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BOFH: No, the Fabinocci sequence

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Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Episode 14

"I'm just here to do the audit," a weedy bloke says, poking his head nervously into Mission Control.

"What audit?" the PFY says, reading my mind.

"The safety audit – surely they told you about it?"

"No, nothing," the PFY responds.

"Ah," the Weed says. "Well, I've got a checklist of all the accidents that have occurred in or around the IT rooms in the past year which we'd like to work through the causes of."

"Oh," the PFY says, "so nothing to do with the purchases we recently made from the Health and Safety cost centre?"

"What? No. So you're saying you spent some money improving safety?"

"We certainly did!" I gasp. "Let me show you!"

The Weed follows us in to the Server Room and I start pointing out the improvements we've made.

"Okay, so just follow me and walk where I walk!" I say.

>Crash!<

"Are you all right?" the PFY asks, helping the Weed up.

"I..." he stammered ...

"... didn't walk where I walked," I finish. "See, we realised that a lot of the near fatalities in this room are caused by people blundering in to areas that were potentially dangerous – so to prevent this we've installed trips in the raised floor. If you step in the wrong place the tile collapses, tripping you up – but keeping you from a greater danger!"

"But how do you know which tiles are..."

"Good and bad?" the PFY asks. "It's the Fabinocci sequence!"

"Ah! So the next one would be 1 as well – and then 2, which would mean *this* one ..."

>Crash!<

"Yeah, I think you're thinking of the Fibonacci sequence, which is something different altogether. We were talking about the distribution of pepperoni on a pizza at Fabinocci's across the road ..."

"So you mean it's random? But how do you know?"

"We don't – we just bring someone into the server room when we need to do something," the PFY says, three-finger-saluting the Linux box which has been playing up for a couple of days.

"Ah. Well, while we're here can we discuss the Halon system?"

"Sure," I say. "What would you like to know?"

"Firstly, why're you still using Halon?"

"Ah, right. The Halon system was in the building when we took it over, designed to flood both levels of the basement area. When the company found out how much it would cost to dispose of the Halon they realised that repurposing it for the server room would be vastly cheaper – as it wasn't technically a new installation. Then, when the Halon was all used up it would be replaced with a different system. See, it turns out that if Halon's discharged in response to an emergency there's no disposal fee or penalty – however if we just vented it to air ..."

"So ..."

"Having fire-based emergencies is the cheapest way to get rid of Halon, yes."

"I, uh..." he stammers, lost for words. "Moving on then. Sixteen incidents involving broken limbs – 12 of which occurred in stairwells."

"I put that down to panic," the PFY says. "People rushing to stairwells etc – and we recently did something to address that!"

"Really, what?"

"We fitted electrochromic glass in strategic positions in the office. The windows turn opaque during an ... incident – like so >click< – which, in combination with their multiple-glazed noise-deadening construction means that the staff don't witness things which might make them upset or fearful, resulting in a situation of calm. Panicked evacuations are now a thing of the past."

"I see," the Weed says, scratching down some notes. "What about electrocution – that seems to feature highly in your accident statistics."

"Poorly constructed access panels to the switchboards," The PFY says, stepping carefully over to the switchboard. "See the screws on the panels? They only need a ¼ of a turn and they pull out of the cage nut in the back – exposing the bus bars. Often just the mechanical impact of someone touching them is enough to make them come loose."

"I..." the Weed says, shaking his head. "Nothing you've shown me today has made it seem as though your workplace is anything more than a deathtrap for the uninitiated. My hands are tied on this one: until this workplace is made safer it poses a clear and present danger to anyone working in it, and as such should be immediately shut do.. >crash<"

>clatter!<

>KZZZZZEEEEERTT!<

>HISSS!<

... Moments later, outside Mission Control...

"Well the good news is that we're one discharge nearer to replacing the Halon system!" the PFY says to the Boss.

"Really? Why's that?" the Boss says. "Hey – wasn't the server room viewing window CLEAR glass this morning?" ®

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