It has been difficult to give up the 1911 Breakdown, because it has seemed to me the epitome of a Gun Blogger Permanent Reference link. But our policy here at Geek Central has been to keep "Hot Links" as a special, limited-time offer. If you still want to keep a record of this website,, book mark it from the link in the first line of this paragraph.
Moving on ... I have just posted a new Hot Link on the sidebar.
The Bastard Operator from Hell Official Archive is a definitive link to a very geekish series of amateur writings which, from (at least) 1995 to 2001, were usually available through ListServ emails. They were introduced and re-posted on ListSerf after ListServ email lists, and proliferated exponentially.
Essentially, these were short stories starring a man who was either the main Operator, or a SysAdmin (System Administrator) of a computer system.
The series was posited on the almost Urban Legendary assumption that Operators and/or SysAdmins were so totally in power over their (corporate?) computer systems that, when Users would call for help, the SysAdmin would respond in a manner best calculated to produce Chaos, not Order. The Bastard Operator From Hell (BOFH) asserted his power ... entirely unrelated to authority ... at every opportunity, thereby confounding his enemies. And his enemies seemed to include everyone who wasn't the BOFH.
It was (to some) an appealing theme, generally well-written, and I'm sure it's popularity was largely due to the fact that it depicted Computer Geeks in the lead role of what was essentially a Technocratic Society.
At least, it appealed to me in that respect.
Well, it would, wouldn't it?
Here's a taste, chosen (almost) entirely at random from "The Bastard Operator from Hell - the '95 vintage"
So I'm in my office again, reconfiguring the router when the phone rings. Somehow I knew this was going to happen. I'm obviously going to have to change my number (and Operator) YET AGAIN.
I pick it up.
"Is this the network engineer?"
"Yes it is," I say, resigned to my fate.
I check the phone - there's no corresponding name on caller ID, which can only mean one thing.
"You're new here aren't you?" I ask.
"Yeah, how did you know?"
"Lucky guess. Tell me, how did you get my number?"
"Oh, I just called the helpdesk."
How helpful of them..
"Anyway, I was just ringing to tell you that you've got a problem with the network."
"No," I answer, "no problems here."
"You do have a problem - I can't get my PC to work."
"Let's just look at this logically," I say. "You can't get your PC to work, so I have a problem."
"With the network, yes. It's probably a loose connector somewhere."
Of all the things that REALLY piss me off, the 'loose connector' and 'loose wire' theories TOP the queue. He obviously thinks that my day consists of sitting in a comms room somewhere 'wiggling loose wires' to improve network services. Or that I designed the network by calling up a cable supplier and ordering several drums of CAT-5 and asking for it to be "scattered about the building in a spider web shape".
Next thing I know he'll be telling me that maybe one of the 'bulbs' burnt out on my FDDI ring.
"Hey, maybe one of the bulbs.."
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
"No, it's not that! You've kicked out your patch cable," I say.
"I can't have!" he backpeddles.
"You've kicked out your patch cable."
"No, all the wires are securely plugged into the back of my PC..."
"You've kicked out your patch cable."
"...and they all go to the box in the flo.. Oh, hey! I kicked out the patch cable!"
"Of course you did. It happens all the time. It's because the twisted pairs in your cable get tangled, shortening the effective length of the cable. It's just like the telephone cord when it gets tangled."
"Oh right! I think I read something about that.." he burbles. What a plonker.
"Is there anything I can do to stop it?"
"Well, all you need to do is unplug it from the floor socket and give the cable a really really hard yank. Then all the twisted pairs come into line."
"But won't that damage my machine?"
"Heck no! The connector at the other end is made to pop out when the strain might damage the cable!"
"OK, here goes..."
"HEY! I PULLED MY MACHINE ONTO THE FLOOR AND A BOARD'S RIPPED OUT OF THE BACK OF IT!"
"Oh well, you obviously pulled too hard," I say calmly.
"WHAT AM I GOING TO DO? IT'S MY FIRST DAY!"
"I don't know," I reply. "It sounds to me like a hardware problem. I'm just a network engineer.."
"But..."I hang up. It's time to have stern words with the helpdesk.
The quality of the BOFH series is that it's always time to have 'stern words with the helpdesk', or the boss, of someone who has situationally targeted as the individual who has
If you have never read the BOFH series, this is your best chance. And if you have read the occasional offering from BOFH, here's your chance (and mine) to Get The Whole Set.
Speaking as the man who spent eight years as the Corporate Data Security Officer for a large Multistate Manufacturing Corporation, I'm afraid I may have at one time become too close to this mindset. That is why I perhaps found these technical epistles so entertaining.
No, don't read too much into that.
Pay no mind to The Mand Behind The Curtain!