413: New Pet
Title text: ONE LAPTOP PER HAMSTER!
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 wheel 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.
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 and veterinary care, with possible additions for catsitting services, damage caused by feline misbehavior, etc. 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.
Python is a programming language popular among geeks running Linux. Among other features, it has a large number of easily installed 3rd-party libraries which make it easy to add features to programs. In this case, Cueball is importing the "soul" library to give the new pet a soul – obviously something, that a programming language cannot actually do. This is a reference to 353: Python.
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 head.]
- Cueball: What are you doing?
- Megan: Mounting your EEE PC in a hamster ball.
- Megan: Well, the TCO of a cat is like $1000/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.
- EEE PC: RRRRR
- Roomba: Beep!
- Diagram: Webcam, RF links, bearings, omni wheels, magnets, EEE PC, omni wheels, battery
- [Hamster ball bounces down flight of stairs.]
- Hamster ball: Bonk, bonk
- Off-panel: Man, I hope it's OK that we're laughing at this.
- [Megan picks up 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.