back to article BOFH: The Hypochondriac Boss and the non-random sample

"It's called Selection Bias," I say to the Boss. "What do you mean?" "I mean they're cherry-picking research that supports their opinion." "How?" "Okay, so say I think that playing first person shooter games gives you migraines." "It does," the Boss says. "No it doesn't," the PFY says. "It does - I get them every time I …

  1. Dr. Mouse


    suddenly I'm selling a chair endorsed by a certified IT professional with a background in health and usability research... And not a suggestible hypochondriac with the IT skillset of a potato

    Well done once again, Simon!

    1. Jason 24

      Re: Brilliant

      Beat me to to it ---> see icon, what's the PO address for a new one again?

  2. Geoff May (no relation)

    "IT skillset of a potato"

    Now there is an expression that can be widely applied ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "IT skillset of a potato"

      I have programmed a computer using potatoes. I doubt I could do anything so productive with the BOFH's Boss.

    2. stucs201

      Re: "IT skillset of a potato"

      Be careful if the potato is GLaDOS...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "IT skillset of a potato"

        I think the potato meme has been worn a bit thin by the morons of youtube hasnt it?

    3. Number6

      Re: "IT skillset of a potato"

      There wouldn't be IT if it wasn't for chips. Which are made from potatoes.

      1. You aint sin me, roit

        Hold on...

        Potato plus zinc plus copper = bright* spark!

        * Comedic purposes.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "IT skillset of a potato"

        Not just chips, french fries too!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "IT skillset of a potato"

        I worked at a digital mapping/GIS software shop that hired a CMO away from Lays Inc. (potato chip manufacturer) We commonly said "computer chips are not potato chips" when he did dumb things, which was all the freaking time.

  3. Alien8n

    Photography can make you deaf

    It's true. I was doing some photography last night* and my ears are still ringing.

    * the fact that the photography was in a live music venue and I forgot my ear plugs is entirely coincidental**.

    ** That and the fact music photographers tend to be directly in front of the speakers half the time

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Photography can make you deaf

      It can also give you a sore stripy arse.

      Though that only seems to happen when I do fetish photography for some strange reason...

      1. Alien8n

        Re: Photography can make you deaf

        Strange you should mention that... I know the house photographer at Club Antichrist.

  4. Roq D. Kasba

    By any chance...

    ...was that a Certified Independent Natural Antivirus Coordinator?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: By any chance...

      It was a certified unbiased network therapist, actually.

  5. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    If I had kids I'd make Simon's BOFH stories compulsory reading for them.

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      If I had kids I'd hide the BOFH stories as well as I could.

      I started to read Simon's stories during my formative years. Now see what became of me! Yes, I took one or the other inspiration from his stories. But certainly I disposed of less people than the BOFH.

      1. Sixtysix


        I'd really HOPE that all commentards, probably combined, have disposed of considerably less bodies than the BOFH or the PFY!

      2. Robert Moore

        Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Andrei Chikatilo, and Gary Ridgway combined have disposed of fewer people than the BOFH, and PFY.

        1. fishman

          "Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Andrei Chikatilo, and Gary Ridgway combined have disposed of fewer people than the BOFH, and PFY."

          Sounds like an episode where its the BOFH vs Sherlock Holmes would be interesting.

          1. oldcoder

            Sherlock would likely help dispose of the body. He can't stand deliberate stupidity either.

          2. VanguardG

            I recall there *being* a Holmes episode, actually...not really a "vs" scenario, though.


        2. theblackhand


          While Simon and the PFY have disposed of more bodies, if Dahmer/Bundy/et el had focussed more on accountants, managers and HR they may have avoided some of the damage to their reputations...

      3. Anonymous Prime

        >>I started to read Simon's stories during my formative years.

        If I had discovered BOFH during my college years (when I worked as a computer lab assistant, teaching Word 6(66) to students who barely knew how to type and had waited 'til the eleventh hour to start writing their reports) I'd be in prison.

      4. Deimos

        BOFH plus kids =

        I foolishly let my eldest child read my BOFH archive plus "The Prince" and Kevin Mitnick..

        She now works at a nice admin job managing real rocket scientists and sending stuff to crash on Mars. I was worried that my library might be a bad influence so I didn't give her siblings access, they all work in retail.

        Suffice to say that I'm leaving my library to my grandchildren and seeding the books with fivers to encourage reading them.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: BOFH plus kids =

          "She now works at a nice admin job managing real rocket scientists and sending stuff to crash on Mars."

          So it's all your fault?

          1. GrapeBunch

            Re: BOFH plus kids =

            AS: I especially like the Iodine-tinged lipstick. But getting back to bizniss:

            " "She now works at a nice admin job managing real rocket scientists and sending stuff to crash on Mars."

            So it's all your fault? "

            Fault shared between Deimos and, Urban-Legendly, this: =============> ;

  6. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    My daily business

    If need be, I select and test a sample on the basis of probable error and then write something like "14 out of a risk-based sample of 20 items were deficient." That the addressee of my report will think about an error rate of 70 per cent - well, that's part of the game.

    Of course, to the best of my knowledge it might just as well be a total of 14 errors out of a population of umpteen thousands. But based on the approach it is simply not possible to draw any conclusions on the population.

  7. Unicornpiss

    Au Gratin..

    "IT skillset of a potato.."

    But there were those kits where you could make a clock out of a potato. Sounds like the basis for a "Time Management" IT consultant position with proven credentials...

  8. Craig 2

    I always wondered what MCP stood for: Microsoft Certified Potato

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      It used to be MCSE.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Yes, MCSE: Microsoft Certified Solanum tuberosum Expert

        But people aren't comfortable with latin, so they changed it.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Trilkhai

        "Microsoft Certified Consulting Expert"

        I like the version from about 20 years ago better — 'Must Call Somebody Else.'

    2. Steve the Cynic

      "I always wondered what MCP stood for"

      Master Control Program, duh.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Culling the herd...

    Send out an email warning users never to click on a link embedded within an email, with an embedded link saying "Click here for more information..." and then sack everyone who does.

    1. <shakes head>

      Re: Culling the herd...

      you laugh we are doing that at the moment......... well not fired, but a sever talking to

      1. The First Dave

        Re: Culling the herd...

        Then presumably you are going to negate it all by using a trustworthy internal email address...

      2. Jimboom

        Re: Culling the herd...

        "sever talking to"

        You cut them as you are talking to them? With Blade servers presumably. I prefer the cat5-o-nine-tails myself, but hey whatever works.

      3. Alistair

        Re: Culling the herd...

        @shakes head.

        I'd almost suspect I know who you work for.

        'cept over here they're throwing servers at people that click the link.

        old servers

        Like, Vclass.

        1. nullacritter

          Re: Culling the herd...

          Gawd - Vclass , that is not something I have heard of for a long while. The mob who used it at Woolies took a dim view when I suggested we could use it as a heated lunch table. No sense of humour.

      4. Mine's a Large One

        Re: Culling the herd...

        If that's not a typo, that's a very severe talking to!!

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Culling the herd...

        If you thinking what I'm thinking, that would be the email supposedly from a colour laser jet!! :-)

      6. Ididntbringacoat

        Re: Culling the herd...

        So, what part(s) do you sever? And to you really speak while doing it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Culling the herd...

      We did this last week at the NHS, albeit due to incompetance rather than a carefully thought out herd-culling plan.

      A "test" email was sent to all staff.

      Many idiots were exposed as people who think the right way to express their absolute apoplectic fury at being sent an email is to hit the "reply-to-all" button

      1. Unicornpiss

        Re: Culling the herd...

        A coworker sent out an alert to our building about the latest scam circulating, including a screenshot of the original message, showing the link and with instructions that "if you receive this, DO NOT click the link, just delete the message." (obviously not with a live link, for obvious reasons)

        Within 5 minutes he got back the first reply: "I can't click on the link! What am I doing wrong?"

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Culling the herd...

          Oh God yes.

          A few years back I sent out an edited version of an email like this, ( I think it was of the "your computer has a problem, click here to resolve it" variety - something like that) that a staff member had received and sensibly shown to me. I sent it with roughly that message, and with with the link(s) deleted.

          It is a small organisation, - a couple of dozen staff- and I spent much of the remainder of the day being interrupted by people coming up to me and saying "I got your message, but I couldn't get the button to click".

          Something about computers scares normally intelligent people to being unthinking, unobservant, uncritical sheep.

          Icon used in lieu of a proper despair icon

          1. Myvekk

            Re: Culling the herd...


            I have seen & spoken to many people who, when placed in front of a computer, or other piece of "hi-tech" equipment, suffer from a paralytic brain freeze. They suddenly lose all intelligence, problem solving ability & common sense.

      2. Laura Kerr
        Thumb Up

        Re: Culling the herd...

        "hit the "reply-to-all" button"...

        ... telling everyone to stop replying to all.

        Oh yes, they did. Lots of them.

        Some of the addresses were automated ticketing systems. That replied to all. One or two people even replied to all, asking why the tickets had been assigned to them. Definitely a popcorn day.

        I ended up deleting 322 of the things, and I suspect I got off lightly. I've kept the original for posterity :-)

    3. Marcelo Rodrigues

      Re: Culling the herd...

      "Send out an email warning users never to click on a link embedded within an email, with an embedded link saying "Click here for more information..." and then sack everyone who does."

      Priceless! LOLing* here! :D

      * Yes, I took "LOL" and made it into a verb. I am low enough to do this. :D

  10. Fading

    True story...

    "True Story: The antivirus coordinator at a place I once worked sent out an IT security CD to all staff - with a virus on it."

    Well how else are you supposed to test that it works?

    Disclaimer: don't try this at home.

    1. mastodon't

      Re: True story...

      AOL, BT & Blueyonder install discs all used to routinely wipe ALL modem settings while adding their own if you used the installer on a mac so no surprises there.

  11. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Happy Friday

    nearly beer o'clock

  12. Brett

    Virus on a cd?

    I can beat that

    A company I once worked for sent out a self help CD-ROM for installing its hardware. Said CD-ROM was later found to have a porn film in one of the folders LOL

    No, it wasn't me that built it lol

    1. Martin

      Re: Virus on a cd?

      I can't work out whether to upvote you for a good story, or downvote you for using LOL instead of a fullstop.

    2. Myvekk

      Re: Virus on a cd?

      There's helping yourself & then there's "helping" yourself...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Virus on a cd?

      Well, it beats having an antivirus saying you have a virus... on a hard-pressed, holography-shiny, fully original Microsoft™ Windows XP™ install disc. A very popular antivirus package.

      Better yet, the virus scanner trying to remove said virus, and locking the drive. I mean, the program froze, and I had to kill the program to open the CD tray, for the lack of a needle.

      It was quickly fixed, though.

      1. VanguardG

        Re: Virus on a cd?

        I once installed two retail anti-virus programs on one computer. Each saw the other one as a virus.

        So I told them both to scan the drive and left for lunch while they fought it out. Neither won...they locked the system up. I called it a draw.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ooh, ooh, ooh ... I hope I get one of those chairs for Xmas.

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Friday, BOFH, Pub O'clock

    It's a perfect world!

  15. Arachnoid

    Take my Money

    Where`s my chair and which port do I connect it to on the server to access all the blocked educational channels?

  16. clive6

    Oh how we laughed!

    Didn't Compaq send out a load of preformated hard drives with virus enclosed?

  17. EL Vark

    Lessons Never Learned

    Microsoft used to ship their DOS and Windows floppies with the write protection tab set to Allow disk writing. So, if you didn't notice and flip the tab, and needed to reinstall one or the other or both (which wasn't uncommon, and wasn't much of an issue so long as you had a nice stack of back-ups), and your system was infected - often the reason for the reinstall - you'd infect your manufacturer floppies. I'm sure MS wasn't alone, but I do recall that my games and other software came with the tabs set to Block writing (lest they be accidentally over-written, if nothing else).

    Which should be a lesson for USB sticks, today, the ones intended for read-only, though they don't all have a write-protect tab to lock.

  18. Florida1920


    suggestible hypochondriac with the IT skillset of a potato

    Facebook user.

    1. Alumoi Silver badge

      Re: FTFY

      F̶a̶c̶e̶b̶o̶o̶k̶ ̶u̶s̶e̶r̶.

      Social media user.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: FTFY

      In my experience, most potatoes have a higher level of IT skill than that.

  19. Herby


    My PFY days were back in the late 60's and early 70's. It got adventuresome at times. Eventually I got to be the proper BOFH when I got the boss fired (he purchased something that he wasn't supposed to).

    Youth gives you all sorts of experience. The normal comment was a retort to "I only changed one card, and it doesn't work now". The response was always "Look at that card", with an implied "you idiot" at the end. Of course some of the people I was dealing with had computer skills of a potato, even though they were PhD's ("piled higher and deeper") or getting one. Things have gone through a metamorphosis in the years gone by.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Experience...

      Why is that the more Degrees and PhDs they have the less common sense they have?

      Back in the day when I was the PFY I dealt with people in research who had more qualifications than I've had hot dinners, yet could barely tie their own shoe-laces.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Experience...

        I suspect that researchers are a special case anyway. Often (not always) people who have a very narrow focus. They studied their subject or its underlying knowledge through A levels, degree, MA and beyond with massive commitment and an unswerving trajectory. There are, of course, plenty of researchers with normal skill sets, social lives and outside interests. But those who don't will be represented in a high proportion, because they are the ones who have scaled those heights.

      2. Myvekk

        Re: Experience...

        The more specialised training, the less space for 'common' things. Like sense, courtesy etc.

        "Here Broomfondle, why didn't we think of that?"

        "I guess our minds must be too highly trained, Magicthighs."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Experience...


          You missed out...

          "Why won't my pc work, IT Guy?"

          "Have you plugged it in, Mr PhD?"

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Experience...

            Thinking about this further, I've also met a number of highly skilled, even quite techy, people who don't seem to realise that the same, pretty standard, problem solving techniques they use to sort out issues in their specialised jobs will actually still work when applied to such things as their computer problems, getting the VCR ( old skool), dishwasher or microwave oven etc. to work.

    2. Marshalltown

      Re: Experience...

      You worked for a bigger company than I did. Mine owned the place and tended to do what ever he pleased. "It's my hardware."

  20. CbD1234567890

    And they wrote VIRUS-SCAN on that CD

    So that when the boss questioned them later, they could say 'it was a note to myself to scan it' :P

  21. PAKennedy

    Ah. I contracted at an international pharmaceutical firm once. I was the second person at the company with the same name and working second line support so all my email would be only from my cow-orkers on a very small prototyping site.

    I started getting lots of email for the other Pkennedy. So I set up a rule that forwarded any email from AU users to him and replied to the sender that this had happened. There was no way to exclude him from the rule...

    He thought this was a good idea so he did the same a couple of weeks later when he received his first email that should have gone to me... on a Friday evening. Then emailed me to tell me as he left the office.

    That weekend the email servers crashed under the load of an exponentially increasing load.

    1. Myvekk

      So was that him working from the "It seemed like a good idea at the time..." files.

      Or, being Friday afternoon & beer-o-clock, "Hold my beer & watch this!" While laughing maniacally about what was going to happen over the weekend?

  22. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    True Stories From Corporate America - Part Duh!

    "......The antivirus coordinator at a place I once worked sent out an IT security CD to all staff - with a virus on it." LOL! Many years ago, a support employee of a leading IT super-vendor in Singapore sent an email to all his customers advising on methods to avoid getting infected by one of those new PC virii. Unfortunately, the email was infected with the then unknown "I Love You" virus, and that email from a trusted source was probably responsible for the speed with which the virus subsequently infected a large number of corporate customers around the World. Such was the state of innocence/ignorance in those days that those infected said they had trusted the source but hadn't questioned why he would send an attachment titled "I Love You"!

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: True Stories From Corporate America - Part Duh!

      Marketeers (aka Spawn of Satan) did and do tend to send "eye-catching" emails with stupid subject lines and even attachment names. We currently have one in our spam folder with a subject "oops...something went wrong", from a genuine clothes retailer, as it happens. You would have no idea what to expect from it, maybe a price change, or a billing error...... Perfect for a payload email to piggy back on to. Just click on this link........etc.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Double trouble

    I once worked for a company (AC for obvious reasons) that sent out a mailshot as a large email attachment (containing a virus). Then a couple of days later sent out another email apologising for the virus. Yes, you guessed it the second email also contained (a different) virus.

  24. Marshalltown

    Ah - that brings back nightmarish times

    I had a boss who went on a trip to - mmmh - let us just say an Eastern European country. He took his lap top along - this back in the day of three-and-a-half-inch stiffies. So, he returns, with his lap top and his stiffies, and a newfound sense of maintaining computer "security." The Monday after his return my antivirus lights up like Christmas. What's this" Infected by virus, but how? Well let us purge the hard drive, restore from my back up, and to work. Strangely, several other office systems have the same problem, but never fear, we have backups. Next Monday - omigish! Same tale! In fact very same virus. And the same machines are infected. Scan network logs - no sign of intrusions. Hmmm. Read up on virus. Interestingly the virus is believed to have originated in a certain Eastern European country to which the boss recently traveled. Coincidence? He's out of the office so can't be buttonholed.

    I really need that beer just thinking about it.

    Week three, same story, except my system is healthy. I had changed passwords - against company policy. There is a sticky on my screen advising of this breach of protocol and inviting me to the boss's office for an official ass chewing. My system was inaccessible for his new, weekly "security scan" using "free software" from Eastern Europe!!! He was quite taken aback when I marched directly into his office demanding he hand over the offending software for disposal with prejudice.

    After explaining that the disk he was using was apparently infected with the EE virus, I cut it up in the paper cutter and recycled the remains. I blush to admit that - as a "good" employee - after ascertaining that the floppy disk was the immediate source of the contamination I asked no further questions, and handed the boss my new password. Next week - arrgh! Same story. This time I scanned all floppies he had with him during the trip and - to his inexpressible grief - destroyed several disks of porn all infected with the very same EE virus. Then I scanned his desk top. Same problem - but worse, his recent backups had overwritten clean copies with virus laden ones. Bad. Then - OK, where's the lap top? Wide eyes - WHAT? The laptop - come on. Scanned that - holy cow!! Not just the EE virus but an entire culture dish of nasties. Reformatted and reinstalled the operating system after a thorough session with fdisk deleting all partions, after scrubbing the drive. The problem never recurred, and after that I never again heard about changing my passwords.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah - that brings back nightmarish times

      For these cases of virus infection we had the FORMATTING MALLET.

      It was a two-hander 50-pound sledgehammer. It took some balancing and bracing to swing that beast. We managed to use it, just once, on a perfectly healthy hard drive. Eye protection required.

  25. Luiz Abdala

    The COMPLEAT Archives 95-99

    I wonder how long could I ignore the term. It's been roughly 6 years dully ignoring it.

    But hell it is slow today. I thought it was wrong, but oh no, it is completely fine!


    Archaic aren't we? And the term is more recent in American English than British English.


  26. VanguardG

    Hold on, who shot a monkey at the moon? We've monkeys, a dog or two, the odd rodent and perhaps some birds into orbit, but the moon isn't for life forms lacking the ability to use radios to tell us about the giant secret base on the far side.

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

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