BOFH: Selling the boss on a crypto startup

A little hint from a Helldesk friend is all you need

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 14 "So what's causing it?" the Boss asks, looking down at his screen.

"No idea," I say.

"Surely you have some idea?"

"It's an intermittent problem. Intermittent problems are the hardest to diagnose."

"Yes but you fixed it last time."

"No, last time it was working when I arrived."

"No, you did something and it started working."

"OK," I say, as the PFY and I scan the office for onlookers. "I'll let you in on a little secret. About half the time we don't fix things – we're just on hand to witness them fixing themselves."

"Uh, I think you're exaggerating."

"Maybe a little – as I left out the 25 percent of the time that there wasn't a problem in the first place, where the battery in a keyboard or mouse was flat, the caps lock key was down or the person's laptop was connected to the pub wireless across the road instead of ours, and so on."

"Not to mention the times that they've kicked a network cable out, they were temporarily locked out because they tried their old password or PIN multiple times, or because the caps lock key was down," the PFY adds.

"He already … said the caps lock key was down," the Boss points out.

"I know," the PFY replies. "That's how often it happens."

"So you're saying it's all the users' fault?" he asks.

"No. Like I said, sometimes it's an intermittent fault due to a piece of buggy code or a manufacturer's oversight. It could be electrical interference, a rogue system process or just a sticky key. Sometimes it's just a perfect storm of one or more of those things," I explain.

"And sometimes it's just the alignment of the stars – a wrinkle in the fabric of the holistic user experience," the PFY says wistfully.

"That all sounds a bit … esoteric," the Boss jokes.

"Not really," the PFY responds softly, looking around again. "Sometimes … things happen. No one knows why, but they do. It's not software, it's not hardware, it's just something that happens. And it does happen."

"Are you implying there's something … other-worldly?"

"I don't know what I'm implying, but I do know that sometimes things just don't work. Things that have worked for years suddenly stop working for no reason. No matter what you do they will not work. The Gods of IT are frowning upon us. And the only way to appease the Gods is …"

"You're not proposing to murder someone just to stop spell-check defaulting to US English are you?!?!" the Boss splutters.

"Of course not," I say. "That's probably just a broken finger's worth.  Anyway, we hardly need to resort to human sacrifice with the deep-fried food industry cornering that market."

"So what are you saying?"

"Something has upset the natural balance of the IT Universe," the PFY intones gravely.

"Something like what?" the Boss asks, nervously.

"I don't know. A Mac in the Beancounters' office or maybe a PC in the colored coloured pencil office."

"I don't understand what you mean."

"It doesn't matter – we're just looking for something that shouldn't be happening – something unusual enough to have disturbed the fabric of time, space and IT."

"That's a fairly broad category. You couldn't narrow it down a little?" the Boss asks.

"It's hard to describe."

"Maybe the Helpdesk would know? They said that unusual stuff had been happening today."

"Wait – you called our Helpdesk … and someone answered?" the PFY asks.

"Uh – yes. The guy said there'd been a lot of unusual things today and that he'd pass the message on to you. And he told me to make sure I wasn't using someone else's Word template file."

"Wait!" I say. "You called the Helpdesk, someone answered … and they gave you a solution that might actually work?"

"Yeah. He told me to call him back on his direct line if you weren't available."

"HE GAVE YOU HIS DIRECT NUMBER?!" the PFY gasped.

So we have our anomaly. The PFY and I wander through to the Helldesk to find the person who's been causing all the trouble.

"Oh hey guys!" he chirps, as we enter.

"Derek?" the PFY trembles.

FOR IT IS DEREK, HOLDER OF THE ORDER OF MERIT FOR HIGHEST NUMBER OF USER MACHINES TOASTED IN A SINGLE GROUP POLICY CHANGE, KEEPER OF THE HAMMER, A BASTARD'S BASTARD!

"Guys!" Derek chirps again, chirpily.

"What …?" the PFY stumbles, running out of words.

"Am I doing here?" Derek finishes. "Well, I sold a bunch of dodgy crypto to a couple of beancounters at my company as a 'financial hedge' then decided to slip into the shadows for a while till things sorted themselves out."

"Till they were both taken in for embezzlement?" the PFY asks.

"I had my hopes set on murder-suicide, but that's probably the way it'll play out," he admits. "Anyway, I took this six-week contract on your helpdesk and it's amazing how cruisy it is to give users advice when you couldn't care about the outcome."

"That's our whole life you're talking about," I reply. "But I didn't know the Helldesk had any vacancies."

"Yeah," Derek admits. "A bunch of them came down with Giardia around the same time I had that job at that water cooler company. Anyway, I expect I'll only be here for a couple of weeks."

"So you sold some questionable coinage and are hiding out here – at our place – till someone else gets the blame … at which point you'll return to work?"

"Yup, it's a real busman's holiday."

While Derek's explaining the virtues of consequence-free employment and also pointing out where we can find the water coolers at HIS Helldesk, we're interrupted by the arrival of the Boss and the Director who have heard about the dark magic/voodoo that will fix the default dictionary issue …

"I just told those guys," Derek says, pointing to us. "But I think they're leaving the company."

"Really?" the Boss asks "Why?"

"Because our cryptocurrency is really taking off," the PFY replies.

"Could we get in on the ground floor of that?" the Director asks.

"Of course you can!" the PFY says. "There's plenty to go around …"

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