buried shovel
n. A tool that is required to perform a certain task, but that is only available after you complete that task.

Example Citations:
In the preceding, you MUST perform all the steps, including the mkinitrd, before rebooting. Failing to perform all the steps before rebooting produces a “buried shovel” where if only you could boot the machine, you could run the mkinitrd command, and if only you could run the mkinitrd command, you could boot the machine.
—“Re: How to change disk filesystem,” Ubuntu Forums, August 7, 2008

If true, this is potentially GREAT news for certain populations of Geeks. Specifically, the Geek who needs neither health insurance nor “security” and whose monetary needs are modest, but who is inexperienced and has so far been unable to break the “you need paid experience to get a job, and you need a job to get paid experience” buried shovel.
—Steve Litt, “Layoffs are increasing demand for tech freelancers,” tech@golug.org, June 22, 2009

Earliest Citation:
A number of readers wrote in to complain about the “buried shovel” trick: modem vendors whose installation help is available only by modem, or hard drive vendors who include installation manuals as files on the drive.
—Fred Langa, “What’s Up, Docs?,” Windows Magazine, August 23, 1998

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