Sometimes you just need to write something for the computer geeks in your life. That time came with the writing of “A Grumpy Companion.” Let’s unpack.
Poor Oscar. In many ways he’s an “everygeek.” — a poor computer tech who doesn’t understand why users just can’t understand how intuitive computers really are. Once you get over being frightened of them, that is. If you’ve ever been in an office and heard someone mumbling under their breath while they punch a keyboard, you’ve met a version of Oscar. At some point during the remainder of this novel he will say, “Have you turned it off and on again?”
In other ways, however, he’s a bit different than an “everygeek.” Back in the early 2000’s a certain huge software company was churning out “certified systems engineers,” who knew this company’s products like the back of their hand, but who had never swapped a network card. I met quite a few who didn’t even understand why they pressed all the buttons they did, they just knew which buttons to press. And companies paid a lot of money to have them take care of their installed software.
They really didn’t do sales like Oscar, but were pretty much living commercials.
Coding in Tea
As the Narrator not-so-subtly explains, this is a reference to Java. It was, in its heyday, an extremely innovative programming language which helped the early Web do some amazing things though applets. Java is still pretty cool, but Java Runtime Environments have become a bit of a security nightmare.
It’s a fruit, it goes crunch. I’ll give you one more hint, it has a core — you’ll get there.
When Bug says “Objective E” would have been more cost effective and efficient Oscar comes back with “And it wouldn’t have been compatible with anything!” To this day I still meet Microsoft network people who believe PC’s and Macs can’t exist on the same network. Back in the 90’s this was a pain, but the claim hasn’t been true since the release of OS X in 2001.
Open Source solution
I first conceived of the story for In The Land of the Penny Gnomes in the late 90’s. At the time I was running Linux as my primary operating system and was doing some networking and web-development as I went through seminary. Linux gave me access to an amazing set of tools which would have otherwise been beyond my means a the time, and its what really got my start as the computer nerd I am today.
This was also about the time when the DMCA 1 was enacted, and some of the older tech firms were trying to disparage open source projects in favor of their own, expensive, products 2.
Most people don’t have a clue what Linux is, but it’s a rather important operating system. It runs a large swath of the Web, and Android phones run a Linux kernel for their operating system. It’s been almost ten years since I migrated to Mac 3, but I still tip my hat to its community.
Oscar’s sputtering about “cancer” is a reference to a statement made by former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer.
Microsoft has come a long way since then 4.
This is my favorite line from the entire scene, and I hope computer geeks were grinning as they read it.
Any Unix-Based Operating System runs small processes in the background which manage things like power settings, battery monitoring, networking, and hardware detection. These small processes are pretty much what makes the operation system able to function, and they are called “daemons.” This nomenclature goes back at least to the 1960’s, and references the notion of a greek spirit which works on behalf of a major deity. Oscar, unfortunately, thought “daemonic” meant “in league with evil,” but that’s only because he’s been reading too many marketing pamphlets.
Now, I have never left the lid off of a blender before starting it up. But I do live in constant fear of doing so any time I use one. So smacking my head prior to making a mess just seems like an efficient use of time. I’m really pleased Nobody’s found a way to turn these pre-emptive smacks into a power supply.
I really need to get this guy something useful to do, but he’s such great comic relief and is a perfect example of Realmian Elf-kind. He is a competent IBI agent, but Grimby is rather stressed and has been blowing off steam at his partner’s expense.
I have no idea how the dwarf convinced Fineflin to don military fatigues, though. That was an accomplishment.
- The Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It’s the law through which companies still embrace the delusion Digital Restrictions Management is a workable scheme. ↩
- And this is where the idea of the Copyright Horde originated. ↩
- I grew weary of having to recompile my video editor every time where was an update. ↩
- But they still use the stinking registry. Make everything a file, dang it! ↩