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A Bastard of a late night call-out

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Application security programs and practises

Episode 18 BOFH 2003: Episode 18

I hate phone calls at the best of times, but phone calls at home - especially during the hours of darkness - do not find me at my personal best.

"But it has to be going again as soon as possible!" the user dribbles into the receiver as I fumble with my bedside clock to get the time.

"It's 3am in the bloody morning!" I snap, not at all happy.

"Yes, but this is really urgent!"

"It's a bloody TEST Electronic Document Management System - it's not urgent!"

"Yes, but it's got my data in it and I need it urgently for some reports that are due tomorrow!"

"You put production data into a test server?" I ask.

"Yes, why?"

"A server which we told you - REPEATEDLY - that we might shutdown at any time - without notice?"

"Yes, but I needed..."

"A server which we only have a EDMS demo licence for, which probably expires in 90 days?"

"Yes, but I had to store my data centrally to share with other users!"

"You're sharing your data with other users - on a test system?"

"Uhhh... Yes..."

"Who might also be storing data..."

"But it's got a massive disk - doing nothing!"

"Nothing at all, true. Not even being backed up, in fact."

"You're joking!"

"IT'S A BLOODY TEST SERVER! Anyway, if I was joking I would tell you about the user who locked his keys in his car and spent half an hour with a coathanger trying to get his family out!"

"Wa!?"

"Nothing. Anyway, I'm not coming in, none of the test machines are under maintenance, so you'd have to pay call-out fees, parts, etc - if I can find an approved service agent at this time of night!"

"I don't care, I need it done!"

"Have you any idea of how much it'll cost?" I say, asking the obligatory questions.

"How much?"

"Ok, I'm guessing 120 to 180 quid an hour MINIMUM with a minimum three hour call out, travel, THEN, if they know what they're doing and can even FIND the problem you'll probably need parts so you'll have to call out their stores person at the same rate and expenses, so you're looking at over a grand, PLUS the cost of the part, which is bound to be more expensive than some cheapo parts company which we could get it from tomorrow morning..."

"I don't care, this has to be done, the report's needed for the big arbitration case tomorrow!"

"The one where we're trying to prove that we didn't steal another company's intellectual property?"

"Yes!"

"But we did, didn't we?"

"No!"

"Sure we did! I downloaded a stack of stuff from their website when it was compromised and slapped it onto our R&D site."

"No, it was developed in-house..."

"Inside of a week? Yes, I can see that happening in the real world..."

"What are you suggesting?"

"That someone on staff took credit for a stack of work they didn't do by changing the company and designer name, tweaking some specs and printing it on shiny paper."

"I didn't hear you say that!"

"Should I speak louder?"

"No! Just get someone to come in and fix this server!"

"Now?"

"Yes."

"And not mention that we stole another company's intellectual property?"

"!!!"

"I'll need an order number to quote to the agency, plus an internal order for my call-out and travel!"

"They'll be in your email when you get to the office!"

"OK, it's as good as sorted!"

... Bright and early that morning ...

"TWO GRAND FOR A BLOODY HARD DRIVE!" he screams.

"I told you they were expensive!"

"A HUNDRED QUID TRAVEL EXPENSES!"

"Yes, apparently he got lost on the way here."

"THEN HE CHARGED ME AGAIN AT 150!"

"Yes, travel to their store to get the hard drive - then he got lost coming back..."

"I'm not bloody paying!"

"Well he's still here - you could tell him - but then I think he'd probably take the hard drive back."

"Well just tell him we'll pay."

"I would, but he won't power the server on until he's got a cheque..."

"..it's OK, we'll canc-"

"Made out to cash."

"DAMN!"

... One company cheque imprint later ...

"Right, well get him to power the server on will you - and hurry!"

"Sure, and I just need you to sign off on my expenses too while you're at it."

"Oh, OK, just this form is i... A HUNDRED QUID ON TRAVEL EXPENSES?"

"Yeah, the streets are bloody confusing at night - not to mention I normally ride the tube to wo-"

"MEAL?

"Yes, standard stuff if you work outside the normal working hours. Took me ages to find a place that was open too - hence the second travel expense claim."

"I'm not paying!"

"Well you could, but then I'd have to go directly home as my contract states I only need to put in an eight-hour day - ie. four hours at double time."

"Well I think I can manage to ask the technician to power the machine on..."

"OK, go ahead."

"What - YOU'RE THE BLOODY TECHNICIAN!?"

"Yes, as I'd said, we needed an approved service agent - and I was the only person I approve of. Still, as luck would have it I was up at that time of the night!"

"THIS IS BLOODY BLACKMAIL!"

"Not exactly. But you wanting me to switch the machine on as an approved technician is."

"Why?"

"Because you'd have to pay a call-out fee - unless you wait a couple of hours till I start work. Three hour minimum..."

SORTED! ®

BOFH is copyright © 1995-2003, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.

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