The Register disappears up its own fundament with a Y2K prank to make a BOFH's grinchy heart swell with pride
The circle is now complete. When I met you I was but the learner. Now, I am the master.
Y2K Welcome to Y2K, The Register's stagger through the events of two decades ago, some of which are perhaps a little closer to home than we'd thought.
Today's Y2K shenanigans come from a reader we will call "Jim", who had the thankless task of upgrading the Solaris servers for an Australian telco. More than 3,000 of the things required attention from the team, but since the upgrade procedure was well defined "it was more of a management process than anything too tricky," remembered Jim.
As in so many organisations, Y2K paranoia was rampant. The bigwigs wanted tests run just after the fateful midnight milestone to confirm nothing bad had happened. "So," said Jim, "I was running a group of admins who put together a series of tests that checked that the displayed date was in the year 2000 and similar idiocies, and scheduling these on each machine."
The results of the tests were sent out by that reliable delivery mechanism - email. One email address was for OK results, the other was for Failures. While the Host Names themselves were not unique, the Host IDs were. So the emails were identified by that ID - an eight digit number.
Those lucky enough to be on-call were trained to keep an eye on that Fail mailbox for notifications. "As there were servers in New Zealand, they would have two hours warning of any problems," recalled Jim.
"And then the devil tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear..."
Fast forward to 10pm, "as I enjoyed getting millenially plastered at a party, an email went to the Fail address, in the correct format, saying 'Houston, we have a problem'."
Misquote aside, the Host ID referenced was actually Jim's telephone number.
The alert was followed two minutes later by another saying 'Just kidding!'
"I am told that panic ensued, being unable to identify the relevant server, until someone recognised my phone number," said Jim.
"I put the ensuing phone call on speaker at the party for everyone to enjoy."
The story should end here, with the japery leaving the on call team reaching for fresh underwear if weren't for the rest of Jim's confession. Apparently, it is all the fault of El Reg and our BOFH columnist in particular.
You see, Jim was the BOFH's boss back in the day.
"In the early 90s, I ran a team, in London, which included one Simon, well known to your readers.
"Yes, I have been, in real life, the boss of The Register's very own BOFH. All these years, I have read of his opinions of such creatures, and wondered..."
"But I claim that it worked both ways, and that some of his ideas rubbed off on me, and that this is why I listened on 31/12/99..."
Happy New Year. ®