back to article BOFH: Where there is darkness, let there be a light

BOFH logo telephone with devil's horns The Director and the Head Beancounter are waiting for me outside Mission Control when I get to work – which is never a good thing. When two or more idiots are gathered together and all that. “It’s about the asset register,” the Head Beancounter says. “Didn’t we cover this weeks ago?” I …

  1. Mr Humbug

    Is it Friday already?

    1. Whatsinitforme

      Certainly doesn't feel like a friday....

      I just walked in and hung my coat.

      1. UCAP Silver badge

        No, that seems about right for Friday. Probably about 16:00. With the intention of going down to the pub at 17:00.

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    3. NBCanuck

      Bonus BOFH. Never question the reason!!!!

  2. A K Stiles

    Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

    Mice, keyboards, headphones, cables - all consumables. I did once work somewhere where they wanted to 'inventorise' every last patch cable and VGA lead...

    They also wanted to know which monitors were on which desks / with particular people, and would get shirty at stuff being moved around, but also didn't have the resources available to come and shift kit around for us with the regularity the business would want to tweak the team structures etc.

    Even if they did come and move kit for us, the folks that came to do the moves were definitely too hard pressed to be bothered trying to record asset numbers as they went...

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

      Oh God... cable counters. Saints preserve us from them. I used to sit them in front of my spare cable cabinet, a genius cupboard recycled from one that used to hold the big magnetic tapes - it had very heavy gauge frames in there perfect for holding cables and keeping the A and B ends separate for ease of identification. Weighed a tonne.

      1. herman Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

        Cable counters... don't go and work for the military - everything is tracked, even light switches and cover plates.

        1. teknopaul

          Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

          I remember a time we were not allowed to move monitors: helf n safety

          We had to get a professional monitor mover in.

          Admittedly at the time the did weigh more than a hod of house bricks.

          1. Dr Who

            Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

            Upvote for "more than a hod of house bricks"

    2. Sgt_Oddball

      Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

      It's also fun when your company gets bought out/merges. Everyone's assets management systems are different and sometimes just never gets merged.

      I've got colleagues using kit from 4 business names ago. Pretty certain those bits of kit aren't registered anymore.

    3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

      "Mice, keyboards, headphones, cables - all consumables."

      Absolutely, and all are readily consumed by fire

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

        ... Just don't breath the fumes. PVC fumes are Not Your friend...

        (the boss, on the other hand....)

        1. herman Silver badge

          Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

          Toxic Polyurethane fumes are reserved for the Manglement. That is why C-level offices and board rooms always have overstuffed furniture with lots of polyurethane foam.

    4. Kurt 5

      Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

      I worked for a similar place. That was "fun".

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

      Ah, at college, the property accounting folks decided that they didn't want to take my word for the location of the serial muxes (which didn't identify themselves by serial number on the central system, this being the late 1980's), so I told them to bring walking shoes and I'd bring the keys, and then take them on a tour of the 24 buildings on campus where we had terminal equipment. The second day, they brought their department we could drive from building to building... The following year, they did accept my inventory list.

      1. SealTeam6

        Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

        Argh, Serial muxes! I used to work on those.

        1. Trygve Henriksen

          Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

          Not BlackBox muxes, I hope.

          Sure, when they worked, they worked great because they dynamically allotted capacity to whichever terminal or printer needed it... but when they stopped working right...

    6. FozzyBear

      Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

      Early 2000's had a directive come down from the chief beancounter stipulating the very same. Our IT manager fought it for days but was not only overruled but it was now to be given the Highest priority. The instructions he gave were simple.

      "You guys know what to do....."

      The interruptions to the business were spectacular, the loss in productivity awesome. Assigning the cost of printing out thousands of asset labels back to finances inventory account, brilliant. The additional attention given to legume central would have made the gestapo flinch.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

      Too late for you now, but look at NEC's Naviset software. Works best with NEC kit (obviously!) but will allow you to remotely see what monitors are on what PCs - including serial numbers and you can problem asset numbers too. There is a also a remote control feature - although apart from resetting the monitor remotely, I can't see the point. You're on the phone to a user, and he is going "left a bit, bit more, bit more - too much!"

      Also HP do something similar - Display Manager (?) V1.0.0.0 at the mo and seems rather basic compared to NEC.

      And they are both free!

      1. Snafu1

        Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

        I doubt if either would work with CRTs tho..

    8. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

      Mice, keyboards, headphones, cables - all consumables.

      printers, inexpensive laptops, small UPS devices, phones, and slabs, too.

      Only a BEAN COUNTER would want to bother with DEPRECIATION SCHEDULES for anything valued less than $5k, unless it's an integral part to a system with a high enough value to justify it. I have _NEVER_ seen an advantage to doing depreciation for otherwise expensable equipment. It's like they're just making up work for themselves.

      Now a rack of servers, UPSs, multi-port ethernet, and routers might be justifiable, but NOT EVERY! STINKING! CPU! BOX! AND! MONITOR!!! The purchase value isn't worth the cost of tracking them and the equipment rapidly loses its actual value over time like a new car off the lot.

      Better (and easier, and probably cheaper) just to keep receipts and expense them all in the year they were purchased. You'd do the same for pens, toner, and any office supply thing purchased in bulk. And. any auditor can walk around the office and see that people are using the stuff and it would be an insurmountable task (and maybe even impossible) to verify every serial number against the visible number of company issued phones, slabs, laptops, CPU boxes, monitors, etc. in addition to the keyboards, mice, cables, headphones, and occasional entertainment devices.

      Another thing: the phones and slabs are also likely to have SIMM cards in them issued by the company, which probably COST MORE IN A YEAR than the stupid phone or slab did. It would be POINTLESS to track the actual device they're inserted in. Many people would want a new i-device every year anyway. So you might as well just 'expense' them.

      Seriously, I bet if you FIRED THE BEAN COUNTERS who are compelled to track things and justify their DEPRECIATION SCHEDULES through labor-expensive inventory audits, you could purchase NEW GEAR for EVERYONE every 3 years and not even WORRY about what happened to the OLD stuff, and STILL come out ahead financially.

      [I think I'm starting to sound like Simon the BOFH]

      1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

        The down side of expensing everything to skip the inventory effort is that stuff starts walking out the back door. And then the investors get angry.

        Once you've scanned every bar code* on the server racks and desktop, let the accountants do their depreciation magic.

        *In a previous life working for a power utility, I pointrd out that bar code scanning technology was starting to get good enough to drive down a road and record every pole. Accounting had a fit anout that. It serms that too good of an inventory would require an explanation as to why our asset base had changed so drastically from the days of hand written records. So much for that idea.

  3. Sgt_Oddball


    Now there's a point. Wouldn't it have been easier to send the bean counter to check the diesel tanks levels (for the backup generators) with a dipstick and for there to be an awful accident involving a power cut, high voltage and large mass flywheels nearby?

    Then again, that's if there's still diesel in the tanks. Pretty sure there'd be a hosepipe and some empty Jerry cans nearby.

    Maybe they can pour some of the red diesel into the bean counters car just to show said bean fondlers misdeeds...

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: Diesel...

      "Diesel inside a vehicle" isn't just a story idea, but a real-life tale told to me today...

      A new-to-the-test-site grunt was told to fill up a customized M2 Bradley. This is one of a small group of Bradleys that had the internal fuel tanks moved to the external rear, but the old fuel cap was still there. Not knowing the difference, said grunt dispensed about 100 US gallons before anyone knew what was going on.

      The old fuel caps were welded shut shortly after.

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: Diesel...

        Ooooh, I can just imagine the result of welding a cap on a fume filled Bradley...

    2. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: Diesel...

      The tanks for the generator?

      That would put the servers at risk!

  4. TRT Silver badge

    Old school methodology.

    Someone in our department managed to persuade the efficiency in time and motion consultant that they could save over 1000 person-hours of inventory time by using an automated digital asset management and tracking system, linked to the finance & purchasing system, and reduce the threshold for countable asset value from £1000 to £750. Network scanning of assets was all part of the CyberEssentials accreditation, and as there were some areas where the requirements of CyberEssentials were in direct opposition to business requirements, they were happy to firewall these zones off in a way they became invisible to the Cyber Assets scanner and just ignore them - by policy. Anything with a network connection can be scanned, logged and audited.

    The auditors seem very happy with the system churning out an excel spreadsheet once a year at the push of a button. It even works out the depreciation and write-off values for them. Everything is perfect, which cheers them up no end, and saves them a packet in boots-on-the-ground costs, and those expensive custom printed asset labels. I don't think they've had eyes on the tin for at least the last 4 years.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Old school methodology.

      So what your saying is that there's a server that pretends to be a number of network linked assets, that answers the asset tracking software, and that Ebay has had a few years worth of additional sales, no?

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Old school methodology.

        You might have thought it was simpler just to fudge the spreadsheet, but that's far less elegant than, say, developing a robust system for probing network devices that in the event of not finding one resorts to attempting to impersonate the expected network device and looks for the failure resulting from the clash to record a positive identification.

        Then making the system high availability by incorporating an active/active pair...

        And when you do that it becomes REALLY good at finding all those missing devices. 100% success rate. We have to tweak it down to make it believable.

        1. FBee

          Re: Old school methodology.

          But who enables WMI access on each and every machine? Never seen 100% WMI availability...

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Old school methodology.

            That's why one needs a custom methodology for network probing - in a heterogenic network which may include custom and development machines, there's no "off-the-shelf / one-size-fits-all" system.

            So we custom design the query server, the PHB approves the design and signs it off based on a rudimentary understanding of the operational block diagram and the validation test results, and then we get the auditors to approve and nominate it as critical infrastructure which means that, by policy, it has to be a HA design.


      2. herman Silver badge

        Re: Old school methodology.

        Aup, that is why SNMP servers are so popular.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Anything with a network connection can be scanned

      I'm sure that's true.

      Now tell me how my keyboard, mouse, screens and other attached local hardware can be scanned over the network, whether you know about them or not.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Anything with a network connection can be scanned

        Do you have a keyboard, mouse or screen worth more than £750? OK, some SCREENS might be, but they're generally the ones with the built-in colorimetry...

        The sheer volume of work accounting for every item - accounted by sight - was so onerous that they set a threshold of £1000 - a proposal for a more efficient system that could lower that limit and reduce the workload... very tempting piece of bait.

        So the bit about CyberEssentials is actually true... and the bit about the audit system being linked to the purchasing system is true. And the bit about using a network scanner to complete around 75% of the annual audit is also true...

        The bit about impersonation of an undetected but expected asset isn't true... yet. I think. At least not for our segment of the network. Not so sure about some of the wilier BOFHs in other departments.

        1. wegie

          Re: Anything with a network connection can be scanned

          "Do you have a keyboard, mouse or screen worth more than £750?"

          Given the current prices on Fleabay for IBM Model M keyboards, I soon will have...

          1. Robert Moore

            Re: Anything with a network connection can be scanned

            I have 3 of those at home. My retirement plan. :)

        2. herman Silver badge

          Re: Anything with a network connection can be scanned

          You forgot tracking the LAN cables.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge

            Re: Anything with a network connection can be scanned

            the old network cables get turned into cat5-o-nine-tails. You need 5 of them to make it work right, fold 'em in half, half of one of the cables wraps around the bend to form a handle. Useful for correcting certain problems like nosy accountants and incompetent contractors...

            1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

              Re: Anything with a network connection can be scanned

              Isn't that a cat-o-ten-tails?

              1. Shooter

                Re: Anything with a network connection can be scanned

                Nope - as Bob specified, the tenth "tail" is used to form the handle.

  5. keith_w

    June 31st?

    some text

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: June 31st?

      Creative accounting?

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: June 31st?

        it's necessary to have a June 31st (and a few others, Feb 30 and Oct 32) in order to allow Office-351 to be called "Office-365"

  6. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    A pile

    Reminds me of a start up, where they were going through equipment like they won lottery or something (well, kind of). Hiring new staff to impress the investors and everyone of course needed a new computer and all peripherals. Then when worker left, they wouldn't just wipe it for the new starter, because it was part of the recruitment bait that worker gets to choose a new computer. They couldn't (or just didn't bother) exactly find how to dispose of all this equipment, so they basically dedicated one conference room to store all the stuff. After two years that room looked like a scene from Toast of London's "Dating a hoarder".

    If there was a company event, workers could get there and take whatever they wanted, except hard drives.

  7. NBCanuck


    I haven't figured out why the Boss was left out of the Beancounter's recent , Maybe it was because he was smart enough not to enter the Server Room and therefore demonstrated that he can be taught?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Omission?

      When HR starts referring to individuals as "Assets" and company policy dictates a system of non-removable asset labelling, like the old blue goo that swelled and dyed plastic casings with a dot-matrix impression of the company name, then...

      Well that old tattooists chair that was rescued during a skip dive and set up in the basement storage room next to the server room...

      Hand me that pad of wipe clean "asset disposal forms" will you...

  8. Chris G

    The Head bean counters carbon footprint

    Was about a size ten but that's all we could find!

  9. KarMann Silver badge

    Everything the company purchased between the first of July 2019 and the 31st of June 2021.
    Has the Boss been taking calendar lessons from Marjorie Taylor Greene?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It all happened on WEASEL STOMPING DAY!!!!!!

  10. Big_Boomer Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Count 1, 2, 3,... ha-ha-ha

    I use to work as a manager at a certain "arched" fast food franchise, and they are big on stock management and stock taking. The coffee stirrers came in pack of 1000 and if there was an open pack, we just used to estimate how many were in there during stocktake. We then had an audit and were told by the auditor that someone had to give an exact number for the open pack. One of my colleagues went off to individually count several hundred plastic stirrers and I followed him. We both looked at the pack and agreed it was exactly 658 stirrers which we (in due time) reported to the auditor. He asked if we were sure, and I invited him to check for himself. Needless to say, he declined. It seems he wasn't interested in checking the opened packs of 1000 burger wrappers either. <LOL> Beancounters live to count and can't understand why most of the rest of us don't.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Count 1, 2, 3,... ha-ha-ha

      But without beans, how can you have chilli?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Count 1, 2, 3,... ha-ha-ha

      Fun fact, that's how the beancounter checks to be sure the restaurant owner is buying the official company coffee, not a cheaper knock-off from a local big box store or wholesaler. They'll also count soft drink cups, and other consumables.

      Source: a former co-worker used to be a franchisee (not of the arches, but a smaller regional chain). He was vocal about company practices at franchise meetings, and oddly enough seemed to get "randomly" selected for audits every year.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Count 1, 2, 3,... ha-ha-ha

      no shit THIS really happened...

      A few decades ago I worked in the corporate materials department of a company that was setting up offshore operations in Singapore. As part of that, inventories of "free stock" (basically stuff you did NOT inventory for a very good reason) was shipped to them.

      They sent a reported 1 million washers to the Singapore facility. After a short time, the Singapore manager(s) sent a fax or e-mail or something that basically said "we are short 42,381 washers" (or some similar number with 5 significant digits like it was THE actual number) and that they had RE-COUNTED to make sure!

      The response from my department was something like "it is acceptable to count large quantities of small, low cost parts by WEIGHT, and the count of washers we sent you is within the tolerance of the parts weighing equipment"

      Needless to say, the mental image of a room full of people counting washers one at a time...

      1. skeptical i

        Re: Count 1, 2, 3,... ha-ha-ha

        One hopes the Singapore manager had a savant sibling (like "Rain Man" with or without the fear of flying) who can quickly count stuff, and had hired the sibling to help out around the shop. Not sure 42K washers are worth the time to count (twice!) the other 958K, even at race-to-the-bottom global-economy wages.

        1. Shalghar Bronze badge

          Re: Count 1, 2, 3,... ha-ha-ha

          Might be doable if you have a coin counting machine that does not check if the round things rushing through are legit currency. I believe a youtube and instructables guy , Daniele Tartaglia (plus typo and misremember tolerance), made a coin counter that might just do the trick for washers of different sizes.

          But you do not need to go to asia for insane inventorists.

          Zip ties we use com in bags of 2000 or even 3000, depending on type. Guess what was on our inventory list some years ago ? One year later they wanted us to count open bags of conductor sleeves. 0.34 square mm /around 22 AWG come in plastic bags of "only" 500 but by nature of the product you need the patience of a helldesk masobuddhist to fiddle around with those things. Funny how we never had any open bags of such items anywhere (in the closed electrical cabinets housing lots of air and some live and charged compensation capacitors does not count as "anywhere" as that is clearly "somewhere").

  11. macjules

    All these comments

    And nobody spotted the date error? Unless 31st June 2021 is a new date intended to confuse HMRC.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: All these comments

      It's items purchased up to but not including the 31st. Obviously.

      I have come across a church register entry for February 30th. I'm not sure if it was a leap year or not.

      Medieval courts almost invariably gave dates relative to saints' days or, between Shrove Tuesday and Trinity Sunday, the various moveable feasts. In a run of several years i found two calendar dates given. One was Friday April 1st. April 1st was a Saturday that year. I'm still not sure whether it was an April Fool's joke delayed by over 9 centuries or the scribe just wasn't used to handling actual calendar dates.

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: All these comments

        'Over 9 centuries' - Over that long a period the Church had several competing calendars. Medieval dates is a crap shoot.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: All these comments

      "And nobody spotted the date error? Unless 31st June 2021 is a new date intended to confuse HMRC."

      It;s Boris trying to put off "Freedom Day" a bit longer.

  12. James O'Shea

    remember, remember 31 June

    A very popular date. Immortalized in Len Deighton's Bomber, among other Great Works.

  13. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Hang on.. its monday

    And I haven't done anything to the work experience guy... apart from make him dispose of 2 keyboards

    Although he did scream "it burns it burns" when he disposed of the one the former PFY left me

    1. Zarno

      Re: Hang on.. its monday

      Denatonium benzoate.

      Can be found in most air-duster as an anti-inhalation additive.

      Quite the interesting thing to get on ones fingers after spraying out a chassis.

      The other oddball fun fact is loctite 243, 242, and 518 use an artificial sweetener as a thickening agent.

      I have no idea why you had a keyboard covered with capsaicin/piperine though. :)

      I'll get my coat. It's the lab one with the rubber gloves in the pocket.

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: Hang on.. its monday

        'Denatonium benzoate' - Foul stuff - worse than Mace. Basically causes an Asthma attack.

  14. teknopaul

    missing assets

    At a recent _return the office_ meeting we were asked to bring back the chairs?!

    I can remember the speed with which people left when I announced I had just got off the plane from Italy in March 2020, nobody took a chair.

  15. chivo243 Silver badge

    Everything can be tagged

    And entered into the database... not so much of a DB guy, but wouldn't some sort of a DROP be in order? You know, just to remove some entries...

  16. Blackjack Silver badge

    Amateur mistake, two fires in the same day? Hope he has enough bribe money.

    Or blames a disgruntled employee... but that only works a few times.

    "Oh you know, lockdown madness, he didn't want to get back to work on the Office..."

  17. mhs1973

    a) doing inventory is FUN, it helps finding 'broken' equipment

    b) June 31st? That should have been the hint, that this particular beancounter is, well, shall we say 'creative'.

  18. perlcat

    Turns out...

    you *can* just set fire to your problems. There aren't many inventory problems that can't be solved with a gallon of diesel and a match.

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