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BOFH: Hitting the savegame panic button

Drastic measures in the dungeon of drudgery

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Episode 10

BOFH 2004: Episode 10

Some days I just look at my Inbox and feel uninspired. Stacked ahead of me are the dull and mundane tasks that'd bore anyone with an IQ higher than their pants size. You know the sort of thing: "Can you install a printer driver on the server?", "Can we get more disk on the Homeshare machine?" etc.

So, at times like this, I like to take solace in something comforting.

>clickety..< >tap< >tap!<

>rustle< >tap!< >tap!<

"Bugger!"

>tap< >tap< >TAP!< >BASH!<

"What is it?" the PFY asks.

>BASH< >BASH!< >BASH!!!<

"The bloody VMS machine has crashed!"

"Is it still switched on, then?"

"Course it's bloody switched on!"

>tap< >tap<

"This calls for drastic measures!!!" >clickety<

>clickety<

. . 10 minutes later . .

"The HR Server is down!" the Boss burbles, ripping into Mission Control.

"No, no, it's fine," I say calmly.

"It's down. I've had three calls about it!"

"Yes, I've had a couple myself, but the server's up. It seems that it's got some... uh.. legacy.. application.. integration.. codependencies..., which have upset it's network connectivity."

The PFY looks up at the unnotified use of the excuse calendar but remains silent.

"What does that mean, exactly?"

"It's plugged into the old VMS machine - which died this morning."

"Which one's that?" he asks, peering through the observation glass in the door.

"The big one in the middle."

"The one that looks like a big fridge?"

"Yeah."

"Oh. Have you rung the engineer?"

"No - it's not under maintenance."

"It's not under maintenance! Why not?!"

"Too expensive, I guess."

"Well can you see if you can fix it?"

"Nothing I can do - I left my hammer at home."

"Well can't you call someone out?"

"I could, but it's liable to cost money, so I didn't think you'd want to..."

"THE BLOODY HR SERVER IS DOWN!" the Boss gasps. "IF it's not up by midnight tonight the bank authorities won't go out and people won't be paid! It'll be bedlam!"

"Oh," I say, faking enlightenment. "So I should just get the engineer out?"

"Too bloody right."

"They'll need a Purchase Order Number."

"I'll get one to you - meantime, ring!" the Boss responds, exiting stage left.

. . .

"Since when has the HR system been linked to the VMS machine?" the PFY asks as I look up the VMS support company.

"Since the VMS machine crashed this morning!"

"No, that was you disabling the HR server's switch port."

"Yeah well, I needed to raise the priority of the fix!" I respond fervently.

"Why?"

"Because my dungeon savegame is on it!"

"Your dungeon savegame?"

"Yes, my dungeon savegame, WHICH I HAVE BEEN PLAYING FOR THE BETTER PART OF TEN YEARS!!!" I snap.

"Are you still playing that? Didn't I give you a map for it years ago? You should be through it by now!"

"That's cheating," I respond.

"*sigh*. Didn't you back your game up to tape?"

"Course I didn't bloody back it up to tape! It's a VMS machine! The internal drive failed about FIVE years ago. And even when it was working it had the error-free capacity of half a floppy!"

"So why didn't you get it fixed?"

"The machine's not on maintenance!"

"Why not?"

"Nothing runs on the box - Apart from my game of dungeon."

"So you're saying that we have this huge system which consumes GOBS of power, 1.5 square metres of extremely valuable computer room floor space, and has a lower processor spec than my cellphone - all because you want to play a game?"

"Not 'a game', dungeon!"

"Which is a game.."

"No. Soltaire is 'a game' - Ureal Tournament is 'a game'.. Dungeon is.. an experience!"

"Yeah, yeah, I played Zork."

"Zork's a spinoff! It's the Angel to dungeon's Buffy!"

"Uh huh," the PFY adds, looking at me sadly, "And you didn't ftp it somewhere?"

"It's only got UCX installed."

"Ah, so no networking."

"No."

"And you're going to make the company pay for an engineer just for a game?"

"Uh-huh," I say, as the helpdesk answers...

. . . Two hours later . .

"We don't get many urgent calls," the Engineer blurts "Not any more leastways. Time was we'd have urgent calls from dawn till dusk, but these days you'd be lucky to get a couple of calls a week, and as far as URGENT calls go, I think the last one of THEM we got was about six months ago when..."

I shove some earplugs in before I lapse into a coma and motion him into the computer room. That's the problem with old engineers, they get called out so rarely they have to get over their Robinson Crusoe Syndrome by talking incessantly...

Like a true engineering professional he wanders around the machine for a couple of minutes mouthing things like "Interesting" and "Hmmm" before resetting the breaker handle at the rear of the machine, at which time the machine hmms to life.

"Just the breaker popped," he burbles as I pull the earplugs out, wandering around the front of the unit and opening the front panel "Soooo.., that should be the lot, so you'll just be up for about 350 quid. Can you sign here?"

"Three hunded and fifty quid - just so you can play a game?!" the PFY blurts.

"Ah, it looks like a little more than that" the Engineer interrupts, looking at the console output, "I think you've lost the userdisk as well - probably stiction, maybe a headcrash."

"Ooooh, that's your savegame down the toilet!" the PFY smirks unkindly.

"The savegame yes, but not the game itself - installed in SYSEXE."

"What, you're going to start again from the beginning!!?"

"If I have to."

"Tell you what," the engineer blurts. "I got a couple of refurbished spares in the car with me - disk crashes are a VERY common occurrence in kit of this age. In fact ... >burble< >burble<. . . ."

. . .

"TWO BLOODY GRAND!!!" the Boss cries. "What the hell for?"

"Power supply problem and a disk failure," I respond.

"And our HR system is dependent on this?"

"It won't come up till it's fixed," I reply. "Although I think I know a way to remove our dependancy on the kit."

"Before midnight!?"

"No, but before tomorrow - if my assistant and I... worked... on it.. all night."

"So you'll get it running before midnight and decoupled by morning?"

"I think we can," I respond, looking up the Gourmet Pizza Parlour in my address book. "But you're looking at maybe 12 hours, double time, times two people..."

"If it works, it'll be worth it?" he asks. "What sort of planning do you need to do?"

"Well I just have one document that I need to familiarise myself with," I respond, pulling the PFY's dungeon map from out of my filing cabinet. "But apart from that it'll just be hard slog..."

Funny how we get our inspiration, isn't it... ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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