1305: Undocumented Feature

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
(Difference between revisions)
Jump to: navigation, search
(Explanation)
(cleaned up english, removed some unnecessary parts (particularly the extended explanation of VMs), and added a few details)
Line 10: Line 10:
 
==Explanation==
 
==Explanation==
 
{{incomplete|Some layout issues, still too many adds after this tag was removed. Language is an other issue}}
 
{{incomplete|Some layout issues, still too many adds after this tag was removed. Language is an other issue}}
An {{w|undocumented feature}} is a part of a software product that is not explained in the documentation for the product. If this features belongs to a joke or something similar it's called an {{w|Easter egg (media)|easter egg}}.
+
An {{w|undocumented feature}} is a part of a software product that is not explained in the documentation for the product. [[Cueball]] has found such a feature, a chat room intended to ask for help, accessible through the help page of some unnamed old Windows utility. The people who found the chat room started out using it for its intended purpose (helping users of the utility by contacting other users), however as time has passed they have become friends and enter the chat only to talk to each other, with no relation to computer problems. After a while, the utility program gets so old that nobody uses it any more, however people in the chat still have it installed only to be able to chat to each other.
  
[[Cueball]] has found a chat room, intended to ask for help, accessible through the help page of some unnamed old Windows utility. The people who found the chat room start using it for its intended purpose (helping users of the utility by contacting other users), however as time passes they just become friends and enter the chat only to talk to each other, with no relation with computer problems. After a while, the utility program gets old so that nobody uses it any more, however people in the chat still have it installed only to be able to chat to each other.
+
A {{w|virtual machine}} (or VM) is a computer program designed to emulate the hardware of a full computer. In this case, users of the old chat room create VMs only to have the old operating system installed which included the utility program. They use this setup only to access the old chat room. This is shown in the third panel where [[Cueball]] is using a modern laptop to enter the chatroom (presumably by means of a VM), whereas [[Megan]] is still using an old computer (as evidenced by the CRT monitor).
  
A {{w|virtual machine}} (or VM) is a computer program designed to emulate the hardware of a full computer. With such a program, one configures parameters such as the amount of RAM memory the virtual machine will have, the hard disk size, etc. Then, the program creates an environment with those parameters so that one can start to install an {{w|operating system}} as if it were a real machine. Some computer users keep different VMs in their computer with different operating systems, so they can run several operating systems at the same time. In the comic, users of the old chat room create VMs only to have an old operating system installed, with the old utility program (which can be assumed to go funny or not run at all in more recent versions of windows) just to be able to access the chat room.
+
A chat room like this must be hosted on some outside server, so the narrator of the comic wonders who runs this server. An obvious thought about this is if and when the server will be shut down, effectively cutting all communication among chat users. Another obvious thought is why the utility author is still maintaining the chat server, since its original purpose (allowing communication between users with problems with the utility program) is no longer an issue as everybody has migrated to more modern systems. The comic suggests that the reason for doing this can be a bored {{w|System administrator|sysadmin}}, who is just reading the messages of the chat users and following their lives but never writing anything. This would turn the chat room in to a soap opera for the sysadmin.
  
A chat room like this must be hosted in some outside server, so the narrator of the comic wonders who runs this server. An obvious thought about this is if and when the server will be shut down, effectively cutting all communication among chat users. Another obvious thought is why the utility author is still maintaining the chat server, since its original purpose (communicating users with problems with the utility program) is no longer an issue as everybody has migrated to more modern systems. The comic suggests that the reason for doing this can be a bored {{w|System administrator|sysadmin}}, who is just reading the messages of the chat users and following their lives but never writing anything. This would turn the chat room as a soap opera for the sysadmin.
+
The {{w|Deep Web}} is a term used to refer to any information which is available online, but is hard to find (usually because there are no links to that information in web pages). The chat room described would be an example of this. From this point on, the comic takes an existentialist turn (a frequent xkcd trait), talking about how life is short, everything has to end, etc.
  
The {{w|Deep Web}} is a term used to refer to any information which is available online, but is hard to find (usually because there are no links to that information in web pages). The chat room described would be an example of this. From this point on, the comic goes all existentialist (a frequent xkcd trait), talking about how life is short, everything has to end, etc.
+
The last panel is a reference to [http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304403804579263371125671670 Facebook's recent announcement] that it would start  autoplaying video ads, and the title text refers to YouTube requiring its users to use their real-life identities instead of just nicknames. These last parts of the comics somehow reveal that the point of the whole comic is just to complain about aggressive money-driven policies used by modern social networks in general and Facebook in particular. It is hinted that [[Randall]] would prefer older technologies, where limited resources would forbid autoplaying videos or huge databases with every detail of every user's life.
  
The last panel refers to the fact that [http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304403804579263371125671670 Facebook announced it was starting to use autoplaying video ads] just one day before the comic release, and the title text refers to YouTube requiring its users to use their real-life identities instead of just nicknames. These last parts of the comics somehow reveal that the point of the whole comic is just to complain about aggressive money-driven policies used by modern social networks in general and Facebook in particular. It is hinted that [[Randall]] would prefer older technologies, when limited resource would forbid autoplaying videos or huge databases with every detail of every user's life.
+
It's possible that the comic is about an actual chat room, but more likely it is a complete invention, since if it were real someone would have been able to trace its origin. However if it is real, the participants would not want to confirm this in order to protect their privacy.
 
+
It's possible that the comic is about an actual chat room, but it could also be a complete invention. If it's real, the participants would not want to confirm this in order to protect their privacy.
+
  
 
==Transcript==
 
==Transcript==

Revision as of 17:55, 19 December 2013

Undocumented Feature
↓ Skip to explanation ↓
And it doesn't pop up a box every time asking you to use your real name. In fact, there's no way to set your name at all. You just have to keep reminding people who you are.
Title text: And it doesn't pop up a box every time asking you to use your real name. In fact, there's no way to set your name at all. You just have to keep reminding people who you are.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Some layout issues, still too many adds after this tag was removed. Language is an other issue
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

An undocumented feature is a part of a software product that is not explained in the documentation for the product. Cueball has found such a feature, a chat room intended to ask for help, accessible through the help page of some unnamed old Windows utility. The people who found the chat room started out using it for its intended purpose (helping users of the utility by contacting other users), however as time has passed they have become friends and enter the chat only to talk to each other, with no relation to computer problems. After a while, the utility program gets so old that nobody uses it any more, however people in the chat still have it installed only to be able to chat to each other.

A virtual machine (or VM) is a computer program designed to emulate the hardware of a full computer. In this case, users of the old chat room create VMs only to have the old operating system installed which included the utility program. They use this setup only to access the old chat room. This is shown in the third panel where Cueball is using a modern laptop to enter the chatroom (presumably by means of a VM), whereas Megan is still using an old computer (as evidenced by the CRT monitor).

A chat room like this must be hosted on some outside server, so the narrator of the comic wonders who runs this server. An obvious thought about this is if and when the server will be shut down, effectively cutting all communication among chat users. Another obvious thought is why the utility author is still maintaining the chat server, since its original purpose (allowing communication between users with problems with the utility program) is no longer an issue as everybody has migrated to more modern systems. The comic suggests that the reason for doing this can be a bored sysadmin, who is just reading the messages of the chat users and following their lives but never writing anything. This would turn the chat room in to a soap opera for the sysadmin.

The Deep Web is a term used to refer to any information which is available online, but is hard to find (usually because there are no links to that information in web pages). The chat room described would be an example of this. From this point on, the comic takes an existentialist turn (a frequent xkcd trait), talking about how life is short, everything has to end, etc.

The last panel is a reference to Facebook's recent announcement that it would start autoplaying video ads, and the title text refers to YouTube requiring its users to use their real-life identities instead of just nicknames. These last parts of the comics somehow reveal that the point of the whole comic is just to complain about aggressive money-driven policies used by modern social networks in general and Facebook in particular. It is hinted that Randall would prefer older technologies, where limited resources would forbid autoplaying videos or huge databases with every detail of every user's life.

It's possible that the comic is about an actual chat room, but more likely it is a complete invention, since if it were real someone would have been able to trace its origin. However if it is real, the participants would not want to confirm this in order to protect their privacy.

Transcript

[A support window is shown.]
An old Windows utility has an undocumented feature. If you open "help" and click on the background, you get dropped into a "support" chat room.
Support Window: Launching support forum...
[An active conversation between two people is shown.]
Only a few of us ever found it. But we became friends.
[Cueball and Ponytail are at computers.]
We kept launching the program to check in. Eventually some of us were running VMs just to keep accessing it.
[Another conversation.]
As the Internet aged, so did we.
[Three question marks.]
We don't know who runs the server. We don't know why it's still working so many years later. Maybe we're some sysadmin's soap opera.
[A group of people are shown in a bubble.]
It will probably vanish someday, but for now it's our meeting place. Our hideaway.
[The bubble is now smaller, and some parts of a web are shown.]
A life's worth of chat,
[More of the web is shown.]
Buried in the deep web.
[A flat landscape is shown with the sun at the horizon.]
But even if it lasts forever, we won't. When we're gone, who will remember us?
[Cueball and Hairy are shown standing together in a bubble.]
Who will remember this strange little world and the friendships we built here?
Nobody.
[An empty bubble is shown.]
This place is irrelevant. Ephemeral. One day it will be forgotten.
[The bubble starts to fade away.]
And so will we
[The bubble has almost completely faded away.]
[The bubble is now completely gone.]
But at least it doesn't have fucking video ads.

Trivia

There are many examples of undocumented features in programs written for old versions of Windows, for example:

  • When playing Windows Solitaire with the "draw three" option, one can draw single cards by holding <Ctrl+Alt+Shift> while clicking on the card to draw cards.
  • When playing Windows Minesweeper in pre-Windows-95 versions, typing "xyzzy" followed by <Enter> and then <Right-shift>, will turn the top left pixel of the windows background black or white to indicate if the mouse is over a mine or not.
  • The first releases of Windows 95 allowed one to see the "credits" for Win95 by creating a folder in the desktop and then renaming it several times.
  • Word 97 has an embedded pinball game, accesible by a weird sequence of strange actions.
  • Excel 97 has also an embedded game of a spaceship floating over a planet, accessible by another weird sequence of actions.
Comment.png add a comment!

Discussion

Please never edit existing posts at the talk page! Just add your content! And NEVER edit foreign posts! Use the "Sign Button" on top of editor or type this at the END of your post ~~~~. This will add the IP or User and a timestamp to the END of your post.--Dgbrt (talk) 20:53, 18 December 2013 (UTC)


This sound pretty cool... Anyone know if it's real or which tool it's in? 173.245.55.222 05:53, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

  • its real, there are 8 other users, but must stay a secret. 108.162.231.233 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
  • There is no secret chat room, stop looking for it. It doesn't exist. Look for your own island on the interweb, don't come spoil ours. scr_admin

Okay, let's be honest: how many of us, upon seeing today's comic, immediately went here to see if it was real or not? --108.162.245.4 07:47, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

  • I honestly did just that. --173.245.53.137 08:06, 18 December 2013 (UTC)
  • I didn't start up my VM to test it, but I came here to see if was real >.< 108.162.216.56 09:47, 18 December 2013 (UTC)
  • I also did that. But I take that, if it is real and someone uncovers it, it may destroy that community... 173.245.53.123 10:28, 18 December 2013 (UTC)
  • Same here. If it is real, I sincerely hope Randall has a) wiresharked it to find out where this chat room resides so he can prod the admin if it ever goes down b) has a backup plan to migrate himself and his friends to some other private chat room. It won't have the same mystery surrounding it, but at least it's something. 108.162.231.222 10:51, 18 December 2013 (UTC)


Please never edit existing posts at the talk page! Just add your content! And NEVER edit foreign posts! Use the "Sign Button" on top of editor or type this at the END of your post ~~~~. This will add the IP or User and a timestamp to the END of your post.--Dgbrt (talk) 20:53, 18 December 2013 (UTC)


It's not about Youtube, but Facebook, which just launched AUTOPLAYING video ads. Look at the title text, it's about Facebook's real name policy. 108.162.231.232 08:11, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

  • I wouldn't limit the scope of this commentary just to Facebook; YouTube's been doing autoplaying video ads for years. YouTube's also been asking for real names recently. 108.162.212.200 14:26, 18 December 2013 (UTC)
  • The video ads thing is definitely related to Facebook, but the title text is probably a reference to Youtube recently asking continuously to switch to the real name of google plus account and not the nickname many used on YouTube. Edited the explanation accordingly, since there was no reference to the title text. Spesknight 108.162.231.216 09:08, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

I just searched after reading - and found this site! -- 141.101.99.247 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

  • The real secret place is here! 108.162.229.75 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
  • So THIS is the secret chat 108.162.229.7 09:50, 18 December 2013 (UTC)
  • One day this place will be forgotten and so will we. --108.162.231.197 09:52, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

anyone else recognizes the wonderful tcp-ip explanation movie of Ericsson Dawn of the net in frames 6 till 10? [User:Tesshavon|Tesshavon]] (talk)

  • Tesshavon you're in my mind ! Also, the 6th frame is comes from one of the most common Friends posters (see e.g. here : Friends ) dandraka

It's true. Small online communities offer a more folksy experience than the online giants. Some of the best places to hang out are BBS's that made it onto the Internet and have been there for 25+ years. 216.150.130.111 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Well there's always IRC... 108.162.221.30 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)


Please never edit existing posts at the talk page! Just add your content! And NEVER edit foreign posts! Use the "Sign Button" on top of editor or type this at the END of your post ~~~~. This will add the IP or User and a timestamp to the END of your post.--Dgbrt (talk) 20:53, 18 December 2013 (UTC)


I've rewritten all the explanation. As far as I'm concerned, I'd remove the incomplete box. I just keep it because it's likely that someone else will feel something is missing. 173.245.53.180 15:27, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

If you're interested in a tightknit community out on the fringes of the Net, go join a MUD. Some are combat oriented, some are roleplay and chat oriented, all are text-based, and many have largely the same exact userbase as they had twenty years ago. - 108.162.212.228 15:48, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

  • If you want a really small and odd community check out the Plato network, you have to emulate a terminal from the late 70's early 80's to use it. --DECtape (talk) 00:27, 15 April 2014 (UTC)

Hmm i think randall also wants to share his believs in the subcontext of the comic, the reason why we live on erth as a random error, the sysadmin who probably sees it all(=god), the question what will happen after all that is gone (his opinion, that our lives are compelty senseless)..etc. 108.162.254.161 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

  • Anyone else think of comic 37 when reading the last panel (due to the ambiguity of whether he is talking about fucking "video ads" or "fucking video" ads)? 173.245.50.227 18:31, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

Yes, of COURSE I came here to see if it really exists! I don't know if there's actually a chatroom as described, but Usenet has become much smaller, has no ads, and doesn't require you to know the secret application to get in. IIf a text experience with no ads appeals, dump FB, come back to Usenet! Tell 'em Sea Wasp sent you! :) 108.162.219.186 19:15, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

  • Shhh! You're forgetting the first rule of Usenet! 173.245.54.6 17:57, 19 December 2013 (UTC)


Please never edit existing posts at the talk page! Just add your content! And NEVER edit foreign posts! Use the "Sign Button" on top of editor or type this at the END of your post ~~~~. This will add the IP or User and a timestamp to the END of your post.--Dgbrt (talk) 20:53, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

It's obviously about life and religion. The sysadmin who never writes anything must be there to keep everything running, because else the chat would stop to exist. Like most religions contribute to a god who is never seen or heard. --108.162.231.232 08:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

I'm wondering if he got this idea from Starship Titanic. They had a very similar thing happen. See this epic MeFi comment from the self-described "main web hacker" behind Starship Titanic's web site. 199.27.128.119 17:29, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

I've made several edits to clean up the explanation. Not sure whether I should remove the incomplete tag or not. --173.245.52.227 17:57, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

Please don't do that. A comic at this size isn't complete within one or two days. Removing the incomplete tag is a minor issue, explaining is the major one. --Dgbrt (talk) 20:46, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

I don't really see why the trivia should be there. 108.162.216.45 20:29, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

This content was moved from the explain section to a trivia section by me. It still needs some rework but it belongs to "old Windows utilities" like Randall is talking about here at the first panel.--Dgbrt (talk) 20:46, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

Reminds me of MUDs. I still check in on New Moon [1] a few times a year. 108.162.236.25 16:15, 20 December 2013 (UTC)

I see what you mean. For me it's the Discworld MUD. But it could similarly (i.e. not exactly like the comic suggests) apply to some long-term Usenet groups that I (in)frequent. 141.101.99.229 16:22, 20 December 2013 (UTC)

It may not be the tool from the comic, but people here might be interested in: http://kurlander.net/DJ/Projects/ComicChat/resources.html Jvfrmtn (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

If this chatroom was real I'd love to see it. I know ts not though. Of course what if there's a little fridge horror in this comic? Like a chatroom 98 sort of thing? Maybe the sysadmin or the people Cueball and the others are talking to are really ghosts or souls that were sucked into an old server forever doomed to spend their days talking to themselves until another unsuspecting user is sucked in.108.162.215.36 02:54, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

Ido: Can someone explain why the URL www.xkcd.com/test reference to this strip? looks like an undocumented feature to me :) 141.101.98.220 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I was doing some searching on the internet, and found, in addition to the one/few on this page, some people who said/implied that they have used this chat before, although, like anything on the internet, the claims may not be true. (Links: http://community.spiceworks.com/topic/436369-does-this-actually-exist [see comments 3, 12, and 14], http://pastebin.com/95nGh8Hk [Says it exists, but doesn't elaborate]) Z (talk) 22:02, 12 March 2014 (UTC)
Personal tools
Namespaces

Variants
Actions
Navigation
Toolbox

It seems you are using noscript, which is stopping our project wonderful ads from working. Explain xkcd uses ads to pay for bandwidth, and we manually approve all our advertisers, and our ads are restricted to unobtrusive images and slow animated GIFs. If you found this site helpful, please consider whitelisting us.

Want to advertise with us, or donate to us with Paypal or Bitcoin?