BOFH: Licence to grill ... stupid users

The phone rings. Ah, live bait!

Episode 18


"Hello, You're speaking with Simon – or rather, Version 3.1 recurring"

"Sorry?" my user asks.

"Version 3.1 recurring. Speaking."

"Can't you just give me Office 2003 back?" he whines.

"Sorry, Office 2003 is ancient history – like calculator watches, white jeans for men and the expression 'snazzy'."


"It was superseded by 'cool' I suppose."

"No, I meant why is Office 2003 history?"

"Because there's a revenue stream to protect."

"A revenue stream?"

"Yeah, you know, give a man a fish and he's fed for a day, sell a man a fishing rod and he's fed for a week – till you release fishing rod 2.0 which doesn't snap with fish heavier than a pound, then he's fed for another week – till you release fishing rod 3.0, which doesn't snap on fish heavier that 1.25 pounds, and he's fed for another week, and so on. You keep paying."

"But in the end you'll run out of versions."

"Weren't you listening earlier? We'll never run out of versions! Version 4 has what we'll call 'lightning wire' technology to make it reel faster or some other crap. All designed by the savant team who studied penguin fish catching techniques in between treatments."

"But penguins don't use f..."

"Version 5 will come with a nanite-structure filament or some other bollocks which won't work on older rods – although we'll sell you a compatibility winder that will almost work – so long as you don't want to reel fish in after you catch them. And we just keep doing that until you start to realise that rod version 3 would probably have been OK for the fishing you want to do, instead of paying for the enhancements to rod features that you've never used."

"I don't think..."

"Okay, How many times have you created a table of contents?"


"I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say twice. A bibliography or cross-reference – outside of when you were at university?"


"Never, though you've heard of people who do. If I suggested the vast percentage of your Word experience would be typing, spelling & grammar checking and the occasional Styles and Formatting attempt that you end up regretting, would I be wrong?"


"I didn't think so. And so you'll realise that you don't want to upgrade to the latest rod because this one catches fish just fine."


"But what you don't know is that we've designed new fish which won't work with the old rods – though we know that even these changes won't work forever, so we start implying that we never sold you the rod in the first place – we just leased it to you."


"And then we realise that a rod is actually a bunch of components: a rod, a reel, line, hooks, swivels, etc – so we hint that your rod is the base rental and that all that other stuff was just addons. VERSION 9 clarifies all this and that you can lease the additional features if you want, otherwise we want the rod back and you'll have to use openrod, which is only really used by hippies, small children and mental patients."

"But that's extortion!"

"If by extortion you mean the world of licensing, then yes. A base rod licence will permit you to fish without reel, line, sinkers etc. On dry land, into dirt. You can buy the equipment addons, the streams and rivers addon, the salt water addon which, if purchased with the streams and rivers addon permits you to fish from land into the sea, but not from on a boat into the sea – because that requires the open water licence addon."

"Why would I buy a salt water licence by itself then?"

"Because you might want to fill your tub with salt water and fish in it. We don't know why you'd want to, but we're sure people do that, and this permits them to do so. Oh, and fishing is a trademark of ours now, as is saltwater, salt, water, streams, rivers, any wavy sign that doesn't look like that of a popular carbonated beverage, etc."


"Of course if you want to keep the fish you catch you'll need a fish acquisition licence, and we have four different levels of this: Personal, Home, Fishing boat and Fishing Company."

"What's the..."

"It's based on the average daily requirement, so a Fishing Company might be permitted several boatloads, a fishing boat would be permitted a boatload, a home maybe three fish and a personal user ½ a fish"

"½ a fish?"

"Yes, the recommended fish intake for a person says two fish meals a week, so that works out to one every three days or which is ⅓ of a fish a day. We rounded up to ½ because we care."

"So I'd only be licensed to catch a fish every couple days?"

"No, you'd be licensed to catch ½ a fish a day. Catching a whole fish would be a violation of your licence."

"So to be within the licence terms I'd have to buy the Home licence."

"If that's the way you wish to fish yes. But we like to give you options."

"So I'm licensed to catch and keep fish then?"

"Absolutely. We have an annual fish consumption licence as well – if you're planning on eating them."

"What else would you do with them?"

"Apart from stuffing them through the mail slot in the main office door of a licensing company three days after you caught them? No idea. Anyway, the consumption licence is very reasonable – about 10 per cent of the acquisition licence per annum."

"I wouldn't pay."

"You would, because the small print in the Version 9 permits us to recover the rod and features if you fail to renew your licence – plus an administration fee. We already have enough money so we'll be taking the fee in testicles. Perhaps you'd like to speak to our licensing officer?"

>bip< >bip< >bip< >bip<

"Hello Stephen 4.1-Alpha speaking"

"I... was talking about licens... >SLAM!<"

>ring ring<

"Hello Stephen 4.1-Alpha speaking. If you have any problems with the reliability of this version ple >SLAM!<

>ring ring<

"Hello Stephen 4.1 RC2 speaking. We have determined that you are running an unlicensed version of our user support. This facility will now disconnect"



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