The Filth Filter is part of the chipset, honest. Goes between the TPM and SEP. No, really

One to wheel out when those friend tech support calls get too much

On Call IT folk don't so much give gifts as recycle old hardware. A worthy endeavour, until the inevitable call for help comes on. Our response? Depends on how evil we're feeling at the time. Welcome to On Call.

Today's story comes from "Les" (not his name) who spends his time these days tinkering with electronics and passing the odd bit of functioning equipment on to those who need it. His tale concerns a laptop he had rebuilt and gave to an acquaintance – let's call her "Cynthia" even though that was also not her name.

The laptop had been acquired for Cynthia's son. Ostensibly for college work – and an essential tool even in the years before the current pandemic – but, as is so often the case, something went wrong. And so it was that Les's phone rang with a request for help.

Cynthia: "The laptop isn't working!"

Les sighed. "What's he done to it?"

Cynthia: "Nothing! He swears he's done nothing! The on button flashes every few seconds but that's it!"

Les knew the problem, and it was easily fixed. He had Cynthia remove the battery and AC adaptor, hold down the power button, and then reconnect the power. The laptop came back to life, and the relief of the user was palpable.

But what had caused the problem? Les had a dilemma. He could be honest and say that these things sometimes happen, and all it had needed was a hard reset. Or he could be evil.

Well, 'tis the season and all that…

"What do you think happened?" Cynthia persisted. "Do you think it will happen again?"

Les took a breath. "Well... That was the reset mechanism for the Filth Filter I install on the machines when I get them for the kids. Almost forgot about that as I've not had to reset it before."

There was silence on the line. "He'd been watching too much pr0n and blown the fuse?"

"How many times did the light flash?"

"Every four seconds…"

Les sucked through his teeth: "Oh, right. Absolute filth then. There's a scale of one to five, five being the worst."

There was another lengthy pause as Cynthia digested this. "You're joking?"

"No, no. The Filth Filter is a real thing. It's a straight BIOS swap. Works with the Windows Trusted Platform Module."

"But the flashing light?"

"Yeah... let me check." Les pretended to shuffle some papers. "Yeah – it says 'extreme kink and activities with more than five participants.'"

"Stop – you're scaring me," said the worried Cynthia.

Not one to miss a chance to double down, Les went on: "Just be glad it didn't hit level five."

Another pause. Then, "Shall I tell the boy he shouldn't be watching... er... rude things on his laptop, then?"

"Definitely," said Les. And, with a final flourish, he added: "If it hits level five then it'll take a picture of him and send it to the police."

If you "know about computers" then the Christmas period is a time to dread as friends and family inevitably turn to you for support. How will you respond to the phone call? Are you on the nice list or, like Les, very much on the naughty step. Let us know with an email to On Call. ®

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