Simon Travaglia

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Simon Travaglia is the author of BOFH, the Bastard Operator from Hell, the long-running series about a rogue sysadmin. He lives in New Zealand.
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BOFH: The Mandelboat virus

If there's one thing a lifetime in computing teaches you, it's how to cover up your mistakes... "Oopsy," the PFY says in a casual tone mid-keypress - the sort of casual tone which, by its very casualness, means it's not casual at all. "What did you do?" I sigh, fully expecting to hear that some poor user now has a vast amount …
Simon Travaglia, 03 Oct 2008

BOFH: Remote access malarkey

"...And so you can just log in to my machine and look at it whenever you like?" our user asks indignantly. "Uh-huh," the PFY says, fixing the user's printer settings while he's talking. "And I don't have to give you permission or anything?" "I'd have assumed that was implied by ringing the helpdesk?" the PFY says. "Yes but …
Simon Travaglia, 19 Sep 2008

BOFH: Back in the saddle

“How are you doing?” I say cheerfully, extending my hand in greeting to the two cabling guys that the beancounters got to shift some data cabling around – without telling us. “Clint and... John isn't it?” “Ay?” One of them says. “I'm Steve and this is Dave.” “My mistake,” I say. “I was obviously thinking of Clint Eastwood and …
Simon Travaglia, 12 Sep 2008
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BOFH: Lock and reload

"We should sue!" the PFY snaps angrily, thumping the Boss's desk with vigour. "We can't let them get away with this!" "Really?" the Boss asks. "I'd hardly have thought you'd want to sue a fellow professional?" "PROFESSIONAL!" the PFY gasps. "They're cowboys! What sort of outsourcing company wouldn't put in a redundant network …
Simon Travaglia, 05 Sep 2008
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BOFH: Burying the hatchet

There's something about a newly refurbished building that just appeals. Whether it's the contrast of old and new (i.e. the ancient glass fronted axe cases in the stairwell which no-one in their right mind would install these days, versus the almost ubiquitous security cameras which everyone seems to be installing these days) is …
Simon Travaglia, 15 Aug 2008

BOFH: Smash + grab

The long-awaited weekend has almost arrived! The migration of the server room to the new site and the transfer of our 'crucial' services to the successful tendering party (ie our ghost facility) is about to commence. "But I still don't see why we need to pay a data transfer fee!" the Boss whinges. "Because they'll need to put a …
Simon Travaglia, 08 Aug 2008
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BOFH: Server room secret panels

“It's a little... uh... large, isn't it?” one of our beancounters says as he scans the computer room in the new building during a site visit. “Optical illusion,” the PFY counters. “Machine rooms always look oversized when there's no kit in them. Take my word for it, once we install the racks and the cable trays the place will …
Simon Travaglia, 01 Aug 2008

BOFH: The PFY wants a reference

"So let's just get this straight," I say to the PFY as he hovers about my desk. "You want me to write a reference for you lauding you as a veritable workplace IT savant who can leap laser printers in a single bound, bend RFPs in his bare hands and generally manage an IT project with the ease of a veteran?" "Yes." "So you can …
Simon Travaglia, 18 Jul 2008

BOFH: The admin gene

"Woah!" the PFY breathes, looking up quickly. "Woah what?" the Boss asks, looking around cautiously, as I re-enter the room from the passage to the server room. "Nope, it'll be OK," I say to the PFY, ignoring the Boss for a moment. "What'll be OK?" "Are you sure?" the PFY asks. "It was quite noticeable." "What was …
Simon Travaglia, 04 Jul 2008

BOFH: The all-clicking, all-whirring Roboboss

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 …
Simon Travaglia, 20 Jun 2008
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BOFH: Shafting the consultants over the new layout

So we've got some external consultants here blundering through the requirements for the new building as a QA thing.. "It's not that we don't trust you," the Boss explains. "Far from it. It's just that senior management would like some assurance that everything you've asked for is a requirement and not just a nice-to-have." "A …
Simon Travaglia, 13 Jun 2008

BOFH: Dealing with engineers

It seems the cunning machinations from last week have come to no avail - someone at the coloured pencil office still wants the PFY to give them a hand installing some macintoshes. "I hate going to see the designers," the PFY whines. "They're a bunch of overfed smelly beatniks who think that buying expensive desktops makes them …
Simon Travaglia, 06 Jun 2008

BOFH: Testing the obscenity filters

"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 …
Simon Travaglia, 30 May 2008
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BOFH: The Batcave

"You know," I say to the PFY as I pore over some building plans. "I don't think the beancounters are as big a set of idiots as we've given them credit for." "How's that then?" the PFY asks. "This building they've bought - I've done some admittedly rough sums based around the floor space and previous sales in the area, and I …
Simon Travaglia, 23 May 2008

BOFH: The PFY's comeuppance

Some things you just don't want to waste half a day doing. Like talking to the company's shrink about whether the PFY should be referred to the authorities or not... "Okay, so my name is Catherine, I'm just gathering some background on what occurred a couple of days ago and would like to ask you some questions about Stephen's …
Simon Travaglia, 16 May 2008

BOFH: Shiny new computer room

"I think I have some good news..." the Boss chirps happily as he skips into Mission Control. "Good news?" the PFY says. "Very good news!" he gushes. "On a scale of one to ten?" "Ten - at least!" "Really," I say. "And what could possibly register as a ten?" "You're going to get a new computer room!" he blurts. "A new …
Simon Travaglia, 09 May 2008

BOFH: The Boss gets Grandpa Simpson syndrome

"...And we used to do pretty much everything from the switches on the front panel – bootstrapping, diagnostics, machine code reprogramming – all on toggle switches!" the Boss burbles happily "...those were the days!" "I'm sure they were," the PFY says dryly, rolling his eyes out of the Boss' view. "Oh, that was just the tip …
Simon Travaglia, 02 May 2008

BOFH: PFY's mum pays a visit

"And this is... uh... where I work >click<" the PFY says, opening the door briefly before closing it again and walking off. Curious... Moments later, the PFY is back and the door opens again briefly with a quick, "Ahh, my desk is the one over there. >click<" Curiouser... A short time later the door reopens once more and the …
Simon Travaglia, 25 Apr 2008
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BOFH: Licensing model

So the Boss had sensed a touch of animosity between us and one of our main software vendors after a recent bill and decided to grab the bull by the horns and invite them in to press-the-flesh and explain the new charging model they applied to us - without notice. Apparently, their reasoning ends up being that the new licensing …
Simon Travaglia, 18 Apr 2008
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BOFH: Lift laughs

"You HAD to push the button, didn't you?" the PFY snaps angrily at the Boss in the dark of the elevator. "I only just TOUCHED it!" the Boss snivels. "It's not like I actually PRESSED it!" "Now, now," I say. "No use crying over fried control panels. We need to take a look at how bad it is before we start getting upset. And …
Simon Travaglia, 11 Apr 2008
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BOFH: The London Underground vending machine conspiracy

>crash!< >stomp< >stomp< >stomp< >stomp< >clump< "Nice trip in then?" I ask the PFY as the Boss looks on warily. "Straight through was it, no stopping every ten seconds then?" "The tube was fine," the PFY snaps back. "Something else the matter then?" I ask. "Did someone get up on the wrong side of the traffic island?" "I …
Simon Travaglia, 04 Apr 2008
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BOFH: Fun with automatic doors

"Really, I thought they'd be right up your alley!" the Boss sniffs disappointedly. "They're just sliding doors!" I comment. "Yes, but they're intelligent sliding doors – they've got scanners and a computer interface and everything!" "That's as may be, but they're not secure doors." "Yes they are, they use face recognition …
Simon Travaglia, 28 Mar 2008

BOFH: Impatience

"You’re not listening to me!" the Boss snaps. "Hmm?" "You’re not listening to me!" "Course I am," I say distractedly. "What did I say then?" "The users are unhappy." "I… What about?" the Boss asks, temporarily foiled by my Geller-like guesswork. "Some user thing or the other – their stupidity, the computer doing what …
Simon Travaglia, 21 Mar 2008

BOFH: On the brink

“You don’t have to do this,” I say calmly to the PFY as the wind and rain washes and whistles around us on the roof of the building. “I do!” the PFY says. “I have to!” “You don’t – it’s not... necessary” I say. “It IS!” the PFY counters urgently. “I must!” “Let's just think about this clearly,” I say, speaking quietly so …
Simon Travaglia, 14 Mar 2008
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BOFH: The secret gentlemen's club

It's mid afternoon and the PFY and I are sneaking around the building in pursuit of the IT director because he's acting funny... [READER: DEGAUSS NOW FOR FLASHBACK REALISM!] ...10 minutes ago... "Right, so you just want this signed then?" the director asks, scribbling blindly at the bottom of the page. "Okay, now if you'll …
Simon Travaglia, 07 Mar 2008

BOFH: Vampires!

Today's going to be a bad day, I can tell. Not because of the evil machinations of the managing classes, nor the heat seeking stupidity of our users, nor even the Machiavellian plans of our suppliers... No, today is going to be bad because the PFY has had insomnia for the past week or so. His game playing marathons have upset …
Simon Travaglia, 29 Feb 2008

BOFH: Insecurity complex

It’s Mission Control late one morning and we’re giving the Boss a damn good listening to... “...and I’ve been talking to Jim from P.R and he says that we can probably do a little better on our machine maintenance because when he was working in a former company he managed to get a 48 per cent reduction in price by presenting …
Simon Travaglia, 22 Feb 2008

BOFH: The Silence of the Servers

"Ah the long, dark reaches of intrigue!" I say faux-casually in the dark, scaring the Boss half to death. "What the hell are you doing here?" he cries when he's collected himself, no doubt readjusting his underpants in response to the recent extra loading. "It's a computer room, I belong here," I say, getting up from the …
Simon Travaglia, 15 Feb 2008

BOFH: Carbon neutrality

"What're they for?" the PFY asks as the Boss rolls in a trolley load of brightly coloured plastic bins. "They're for our recycling initiative," the Boss responds. "Red for plastic, white for paper, yellow for cardboard and blue for polystyrene." "What about glass?" the PFY asks. "Glass is to be sorted by colour into bins in …
Simon Travaglia, 01 Feb 2008

BOFH: What GPS is for

The good thing about sales reps is that they're never too busy to come on site and explain a couple of their products to you if there's a potential sale in it. Better still when the IT consumables company replaces the grizzled veteran of "over a million 8 inch floppies sold" with Susan, a lovely young woman with a pleasant …
Simon Travaglia, 26 Jan 2008
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BOFH: Defusing the enthusiast

Isn't it always the way that at the beginning of the year, when your enthusiasm for work is at an ebb, that the Boss decides it's a good time to get someone in to talk about some piece of software that you just don't want to use? And isn't it also always the case that when you get someone in to talk to you they're not only an …
Simon Travaglia, 18 Jan 2008
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BOFH: Memory short circuit

There must be something in the water. I've got a shocking case of nominal amnesia which I can't shake and the PFY just isn't helping. True, being locked in a lift for several hours (until I'd fed sufficient pound notes through the doors to the PFY) just prior to the holidays didn't help, but I'm never really any good at getting …
Simon Travaglia, 11 Jan 2008

BOFH: Beancounter bashing

"You know what your probblim is?" one of the Beancounters slurs, using the ISO certified phrase to indicate that the speaker's had too much to drink "...you're out of touch!" "Really?" the PFY says, tipping back his drink with one hand while setting his modified cattle prod to 'stir-fry' with the other. "How's that then …
Simon Travaglia, 28 Dec 2007

BOFH: The trivia quiz

BOFH: The Trivia Quiz Yes! It's time for the Bastard Trivia Quiz! Test your skill! Place your bets! General Knowledge 1. You're in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. Where do you go? A. N B. S C. E D. W E. To lunch 2. Network utilisation figures are reaching an all time high for no apparent reason. This probably …
Simon Travaglia, 21 Dec 2007

BOFH: Balancing the budget...

"Got a bit of work on I see," the Boss says, peering around the large mound of cartons clogging up Mission Control. "No, no, things are very quiet at the moment." "So what's all this then?" "This," I say, tapping on a carton. "is a... laptop, one of a batch of... nine, while this >tap< is a top-of-the-line workstation, one …
Simon Travaglia, 14 Dec 2007
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BOFH: Xmas party: Get a wriggle on

"Get a jiggle on," I tell the PFY as I clamber into the work vehicle, "or we'll be late." "Take it easy," the PFY responds calmly. "Stacks of time. The place doesn't even open for another hour." "Yeah, but it'll take us that long to get there!" I snap. "I'm sure we'll be ok," the Boss says, clambering into the back seat. "It …
Simon Travaglia, 07 Dec 2007

BOFH: Friday madness

It's a Friday afternoon and the clock has stopped. All the clocks have stopped. It's been 2:15pm for the past two hours, I'm sure of it. "COME OOOOONNN!" the PFY whines. "It's no use," I say. "The seconds hand is moving but the minutes hand has just stopped!" "I want the pub," the PFY gasps. "I NEED the pub!" "Me too," I …
Simon Travaglia, 30 Nov 2007

BOFH: Spreading the festive cheer

"Ahhhhhh," I sigh cheerfully. "Smell that?" "You mean the whiff of cardboard, seasonal green and red ink and just a hint of glitter?" the PFY responds. "MMmmmm," I mumble. "Well, it's Christmas season again, isn't it?" the PFY concurs. "No... It's Christmas CARD season again," I say. "For the next three weeks we can expect …
Simon Travaglia, 23 Nov 2007

BOFH: Workplace accidents = 0

"Excellent," the new Boss burbles as the PFY updates the 'days since last workplace accident' sign (put there since the last IT decimation). "Ten days since the last accident." "I think you'll find that's a binary number," the PFY says. "Still... 10 days," the Boss counters to much rolling of eyes. "And that's only because …
Simon Travaglia, 16 Nov 2007

BOFH: How dangerous are your users?

Simon is resting this week. So we are republishing a quiz from 2004, this time with added interactive mojo. An online sysadmins resource Sure, your users may look about as likely to rebel as the pack of mindless sheep that they are - but can they be trusted? Are your users reading forbidden literature? Are they trying to climb …
Simon Travaglia, 09 Nov 2007

BOFH: Budget cuts

Things are dire in Mission Control. Our plans for company IT domination have backfired on us like a baked bean vindaloo with a boiled cabbage chaser followed by a double helping of pickled onion ice-cream. And 10 pints of fizzy lager... "So you're saying that we have no operating budget?" I ask. "None," the head Beancounter …
Simon Travaglia, 02 Nov 2007
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BOFH: A foray into HR

"It’s a somewhat unique situation," the HR droid says to the PFY and me as we meet in the IT director's office. "You see we've never replaced an entire department at one time and as such we need to be sure that due diligence takes place." "Due diligence?" the PFY asks. "Well yes. From a company standpoint we want to ensure …
Simon Travaglia, 26 Oct 2007
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BOFH: The bastard wants to know

IT is a complex business and let's face it, hard to keep up with. At some stage in your career you're going to pass the point of no return where the next technological leap means as much to you as human rights to a defence contractor. But have you passed this point already? Are you just pretending to be the IT expert that you …
Simon Travaglia, 19 Oct 2007

BOFH: A tragic accident

It's an exceptionally quiet morning at Mission Control and the PFY and I are killing time by rifling through the director's PA's drawers to see if she left anything good behind when she departed the company. "Ah... excuse me?" a voice asks haltingly from behind the partition. "Yep?" the PFY asks, always willing to help out …
Simon Travaglia, 12 Oct 2007

BOFH: Skip diplomacy

"Hurry up and get the door open!" I gasp as the PFY fumbles with his swipe card at the back door of the building. "Ok, ok," the PFY whispers back. "I'm working as fast as I can! >swip< Got it!" >bip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >click< "Right, I'll hold the door, you pick up that lot." "Okay," the PFY says, hefting up a bunch …
Simon Travaglia, 05 Oct 2007

BOFH: You think you know a guy...

"He seemed..." the PFY says, gazing out the window sadly. "...So normal." "I know," I respond. "But you never can tell what's going on in someone's head." "But he was such a good bloke!" "I know," I say again. "You think you know someone, then something like this happens..." "Something like what?" the Boss asks, entering …
Simon Travaglia, 28 Sep 2007
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BOFH: In search of the lazy atom

"That's that stuffed then," the PFY sighs, looking up from his screen. "What, OpenOffice?" I ask, having read the recent blue whale news. "No, no, an experiment I was doing." "What's that then?" I ask, peering over his shoulder. "... Actually what IS that?" "This is a view down an electron microscope." "At what?" "All …
Simon Travaglia, 21 Sep 2007

BOFH: Building changes

"Just before you go," the Boss cries, waving some building plans at me as I'm ducking out to lunch. "Can you just take a look at this?" "What is it?" "We're just looking at making a few small alterations on the third floor," he responds. "And I'd like to get your thoughts on them." "Didn't we make some 'small' alterations …
Simon Travaglia, 14 Sep 2007

BOFH: Chilling the bearings

"So what are we looking at here?" the PFY says as the Boss humps a desktop machine into Mission Control. "It's dead," the Boss says, tapping the cover of the machine gently. "Dead as in DEAD or dead as in it's not booting properly?" "I... it's not booting properly." "Right then, slap her on the desk and I'll have a gander …
Simon Travaglia, 31 Aug 2007

BOFH: New toys

"What's the timeframe on the install of that videoconferencing device?" the Boss asks, bowling into Mission Control, dressed, as the saying goes, like a pox doctor's clerk. "Yeah, good," the PFY says looking up from the assorted pieces of hardware on his desk. "No, I wanted the timeframe till it's in place, not a status." " …
Simon Travaglia, 17 Aug 2007