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BOFH: The craptop

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Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Episode 6

One of the stranger urban legends that people harbour about geeks is that we have a deep seated enthusiasm for all problems technical - that the thought of a non-booting PC is our equivalent of a three pipe problem and that we're silently chomping at the bit to discover some problem to pit our skills against.

True, I enjoy a challenge as much as the next card-carrying furry tooth with low social skills, but in my case the challenge tends to be more like: "How do I shoot the armoured guy in FEAR using only a pistol, without slowmo, at advanced difficulty?"

And as a result it always comes as a little bit of a disappointment when the Boss rolls up with some 'challenge' for me to have a look at....

"Have I got a problem for you!" the Boss burbles happily.

"I'm not sure, do you?"

"Yes!"

"In that case, it seems you do."

"Don't you want to hear about it?" he asks.

"..."

"It's my daughter's laptop!"

"Your daughter's laptop?"

"Yes."

"So not a work laptop then?"

"No. Well yes, it used to be. It was my old work one which the company sold me."

"But you've only worked here a couple of months..."

"My old company."

"So you want me to look at a machine that's not work related, not for a worker, and didn't even originate here?"

"Yes."

"Sure bring it in - I'm sure we can do something with it," the PFY says. "And your toaster - is that working good too?"

"Why?"

"We may as well fix that at the same time!"

"No, it's fine," the Boss says, missing the sarcasm. "But I will bring the laptop in - although it's not that portable."

"It's a laptop!"

"Yes, but it's heavy."

"How heavy can a laptop be?"

. . .

The next day dawns and the boss drags the machine in. At first glance it looks like your normal ancient oversized laptop (thankfully not one of those awful luggables with a CRT inside) but a closer inspection reveals a machine made in a time when robustness and impressive weight meant something to a manufacturer.

"Honestly, this thing weighs about 35 pounds!” the PFY gasps, levering it up onto his desk. "What's it made of, lead?!"

"I... don't know" the Boss says, still getting his breath back after the walk from the lift.

"Oooh, inbuilt power supply," I say, stroking the case lovingly. "Always good for an extra pound or so - or ten as it's a transformer based one."

"You're joking," the PFY blurts, looking down the vent holes. "Wow!"

"Yeeees," I say, pushing the power button. "Oooooh, A P2 with 2 memory banks containing... 64 Meg."

"A scorcher - oh, and is that the battery warning light?"

"And after just 12 minutes - I bet it's lead acid".

"Or just lead," the PFY nods. "What are you running 98?"

"Windows XP," the Boss replies.

"Slower than a 5 day cricket test is it?"

"I..."

"You should go to Vista."

"So you like Vista?"

"Not really, no. I run a Vista simulator."

"Virtual Server?" the Boss asks.

"Nah, I just turned on all the flashy crap in XP, changed the background image, took some memory out of my box and clocked down the CPU. Then broke Media player. Works like a charm."

"So you don't like it?"

"No. But it has does have one advantage."

"What's that?"

"It causes a clean reinstall of XP which is generally good from a defrag point of view."

"So you're not really suggesting I install Vista?"

"No. Even if you could you shouldn't - not with this baby/"

"So I should keep XP?"

"No."

"Downgrade to 2000?"

"No."

"Windows 98?"

"No."

"95?"

"No."

"What am I supposed to do with it then?"

"Take my advice," the PFY says. “Nail a couple of planks to either side and use it as a bedside table."

"But... I thought you could do something with it."

"Yeah - the bedside table idea!"

"But it's a perfectly good laptop."

"No, it's a craptop - there's a subtle difference."

"What?"

"About 30 pounds."

"But it's perfectly good."

"Okay, tell you what. Pop it on the front seat of your car, wind the window down and take a walk around the block. I'll bet you 50 quid it's still there when you get back!"

"50 quid?" he echoes.

"50 Quid!" the PFY responds, taking the aforementioned sum out of his wallet and handing it to me.

. . . Two hours later . . .

"It was still there wasn't it?" the PFY says, reaching for his cash.

"Yes," the Boss sighs. "But my car stereo and internal door handles weren't. The stereo's useless to anyone as it's coded to the door key - and who the hell needs door handles?"

"It's a strange world," the PFY agrees as the Boss exits Mission Control shaking his head.

"So this is worthless then?" I say, tossing the Boss's car stereo into the bin. "But why did you want the door handles?"

"Just for the chuckle when he gets home."

"I... Oh! ...So that's why you wanted the fuse for the electric windows."

"Electric Windows Vista - just like the real thing!" the PFY smirks, chucking the handles after the stereo.

Remote control for virtualized desktops

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