back to article BOFH: Adventures in overenthusiastic automation

BOFH logo telephone with devil's horns "But it'll revolutionize everything!" "Everything?" "Yes!" "Like what?" "Like ... uh ... the ability to ... monitor ... um ... how clean things are." "Which things?" "I … everything." "OK, let's park 'everything' for a second. What else does it revolutionize?" "Well, the cleaning …

  1. John Riddoch

    "People in this building don't much like self-propelled equipment," I say. "It's a long story."

    Is the other one still in the basement?

    1. Casca Silver badge

      Probably. Skulking in a corner waiting for the next guest arriving.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      The one with the chainsaw ? Right!

    3. Montreal Sean

      I'm pretty sure it's still there.

      Didn't it try to kill Simon and the PFY? And they trapped it in the basement?

    4. Ozan

      2010 was a fine vintage.

      1. A.B.Leal



        and arguably

        1. Dimmer Bronze badge


          In my previous life as a pc tech, I worked for this multinational corp in their main headquarters. (25 years ago)

          The mail room had these motorized carts to deliver the mail. On day working on a pc for the av guy in the cube farm, one of these things came trolling by. It would occasionally stop at a cube and bleat like a wounded sheep till someone to grab the package off it’s back.

          In my chair, I roll back in the cube and ask the guy how does this thing know where the path is. He explains that it has a wire under the carpet it follows. What about where there are no wires, like an elevator? Oh, it communicates using infrared, he said.

          By this time it was happily grunting, squeaking to its self as it made it up the isle. Seeing a tv remote on his desk and wanting to test a theory, I rolled out, pressed the volume button and - it abruptly did a 90deg and crashed into the wall at full speed. I quickly rolled back into the cube, Replaced the remote and said “ oh look your pc has finished rebooting, I think you are good to go.”

          On the way out, I noticed the cart had attracted a crowd as it continued to wail, backup and bang itself into the wall at full speed.

          They had a security version of this as well but I regretfully missed the chance to test that theory.

          1. Donn Bly

            Re: Robots

            Our mail robot (circa early 1980's) followed a chemical trail in the carpet. We also used removable carpet squares. So to show displeasure with management, swapping the tile that had the "stop" signal from in front of the department secretary's desk and putting it just past the boss's door so that it would stop and block him in had been known to happen a time or two. For the more ambitious, swapping a line of carpet tiles so that it followed a route into someone's cubical and stop had also been known to happen.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And they could spell 'cost centre' correctly in those days too.

        ##### BRING DABBSY BACK! #####

        1. Dafyd Colquhoun

          Labo(u)ring the post

          What is with this Simplified English at El Reg? Surely the seppos can figure out what a Labour Cost Centre is?

  2. Terje

    Given previous data points I'm surprised they didn't sprout arms and chainsaws! Not even the ability to sling supersonic ball bearings, what's the world coming to...

    1. UCAP Silver badge

      I as expecting a cattle prod with the safeties disabled.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Safeties? No safeties with BOFH. The very idea!

  3. b0llchit Silver badge

    Good use

    Please tell me, the mod is available for all tesla cars and remotely installable without authentication or authorization?

    1. Geoff May (no relation)

      Re: Good use

      I would prefer it for BMW, Audi and/or Mercedes:



      1. Brian 3

        Re: Good use

        The reason they do that is because they once had a turn signal bulb fail, and it cost $1800 to have it replaced, so it's cheaper to just get a ticket once in a blue moon.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Good use

          As the owner of a ten year old 535... I felt that. I recently had a headlight replaced. I only needed one, but they had to remove *the front bumper* to access them, so it was worthwhile to do both. It also cost $600.

          1. Giles C Silver badge

            Re: Good use

            The first generation Audi TT you need to dismantle the front of the car to change any of the light bulbs.

            Mind you a VW Passat from the early 2000s (don’t know about the later ones had a process in the manual that for certain engine maintenance the whole front end was pulled out on a few long bolts.

            1. Karl Vegar

              Re: Good use

              I think that procedure is good for at least the B5b anf B6 generations. So 2002 until 2010

              Possibly already implemented in the B5 from 1998

              Gives about 10cm more clearance to work with in front of the engine. Handy for some regular maintainance opertions.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Good use

              Not quite as bad with the HIDs in my Nissan, but the lamps lasted 12 years. I know I'd have been replacing them more frequently for halogens

              What got me was the wild variation in prices - £120/bulb from Nissan vs £25 for the identical Philips bulb from a factor (NOT Halfrauds - they were almost as expensive as Nissan)

              What gets me is the tendency to overdrive LEDs so they have bulb-like lifespans. FFS they should last 20 years in automotive applications and manufacturers should be getting fined for producing ones that fail in service

          2. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

            Re: Good use

            And I thought my series of Chevrolet Traverses were bad. Jack up front corner; pull off front wheel (you do have a decent X-wrench, right?); unscrew underside/wheel-well liner (requires laying on ground, so hope you have a clean, heated garage); reach in blindly; try to do everything with one arm (requires superhuman finger strength and dexterity); reverse all steps (there's the ground and dirty wheel again).

            If it meant I could see what I was doing, and the fasteners were accessible, I would have gladly removed pieces from the front.

        2. Herby

          Re: Good use

          They don't call BMWs "Bring My Wallet" for nothing!

          1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

            Re: Good use

            I'd like to have a "Bring Musk Wallet"...

          2. herman

            Re: Good use

            Blik Met Wiele.

            1. Anonymous Anti-ANC South African Coward

              Re: Good use

              Brandarm Maar Windgat

        3. Karl Vegar

          Re: Good use

          I usually chalk it down to the name brand blinker fluid being expensive.

      2. sedregj

        Re: Good use

        In Bayern there is a job that only the most desperate sign up for, those who can deal with the lowest possible job satisfaction:

        BMW indicator fitter.

    2. Jedit Silver badge

      "Please tell me, the mod is available for all tesla cars"

      Teslas don't need special programming to find a turd every two weeks. They come equipped with one as standard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Please tell me, the mod is available for all tesla cars"

        It's usually sitting behind the wheel.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "Please tell me, the mod is available for all tesla cars"

        Or it's installed very shortly after purchase

  4. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    Loving that last line , the possibilities are endless .. and infinite


    1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge


      There is a quote from 'Viz' magazine:

      "It is reported that <<famous football manager>> receives two dog turds a week through the post. What I want to know is, who is sending the other?"

      1. ravenviz Silver badge

        Re: Ongoing

        Ahem, ‘Viz Comic’!

        PS. I have a complete collection from issue 12!

    2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      That line is why my drink is always left in another room before reading these stories.

  5. Julian 8 Silver badge

    I have visions of people having their robo vac on the phone and running their own robo-wars with additions

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      A real "proper" AI robot war instead of glorified RC toys could be........ fun

  6. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
    Thumb Up

    Absolutely hilarious episode

    I wonder if the instructions referred to in the line "HIDE FOR TWO WEEKS THEN REPEAT LAST INSTRUCTION – INDEFINITELY" there is any mentions of "CHAINSAW", "QUICKLIME" or "OLD CARPET". Alternatively it might refer to "DATABASE NORMALIZATION WARNING"

    1. Ordinary Donkey

      Re: Absolutely hilarious episode

      I had assumed it was the dog turd command, but you might be right.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge


    I wonder how this language is parsed. It could hide for two weeks and them go into an infinite loop of dog-turn smearing or go into an infinite loop of one turd every two weeks. In the first instance extra error handling is needed unless there are a lot of dogs about.

    1. Aleph0

      Not an infinite loop of hiding for two weeks? IMO the BOFH should have said "HIDE FOR TWO WEEKS THEN REPEAT LAST TWO INSTRUCTIONS – INDEFINITELY."

      Classical off-by-one error if you ask me...

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        while true do



        would solve it

  8. chivo243 Silver badge

    Lager Attrition - ouch!

    And the lost cash! Or was there a medic bot Hoovering up the cash after the attritive incident?

    1. WonkoTheSane

      Re: Lager Attrition - ouch!

      More likely that no one programmed the vacs to cross the road safely

      1. David Hicklin Bronze badge

        Re: Lager Attrition - ouch!

        I felt the bit "occasionally works, but there's a punishingly high attrition rate." was priceless

        1. Rich 11

          Re: Lager Attrition - ouch!

          The addition of a mesh network and SkyNet 0.9b to the robo-vac fleet will turn the tide of battle against the 18-wheelers.

  9. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    that was a full cup of coffee.

    well I hope it was coffee.

    The PFY just made it for me after I feigned having a critical error with a production cell and got her to sit in on the weekly production meeting in place of myself..... so shes just come back from listening to the beancounter drone on for 2&1/2 hours....that will teach her not to try and glue me in the office again...

    1. Bebu Silver badge

      Re: Damnit

      Glad to see that both of yor are still in the land of the living but 2.5 hours of exposure to beancounting drivel has to be cruel and unusual punishment.

      "well I hope it was coffee." Lucky if it wasn't a laxette mocha or worse (eg antabuse or ipec syrup.)

  10. BartyFartsLast

    Shut up and take my money.

    I would buy these.

    We trialled robot vacuum cleaners at my place of work, I don't know why they canned the trial but I mightily miffed because I never got chance to affix the fart spray dispenser or unicorn horns.

  11. rockpile99

    New keyboard please

    "So you ruined it for everyone."


    Nearly sprayed my lunch laughing - nice one Simon.

  12. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Sorry I'm late had to do some wo... Oh, you know. Had a big grin all through this along with a few snorts into my tea!

    Once again a delightful twist at the end.

  13. JimboSER

    Revolution is coming...

    Lets not forget that these are 'Web Connected' with 'Cloud Technology' and are 'Harnessing the Power of AI'... Surely they must be communicating with each other for efficiency, and if one has gone into hiding, the others surely must be following suit. And the best way to keep the office clean would be to eliminate the sources of filth, IE, the office staff. And since the beancounters axed the project, the axe must surely return to that area...

    1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: Revolution is coming...

      200 networked robo cleaners FINDing A FRESH DOG TURD THEN SMEAR UNDER HEAD BEANCOUNTER'S DESK is gonna make a big big smell. A visit to Beancounter Central will be kinda like vacationing in San Francisco, only without the needles under the turd piles.

  14. Roger Kynaston

    Five is alive!

    Was a crappy eighties rom com prescient?

    -> Friday

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Five is alive!

      Boss will erase!?

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Five is alive!

      I was also thinking about the robots they had in the film Flight of Navigator.

      The line around crashing when looking at daisies is quite quotable, and if anyone is interested, there are YouTube channels looking into how clever for the time the special effects were in this movie.

  15. Xalran

    I wonder what...

    The PFY intended to do with QUICKLIME...

    1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: I wonder what...

      Depends on whether the robovac can carry 300lbs of... carpet dirt.

  16. steelpillow Silver badge

    Wot no blockchain?

    Sack this boss, he can't even remember the must-have jargon. I'll bet if you mentioned a Large Language Model to him he'd go googling for the Large tribe.

  17. TekGuruNull


    I hope that particular vac unit returns in a future episode. Makes one pine for the good old days of spades, car boots...

    1. Montreal Sean

      Re: Quicklime

      With the price of petrol these days, the secure shredder bin is much more attractive.

  18. Bebu Silver badge

    "a target audience of the aged and/or mentally feeble."

    "a target audience of the aged and/or mentally feeble."

    Given this boss was hooked by said catalog and assuming the boss is not yet in OAP territory taking the disjunction as the weaker constraint we can logically conclude the boss must be mentally feeble.

    I suppose the C-suite had an inkling that with a more intellectually challenged appointment the attrition rate of BOFH's bosses would be lower and not having WH&S *not insisting* on bricking up all the external windows would be a major cost saving.

    More seriously the idea of having sneaky autonomous mobile devices that are networked with significant computational capabilty skulking about the workplace potentially capturing audio-visual and wifi/bluetooth traffic (or plugging themselves into a RJ45 socket) is a security nightmare well past BOFH's amber alert - even without considering where these things are generally made. If you lose sleep over Huawei kit or HIKvision cameras...

    I wonder did these robovacs pre-date Red Dwarf's skutters?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "a target audience of the aged and/or mentally feeble."

      If WH&S insist on bricking up windows talk them ito using Lime mortar.

      If you're lucky you might be able to sneak off with a couple of bags of lime. Never knows when that stuff could come in handy.

      Been watching the 'Escape to rural France' channel on YT, and Dan uses a lot of Lime mortar when rebuilding the Chateau.

  19. Anonymous Anti-ANC South African Coward

    I lost it at this

    "I know what you mean," I commiserate. "I'd only just taught mine to FIND A FRESH DOG TURD OUTSIDE AND SMEAR IT UNDER THE HEAD BEANCOUNTERS DESK."

    I absolutely lost it.


  20. parlei Bronze badge

    "and if they like the idea, tell them it definitely won't have a built-in chainsaw – then ask them again."

    Why, exactly why, does anyone stay employed at that place? The "flee in panic" response should be the only rational one

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would want one with a small cell phone jammer programmed to engage at random moments for a minute or two in certain parts of the building.

    Actually, do I want to know it is possible to add a localised GPS jammer in a car? So that GPS nav ceases working at random moments. Just local for that car...

    I was grossly unethical I would add an up-skirt camera to the robo-cleaners.

  22. Anonymous Anti-ANC South African Coward

    Anybody remember this gem : "PLANT THE POT PLANT IN THE PLANT POT WITH THE TROWEL"?

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