BOFH: We've made a big mesh, Boss. That's what you wanted, right?
The signal is strongest in the pub...
Episode 19 "I need you to find it!" the Boss snaps.
"I... Nope... nothing.." I say, perusing my phone screen.
"It was there a minute ago."
"Yes, but it's transient. It might even just be too far away."
"It was there when I was walking over."
"Well let's just pop outside the office and check."
. . .
"No, still nothing."
"It was there," the Boss insists
"What was it called exactly?"
"Oh, I don't know, but it wasn't very nice," he lies.
"How will I know if I find it?"
"You'll know," the Boss seethes.
And I would indeed know. By all accounts the Boss has annoyed someone so much that they've hidden a wireless router (or, more likely, have a personal hotspot) with an SSID of his name and the phrase "IsAGobshite".
And that's just the kind version. The SSID varies and the Boss could narrow down the culprit by just thinking back on who he's annoyed and when, and then match that with the changing of SSIDs. Instead, he wants the PFY and I to perform magical triangulation of field strengths to find the person – the sort of detective work which is usually restricted to procedural dramas that will link it to the IP address 382.27.915.12 which will translate – through the internet address book – to the office next door.
"You must be able to locate the source!" he insists.
"We could, but the problem is that within buildings the signal strength varies due to the building structure and mass. Where there's a particularly dense mass – like the lift well, the services risers, or our HR department, the signal is attenuated."
I know the Boss wants to know if "attenuated" is good or bad, but he doesn't want to appear ignorant.
"So..." he asks.
"We could go round the building from the outside and see where the signal is strongest?"
"Okay, do that then."
10 minutes later in the pub...
"So, we've probably got half an hour till the Boss starts wondering where we are'" I say to the PFY.
"We could get a full hour if we keep him busy 'reducing the signal interference'."
"You mean getting him to turn all those electrically noisy lights off, make sure no one uses the microwave, get everyone to turn off their Bluetooth?"
...an hour later...
"How's it going?" the PFY asks as I peruse the wireless offerings.
"He's obviously encountered the culprit because the SSID has changed to ...IsAnInbredFerret, then ...IsASheepworrier, then ...WearsStupidPants. Actually, it's currently alternating between those last two."
"Let's have a look," he says. "Wait a minute...""What?" I ask.
"Different hardware IDs!"
"Two OR MORE phones," the PFY counters.
The Boss isn't happy. There are now at least four different hotspots with his name associated with them – none of which would be considered flattering. One of them even has a login screen which has an I-am-not-a-robot verification process where the user has to select the image which most resembles the Boss – with an image selection consisting mainly of rubbish bins, vacuum cleaners and garden gnomes.
"We've done what we could!' I say, "but we have to consider the possibility that there's more than one person involved."
"More than one how?"
"Well when we were performing our building exterior survey..."
"From the pub," the Boss inserts needlessly.
"We surveyed the building from a number of external locations."
"The three pubs within 100 yards of the building," he again interjects.
"Yes, yes, but you'll be pleased to know that only one pub could see an SSID associated with you."
"Well, I suppose that's something."
"Unfortunately, it was the words 'I'll trade my company M1 laptop for a Psion' and your desk phone number."
"This has got to stop before it becomes public!"
"It's very difficult to stop something like this – and with half the workforce on portable equipment I doubt it's much of a secret."
We're interrupted by the phone.
"Yes?" the Boss says ... "I think you have the wrong number... No, I know, but you have the wrong number."
"MAKE. IT. STOP," he looks pointedly at the PFY and me.
"OK, so, we're just going to crank up the signal strength to uh... >tap< >tap< >tap< 110 percent, select >click< all channels, all frequencies, >clicky< and YES, I REALLY want to do this. Okay?"
"Okay!" the Boss snaps.
"And, uh, and should we make the changes permanent?"
"Hmm," the PFY says about a minute of silence later.
"What? I can't hear anything."
"Yeah. No keyboards clicking, no phones ringing."
"That'll be because our mesh is overpowering all the other wireless."
"...in the building," the Boss says.
"What have you done?"
"Well I made all those SSIDs disappear by overpowering them on all channels. And the new SSIDs are saying you're not a gobshite."
"TURN IT OFF!" the Boss says, after a brief moment of realization.
"I can't. We made the changes permanent. We'd have to get to every unit in the mesh, reset it to factory defaults, then prevent the mesh from reconfiguring it in healing mode... "
"What's up with the network," our esteemed Director asks.
"We um, applied some changes to the wireless at his request," I say, nodding at the Boss.
"We can't. He wanted them permanent. We'd have to power every last one of the access points down and factory reset them before we could reimage the mesh controller - or it'll see the old hardware address and reconfigure it again."
"How long will that take?"
- BOFH: A security issue, you say? Activate code tangerine
- BOFH: WELCOME TO COLOSSAL SERVER ROOM ADVENTURE!!
- BOFH: Here in my car I feel safest of all. I can listen to you ... It keeps me stable for days
- BOFH: When the Sun rises in the West and sets in the East, only then will the UPS cease to supply uninterrupted voltage
"Maybe two days to remove all the access points, a day to reset them all, an hour or so to reimage the controller."
"Can we buy some replacement units to get the network up again – call in a few favors? You must know someone willing to trade."
"As it happens I think my assistant has the number of someone 'willing to trade' earlier today..."