back to article BOFH: Is WHAT 'running slow'!? GOD

Sometimes it feels like my life consists  mostly of waiting. Long, long periods of waiting. I don't know how much of my time has been spent watching little dots slowly ticking over a monitor as a kernel loads, the moria-like spinning of /-\| characters on the screen while a RAID card configures or the slow crawl of a …


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  1. Reality Dysfunction

    That last paragraph is a classic.. roll on Friday

  2. Zaphod_42


    Ahhh, the mighty cricket bat - I often offer it up to others who look like they might need it!

    1. John 110

      Re: SIX!!!

      I have a stick with a nail in it. Very useful for "fishing cables from under desks"... and things...

      1. Reading Your E-mail

        Re: SIX!!!

        Woah there, you'll progress to bigger sticks and bigger nails, and soon, you'll make a stick with a nail so big, it will destroy us all!

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: SIX!!!

          Hangon, health and safety meant they took away my cricket bat whilst threatening me with having to fill in forms, all I have now is foam bat :(

          Where did you hide them?

  3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Simon is on form

    "... or the slow crawl of a progress bar across the screen as a windows boot prepares to fail..."

    Having struggled with a series of installs lately, I can relate to that. Really I can.

    Time for some percussive maintenance!!

    Where is that cricket bat?

    1. Peter Johnstone

      Re: Simon is on form

      Yep, that one line on its own is a piece of literary genius!

      ..maybe one day BOFH will replace Shakespear in schools.

  4. auburnman

    This makes me sad

    I always enjoy BOFH, but - into November and we're only on episode 9?

    They're becoming a rarer and rarer treat.

    Someone (Not me obviously) slip Simon a backhander and commission some more.

    1. Chad H.

      Re: This makes me sad

      Hear Hear, the BOFH is the reason I started coming here in the first place (I stayed for the articles).

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: This makes me sad

        Chad H.,

        You're not the only one. Some years ago I remembered the early BOFH series and started the search. What I found was El Reg.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: This makes me sad

          Likewise. Sometimes I spend a day re-reading all of the previous episodes, just to remind me why I've stayed in IT.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: This makes me sad

        Hear Hear, the BOFH is the reason I started coming here in the first place (I stayed for the articles).

        Much the same.. Some BOFH stories used to float around Fidonet (yes, I am that old!), then I found more on some news site (well IIRC it had "news" in the name) with my early forays into the web, and later they disappeared from there and I found El Reg. Been a regular reader ever since. In fact in some of the earlier days (especially before comments) I'd read every article.. Yeah I needed a life back then! :)

        (Still need one now.. Anyone got one to spare? Or shall I just take the boss's one?)

  5. Mark #255

    The truth

    'advanced knowledge': "the LinkedIn endorsements from people they barely know"

    Instant classic

  6. Busby

    Thanks Simon always enjoy the BOFH. But is it a little unreasonable of me to ask since we only get one a month now could they be a little longer please?

  7. MartinBZM
    Thumb Up


    Just... Thanks.

    You've made a dull and dreary friday worth seeing it through till pub-o'clock with minimal percussive repercussions inflicted upon the Clueless Crowd (tm).

  8. monkeyfish


    iT MIGHT BE MORE FUN TO TURN UP WITH SHIRT, TIE, SHOES AND SOCKS, BUT NO PANTS OR TROUSERS. Oh hell, caps lock. Damn it. Well I'm not typing that again.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: coming-to-work-naked

      Never mind the caps lock, it shows you are really getting into the spirit of things, in a tap-dancing-along-the-disaster-curve kind of way. Have a beer!

  9. John Riddoch
    Thumb Down


    Yup, he's perfectly described my complaints about Windows installers - let's ask questions at 5 points during the install process instead of once at the start and once at the end. For all that people complain about Linux not being user friendly, the majority of Linux installations have been easier than Windows IME...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Installers

      It's worse than that! About 5 or so years ago, most hardware worked on linux, except for wireless, it either worked out the box or basically required a human sacrifice to get it going and then no guarantee an update would fuck it all into a tinker's bucket.

      This has now been sorted, and pretty much any linux install works out the box on most stuff. Whereas nearly every windows install requires gathering sound/motherboard/proper graphics/wifi/touchpad drivers from the manufacturers website. Which is invariably shit. I don't understand that... you can work with multi-layered surface mount components but can't build a website that's easy to navigate.

      1. monkeyfish

        Re: Installers

        you can work with multi-layered surface mount components but can't build a website that's easy to navigate.

        Multi-layered surface mount components aren't easy to navigate, I think that's the problem, it screws with your brain.

      2. Charles Manning

        Re: Installers

        " Whereas nearly every windows install requires gathering sound/motherboard/proper graphics/wifi/touchpad drivers from the manufacturers website. "

        Nothing wrong with that if you're in the computer/software supply chain. Most people are too scared to even try. Instead they just buy a new box. More revenue for the suppliers.

        Remember if it ain't broke it don't get fixed. It ain't broke from the suppliers' point of view, so it will never get fixed.

        So why is Linux different? Well 99% of new punters are adding a Linux partition to a Windows PC or tre-gutting a discarded Windows PC. It has to be seamless or they hit cancel and never try again.

    2. Zaphod.Beeblebrox

      Re: Installers

      If you get any questions at all during a Windows install, you are doing it wrong. Seriously.

      We deploy dozens of systems each week and not one of them asks a question we don't want asked at a time we don't want it asked. Boot to the media, tell it the machine name (because we don't like the automatic naming convention), pick the machine function, and press the go button. Do whatever other work you like and come back later to a completed Windows install on a computer waiting to be delivered to the end user.

      Answer questions during a Windows install for a standard system deployment? Amateurs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Installers

        It's nice to see that you spend the time saved being arrogant on the internet.

      2. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: Installers

        You input the name during the install process?

        Sounds like asking for trouble...

        That name is asigned when we buy the machine, and the supplier sends us a list of serials and their corresponding MACs. Goes straight into AD and readied for PXE automatically.

        Then the machines arrive a week or 5 later...

        So the routine is 'Hammer the [F12] key in the hope of getting into the boot menu, pick 'Onboard Nic', wait for the hurried chance to press [F12] again, then twice on [Enter] and leave to cook'...

        By the end drivers, SW and AV is all in place.

        Then the user logs in and everything goes pearshaped...

        1. Zaphod.Beeblebrox
          Thumb Up

          Re: Installers

          "You input the name during the install process?

          Sounds like asking for trouble..."

          My recommendation was to use automatically assigned names based on serial or MAC but I was overridden by manglement. I agree, it can - but very rarely does - result in trouble.

          "By the end drivers, SW and AV is all in place."


          "Then the user logs in and everything goes pearshaped..."

          Truer words were never spoken.

          1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

            Re: Installers

            I do not usually get installer questions during installation of Windows, except when it does not recognize hardware. One case I remember is Windows 2000 refusing to talk to a bog-standard S3-based super VGA card from Diamond, just a year old, so hardly obsolete. It did like the older Matrox Millennium board I had lying around. On most bog-standard machines you do not have trouble, but if you have anything remotely fancy, the Windows installer can throw a fit.

            The same Windows 2000 install refused to boot the moment I attached a Quantum Viking II UW-SCSI disk to the Adaptec 2942 UW controller (which it did recognize). Attach a disk -> no boot; remove disk, all hunky-dory! AARGH! As the main disk was a mere 20GB, I really liked the idea of having a second 9GB disk available, especially because all the old data was on it. It was not to be. Put the thing in an external case and attach as external SCSI drive? That did work. Why? To this day I do not know.

            A Linux install on the same machine was WAY faster.

          2. Trygve Henriksen

            Re: Installers

            " it can - but very rarely does - result in trouble."

            It didn't cause any trouble for us, either, even with the old 'boot with a CD and type in the name' solution we used for WinXP... Until a series of machines was incorrectly marked using 'SelectaMark'.

            (We used an 'in house asset code' and the computer suppliers got assigned blocks of numbers. Then two suppliers were handed the same block...)

            Install one computer... OK...

            Install another computer in another county... OK...

            First computer no longer works on the net...

            Reinstall first computer because of assumed borked Windows...

            Second computer no longer works on the net...

            After a few rounds, someone spotted the second computer with the same name...

        2. K.o.R

          Re: Installers

          "wait for the hurried chance to press [F12] again"

          You need to change the boot program from to startrom.n12 then.

        3. Rick Giles

          Re: Installers

          "Then the user logs in and everything goes pearshaped..."

          That's my usual reply when someone asks what's wrong with the network. I tell em it was fine until the users got on it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Installers

            That's what Obama should have said.

            >That's my usual reply when someone asks what's wrong with the network. I tell em it was fine

            > until the users got on it.

      3. Rick Giles

        Re: Installers

        "Answer questions during a Windows install for a standard system deployment? Amateurs."

        That's easy to say when you didn't build that light/no touch system, isn't it.

        1. Zaphod.Beeblebrox

          Re: Installers

          "That's easy to say when you didn't build that light/no touch system, isn't it."

          Actually, I did build it. Certainly, it was built upon and using the deployment tools that MS provides, along with some tools and utilities built in-house, some by me, some by others, but yeah, isn't that how it is supposed to be done? Had it been necessary to do so we would have built it from scratch because it would be nuts to deploy systems by hand when you are dealing with any volume.

          Or should I have applauded the depiction of a professional BOFH (and the commenter) for a lack of a professional approach to system deployment? Seriously. Complain about Windows, Microsoft, etc. - sure, I get it, and I do. But *this* kind of complaining only goes to show whether or not you approach your job like a professional or not.

          1. mathew42

            Re: Installers

            Great advice for large corporates with SOEs that take years to update. For the rest of us, cycling through Windows Update umpteen dozen times after installing Windows just to install the updates is annoying.

            Compare this with linux ... as part of the installation it updates to the latest versions!

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Today I am not:

    Wiping customers noses.

    Informing suppliers that the bag contents in no way match the description.

    Covering up for another engineer who realy should have known better.

    Explaining to the boss that yes, 20 miles on the M25 does take 4 hours sometimes.

    I'm on holiday: Yay!

    However, Simon I feel your pain. Really I do {smirk}

    1. Andrew Moore

      or having to explain to the boss (yet again) why I do not know why a particular website that he is looking at is running slow or doing things in a way that he deems "not right". Now my standard response is "I will see if I get get you the phone number of the web developer in charge of that site and you can ask him yourself".

    2. MikeSimmons777

      When I was doing some certification testing in UK it happened during the storm of 2010 that dumped 6 inches (15 cm) of snow on Southeast England and it took me 4 hours to go 4 miles on the M25.

  11. Andrew Moore

    Another one...

    Users who ask "Is the GPS system down" when they have an issue with their SatNav.

    Yes user, a constellation of approximately 24 satellites, which US military and numerous civilian enterprises are nearly totally reliant on, has switched itself off.

    1. monkeyfish

      Re: Another one...

      They might have down (up? they are in the sky) loaded an update and needed to reboot...

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


        Far too helpful imho. The correct answer is..."baseball bat".

        Or L.A.R.T.

        1. Swarthy

          Re: @monkeyfish

          I like the L.A.R.T., and bats of all types can be good, but I do prefer my clue-by-4.

  12. Dave K Silver badge

    so familiar...

    "Is the system running slow today?"

    I have genuinely lost count of how many times I've been asked that. Or the other classic "Is the system down?". No further info, no slightest hint as to what they're doing, just "the system".

    I think next time someone asks me that, I'll also have to fire up Google Earth....

    And yay for a new BOFH on a Friday morning!!!

    1. Locky

      Re: so familiar...

      Only to be beaten by the ones who send group emails to proclaim that email is down. Gee, thanks.for.that

  13. Chris Miller

    Why does the choice of weapon remind me of this*?

    * Unsafe for anyone less than 50 years of age.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      That has sent me back a few decades! I still tend to call a cricket bat "clicky-ba" :-)

    2. Herby

      If only

      We could get the various tribes to fight among themselves in Afghanistan (or other unmentionable places).


  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having a job where 'waiting for things' is a legitimate task is great.

    It means you can do very little whilst the hangover subsides.

    I say subsides, it hasn't kicked in properly yet.

  15. Tachikoma

    I remember once installing a new multi function printer, and during the "bag of spanners down the stairs" initial calibration, someone using their phone turned to me and asked if I could turn down the printer volume...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I am a techy, but I used to play in a band. I remember recording a song a t a studio and the guitarist turning to me and asking me to tell the sound engineer to "turn up the quality" on his solo. Oops, got to go, looks like the "network is running slow" again. It is in fact stationary...

    1. Midnight

      Perhaps you needed to give the guitarist a "Soar" knob.

  17. earl grey

    alternative to "the bat"

    You could just as easily have had a mains driven high voltage transformer to encourage some other behaviours.

  18. Jay 2

    Is X Y?

    As a sys admin people frequently appear in my vacinity and say things like "Is box x running slow?" or "Is box X down". And I reply by saying "Are you asking me or telling me?".

  19. Toltec

    Is the Internet slow?

    No, in fact it is running really quickly because lots of people are trying to use it at the moment.

  20. Dave 32


    Decades ago, our group moved into a set of temporary trailers, while a building was being renovated for us. A year and a half into the six month stint in the trailers, I was able to upgrade my office from an interior office to an office with a window, and <gasp> a thermostat. No more suffering from a horribly cold or a horribly hot office (usually at different points during the same day). Life was good...for about two hours. Then, the endless stream of people along the same duct started showing up, complaining that their office was too hot/cold, and could I please increase/decrease the thermostat. I finally decided that the best way to handle this was to let them fight it out outside my office door (and, make a small fortune selling tickets to the fights!). Eventually, we were moved out of the temporary trailers (We were only in them for about 6.5 years of the six month period.), and, as they were demolishing the trailers (or, should I say, finishing demolishing them, since they were pretty well demolished by the time we moved out of them anyway), they discovered that the heating duct attached to the heat-pump controlled by the thermostat on my office wall had never been attached to anything!


    P.S. True story!

    P.P.S. I'll get my coat. It's the one with the thermal lining and ice in the pockets.

    1. Shooter

      Re: Thermostat

      In the late '70s I used to work at a cinema, and we were constantly beset by menopausal women complaining that the theater was too hot, followed immediately by post-menopausal women complaining that the theater was too cold (I know that sounds sexist, but I honestly don't recall ever having a male complain about the temperature). This was during the "Energy Crisis (TM)", so the HVAC system was set at a government mandated setting, and the thermostat was in a locked plastic box to boot. I quickly learned to respond "Yes ma'am, will get right on that! Takes a while to change the temperature in a huge room like this, though." Then I would ignore the issue. Very rarely got a second complaint...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    LOL - I'll remember this one next time I'm mad at some poor hapless tech support person whose job it it to help little old ladies figure out their computer isn't plugged in....I got extremely frustrated when Google changed their policy about youtube....suddenly, I'm a member of Google+ (or I joined recently, then cancelled my account).

    Worked my way up to a real person who promised to help me, then fobbed me off to some "website" which was probably the solution to my problem....just because the video I was trying to post was about the CIA I'll bet. They're out to get me, I tell you!

    So now when I upload youtube videos, they appear on my new Google+ account.....which I can't find, so I can't delete it, etc etc etc, ha ha ha!

    Well, I know it's a tech guys are out to get me to buy a new laptop! As i was typing this, the computer shut down because I forgot to plug it in! See what I mean?

  22. john bertelsen

    "The Net is down"

    My favorite, all time luser statement:

    One of our managers calls me and says, "The Net is down!"

    I check it out. Turns out the printer he is trying to print to is out of paper.

  23. Herby

    Cause and effect unrelated. It happens in weird places!

    In my youth (the 60's) I have a wonderful dog that would complain when the food we served him was too hot. Usually this meant that he would bark at the food until it cooled, which it did in little time. I always relate this story to people when the supposed "cure" has nothing to do with the "symptom".

    Yes, "Fats" is no longer with us. He was a 1/2 Basset, 1/2 friend of Basset (later estimated to be part beagle, part springer spaniel).

  24. ShadowDragon8685

    A cricket bat?

    I'm showing my cluelessness here, but in my defense I'm a yankee.

    Are cricket bats really that dangerous? I know a baseball bat makes a mighty fine cudgel, but the only time I've seen cricket bats used was in Shaun of the Dead and that episode of Are you Being Served? Again! (Known in the UK as Grace and Favour.)

    A cricket bat doesn't seem like they'd really be as effective as, say, a claw-hammer and overvolted-cattle-prod dual-wielding rampage. They looked pretty reedy and hollow, and awkward to swing at someone.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: A cricket bat?

      Time was when an Englishman armed only with a monocle and a cricket bat could hold an empire.

    2. MrDamage

      Re: A cricket bat?

      A cricket bat is made of solid willow, and makes a mighty fine cudgel in the hands of someone who has played the game for a good portion of his life.

      Admittedly, a baseball bat is easier to swing due to its more streamlined and balanced shape, but the heft and weight of a cricket bat makes it a force to be reckoned with, especially in the hands of the aforementioned monocled gentleman.

    3. Blakey

      Re: A cricket bat?

      What makes them look hollow to you? They're solid willow and weigh several times what a baseball bat does.

  25. plrndl

    "... I'll just pause the install process until you tell me what colour font you'd like on the console session..."

    When you set out to kill the person who wrote the above referenced installer, can I come with you? I promise to bring something REALLY nasty with me.

  26. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Time passes...

    Thorin starts singing about gold


    You pushes Thorin, quite by accident, and in the darkness, into the open elevator shaft.

  27. Grant Alexander

    Select * from user where clue > 0

    I can so relate to the comparison of the proportion of time admins spend waiting compared to the waiting and patience level of users. We are constantly bombarded with complaints about impaired productivity due to this or that service being slow, and it just astounds me how impatient users can be.

    On top of this users chafe at the idea that all installations should be done by sysadmins. They want to be able to install any and all applications they want. (Where will they get the time to do that?)

    Another pet peeve is encountering a user in the corridor who greets me with "Did you get my e-mail?" I just wish I had a suitable comeback for that - because it was save me belting them repeatedly with the cluebat until my arm aches.

  28. Kevin B

    Heh... I'm an aircon guy... And can validate Simon's telling of my life!

  29. AndrueC Silver badge

    So very, very true about downloading from a manufacturer's web site. Why is it that hardware manufacturers seem to run the slowest servers? And if a download is going to stall or crap out it'll be because it's coming from a hardware manufacturer.

  30. Fihart

    Don't mind messages.

    At least they tell you something is happening -- better than progress bar which stays static for 5 minutes then suddenly leaps to the end. I have to single out Blackberry as my latest gripe -- about 20 minutes to download and install an app with virtually no interaction, leaving one with a growing suspicion that the process had frozen.

    I'm reminded of my favourite instruction manual (for a Taiwanese video card) obviously written by the only person in the firm who had any semblance of English (probably a secretary who had no technical knowledge).

    Aside from the usual lingual weirdness it contained a fabulously helpful suggestion to the effect that "if nothing appears, make sure that the monitor screen is not dirty".

  31. ITBloke

    "When people say 'memory' when they mean 'disk'."

    Does anyone else get really annoyed at the ads on tv talking about memory as a singular thing or is it just me? Things like laptops advertised "with a huge 8gig memory" - since when did memory become a single thing measured like this, 2 little missing letters - "of" would make all the difference, 8gig OF memory, !!!, Its not just grammar, it just shows the companies advertising the things have no idea what the subject actually is and compound it by propagating newbie language onto a new generation.

    Its awful being pedantic......

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