BOFH vs PFY?
Pretty evil that one
Welcome to the working week and therefore to a new instalment of “Who, Me?”, The Register's confessional in which readers reveal and defend their darkest deeds. This week meet a chap we'll Regomize as "Peter", who wrote with a tale of working at a small tech support outfit on the outskirts of London. Peter told us that this …
We used to have a guy in the office who was very punctual... for smoke breaks! He would take a break every hour, on the hour, with the precision of a Japanese train driver. This included returning from lunch at about 12:45 only to disappear at 1pm.
As he often left his PC unlocked, I managed to create a simple webpage with a picture of his empty desk (complete with 'timestamp') and pointed his browser to it
He didn't quite tear down the place looking for the 'spy camera'... he also didn't learn from the episode as his boss (not ours) kept asking where is was and we couldn't tell a lie, could we children...
In the department of a friend of mine, it was customary to Hasselhoff unlocked PCs, when their owners would go out for a smoke or some loo-time.
Colleagues would image-search for some hilarious depicted of the TV star of Baywatch or Knight Rider fame, and instate it as the desktop background.
Colleagues from my dorm back in the student days, took a screenshot of the empty desktop, used it as the background, and then removed or hid all the icons and the start menu.
Do lock you PC, was the message, I guess.
-> Icon: I think I might have misplaced the key for locking my PC.
The action on leaving a PC/Mac unlocked escalated at my old work...
People got bored with changing the screensaver message and somehow it became the tradition to send an e-mail from the offending PC to the department group e-mail address stating the offender would be buying cakes for the whole department.
One member, let's call him Andy, didn't learn but then decided Poundland cakes were the best answer. That resulted in a message from his account which included the name of a local expensive cake shop/supermarket being included! His complaints to IT simply resulted in a reminder to lock his machine.
I have a slightly different tale.
We had a colleague at another site crow about how she had been on a really expensive computer security training course and how everything was now locked down solid.
She sent some very strange security related messages over the next few weeks - obviously we had hacked in and were sending them on her behalf.
When one of our team visited the head office and saw her crying in her glass box we immediately stopped. (We didn't go as far as 'fessing up, but she may have had suspicions. When they closed down our site, they disconnected all the infrastructure and removed the PCs over the weekend. We came in on Monday morning and thought we had been neatly burgled. We were just finishing off the inventory before ringing the Police when the Site Manager arrived and told us the bad news)
My old boss used to leave his PC unlocked. Like the techs in this article, us techs got whatever PC was spare when we needed one. In fact, I was given a Pentium 75 when we were rolling Pentium 200s out to the users.
My boss had a good spec Pentium 200 with twice as much RAM as we were giving to users (I think he had 16 meg, and our standard was 8 - this was the 90s).
We had a spare Mac that was hardly ever used, so my colleague asked me to install VNC Server on it, and leave it logged in. So, I did, just turned off the monitor to stop users using it. He then installed the viewer on my boss's machine, connected it and ran it full screen.
An hour or so later, my boss returned from "meeting" he had had, a little the worse for wear, and couldn't work out why his desktop had totally changed.
A long while ago when working at a helldesk, all the different desk supervisors would bugger off at five and support would be left till the 9pm finish (which was very quiet since the places we supported closed at 7). All the supervisors also got the newer pc's, with extra RAM and even a seperate graphics accelrator card.
All us support bods had was screwdrivers, four quiet hrs, and a deep love of playing networked quake 2 against the office across the car park...
For a time at my workplace we would use the screen rotation hotkeys on people who left their machines unlocked. The people with IT knowledge took it as a quiet reminder. Lusers, OTOH, would go nuts as they came back to find their desktop was now upside down.
I also used the graphics flip on the Quality Audit team of ladies*, when I found a PC unlocked in the department.
Leaving her colleagues with a message "I'll be back in 20 minutes, If Izzy needs her PC urgently I'm in Rm xxx so she can come down & tell me what she did wrong!'
*As oft mentioned, this team of ladies used to travel the world for QA audits at pharma plants, bring back strange new exotic confectionary (Chocolate cabbage flavoured liquers for one) to try & poison me (& fellow colleagues) with.
For a time at my workplace we would use the screen rotation hotkeys on people who left their machines unlocked
I did once encounter someone who had done this to himself with inadvertent key pressing. He hadn't said anything or asked for help but I couldn't help noticing as I passed by that he'd turned his CRT monitor upside down to keep working.
There's something one monitor manufacturer did that I've never found a good use for. The control buttons are touch-sensitive, not push-buttons, and easily pushed while mousing under the right side of the monitor.
One of those buttons puts up a blue rectangle that's exactly 8.5x11 inches, then one that's 5x7", and a few others, until after some few presses it goes back to normal mode. The only thing it's ever done is gotten my mom to call down "What is this grid thing?" when accidentally brushing the "grid the monitor" button.
Useful, maybe, for desktop publishing, but almost every DTP user pays no attention to the actual size of the SCREEN they're working on. Lucky if they pay any attention to readability in CMYK.
>I did once encounter someone who had done this to himself with inadvertent key pressing. He hadn't said anything or asked for help but I couldn't help noticing as I passed by that he'd turned his CRT monitor upside down to keep working.
WFH so no security worries, but the wife called me to ask for something last week and by the time I'd got back, the cat had managed to set my screen to 400% resolution and was trying to install speech to text!
More advanced stress - take a screenshot. Rotate it. Set that as the backdrop. Then set the taskbar to auto-hide.
The funny thing is, with some of the backdrop icons in the normal place, and the taskbar popping up at the normal place, the picture in the middle is upside down and that's all they can see.
(and it's especially funny when they pop a valve trying to click an upside down MSIE icon and nothing happens, so they're swearing at how the thing is even slower than normal)
Place I used to work at, they'd replace the background with an X-rated slideshow of rather beefy NFL USian football players. It quickly taught people to lock before they go. I never was busted as, at a previous company, people would use unlocked computers to send emails company-wide to complain about C-suite policies, proclaim love for other co-workers, send a resignation letter, ect. This was in that short, wonderful time after the widespread use of corporate email, but before the world lost its sense of humor. Anyway, it became habit to always lock the PC.
The team at the ISP I used to work for had two machines; a corporate one on the corportate network with all the usual group policy lockdown hassles, and another machine that was on a seperate space they'd carved out of the out of band administrative network for the various switch and routing gear.
You very quickly learned to lock your workstations, lest you find your non-corporate machine's home page set to some adult site, and I'm not talking about 'tame' sites like playboy, but the really raunchy hardcore sites. (this was done with the blessing of the infosec people, who were even worse than we were...)
Then there was 'That Guy' at LAN parties who had their computer that routinely had not-kid friendly wallpapers, screen savers, etc. on it. He also didn't lock his workstation, and also had a habit of running a torrent client 24/7 on it, regardless of the network it was one. THis was back when world of warcraft was a thing in our group, and one day we discovered he had fallen asleep whilst logged in. We didn't do anything bad to his account, but there was a spare keyboard that got plugged in and messages were sent to the guild chat about how large their pants were, and proclaimed their love for murlocs (one of the 'cute' monsters in the game), which he hated.
As revenge for running a torrent client when we told him to stop, we did change his desktop wallpaper, icon set, and sounds to murlocs. That was also the last time he was invited to a LAN party as well.
We were more subtle - we'd just leave a couple of small windowed programs or folders open, leaving the existing wallpaper prominently visible on the absent user's desktop, screenshot it, then set that as the desktop wallpaper. It would then be amusing to see the user spending the rest of the day trying to close the 'stuck' windows.
There was an occasion where the hubby of a coworker rang up wanting to speak to his wife, I told him that she was probably in the loo having a ciggie break. There was a pause then he sais "She told me that she had given up".
Don't learn - did the same again with the father of another teenage coworker - the dad was quite adamant that his son does not smoke......
One that was common at our second line team was creating a file / folder and removing the users privileges to delete it, my co-worker Stu had a "midget porn" folder for several months..
More fun was the remote restart command, with just enough time for the observant to issue a cancel, the game being catching it before it forced restarted, ignoring any save prompts.
That game though was put an end to when manglement came in one day informing us that someone must've miss typed an asset ID as a regular user complained their machine suddenly rebooted with an odd message, which isn't great considering we worked at a bank..
You always have to be careful around your domain admins.
Many years ago when I worked for a departmental IT team at a UK university, it was world cup time. One of the German lecturers couldn't help repeatedly crowing about Germany's successes and mocking the relative failings of the England team to my colleagues. Guess who turned up at work the following day to find an enforced England team wallpaper on his office machine courtesy of a new group policy one of my colleagues had rolled out for him.
It was all in good humour of course!
to a colleague who had been to watch Man Utd lose the Champions League final to Barcelona.
I got approval from our manager first, and he was just as big a joker as me, so happily went for it.
He eventually asked me how to get rid of it after seeing the grinning Barcelona team as his wallpaper for two weeks.
I did a similar thing with a whole Man United theme pack - including sounds, icons and cursors - applied to a Newcastle supporting helpdesk manager who frequently neglected to lock his PC even when he wasn't in the office. I didn't have access to group policies back in those days but I did know the registry key to set to prevent him from changing it... and then went on holiday for a fortnight.
Back in my Windows days, a BSOD was not cause to open the PC up straight away. I'd analyze the minidump first to get some info on what was happening, as well as the system messages (log), with the latter especially if there was no minidump or dump file despite all of these "BSODs." Had the guy any sense, the trick would have failed.
He was just following the BOFH method of troublesbooting - step 1, what has changed? His computer was working, he changed some of the guts for those in computers returned as broken, then had the BSOD. Obviously, the first thing to suspect is the "new" parts. He put the old bits back, computer worked again, to him, problem solved.
About the same time as this would have happened, I was working with a colleague on a Saturday. We didn't normally work at the weekends, but we needed to do something that would have caused significant disruption if we'd have done it during the week.
We were in an office, normally occupied by two other technicians. No idea why we didn't go to my office, which was just down the corridor and not being used, but we likely had our reasons.
As a joke, we decided to replace the startup sounds of the machines we were using. Because it's normal user was incredibly vain, I replaced the startup sound of the machine I was using with a WAV of Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy. My colleague changed the startup sound of the machine he was using to The Proclaimers 500 Miles, because the normal user of the machine is a proud scotsman. The Scotsman liked his new startup sound so much he kept it, but the tech who normally used my machine was not impressed, so I had to change it back.
When I worked in the service department of a PC maker, our work PCs were a few generations old, runing NT 4 when we were shipping PCs running XP.
That was our work PC:
Everyone in the department also had a second PC under their desk strictly for lunchtime and Friday afternoon gaming that was made up from the finest parts stripped out of returned PCs. These PCs ran on a separate gigabit network when the office PCs were still on 100mb if you were lucky, and they also had an unfiltered internet connection for game updates,
Way before the Pentium 4 was a thing I worked in an organization where the rules on PC upgrades were very strict. Replacement was on a strict rota with the only exception being for those few people who's defined roles required a certain hardware spec. This was usually based on the software they needed to use to do their jobs. So if a new software version came along people who's PC spec fell below the minimum requirement may have got to jump the queue. But to be entirely fair they seldom got a new machine, more likely they would get more memory or a better graphics card or more storage depending on what was required. The upgrade cycle was such that apart from those lucky few most staff got a new machine somewhere between every three or four years.
In the IT department we were aware of all the scams in use to get a new machine. Usually these involved staff breaking their machines in some way to get hold of new hardware. It was however our policy that even if somebody did manage to do something completely fatal they would not get a new machine, we would do our best to repair their existing kit. Usually by cannibalising our stock of hardware which had been returned as part of the upgrade cycle. We had been known to entirely replace the internals of a machine even though it would have been easier to swap the whole thing just so the staff knew they were getting their old machine back.
Senior staff seemed to expect preferential treatment, but they didn't get anywhere. Our director of IT realized that management for the most part needed less powerful hardware than the people who did the actual work. Some of these people got very, very petty in their attempts to get things upgraded.
To give you an idea of how petty it could get one such "manager" (she was really just a team leader of a team of two but insisted on calling herself a manager) had some amazing tricks. One day she put a blown fuse in the plug of her PC. How could we tell it was a blown fuse? Facilities insisted that all equipment was fitted with the appropriate fuse. As such PCs always had 3 amp fuses. However when I went down to investigate this "dead" PC I was smart enough to check the power cable first by simply swapping it. Sure enough the PC burst into life with a new cable. When I checked the fuse the blown fuse was 13A. I can only guess something at home blew a 13A fuse and she decided to use that fuse to wangle hereself a new box. Fail.
One day around the turn of the millennium we got some optical mice in stock. One member of the team suffered a dead ball mouse and got a nice shiny new optical mouse to replace it. Coincidentally we got a fault ticket from the manager the very next morning. Her mouse was apparently dead. I arrived at her office and picked up her mouse and found that it rattled. Suspicious, I told her I needed to take the mouse back to our office to test it. When I got it back to the office I found that there was a hairline crack in the base of the mouse. I opened it up and found that the insides were damaged, one of the rollers was bouncing around loose. This in conjunction with the fresh crack suggested to me that she'd simply banged the mouse on the desk until it stopped working. I could have replaced her mouse with one of the stock of optical mice or perhaps I could have replaced it with a used ball mouse from stock, but I wanted to make a point. As such I spend some time replacing that roller and it's housing even having to solder a couple of wires to the pcb. I then handed her back the mouse telling her it was fine after a clean. You could see from her face she knew I had repaired the damage, but she couldn't say anything because to do so would have been to admit she had broken the mouse to get a new one. Yes we could get every bit as petty as the users.
Then came the day when a member of her team left. That team member had the newest PC in that office since there's was a new post added to the team around a year after the original PCs had been bought. Between the old team member leaving and the new starter arriving the PCs had been swapped around so the "manager" had the newest PC. This was very much against the rules. She had even gone the the lengths of swapping the asset tag sticker on the front of the two PCs so that she retained her original asset number. Had she been willing to wait a few months she would have got a brand new machine, but she decided that she as the most senior member of staff deserved the best PC.
I considered various solutions. The easy one would have been to simply report the issue to HR, but that wasn't good enough. Instead I changed the serial numbers on the asset database so she officially "owned" the newer machine. This might appear as if I had let her win, but I was playing a longer game.
When upgrade time came around a colleague and I rocked up at the office with two new machines and began swapping the machines of the desks of the two junior members of staff. Of course it wasn't long before the manager asked what what we were doing. So I told her we carrying out scheduled PC upgrades. But why, she asked, was she not getting one? She was, she said, sure she was due an upgrade. So I made a great show of checking the asset tag on her PC, cross referencing that to the serial number of her PC on the database and explained that she wasn't due an upgrade for over a year. Once again I could see in her face that she knew she'd been had, but couldn't say anything because to do so would have been to admit her subterfuge.
"and she decided to use that fuse to wangle hereself a new box. Fail."
Around here, that would be a disciplinary citation. Let's see, fiddling with electrical things without the required training (ie you're not the tech, don't touch) and replacing something with a part from outside (breaking traceability and potentially using inferior parts), plus replacing it with a part that has a completely different value (thus theoretically making the equipment unsafe). Yup, she'd learn in a hurry not to do that sort of thing again.
One of, probably the best actually, managers I ever had (Hi Stewart) deliberately chose and used the oldest, lowest spec PC he could find.
This was partly because he had no ego or insecurities and built fast computers at home for fun but mainly because he argued that he’d notice issues before the lusers so could preempt issues, keep the service running and have an easy life.
User puts in a request for a machine in a building due to be closed down, (its already devoid of staff) to be moved to his desk. Licences etc transferred from his old one to the new & he's king of the hill crowing over his "new" PIII 400 to all & sundry.
That lasted about 3 weeks when I replaced all the other machines in his department with PIV HP Vectra's (VL420 blue/cream case), wheres mine? Your current machine is not in scope for replacement at this time. My old one was? Yes. So you can replace this one with a new one & take this one away. Sorry your current machine is in scope for use, the old machine was decommissioned & the machine that would have replaced it re-allocated to another machine as we only got 90% of the machines we would need, as there would be some that we could just decommission through natural wastage.
Next year rolls around & I bring in his machine & once again he's back to crowing about being king of the hill with his new spec machine & how it's going to be so much better & faster than his coworkers.
Once again I bore the sad news to him that, spec wise they were the same (Different casing & more importantly motherboard) & it's not actually faster, that the image build for the ones deployed last year used the correct NT4 driver for the IDE controller, for his model they could only use a generic driver, adding into the mix that the ones from last year would image in 40 minutes & would reboot so fast that the IT staff would have to do it again to ensure we simply hadn't just logged out after a software install by mistake.
By comparison his new one took 1Hr 10 minutes to image & we were never in doubt that they had been restarted after a software install, as we watched the long slow Wiindows NT startup & crawl to the log in screen.
Taking the best parts over the weekend instead of leaving them for higher status people, leaving the workshop in a mess, or bragging about his now high spec PC?
Because if I was a junior employee stuck with a low spec machine I would have done the first part, but would have endeavored to leave the workshop in exactly the same condition as I found it.
And I wouldn't have let alone know about the improvements to my PC. My goal would have been that no one finds out anything was done at all, and everyone else would figure they just miscounted a bit on the parts that would be available to distribute on Monday.
A decade ago I was contracting at a largish corporation not too distant from me here in the sunny north-west of this left pondian country.
Contractors were given what I can only describe as the best of the unused machines, usually the discarded PC of the person who had just left and you were replacing. Other unwanted machines were placed in the corridors outside offices, and in the corners of the buildings etc. ready to be 'recycled'. It was standard operating procedure to scavenge whatever improvements you could get to enhance the machine you'd been allocated.
Once worked with a guy who thought it was funny to modify autoexec.bat to display fake error messages on colleagues PCs.
I modified his to type a large binary file. When he booted he was greeted with 5 minutes of garbage scrolling on his screen accompanied by various beeps.
He stopped after this.
related fun I've had in this sort of department was installing the BSOD screensaver on my pc( cue loud cries of "Your laptop is fooked")
And doing the "Replace desktop with screenshot of said desktop set to fullscreen in MS paint or whatever the default picture viewer was" to my ex-colleagues PC
Cue 15 minutes of clicking on icons and nothing happens..... ahhhh happy days
Helping a very good friend one evening with upgrading his PC and also repairing an old school friend of his I/we got a little bored.
His friend was being really annoying on the phone so having sorted out the problems with it then it became time for a little fun.
I set up for windows to play the midi file of dance of the sugar plum fairy, constantly, with the program hidden so he couldn't see it to close it.
The sound card was quite basic - no wave table so it sounded like a childs electronic keyboard.
He collected the PC from my friend over the next few days and took it down to the west country where he had moved.
He found out very quickly that it was playing constantly but couldn't work out how to stop it. He got very annoyed but wouldn't ask how to stop it playing over the top of everything.
For two years instead he decided to use the computer with the sound permanently turned off.
Eventually he messaged my friend all triumphant that he had sorted it. Then admitted that it was a computer shop that was near him that had sorted it out for him.
What had the shop done? They also couldn't work out how I had set it up to play the file. But recognised the file and knew what it was named. So they simply deleted it from the hard drive.
Problem solved of the midi file constantly playing, Only an error message every time windows started warning him that the file was missing.
We both laughed our socks off when he said how it was now fixed and he didn't need to ask for our help fixing his computer again.
For my friend and myself we were both grateful for the peace and quiet of not spending hours every few days fixing the faults he had created on his computer.