Tech Tip

By Paul Murphy, author of The Unix Guide to Defenestration

One of the benefits of increasing seniority and the consulting role is that I generally don't have to carry a pager - I hate the things. A few years ago, however, I found myself in an environment where some of the people reporting to me had to carry pagers and decided to see if I could get rid of them.

There were several things in place at this site that made this an easy thing to do - you're unlikely to be so lucky, but you may be able to adapt whatever you have to implement the same basic idea.

The core idea was to use the company cell phones most people were happy carry without incurring significant additional costs.

Since this site was using Vsifax under HP-UX I built my solution on that by adding caller ID to the cell phones and replacing the paging software with an alias embedding a call to Vsifax:
alias page 'egrep \!^ /usr/paul/sysfiles/pager.list | /usr/paul/sysfiles/ | csh

% cat pager.list
paul murph Paul Murphy 8xx 90xx
Anne ann annie Anne Haliday 8xx 90xx
Geof jeff Jeff geof Nielson nielson Neilson neilson 8xx 90xx
% cat
while (<>) {
@X = split(' ', $_, 9999);
print 'vfx -n' . ($X[$#X - 1]) . $X[$#X] . ' -a 1 /usr/paul/sysfiles/fake_fax.fax\n';

Since aliases take precedence over path lookups the receptionist and various bosses could page people simply by typing something like

% page murp

The person being paged would be sent an empty fax - triggering caller id on the cell phone to function exactly like a pager.

People did sometimes get confused and try to answer fax calls but no one ever complained about giving up the pagers --except, of course, the people in purchasing and materials management who couldn't get their money back on the things.