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BOFH: Moon landings, Pong and the case of the smoking server

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Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Episode 2

"It's about your assistant," the Boss says, looking around carefully as he nods me into his office.

"Yes?"

"He told me something yesterday. Something disturbing."

"Oh, I wouldn't believe everything he says, he's prone to making outrageous statements. I mean the goat lived and the charges against him were dropped."

"What?!"

"Oh. Uh, Nothing."

"It wasn't about whatever you were talking about."

"Oh, you mean the other thing. Well, he was young and needed the roubles."

"What? No! It was about IT!"

"Oh he didn't bang on and on about printer manufacturers not being in the printer manufacturing business but actually being in the inkjet cartridge business?"

"Uh, no."

"Not about search engines using the word 'privacy clause' when they're going so far out the other side it should actually be called 'lack of privacy clause'?"

"No."

"Listen" I say, stepping into the Boss's office and lowering my voice. "One thing you ought to know about my assistant: he's a paranoid individual. Very paranoid."

"How paranoid?"

"You know the moon landings?"

"He thinks they faked the moon landings?" the Boss sighs.

"No, he thinks they landed on the moon then started up the moon landing conspiracy thing just to cover up what they found up there."

"What did they find up there?"

"Microchips," I say, lowering my voice even further.

"Microchips?"

"Yes, he thinks they found microchips up there, which gave them a head start on development - you know, like Terminator... uh... 3... Or 2. One of them anyway."

"But we already had microchips back then."

"Nah, it was all valves, transistors and a bit of thin film back then. I mean I personally believe the whole thing was faked just because the technology wasn't up to it. I mean if a solid fuel booster only just gets a shuttle into space how the hell did they get a '60s computer up there? Have you ever seen a '60s computer? It's all steel and Bakelite! They'd need a solid fuel rocket just to lift the thing into the launch vehicle!"

"I... uh..."

"And we're also talking Space Invader technology that hadn't even got as far as Pong, and yet we're supposed to believe that it could land a craft on the surface of the moon? Did you ever play Lunar Lander?"

"I... No."

"Exactly, it was really hard, right?"

"No, I mean that's not what he said."

"Was it about. Not his Wiki-Search dream?"

"Wiki Search?"

"His public domain search engine where people donate cpu cycles to build the perfect search beast. No advertiser tracking, no privacy invasion. Also, he does drink a lot," I say

"No. I think I should just explain. He was talking about servers."

"Oh, you mean how manufacturers never standardise on power supplies because they want to screw you over with spares - so a 1000W power supply for one server isn't interchangeable with another server, because while it's the same internally, the plug, size and mounting holes are completely different. Yes, they do love slipping it up your date when you're not looking at the fine print."

"No. Look, I'm trying to explain. We were talking about maintenance contracts."

"Oh, you mean how they SAY next business day but don't answer calls after about 3:30pm. And they say "business hours" but really mean business hours in Bangladesh or whereever they've outsourced their call centre to. And when they say 'Phone Support' they mean some poor bastard who's never even seen one of the servers, who doesn't know the meaning of the words 'YES, I ALREADY TRIED THAT' and 'I CAN'T RUN DIAGNOSTICS IF IT WON'T POWER UP' and 'WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES THE BLOODY OPERATING SYSTEM MAKE IF THE BLOODY SERVER HAS SMOKE POURING OUT THE FRONT OF IT?!"

"No, I mean he was talking about extending our maintenance contract."

"Now that's a good idea. Extend your maintenance contract – only they won't do it because suddenly all your server hardware is discontinued and only available for already extended service contracts. Then one day you find out that parts are discontinued automatically by the online ordering process and unfortunately the only power supplies they have left are the ones which won't fit into your chassis – but they do have a forklift upgrade option..."

"No it wasn't about power supplies."

"Good, because that's where they get you. My favourite was the 2+1 supply. You had to have two of three supplies running for the server to stay up. So the one which always smoked out and shorted phase to ground was bloody ALWAYS the phase that you'd unfortunately slapped two plugs into because you only put two phases to each rack," I fume.

"Yes, well I think perhaps we should probably, uh, talk about this some other time," the Boss says, creeping back towards the door...

"Don't talk to me about time. Have you noticed how the clocks here run slow? It's because they're the cheap ones they buy from the US which are tuned to 60Hz. Plug them into a 50Hz supply and suddenly the work day's just extended out by about 18 per cent – and you bloody know they didn't choose those babies by acc.. >KZZERT!<"

"He's been under a lot of pressure recently," The PFY says in the muffled distance. "He gets a little... paranoid. And he does drink a lot..." ®

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