Thursday, July 31, 2008

Comic 456: See "Comic 349"

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, "Carl, what could you possibly find wrong with this comic? It's funny! Admit it."

Never! Well maybe. See I have no real problems with this comic on its own (I have a few little quibbles, of course, I'll get to them soon, but they are not very serious) but this comic seems so very similar to comic 349. Each has 4 panels (456's go horizontally and 349's go vertically, but eh), each labeled with the a time that the action is happening. Each has a character trying to install a unix-based operating system, and, as the project continues, finds it to be very difficult, and they end up creating problems they had never even heard of earlier. Computers can be difficult! Ho ho ho! Not unfunny, but we've seen this before, Mr. Munroe.

Also, as someone who just installed Ubuntu, I can tell you this is not even close to accurate. I had no idea what I was getting into and was able to do it all very easily. At one point I called a friend for help ("If I turn off the computer now will I ruin everything and cry?" "Probably not...but maybe") and a few days later I IMd another ("What's that program that makes everything look AWESOME?" "Compiz!") but not even close to this. Everything has been spiffy since then. But I may just have an inherent genius and luck about me. Who knows.

Quibbles - The tag at the end, "talk to your kids about linux before someone else does" seems unnecessary to me. It confuses the rest of the comic - is the point that linux is like a drug? In that case, what are we to make of the character who understands linux? It's surely not a problem for him. It seems like the point of the four main panels is that linux is a problem if you don't know what you are doing; in other words, you have to be serious about it. I'm not sure why that's something you need your parents to warn you about. In the end, it feels like a poorly executed joke tacked on at the end. Doesn't work.

Lastly, and even more quibbly, in the final panel, why is the girl's speech connected to her with a jagged line? That usually denotes a voice coming out of a phone or TV (see: the rest of this strip), with smooth lines representing speech by a character present in the scene. So I'm not sure why it's jagged. Perhaps I am missing something.

In the end, I shouldn't be too harsh. This comic is a lot better than any we've had recently. Though I am sure we'll soon go back to shitty comics about how many hats people have. (sorry! I couldn't help linking again. that post was awesome!)


  1. I don't think the joke is that Linux is getting increasingly hard for the girl. On the contrary, she's getting more and more used to customizing her computer to the point that she'd rather build her own kernel. She's getting more obsessed. The end-warning would be just as appropriate with any obsessive hobby (collectible card games or cars, for example).

    The joke is clean (winners don't do drugs!), but the only thing to feel snide about is the crowd of programmers chuckling about THEIR first times with Ubuntu and all that cra...*sees your critique*

    I'll stop now.

  2. The jagged line in the final panel simply illustrates that she has become robot-like, or zombie, by her obsession with finishing compiling.

  3. Thomas - Maybe. She's clearly obsessed, but there's no evidence that she knows what she's doing. In panel 1 she doesn't really know that linux is, in panel 2 it's broken and she doesn't know what "An 'xorg' " is, in panel 3 she has "autoconfig issues" and gives up on ubuntu, and in panel 4 she is attempting to compile a kernel. She's attempting more sophisticated things, but she isn't succeeded at them as far as we can tell.

    There's also something off about the fact that the dude is both worried about her and the guy who got her addicted to begin with. I haven't been addicted to cocaine very much, but I imagine that they dude selling you crack on the corner is not the one who says "I'm too late" when you are addicted.

    Perhaps if there had been a few more panels and we saw her transition from n00b to h4x0r, and then if the guy in the last panel were clearly a new character, it would make more sense. But your explanation does I think get closer to what Mr. Munroe intended than I was able to get.

    Anon- Eh, I don't know. She seems like a zombie in panel 3, and I don't think there's much of a convention of zombies or nerds speaking with jagged lines. The theory I like is that it is actually her computer talking; she's programmed it to say that sentence to anyone who asks her what she's doing.

    Damn, I am sounding like a dumbfuck forum-dweller.

  4. title has wrong number (digits reversed)

  5. I felt the jagged line means that she is in a fuzzy/unconscious state, not completely in control of her body. The words she is saying are not perfectly coherent and in control...

  6. well ill choose to start but introducing myself.
    Hi, i hate you! at least the that the was the feeling when i first stumbled upon this blog:)
    ...I read some more after that...

    so in the 'setting' of one of my favorite xkcd strips, i'll tell you off... peacefully:P

    are you a physisist? mathematician? comp scientist? or engineer of some sort?
    i can understand your irritation about smth you don't understand.. but you fail to understand the addiction that unix OSes cause..

    the fact that other OSes have hidden all pc operations from the user, means that those who decide to flirt with unix are in for a wild ride... just like when you go for a girl thats way out of your league:)
    you have to really want it even if it kills you:)

    you have to be focused enough to get through it.. you have to like making/fixing things... otherwise you'll be back in the safenet of user friendly OSes.
    thats why the girl has a mechanic voice at last strip. she's into it.

    subjectively, i have had this comic coming back to mind countless # of times esp when i get stack at trying to solve some linux problem or add some functionality. it can be as dangerous and exciting, as driving your car for the first time..

    BUT i don't hate you for ripping on the strip above..
    but because you create your blog by destroying somebody else work.. he creates from nothing even if its 'inadequate' and it doesn't converge to your educated (not said sarcastically) opinion of what sarcastic comics should be like.
    you create you blog.. on his foundations and you try to cripple them on top. realise you don't just undermine his work but your going down with him...

    ah, all said:)
    meh, i don't hate you all that much after all:P you have educated opinion and keep an openmind about people's thought.. and ultimately, you give me too a perception of what could be wrong in his comics.. even though you fail to convince me..

    ultimately, if ppl agree with you his merchandise will cease to be sold :P
    and i can live with that..
    can You live without that?:)

  7. Maybe I'm just an idiot with computer, but I had a hell of a time getting a working dual-boot going with Ubuntu and Windows. Granted, I knew nothing about the process and jumped into it unprepared, but regardless, the humor of this comic was not lost on me.

  8. perhaps it had to do with your specific computer or the state of your Windows or something. Mine worked ok. Anyway, the humor wasn't lost on me either, I'd call this a fairly positive review, relative to most of them.

  9. Her success is implied I believe, after all she likely fixes the problem, learns a new skill, and moves on to something more complicated.

    Also its accurate if she had something like a slightly incompatible graphics chip on that laptop and was trying to get 3d or even just a normal desktop to work (implied by her wanting to mess with her xorg file and its needed for compiz!), linux hardware support for laptops, especially at that time and especially for the numerous and diverse intel gma chipsets, can be spotty. Once she got into the system files to get something working its an easy first step to seeing what else she could tweak, forming opinions on distros, and so on. I'm speaking from personal experience here.

  10. (I wrote the above comment) Kinda pointless by now and especially since you liked this one, just felt like saying something since I've been in that very situation (at least as far as having to mess with my xorg file and performing other tweaks/hacks/whatever like for wireless or when dual cores first came out, I still stuck with ubuntu).