BOFH: A ringside seat at the Boss-baiting pit

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Episode 34 BOFH 2004

"And this is what again?"

"The heatsink," the PFY responds calmly. "It fits on top of the processor."

"And the fan sits on top of it!" the new Boss says happily.

"Yes. No, not that fan, that's a case fan. The small fan screws into the heatsink."

"Of course - it's obvious when you think about it!"

"If you think about it, yes."

Building your own PC is not one of the activities we recommend for non-technical managers. Or technical managers for that matter. Even more so for technical managers who aren't all that technical, but think they are. It’s even worse when the non-technical technical manager is the new boss with a great idea of saving cash by making our own machines. The PFY, after trying to talk him out of it by recounting the MTBF of build-your-own-kit and the sliding scale of cost over reliability decides - out of the kindness of his heart and stupidity of his mind – to help the new Boss in his endeavour.

"And we swing the little lever over now?"

"No, screw the fan to the heatsink first, THEN we put the processor in, THEN we swing the lever over, THEN we take the little sticker off the heatsink, THEN we clip the heatsink on."

"And you have to be careful to get the chip in the right way around?"

"Yes."

"Well there doesn't seem to be all that much to it really. Honestly, the way you people talk, you'd think you were building Beagle III, when in actual fact it’s more like Meccano."

"Yeah, we do make it out to be a lot more than it is," he responds drily.

If I could somehow distract the PFY, I'd to warn the Boss that comments like this are the equivalent of teasing a hungry attack dog...

Still, it is a slow week…

>click<

"And I plug the memory in now?"

"Uh huh, but the other way around," the PFY says, gesturing.

"Yes yes, I'm not stupid," the Boss snaps.

(>tease tease<)

>clip<

"And now I connect up the power supply!" he says.

"No, plug the disk cables in first."

"Yes, yes, I was going to do that."

"And now the disk power cables."

"GIVE ME A BLOODY CHANCE, I'M MAKING SURE THE CABLES ARE THE RIGHT WAY AROUND!" the Boss lies, annoyed. “Honestly.”

(>tease< >tease< >jab with a sharp stick<)

"Oh, you're right, they're not in the right way,” the PFY adds. “Which is surprising, because you shouldn't be able to do that!"

"Well you are in my light…" the boss snips.

(>jab< >jab<)

Around about now I'm wondering who's going to crack first as the Boss is starting to get a little testy too.

Oooooh BITCH FIGHT! I'd best get a coffee and some popcorn!

By the time I'm back from the coffee machine, the Boss has tried to bury the hatchet .in a non-escalating manner by apologising to the PFY.

Ah well, Can’t win em all.

"And so it should be able to start now?" the Boss asks.

"Should do, yes."

The Boss pushes the power switch, and, in the manner of a poorly located xyzzy, Nothing happens.

"It's broken," the Boss says.

"No, it's probably something simple," the PFY says. "Lets have a look inside."

An hour later. . .

"I don't get it," the PFY says. "I've checked everything on another box and they're all working ok.”

"Perhaps it's something you've forgotten," the Boss says smarmily.

>prod< >tease<

"The power supply is switched off at the back of the machine!" the Boss notes, locating the source of the problem.

When caught out by someone with technical ability so far below yours it looks like an ant on a runway, there are two possible responses: Like 98 per cent of the population and admit that you have made a mistake, or lie like a bastard in a pathetic manner to cover up for your momentary lapse of technical acumen.

"No, I turned that off to isolate the unit," the PFY lies, taking the path less traveled. "So that won't be the problem. But I think it's possibly a thermal lag heating coefficient problem in the processor mount."

Now that the PFY has gone down this road the Boss’ machine is a goner. There’s no way on earth he’s going to let it work once the power is switched on.

Which means it’s popcorn time!

"A what?" the Boss asks, being new and not knowing the smell of recycled hay.

"It doesn't matter." the PFY says. "We just need to remove and reseat all the components again."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

"Right, I'll just plug myself in," the Boss says, clipping the earth lead onto his antistatic bracelet.

"Don’t worry about that,” the PFY blurts. “You plugged it in earlier so it’ll be operating in wireless mode! Oh, look, you haven’t secured the CPU fan. Right, grab the hot glue gun and drop a huge glob onto the fan just there.”

"Right, done," the Boss says dully. "Anything else?"

"You’ll want to zero the memory.”

“How?”

“Just pop it out and rub it up and down on the carpet tiles for a couple of minutes…”

. . .

Switching the voltage on the power supply to 115 just after the processor cooked was just cruel, and I would have called a halt to the whole thing if I hadn’t been videotaping it.

She’s a hard road finding the perfect balance of cost to reliability though… ®


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