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«1 Bastard Operator From Hell digitalk The Updated English Version! Original: Simon Travaglia Layout: DigiTalk© Page 1 of 34 Bastard Operator ...»

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I log into "FUCKYOU", (the help-desk enquiries username) and go into mail. There's 3 new messages, the first of which is 117 lines long, so it's obviously a storyteller. Shit, I hate that.

Instead of saying "My account needs more disk space" they tell you about how they're doing this bit of research for a lecturer and how it's got to be in yesterday, and they almost had it but their second cousin twice removed had a perforated herpes scab and lost a lot of blood and had to be rushed into hospital... etc etc. I delete the message.

Second message I read, but it's one of those people who can't handle the mail interface and send a null message, so all you get is headers. I reply to the message saying "No worries, we can do that by next Tuesday". Hope it was important.

The last message I leave for tommorrow, because Saturday would be a dull day if I ever had to work then.

The phone rings. I thought I'd fixed that!

I put it on hands free so I can slop some pizza into the microwave.

"Yes" I call "Something's wrong with my Boot disk, I can't login to the server" "Have you got your disk with you?" "Sure!" I go get the disk and put it and the pizza in for 5 minutes on "ULTRA-NUKE".

Six minutes later, he rings back.

"It still doesn't work, and now my disk makes a funny noise and smells."

"OH SHIT! It's that electromagnetic radiation from satellite debris again!" "Really? I think I heard about that!" (What a tool!)

–  –  –

"Yep, I'm sorry, you'll have to buy another disk" "Oh, that's ok, I don't mind, the old one was getting worn. Thanks" "Sure, no worries. And be sure to run it through our virus checker FDISK when you get a lot of important data on it..."

"I will! Thanks!" "That's Ok - it's my job!" Xcbzone is running really slow so I kill off a whole lot of database backends that seem to be hogging all the cpu and get back into my game. Much better.

(It isn't easy on the frontline, work work work...) I go to the cafeteria for a quick 2 hour snack - they're so nice to me there. They always have been, ever since that computer glitch that registered their kitchen as an organ recipient - very messy. I grab a couple of cans of coke and some cheese things and cruise on back to the office via the first year computer funamentals lab. I look in the window on the scene that unfolds itself to me - a lab full of first years with no demonstrator.


I walk on in.

"Right, I'm your temporary replacement demonstrator and today we're going to put our assignments aside for half an hour to learn about the REMARK function, or, as it's known to the computer literate world, rm.."

I should've been a teacher you know - I've got this way with people...


I get invited to a lecture as a guest speaker in "Computing Operations Fund- amentals", so I leave the control room in the capable hands of Sam, the janitor and cruise on down.

The lecture starts and goes ok, then there's a 10 minute period where students get to ask a "real operator" questions that they have about operations.

I get out my pad and pen. "Before we get started" I say, "could you just call out your username before you ask me a question, I find it easier to apply your problem to terms you would understand better" The lecturer eats all this up - the personal touch really gets to them.

"First Question, You over there.."

"What do you think of the privacy of individuals on a shared system?" "What was your username please?" "CMS1103"

–  –  –

Scratchy scritch "Computer Privacy... Hmmm. This is a toughy really. You mean stuff like reading the email between you and your counsellor about you not wanting to come out of the closet?"


"AH! Well, he seems to have left - must have picked a bad COMPLETELY RANDOM example. Next question. You, over there..."

"CMS1136. I was.."

"Ah yes, 1136 the only person on campus who subscribes to alt.sex.buggery.by.

sailors.dressed.in.mums.clothing" "It's purely for research purposes!" "I'm sure it is. You do a lot of story posting for a researcher don't you?" "NNGggggAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHGH!" "Next please..."



Two minutes later, the lecture theatre's empty. That's the problem with students today, they just don't want to learn.

I go back to control and Sam's asleep at the console again. I think he's after my job. I make a mental note to tap into the salary database and cancel his health and accident insurance payments. You can't be too careful..

I put the phone on the hook for the first time this afternoon and it starts ringing almost immediately. THAT'S IT! I redirect it to 911 catch a bit of shuteye. That'll teach them. OOPS!

Almost forgot to turn over the excuse calendar. "STATIC FROM NYLON UNDERWEAR" Nope, too plausable - although in some cases I could do an on-site check. Nah, can't be stuffed. I'll pick another one. "STATIC FROM PLASTIC SLIDE RULES" Now THAT'S one with a challenge!

I un-redirect the phone and drag the rubbish bin so it rests on the printer's stacker - another job well done. The phone rings - this could be the big one!

"Hello?" "Hi, Um, how do I spell-check my file?" "Simple, just type `spell' and the filename" "Thanks"

–  –  –

I'm so bloody nice this morning. Especially as I know that my version of spell INTRODUCES errors instead of detecting them. Things like changing friend to freind and vice-versa. What the hell.

The phone rings - it's them again.

"There's something wrong with spell" "What makes you think that?" "Because my file is all corrupt now!" "That doesn't sound like spell to me. Are you logged into thru PC?" "Yes, but I can.."

"Please, leave the technical diagnosis to me... Now, is there a plastic ruler somewhere on or in the desk?" "Um clunka, yes..."

"Right. You've got a static buildup on your hard-drive caused by the changing electrostatic field generated by the ruler - the same thing that makes bits of paper stick to it when you rub it up and down your arm..."


"Oh. What do I do?" "You know how you get paper off a ruler by hitting it on a table lots of times? Well do that with your PC. Say 20 times - lift it about a foot off the desk & drop it."

"Oh. OK" crash crash crash "Um, the screen went dark" "That's ok, it's supposed to do that - keep going. And when you're finished, do the screen as well, that static may have gone up the wires to it."

crash crash crash...

–  –  –

I hang up. I get up and go out to the public area to put honey in the floppy drives when a guy who looked like Lee Harvey Oswald runs up to me and shoots me, only the sound comes from the machine room, and I can hear the ex System- Managers chuckle....

Later, in the ambulance, I realise. I forgot to get the guys username...

Then everything goes dark The Bastard LIVES!

The darkness cleared as we got out of the tunnel and it occurred to me that I couldn't be all that injured. Then again, maybe I was. Someone was going to p..

I died.

Of course, a true BOFH considers this not really as dying, but more of going home for the holidays.

Five seconds later, I'm getting the upside of 15Kv across the nipples. (These ambulance guys sure know how to party).

Bastard Operator from Hell LIVES!

Three weeks later I'm back on my backside and feeling rested at relaxed behind the console again. The rest has done me good, I feel *great!*. I catch up on everyone's email then let the students know I'm back by performing an impromptu preventative maintenance in the middle of lab time by kicking the restart switch (They love it really) I flip today's excuse card, "GLOBAL WARMING" YES YES YES! What a welcome home!

It's the end of the month so all those automatic email reminder programs will be sending messages all over the place. I set the system clock back 7 days to buy some peace and quiet and swap the printer ribbon for the three year old one with holes in it.

I sort through my snail mail and crack open the BOFH Monthly Newsletter, "kill -9" and check out the articles therein. There's a nice peice of making OS2 slow, boring and painful, but it looks exactly like the OS2 installation instructions to me... Ah, who knows. I head straight to the BOFH Wizard section to see if any of my articles were published. All of them!!! Even the one about the c compiler that randomly removes one line from the source code it's compiling!

The phone rings.

"The Screen on my PC is blank!!!" "It's the power cord" I say "No, I checked that. When I switch it on, it does nothing!" "It's the power cord" I say

–  –  –

"No, I checked and it's all plugged in properly. There's no lights on the keyboard or anything" "It's the power cord" I say "Oh Hey! I just noticed, the cord's not plugged in properly!" "The power cord?" I ask "Yes... Woopsy" "No worries at all" I say "Is it all working well now?" "Yes, I think so. I'm sorry, you WERE right all along" "Yes, we're getting a lot of this, it's due to the current Global Warming problem. It causes random thermal expansion and contraction resulting in temperature induced movement of friction based holding mechanisms.."

I listen carefully. Nothing. In other words,...

"You can fix it permanently tho'" I say "Really? How?" "Well it's all to do with lowering salt deposits on the metal contacts" "Oh!" (Dummy mode irrevocably engaged) "All you need to do is just take the power plug out deposit some dilute mineral salts on it. Do you have some dilute mineral salts on you?" "Uh... no?" "Ok, no worries, just stick it in your mouth drool into it. But make sure you wipe the plug first to get rid of any germs, and TURN THE SWITCH OFF ON THE MONITOR before you do we don't want a nasty accident!

"Oh. Ok!" Fzzzt clunk!

I hang up as the receiver hits the floor. Disk space is too good for them.

I get to work and I'm a bit tired so I plug a thick hunk of copper across the three phase supply and throw the switch. The room is plunged into darkness as the circuit breakers trip and for once the machine room is silent.

I like it!

–  –  –

I pop the phone off the hook and close the curtains on the observation window. Now it's *really* dark in there. I wouldn't be surprised if someone had a nasty accident in here..

I lift a couple of floor tiles up in the darkness and call our maintenance contractors saying the mini popped the breaker again, then replace the fuses in it with a couple of nails and short the power supply to ground. You can't just hope for this sort of thing, you've got to MAKE it happen.

15 minutes later the engineer arives and falls down the hole. I pop the floor tiles back on just as the System Manager (a new and very thorough individual) comes in, telling me to watch out, someone could really hurt themselves in the dark...

I nod & tell him that we can't really afford all the downtime, and should I just throw the breaker and hope that there was no major fault. After thinking about the negative publicity we're getting already, he makes the last decision of his short career and tells me to go ahead.

Later, when the smoke clears I examine the smoking remains of the mini. Not a pretty sight...

"Strange that the breaker jammed shut, isn't it?" I say to our manager as he packs up the personal things in his office. "One in a million chance. A pity that someone saw what you did and posted the whole story to comp.misc. You'll be lucky to get a job managing a car computer after all that publicity..."

I go back to the machine room and throw the rest of the breakers to liven everything up, then login and start deleting users' email. I spot an interesting off-the-record sexual proposition from our male consultant to a member of the men's swim team which will make a good motd, so I copy it there, modify root's owner name to be "Winker" and password to be "ljkadlkajflkj" (then call the big boss to report a suspected intrusion). Should be at least a couple of hours of login time before we can sort that out. In the meantime, people are just going to have to read that message... I realise the message has been read when I hear the gunshot from behind the consultant's closed door.

I edit the online helpdesk information and change the phone number to the System Manager's

- he'll probably appreciate the extra calls at such a sad time...

I hear another shot and realise he won't be answering any calls today.

I put the phone back on the hook and flip today's excuse card. "Poor power conditioning".

Too plausible. "STATIC BUILDUP". Still a bit too plausible for my liking, but I don't want to run out of cards before the end of the year, so I decide to run with it.

The phone rings almost as soon as I've got "Top Gun" in the video machine so I pause the video and put the phone on hands-free.

"I think I've bought a bad floppy disk" "Yes?" I wonder if I've suddenly become the consumer watchdog?

"Well, I've got this disk and it won't format. All the others in the box did so I thought I must have a bad disk"

–  –  –

"Why are you calling me about this?" I ask "Well, the disk says guaranteed; where do I go to get a replacement?" Ah! Of course.

"Well, let's see. Are you sure it's the disk, and not just some problem with static buildup?" "Huh?" "Static Buildup, you know, static electricity that's passed from you to the computer" "But I'm wearing a wrist strap!" Around about now I realise I'm deep in dweeb country. Wrist straps aren't fashion accessories in *my* part of town...

"Of course you are, but your average wrist strap has a 1 meg resistor in series with it, a *really* poor earth. What you need is a direct earth connection. Hang onto the frame of something that's earthed properly."

"What, you mean like our stainless steel work bench?" "Excellent. Now, have you got a paper clip to discharge the static with?" "Hang on. Yeah" "Ok, with your other hand, poke the clip thru the ventilation holes at the back of the unit, and just touch the contact at the end of the thick red wire."

"The one going to the power supply?" "Yep, that's it" "....Hey, isn't that the li... kzzzzt! clunk" Another call solved by the helpdesk from hell...

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