BOFH: You want presentation layer, but we're physical layer

Or How to Philosophize with a Hammer

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 18 There's been a complaint. I know – color me surprised.

Apparently someone has not enjoyed a recent interaction with either the PFY or me and as a result they have implied that our manner was in some way brusque and not at all customer-focused.

I know.

I'm not sure who the complainant is but it must be someone new to the Company as no one who's been here for any length of time wishes to have the undivided attention of either the PFY or myself. However, I'm sure the meeting with HR will clear all this up ...

"... and the substance of their complaint is that you didn't solve their complaint, didn't make any effort to find the source of the issue, and palmed them off with some platitudes about switching their device off and on to clear the problem."

"How is that seen as palming them off?" the PFY asks. "If anything, switching a piece of kit off, waiting 10 minutes, then switching it back on again restores functionality about 50 percent of the time."

"Wait a minute!" I interject. "This isn't about the time the Boss's wife called me about why his life support machine was beeping, is it? Because that was totally on me. And I might have said 30 minutes instead of 10. Mea Culpa."

"But let's not forget the plus side," the PFY adds. "The hospital concerned was very close to meeting its power-saving targets that month."

"We like to give back," I agree, nodding.

"It's not about that," the HR droid replies.

"It's not the guy from the colored pencil office still upset because I said liter when I should have said milliliter, is it? Who in their right mind would use that much isopropyl to clean a cooling fan?"

"No, it is not Keith from the drafting office," HR says, "although he has indicated that he'll be putting in a complaint when the burns have healed."

"Well, then I'm at a loss," I say.

"We received a complaint that you – both of you, that is – refused to try and fix someone's computer."

"That doesn't ring a bell," I say.

"Last Tuesday?"

"Hmmmmmmmm, no?"

"Last Tuesday, another person from the drafting office?" HR hints, helpfully.

"Nothing springs to mind."

"They say they brought their MacBook Air in and you refused to take a look at it."

"Oh, I thought you said COMPUTER!" the PFY says.

"A Mac's a computer."

"Agree to disagree," the PFY shoots back.

"See, the problem is the OSI model," I explain to the HR person.

"The ... OSI model?" HR asks.

"Yeah. You see, what you're after is presentation layer but we're more ... physical layer."

"I don't know what you mean."

"Well, I think what you would see as optimal is us having a user interface which has been tailored toward listening to pointless stories – an interface which has an almost infinite 'listen-timeout'.

"This would be an interface which could take packets of information, delivered out of sequence and which contain a lot of spurious data. You'd want it to take those onions-in-our-belts data, which might not meet even the most basic of data sanity checks, and from all of the above data assemble a request."

"Go on," HR says, slightly confused.

"And you'd then like that data translated into an action plan, execute that action plan, and then compose a response packet which has been tailored to delivering coherent data back to the client."

"I ... think I understand what you're saying."

"But you'd like that return data to be translated into small, easily received packets and have it delivered synchronously; able to buffer the response information whenever extraneous data – also with data sanity issues – is presented."

"I ..."

"So, in the OSI model most of this activity occurs in layers 4 to 7 – which does the data sorting, assembly, parity checking, and discarding before presenting a concise request to our layer. We call these the Host layers – or, more commonly, 'The Service desk'."

"You mean the Helpdesk."

"If you like. In any case, the complainant is wanting us to operate in those higher levels of the model, which is not our area of expertise. We exist at the lower levels, presenting our data to the higher layers to present to the user. We don't really have a presentation layer as such."

"But surely you could ..."

"No, that would be mixing up the layers. And that never goes well."

"I still think you should ..."

"But our layer is optimized to the type of work we do."

"And yet your employment contract notes nothing about these 'layers' ..." HR shoots back.

"It wouldn't. It's not a technical document."

"Exactly – so how about you do what you're supposed to do to make the problem go away and we won't start wondering which layer of HR it is – or isn't – that pays you."

"Okee dokee," I say, texting the PFY. "I'll just wait here, shall I?"

"What for?" HR asks blankly.

... 2 minutes later ...

"... ripped it from the wall?" HR says to their caller.

"That'll be the network layer," I say. "Or maybe it's the data layer."

"... a ... HAMMER?" HR gasps.

"Ah. That'll be the hardware layer," I say. "Will you need me to explain that? Only I left my chainsaw down in the office ..."

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