back to article BOFH: On Wednesdays, we wear gloves

BOFH logo telephone with devil's horns >Ding!<    >shudder< "Hi there – it's Gary isn't it?" I ask, stepping into the lift. "One of our new breed of beancounters?" "Who wants to know?" Gary asks, oozing the sort of bravado you only see in action movies – or youth. "I'm Simon. I just thought I'd catch a few words with you …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Excellent one - soon to become a good vintage as well

    And now we wait in anticipation for the next episode to find out if Gary managed to pull it off...

    ...stay tuned to Channel BOFH, where the <KZERRRRRT>

  2. DailyLlama

    Clever writing

    Not a single actual threat, just the power of suggestion!

    1. UCAP Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Clever writing

      Oh the threats were there and perfectly understandable, they are just wrapped in about six feet of plausible BOFH deniability.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Clever writing

        wrapped in about six feet of plausible BOFH deniability carpet.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Clever writing

      FWIW the delivery of the dialogue is similar that of Jackson Lamb in the Mick Herron series about "Slough House"; though Lamb swears more and makes overt threats. How does it go? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

      Hm, maybe Jackson Lamb could make a guest appearance in an episode…

    3. Simian Surprise

      Re: Clever writing

      I choose to believe that the BOFH did none of that stuff at all. You think, given the kind of state that beancounter is in, that he's going to go check his credit-card statement first?

      Laziness is a virtue in tech, I'm told (along with impatience and hubris). Why bother doing all that when you can spend a full 5 minutes in the lift and have your worries vanish?

      Besides, it's not like he can't turn around and do it the next day if his advice goes unheeded...

  3. Korev Silver badge
    Pirate

    "Chop, chop!" I say, as the lift resumes its journey up to Beancounter Central. "You've got a personal tragedy to avert."

    Makes you wonder if the BOFH is going to have some fun with his axe...

    1. Pirate Dave Silver badge
      Pirate

      Didn't the robot have an axe?...

    2. Montreal Sean

      The BOFH doesn't own an axe.

      He provides storage for other people's axes, and has the paperwork to prove it. And the signout records, and fingerprints on the axes.

      In fact, it can never be proven he has ever held an axe.

  4. Chairman of the Bored
    Pint

    Truly excellent

    I cannot wait for the next installment.

    A dog with a nose for carpet ... Very nice.

    And kids: seriously: wear the dang hearing protection. After years in the lab I'm deaf in one hear and can't hear a damn thing out of the other, as the saying goes.

    1. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Truly excellent

      A room full of CRT screens is what did for my HF hearing. I don't think LCD screens make the same noise, but I wouldn't know...

      1. Foxglove

        Re: Truly excellent

        A definite notch in my hearing at 15.625 KHz after years in broadcasting.

        1. Archivist

          Re: Truly excellent

          I have a notch at 10.125KHz and a tinnitus tone each side of it, from 405 line TV days when the workshop would have dozen of them on soak test. At my age I'm surprised I can hear above 10K.

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    After his exposure to White cat and volcanic island level threats, Gary should become a useful pawn in Simon's scheme of things.

    That's if he survives his brush with the anti-terrorisn act.

    1. Dante Alighieri Bronze badge
      Coat

      errata

      pwn

      FTFY

    2. Snafu1

      "After his exposure to White cat and volcanic island level threats, Gary should^H^H^H^Hcould become a useful pawn in Simon's scheme of things..."

      I wonder what Simon could do with a tamed beancounter?.. the imagination boggles!

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Another masterpiece of plausibly-deniable manipulation

    This was a pleasure to read, and even more to imagine.

    Well done !

  7. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
    Pint

    Superb episode

    Simon making full use of Gary's fertile imagination.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Superb episode

      I love a good punnery. And, herewith, let the puns roll.

      1. Evil Scot

        Re: Superb episode

        Like a good Wilton.

  8. Si 1

    What's a cement pond? I tried googling it and the best I could find was a reference to the Beverly Hillbillies.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Building foundations - or somewhere to hide the bodies.

      When that big slab of concrete can be used to hide stuff.

      Probably

      This however is true the large Tesco in Peterborough is built on an old cement works which they filled the holes in with flyash there are a few vehicles adding to the foundations which were parked on the flyash and sank, I used to work with an ex surveyor and he said one they started going sinking nothing would get them out.

      1. el_oscuro
        Alien

        A few years ago, they were constructing a new office building near mine. When they were getting ready to lay the cement pond - er - foundation, they ran into a major issue: Buried deep under the ground was an object they couldn't identify. It was square, about 2 meters high, 8 meters wide, and 18 meters long. It was too heavy for the cranes to move. So they simply laid the foundation and parking garage around it.

        To this day, the parking garage has a large section on the bottom floor which which is walled off.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cement Pond

      In The Beverley Hillbillies they referred to the swimming pool as the cement pond. Always pronounced SEE-ment.

      1. Pirate Dave Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Cement Pond

        As a Southerner, "cement pond" is still in somewhat common use, although generally used for hokey effect when a given redneck is trying to prove how "country" he/she is, often followed by tales of red and white corn-cobs, and further tales about the ingestion of various disgusting bits from a pig. Whether the phrase came from the show and was adopted by us rednecks, or was in use before the show, I can't say.

        1. VicMortimer
          Pint

          Re: Cement Pond

          I'm reasonably confident "cement pond" came from the show and has since entered into occasional use by Southern IT folks when we're feigning ignorance about a particular topic.

          I'm not quite sure what you're talking about when you say "disgusting bits from a pig" though, because all parts of a pig are in fact quite delicious when properly prepared.

          1. Pirate Dave Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: Cement Pond

            Mountain Oysters. Really, some parts of the pig can be left on the ground after butchering, we don't get a gold star for eating every single scrap like we're still in the midst of the Great Depression.

    3. chivo243 Silver badge
      Devil

      You're right, it's a swimming pool (+1 for the Beverly Hillbillies research), unless Simon has a new tool in his arsenal? A pond filled with cement? Is there quicksand in England? Might be useful too!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Is there quicksand in England?"

        Morecambe bay.

        1. 42656e4d203239 Bronze badge
          Thumb Up

          >>Morecambe bay.

          Although its not particularly quick, but certainly disconcerting! Went for a stroll on a beach on the edge of Morcambe bay... leapt over a small creek to a sandbar that looked firm enough... it wasn't!

          Got away with it because I jumped back again without too much hanging about for the sand to get over my boots... SWMBO had more difficulty, for various reasons, but also got away with wet feet and a healthy new respect for quicksand!

          1. earl grey
            Angel

            SWMBO had more difficulty

            yes, you were holding her in place. nicely done.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            the 'slow' quicksand at Morecambe Bay is merely playing PFY whilst the quick tide BOFH gets you from behind...

        2. DS999 Silver badge

          TV shows / cartoons when I was a kid

          Led me to believe quicksand would be a much greater problem in life than it has turned out to be.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Is there quicksand in England?

        After half a day's work with a JCB on a secluded Skegness beach, yes.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Did you remember to use carpet?

          1. TeeCee Gold badge
            Coat

            I think they use lino in Skegness.

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              Lino? We use the flensed hides of lost and forgotten tourists. Nine pints of John Smiths and they are ours...

    4. Horst U Rodeinon

      RE: What's a cement pond?

      The first thing that came to my mind is the scene in "Rising Sun" with the guy sinking into the WIP cement pour for the building foundation.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: RE: What's a cement pond?

        & mine was...

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwwLKFCR4K0

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RE: What's a cement pond?

        I was thinking about "Wilt on High" (Tom Sharpe) and an inflatable doll

        1. Paul Herber Silver badge

          Re: RE: What's a cement pond?

          That was just the plain old original "Wilt".

  9. TechnoTechno

    Ahh Friday BOFH. Highlight of the week

    Excellent episode Simon :)

  10. E_Nigma

    Beyond 2000

    I remember that show! I used to love it.

    1. Hot Diggity

      Re: Beyond 2000

      Yes. Beyond 2000 was the reason I looked forward to Fridays as a kid.

      These days it's because that is the day that a new BOFH episode arrives.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Beyond 2000

        Used to be on post-pub (Icon) on a Thursday night in Swindon (IICRC), the Aussies version of Tomorrows World.

        Michael Fish's worst nightmare struck the UK & the aerial was blown off my rented houses roof, the replacement was re-aligned to the networks for ITV\BBC for Oxfordshire giving us a better quality of channels\programming rather than HTV's offerings.

    2. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Re: Beyond 2000

      but it's all over now.

    3. TSM

      Re: Beyond 2000

      I remember when it was "Towards 2000"...

  11. Chronos
    Thumb Up

    Future classic

    This. This is the Simon we've all come to know and admire from a healthy distance behind a blast-proof screen in a secure bunker with a disabled and dishcharged halon extinguisher system armed with RPG launchers and killbot-defeating EMP devices.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Future classic

      Can't be too careful about that bunker. Do make sure that none of the "defense" systems use remote control and are well away from any network or internet connection.

    2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

      Re: Future classic

      .. so where are the air intakes located?

      asking for a friend...

  12. chivo243 Silver badge
    Pint

    Impressive, very impressive!

    It was getting a little dark, even for the BOFH, but then the real motive came into view.... The other beancounter! Back on track! Another long game, will we see the end?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Impressive, very impressive!

      Ah, yes, the ominous sense of foreboding, often in BOFH stories, was taken to a new level with this episode. Brilliant writing!

  13. bpfh
    Paris Hilton

    I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

    Given the key to the locker was already planted in Gary's kitchen, I'm not sure what this "Chekov's Gun" has to do with anything?

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

      I believe it's a reference to how Gary's Boss will shortly be finding a very similar key with his fingerprints on the tape stuck behind a picture in his kitchen.

      Undoubtedly the paperwork that Gary's Boss will be handling will be delivery receipts.

      Both key and document are likely for the very same shed of possibly-explosives that Gary is suddenly very eager to find another owner / scape-goat for.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

      My guess is that key is another copy to the shed, and that there's a third one hidden in the other guy's house. That way, either of them could be investigated for the purchase. The papers describe the purchase of the fertilizer and what the reports about the purchase will look like. Most likely, the rest of it takes one of two forms:

      1. The documents simply indicate that the higher-level guy is going to be investigated, causing him to rush home to search for and hide evidence, thus making more for the investigators who have already started.

      2. The BOFH doesn't really want to do the full investigation, and the papers indicate what the guy needs to do to get it shut down and what will happen if he doesn't.

      1. swm Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

        I thought ammonium nitrate was the explosive. Potassium nitrate (I think) needs other stuff.

        1. Tim99 Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

          In theory ammonium nitrate is an oxidizing agent and not an explosive in its own right, although very large quantities (many tons) can detonate. Oxidising agents are typically mixed with fuels to create explosive mixtures. Potassium nitrate is the oxidizer in black powder (gunpowder), the fuel is charcoal and sulfur (note correct IUPAC spelling). Other fuels can be, and are, used.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

            In theory ammonium nitrate is an oxidizing agent and not an explosive in its own right, although very large quantities (many tons) can detonate.

            As the residents of Beirut found out one sunny afternoon not too long ago.

            A fairly similar chemical, ammonium perchlorate, caused Pepcon to go boom; in both cases the stuff did not ignite by itself but by a minor fire nearby.

            1. Tim99 Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

              When I did this stuff for work, if we wanted something a bit more energetic, we used hydrazine diperchlorate…

              1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

                That does qualify as a bit more energetic ... by several orders of magnitude.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

            All nitrates like those will be on a register, somewhere... Very easy to convert KNO3 to HNO3 and then all sorts of fun can be had if my high school chemistry books can be believed. I wouldn't know by experience

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

              Very easy to convert KNO3 to HNO3 and then all sorts of fun can be had if my high school chemistry books can be believed. I wouldn't know by experience

              You didn't check that what those books said was correct?

              1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

                You didn't check that what those books said was correct?

                Most people are too law abiding to check those kinds of things. However, at university I had reason to check it (for legitimate, non-explosive purposes).

          3. dajames Silver badge

            Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

            ... sulfur (note correct IUPAC spelling) ...

            Methinks that there is nothing uniquely 'correct' about the spelling approved by IUPAC!

            It's accepted US usage, that doesn't make it any more correct than "sulphur". IUPAC officially accepts either "aluminium" or "aluminum" for the spelling of aluminium and should similarly accept either spelling for "sulphur" -- or maybe we should all go back to calling it "brimstone"?

            This is an interesting read: World Wide Words: Sulphur.

            1. Tim99 Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

              I’m a Chartered Chemist (Royal Society of Chemistry, by examination), and am probably professionally obliged to use the "f" spelling. I remember back in the 1970s this came up. There was a forthright discussion in 2012 which refers to this; https://my.rsc.org/forums/viewtopic/39/2567

              Nature also has an interesting read https://www.nature.com/articles/nchem.301

              Although I am also a member of the American Chemical Society, I hope that we can all agree that the (American) "acceptable" IUPAC spelling of aluminum is just wrong and that we should all use the "correct" (UK) IUPAC spelling aluminium. See: https://www.quora.com/Why-does-the-IUPAC-accept-the-American-spellings-for-aluminium-and-caesium-but-not-the-British-spelling-of-sulphur-Could-the-IUPAC-be-biased

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

            Ammonium nitrate and diesel make ANFO, which is an explosive.

            1. arbivore
              Mushroom

              Re: I'm not sure about the key stuck to the phone at the end?

              Yes - Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil - ANFO

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Wear gloves," the PFY says through the lift speaker.

    The master touch that raises it from classic to sublime.

  15. imanidiot Silver badge

    Somewhat uncharacteristic of the BOFH to give someone like that a way out. Are we sure he's not just making sure he he takes out both the boss AND the beancounter?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Holmes

      A way out?

      You don't know what the future has in store for Gary after he's been used as a tool to take care of the other beancounter; only Simon and the PFY do.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: A way out?

        Exaclty. Having in "inside man" at beancounter central could be priceless. Willing or otherwise!

        After all, better to have someone on the inside to keep thing running the way the BOFH expects and reduce the suspicion aroused by so many beancounters inexplicable leaving, either of their own accord, in pine boxes or just "disappearing".

      2. veti Silver badge

        Re: A way out?

        A suitably cowed and compliant beancounter is an asset in himself. No need for further action until some new threat emerges.

  16. The other JJ

    "I like to meet people halfway. Typically, halfway between their tube station and their home. At night. With a van."

    Another classic!

  17. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Never ceases to entertain

    ... although I'm glad I am both retired and out of the BOFHs line of sight.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Never ceases to entertain

      Are you sure? You have a silver badge, you read El Reg, and post comments.

  18. Munchausen's proxy
    Pint

    Etymology help?

    I'm not familiar with 'drum printer'. Is that the same as what I've always referred to as a 'chain printer' or is there another dinosaur in our collective past?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Etymology help?

      It's a type of line printer that has a large fast rotating drum with repeating type on it. As the desired character for a column passes correct position a hammer strikes the paper against the ink ribbon and the typeface from behind to imprint the letter.

      This is what one looks like naked

      See also the wiki article

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Etymology help?

        And as the bearings start to go over time, the lines of print become ever more wavy. I'd hate to think what would happen if they failed, those things are heavy & spin very quickly.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Etymology help?

          I never heard any stories about them failing catastrophically, so either they never failed or their failure never left any witnesses.

        2. swm Silver badge

          Re: Etymology help?

          The main failure mode was that the 0's wore down and the drum had to be replaced.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Etymology help?

        As the desired character for a column passes correct position a hammer strikes the paper against the ink ribbon and the typeface from behind to imprint the letter.

        And when you know the character arrangement on each of the positions you can send lines to be printed that make all hammers fire at once. Few printers manage to withstand that for more than a couple of minutes, although usually it's just a fuse that goes. Impressive banging while it lasts.

        Same with band and chain printers, although their racket tends to be just loud, not extremely loud. Chain printers run the risk of the chain breaking under such a test; the relative advantage of a band printer is that while the band has much less mass it's a thin strip of stainless steel going at quite high speeds: and the sharp ends of a break are quite nasty to printer innards and printer technician's fingers.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Etymology help?

          Easily fixed in firmware though. If more than x% of the drum is about to get hammed, defer some of them to the next rotation. Oh ... what do you mean "Firmware?" ?

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: Etymology help?

            Back then, "fixed in software" was much less common than "fixed in hardware". When I started at DEC, plopping in a new set of EPROMS was already the way the majority of fixes were done, but I still had to do my share of soldering and changing wire-wraps.

            At one point in Uni I got hold of a HP drum printer that had character rings on its drum only every third position. To get all character positions on a line printed the paper was shuffled left and right using a hefty rocker arrangement on the paper feed mechanism. Oh, and the data buffer was built around seven bucket memory ICs[0], the rest of the electronics were simple TTL or DTL logic and discrete components. And probably a PROM for the character map, can't remember.

            [0] you clock in one bit, and umpteen clock ticks later that bit appears on the output. No addressing, all you can do is count clock ticks and wait for the bit you want to turn up. Somewhat more elegant than mercury delay lines, but not that much.

      3. Adelio Silver badge

        Re: Etymology help?

        Used one one at Dehaviland College Borhamwood in 1980 doing my computer operator course.

        It was an NCRCentury 201

        Has a card reader as well as 5gb swappable hard drive as well as the Wonderfull barrel printer.

        we had to use a paper tape to define the "top of Form"

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Etymology help?

          I vaguely recall one particular line printer model that used a loop of paper tape (probably mylar, more robust) that went with the character set on the drum. No further details; printers tended to be serviced by specialists, although just swapping a board was usually done by anyone available and I've even done the occasional hammer flight time adjustments.

        2. Andy A Bronze badge

          Re: Etymology help?

          5gb? You must have brainfade. In those days the big stuff was in MEGABYTES.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Etymology help?

          "Has a card reader as well as 5gb swappable hard drive as well as the Wonderfull barrel printer."

          5gb? Shirley you mean 5MB :-)

      4. kmceject

        Re: Etymology help?

        Yup I remember those, and even have one of the drums! I disassembled a couple when we decommissioned them, They were exceptionally loud and fast. The Data General ones we used also had to be monitored to a degree to make sure the prints stacked right. One day I came in and the night operator had left early due to being sick. The paper was still flying vertically up to the ceiling and the printout had blown in the AC to the door of the datacenter as a large drift. I had to carefully push the door open so it didn't crumple or tear much and make my way to the printer to get it to stack again. I think it toon an hour and a half to restack that for the client!

  19. Unicornpiss
    Happy

    Nicely done.

    That is all.

  20. William Towle
    Alien

    Briefly, there was capitalisation in my head

    "[Lunar bubble houses with] electronic newspapers [...] delivered from Earth in Daily Mail spaceships"

    I blame reading the Brexit article (and attached commentary) immediately beforehand...

  21. Herby

    On drum printers and punch card equipment...

    Yes, drum printers can make LOTS of noise. One I worked with had all the characters lined up, so a row of say '$' characters would generate a big THUMP as they were printed (the operating system did this for the trailer page). The capacitor bank for this behemoth as about 1/2 Farad at 35 volts or so, and I'll let someone calculate the energy stored (bazzert is too mild). Eventually we swapped it out for a chain printer, and the line changed to "zing.." which was a bit easier on the ears.

    As for punch cards, the reader was blissfully silent compared to the punch. Sometimes one would attempt to punch out "lace cards" and the racket was terrible (if it didn't jam in the process). Thankfully we didn't punch too many cards, except for keypunches (they are loud as well).

    Ahhh, my youth.

    1. swm Silver badge

      Re: On drum printers and punch card equipment...

      But the chad from laced cards were very useful at weddings.

      1. Andy A Bronze badge
        Pint

        Re: On drum printers and punch card equipment...

        ..but even more useful when exchanged for cash from the scrap merchant. (By the way, those chads are sharp, so don't let them get near anyone's eyes)

        At one place I worked a couple of cartons of chads would accompany the cards they had previously been part of.

        The Scrap Fund paid for several staff jollies each year, where many icons were consumed without further outlay.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: On drum printers and punch card equipment...

      The capacitor bank for this behemoth as about 1/2 Farad at 35 volts or so

      About 200J.

      I still have the capacitor bank for one of the motors from a scrapped open reel tape drive: two capacitors the size of a 1l beer tin, 68mF 50V each, with two copper bars bolted on top. 150J if you drive those caps up to their working voltage, which today may well result in a mahoosive bang if they even care to store anywhere near their rated capacity in the first place.

      1. PRR

        Re: On drum printers and punch card equipment...

        > two capacitors the size of a 1l beer tin, 68mF 50V each

        FWIW, today two 68,000 microFarad @50V is a not-too-extreme complement for high-end hi-fidelity amplifiers. And they are down to ~~$15 and the size of a condensed-soup can.

  22. Blackjack Silver badge

    To be fair we do have robot dogs, there is even a football tournament for robot dogs. Or at least there was.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIBO

    And the only reason they don't fetch newspapers is because who still uses paper newspapers? You can make it fech you a tablet or something like that.

  23. earl grey
    Devil

    quicksand?

    I was expecting to hear about the quicklime.

  24. Kurt 5

    NIST Bastard Reference

    I liked the drum printers. Except when I got the task of replacing the ribbon (we'll use that term lightly -- those who have never worked with these printers -- i.e., the younger generation -- can't truly appreciate that ribbon meant something very different...)

    Nice thought of having the NIST define the unit of bastard. https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/reference

  25. M.V. Lipvig

    Nice...

    The BOFH puts his own special spin on the use of drones.

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