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BOFH: Testing the obscenity filters

You can't say 'can't'

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Security for virtualized datacentres

Episode 20

"Hi, I'd just like some help setting up my Macintosh for access t..."

>SLAM<

. . .

>Ring<

"Hello?" the PFY says.

"Hi, we must have got cut off, I was ringing for a bit of help setting up my Mac..."

>SLAM<

. . .

>RING<

"Is there something wrong with your phone?" the voice asks.

"I don't think so," the PFY says. "But just let me check something... >SLAM<"

. . .

>RING<

"I keep getting cut off - you're not hanging up on me are you?"

"Hanging up? No, no, everything's fine here - perhaps it's one of our PABX features," the PFY says.

"What do you mean, PABX features?"

"The PABX. It's got some filtering firmware in it to prevent foul language - a bit like Mail Marshall, but for voice streams."

"You can't be serious?"

"Oh yes, it's the latest thing to stop office harassment. You enable the filtering and then it just terminates conversations that contain foul language before they get the company into trouble. That way the company is seen to be proactive about preventing workplace harassment. Funny thing is I don't think we enabled it on our phone system."

"So it's not that?"

"It might be - I'll have to check. C*cks*ck*r." >SLAM<

. . .

>Ring<

"Was that it, all I heard was c..."

"Ars*B*ndit!” >SLAM!<

"MY TURN!" I gasp, as the phone rings again.

>Ring<

"NUMBKN*TS!” >SLAM!<

>Ring<

"CHUTNEY FERRET!" I shout. >SLAM!<

Classic! The PFY has discovered a way to call users names with impunity! He's a bloody genius!

>Ring<

"George W Bu...” >SLAM!<

>Ring<

"STOP IT!" our user gasps, before I can think of something really inappropriate.

"Stop what?" I ask.

"Stop testing your system on me! And why are two of you doing it?"

"Oh," I say. "I was just trying to eliminate the possibility that it was only happening on certain extensions."

"Well all people at this end can hear is you shouting names at me!"

"Oh, right," I say. "We were just doing some debugging as well and it seems that heightened volume - which indicates vocal stressors - has a higher weighting than the ordinary spoken word. So just saying c*cksuc*r...” >SLAM<

>Ring<

"My mistake," I say. "It seems that at any volume c*cksuc*er...” >SLAM<

>Ring<

"This is ridiculous! You can't..."

>SLAM<

>Ring<

"Hello?" the PFY says.

"What happened then?"

"I'm not sure?" the PFY says.

"All I said was you can't..."

>SLAM<

>Ring<

"There's no need to be like that," the PFY says. "It's not our fault - it's the software!"

"I said CAN'T!"

>SLAM<

>Ring<

"Now just take it easy," the PFY says. "We're only trying to help you sort this out!"

"I'm not swearing at you!"

"Oh right!" the PFY says, feigning enlightenment. "You were saying the abbreviated version of 'cannot'?"

"YES!" the user cries.

"Gotcha. I think it's probably just an accent or dialect thing on the part of the voice recognition circuit. I can probably adjust the settings on it if you like," the PFY says, nodding meaningfully to me.

The penny drops and I login to the PABX management console.

"OK, how do I do that?"

"All you need to do is just repeat, I dunno, 20 or 30 times the 'you cannot' abbreviation and we'll recalibrate it to your particular inflection and you'll be sorted - it'll never drop your conversations again."

"OK. You CA..."

"NOT NOW!" the PFY interrupts. "It'll just get messed up with the rest of this session. You have to create a NEW session so that ONLY the words you want recalibrated get recalibrated."

"Oh. So I just ring you back and repeat the words?"

"Yes. But hang on, what's that?" I say, joining the conversation.

"What's what?"

"I've just noticed that our PABX monitoring software is running on overclocked processors - which is probably part of the problem. So you probably need to repeat the phrase as quickly as possible, 20 or 30 times. Loudly. As soon as we answer to reduce white noise."

"OK - so I just ring you back and do it."

"Yes - but remember, we won't talk because then it'd recalibrate us, not you."

"OK, I'll call right back!"

And that, as they say, is that.

He hangs up, I repatch our phone line to the CEO's humourless PA and he recalibrates himself out of a job.

No one believes the story about the voice filtering of course.

The PFY fakes an email from him to the aforementioned PA, just in case there's any doubt in her mind...

"That was a hell of a lot of work to go to just to avoid telling someone you don't do Macs," I say.

"Yeah, but it had to be done," the PFY replies. "Anyway I'm thinking we should tell everyone the new building isn't compatible with Macs."

"Go on, say we can't do it!"

Like I said, he's a bloody genius...

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