The Great Windows Treasure Hunt
Fake News reported by on Saturday, October 9, 1999
[Editor's Note: This article is written by Dances With Herring, the newest member of Humorix's reporting staff. Dances, a former reporter for the Erie Responsible Journal, will be contributing investigative reports from the field. Dances is a distant relative of Tux Penguin and currently resides in Alaska, although he has plans to move back to his native Antarctica.]
On the weekends, I like to hang out at O'Malley's Guzzle & Belch Tavern, a small adult beverage establishment located in the heart of the Silicon Tundra district. Lots of nerds (both human and penguin) spend quite a bit of time here drinking and, believe it or not, socializing.
Saturday evenings at O'Malley are usually not very exciting. There's the obligatory Microsoft bashing, and once in awhile somebody will ask for Linux help in the hopes of getting free tech support. That's about it. However, things were much more interesting when I was there last week.
One of my drinking buddies, Bob C. Penguin, waddled up to my table and showed me something he had found. Bob was clearly drunk. "It'sh shome kind of... map," he slurred. "It hash an 'X' on it... it'sh a treashure map." The map was written in red ink on the back of a wrinkled place mat. I replied, "Ummm... I don't know, Bob. It's probably just a map to some guy's house."
Bob, ever the optimist, responded, "Ahh have reashon to believe dat dis guy's houshe hash treashure inshide!"
About this time, O'Malley, the bartender, overhearing our conversation, waddles over to have a look-see at the map. "Mmmm... interesting. Where'd you get this?"
Bob hesitated before responding. "Well," he stuttered. "I, um, well, I uh... well, Ahh'll be honesht. Yeshterday Ahhh had a few dreenks at the Happy & Drunk Lounge over on Ash Shtreet. I know, I know, that'sh your biggesht competitor, O'Malley..."
"Now might be a good time to call in your bar tab," O'Malley responded in a rather annoyed tone.
"Anywaysh, dese two guys sittin' neksht to me... dey waz having shome kinda convershasheeun... about a rumor goin' round town. Shomebody around dese parts haz tuned an enterprise... Windoze En-Tee sherver sho well dat it never crasheshes. Dis magic sherver hash been up... continuoushly for shix monthsh!"
"You've gotta be kidding," O'Malley and I said in unison.
"Like Ahh-uh said, it waz jusht a rumor. A leettle bit afterwards, I overheard one of dem sayin'... He said, 'You know, if this uncrashable NT box really exists, I'd really like to get my hands on it and see what kind of modifications have been made. My own NT-based website crashes several times per week.' The shecond guy, he reshponded, 'Well, one of my co-workers heard from a friend of a friend of a co-worker of a friend of a relative of a friend that this magical box is in an office on Jimbo Road.' He den prosheeded to sketch a map on da back of hish place mat."
By this time a crowd of other tavern patrons had gathered around our table. "What happened next?" one human asked.
"Well," Bob explained, somewhat sobered, "Da firsht guy said, 'Hmmm... what are we going to do, break in to this office and steal this mythical computer that seems to be disobeying Murphy's Law?' In reshponse, the shecond guy said, 'Well, we could pull a prank. Instead of calling and asking whether their refrigerator is running, we'll ask if their NT server is running...' Dey broke into laughter, and after a few minutes da convershation drifed tuh other matters. On the way out dey threw da map in the trash... I later shnatched it when nobody was-a looking."
"This could be big," I said, intoxicated by beer and Bob's fantastic story. "If we could figure out how this NT server is configured, we could make a fortune! Everybody foolish enough to be using Windows would clamor for our consulting services! We could write our own book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Making Windows NT Stable... For Dummies".
I looked at the map again. "That 'X' is just a few miles from here. Are you thinking what I'm thinking, everybody?"
"Now wait a minute here, folks. Let's look at this rationally," O'Malley said. "What are the odds that somebody has in their possession a Windows NT box that hasn't crashed in six months? Or, for that matter, a full month? I just don't buy this rumor."
Bob chimed in, "Well, we won't know until we go on a treashure hunt... and find dis mythical computer. Anybody wanna come?"
Quite a few people shouted, "Yeah!"
The Great Windows Treasure Hunt of 1999 had begun.
Bob and I made plans, while Tim, Eric, the other Eric, and Tina went to Wal-Mart to buy supplies for our expedition across town. We decided to make our move Sunday night under cover of darkness and while everybody was sober.
We found our destination, and parked our cars in a secluded back alley. Bob, Eric 2, and I were to go the north end of the building, while the other three went south; our goal was to find a way in. We immediately found it: the back door was unlocked.
Sneaking in, we split up and scoured each room for a computer. We didn't find any. In fact, we didn't find anything. It took us a couple of minutes to realize that the building we were in had been abandoned for decades.
A quick glance at the map by flashlight revealed that our destination was on the other side of the street. I had been holding the map upside down all of this time.
A few minutes later we were in place around our target. We discovered that the bars in front of a first-story window were held on with duct tape; we were able to easily gain entrance through this window.
After a few minutes of searching, we found the fabled machine on the second story. There it was: a Windows NT box with the power on. It was showing the Flying Windows screensaver.
"This is it," I squealed in delight.
I moved the mouse and the desktop appeared. There was nothing there except for the My Computer icon and shortcuts for Minesweeper and Solitaire. Further inspection revealed that this machine was not connected to the Internet (no Ethernet or phone line), and indeed, it was not a server at all.
We had come all this way to find somebody's personal Solitaire machine, and nothing more. It might have been online for six months, but who cares?
I absent-mindedly clicked the Minesweeper icon. The blue screen appeared. So much for that six-month uptime!
After a few minutes of discussion, we decided to bail just in case one of us accidentally activated some kind of security alarm. We vacated the building, and returned back to the tavern in an unhappy mood.
"How did it go?" O'Malley asked.
"Not well. The only thing we discovered is that Windows sucks. I, for one, knew that fact all along. Gimme a cold one, O'Malley, I'm going to need it..."