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BOFH: What GPS is for

For having fun with the Boss, of course!

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Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Episode 3

The good thing about sales reps is that they're never too busy to come on site and explain a couple of their products to you if there's a potential sale in it. Better still when the IT consumables company replaces the grizzled veteran of "over a million 8 inch floppies sold" with Susan, a lovely young woman with a pleasant nature and the drinking habits of a CAMRA founding member...

So I'm ordering my second gross of cleaning tapes over a couple of quiet pints at the pub when the Boss trundles in with a sneaky expression on his face to interrupt my important work-related chatting up...

"Uhh... where's your offsider at the moment?" the Boss asks.

"Who?" I ask whilst giving the thumbs up to a third carton of cleaning tapes (which will probably be sufficient to see the company through to the next millennium).

"Your assistant."

"Oh him. He's probably still offsite doing those VPN client installs you asked for."

"How far's he got?"

"No idea," I say. "But at about 20 minutes a time plus half an hour travel he's probably almost done by now."

"So you don't know exactly?" he asks - attempting to make some sort of point. "What if you needed him to help you with something?"

"I'd ring him on his mobile," I suggest.

"What if he's had an accident?" the Boss asks.

"Then he's not going to be any help to me is he?"

"The point I'm trying to make is he should have a GPS on him – or at least the company vehicle should."

"You mean a GPS tracker," I say.

"They're... not the same thing?"

"One is used to help you find where you are, the other’s used to find where something else - like a company car – is."

"Oh, well I suppose in that case we should just have GPS units then."

"But what if the PFY's had an accident?" I ask.

"Like you say - he'd be no help," the Boss says, moving on. "So when can you get a GPS unit - a portable one?"

"We can do you one of those," Susan chips in, downing her pint of cider and flipping over a couple of pages. "A couple of hundred quid'll get you this one which has an SD card slot and a downloadable range of nav voices - from Spock to Billy Graham."

"I'll take it!" the Boss gasps. "Simon’ll fix you up with a purchase order..."

. . .

"What was that about?" the PFY asks, once the Boss has trundled off.

"No idea," I said. "He set a speed record in changing from caring about your welfare to not giving a rat’s..."

"It'll be Geocaching," Susan responds helpfully.

"Geocaching?"

"Yeah, it was mentioned in one of those Management rags a couple of weeks back. It's all the rage as middle managers from all over the place are ordering top-of-the-line GPS units as IT gear. I've sold out of all the top line models already."

"But why’s the Boss spending my budget on toys?"

"It's happening all over the place. The rag has their own geocaching page where employers can leave clues and coordinates for readers to pick up hints on job prospects – the theory being that if you’re good enough to solve the clues you might be a good prospect for employment."

"And this is popular?" the PFY asks.

"Oh yeah!" Susan responds. "We lost one of our people to a company just down the road! They just gave the salary, the GPS coordinates and a simple substitution code clue!"

"And he was gone?"

"Yep. He found the place in his lunch hour and was gone."

"Curiouser and curiouser..." the PFY says thoughtfully. "You wouldn’t know the name of the website would you?"

. . .

A few days later the Boss returns from lunch nursing a black eye, a bloody nose and a broken GPS, so we know the dream’s over...

"What happened?" I ask feigning concern.

"I... tripped," he says. "But I really need to organise a new GPS as the screen on this one’s broken and I have something I need to look up."

"Staring at the screen when you should have been watching where you were going?" the PFY asks, pulling a replacement unit out of his drawer.

"Something like that," the Boss says, leaving the broken GPS and wandering off with its replacement.

"Great stuff this Geocaching," the PFY says, pulling yet another unit out of his drawer. "You find the coordinates of some local night-shift working nutcase, post them - along with some clues that only the Boss could figure out – to the website then pay some kids to ring the nutcase’s doorbell every half hour or so for the next few days before running off... bloody fantastic!"

That’s technology for you – we’re always finding new uses for it!

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