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Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Episode 23

"I have a little job for you," the Boss burbles handing a wadge of paper to the PFY.

"A...computer room fit out," the PFY says with disdain, eyeing the papers in the manner generally reserved for the observance of dog excrement on one's footwear. "What's the catch?"

"No catch - I thought you'd find it interesting."

"I didn't think the company had the money to fix the current computer room, let alone build a new one - and from scratch on a green fields site if I'm not mistaken," I add, giving the documents the once over.

"That's because it isn't our company building this computer room," the Boss replies.

"But you want us to design it?" the PFY asks.

"Yes."

"Even though we're not contracted to them?"

"No, no, we are contracted to them," the Boss says.

"I meant the Bastard 'we'"

"The Bastard 'we'?"

"It's like the Royal 'we' but far more dangerous," I add helpfully.

"Traffic tunnels in Paris excepted," the PFY adds.

"I...What do you mean not contracted?" the Boss asks.

"THIS company has a contract with ANOTHER company," the PFY explains slowly. "But WE do not."

"Yes, but YOU have a contract with THIS COMPANY," the Boss says equally slowly.

"But not to work for other companies, just to work for this one."

"And this company is subcontracting you to the other company," the Boss replies smugly.

"I think you'll find that our contract..."

"...mentions nothing about subcontracting your services to another company," he counters smartly. "I know - I had the company solicitors give your contract the once-over. As impressed as they were about the numerous strange clauses in your contract - their favourite being the extortionate penalty payment for remaining at work after a UFO sighting in the vicinity of the building - they believe that there's nothing to stop us using you to provide services to other companies."

"I..." the PFY says, looking to me for support.

"He's probably right," I admit grudgingly. "I doubt I ever thought of that contingency."

"It's not like you're not getting PAID for it," the Boss snaps nastily. "So anyway, how long do you think it'll take?"

"To write up a full specification for tender purposes?" I ask.

"Yes"

"Three days or so, depending on interruptions..."

"Ok, get to it then!!" the Boss chirps happily as he trundles out.

...Three days later...

"So this is it then?" the Boss asks, fingering an impressively large pile of paper.

"It is," I say. "The first 10 pages or so are a definition of terms so that some dodgy outfit can't reinterpret, for instance, the words CAT-6 as something other than that intended by a reputable standards body. After that there is a chapter each on power+lighting, generator+UPS, air-conditioning, structured cabling, acceptable cable ducting and feeding methods, underfloor and ceiling space provision, earthquake and flood protection, environmental monitoring and alarms, security systems + access + alarms, secure on and offsite data storage requirements and finally 24x7 services."

"24x7 services?"

"Espresso machine, sofa, TV, fridge, microwave, telephone with pizza company on speed-dial, etc."

"I think we might perhaps leave that one out, but the rest sounds fairly comprehensive."

"As indeed it is. It'll be a couple of weeks of someone's time wading through the responses to that baby," the PFY says, patting the pile of paper happily.

"Which reminds me of another little job I had for you..." the Boss adds smugly.

...

"...and the response we've decided to accept is this one," the PFY says, fingering the successful candidate.

"Why?" the head of IT asks, beating the Boss to the punch.

"They're inexpensive but not cheap, their response was clear and readable, they've got a good track record of putting machine rooms together in the past and they use reputable products and people," I say. "It's not often you see all that in one package."

"Well, I have to say that I'm both pleased and surprised," the Boss says cheerfully. "You appear to have done a thorough job of it."

"We are professionals, and after all, we were getting PAID to do it," the PFY says, handing this month's invoices to the head of IT.

"Who was it?" the head of IT sighs sadly.

"Him," the PFY says, pointing at the Boss.

"What?" the Boss asks.

"When?" the head of IT asks, ignoring the Boss.

"Moments after we got the word that we had to write up a spec," the PFY adds happily.

"WHAT?" the Boss asks.

"You would have been standing by a window," the head of IT says bitterly, a painful memory of his first week in the company rising to the surface. "And one of these two would have said something like 'look at that, is it an Airbus 320 or an Airbus 340'?"

"The actual question was 'is that a 747-200F or a 747-200C'?" the PFY says.

"Yes?" the Boss says.

"And you said something like 'I dunno' didn't you?" the head asks.

"Well, I don't know anything about planes," he replies defensively.

"And what do we call a flying object that you can't identify?" the PFY asks.

"Oh..." the Boss says. "I'll get me coat..."

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