master-Reset sounds better than
I get to his office and the staffing officer is there too. Uh-oh.
"Simon - How would you like to be our System Manager?"
"Well... I don't know, I like that hands on.."
"Extra 10 grand a year, Varisty Car.."
....And so ends the saga, as it should have at #10.
The Bastard Operator from Hell Rides Again.
Don't ask how I got back, I just did. Suffice to say that work frowns upon
management material that uses electrodes to gain client information.
Especially when you do it to the boss's in-laws. That's his entertainment.
So I'm back in the saddle. Unfortunately, that means there's a surplus of
operators in the computer room. One slam of the tape safe door later, the
problem is solved. The knocking dies down in a couple of hours, so I guess
the safes really *are* airtight.
To welcome myself back, I send a message out saying there's a shutdown in
10 minutes. 5 minutes later I shut the system down. I love doing that. I
see the hard-disk activity lights flicker as the "disk recovery" phase of
startup run through, globally deleting journal files. Funny how we always
start up with lots of free disk..
I just get Wolfenstein started and the phone rings. What the hell, I almost
missed it while I was away, so I answer it.
"Computer Room" I say
"THAT WASN'T TEN MINUTES!!!!" the voice at the other end screams
"What wasn't 10 minutes?" I ask in a pleasant manner. I can see that things
have deteriorated in my absence. Spare the rod and spoil the rm -r, that's
what I always say.
"THAT! You said it was going to be te... >pause<... Um, who is this?"
"This is the Operator; who did you expect it to be?"
"Darren? Is that Darren?"
"Uh, No. Darren.. Darren is... unavailable... at the moment."
"Oh. Do you know when he'll be back in the control room?"
"Probably around the time of our next backup - the year 2007 or sometime
thereabouts I should imagine"
He's toying with asking me if he can recover their files or not. I let him
dangle for a few moments.
"Was that all?", I say, nice as pie
"Well.... NO, it doesn't matter"
"Of course it doesn't. Would you like me to check if your files are ok?" I
"Would you? I'm a bit new to this system and I'm not too sure what to do"
"Sure. What was your username?"
Everything inside him is screaming at him not to say it - People beside him
are screaming at him not to say it.
He says it.
You just can't tell some people.
"Ok. Well, it looks ok to me, all your files are in perfect condition!" I
"THEY ARE!! GREAT!!"
The relief in his voice is overwhelming
"Yep. Both your x-defaults and AND your newsrc file are ok"
"But.. But what about my site monitoring data?"
"There were about 10 files in my research subdirectory, data I'd collected
over the past year."
"Oh. Well, I can't see anything. Perhaps you backed them up somewhere?"
"I put a copy in my girlfriend's account.."
"What was her username?"
"Uh.... >pause< ... "
Is he going to do it? Is he?
Like running down a snail with a steamroller...
"Nope, nothing there either. OH! Hang on, there looks like some form of
journal file in your account, it's quite large... I think maybe you should
login there and try to recover with it..."
I cat about 100 man files together and slop them in his girlfriends account
under then name "rsrch.j"
"How do I do that?"
"Ok; can you login yet?"
"Yeah, I think so..... Ok, I'm logged in"
"Ok, You need to run the file thru the mailer to clear the eigth bit,
other- wise the journal recovery will probably choke with an instruction
>DUMMY MODE ON<
"Oh... How do I do that?"
"Well, you have to type in `mail root < rsrch.j'"
"HANG ON! You have to type it with your nose."
I flip the excuse card till something appropriate pops up. "HARDWARE STRESS
"Well, it's got to do with hardware stress fractures. You probably type too
hard with your fingers which upsets the internals of the keyboard. It's got
to do with dry joints and electromagnetic inductance"
>DUMMY MODE IRREVOCABLY ON<
"Now, you've got to type it in 20 times"
He hangs up.
I ring campus security
"Hey, we've got another crazy in the lab. Apparently he's typing with his
nose. He might be armed..."
3 minutes later I hear the shots. I close his account, he won't be needing
it any more..
The phone rings. It's my mum.
"Hi Ma, what can I do for you"
"Simon, I've got a problem at work, the floppy disk with all my personal
stuff on it is failing I think"
"Oh. Ok. Well, have you got any nail polish remover and some cotton wool
"Ok, take your disk out, and clean that brown stuff off the inside of the
disk. That's what gets the heads dirty. You should just have a nice clean
plastic disk when you've cleaned it completely"
"Oh, Ok Simon, Thanks"
"You're welcome. Oh; remember that time you wouldn't let me go over to
Graeme's place to watch videos when I was 5?"
THE BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL #15
It's a warm afternoon in the computer room. I dunno, maybe I should turn
the chillers back on, but what the hell, I've got a cold and I need to keep
warm if I go into the machine room.
I flip today's excuse card. Magnetic Interferance from Money/Credit Cards.
Hmmm, vague enough to be plausible. The phone rings
"Hello, Computer Room" I say "Hi!" the caller says "I want to fit some RAM
to my machine to upgrade the memory. I just bought some 4 meg chips off a
guy in town and wanted to know if you guys would fit it."
"Well," I say "normally we would, but today the technicians are busy trying
to gas axe open our tape safe to see why it smells - You could probably fit
it yourself though.."
"Really? I thought that was dangerous?" she says
"Nah nah, it's safe as houses, just remember to get the chips out of those
stupid plastic bags before they stuff them up altogether"
"Really?! How do they do that?"
"Well, you've heard of static RAM right?"
"Well, Why pack static RAM in an antistatic bag? Sounds really suspect if
you ask me!!! Yours might even be stuffed already, so you'd better remove
"Oh >crinkle crinkle< Ok. Now what do I do?"
"Ok, you'll need to get rid of the charge those bags have probably given
your RAM, after all, you don't want to blow up your computer, do you? Get
rid of any woolens that you're wearing and switch to nylon. Run round some
cheap carpet, then comb your hair a couple of dozen times and then plug the
chips into the comb to keep them steady. Turn your machine on, then plug
the memory in and out about 10 times to get the slots warmed up. Then slop
them back in, flick the power switch half a dozen times and that should do
"Don't mention a thing, all part of the service"
I leave for lunch - after all I have been here for 10 minutes solid - and
walk past the student labs. I hear a mass of beeping and look round to see
a user's screen full of garbage. They've either typed an image file or
fingered my account and got the core file I renamed as .plan. By the time
he gets his terminal sorted out, his allocation of connect time will be all
used up. A tragic shame.
I get back from lunch early a couple of hours later and slip into the
Usenet news directory tree, slide on down to alt.binaries.pictures.erotica,
then start deleting parts 3 or 4 of the really long gifs. (After taking a
copies myself and overwriting them to the last user backup tape, of
Then I get ready to watch the videos I got out from the video shop by
taking the printers offline and disconnecting the phone, and I notice that
the frame -grabber video player is gone from the office. Someone has
obviously moved it while I was away...
I make some discrete enquiries under the threat of rm -r, and find out that
the secretary now has posession of it. So I mosey on down and ask to take
it away. Only I can't because I've got to sign *THE BOOK*, saying when it
will be back, how many minutes of tape I'm going to put thru it, if I'm
going to be watching PAL or NTSC etc. Then it's all fed into her *personal*
computer (which I'm not allowed to touch because it doesn't belong to us)
so she can produce full colour plots about who's not working in the
I mention that it's not coming back - as I was the person that put the
hammer through the frame grabber in the first place, I should be the one to
hold the video. She then tells me that that's not acceptable, and I will
have to find some other video to use, she needs access to get to the video
24 hours a day, in case someone needs it. And because she takes her PC home
at night, I needn't think that I can fake any borrowing records. All this I
see for what it really is - a thinly disguised attempt to gain access to
the seat of power (The Operators Room) by the Bastard Secretary from Hell.
I decide to let it slide for once, after all she does get the snail mail
into the correct distribution slots about 20% of the time, so that can't be
Next morning, I get in about 2pm and find that I have three departmental
memos about the status of other stuff that is in the Computer Room that has
been "incorrectly inventorised" as "Awaiting Repair" (The shithead
technician has been leaking privileged information in an effort to score
the secretary again - A tragic shame, I used to quite like him..) with a
note from the Big Boss authorizing the secretary to investigate. Attached
to all that is a note from the secretary herself stating that to action
this she requires a 24 hour access key to the Computer Room.
ONCE AGAIN I realise that letting things slide never pays off. I look up
the secretary's RS232, Ethernet, Appletalk and Phone port numbers and yank
them from the comms rack. What the hell, I kick the circuit breakers to her
power points and lighting too while I'm at it. Then I strip off some mains
cable & plug it in..
The phone rings a couple of minutes later.
"WHAT'S HAPPENED TO MY ROOM?!" the secretary screeches at me.
"Your room?" I say, in a pleasant and innocent manner, using caller ID to
track down the room she's in. Ah! Just down the corridor
"Yes, MY ROOM! The power's gone off and everything is dead"
"Oh dear. What were you doing when the power went off? Perhaps you did
"I did NOT! I was working on *my* PC!"
The way she says "*my*" is really getting to annoy me.
"You were working on *your* PC?" I say, reflectively.
"Yes!" She snarls
"Not your *own* *very personal* computer?"
"Yes.." She doesn't know what I'm getting at yet.
And now I exercise the basic law of Bastard Operating which roughly says,
Bastard Operators don't just win. Anyone can win. Bastard Operators win and
totally DEMORALISE. That's *real* winning.
"I hope you switched your machine off before you called"
"Why?" she barks, a little uncertain.
"Well, it's just that personal property isn't covered by the site insurance
policy. Why, if there was a power surge, heaven knows WHAT could happen to
an expensive peice of delicate *personal* machinery like..."
I hear her place the receiver down *very* quietly and sprint on tippy toe
to the door. As I repeatedly toggle her circuit breaker I start thinking
about what I'll be watching on video this afternoon... Still on the phone,
I hear a bang way in the background which probably means her pc has shit
10 minutes later the phone in the control room. It's the secretary, and she
sounds a little stressed. I manage to translater her sporadic outbursts
into a request that her lines be connected to her terminal. I tell her they
are, and has she got the technician to look at it. She hangs up.
No sense of humour.
10 minutes later still, the technician rings up and tells me all the
secretaries lines are dead. I tell him I'll check them out, then plug her
ethernet, phone and Appletalk back in. Which leaves RS232...
Another 10 minutes later I'm startled out of my snooze by the phone. It's
the technician still greasing the secretary by being super-efficient. He
tells me the RS232 still isn't working. I make some excuse about dry joints
on the plug etc, and ask him to put a new plug on the cable. I hear the
>snip!< as he clips the old plug off, and the receiver rattle as he starts
to strip the wire in a manly way with his teeth. Then I connect the mains
cable to my end of the RS232.
As soon I hear the ">ERRRRRREEEERRKKK!<" coming down the receiver at me, I
know that the "incorrect inventory" problem won't be repeated.
Another problem solved by the Bastard Operator from Hell
It's a dirty, filthy, stinking dog-kill-dog job, but someone's got to enjoy
This is the final chapter (at least for a while). I'm off to find a job in
Britian somewhere in a couple of weeks, so I'll let BOFH rest. Funnily
enough, someone sent me a copy of BOFH #1 with someone else's name as
author the other day - they thought I might be interested in it..
Live long and prosper! - Simon spt(@)waikato.ac.nz
The LAST Bastard Operator from HELL!
I get back from Britian and return to my old stomping grounds to take up a
post as an Analyst/Programmer... As an A/P I'm expected to work weird hours
so I start putting in some 9 to 5 shifts to see what it's like.
It's weird all right. I don't like it.
I go to the computer room to check out my machine, only I'm not the
Operator any more, so I've got no access. I call the Operator. He answers.
"Can I get access to the Computer Room?" I ask, respectfully
"Well..." he pauses ".. what do you want to do?"
Indecisive. It gets worse! He should've come straight out and said that the
day a user gets access to HIS computer room is the day he'll be crated up
and freighted to the big Computer Room in the sky to meet the Chief
"Just look at my machines" I say..
"Um, well, we're not supposed to let programmers in here unless it's an
emergency" he blubs.
Dear oh dear. It's almost as if he's apologising! I can't take any more of
it so I just wander off. He calls after me in apology and it turns my
stomach. Watching something you've carefully built up with neglect and
mindless acts of violence just crumble away in front of your eyes!
I can't let it end this way! There must be something I can do...
I go back to my room and open the sealed envelope that I was saving for my
I shuffle through the signed bits of paper, photographs and dictaphone
tapes till I find what I want. The photo's a bit faded and blurred, but the
people in the picture can still be made out. I get on the phone.
"HELLO?". The Big Boss himself answers
"Hi there, Simon from the Computer Centre. I think I found something of
"A photo. One in a series of 24"
"WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT! I'M A BUSY MAN - DON'T WASTE MY TIME!"
"Well, it's a photo of you, a couple of female friends, and something that
looks like it has some agricultural purpose"
"oh. Yes, I was wondering where that got to. If you could just drop in in
an envelope and send it to me personally..."
"I don't think so..."
"Well, it's obviously a fake. Where would you get such a thing?"
"Your office. You left the door open one night"
"That's ridiculous, my door's electronically locked every night"
"Oh. What do you want?"
"The New Operators"
"Ok, I'll have the fired.."
"NO! Then you'll get some more and they'll be as bad!"
"Then what do you want?"
"TO TRAIN THEM!"
A couple of days later the training session begins. Unfortunately, I only
get one operator to train as the other one resigned when he heard I wanted
to talk to him. Still one's better than none.
We start from the very beginning..
"Ok, let's just go into this. How do you feel about users?"
"They're ok, I suppose" he answers
"Well, they can be a pain at times"
"Well, a lot of the time?"
"OK, ALL THE TIME! I HATE THEM, I HATE THEM! ALWAYS RINGING ME UP WANTING
TO GET MORE DISK OR CONNECT TIME, WHINING AT ME IN THEIR PATHETIC VOICES,
COMPLAINING ABOUT RESPONSE TIME. I HATE THEM!"
"Right. There. You see, you did know the answer after all. Second question,
What do we do for users?"
"What they want?"
"What we think they want?"
"What WE want?"
"i DON'T KNOW!"
"I see. Well, the answer is, we do nothing FOR users. We do things TO
users. It's a fine distinction, but an important one all the same. Now,
what do we do TO users?"
"What we want?"
"And WHY do we do it?"
"Because they deserve it?"
"To convince users not to call?"
"No again. We do what we do because we ENJOY it. And because we can get
away with it."
"Oh! I suppose you're right"
"I KNOW I'm right. And if I'm not, I'm STILL right, because I'm the
Operator. It's that simple! If you remember that phrase, there's nothing
you can't do. Now the last question. What exactly do we do to users?"
"Delete their files, scrap their backups, invade their privacy..."
"No Agent Starling. That is a mere bagatelle. What we do is BREAK them.
What's the point of deleting their files if they never use them? What's the
point in reading someone's private correspondence if you're not going to
let the user know you did it then tell their friends or parents? Why scrap
someone's backups unless they need them? You have to break the users will
so that they realise that they're the simple-minded sheep we know they
"Of course. I'll be off now, don't ever let me catch me in the Computer
"Thank you sir"
"Oh. Get out of my Computer Room!"
"That's more like it!"
The mantle is passed.
"Oh" my new operator calls as I leave, "I can't remember what your backup
tape looked like. Is this it here on the Bulk Eraser?"