The Register


The BOFH explains his new 'Management Stack Theory' to PFY, who seems to take it all with a pinch of salt - until the boss walks in...

"So who's being made redundant again?" the boss asks, breaking the silence of the questions section of my presentation.

The room is silent while the boss and the rest of senior IT management await the answer to this weighty question.

"No one is being made redundant," I fume. "I'm talking about equipment here, routers and switches. I want to replace one router with two switches, which will give us redundancy at head office in that if one switch fails, the other one can take up the core functionality."

"Two switches, doing the same thing," the boss said.

"The same core tasks, yes."

"Like two light switches at either end of a hallway?"

"Sort of like that, yes."

"So if one's up, the other one has to be down for the light to go?"


Later, in Mission Control, I explain the rules of 'Management Stack Theory' to the PFY because he has no idea why the meeting deteriorated so quickly.

"Managers are stack-based," I explain. "Rule one is that they have, at most, a two-item stack limit. Mention a technical term and they'll push it onto their mental stack. Mention another, they push that up there as well. Mention yet another and they stack overload and reboot. That is, they think about what they're going to do after work, how sore their bum is, whether the marketing assistant knows her blouse is almost see-through, and so forth."

"But then they'd be rebooting all the time," the PFY says.

"Afraid not. Rule one, subsection B, deals with Stack Leakage. Technical terms leak from the stack at about one per sentence."


"Rule two of Management Stack Theory is that the frame size on their mental stack is pitifully small � terms are compressed to fit into the available frame. I mention 'Disk seek latency', they hear 'Disky Latex', 'Seek Latex', 'Disk Lazy', or something similar."

"So they didn't get much out of your presentation, is what you're saying? But they can't be that stupid," the PFY comments.

Oh, such innocence...

"Which brings me to rule three of Manager Stack Theory," I cry. "After a manager reboots, Volatile Memory is not zeroed, meaning that the contents are indeterminant. What the manager is left with is a jumble of terms, which, after Manager Internal Logic has finished with it, might become: 'Seek a see-through Latex Blouse'."

"Ah," the PFY doesn't quite believe me.

I can see that some form of proof is required...

"Right, you apply my rules to the following sentences. Use the whiteboard as your Manager Stack."

"OK," the PFY accepts the challenge.

"I think we need some redundant switches."

The PFY dutifully writes redundant switches on the board.

"You forgot rule two," I point out.

The PFY amends it to randy swatches.

"Which we could dynamically route to..."

- dynamo root.

"Which would allow us to multi-home..."

- My bum hurts, writes the PFY, erasing everything before it.

"Correct," I comment. "And what's left in memory after booting?"

"I need a new swatch for the randy man with the root password."

"Sounds reasonable to me."

"And a load of bollocks to me!" the PFY splutters, only to be interrupted midflow by the boss poking his head around the door.

"Yours too?" he asks, noticing the PFY's whiteboard scribbles. "Mine was aching all through that last meeting. Now, which one of you needed the new watch for rooting?"

Vindicated, I smile at the PFY.

"That'll be me," I say, grabbing hold of the tasteful new wrist accessory.

"What was it for again?"

"Oh, I'll be using it to benchmark the L2 cache performance of the new symmetric multiprocessor machines."


If the boss had a console screen option, I'd be watching a memory test at this point...

"I'm sorry, what was that again?" he asks.

"I just said I'll be needing a Dual-ported PC to run my Lempel Ziv compression � apparently it's a new algorithm."


"Cyclic redundancy checking! Electrically erasable EPROM! File read lookahead!" I blurt it all out, before the boss has gathered his wits about him.

The boss has a faraway look in his eyes.

"What happened?" the PFY asks, waving his hand in front of the boss's face.

"I've heard of this. I think he's stuck in reboot mode. He needs a manual reset."

"How the hell do you do that?" The PFY is worried.

"Uh... The male non-maskable interrupt..."

"I couldn't!" The PFY cries.

"It's that or have him stand in front of your desk all day..."

Reluctantly, the PFY kicks the boss in the crotch, and he goes down.

"What happened?" he cries, getting painfully to his feet.

"You just fainted and fell on to the corner of the desk. And you missed the end of my idea about Level 5 RAIDing all our legacy data as a data warehouse repository for the canned queries in the database front-end."


"I think he needs rebooting again." And I take a couple of steps back for the run-up...