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BOFH: The computer whisperer

Hex-eptional sense

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The essential guide to IT transformation

Episode 28

"I can't believe it, I've been trying to get that thing to boot for hours!" the Boss says, shaking his head as the PFY steps back from his desktop.

"Yes," I respond. "I have to admit the PFY has a bit of a silicon thumb when it comes to dodgy hardware - in fact, we call him the computer whisperer."

"The computer whisperer?"

"Yeah, like the horse whisperer except you don't have to show a horse a dogfood tin that needs filling..."

"But you did point out where the problem started..." the PFY adds graciously.

"Yes, how did you work that out so quickly?" the Boss asks suspiciously.

"I just read the crash dump on the blue screen."

"You mean that actually means something?" the Boss blurts.

"To the right people, sometimes, yes. You know how in The Matrix the guy can look at all the numbers on the screen and it makes sense to him? Well, that's what a dump looks like to me. Or, for that matter, what the hex values of porn image are to the PFY here - he's got a sixth sense for it. Why, he could sniff a breast out of a compressed zip file in about 10 seconds!"

"It's true," the PFY admits. "They think it's some autistic thing, I've pretty much always been able to do it. Like yesterday I was looking at a 'data file' and noticed #FFDAB96432FF127F43434378A19F76A166A1321F! The dirty slappers!"

"I..." the Boss asks, before deciding not to pursue this conversation. "So what was wrong?"

"It's faulty memory", the PFY says, undoing the screws on the lid of the Boss' desktop. "I disabled most of it and the machine started, which tends to indicate that some of it is faulty, so what we'll do is just start removing blocks of it till it boots ok

"But how can it be faulty? How can memory fail?"

"Things fail," I say to him. "Washing machines fail, cars fail, searches for weapons of mass destruction fail, it's inevitable!"

"Yes, but it's failed four times!"

"Four times?" the PFY asks, looking up from his work. "What do you mean four times? You've never called about problems before!"

"No, well, I...uh...one of the accountant people was in the office when it crashed recently and he helped me."

"You got a beancounter to fix your machine?!"

"Yeah, well he'd done it a couple of times before."

"Of course he'd done it a couple of times before, he's never done it properly! He's a beancounter! What a beancounter knows about computers you could tattoo on a DIMM with a jackhammer! So what did he say was wrong with it?"

"He said I needed more memory, so he took some out of some old machines of theirs."

"You used old F***ing memory?!" the PFY snaps.

"It wasn't being used any more."

"Neither are underpants at a thrift shop but you don't slap them on!"

"He said it'd be ok - and he did seem to know what he was doing!"

"Yuh," the PFY nods. "Next time someone seems to know what they're doing, get them to tune your car..."

. . . >creak<

"Ohmigoodness" the PFY gasps as he opens the box.

"What?" I ask looking over his shoulder "What's the ma...Oh! I...It's not even matched! You're using about four different types of memory!"

"It's a miracle it ever booted!" the PFY adds. "What an amateur!"

"That's what he said about you buying expensive memory all the time."

"Who cares what he thinks about me, he's a bloody cowboy!" the PFY shouts angrily.

"Look, it's all ok, no real harm done" the Boss says soothingly. "I'll get you some petty cash, you can replace the memory and we'll get the accountant down here so you can tell him what the problem was, what you've done to fix it, and generally bury the hatchet"

"I...I...uh...ok!" the PFY stutters. "Givvus 20 quid."

"Really, is that all memory costs?"

"No, that's what a hatchet costs," I add as the PFY stamps off, being abreast of the price fluctuations in certain retail hardware lines...

...10 minutes later...

"He's hasn't really gone to buy a hatchet has he?" the Boss asks as we kill time waiting for the PFY's return by rebuilding the disk on his desktop machine.

"Nah!" I reply happily.

"Oh good."

"No, there's a perfectly good hatchet in his top drawer."

"You can't be serious!"

"Of course not, he wouldn't do anything like that!"

"Oh, you really had me going there" he sighs.

>CLACK!<

"Now that is more like what he'd do."

"Why's it gone dark?"

"You need the power off when you install some things."

"What things?"

"Hatchets mainly..."

"I..."

>CLACK!<

"And there was light!" I blurt. "And your machine's booting sans extra memory...and it's crashed again because the disk is corrupt from the...uh...power failure"

"So what does it mean?" the boss asks.

"Strangely, that doesn't mean anything to me - it's just a bunch of hex."

"Ooooh" the PFY says, returning to the Boss's office. "Where'd you get the dirty pictures?!"

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