Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
In this comic, Cueball has broken his computer's software so much that he is unable to "turn on the news" as requested by White Hat. Since his computer is not working at all, he is using the next best thing to download a fix: his smartphone, via a CD. This is probably one of two things:
- Cueball has broken his computer enough that the operating system no longer works, in which case he would probably be downloading an ISO file(which is the type of image on a CD) to his phone. This would enable him to connect his phone as a USB device to his computer and boot from it. After booting from his phone, he could repair or reinstall his computer's operating system.
- Cueball is trying to connect his computer to his TV, but needs a driver or other software to make the connection. He is unable to connect to the Internet from his computer (Maybe he is using a network dongle that also requires drivers/software to function, or maybe the internet from his ISP is down, so he is using cellular data), so he is using his phone to download the files. Perhaps the computer has internal Bluetooth or he can transfer files from his phone to his computer via a wired connection.
He later states that even that first step of mending won't be enough to display the news, as his computer's state is so bad that being able to send information to the TV screen is just the first step of debugging. In the last panel, he tells White Hat that his computer science degree just helps him understand how he ended up with such a terrible situation, but did not give him enough foresight to prevent the most unexpected issues. The title text clarifies this statement with a similar problem- when things start to go horribly wrong while falling from a plane, certified skydiving instructors will be able to better understand why and how bad the situation is, but won't be able to do anything if their usual tools have failed them. Besides, while they are less likely to make a fatal mistake on a given flight and fall, they are more likely to make one in their life, because of the far greater number of attempts. This is especially true considering most people never attempt a jump in their lives, giving them absolutely zero probability of dying in a skydiving accident. This also resembles 795: Conditional Risk: the more informed a person is, the more likely this person is to suffer from the issue they know about.
Computers breaking in unexpected ways, and somewhat weird solutions to computer problems seems to be a thing with Cueball - and probably Randall as well. At that point, you might assume he probably enjoys it. In 1586: Keyboard Problems, he also had a problem involving both software and hardware. 1739: Fixing Problems could very well apply to this comic; Cueball may have ended with this situation while trying to correct a simple problem (eg: channels in the wrong order), and just made the situation worse every step of the way. In 456: Cautionary, he teaches his cousin about
breakfixing a computer.
 In this instance Cueball has his single tasking phone busy while he downloads to it and cannot interrupt what he's doing just to use the phone as a remote for the TV, although it appears more that the TV is one of the things he is trying to fix.
- [Cueball is sitting by his TV, holding his phone, when White Hat walks in.]
- White Hat: Hey, turn on the news.
- Cueball (Sitting on the floor in front of a computer holding a cell phone): Can't. Downloading a CD onto my phone.
- White Hat (off-screen): Why?
- Cueball: So I can use it to fix my computer's operating system enough that I can teach it to talk to my TV screen.
- White Hat: But then you'll be able to watch the news?
- Cueball: (off-screen): No.
- White Hat: Don't you have a computer science degree?
- Cueball: That just means I understand how everything went so wrong.
- ↑ Martin_Samuelson, "Physical buttons are great"
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Do we even want to see the news any more? Hutchy01 (talk) 15:45, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
I don't think the millennial comment is necessary. It really encourages a stereotype more than anything, and there is nothing whatsoever in the actual comic to suggest that cueball is trying to control the television with the smartphone. 188.8.131.52 15:50, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
Possibly he uses a television as his monitor, but the HDMI (or VGA if it's old enough) connection isn't working (and if he's like me, he might not own an antenna to allow him to use his television normally). If I plug a second monitor into my laptop, I have to specifically tell my laptop to change the display. If his operating system is messed up, he probably can't even do that. He could be downloading a OS CD so that he can reformat, then he may have to deal with the follow-up of reinstalling all relevant drivers. 184.108.40.206 16:26, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
- This feels like the correct interpretation to me. He uses his computer to watch TV (Count me as a second guy who does this), but the HDMI driver is broken. But something is broken on his OS, so he can't fix the HDMI until he fixes the OS. Fixing the OS requires replacing some of the data on it. Historically, this requires a CD, but most modern laptops no longer have CD players, and you download the "CD" on the internet. But the OS is broken, so you have to use something else (the phone) to download that. So you can add a "CD" to your laptop. So you can fix the OS. So you can fix the HDMI driver. So you can do something people have been doing for long before CD's were invented: watch the news.
- There is a strong theme of advancing technology not quite replacing the technology behind it, even though it renders the tech 'obsolete'. A television is simple. CD drives are plug and play, even when fixing OSes. Using your computer to watch 'TV' is commonplace. But then the OS breaks and all these simple technologies fail one by one. 220.127.116.11 14:24, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
Many computers these days don't come with optical drives so, rather than a "Rescue CD" you need to use a "Rescue USB". But how do you download that rescue image if your computer's broken? Use the browser in your phone. As a bonus, Android phones (at least) can masquerade as USB drives (see DriveDroid) so that the PC can boot from the image downloaded on the phone. It might also be worth referencing the trope of "Turn on the news" -> TV turns on just as something relevant to the plot is being announced. 18.104.22.168 16:37, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
- I think this is what he is trying to do actually. His computer doesn't have a CD slot, so he is downloading the image from the DC to his phone to use as a USB to reimage his computer, but somehow his computer is so messed up, reimaging it will not be enough and he needs to use the TV as a monitor so that he can debug 22.214.171.124 19:53, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
Are we sure this is about Cueball having done something exotic to cause the problem, as opposed to the increasing level of technology (and therefore delicacy) in the modern home? I've heard reports of a smart TV that crashed because someone came into its range with a phone that had an SSID with an emoji in it; I've seen many PCs end up inoperable because of standard updates, and I've certainly downloaded drivers with my phone. Even if the PC isn't being used to show the news, the TV could be in need of a firmware upgrade that may require the PC to be working (for example if the PC is running network routing). Cueball could understand how the electronics industry got itself into a position where the devices were interdependent and even eventually know how to fix them without actually having done anything himself to cause a breakage; my ISP similarly "upgraded" my email in several steps that made it utterly unusable for me while presumably believing they were improving it. Cueball may be guilty of nothing more than being an early-adopter, since a more elderly TV would likely just work. Disclaimer: I work in the tech industry, and there's a reason there's old stuff in my house; a friend with a set-up like Cueball's took twenty minutes to play a CD when I handed it to him.Fluppeteer (talk) 17:01, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
The comment that the "real" TV remote is better than a cellphone is really badly wrong. If you ever have to "type" a search for a movie title into a smart-TV (or in my case, a Roku) using the arrow and "OK" buttons on a remote - you'll REALLY appreciate being able to use the phone's touch screen keyboard to type with. I also have problems in my media room with getting a good line of sight to the TV's IR receiver - and because the "phone remote" uses WiFi, that's also not a problem. Then, I can use my "phone remote" to talk to any of the TV's in the house - which is really good if I went into another room and left the TV on by mistake. My phone can turn it off from anywhere that's within WiFi range. So, no - it's NOT the case that a TV remote is obviously "better" than using a phone app to control it.
Of course, knowing CueBall, he's probably running his TV remote 'app' in an Android emulator that's running on a hacked Nest Thermostat that he has to plug in out in the back yard in order to keep it cold enough to prevent it from switching his heating off - which matters because his WiFi router gets it's power from the +5v lines of the furnace's controller after he lost the "wall wart" supply for it. Since the furnace controller is running Impala (aka Windows Embedded v4.0), it needs to be upgraded to 4.17 because it was installed with a south-american daylight savings time zone in order that CueBall could use the Patagonian variant of the DVORJAK keyboard which (as I'm sure you know) was the only one left in the house that still works after the LAST time this happened! Since the controller thinks it's in Patagonia, it will soon automatically turn off the heat as "summertime" arrives - thereby killing the WiFi router and preventing him from getting online to fix it all. Which (of course) is why he needs to download the upgrade CD onto his phone rather urgently! Sorry if you didn't find this sufficiently obvious from reading between the lines in the cartoon - but that's why this website exists! :-) SteveBaker (talk) 17:57, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
Guys, I think you have missed something. A few days ago, the PS4 pro problems connecting to 4k monitors were in the news. Of course this was due to the new version of HDCP required that had issues. I assume the author read that and remembered previous problems with HDCP (e.g. I could not get my HD DVDs playing on non HDCP monitors or with non HDCP video cards, unless I used some hacks etc). 126.96.36.199 18:33, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
Reading the tech comments (well, skimming, since I don't have a glimmer of comprehension) takes me back to my childhood, when we had a foolproof method of turning on the TV, changing channels, etc. 1) Get off the couch; 2) walk to TV; 3) turn a knob; 4) return to couch. ;) MaineGrammy (talk) 11:04, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
- Trouble is, the TV in my media room is bolted to the 10' tall cathedral ceiling - so that would boil down to: 1) Get off couch, 2) walk to garage, 3) Get the LARGE A-frame ladder, 4) Carry it downstairs to media room, 5) Notice that TV is devoid of knobs, switches or any other controls, 6)...etc. So definitely need the remote! SteveBaker (talk) 13:33, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
Hutchy01 has a point: this comic is political, as were 1756 & 1759. Cueball is doing everything that he can not to watch the news; even after he fixes his computer, he still won't be able to watch it. White Hat misinterprets him, asking about his computer science degree to imply he ought to be able to take care of a simple thing like this. Cueball replies that no, this is not the case - much as his computer science degree allows him to diagnose computer problems, being well educated does not help him to perform anything more than a postmortem on how wrong election forecasts were. The title text might be implying that being authoritative on a topic has nothing to do with determining how events actually transpire. Usbcord (talk) 19:26, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
- >_> 188.8.131.52 20:23, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
- I'd strongly push back on presenting this view point as anything other than an alternative interpretation, and even that's a stretch. This relies on several assumptions that don't really have much evidence to back them up, and the title text strongly supports the original interpretation being the intended one, making little sense in the context of not wanting to watch the news compared to how experts are more likely to encounter issues in their field. The characters would have to misunderstand the other on nearly half the lines, and then respond with strange phrasings (in the context of the alternative interpretation) which better fit the primary interpretation. Additionally, I think labeling comics as political, and especially referencing previous recent comics as the same, doesn't really add anything and is kind of odd to put in. Why just refer to these two recent comics, when there are hundreds that could fall under any label of "political" that 1759 qualifies for? While 1756 is a much more clear cut example, it also goes to show that there are much more blatant examples of political comics. Also, if you are to reference comics, do so with a link to the explanation page for that comic, like this: 1759: British Map. 184.108.40.206 02:06, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
- I have no idea why anyone thinks 1759 was political. Could someone explain? --AnotherAnonymous (talk) 08:22, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
- I didn't interpret this comic to be political as well. There's nothing to indicate Cueball tries to avoid watching the news. Also the statement "how wring election forecasts were" is blatantly wrong. Election forecast said that it would be a close race. Yes, they saw Hillary in front, but only by a few points, so everyone said "well, we have to consider Variance, so we can't say anything for sure right now". How is THAT "wrong" by any definition of the word "wrong"? I think the paragraph about this comic having a political meaning should be removed. 220.127.116.11 18:47, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
Since his computer is broken maybe he's using the TV as a monitor to help download the CD? SparklyDingo (talk) 16:18, 16 November 2016 (UTC)--
Could we explain what his technical problem or current set up is more clearly? I still don't understand what he is attempting to do or why he needs his phone, a CD, and his TV to get his computer running. 18.104.22.168
- I think the point is that CueBall is notorious for overly hackish solutions to otherwise fairly simple problems - we know that his efforts to fix things often spiral out of control:  states it explicitly,  is a cautionary tale and  makes the consequences rather clear! Also, his approach to fixing problems is often dangeously "creative" ( for example). So it seems safe to assume that he can't watch things on his TV because it's somehow tied into his computer (perhaps he uses MythTV or something similar) - which for some other reason needs to be upgraded, which requires a CD, which he can't read for some other reason (probably his CDROM drive is inoperable because the PC is screwed up) and is therefore having to download it onto his phone, which is quite possibly the last remaining piece of working tech that he has to hand. This would be a rather extreme reason for not being able to turn on your TV - but it's not without precedent for this character in other strips. If trying making a PC dual boot results in them swimming for their lives from sharks...this scenario is one of the less extreme problems he gets into. SteveBaker (talk) 13:33, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
- Indeed, I feel this is the proper explanation of the comic much more than the current state of the main explanation, and it is supported by the title text as well. Cueball is an expert to the extent that he probably stopped using an ordinary TV a long time ago, and now runs a complicated set up which has many more modes of failure and is bound to go wrong at some point. The skydiving instructor is expert at skydiving, but because of that expertise he's far more likely to actually go skydiving than Cueball, and so he has a non-zero chance of catastrophic failure. 22.214.171.124 13:57, 17 November 2016 (UTC)