From: (Tim Franklin)
Subject: weekly FAQ posting
Date: 24 Feb 1998 13:22:24 GMT
Organization: Pelican Software
Summary: Frequently Asked Questions on the nature and purpose of the newsfroup

Posting-frequency: weekly
Last-modified: Feb. 20th, 1998
Version-no: 1.2.5



1.1) What is, and who is welcome there? is for discussion by recovered, recovering and hoping-to-recover tech support staff. So, I hear you cry, who's welcome here?

Anyone who does, or has done, technical support, obviously. Ah, but who does that include? Clearly not just people whose job titles are "Technical Support". There are many people who are pestered by idiots with computer questions and who have to answer them despite the fact that their job description is quite different; they should feel free to come here as well. Take this short quiz and find out if you belong here!

1. Do people ask you computer questions? (Bonus -- are they ill- equipped to handle the answers?) 2. Do you feel obligated to try to answer them for some reason? (Bonus -- does it involve money?) 3. If you answered yes to both of the above, has this ever caused you to fantasize about violence, death, and/or destruction?

If you answered yes to all of the above, then welcome aboard. If you answered yes to one or two, you're probably OK, but watch your step. If you answered no to all of them, then depart at once, luser.

1.2) Notes on reading and posting to ATSR

If you're tech support, you're not one of THEM, so don't ACT like one of them. This isn't a *.advocacy group, this isn't a *.for-sale group, this isn't a *.make-money-fast group, and this damn sure isn't a *.MEE.TOO!!!11 group. (See also 1.2.3.)

If you ARE one of them, then your posts are off-topic. Period. The ONLY exception is a well-written post (no more than 76 columns, no HTML tags, complete sentences, good grammar) that contains nothing but adulation and praise.

1.2.1) alt.sysadmin.recovery--similarities and differences

A lot of atsr's style was stolen directly from alt.sysadmin.recovery. Apart from the group name, the general concept, the footnote style and most of the slang, this FAQ was originally based on a severly butchered version of the ASR FAQ. Of course, it has expanded since then.

One thing we didn't really steal was the whole "THOU SHALT NOT DISPENSE USEFUL INFORMATION" trip. Folks, we're tech support. What better way to keep up our rep of being minor deities than to share obscure and improbable tricks? The only caveat, though, is that all useful information to lusers who post on this group should take this form:

"You are not wanted here. Go away."

In essence, posting useful information to other techs, especially info relating to dealing with lusers is fine. Answering the questions of lusers who can't find the right group to post to is right out.

1.2.2) vocabulary

As with many of the less serious newsfroups, this one has its own specialized slang, based on in-jokes, accidental typos, and theft (see section 1.2.1). Here are a few of the words whose meaning may or may not be immediately obvious: What does LART mean?

Luser Attitude Readjustment Tool. Something large, heavy and painful. What's a "luser"?

If you have to ask, you are. Who is this BOFH?

The Bastard Operator From Hell. (Or the Unpleasent Operator From Heck, for those of you with a delightful PICS-enabled newsreader).

A role model for many of the denizens of a.s.r, and consequently by a.t-s.r too. See 2.3 for more details. Why "Bob"?

[Thanks to Andrew Bangs and Rob Mortimer for their historic assistance here]

All tech support personal are called "Bob". (Female support personnel have an option on "Bobette", as they feel appropriate). This has nothing to do with "Bob", the Divine Drilling Equipment Salesman and the Church of the SubGenius. Nor it is "Brother Of BOFH" (although that's smart sidewise thinking, which is good). The real story of Bob can finally be revealed...

The time: August 1995. The place: Demon Internet, Support Department. A large number of new victims|Wrecruits were due to arrive, and it was observed that there would be much duplication of names. To ease the confusion, it was decided that all support techs would henceforth be known as "Bob", and identity badges were created labelled "Bob 1" and "Bob 2". (No, we never got any further).

The reason for "Bob" rather than anything else is due to a luser calling and asking to speak to "Bob", despite the fact that no "Bob" was currently working for Tech Support. Since we all know "the customer is always right", there had to be at least one "Bob", just in case.

Just a little sillyness, but it snowballed. Shift leaders and managers began to refer to their groups of 'bobs'. Whole ranks of support machines were set up (and still exist in the DNS) as bob1 through bob[lots].

Then came a.t-s.r, and it was filled with Demon support personnel. They all referred to themselves, and to others, as 'bob', and after a while it caught on.

Just one of those strange things, I guess...

Mark Halsall ( notes that:

"Bungie Software's Marathon [0] series has a bunch of civilians [1] running around. Fun to shoot, even better to just punch to death. And, they're all called Bob.

[0] A trilogy of shoot-em up games for the Mac. [1] Read "moving targets"."

Being a Trainer-of-Bobs and Bob-to-Bobs, I can kind of sympathise with that. But surely something involving destruction (or preferably lots of pain and *then* destruction) of lusers is better. Or PH1s, for that matter...

1.2.3) Things that are welcome and not-so-welcome on atsr

Not welcome on are: holy wars, user questions, users, or general cluelessness.

Particularly not welcome is ANY real tech support related stuff. We are here to escape. We are not an internet helpdesk. We do not hand out free clues to anyone who can hit the "post" button on their newsreader. If you have a problem, FIND THE CORRECT GROUP and post it THERE. Do not incur the wrath of our, um, CREATIVE problem-solvers. (See also

What in the hell makes you think that people who spend all day working tech support (et al) are going to come home, fire up their news reader, and spend a few MORE hours answering YOUR questions?

Warning: If you are a luser, you may well see your tech support people posting messages about how stupid YOU are. You have been warned. What was that about advocacy?

Most people reading this group will have a pet computer system that they prefer to all others, and another system or systems that they hate above all others. Frequently one person's favorite system is another's least favorite. If you see someone denigrate software you hold dear, or praise software you think is ridiculously bad, please try to keep the following in mind:

All software is flawed. All hardware is flawed. If you haven't learned that yet, then you haven't been in tech support very long.

So feel free to put down whatever hardware or software you want, but please be careful not to stray into advocacy wars. These are ultimately divisive and distract us from our real enemies. Also, discussion of what is the best tool for anything other than a LART is probably not terribly related to recovering from tech support. This WAV file is HILARIOUS, you folks GOTTA hear it! Here, let me post it! is a newsgroup, albeit a fairly rude one. (See As such, many of the basic rules of nettiquette apply. This newsgroup, like most newsgroups, is NOT the place to post binaries. No sound files, no pictures, nothing. It goes on a web page, an FTP site, or (if you MUST) through email. It does NOT belong here.

Remember, many of the people here have much bigger binaries than you, and some of them *do* know how to send them by email. ;)

Another thing that many atsr regulars hate is messages which are formatted to have more than 76 columns.

If you are not sure what is good or bad nettiquette, have a look at news.announce.newusers, or just fuck off and die. I have a stupid question about computers. Is this a good place to ask it?

There are no such things as stupid questions. There are only questions that let anyone even mildly knowledgable realize that the person who asked them has zero clue and a negative chance of ever getting any. Questions that make the reader realize that it unfortunate for all involved that the questioner was ever allowed within twenty--no, fifty-- feet of a computer. Questions that make the average tech support person want to track down the person posting the question and engrave the answer on the querant's body a million times with a soldering iron.

This is not a good place to ask questions like that.

[Thanks to Jake ( for that rather lengthy but totally correct discourse.]

NOTE: *Any* question becomes a stupid question if you ask it enough times. This applies to proto-bobs as well as lusers. If you are privileged enough to be given information, retain it.

NOTE2: 'Enough' can frequently mean '2'. That's a bit of a rude attitude, isn't it?


Bobs are paid to be nice to people all day. This is what we're like in our free time. Hey, have you heard the call about the cup holder being a CDROM? Or the one about the mouse being a footpedal? Or the "Microsoft giving directions to planes" joke? Or the...

YES. Don't mention them again, and don't, for the love of all that's holy, don't don't DON'T tell us that it was YOU. Thanks.

Remember, the grapevine of tech support works faster than the ATM speeds of the net. :) List of stale stories

Here is a sample of the stories we've heard a million times and don't want to hear again. Remember, just because it's not on the list doesn't mean we haven't heard about it. Play it safe and only post about things that actually happened to you.

broken cup holder turns out to be CD ROM drive
luser thinks mouse is a footpedal
luser thinks 'copy' of disk means 'photocopy'
luser folds 5 1/4 in. disk to fit into 3 1/2 in. drive
luser stores disk using refrigerator magnet
microsoft tech support gives directions to plane joke
if cars were like computers/car tech support were like computer tech support
luser thinks 'My Computer' means techie's computer
the internet is down for cleaning
can't check the power cables, because the power's out and the lights don't work

And see also the web sites listed in section 2. If you can find a story on a web site, it probably didn't happen to you, and we don't want to hear it anyway. 'multipart' and HTML

'multipart/alternative' and 'text/html' format messages are off-topic, off-charter and off-planet in this newsgroup. The readers of this group have enough of a clue to use a news reader to read news, not a web browser. We don't want to read your post twice, and we don't want to read it in HTML.

In short, either don't use a web browser to post news, or figure out to configure it sensibly.

You have been warned.

1.3) Help! All my postings disappear!

Yes. is now a moderated newsgroup, but has no moderator. Anyone who is capable of adding the appropriate authorization to their post is permitted to post. Any post which does not have the dead chicken waved over it will be directed to the bit bucket.

If you don't understand all this talk of chickens, it's entirely possible that you shouldn't be posting here in the first place.

If you want to know about chickens, try reading up on RFC 1036, and the Moderated Newsgroups FAQ (available from

As Matt Mendenhall puts it:

MM> Moderation is an attempt to alienate and filter out those who do
MM> not belong. As a Bob, you are superior to all lusers, and
MM> therefore have a sense of clue. Apply it.

If you want to practice waving chickens, don't do it in a.t-s.r. There is a special test group set up expressly for the purpose of determining if you are gesticulating with dead poultry in the appropriate fashion - it's called


2.1) Who died and made YOU god?

You don't like it? Write a better FAQ and start posting it. I'm only doing this until someone takes it away from me. [written by E, the *original* creator of this FAQ, who effectively did all the hard work :)]

[I have. But the same still applies. If you think you can do better, feel free. - Tim]

2.2) ATSR web pages claims to be the "Unofficial A.T-S.R. Site". This is currently down pending a new server. Please don't hammer on it, send mail etc in the meantime. is also good, and contains many related links. claims to be >THE< ATSR page. Unfortunately, it's a bit small right now, and the HTML is hosed.

Ned Brickley no longer maintains a copy of the FAQ. So please don't pester him about it any more. has the ATSR FAQ and various highlights from the group. Nicely presented, apart from imposing a font on you. contains a collection of old tech support stories, and can probably be considered an extension to section

Perhaps the keepers of the various pages should solicit Luser Tales, or something, try to spice up their pages and whatnot? Hell, I dunno.

2.3) related web pages

Details on the BOFH, and links to much of the rest of the a.s.r mythos can be found, amongst other places at: (the canonical BOFH)

Another BOFH series (different author, same style) can be found at

An excuse server, which is most useful for Bobs in a tight corner, can be found at

2.4) Bob code

Bob code is a derivative of 'Geek code' (see further details at, which provides a means for bobs to identify themselves, their specialities and their pet foibles to other bobs.

The code take the form of groupings of letters, numbers and symbols, usually included in the .sig, which indicate what a bob has to support, what type of lusers, their backgroup, LART of choice, and preferred chemicals for dealing with the whole sorry mess.

For full details, see

Tim Franklin                 | Progress (n.) : The process through which              | Usenet has evolved from smart people in front
Fido: Tim Franklin@2:257/155 | of dumb terminals to dumb people in front of  | smart terminals.   - "obscurity", 10/12/97

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