This article is more than 1 year old

How to get an upgrade, BOFH-style

Heatsink moment

Episode 1

BOFH 2004: Episode 1

It's upgrade time again - like it always is when there's money laying about the place not being used - so I scan down the long list of complaint frequencies and pick the HR database server performance problem from near the top of the pile. I love upgrades!

In a word, crap! A ZX-81 with tape drive could almost give better performance than the server concerned, and it's easy to see why - all the money was spent on the chassis, not the internals, to give "room for expansion" which never occurred. With a single processor, 128 megs of memory and a single hard drive, it's all rather depressing. Something should be done.

"But it doesn't NEED an upgrade!" the Boss burbles, trying to hide the executive edition of the mobile phone and accessory brochure he's been looking through. "Anyway, we don't have the money!"

"Well as luck would have it, the beancounters misaddressed the finance reporting output, and it appears that our cost centre is over twenty thousand quid underspent this quarter - due to under-spending in the last quarter."

"Really?" the Boss asks. "How did that occur?"

"We put it down to the fact as that your predecessor was on life support for so long that he didn't have time to fritter money away on 'tat' like cellphones, handsfree kits, etc", I respond.

"Ah. And how much do you expect this upgrade to cost?"

"The HR Database server - uuuh, I dunno, not a lot. Maybe five k in processors, a couple in memory and another couple for disk and RAID card. Under ten?"

"Which would leave the remaining ten thousand for..."

"Projects which you consider strategically important," I respond, playing his game for him.

"Well... I suppose it might be in our best interests to address this," he grudgingly admits, "so long as your budget figures are accurate and you obtain written quotes."

"No sooner said than done," I say.

A statement which turns out to be bollocks.

"And the serial number of the machine is?" the vendor's sales droid asks.


"B's not a number," he comments.

"It's on the panel at the back, beside the 'S', stroke and 'N'," I reply.

"Well it must be an eight!" he snaps back, oozing condescension.

"Not unless your eights have flat sides."

"Ah, so it's flat both sides?" he asks, thinking digitally.

"No, just the left. ONE flat side, you know, like the letter 'B'."

"The configurator isn't going to like it - it only expects numbers," he warns.

"Tell you what, why don't you punch it in anyway to save me popping down there and punching something myself?" I ask, testily.

"I... uh... >clickety< Well look at that! It did work. So, it's a quad box, four processors and a gig of RAM."

"It's a quad capable box, one processor, 128 meg of memory."

"That's not what it says here."

"But it is what I'm looking at here - I have the box with the lid off in front of me."

"I think you'll find it's got four processors. The configurator is never wrong! Big things with heatsinks on them, and fans."

"Yes, there's one of those. And in the other three slots are some proprietary looking cards with some active components on them instead."

"With heatsinks on them?" he asks, not wanting to give up too soon. "Told you the configurator is never wrong!"

"No. Just small cards."

"Screw-in cards?" he asks.

"No, not PCI cards, just cards," I sigh, putting the cattleprod battery pack into the charger.

"Well let's just skip that. What would you like?"

"A quote for three more processors the same as the original, two gig of memory in 512s, a high performance Ultra SCSI 3 Raid card, and four 15k RPM 36 gig Ultra SCSI 3 disks."

>clickety< "OK, you can't get processors for it, because it's full."

"It's got one processor."

"Yes, but the configurator says it's full."

"Tell it it's not."

"We can't. But we could do a field uninstall, but then it would automatically charge you three hours' engineer time for the uninstall."

"Tell it that the client will do it."

"But you'll void your warranty."

"It's not ON warranty. Besides, I've got the cover off and I'm not certified, so I think we've already crossed that bridge."

"Oh. Well >clickety< it'll only remove ALL four processors, unless we trade the processors in."

"Do that then."

"But you haven't got processors!" he blurts.

"Yes, we have, the configurator says so!"

"But you told me you didn't."

"Yes, when you mentioned the trade-in option, I just realised that they were."

"They can't be, they don't have heatsinks on them!"

"They will by the time your engineer gets here..."

"He'll never accept them - he'll know they're processor bypass cards!"

"Would this be the same engineer we normally get whose specialist technical field is lifting?"


"So, we'll trade the four PROCESSORS in on four faster ones. And we'll trade the gig of RAM in on two gig."

"You said you had 128."

"No, no, it was a gig, I'm sure of it now!" I cry.

"He'll count it."

"I'm sure he will, and will not find me lacking. In fact, he can take as many SIMMs as he likes from the big bag under my desk."

"I think you mean DIMMs," he responds.

"Like your engineer is going to know."


"Is that all then?"

"No, I'd like to buy a Raid card and four disks."

>clickety< "We can only give you three - that's all that will fit into the machine."

"With ten slots in the front? Oh, how many disks have we currently got?"


"I think you're lying. And while you can lie to me, I don't think you want to lie to the configurator..."

"I.... seven disks," he sniffs.

"Lets trade them in on four new ones. And a Raid card. Now, what's all that going to cost me?"

"Well, with... trade-in allowance... one thousand three hundred and forty quid."

"Really. It seems a little steep. Can I trade in anything else from my box?"

"That's all you have!"

"So of the eight PCI slots, there's nothing I can cash in on?"


"I think you're lying. Tell you what, configure me up the cheapest ten meg PCI NIC card."

"OK." >click<</p>

"What's the total?"

>clickety< "1380."

"Givvus another."

>tap tap< "1420."

"And another..."

>clickety< "1460."

"And another..."

>click< >click-click< "You can't, the configurator won't let you."


"Because the bus is full," he sighs, knowing he's trapped.

"What's in the box?" I ask.

"Five high-spec graphic cards with 256 meg."

"AGP Cards?" I ask.

"AGP 8s, yes."

"And how many AGP slots does the machine come with?"


"And so the configurator tells you that I have another four in there somewhere, taking up PCI slots?"

"Yes," he gabbles. "It's because the AGP Connector's right near the first PCI slot, so if you have a AGP card, you lose a PCI slot."

"Ah, and because I have five cards, I lose five slots."

"Yes," he sighs.

"OK, so I'll trade in the five cards and use the on-board video, drop the NIC cards, now what's the total."

"Minus 53 quid."

"Better. Have the cheque sent to me personally would you?"

"You'll never get away with it," he sneers. "They'll find out."

"Course they won't. It's all in the Configurator. And the Configurator's never wrong! Gosh, wouldn't it be awful if the we asked specifically for YOU to do the install and you returned to work with a box of old parts - and they started to suspect that you'd rigged the whole thing?"

"Make the cheque out to cash then?"

"That'll do nicely. And put an expedited delivery on those parts will you - I'd like to get this sorted out quickly so we don't have to upgrade another of your servers to cope with the load. We've got an eight-way in the computer room!"


Now to forge a second quote and get the company cheque made out to Computing Access Support and Hardware (or its acronym) too...

Did I mention how much I love upgrades? ®

BOFH is copyright © 1995-2003, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like