BOFH: Come on, PFY, let's pick a Boss

Robot intelligence not there yet... but neither is Boss intelligence

Episode 12 "I don't think your reviews are overly helpful," the Director sulks.

"What do you mean? We read the resumes, attended the interviews; we asked some questions!"

"I'm referring to your comments on the candidates."

"Which ones?" I ask.

"All of them!"

It's appointments time again and we're looking for a new Boss after the last one raced out his full height second floor window on a wheely chair. Why he did that is anyone's guess, as is how the PFY's footprint happened to be on the back of the aforementioned chair.

Some things you just can't explain.

In any case it seems you can get PTSD from a violent pneumatic ram insertion and the former Boss has retired early on medical grounds.

The Director, meantime, has read some HR blog that says it's good to get the input of the direct reports when recruiting new middle management and included the PFY and myself in the appointments process.

"All of them?" the PFY asks.


"What was wrong?" I ask.

"This one," the Director responds, pointing at a note in the margin of a resume. "You wrote: 'Can't even spell IT'."

"That's not a criticism," the PFY says. "That's just identifying him as perfect pie-eating IT management material."

"And what makes you think that?"

"You asked him about service levels and he thought you were talking about Restaurants," the PFY sighs.

"Well what about this? 'A blend of fast-acting stupidity and sustained release incompetence'?"

"He was an air thief," I reply sadly. "I've seen brighter lights in a fridge."

"Well now we have an issue where there are apparently no suitable candidates," the Director snaps back at us.

"From that pool, anyway. Honestly, we could make a robot to do that job."

"In what way?" he asks.

"50 per cent of the the former occupant's role was sending email to remind people of things to be done and then filing their emailed replies. If we could program a robot to wander around the office scratching its arse and eating lard sandwiches as well then we'd have the whole position cracked."

"Could you do that?" the Director gasps, thinking keenly of future accolades as the implementer of inexpensive robotic management.

"What, the arse scratching and sandwich eating?"

"No, could you make a robotic manager who would track workflows?"

"You wouldn't need a robot to do that - it could all be done on a server," the PFY says. "There are several off-the-shelf products that do that already."

"Yes, but we'd want to keep the office space allocation for the role, so a robot would look better on the books. Maybe you could get it to use Siri to get verbal updates in person when it visited people."

"We've had some... teething issues with robots in the past," I admit. "I'm not sure people would welcome one into their offices - especially those with full height windows."

"Yes, so I've heard - but this wouldn't need to be that... aggressive. It just has to be something with a 'presence', the ability to note stuff down, and maybe talk and listen. It doesn't even need to be that intelligent."

"Yes, I think that describes the former Boss quite well - except for the bits about noting stuff down and listening ..." I say.

"And presence," the PFY adds.

"So could you do it?"

"We have a couple of broken units in the basement. We could de-weaponise them, reduce their speed to a slow trundle and maybe add a smiley face?" the PFY suggests.

"Yes – and if it could just be programmed to get verbal updates about projects and give verbal reminders?"

"Yeah sure."

"And maybe it could understand plain English and the project management could also include verifying and tracking project costs?"


"What about if it could deliver the mail? AND it could have a camera and recognise people and deliver mail and project updates when it encounters them in the building?"

"And perhaps it could give lectures about scope creep while it was at it?"


"Nothing. We'll see what we can do."


"So?" The Director says a couple of days later. "What are you waiting for? Switch it on!"

"We thought you'd like to do that," the PFY says.

"I..." the Director says, thinking of the number of ways we could disguise an axe, chainsaw or a flame-thrower in a tin box. "What's that thing on the front?"

"It's a tray. To carry mail - and biscuits, until people get comfortable with it."

"Oh, I see. Good Idea. >CLICK<"


"Good morning," the Robot says. "Good Morning David. Good Morning Simon. Good Morning Stephen."

"Excellent!" the Director burbles happily. "Can you give me an outstanding project update please?"


"What's it doing?" asked the Director.

"Nothing. You need to prefix your questions with the word Robot."

"Oh. ROBOT, Can you give me an outstanding project update please."

"Outstanding Projects: Project 1.7.3 Password Security Enhancement, Start Date: 20 August 2002. Due Date: 20 September 2002. Completion Percentage 15%. Last Updated 21 August 2002. Assigned to: Systems; Project 1.7.6 Grant Domain Administrator to Senior Management. Start Date: 30 August 2002 Due Date: 31 August 2002. Completion Percentage 0%. Last Updated: 30 August 2002. Assigned to: Systems; Project 1.8.1..."

... 10 minutes later...

"Project 2.2.7 Update automatic updates, Start Date: 3 February 2010. Due Date: 3 March 2010. Completion Percentage: 75%. Last Updated: 3 March 2010. Assigned to: Systems..."

"ROBOT Stop now," the Director says, turning to us. "Do you ever complete projects?"

"Only the ones worth completing, but some of those jobs are complete rubbish. But give us a good job and it'll be done quicker than you can say murder/suicide," the PFY says.


"What?" the PFY asks.

"What do you mean murder/suicide?"

"It's just an expression."

"Not one I'm familiar with!"

"Not yet anyway," the PFY says. "Although technically it would be more murder/self-destruct. No awkward questions to answer..."

"Yes, well, perhaps we'll forget about the update reporting and just get it to do the job follow-ups. ROBOT, remind people about outstanding projects."


"These reviews still aren't overly helpful," the Director says after the PFY and I are involved in the second set of interviews following the departure of a robot from the full-height window of Mission Control on the second floor of our building half way through a status update request process.

Oddly the robot also had a PFY-shaped boot print on the back of its chassis...

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022