The Bastard Operator From Hell senses something fishy and casts his net ...

    Something's a little fishy in the department. I recognise the signs when I reach my floor - the air of restrained anticipation.

    First stop, my internal mail slot - bombshells usually get placed there by the boss prior to him scuttling to the relative safety of his office. Naivety knows no bounds.

    Sure enough, there's a bombshell measuring on the red-tape Richter scale.

    In an effort to standardise a coherent future direction, the bosses have decided to appoint a 'Director of Future Planning'. Couldn't be fishier if it came with tartare sauce.

    Sure enough Jeremy, the appointee, has all the initiative and forward thinking of wheel-clamps, and was recently responsible for purchasing 10 multi-mode analogue recording devices for a bargain price of 6,000. The most expensive box of pencils in the history of the company ...

    Unless I'm very much mistaken this is yet another salvo in the 'bean counters versus techies' war. I read further and discover that all purchases have to be approved by the DFP to ensure that they conform to the direction the company has chosen for its future ...

    I get two weeks' respite before the you-know-what hits the fan with a knock at my door. Jeremy enters.

    "Ah, Simon, just a couple of points," he says. "This wireless LAN stuff. You realise that we're not equipped to deal with this just yet?"

    "In what way?" I ask. "Not having several open-plan work areas that are hell to cable - you know, like the WP pool, the PR offices - or not having a single free AUI connector unless we unplug the unused terminal servers?"

    "Oh. Ah. Well, no, not that exactly, it's just that according to my calculations ..."

    He bashes a couple of figures into his personal organiser, an item that appears to have been distributed far and wide amongst the upper echelons, a move no-doubt designed to cover up for the stupidity of a prior purchase.

    "... we would be spending almost 300 per multi-peater more than we need to if we buy from our current supplier."

    "Ah. Our current supplier of ... analogue recording devices?" I ask.

    He pretends to ignore me. "No, our current supplier of personal organisers. And we have the added bonus of being able to transmit and receive information from the organisers through them which is not available on any other equipment."

    He toddles off leaving me feeling that the outcome was: "Future Planning, 1, Simon, nil", so quick as I can, I bash out a memo about the potential security implications of uploads and downloads taking place from these devices. There's a rumour of a takeover flying about and the last thing we want is sensitive data being intercepted.

    My warnings fall on deaf ears, the marketing has already been done in secret and accepted as gospel. Not good.

    The kit duly arrives and I reluctantly install it. However, the manual is most instructive on the upload and download features, and to remain an interested party, I read it ...

    A week later I'm listening to a boardroom conversation, as is my wont. It really was an amazing coincidence that a couple of highly sensitive microphones ended up being placed near the panel when the room was recabled recently.

    "Well, quite frankly, I'm tired of it all," a manager whines.

    "Why?" Jeremy asks, a little stress registering on my accompanying voice analysis software.

    "The bloody thing keeps turning itself on in the middle of the night and ringing an alert for my wife's birthday, which was three weeks ago. I can't put it in the lounge because it switches my TV on now it's learnt the controls like you suggested. And, if that's not bad enough, it keeps switching the bloody thing off just before Inspector Morse finds out who the killer is!"

    "Mine does that too," another boss adds.

    "Mine added one to the street numbers of all my addresses," yet another voice announces.

    "You think that's bad," another sniffles, "mine rang an alarm and displayed 'Dinner with Trudi' with three stars by her name one night when my wife was using it. I don't even know a Trudi!! But I've got plenty of time to find one now!"

    "These are obviously teething problems," my ex-nemesis oozes.

    "I'm sure it's just some redundant information"

    I tap away at my keyboard and a chime is heard from the boardroom.

    "Good Lord!" a voice exclaims. "Mines just told me to ring the doctor about the HIV results!!"

    "I think we've heard enough," the CEO interrupts.

    "Until further notice, we're withdrawing these devices from use. Thank you gentlemen. Jeremy - a word."

    I listen on while Jeremy is promoted to another position of responsibility - head window cleaner. Only, we have contractors to do that ...

    A pity really. Still, it doesn't pay to dwell.