April 1st helpdesk autoreply bot

An idea originally by my co worker Thomas, to set up an autoresponder for helpdesk mail on April 1st which would respond with a random bofh excuse.

A script was written in no-time and debugged and improved in some time.

And about 00:20am, the change was done and we started to wait for what would happen.

Below are the questions (most paraphrased because they were in Dutch and to protect the identity of the people needing the helpdesk) and to save the reader from getting bored.

In hindsight it was to be expected that the first hit would be spam. A spam came in:

From: wellnessopp@aol.com

In 1992, we started with the philosophy that it's about more than just personal well-being, it's about a way of life. In keeping with this philosophy, we are dedicated to supplying paramount products which help to achieve goals of interpersonal and economic development.

bla bla bla..

The helpdesk AI bot couldn't really think of something with all this mumbo jumbo and so it cam up with:
Being on the forefront of applied artificial intelligence, we are testing using AI in our day to day system management. Today only we test the use of AI to answer simple helpdesk e-mail.

The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Communications satellite used by the military for star wars.

The human helpdesk will verify the answer.

Yes, I like the Internet Oracle. How did you notice?

wellnessopp@aol.com was not baffled that easy and spammed us again, this time getting the answer:

The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

sticky bit has come loose

But, these answers to wellnessopp@aol.com came bouncing back because it was a forged account. So, the ever helpful MAILER-DAEMON@aol.com, our friend in need and misdirected e-mail, wrote:
*** ATTENTION ***

Your e-mail is being returned to you because there was a problem with its delivery. The address which was undeliverable is listed in the section labeled: "----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----".

The reason your mail is being returned to you is listed in the section labeled: "----- Transcript of Session Follows -----".

It seems aol users need a lot of handholding reading bounced e-mail. Our AI autoreply bot was helpful as ever in return and answered:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Hard drive sleeping. Let it wake up on it's own...

But MAILER-DAEMON@aol.com does not accept this bit of wisdom! It does not receive mail at all, making our local mailer-daemon tell us:
Diagnostic-Code: X-Postfix; host mailin-03.mx.aol.com[64.12.138.120] said: 550 MAILBOX NOT FOUND
To which our helpdesk AI comes up with the only right answer:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

sounds like a Windows problem, try calling Microsoft support

Suddenly the AI seems to work a lot better.

But, a second reply was still on its way to wellnessopp@aol.com, and again MAILER-DAEMON@aol.com told us:

Your e-mail is being returned to you because there was a problem with its delivery. The address which was undeliverable is listed in the section labeled: "----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----".
This time our AI autoreply got to the bottom of the problem:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Your mail is being routed through Germany ... and they're censoring us.

A german AOL may not start soon this way.

But, mail for this address still bounces, making our own mailer-daemon talk with us:

: host mailin-02.mx.aol.com[64.12.136.89] said: 550 MAILBOX NOT FOUND
To which the AI autoreply bot came up with the following:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Insert coin for new game

Our best guess is the AI got tired of playing with those mailer-daemons.

A new spammer joined this game, and told us the following:

Subject: The summer of 2003...get ready now

As seen on NBC, CBS, CNN, and even Oprah. As reported on in the New England Journal of Medicine. Reverses aging while burning fat, without dieting or exercise. Forget aging and dieting forever And it's Guaranteed! 1.Body Fat Loss 2.Wrinkle Reduction 3.Increased Energy Levels

This reminded our dear AI bot of its own health problems, so it mentioned them:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Bit rot

wellnessopp@aol.com came back again, telling us the same story, and this time the AI bot got really confused and drew a random answer:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Fiber optics caused gas main leak

Again, MAILER-DAEMON@aol.com (notice how even their mailer-daemon has to write in all caps?) comes back with its usual story, to which the AI bot says:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Due to the CDA, we no longer have a root account.

And our local mailer-daemon tells us again that that mail could not be delivered and gets as answer:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Operators killed when huge stack of backup tapes fell over.

Finally, dawn happens and real people start to mail the helpdesk.

A 4th year student mails about his ever magically diminishing printquotum, and the automatic answer is:

The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

It's those computer people in X {city of world}. They keep stuffing things up.

Habitually, the real person who answers the mail cc's helpdesk, triggering the autoreply again:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

popper unable to process jumbo kernel

Looks like we need more random answers concerning printing.

Another cc: to helpdesk about an older request to have Citrix client software available at an upcoming event confuses the AI bot and makes it reply:

The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Dew on the telephone lines.

A confused teacher tries to save a word document on our webserver and the webserver does not like it.
I am trying to save a word document on W:/docs/vakken/ci but I can't save the changes. Can you explain this?
The AI tries to baffle the teacher:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

The hardware bus needs a new token.

The answer is that the user was over quota, and the AI bot, remembering about that webserver, comes up with:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Data for intranet got routed through the extranet and landed on the internet.

A prospective researcher got told about our helpdesk bot and sends an e-mail with a legitimate question to test this:
I am starting next thursday at your department and I would like to be able to use your infrastructure. Has an account already been set up? How do I get access?
Our helpdesk AI bot shifts into his BOFH role and answers:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Proprietary Information.

Which is exactly the right answer.

Another co worker reacts to the citrix question, and the AI bot seems to be reminded of farm life:

The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Cow-tippers tipped a cow onto the server.

A big spam comes in about multi-level marketing in quoted-unreadable:
You are receiving this letter because you have expressed an interest in re= ceiving information about online business opportunities=2E If this is erro= neous then please accept my most sincere apology=2E This is a one-time mai= ling, so no removal is necessary=2E=20
The AI bot decides to confuse the matter:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Zombie processess detected, machine is haunted.

A user mails:
The ink of one laser printer is out (prints are striped due to ink shortage).
It's usually called 'toner' in printers, but our AI bot just confuses the matter again:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

The MGs ran out of gas.

A spam filled with scary html trying to point us at some penis enlargment site comes in, making the AI bot go BOFH mode again:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

HTTPD Error 666 : BOFH was here

But this is again from a forged address, so our mailer-daemon informs us next that it does not exist. The AI bot remembers a problem in the past with the mailserver:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

bugs in the RAID

A user mails:
I am working at home, reading mail from IMAP with everything working ok (I think). But when I try to mail someone outside the department I get an error:

"An error occurred while sending mail. The mail server responded: <email@adres>: Relay access denied."

The AI bot comes up with:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

The ATM board has run out of 10 pound notes. We are having a whip round to refill it, care to contribute ?

Another user mails us about his new mail account:
I tried to fetch e-mail, but it did not work...

error: (server has disconnected).

Our AI bot decides to shift the blame:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

we're waiting for [the phone company] to fix that line

A teacher mails with a long story about certain problems with certain e-mails in Eudora making it crash.

The AI bot shifts the blame:

The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Windows 95 undocumented "feature"

Some spams come in again, giving the answers:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

PCMCIA slave driver

Atilla the Hub

We only support a 28000 bps connection.

And when the bounce from the autoreply comes in:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

That would be because the software doesn't work.

Spamming does not work.

The first person to notice the AI replies mails:

I wrote earlier that my e-mail did not work, and got a strange AI answer.

Now everything is ok and I can see my mail.

We hope the AI was a big help. The AI itself answers:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

We're out of slots on the server

Our building manager mails about new network connections to be set. The AI bot answers:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

old inkjet cartridges emanate barium-based fumes

The AI needs a lot of training.

The citrix dialog continues, and the AI bot mixes in with:

The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

boss forgot system password

Hmm.

Someone mails:

How can I replace yellow toner for a color laserprinter?
Again, the AI bot shows a severe shortage of printer related answers:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

IRQ-problems with the Un-Interruptable-Power-Supply

A co-worker mails he will replace the toner of the black stripes, and the AI bot says:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Computers under water due to SYN flooding.

He also mails an explanation how to change the outgoing mailserver to the one of your provider, and the AI bot chips in with:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Backbone adjustment

Someone from the outside mails a testmail to helpdesk, to see what the fuzz is about and gets:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

operation failed because: there is no message for this error (#1014)

A co worker mails about changing ownership of files and directories which gets several replies, and the AI bot answers:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

The rubber band broke

Increased sunspot activity.

Digital Manipulator exceeding velocity parameters

not properly grounded, please bury computer

Lightning strikes.

A co worker writes in reply to a question about 'jar':
'jar' got updated with the version from gcc. If you want the one from the Sun Java distribution, use /sw/pkg/java1.3/bin/jar
The AI bot explains the change:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

we just switched to Sprint.

The co worker reports later he added a link to 'sunjar' which the AI bot tries to deny:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Feature not yet implimented

Some more mail about the file and directory bit gets:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Flourescent lights are generating negative ions. If turning them off doesn't work, take them out and put tin foil on the ends.

Spam comes in:
The health discovery that reverses signs of aging naturally and that is completely safe and effective is on sale for a limited time! Buy a two-month supply of our product and we will give you one month free! All natural H_G_H Enhancer will help you with all of the following:
Our AI bot decides a minimalist quote is the best answer here:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Second-sytem effect.

And our trusty mailer-daemon informs us that the reply to the spammer was misdirected, to which it replies:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Interference from lunar radiation

Yes, that's really a killer with e-mail delivery.

A user requests:

I would like to know if it is possible to enlarge the space for my homepage. The current space is 10 Mb, and I'd like to put some movies in there showing results of my research. These movies are 5 Mb/each. Is it possible to change the space to about 50 Mb?
And the AI bot ponders what those movies are really about:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Virus due to computers having unsafe sex.

An answer to that question gets commented:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

There isn't any problem

Another spam comes in about 'viacreme' and the AI bot starts to really dislike spammers:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

error: one bad user found in front of screen

The inevitable error mail gets answered with:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Well fix that in the next (upgrade, update, patch release, service pack).

A comment about giving users the option to add space for web that is not backed up gets the following reply:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Telecommunications is upgrading.

Spam about the new Euro (it's not that new anymore!) gets the answer
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

bad ether in the cables

And the "cannot deliver" gets the answer:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

The CPU has shifted, and become decentralized.

Another mail about the important event including locations and network needs..
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

A plumber is needed, the network drain is clogged

Another penis spam gets:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

the AA battery in the wallclock sends magnetic interference

AA batteries, do they need enlargment ?

Viagra spam gets:

The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

It's not plugged in.

The cannot deliver is answered with:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Radial Telemetry Infiltration

Any more information about this subject is classified.

Another cannot deliver gets:

The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

CPU needs bearings repacked

Spam comes in in a very cryptic form: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But our AI bot can see right through this code and diagnose the core problem, so it replies:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Party-bug in the Aloha protocol.

The cannot deliver here gets:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

microelectronic Riemannian curved-space fault in write-only file system

The AI bot hopes to dazzle the spammer.

Millions get offered to our AI bot in a nigerian scam mail, but being computer based, it's not interested in money, it's interested in storage capacity and says:

The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

Flat tire on station wagon with tapes. ("Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurling down the highway" Andrew S. Tanenbaum)

A cc: to helpdesk about a moved system gets:
The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

The Internet is being scanned for viruses.

Uhm. Whatever.

And late in the evening, the evening lab assistant mails on this matter again and gets:

The AI helpdesk has pondered your question deeply and has the following answer:

HTTPD Error 666 : BOFH was here