763: Workaround

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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I once worked on a friend's dad's computer. He had the hard drive divided into six partitions, C: through J:, with a 'Documents' directory tree on each one. Each new file appeared to be saved to a partition at random. I knew enough not to ask.
Title text: I once worked on a friend's dad's computer. He had the hard drive divided into six partitions, C: through J:, with a 'Documents' directory tree on each one. Each new file appeared to be saved to a partition at random. I knew enough not to ask.


A relative of Cueball is depicted, who explains how he goes about sending a YouTube video to someone. The relative appears to be a stereotypical 'non-computer person', perhaps the father or grandfather of Cueball. The relative explains how he first saves a web page and opens it in Microsoft Word, then uses the 'Share' feature in Word to generate an email that contains the web page reformatted as a Word document, then sends that email to a service that extracts YouTube videos. Perhaps this service would then email back a link to some extracted file on some server, and this link could in turn be copied and pasted in another email, which could finally be sent to the intended recipient. It's all very complicated.

The premise is that non-computer-literate people will find a clumsy, highly elaborate way of achieving some task on a computer. They will do this by stringing together the functions they stumble upon in the few software packages they have limited familiarity with, rather than taking a more sensible, straightforward route. In this case, a much faster and simpler route would be to copy the address of the YouTube video from the address bar in the browser, then paste the address in an email to the intended recipient.

The caption says that though Randall encourages his relatives to solve their computer problems on their own, by trial and error, he has to resist the urge of asking them the method they used. That method is likely to be unnecessarily complicated. Perhaps this complexity, inefficiency or illogicality will cause Randall to be exasperated, or perhaps Randall feels it is unwise to tell them why their method is inefficient because of the possibility of humiliating or upsetting them, especially after they have spent a long time experimenting to find this suboptimal solution; it would be disrespectful to correct them. Or perhaps it would take too long to explain an alternative, even a much simpler one, because of the questions that it would lead to or because of the further misconceptions that would be exposed of which the relative should be disabused.

The title text just explains another example of a complicated and elaborate way of working that people who don't understand computers can create.


[A relative stands at a computer terminal. Cueball stands behind him with his head in his hands, double-facepalming.]
Relative: See, I've got a really good system: if I want to send a YouTube video to someone, I go to File → Save, then import the saved page into Word. Then I go to "Share this Document" and under "recipient" I put the email of this video extraction service...
[Caption below the panel:]
I'll often encourage relatives to try to solve computer problems themselves by trial and error. However, I've learned an important lesson: if they say they've solved their problem, never ask how.

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This comic is broken:

{#if:|| --> 

surrounding the comic should not happen. Some experiments???--Dgbrt (talk) 23:04, 18 February 2014 (UTC)

Six partitions, C through J... Which two letters are missing? Mumiemonstret (talk) 14:23, 3 November 2014 (UTC)

Well I assume D: is the DVD Burner and E: the BluRay drive? Just guessing, who still has optical drives these days, Fuck optical drives :0 -- 09:54, 9 November 2014 (UTC)

I found that, starting with XP, and particularly now with 7, the drive letters Windows automatically assigns to new devices started to not make much sense... The main system partition is C, the manufacturer recovery partition is D (really must get round to "hiding" that) and after that it's a free for all. The DVD drive (which I still have semi regular use of for various reasons), a gaggle of USB hard disks, memory sticks and card readers, any fresh ones I might end up creating on the internal HDD, and even the built-in SD card slot, all fight for whatever letters they can get, though once a drive is assigned one it tends to stick with it... for an arbitrary length of time, which may be a matter of hours, or maybe a decade-plus, at which point some other new (or occasionally, another existing) drive will co-opt that letter and bump the original down the list. Optical drive seems to get priority, then the external HDDs, then the memory sticks and card readers, but it's not an absolute.

So if he's ever used a USB drive at any point, especially before adding a new internal HDD for extra storage, there could well be a gap...

I'm also no stranger to the "squillions of partitions" issue, at least back in the Win98 era. One family machine ended up with no fewer than three different HDDs in it all at once, each with at least two partitions for various reasons (not least partition size limits / sector size efficiency, and improved ease of backing up using a utility that imaged the partitions separately onto CDRW without any compression), including one each for the various family members, the system drive, programs, games, and shared documents. On top of which there was the floppy, two optical drives (DVDROM, CDRW) and an IDE Zipdisk (yes, you heard right... both built-in IDE ports plus a PCI expansion card with a third port put to full use) and at least one virtual image-drive, and a parallel port smartmedia card reader. All this at the start of the USB-drive era, under 98SE with the USB patch. Suffice to say there were a lot of letters in use.

...and this is what was done by four people who were each generally fairly competent with computers, an a couple of them rather more so, such that we were usually the ones being asked for help rather than the other way around. I would at this point say "so who knows what fresher hells might be brewed up by those who didn't know what they were doing was even more wrong than the deliberate mistakes we were forced to make", but I've seen enough of them first hand through friends, colleagues and extended family to not have to wonder o_O; 12:56, 9 October 2015 (UTC)