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BOFH: The all-clicking, all-whirring Roboboss

Logic can be a wonderful thing

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Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Episode 23

I've got a particularly vexing game of multiplayer Enemy Territory on my hands when the new Boss rolls in and spoils everything. I say new Boss, as the previous one that everyone liked left for greener pastures and then his replacement left on medical grounds after accidentally pushing a paperclip into the live pin of a power socket - being misinformed by someone that it would improve his AM radio reception - scant MINUTES after telling the PFY and I that he was concerned about our high internet usage...

Coincidences abound.

More importantly, with the new building and the forward thinking the whole company has signed itself up for an "Into the Future" initiative for which we're beta testing a robotic brain as a boss while we wait for the appointments process to grind on... I've no idea whose bright idea it was but apparently it came down from 'the very top' so we're now lumbered with a first generation beta test android with a particularly slow processor, limited memory, noisy paging disk and resource contention problems - so no change there.

The large packing crate outside the office was a bit of a giveaway, as was the couple of whitecoats who came from 'an IT personnel consultancy' to help him settle in. The saddest thing, however, is that even without human emotion the robot still gets on better with the staff than his immediate predecessor.

I note a couple of sheets of A4 in the boss's claw, which tends to sway the argument of the Boss's purpose in favour of a technical problem. However, we have been a little barren in the toilet tissue department since the PFY complained to the buildings maintenance manager about the toilet fresheners in the bottom of the urinal, saying he preferred the menthol to the eucalyptus flavour...

Sigh.

"Back the way you came, first left, second right after the lifts!" the PFY says, before the Boss has a chance to engage his voice circuits. "Leave them in the cubicle."

"What?" he starts, stopping mid roll, scanning the room slowly for signs of intelligent life.

"The toilets."

"Oh. No. I was looking for.... >grind grind grind< the person who signed this form."

"No L2 cache at all," the PFY mouths at me before he turns back to the Roboboss. "Which form?"

"This form," the boss responds, releasing the paper onto the PFY's desk.

"Let's have a look at this, blah blah blah, secret weapon, blah blah, maintenance... Yes, it's the maintenance contract for our telephone exchange."

"For 13 thousand pounds. Annually."

"Affirmamundo," the PFY chirps back.

. . .

"Pardon?" the Boss asks, after his word recognition 5-second timeout expires.

"RogerDoger."

"Pardon?"

Realising that both the PFY and the robot could play this game all day and night - at overtime rates if applicable - if someone let them, I decide to step in.

"He means yes."

"Ok. >whirr< Analysing the number of faults, and age of the exchange, I have determined that we could change the maintenance to per-call for the next two years, after which point we would re-evaluate both the exchange and its maintenance contract. I estimate this would save the company ten thousand pounds per annum," the Roboboss warbles.

"But then we won't be invited to the telco end-of-year bash," the PFY whines. "They have cider girls!"

"This would not factor into the calculation of savings."

"Yes, but it's a really good party!" the PFY says. "The place is next door is a boutique cider brewery and they have some sort of contra arrangement for phone support which makes for a pretty exciting event!"

"This would not factor into the calculation of savings."

"So what are your priorities for your role?" I ask. "If that's not leaking too much of your programming to us."

"Prioritised targets are cost savings, stability of service, risk assurance and potential liability."

"And staff morale?"

"This would not figure into my calculations."

"Health and safety?"

"This would not figure into my calculations."

"So what you're saying is that savings are your priority and people are not?"

"They do not factor into my calculation of savings."

"Did you realise that the finance department of this company allocates IT budget and by increasing our budget you could increase your savings targets exponentially?"

">whirr<"

"...and that a large portion of the budget that is not allocated to us is made up by the salaries of the people who staff the finance department?"

">whirr<"

"...and that if less people worked for the finance department you could achieve the exponential savings?"

">whirr<"

"...and that there's a chainsaw behind my assistant's desk fuelled up and ready to go?"

">whirr< >click< Savings computed!"

As the robot grasps the chainsaw and heads to the lift I can't help thinking that... ...the new Boss is shouting at me.

"YOU'RE ASLEEP!" he snaps, as I lurch forward in my chair.

"Just resting my eyes," I say. "The screens are very harsh on your eyes."

"You weren't listening to me, I was saying your internet usage figures are outrageous."

"Oh, yes, of course. We'll look into it immediately. Now, you were saying something about problems with your AM radio reception?"

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