BOFH: So you want to have your computer switched out for something faster? It's time to learn from the master

Corporate will make you jump through hoops – but there's always a window

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 19 "It's just … so slow," my user complains.

"Slow, or comparatively slow?" I ask.

"What do you mean?"

"Slow's when your machine is just slow, whereas COMPARATIVELY slow is when it's slow in comparison to other people's machines – or your fancy new home machine."

"I don't have a new home machine, but I guess it's both: slow, and slower than everyone else's."

"OK, so we've crossed the first hurdle for a desktop replacement: it's slow. But we need to make a compelling case to your department head, so how comparatively slow is it in third-world terms?"

"Third-world terms?"

"Yeah, you know, like the machines we send to the third world, pretending we're doing them a favour by giving them useful machines instead of what we're really doing – dumping our toxic waste on them."

"Oh, it's slow."

"OK, second hurdle down. Now all we need to do is cross the budget hurdles and we're home free."

"Budget hurdles?"

"Yeah, all our departments should have a budget to replace desktop machines so you have three hurdles to clear to get access to it: 1. Does your department have a budget (as opposed to thinking they can skip desktop replacement this year)? 2. How much is left in the budget to buy your machine? And finally, 3. How many people higher up in the food chain than you want their machines replaced too?"

"Then there's the rolldown factor," the PFY adds from across the room.

"What was that?" the user asks.

"The rolldown factor," I say. "If someone higher up in the food chain than you wants a new machine (even if they don't need one) they might suggest that their old machine would be a perfect replacement for you, so they'll replace THEIR one and give you their old one full of the three Ds."

"The three Ds?"

"Dirt, Dandruff and Donkey porn. Typically, when you get an old machine it's not very well cleaned – physically or data-wise, so you're left with something that could put you in hospital, the unemployment queue or prison. So we try to avoid the rolldown wherever possible."


"We make your case for replacement compelling by introducing criteria that can't be met by a rolldown. What's your role?"

"I'm the company's production policy analyst."

I hold an index finger to my head where the blood vessel is surging and just attempt to continue my job. "OK, so what do you do that is specialised and crucial to the company?"

"I look at our product lines, construct analytics on consumer use and desired features, then produce resource statistics to drive product research."

"I did say specialised and crucial to the company, didn't I? There's plenty of air thieves above you in that particular food chain."

"I'm a product developer!"

"So would you need a special card to access special equipment?"


"What about a resource requirement that's unlikely to be compatible in a rolldown machine? I'm talking 12TB RAID6 array with 64 gig of memory."

"No, just a normal machine that can run Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint."

"You're not giving me much room to manoeuvre here, so I think we'll need to go with equipment failure."

"There's nothing wrong with it. It's just slow."

"No, I think you'll find it's noisy. I can give you a small speaker to slap inside your machine which will make whirring noises to such a level it'll have your fellow workers insisting on an upgrade."

"I work in an office by myself."

"The speaker has a high efficiency 10W amplifier. It'll drive you mental but it'll pierce our paper-thin walls."

"No, no I can't."

"Grinding paste?" I say. "Nip down to a local engineering firm, get some of that and inject a teensy bit of it into the fans of your machine – then tip the remainder down the oil-fill hole of your least-favourite workmate's car."

"That'd never work."

"Maybe not on a cooling fan, but I know for a fact it's dynamite on a late model Mercedes parked in my space two days in a row."

"I just want a faster machine …" he pleads.

"OK, then you'll need to go for the old faithful. Push your machine off your desk – no, better still, bring it down to us to 'check' and on the way down the stairs heave it over the side."

"People would know I'd done it."

"No, some people might wonder if you'd done it, but no one would think you'd done it on purpose. See the key is to have a plausible excuse for the damage. The more plausible, the more likely you are to get that replacement."

"OK, well, I'll have to think about it."

Ten minutes later, a rather large tower whooshes past the windows at Mission Control, followed by a mouse, a keyboard, and a manky LCD monitor. A desk follows half a minute later, then a wheelie chair and a desk phone.


"Hi there," I say. "So you took my advice."

"I certainly did."

"And what excuse did you use?"

"I told people you did it."

Well, it's plausible. ®

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