BOFH: Weapon of choice

Some day my prints will come


Episode 12

“...and it turns out that he’d ordered the 157-H43 instead of the 157-H44 unit," one engineer says, walking into Mission Control. "And as we all know...”

“...the H43 has the tab on the other side!!!” the other engineer finishes. They both burst out laughing.

Good times.

The PFY has heard more than his fair share of Multifunction Printer repair stories in the past three days and is starting to get a little... edgy.

I do a quick mental calculation of the PFY’s mood, judged solely by the location of his hand under the desk. Top drawer: cattle prod. Middle drawer: enhanced cattle prod. Bottom drawer: claw hammer with the fingerprint-resistant grip.

I cough loudly and shake my head slightly as I see the bottom drawer ease open - we need this printer fixed as it’s the only one with the financial signing authority signatures loaded into secure ROM. And after all, it is pay week...

The PFY’s hand trembles slightly, but he pushes the drawer closed. In an effort to give him some respite, I decide to escort the engineers up to the fourth floor and handhold them today.

“So how are we doing fellas?” I ask, keeping it casual as the lift doors close. “Any nearer to knowing what’s going wrong?”

“Oh, printers are pretty tricky things to work out,” one of them responds condescendingly, “because they’re a mixture of hardware, firmware and software - not like your systems which are pretty much just software.”

“Sounds technical,” I nod, hearing the faint ‘call of the hammer’ in the distance.

“It’s often a matter of perseverance to determine the true cause of the problem,” the younger engineer explains slowly, “by determining the most likely causes of the problem and then working through the extensive diagnostic lists.”

“So it’s not just swapping parts in and out till the problem goes away or the printer catches fire?” I ask, momentarily losing a small portion of my intended objectivity.

“Beg pardon?”

“Well it looked to me like you were just swapping out boards.”

“Well I suppose to the general public it would appear to be all we do, but there’s all sorts of BIOS configurations to change,” the head engineer says.

“From a single menu,” I point out.

“And upgrades to apply,” the younger engineer adds.

“From another menu...”

“And diagnostics to examine,” the head engineer chips in.

“From the eight LEDs on the back of the unit...”

“Yes, but we need to diagnose against condition fault sheets.”

“The one page chart in the back of the manual?” I add.

“Are you suggesting this is easy?!”

“Well... it has been three days,” I reply. “And there are two of you. And it’s not a very big manual.”

“It’s not like a computer where you just keep restarting it till it works!” the younger engineer says defensively.

“No, no, I wasn’t suggesting that it was!” I say, pondering how close my bank balance is to being in the red (technical lager expenses). “I’m just concerned that we get the printer up and running by 4pm today.”

“Four pee em,” the older engineer says, in a doubtful tone. “You’re not giving us much time.”

I hesitate to bring up the ‘three days’ thing again, but I’m starting to appreciate what the PFY has been putting up with.

“Look,” I say, being reasonable. “How about we approach this from a logical point of view. The jammed paper has a clear image on it, but the image isn’t fused onto the page yet, which suggests that the problem is occurring somewhere between the imaging and the fusing process - so perhaps we should look to see if all the sensors are correct, the feed rollers are not slipping - that sort of thing?”

The two engineers smile and share a knowing glance.

“OK,” the older one says. “I know it must look like we’re new at this game, but we’ve actually been doing it for a while and I think we’d know whether it was a simple thing like that.”

“It’s got to be in the setup,” the younger one says. “I think we need to adjust the gear timing from the factory defaults. Put in totally new values...”

“Won’t that make the problem a lot worse and exponentially harder to fix if it is just a sensor or feed roller thing?”

“Trust us,” the older one smiles.

. . . Three hours later . . .

“Well, that is odd,” the older engineer muses, extracting a dozen pulped pages from the heart of the printer.

“OK...” I say, massaging the vein in my forehead. “Can we move the Secure Rom into another printer and just fix this one next week?”

“No, the ROMS are linked to the serial number of the machine - they have to be programmed at the factory.”

“So in order for me to get paid this printer has to be working,” I say.

“...yyyyes.”

“Alright, out of the way!”

. . . Two minutes of twiddling later . . .

“Would you look at that,” the younger engineer says. “That must have torn off on the microswitch lever and blocked the sensor the whole time!”

“So we can put it all back together then?” I ask.

“Yeah - but...”

But??

“I changed all the timing settings... and I can’t remember what the factory ones are.”

“Can you find out - on the web or in your manual?”

“Ummm...”

”Phone a friend?”

“Nah, you’re not supposed to change them, cos they’re set at the factory...”

>beep< >beep< >beep< >beep<

“Hello?” the PFY asks.

“It’s me,” I say. “Hammer time!”


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