Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

Happy System Administrator Appreciation Day!

EDIT: The day is over, and we have shut down the bonus gigs system. Thanks to everyone who participated. We’ll be keeping SOTSS active for a while longer, so you can still tell all your friends about it!

Hello, fellow SysAdmins (and other assorted peons)!

Today is our day! Enjoy it. You earned it.

And to show our excitement and appreciation for all that you do, we’ve created a special kind of bonus for you. It’s a bit of a brain-teaser, and a bit of a retro homage to the bad old days of computing, when a remote terminal was a VT100, memory was measured in kilobytes, and your only hope of understanding a problem was a shelf full of manuals.

Welcome to the SpiderOak Time Stealing System.

Your goal is simple. SOTSS is broken, and you have to get it working. Buried inside the system is a program that will grant you an extra 5GB to your SpiderOak account. Run that program, and the 5GB is yours. That’s it. You’ll need to dig around to figure it out; there’s no manual and the online help is broken. Get creative.

Since this puzzle is for our SysAdmin friends, we’d rather you didn’t post your solutions.

Oh, and have fun. :)


  1. Rob says:

    Ok! Here I go…into the yellow screen I go!

  2. Alan says:

    By the way, if you're curious what other crazy awesome things Chip has created, check out blërg!

  3. Rob says:

    Got it! Thanks a lot. That was pretty fun.

  4. taltos says:

    huh, that was interesting/fun, thank you! :-)

  5. Chip says:

    @Alan: Actually, I have a proper domain now: :]

  6. villes says:

    Heh, It was quite entertaining. thanks :)

  7. Hoolers says:

    Was fun thanks :-)

  8. Jaffa says:

    That _was_ fun. And very cool to see the storage amount immediately update under my account. Thanks :-)

  9. Alexander says:

    That was fun! And I wasn't even born when the VT100 was around.

  10. David says:

    Hm, it's sad, that these 5gbs are only for sysadmins/nerds. Ok, it's Sysadmin Day, but the game could be created in another way. Like this "normal" SO user have no chance and are left out. To bad! Spideroak wants to grow and gain more market share, but this is segregating people. As long as Spideroak do this and don't try to create a community like Dropbox, there's no chance for SO to succeed. Sad but true.

  11. Thomas says:

    I agree. Making the puzzle a big red button one has to click would have been much more fair.
    Also, next to giving away space for free, SpiderOak should have a Facebook "like" button next to each file I'm sharing via their service, and allow me to tweet a link to every file I upload.

  12. Mike Miller says:

    Great puzzle. Well done!

  13. Crouchy says:


  14. Dusk says:

    Success! Thanks :)
    @David: after spotting the first command, it's not hard. Keep trying :)

  15. Mart says:

    Hi guys! I'm not a geek, so I have no idea, how a command would look like. Do you have a wikipedia or other side for me, where such a console is explained or commands are shown? Or maybe another little hint? Thanks

  16. Tony says:

    Yes! Got it! :)
    That was both frustrating and fun. Thanks!

  17. Alex says:

    Did it, but the gigs didn't increase. Still blocked to 15…

  18. dallas says:

    i cannot get it to load.. help?

  19. Felix says:

    Nobody will help you! See how many asked for help! Everybody who gets 5GB is happy and proud about his/her achievement, and does not care for the rest! Typical for System Administrators!!!!!!!!!!! Cliche perpetuated!

  20. dallas says:

    just getting this error

    "SOTSS Client booting…"

  21. dallas says:

    am i in the right place?

  22. Felix says:

    For what?

  23. dallas says:

    when i get the error… the "SOTSS client booting" msg…

  24. Happy sysadmin ;) says:

    Alex, try closing and re-opening SpiderOak. Mine didn't show up until I restarted the client.

    Felix, why should people help? This is a promotion for sysadmins to celebrate Sysadmin day. We don't owe you, or anyone else, anything at all. If you want the reward, put your own effort in, just like I have into my work as an actual systems administrator.

    David, everyone has a chance. If you want the reward, then this is as good a time as any to also teach yourself some new skills. It won't hurt ;-)

  25. Darran says:

    Ok, some people are not so technically minded, and yes it is sysadmin day, but a bit of help won't hurt anyone.
    Try to run 'HELP'… it won't work.. so 'LOAD HELP' and try again. It gives you a list of programs you can load/run. From there you should be able to figure it out.

  26. Matt says:

    Darran you are a star! Has been a while since I have command lined…

    LOAD HELP = invalid file :(

  27. Giovanni says:

    Darran, thanks.

  28. @Peterisfree says:

    Thanks @Darran It was fun!

  29. Gemsling says:

    I just want to know who Frank is. LiveJournal's goat, perhaps?

  30. Mart says:

    Hey Darran, you are the best! This little hint was nice!

  31. Dave says:

    Cant run LOAD HELP – can someone assist?

  32. David says:

    Merci, Darran!
    @Happy sysadmin ;)
    This is what human beings do. But you won't understand. You are arrogant and ignorant, and maybe a huge a………

  33. Paul says:

    Not a sysadmin? Is this too hard to figure out? Don't worry, we'll be giving away more bonus gigs for everyone in future promotions.

  34. Tyler says:

    Great, fun little game. Thanks!

  35. Mark says:

    I was 1 year old when the VT100 came out – thanks guys!

  36. Ben says:

    Had fun with that thanks!

  37. Brad McBad says:

    Waaaaaaaaaaayy too easy, although it might be all the rigorous text-adventure training I've been through.

  38. A happy guy says:

    After the output "5 GIGS ADDED FOR "myusername"" is there anything else to do?
    My SO-account doesn't show 5 additional GBs. Or do I have to wait a while?
    Thanks Spideroak :-)

  39. dallas says:

    still no luck… blah.. spending a lot of time on tthis :(

  40. Jeremy F. says:

    Loved it. Also enjoyed the bonus…but I won't send that tidbit in. :)

  41. niels says:

    Got it! Thanks.

  42. help says:

    anyone care to help a useless old fool?

  43. Conor says:

    Yay! I got it and I'm not even a sysadmin! Darran made it too easy on us! Thanks!

  44. JMGG says:

    That was quite fun:) I applaud Spideroak for their creativity:)

  45. Dustin says:

    Thanks Spideroak!

  46. Curtis says:

    Got an error – it said DEVICE BUSY, etc. I already have a few freebies on my account though, so it works out well enough either way. :)

  47. PolarFox says:

    Got it. Took almost 10 minutes of my valuable vacation time. :( :D
    PS. I'm a sysadmin :)

  48. Dan says:

    I solved the puzzle, but I don't see the rewards added to my account. :-(

  49. SysGuy says:

    Very fun! Old school meets the cloud!

  50. JefeT says:

    That was fun. I'm no techie, but I figured it out without too much trouble. Thanks for the promo that's actually useful!

  51. Dan says:

    I stand corrected, I was only half done with the solution. Enjoyed the puzzle.

  52. Alejandro says:

    Excellent puzzle!!
    Thank you very much!

  53. JohnL says:

    Thanks! That was a flashback to the past…

  54. moogs says:

    I am having trouble loading it up. Does anyone have any suggestions? help is much appreciated!

  55. Marco says:

    Got it! Considering I've never even seen a VT100 in my life (let alone used one) it's been pretty nice solving the puzzle… At least now I know something about it (plus, I have 5 more gigs in my SpiderOak account).

  56. CJ says:

    hmm it says 5 GIGS ADDED but I don't see them coming :( Is there anything else to do?

  57. Alejandro says:

    CJ just restart your SpiderOak client, you will see them right away.

  58. Assorted Peon says:

    Can someone help me!

  59. Stephen1424 says:

    It says that it was added on mine, but I don't see it reflected in the web interface, I'm at work and don't have my client installed here. :(

    Will it up[date when I launch my client ?

    Thanks !

  60. assorted peon says:

    do you have any tips that could help me out :)?

  61. agumonkey says:

    Do I need to register before playing ? it seems so

  62. Digital Cupcake says:

    That was fun! I was stumped at first but the puzzle was perfect, extra props to @Darran by the way. Didn't make it too easy for us but it was a nice little challenge! Thanks SpiderOak! /cheers

  63. confused says:

    I am just getting a black screen. I don't see anything. At all.

  64. Rob says:

    Agumonkey, you need to have a SpiderOak account first so you can get the 5 GB. To play the puzzle you don't need an account, but if you want the reward (5 GB) you must have an account.

    If you're not seeing the VT100 terminal, try a different browser. Make sure JavaScript is enabled on your browser.

  65. agumonkey says:

    @Rob, Ok, then I won't read that Gigs have already been added to someone ?

  66. Stephen1424 says:

    I take it back :)

    Thanks All !!

  67. Conrado says:

    This is great, I'm not even a sysAdmin and now I have 5 Gb more

  68. agumonkey says:

    note to visitors : archlinux requires AUR package for spideroak, works fine. Have fun, this retro challenge idea is awesome.

  69. Rob says:

    @Agumonkey, right. Within the puzzle you must execute a command and that command requires that you have knowledge of the user. It won't just apply the 5 GB to a random person. It's very specific.

  70. Tyler says:

    Cool but a bit buggy! I had to try and add several times before the request worked.

  71. Mort says:

    Great! Thnx!

  72. bonusgigs username says:

    Thanksssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss and I don't know a sh*t about CLI, but was funny. Ehm, just to let you know, it seems that the terminal was busy, and I needde to try more than once to input the right command,so maybe some people have already done it right and mistakenly thought it wasn't..just retry and the bonusgigs would be added…OPS! ;)

  73. David says:

    I've tried to load the specific program including my user, but keep getting an error ERROR WHILE REQUESTING SERVICE: NO USERNAME SPECIFIED. I've tried various combinations – no luck :(

  74. Daniel@SpiderOak says:

    Thank you for all the kind comments. As for 'buggy' all I can imagine is that the response to our 'little sysadmin brainteaser' has been absolutely overwhelming and maybe our back-end is a little 'stressed out'.

    We are looking into it as we speak!

    /Daniel @ SpiderOak Inc

  75. bonusgigs username says:

    frank: HELPIMTRAPPEDINTHECOMPUTER hahahaha so funny!
    This is not what you need,but you will spot it somewhere if you look into,ahah

  76. bonusgigs username says:

    Just to give credit to history of computing:
    I think I should seriously study some progamming languages,btw.
    Thanks SpiderOak, very good now with 11 gigs.

  77. sandman says:

    Seems like the bottom line of the terminal was being overlapped by the terminfo line, so it was difficult to read the latest output, or the command I was typing

  78. Tyler says:


    I COMPLETELY missed that when running through this little experience. Maybe that explains why frank always results in a js error :)

  79. SLK says:

    Great way to give some storage away.

  80. kriechel says:


    Maybe you should not have used that spectrum zx81 that was lying around, it was never intended as a server, not even for terminals. Will you post when the back-end has cooled down?

  81. jmarki says:

    @darren that is a nice hint, had not noticed that. was starting to portscan. =D

  82. willCode4Beer says:


    > 5 GIGS ADDED FOR willcode4beer

  83. GoodTimes says:

    That was fun. Solved it without reading the comments here, so feeling kinda proud right now.

  84. needsomehelp says:

    anyone got any suggestions on doing this on an iphone? cannot find anything… just getting command not found.

  85. cornfused says:

    took a bit but got it solved and got my 5 GB free

  86. Zs0rzs says:

    Thanks Guys it was a real fun :)

  87. kriechel says:

    ah, that was the intention … never mind. I just did not get the mixture of good old DOS and a more Amstrad type of loading.

  88. dalrsmith says:

    5 GIGS ADDED FOR -dalrsmith

    How long will it take for it to show up on the http site?

  89. Rob says:

    @Darlsmith, It should be almost immediate. Wait a few minutes then log into the website, you should see it.

  90. dalrsmith says:

    Still nothing for mine… hmm…

  91. Frank says:

    Thanks guys!

  92. dalrsmith says:

    Can someone from Spideroak see if there is something wrong with my contest because it is still just showing 14gb, and not 19gb?

  93. SysMaster says:

    Why doesn't frank either load or give an error when trying to load? Been at this a while and can't figure out frank!

  94. Bill says:

    For anyone else getting the "device busy" error at the last step… I just kept trying periodically, and eventually, it worked. I'm not sure if I did something else in the meantime that made it work or if I just needed to be persistent!

  95. ntpeters says:

    Woot! +5GB! I was getting the "DEVICE BUSY" error for awhile, but it finally worked!!

  96. Not-a-sys-admin says:

    As a non-sysadmin with absolutely no programming/terminal experience I must say it was more or less right at the threshold of too frustrating, without going overboard. When the initial hurdle was passed, it became a lot of fun (considering the limited scope of the program).

    It's 5 gigs I appreciate very much.

  97. toilet_duck says:

    Got my 5gigs, and I just have to say, this was a great way to celebrate sysadmin day. Thanks, Spider-Oak!

  98. Rooter says:

    I saw only 2 GB added, not 5 GB. :(

  99. agumonkey says:

    Funny, I mystiped a command and it seems it gave 5GB to a random fella

  100. Rooter says:

    Via the SOTSS the amount displayed was 5 GB, but after restarting the SpiderOak application it only increased by 2 GB.

  101. DALRSMITH says:

    Anyone have problems with getting their space? Mine is stuck at 14GB.

  102. Alex says:

    Nice and fun :-)


  103. Tom says:


  104. Rob says:

    @Toilet_Duck, are you the same Toilet Duck who used to play often on the GTG Server in Battlefield Bad Company 2?

  105. Alex_NL says:

    Just signed up and got 7 GB of storage after solving the puzzle.
    What a nice way to start working with Spider-Oak.

  106. Thanks! says:

    That was fun — just noticed the various hints above, but any self-respecting sysadmin should be able to crack this one without too much trouble …

  107. Steelclaw says:

    Thanks for the 5GB! This was fun. :)

  108. HolmesKitty says:

    Thanks! Enjoyed that!

  109. NPS_Sysadmin says:

    Thanks, not only fun but got a reward at the end!

  110. Matt C says:

    Thanks for a fun puzzle and a bit more space!

  111. markus says:

    awesome puzzle. been so many years since I used terminal, but I got there eventually

  112. WikiSysop says:

    Thanks SpiderOak! Wasted a lot of time on unrecognized UNIX commands. New that OS was useless! ;-)

  113. Eugene Armstead says:

    Thanks guys! Fun stuff, and nice way to honor #sysadminday! Thanks for the puzzle and the 5GB!

  114. Dano says:

    Thank you so much for this!!!!

  115. logavanc says:

    You guys seriously are the freaking best!

  116. Poundsmack says:

    This is what I get for being a sys admin who was not born when i had to do everything in console. grrrrr.

  117. shadyabhi says:

    Awesome. Now, I have 13GB:)

  118. Guillaume says:

    Thanks @Darren for the hint, even if it wa not straightfoward, it helps.

  119. Alexander says:

    Good puzzle!

  120. anteaus says:

    Great… wasted time to figure out how to solve the problem, then got the device busy error, couldn't retry again and again and now it tells me bonus gigs empty.


  121. meridius says:

    Same here as @anteaus … BONUS GIGS EMPTY – THANKS FOR PLAYING!

    Yeah, you're welcome. :/
    It was a real breainteaser though. ;) So thanks is on my side.

  122. Bryan says:

    yeah, I got the BONUS GIGS EMPTY – THANKS FOR PLAYING! message as well.

  123. Paul says:

    Aw I just saw this and I got the same messsage :(

  124. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for this, was as fun little distraction with a nice little bonus.