BOFH: In-depth IT training needs a single-malt distillery

Onward, Ultrabook solderers! Marching as to war...

Episode 2 There's a bit of a scramble on.

Bastard Junket Watch, a website entirely devoted to plausible-sounding technical events, has sent up the email equivalent of an emergency flare. An event company which knows very little about IT (and cares even less) is hosting a five-day "Service Delivery for Technical Professionals" course in a month or so.

Ordinarily a course like this is about as appealing as the shower scene in a Turkish prison during stabbing season, however the company concerned DOES distinguish itself by awarding fancy looking achievement certificates at the end of the course which look impressive on the office wall.

(Again) Ordinarily I usually ask the certificate printers to just ensure that the output of the printer is as adjacent to the input of the shredder as possible, however in this particular case the certificates are like gold - partly because they have gold lettering (told you they were fancy) but also because they act as a form of proof of attendance.

Let me explain.

The event company is about as interested in IT as I am in the finer points of regulation international lawn bowls' grass height, however they do put a lot of effort into their social events - which often start around the time you check in and finish about the time you check out - either from the event or life itself. They like to think of themselves as innovators. So obviously you're in need of some proof that the course was robust and worthwhile...

The Junket Watch priority signal is because the Service Delivery for IT Professionals gig has an overview of "Investigating case studies of Service Delivery methods in local industry" - the finer print noting that the local industry they're talking about is whisky distilleries in Islay. And it's basically a five-day coach tour...

Given the company's policy of not permitting all members of a support team to be absent at the same time, the PFY and I are now engaged in an unspoken competition to be the person that the Director sends. In the words of the Highlander, there can be only one...

The PFY lurches into play almost immediately, laughing at the Director's rubbish jokes and promising to upgrade the RAM on his top-of-the-line Ultrabook. He choked on his words a little when he found out that the stuff was soldered into the motherboard, but then a promise is a promise.

So here we are: the PFY with his static protected needle-tip solder reworking station, the Director's laptop on the actively static-protected workdesk (which, to my knowledge has never been used since it was installed at great cost) – and me, with my paper bag to collect all the bits left over... which always happens when you take a priceless piece of kit to bits.

In a rare show of sportsmanship I did point out to the PFY the wisdom of backing up the machine prior to starting work, however he just saw this as me trying to make the job take longer than he'd promised - so his hybrid solution is to plug the drive into a duplication cradle while he does the hot work. Sneaky.

"Now are you sure you've got the A and B drives in the right order?" I ask. "Wouldn't want to duplicate the formatted drive over the top of the original."

"I HAVE the right drive," he nods. "Original in slot A, copy in slot B. Pressing the 'Copy A to B' button >press<.

"Now, the memory - a relatively simple desoldering job. Starting with some desoldering braid to remove the majority of the surface solder >ssssizzle<, more flux >squish< to aid the second pass of the desoldering braid, and now the tricky part - applying a bit of heat while just prying up on the corner of the DIMM - not too much pressure because we don't want to tear the tracks off the..."


"I think you may have torn some of the tracks off the motherboard there," I say, leaning in and tapping on a suspiciously barren chunk of circuit board where some pads used to be whilst dropping the remains of the paper bag in the bin. After the PFY has scraped himself off the ceiling, that is.

"You bastard!"

"No, but I help out when they're shorthanded," I say

"It doesn't matter: I can fix it," he responds

"What, with fuse wire - on high spec RAM - I doubt it."

"No - I have some ultrafine self-adhesive gold repair tape which should do the trick nicely," he counters.

"But seriously - what a beginner's mistake!" I say.

And it's true. There are only two legitimate uses for a brown paper bag in the workplace: hiding your single-malt breakfast headache medicine or scaring the crap out of a workmate. I expected more from the PFY...

"Whatever," the PFY responds dismissively.

"In fact, I think there's only one thing worse that falling for the old paper bag trick?"

"What's that then?" he asks.

"Not noticing me pressing the 'Cancel' button then holding down the Secure Erase and Confirm buttons."


"You've erased the A drive!?!" he gasps.

"And B drive too, I think you'll find."

"Imagine," he says thoughtfully.

"Imagine what?"

"Imagine what would have happened if I'd not decided to practise on your Ultrabook before starting on the Director's?"

"You bastard!"

"Yes I am, aren't I?"

Still, I don't feel so bad about stealing the PFY's keys and backing his car into the Director's earlier this morning - so it's not all bad.


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