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BOFH: The Boss has a new watch – move readiness to DEFCON 2

Let us show you some pointless technology of our own

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 19 I'm standing in the queue at the cafeteria when the Boss holds up his hand and says: "Check this out!"

"An... apple turnover?" I ask, taking a stab at the food item on the end of his tongs.

"No, not the food – the watch!" he burbles happily.

"Ah yes, it's a watch. Well done."

"It's not just any watch, it's a SMART watch!"

NGAAAARRGH! I lock in full auxiliary power but it's too late – I'm getting sucked in by this conversation's tractor beam.

Still, I can't leave as I promised the PFY I'd bring him back a plate-load of onion bhajis.

"Ah yes," I say, feigning a sidestep. "Still, that's a nice looking apple turnover. Which species of apple do you think they use in them?"

The Boss is having none of it.

"And the great thing about this is that it was so cheap! And it has a Gorilla Glass face."

"Sounds like they knew their customer," I say. "And his wife."

"It talks to my smart phone," he says, missing most of that.

"You mean your phone," I say.

"Oh I suppose. But it IS the latest iPhone. I queued up at midnight for it."

I resist the urge to shout at him that the only thing you should be queuing for at midnight is a kebab. "Uh huh."

"You seem disinterested," he says.

"These things," I say, pointing at his watch and phone, "are the mayflies of the IT world. Their lifetime is so short that even the terms you use to describe them are obsolete in no time."

"They last for years!"

"They COULD last for years, yes – but they won't. The excitement half-life of them is measured in weeks, so by this time next year you'll have the new latest iPhone and a different cheap smart watch."

"And I suppose you're above all that?" he snaps back with more than a hint of sulkiness.

"No, no, we make the same mistakes, just in different ways. We implement so many ideas that seem to have useful and practical applications but in practice turn out to be nothing more than cheap trinkets."

"Like what?" he asks.

"Take the LED lights in our office which were replaced last year," I say, grabbing a bunch of bhajis before the Boss can snaffle them all.

"Everyone's were replaced last year," he says.

"Yes, but ours were replaced with multicolor addressable LED lamps," I say. "The idea was that we could use the lamps to indicate the status of our systems. If the lights were white then everything was normal; green, things were normal but the trend analysis criteria indicated routine maintenance was required; orange, something important had failed; and red, critical system failure."

"That sounds like a good idea."

"It does, doesn't it?" I say, tucking into a bhaji. "Only in operation the lights were mostly white or green. We might have seen orange once – but we knew the outage was coming before the lights had changed."

"So you changed the lights out."

"No, because then we went into the next idea. We linked the lights to the number of items in our work queue – only we found that when we needed to work on a piece of hardware we'd delete all the jobs in the queue so that we'd have enough light to see what we were doing."

"And so you changed the lights out then?"

"Didn't even consider it," I reply. "We configured the light fittings to be on or off to make a room-wide binary clock with the front row being hours and the back row being minutes – which just meant we'd move around desks a lot; we had the light color reflect the amount of work time left in the day – red in the mornings, green in the mid-afternoon, white at home time; then we linked the lamps to a couple of microphones and used it like a massive audio spectrum analyzer."


"Completely useless," I say, tucking into another bhaji as we head down to the office. "All these things were just a fancy solution looking for a problem. We should've stuck with normal lights that are on when the switch is down and off when the switch is up. Those lights will just keep doing what they do, and all we have to do is accept that. Just like a watch is for telling the time and a phone is for communicating with people."

"So just to be clear – you changed out the lights?"

"Nope. I decided to use the lights for something truly pointless. I linked them to the PFY's electronic mood ring – another piece of pointless technology. When they're white, he's in a good mood; green, he's OK; orange, silently fuming; and red – well, you shouldn't be in the room."

"And we paid good money for those lights?" the Boss snaps, a touch annoyed.

"We paid good money for your 'latest iPhone,' didn't we?" I ask as we enter Mission Control.

"Has someone got a new iPhone?" the PFY asks as the lights turn orange.

View from office roof garden

BOFH: Will the last one out switch off the printer?


"He has," I say, pointing at the Boss. "And he took the last five onion bhajis."

"Why have the lights gone red?" the Boss asks.

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