Who's Responsible for this Mess?


Brian W. Antoine

January 4, 1994

I was sitting in front of the terminal, slowly coming to a boil. I wasn't aware of the noises I was making until Kalindra looked over my shoulder to see what was upsetting me.

"Do you always sound like that when you're working?"

I stopped in mid growl. "Huh? Oh, sorry. I'm letting this get to me again." I typed for a minute and then scared her but good when I exploded. "Oh shit! No wonder it doesn't work... Lousy, rotten, piece of... Penny!"

"Right here boss. What's up this time?"

"Get me the Smurfinator" I growled. "I've had it with trying to be nice about this. It's time for Jeff to die..."

"Uh, boss? Actually, old Smurf's in the shop for his thousand mile overhaul. Could I help instead?"

"Help with what?" came the puzzled comment from Kalindra. "Who is Jeff and why does he need to die?"

"Because he's a putz!" yelled Penny and I in unison.

"You kill putz's? Sounds like a kind of harsh punishment. Wouldn't it be more fun to make his life miserable?"

I thought about it for a moment then jumped to my feet. Swinging Kal around in the air I laughed out loud. "That's what I love about you" I said as I kissed her. "Always willing to prolong the torture in the name of fun!" I set her down on the bench and sat down in front of my terminal again.

"Penny, open a link to 'krel.iea.com' and get signed in as 'root'."

"So, we don't kill him?" asked Kal as she looked over my shoulder at the screen.

"Nope, I like your idea better."

The lights blinked, the dials whirled and the speaker beeped. A second later I was at the root command prompt on Jeff's system. "First stop is the News software. Penny, I want that active file so screwed up that even I couldn't fix it."

"One screwed active file, coming right up," she said with a snicker. Then the snicker changed to puzzlement. "Uh boss? This file is already so screwed up even I can't make any sense of it. Half the valid groups are missing and the rest don't seem to have all the traffic in them."

"Hummmm... Ok, the News is already hopeless. Let's play with the Mail software." I began to page through the control files for the system e-mail packages. "Huh, what the hell is that doing here? And that is suppose to be in the other file. Penny, can you make any sense of this?"

"It's beyond me boss. No wonder his mail gets lost in the network so often. Did he put this together while he was sick?"

"It sure looks that way" I mumbled. "Ok, let's try something else. How about inserting random errors in the other common programs."

"Random screwup's, coming right up. First let's play with 'irc'... Hummmm... It already seems to be fucked up. Well, maybe we can play with the 'talk' software. No, that doesn't seem to be working at all." Kalindra and I listened as Penny searched the system. Things didn't sound good for our team. Finally we both startled when we heard her snort in disgust. "Boss, this software is already broken worse then anything I could do to it."

I was starting to get desperate. "Uh, how about screwing with the filesystem?"

"Yeah, the filesystem. I should have thought of that!" Penny started humming to herself, but the humming quickly fell off key and then stopped. "I don't think Jeff has ever heard of 'fsck'. There are so many cross-linked files and circular symbolic links that I can't see how the system even boots. And who ever laid out this directory arrangment was on serious drugs at the time. I'm finding at least three copies of almost everything, and all in different places."

"Penny, there has to be something we can do to screw with his mind."

"Well, how about playing with his access to the outside world. We could slow his link down with random traffic so that it was almost unusable."

"Yeah, that should work nicely. Start adding hidden traffic to his link until the response time goes over 500 milliseconds per character." I waited while Penny worked. When she didn't come back right away, I knew something was wrong.

"Let me guess... It's already over that?"

"I can't get anything less than about 750ms no matter what I do."

I turned in my chair and looked at my mate. "Any ideas?"

"I could tickle him."

"Naw, he'd like that. You'd scare the hell out of him, but he'd like it." I racked my brain, but came up blank. "I just can't think of anyway to screw that system up any worse!"

"Then we need to find someone else to pick on" said Kal with an evil gleem in her eye. "Bob was making nasty remarks about Newlyweds when he thought I wasn't listening again."

"Yeah, Bob..." I muttered with a gleem of my own. With my arm around her as we walked, the two of us began to plot our next surprise for Bob. Behind us on the terminal, two final lines appeared.

System faulty, core dumped. #$%^@*% Connection mangled by foreign host