Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Instant Error Messaging

Error code 1357 3458 3324. Click for details.
  (+4, -3)
(+4, -3)
  [vote for,

You're working on a presentation you're not really that interested in. Windows throws up an error code, with a link purporting to take you to a diagnosis. Clicking on the link takes you to a page of impenetrable tech jargon. About halfway down the page, in amongst text earnestly explaining the finer points of data corruption due to stream overflow, the words "Alphonse says: The office admin's voice is going through my skull like a bandsaw, can you please call me into an urgent meeting?" appear.

You reach for a well-thumbed Windows manual. Opening it near the middle, you run your finger down an obscure list of words and numbers. Then you click on the error message, press ALT followed by four digits, then Enter, then ALT followed by another four digits. Miles away at the company's Slough headquarters, an error message appears on Alphonse's screen...

(edit, for clarification) Neither you, nor Alphonse is the programmer responsible for the error. This is a covert instant messaging client, communicating by means of faux error messages, lifted from a serious-looking codebook, and a work-friendly cover website which translates them. Should the cover website be blocked, the codebook can be used to decode the messages too, although this will be a bit more laborious.

david_scothern, Jan 18 2008


       [+] i once had an application error that looked like it was a log of chess moves.   

       Bobby Fischer (RIP) would've found it funny.
pyggy potamus, Jan 19 2008

       Why not just have the error condition contact Alphonse directly, if the error wasn't so egregious as to prevent the messaging portion from working?   

       For the record, Microsoft's Dr. Watson will pass the error back to the author, if the software is digitally signed and registered with Microsoft.
phoenix, Jan 19 2008

       Edited for clarification - the error message is fake.
david_scothern, Jan 19 2008

       Even dumber. Better use PGP, OTR, E2E.
erlehmann, Jan 19 2008

       Oh dear. Is this honestly as impenetrable as it looks? Alphonse isn't some secret undercover spy with the blueprints to Dr Evil's blimp; he's a co-worker. Unbreakable encryption's not what it's for, it's just a whimsical idea for an IM client one can safely use at work, hence the "instant messaging" idea category instead of computer:crypto. <puts head in hands>
david_scothern, Jan 19 2008

       //For the record, Microsoft's Dr. Watson// I wondered what Jim was doing these days...
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 19 2008

       "Edited for clarification - the error message is fake."
Sorry I didn't pick up on that!
phoenix, Jan 19 2008

       Indeed. I realised that while the idea might be clear to me, not everyone has the dubious advantage of being inside my head. Thank goodness.
david_scothern, Jan 21 2008

       No, it's more like a devious 'skin' over an instant-messaging client
hippo, Jan 22 2008


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