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BOFH: Stuck on the 6.01999th floor

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Application security programs and practises

Episode 12

BOFH 2004: Episode 12

"What do you mean, generic replacement?" I ask, thinking very unkind thoughts about the stores person.

"It's a substitute... for the part you ordered."

"It's not the same!"

"According to the system it is!" the stores bloke burbles.

"It's not!"

"But the system says they're the same - it must be a vendor substitute part."

"Is it THE vendors substitute part, or the substitute part of a third party vendor?"

"Well, a third party one, I guess. But it should work exactly the same as the power supply you want it to replace."

"Tell you what," I say, realising that this could go on for some time: "Why don't you pop up here and we'll show you the problem."

"I guess so," the stores guy says, knowing full well that he was employed a couple of days after the last time this phrase was used...

Ten minutes later, he's up in Mission Control, and unless I'm very much mistaken (which rarely occurs) he's got a dictaphone running in his pocket.

Sigh.

"OK!" I snap, "Let me show you what I mean. Over here, we have the dead power supply which came out of our box, and over here we have the replacement power supply. Does anything strike you as different about them?"

"Well the new one is smaller I guess."

"Indeed. Allow me to demonstrate!"

I slide the supply down the rails, wiggle it around for a bit until the contacts line up, then push it home.

"It plugs into the machine!" the stores bloke comments.

"Leaving a large hole along one edge."

"Couldn't you just cover it up with some tape?" he suggests helpfully

"Perhaps in the technological equivalent of the third world, yes, but in the real world, no. So how about we get the part we ordered?"

"Well it's like this," he starts "I enter your part in the system and it finds a cheaper alternative and automatically chooses it. I'm not allowed to chose anything else."

"You wa?" the PFY asks, horrified.

"It's the new financials system - it does everything for you. I just enter the number required and the shipping requirements" he sweats.

"I see. Thank you for your time"

. . one hour later . .

"It's a vendor substitute!" the Beancounter tells me, after I point out the fly in the ointment for the second time.

"It's A vendor substitute, not THE vendor substitute," I repeat.

"Yes but it must work exactly the same way!"

"It provides the same power, but it's not the same unit - so it doesn't fit properly."

"But it does the same job!"

"No, because an element of the power supply is cooling, and if it doesn't fit properly, the cooling doesn't work."

"It doesn't say 'Power supply and cooling' on the description," he responds.

"Ah right. So if it doesn't say it in the description, then it's not supposed to do it?"

"Obviously. I mean if it was meant to do cooling, they would call it a 'power and cooling unit' and probably charge us more for it."

"So we can't get the right power supply?" the PFY calls from across the room.

"The ordering system will choose the cheapest alternative. Perhaps you could get the original vendor to change the description of that part and give it a new part number?" he adds helpfully, not realising that the chances of getting a vendor to change a part number are lower than the Titanic's golden rivet... "That way there wouldn't be a substitute part."

"Or maybe we could just override it this once?" I suggest.

"Oh no," he blurts chuckling at the thought, "We have a policy of not overriding the system - it sets a bad precedent you see."

"So nothing's going to happen till we get the vendor to change their part number?" I ask.

"It's like you read my mind," he replies smugly.

...Later that same day....

>Ring<

"Systems!" the PFY blurts, slapping the phone on hands free as soon as he sees the calling number.

"There's a problem with the lift!" a familiar voice echoes tinnily.

"What's that then?" the PFY asks.

"It's stuck on the 6th floor!" the voice responds.

"No...." the PFY responds, tapping away on the lift interface. "It's stuck on the 6.01999th floor."

"What?"

"It's on the 6.01999ths floor. It's slightly overshot the top floor."

"Well can you get it to get back down?"

"Hang on, I'll get Simon."

..The PFY and I finish our game of poker...

"Hello, Systems."

"I'm stuck in a lift on the 6.01999th floor."

"We haven't got a 6.01999th floor!" I reply.

"That's what your assistant said, we'd overshot or something."

"Hang on." >clickety< "Ohh yes, so you have. That was silly."

"What do you mean? It's not like we chose to go there!"

"True."

"Can you get us down?"

"I'm not sure I can. You see it's described as a 'Lift', not a Drop or a Fall."

"What?"

"You're in a Lift, i.e. UP. I could call the service company, but they might say that if it were meant to go down as well as up it would be called a 'Lift and Fall or Drop or something'."

"What?!"

"See, it's lifted you, like it said in the description of the device - so technically, if the lift did anything else, it would be in the description and they'd charge more for it - like that power supply we had this morning."

"Oh. It's you."

"Now I could ring the lift company and ask them if they'd change the description of this unit so that it's clear that it goes both up and down - but that's liable to take some considerable time."

"Or we could just get out the escape hatch," he snaps.

"Ordinarily, yes, but when you're at the absolute top of the shaft the proximity of the motor prevents the escape hatch from opening - uh - so I've been told."

"Look just make the thing go down will you?" he says, a touch of angst creeping into his voice.

"You mean override the system?" I ask "Because we have a policy about overr.."

"ALRIGHT, I'LL GET YOUR BLOODY POWERSUPPLY."

"Really? Would you?" I gush "That would be fantastic! Now what about on all future lift trips?"

"What?"

"Well if you could permanently override the purchasing system for us, I think I might be able to override the lift system for you...."

"And if I don't agree I'll be stuck here forever?"

"It's like you read my mind!" ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

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