413: New Pet

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New Pet


Megan and Cueball create a new pet by putting an Eee PC into a hamster ball, allowing it to roll around.

The Asus Eee PC was one of the first subnotebook computers available on the American market, noted for its small size and coming pre-installed with Linux. With a diagonal size of 11 inches, it would take a big hamster ball to carry it like this.

Omniwheels are wheels with rollers mounted on the edge to allow the wheel to slide sideways. The wheels in the drawing look more like Mecanum wheels, which have rollers mounted at an angle to the edge. Both omniwheels and Mecanum wheels are used in omni-directional drive systems, like you would use to drive a hamster ball from the inside. A webcam is connected magnetically to the top of the hamster ball, which connects to an rf link to transmit wirelessly to the computer.

TCO is total cost of ownership, which is exactly what it sounds like: the purchase price of something, plus all costs of keeping, operating, and/or maintaining that something. It's used in accounting to determine something's true cost-to-value evaluation. In the case of a cat, TCO would primarily consist of food, litter, veterinary care, etc. Refer to trivia for more details. For the device in the comic, there would be a small ongoing cost (occasional recharges for the batteries) after the initial investment.

A Roomba is a self-directed robotic vacuum cleaner made by iRobot, which has no feelings and cannot make friends.[citation needed]

Python is a programming language popular among geeks running Linux. Among other features, it has a large number of easily installed 3rd-party libraries that make it easy to add features (stored in modules) to programs. In this case, Cueball is importing the soul module to give the new pet a soul. This is a reference to 353: Python, in which Cueball is able to fly by importing the antigravity module.

The title text refers to the One Laptop per Child project spearheaded by Nicholas Negroponte around 2005, with the goal of building an inexpensive, durable sublaptop that could be distributed to children in developing countries to give them an educational edge.


[Megan is placing EEE PC inside hamster ball. Cueball scratches his head.]
Cueball: What are you doing?
Megan: Mounting your EEE PC in a hamster ball.
Megan: Well, the TCO of a cat is like $1,000/year, so we're saving money.
[Cueball is typing.]
Megan: Microcontrollers are all wired up! How's the brain coming?
Cueball: I've taught it obstacle avoidance and blogging.
Cueball: Aww, look, it's making friends with the Roomba.
Roomba: Beep!
[A blueprint in the background shows a webcam, RF links, bearings, omni wheels, magnets, EEE PC, omni wheels, and a battery all hooked up to Megan and Cueball's "pet."]
[Hamster ball bounces down a flight of stairs.]
Hamster ball: Bonk bonk
Off-panel: Man, I hope it's okay that we're laughing at this.
[Megan picks up a ball.]
Megan: I think my mothering instinct took a wrong turn somewhere.
Cueball: You mean an awesome turn.
[Cueball is typing.]
Megan: Too bad we can't give it a soul.
Cueball: Sure we can.
Cueball types: import soul
Megan: Oh, right. Python.


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Is anyone else tempted to do this for real? Because I certainly am. 23:24, 9 March 2013 (UTC)

Even more possible now with the newer, smaller raspberry Pi computers. Someone PLEASE do it. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

NEW PROJECT. Alexbuzzbee (talk) 14:36, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABzjUf3E_0c 16:39, 18 April 2015 (UTC)
That video no longer exists because the account no longer exists. :( Beanie (talk) 12:11, 24 March 2021 (UTC)

Here is the comments section on the xkcd site: http://blog.xkcd.com/2008/04/22/hooray-robots/#comments (Sorry. Don't know how to make it a link.) There are a number of proposed designs and several readers who claim to be making one. There are 248 entries so I only skimmed over them. ExternalMonolog (talk) 20:48, 21 January 2014 (UTC)ExternalMonolog

I'm shocked that with the explosion of popularity of BB-8 from the new Star Wars that I haven't seen this referenced anywhere. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Challenge accepted - Kazvorpal (talk) 14:13, 30 July 2017 (UTC)

I don't think this is possible, because most hamster balls are not smooth, and all of them have holes, which would make the magnets get stuck. 20:39, 4 June 2015 (UTC)

JJ Abrams built it and put it in a movie. -- Gilker (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Those look like mechanum wheels. Not omniwheels.

So, what would this do? I assume the laptop needs to be connected to some other control device somehow? But what? Why does the computer in the middle need to be a laptop? Will it be displaying video to people who come across the "pet"? GreatWyrmGold (talk) 13:03, 12 July 2020 (UTC)