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Evil Geniuses in a Nutshell

On loan Evil Geniuses in a Nutshell

Author: Illiad

I'm very familiar with the Nutshell books, what my pal Van Wolverton calls "propellerhead books," or books for the nerds among us. This is appropriate because nerds appreciate brevity. On the other hand, Evil Geniuses in a Nutshell appreciates levity.

I was guessing that maybe the book was about crazy computer scientists. And, in a way, it is! But more accurately, Evil Geniuses in a Nutshell is a collection of the User Friendly cartoon strips, originally published on the Internet at http://www.userfriendly.org/. The fuzzy-headed-with-feet guy on the book's cover is Dust Puppy, the strip's mascot (who is apparently very popular among the propellerheads; a copy of him secretly appears in the game Quake III). Other characters, familiar to anyone who works in high tech, also appear in the comic strip, as well as various foreign agents, domestic spies, and what possibly could be parodies of well-known computer geeks.

The book is funny--the only Nutshell book I've ever laughed at. The illustrations were obviously done on a computer in some bitmap graphics application, but they aren't bad (and don't tell me they're stupid unless you've tried it; it is hard). The humor is often subtle, but I occasionally found myself bursting out laughing. Like Dilbert, Calvin and Hobbes, or even Married with Children, it takes a while to soak in the humor, but then it becomes addictive.

I recommend Evil Geniuses in a Nutshell if for no other reason than so you can have a truly funny computer book on your shelf. (Or in the WC, which is where I read it.) There is a follow-on called User Friendly the comic strip, also from O'Reilly. The more you're into technical things, the more you'll appreciate it. --Dan Gookin

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