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Episode 31 BOFH 2004

Slow weeks are bad for systems people, you end up having to make your own fun. To pass the dull week, I challenge the PFY to make me a truly inventive mod for our proxy server. The stakes are a night of drinking at the other person's expense.

Like I said, it passes the time...

Two days on, he's ready for his demo, which I'm convinced is bound to be far less spectacular than my proxy mirror and will ultimately lead to my whipping up a nice fresh pavement pizza by the end of the night...

"Ladies und Gentlemans, I present to you... The Newsmaker!" the PFY chirps happily, waving his hand at his squid plug-in.

"Which does?"

"Give me a news headline, anything, no matter how ridiculous!"

"Scientists discover intelligent life in Redmond!"

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

"Right, now Google for it!"

I dutifully fire up Google, bash in Redmond and Intelligence, and roger me senseless with a full height drive if the first 10 hits don't point show up the headline I've just created, pointing at Time Warner, Yahoo News, all the greats...

"Interesting - injecting false links into Google to point at news sites. I like it!"

"Ahem," the PFY interrupts. "Click on one of the links."

I do so, and grab that hard drive for a second go if the site concerned doesn't come up with the headline in question!

"You hacked the news site?"

"Not at all! I used the base idea behind banner blocking to remove the lead headline of a news site and insert my headline instead. You can even add a picture if you want, but obviously only for things that are possible to prove."

"So will this work for all the news sites listed?"

"Oh yes. And more importantly, the various search sites as well. So no matter what common search engine you use, the proxy discards the first 100 matches and inserts 100 of its own 'matches' instead."

"What about secure sites?"

"Oh, you fake that. Most people wouldn't check for or be concerned about security - outside their personal banking anyway."

"Ok, so you've thought this through. Now why are you so pleased with yourself?"

"Because of the potential applications!!! You can lie your way into anything! You tell the Boss that wheelie chairs cause bum cancer and he'll say it's rubbish, then check the web, just to make sure. Next thing you know, he's replacing all the chairs in the department for 'Health reasons'. If anyone in the building calls him on it, he'll tell them that it's news, they'll check on the web..."

"And on it goes. Hmmm. He who controls the proxy controls the world... Ok, I admit, it's a great mod, and worth a pint."

"All the pints I can drink, I believe you said. But wait, there's more!"

"What?"

"It also catches dictionary and thesaurus sites and sends back deliberate misspellings, antonyms instead of synonyms, etc. And, as a bonus the thesaurus introduces hundreds of 'new words' into the English language which idiots will pretentiously add into their memos - and which no-one will understand."

"Ok, I'll buy you drinks for a night - but only because the Boss using 'New' words in his official documents would be as funny as the time you mapped all his keyboard shortcut keys to bring up porn."

"Well speaking of porn, how about a proxy that makes all his searches which aren't related to our fake news link instead to porn pages?"

"Nah, he'd click on the back button to prove that he didn't go there in the first place."

"UNLESS... Some bastard set the proxy to make the pages non-browser-cached, so you can't click back, then delivering a disgusting porn bbs in response to a refresh...."

"Nasty. But it'll never work, no-one's that stupid!"

"How stupid?" the Boss asks, rolling into Mission Control.

"As stupid as the guy in the news," the PFY replies.

"Mmm?"

"The one on the web who claims he has proof," the PFY adlibs, drying up on the details.

"Proof of what?"

"That the research that proves that masturbation reverses male pattern baldness has been suppressed by the Catholic church."

"That's ridiculous!" the Boss says touching his head self-consciously.

Honestly, it's not fair that it's so easy!

"That's just what I said," I respond. "But you know the idiocy of youth."

The boss wanders nonchalantly back to his office, and I take the opportunity to ring the head of IT to say the Boss had something to show him.

"Why'd you do that?" the PFY says.

"So the Boss is looking up Masturbation and hair loss on the web, right."

"Uhuh."

"And he sees the Head walking up, what's he going to do?"

"Close the browser?"

"Get serious, everyone knows what a disappearing window means. No, he'll type a quick word like 'DOG' into Google and click on the first link."

"Which will go to a porn site," the PFY smiles.

"And he'll get flustered and click back, to get to the dog page to have an excuse in case the Head saw something."

"And get a porn bbs..."

"And panic some more."

"And click back again to get out of it..."

"And get the masturbation search again..."

"Which, if you turn off your newsmaker at exactly the right moment..."

"Would give no headlines, just stick links..."

"Oooh, there goes the Head now..."

We hear the very distant sounds of scrabbling...

Slow weeks are bad for everyone. ®

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