Bastard Operator from Hell

From alt.tasteless Thu Oct 22 16:34:13 1992
Xref: rpi rec.humor:78201 rec.humor.d:5967 alt.tasteless:16288 talk.bizarre:94477
Path: rpi!usc!!wupost!!spt
From: (Simon Travaglia)
Newsgroups: rec.humor,rec.humor.d,alt.tasteless,talk.bizarre
Message-ID: <>
Date: 23 Oct 92 07:52:37 +1300
Organization: Just behind the back of beyond
Lines: 2215

*          The Bastard Operator from Hell - Executive Relief Repost          *
Congratulations  on  obtaining  the  Executive  Relief  Repost of the Bastard
Operator from Hell.  Discerning news-readers everywhere  are delighted by the
new full colour format,  complete  with spelling and punctuation  corrections
and containing previously unreleased footage of the exploits of the BOFH,  as
well  as  including  some  favourite  excerpts  such  as the infamous "rm -r"
sequences.  Also, at no extra cost, 10% more exclamation marks and stars.

Released prior to my trip to Britian, in a shameless attempt to generate some
interest in my services to the computing community,  and  thereby  getting me
some employment,  this  souvineer edition has been skillfully backmasked with
LEAD AT HIGH SPEED!"  and  contains  almost  no saturated fats.  Suitable for
home or office use, this message is guaranteed to last at least part way till
it's expiry date, yesterday.

Ciao for now.

					Simon Travaglia	(
  The Bastard Operator From Hell - Genesis  (Striped Irregular Bucket #1)

 I'm really bored.  You know how bored you get when work's going on and on and
on, and nothing interesting is happening, and you're listening to a radio that
picks up ONE station on FM, and it's always the station with the least records
in the city, about 5, and one of them is "You're so Vain" which wasn't too bad
a song until you hear it about 3 times a day for a year,  and  *EVERY* time it
plays,  the announcer tells you it's about Warren Beaty and who he's currently
poking,  someone you'll never sniff the toe-jam of, let alone meet, leet alone
get amourous with.  And EVERY time someone mentions Warren Beaty, someone says
that  he  used  to  go out with Madonna too, and have you seen "In Bed With.."

  AND THEN, someone ELSE will say "It wasn't really about Warren Beaty, it was
James Taylor" and the first person will say "What, `In bed with Madonna?'", and
they laugh and everyone else laughs, and I pull out the Magnum from under the
desk where I keep it in case someone laughs at a joke that's so dry it's got
a built in water-fountain, and blow the lot  of  them  away  as  a  community
Service.  I figure that I'll get time off my sentence if I ever kill someone
by accident who's got a life.

So visitors are getting pretty thin at the moment, and the Quick-Lime Pits are
filling up rapidly, and all I've got to do is the full backups and maybe I can
go home.  

    So, to relieve the boredom, I get some iron filings and pour them into the
back  of  my Terminal until  it  fizzes out (Which doesn't take all that long,
surprisingly enough), then call our maintenance contractors and log a fault
on the device.  Sometimes they'll send someone who knows what they're doing,
but it's a lot more fun when they don't - which is about 98% of the time.

So they maintenance guy comes in, and I can tell he's NEW because the photo
on his ID actually LOOKS like him, not like the head engineer, whose photo's
a black and white tin-type (he's that old).

Maintenance Contractors always dress up nice, with a tie and everything because
they believe that a customer will trust a nicely dressed guy with their million
dollar equipment *just* because he's got a nice tie..

Because he's NEW and ALONE, he's what you call an appeasement engineer, the new
guy they send so they respond within the 4 hour guaranteed response period. 
(Things are getting better and better)  Your average appeasement engineer is
about as clued-up on computers as the average computer "hacker" is about B.O,
and their main job is to make sure the power plug is in and switched on, then
call back to the office for "PARTS".  The really keen ones will sometimes even
take a cover off the equipment and pretend that they see this stuff all the
time.  I wonder what sort today's is...

"You got a dud terminal?" he asks pleasantly

I tell him yeah, and bring him into the control room.

"Which one is it?" he asks, confused by the fact that only one of them is
"It's the Model Three" I say, giving NOTHING away.

"Ah, the old model three!" he says knowingly, without a clue what a model
three is, or which one of the three terminals it is, which isn't surprising,
as I just made it up.
"We get a lot of model three problems" he says nodding "So what actually

Sneaky, but not good enough.  I'm not going to point it out to him.

"It just went dead" I say, in luser mode.

"I see.  Could you just recreate what you were doing so I can check the unit
out when it's ready for operation?"

Very Sneaky.  I decide to let him off the hook.

"Look, I've got to go to the toilet, there it is over there" I say, pointing
at our Waffle-Iron.

"But that's a Wa..." He says, then stops.  He's a beginner, and it's just
possible that the company has a line of terminals that look like waffle irons.
He bites.

"Sorry" he says, smiling again "for a minute there I thought it was a model 2!"

A reasonably good save, but it won't save him.

I leave, which means he's got to take it to bits, otherwise he knows I won't
believe he's worked on it.  I give him a couple of minutes to get the element
exposed then wander back in.

"So how does it look?" I ask, concerned-like.

"Well, I think we could have a processor problem.." he says concentrating on
prying the element up.

..concentrating so much that he doesn't notice me plugging the iron in.

"Shouldn't you be wearing an earthing strap?"  I ask innocently.

When he thinks I can't see, he creeps his hand over to the wiring frame and
says "Well, It's just as easy to hold onto earth like this"

"But what about the risk of a cross-the-body shock with no resistor in series
with you?" I ask ever-so-more-innocently

"Oh, it's ok" he says "the unit's unplug..."

>click<    >BZZZZZZZEEERRT!<   >clunk!<

I ring the maintenance help-desk again...

It's Rhonda

"Hey Ronda!, Ah, I'm going to need another engineer and a new Waffle Iron over
here; for some reason your engineer opened up my Waffle Iron without switching
it off."  I say

Rhonda knows me.  It's the third call and the third appeasement engineer.
"You're a real prick" she says, annoyed

"Tell ya what Rhonda, why don't you come and fix it; it's a model three..."

It's 200 pages long and got lots of ^Gs in it!  And, it LOCKS UP YOUR TERMINAL!
AND  you won't find out it's from until the 199th page.  And
then it'll scroll past, you'll have to read the message again to find out that
my post addr is C/- University of Waikato, Prvt Bag 3105, Hamilton New Zealand
Here come those FORM FEEDS!!!!

    The Birth of Bastard Operator From Hell - Striped Irregular Bucket #5

I'm still bored.

But at least now the radio's off, it was on it's 12 repeat of "Wildfire" THIS
WEEK, and it's only Tuesday; shit I hate that.

So anyway, I quicklime the engineer to remove any fingerprints and then FedEx
him back to headquarters and set about waiting for the engineer.

Now the second engineer only has to come out after another 4 hours, there's no
death of engineer penalty clause, (but I'm thinking about asking for one) so
I've got to fill in some time.  This guy's going to be a technical engineer,
the sort that comes in with a raggedy tie where he got it caught in the drum
printer at 3000 rpm a couple of years ago, and he'll have the grazes on the
face that indicate that he didn't get the gate open in time...   I know these

So I fill in a couple of hours by killing users off and deleting their files,
then waiting for them to call...

"Um, I can't find my files" the wimpering simp on the phone says

"Files?  What files?"

"The files in my account.  My thesis, my research - all gone!"

"Gone ay?  What's your username?"




"OH Turgen, like TURD, but with a GEN instead of a D...  Ok lets see"
	I make vague clicking noises my dragging the quicklimed man's fingers
	back and forth across the keypad.
"Uh-huh"  >drag drag<  "Yeah.." >dragedy poke< "AH! - You haven't got any files"


"Well, what are you calling ME for?  We don't make the files you know, we just
look after them.  And chopitty-chop too, your thesis looks like it's due in a
couple of days.."

I hang up - he'll call back.  Meantime I open up a copy of "VMS BASTARD
OPERATORS MANUAL FROM HELL"   I'm reading the article I sent in about getting
rid of those trouble users...
	"... Modify the user's password minimum from 6 to 32 letters, give
		the password a 1 day lifetime, set it so that they HAVE to
		use the password generate utility when they change their
		password (so their password will always be something that
		looks like vaguely pronouncable line-noise), add a secondary
		password with the same as the above, then redefine their CLI
		tables so that the only command that works is DELETE, and all
		other commands point to it."

Beautiful.  Shit I'm good.

He calls back.

"MY FILES ARE GONE!" he screams, panicking.
"Did you have a backup?"  I ask, as sweet as pie
"But that's what you people are supposed to do!" he sobs
"Yeah, well we did - but then we switched to those 8mm tapes, and they're
the same size as the ones in my video camera, so I've been using them to
tape the neighbour's sex romps..."

I hear the revolver go off, but what the hell, it's 5pm, and not my problem...

		Still Birthing the Bastard Operator..  (Bored #3)

So the second engineer rolls up, but the FedEx man has been and gone, so he
misses out altogether.

This guy's a techno, (you can tell by the tie) but he's smart (no grazes), so
I'm going to have to be wary.

"What's the problem?" he asks, in a business-like manner.

"It's the model three" I say (what the hell, it worked before)

"What the f*ck's a model three?" he asks confused.

He could be just testing me, but I decide to come clean.  He doesn't notice
so I just walk funny for a couple of minutes and then show him the terminal
that I'd poured the iron filings into.

"It just went dead!" I say (having previously vacuumed the iron filings up, of
course) - My name's willy, not fucking stupid.

      So anyway, he gets to work opening the cover and making board replacement
noises.  I decide to help and point out a fuse that's blown on the power supply

"Oh, I haven't got the parts for that - I've only got a replacement board." he
says in a confused manner.  "Which one was the fuse again?"

I point it out to him.

"Wow!  And what does it do again?  You know, I've been working at the same
place for 6 years, and I've never seen one of those fuse thingys.  It's
amazing what you learn isn't it!"

"What are you again?" I ask, already suspecting the answer

"Chief Engineer"

Thought so.

"Say, do you know anything about waffle irons?"

"A little..."

>Click!<  >Fzzzzzzeeet!<  >Clunk<


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 can it?  Of
course not.

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
Laser Print.."

"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
gruff voice


"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

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


"I think so..." she says


"Um. Ok"


I hear her scrabbling at the terminal...


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."

Stupid?  Uh-Oh..

"I'm terribly sorry" I say, in a polite manner equal to that of Jimmy Stewart
in a Weekend Family Matinee Feature "I didn't quite catch that.  What was it
that you said?"

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?" he simps

Now this *REALLY* *PISSES* *ME* *OFF*!  Not only do they want me to give them
extra space, they want to check it, then 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 power

"No" I interrupt, savouring this like a fine red at room temperature, followed
by steak, extra rare, to follow; "4 Meg in total.."

"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


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 successfully attended 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.."

"The worst?"

"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)

>clickety clikc<

"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...

>clickety click<

"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 now!"

"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 clikc<  "..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

I'm such a prick!


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  WAAAAAY 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 no time.

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

"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 HELL!"

"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 such graphic terms..."

"I didn't send any.."  

>clickety< >click<......

"No, you didn't did you?  But who can tell these days?  Not to worry though,
It'll all be over VERY soon.."  >clickedy clikc<  "..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 start

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 then 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.

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 facilities"

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 as well.


"Here's your printout" I say "Sorry about the delay, we've got a few printer

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 geek

"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?" the geek squeals at me.
Lucky I wrote that username down - I'm really starting to develop a taste for

"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!

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
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..  That'll be the last time he doesn't shift appointments to make
room for me..

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
phone rings.

"Hello?" I say, annoyed - the coyote was just about to kill roadrunner again!

"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!

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.


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 their data"

"How do I do that?  Wrap them in tin-foil?"



"Then don't use it.  There's only one thing that protects disks from solar

"What's that?"

"MAGNETS!  Wrap your disks up in a pillow case with lots of magnets - Solar
Flares hate that"

"Wow!  Thanks"

"No worries at all..."

Shit I'm good!

WARNING!  I know it's really stupid saying this,  but if you really do wrap a
disk in magnets, you need help.  So don't do it.  This is FICTION.  FICK-SHIN


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
thesis on?"



"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!"

"Hey thanks!"

"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 C-"

He sobs a couple more times then hangs up.  What a wimp.


"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 times"

"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....


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 -512 to the PC and our mainframe shits itself. 

Later, while booting in single user, 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.."

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"

rm -r *


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 arms

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 cousin 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 was

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 "ULTRA-NUKE".

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.  Much better.

(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 demonstrator.


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've been a teacher you know - I've got this way with people...


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 operations.

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 over there.."

"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?"


"Next please..."



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 careful..

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 thing that makes bits of
paper stick to it when you rub it up and down your arm..."


"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."

"Oh.  OK"




"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 it."




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


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
to p..

I died.

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).


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 Hey!  I just noticed, the cord's not plugged in properly!"

"The power cord?" I ask

"Yes...  Woopsy"

"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, ...

"You can fix it permanently tho'" I say

"Really?  How?"

"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?"

"Uh... no?"

"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!

"Oh.  Ok!"

>Fzzzt< >clunk!<

I hang up as the receiver hits the floor.  Disk space is too good for them.


    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 silent. 

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 a
nasty 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

   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 publicity..."

    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 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 work 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 wire."

"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...


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 would've been proud)

"I've got a problem with my floppy drive, it doesn't seem to be reading all
the time"

"Hmmm.  How old is the drive?"

"About a year.."

"And it sometimes fails and sometimes works, but it's starting to fail more
and 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."

"Duh.  Oh" >DUMMY MODE ON<

"So, what you need to do is to demagnetise the head.  Have you got a disk head
demagnetising loop?"

"Uh....  No?"

"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 effected drive."

"Oh, yeah!"

"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 head."

"Oh.  Ok. Thanks"

"Don't thank me - IT'S MY JOB!" I say, hearty in manner.

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?"

-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 off-switch.

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.  (#14)

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 say


The relief in his voice is overwhelming

>clickety< >clickety<

"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?

He does.

Like running down a snail with a steamroller...

>clickety clickety<

"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 error"


"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."

"WH..?  WHY?"

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"


"Oh.  Ok"

"Now, you've got to type it in 20 times"

"Sure, ok"

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?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Oh, Nothing.."

  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

>D.M. ON<

"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 it!"

"Hey thanks!"

"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,  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 course).

 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 department.

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
so bad.

     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
something stupid?"

"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 itself...

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 it

		The Bastard System Manager From Hell


I get into my office and it's my first day - I want to make a good impression,
so I empty my IN tray into the bin.  Now that's what I call efficient!

I get a call from the big boss - he's been getting complaints about the trainee
bastard operator from hell.  I ask him to forward all the complaints to me and
that it would be best to let me deal with them.  I ring the operator and get
him to make an appointment with me.

Two weeks later, he does, and I show him the complaints that have accumulated
so far.

"Seventy Three complaints in your first three weeks!" I shout "It's good - but
it's NOT Good Enough!  You should be getting at least 10 complaints a day - AT
LEAST!   Now, let's see what you're doing wrong: 
You get a call from a user - what do you do?"

"Kill them off?" The TBOFH replies

"NO!  How can you kill them off if you don't know their USERNAME?  Your
FIRST priority is to get their username.  Then what would you do?"

"Kill them off?"

"NO!  Get them to tell you what their problem is!"


"Because later I can say they didn't explain their problem to you properly!
It's a great defence - works every time.  A user rings me up to complain; I
listen to their problem,  then  say  "OH, WHEN YOU SAID `MY PC DOESN'T WORK'
they tell me how implausible that is, I say how terribly sorry we are, then
fake  some  connect and CPU time records so their monthly bill is about the
same as the Uraguayan national debt... Understand?
So, after you've heard their problem,  what do you do?"

"Kill them off?"

"NO!  Then you make up some excuse.  Have you got an excuse card calendar?"

"Uh.  No.."

"And you said you were qualified to operate a computer!  You'd better have
mine."  I pass my computer card calendar over,  flipping it to page one -
"ENTROPY".......  ...I like it.
"Now, you give the cretin an excuse then what do you do?"

"Kill them off?"

"YES!"  (He certainly has a fixation)  "Then what?"

"Hang up?"

"NO!  Then they'll call you back when the problem recurs.   Your job is to
make them FEAR calling you.  How can you work when people are calling?  So,
you make them pay for calling in the first place.  What would you do?"

"Delete their files?"

"Yeah, it's a start, but then they may call back when they get new files.
You want them NEVER to call back.  What could you do?"

"Swear at them?"

"No.  I can see we'll have to demonstrate.  Have you got a metal ballpoint?"


"See that wallsocket over there.   Take the refill out of the pen and poke
in into the wallsocket."

"But it's live!"

"Would I really make you do it if it were live?"

"Oh"  >fiddle< >fiddle<   >BZZZZZZZEEEEERT!<   >THUD!<

of course I would.   He was no good anyway.  No killing instinct.


    So I'm interviewing for new Operators, and, as the Bastard System Manager
from Hell, I have high standards.  And as the Immediate Past Bastard Operator
from Hell, I have even higher standards.

I get the first applicant in.

"Ok" I say "I'm just going to ask you some simple questions to guage your
knowledge of Computing and Networking in relation to the Operations Field"


"Right.  Question One.  What's the best way to stop an individual posting
nasty articles to news?"

"Close their account"

"Good - But can you elaborate?"

"Delete all their files, Change their password to `Knobhead' and Erase any
backups of their account"

"Excellent.  What is a killfile?"

"Uh.  It's a list of usernames/topics/news items etc that you wish the news-
reader to automatically skip so you don't have to wade through rubbish"

"Uh No.  Remember I said pertaining to Operations.  A killfile is in fact a
file with a list of names of people you are going to have killed."

"Oh.  Of course."

"Never mind.  What is DCE?"

"Delete, Close and Erase"

"Good.  DTR?"

"DON'T TRY to RING.  The Operator's watchword"

"Well done.  DBMS?"

"Dont Bug My Supervisor.  Probably the most important acronym around"

"You betcha.  Ok.  A user comes to you with a complaint about another user
sending sexually explicit email messages to them.  What do you do?"

"Take a copy of the messages, close the complainant's account (by accident)
and extort money from the mailer by threatening to show their parents"

"Good.  I think you'll do nicely.  Hang onto this wire..."

"I don't think so."

"Excellent.  You passed the final test.  You start tommorrow.  Please leave
by that door so as not to disturb the other applicants."


Electrified Door Handle.  Gets them every time.  I think it's the "Complaints
Dept" sign that draws them to it like moths to a globe...

I push the body out onto the fire escape.

    The Bastard Operator from Hell goes Meglomanic - The Sealed Section

   /\    /\/\/  \/\/\      /\  /\/\        /\                /\            /\  
__/  \/\/            \/\/\/  \/    \/\/\/\/  \  /\/\/\/\/\/\/  \/\      /\/  \ 
A 117 part secret message from Simon Travaglia\/ \/\/\/
  /\          /\University of Waikato, Private Bag, Hamilton, New Zealand
\/  \    /\/\/  \/\/\      /\  /\/\Ph: 064-7-838-4008/\  /\  /\    /\      /\ 
     \/\/            \/\/\/  \/    \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/  \/  \/  \/\/  \/\/\/  \ 
Men rattle their chains to show that they are free.