912: Manual Override
Title text: I think you mean 'GNU Info Override'.
There are two jokes in this comic. The first is that the pilot typed "man override" to manually override the plane's computer and steer the plane to safety, but instead he ends up opening the manual page for "OVERRIDE". The second joke is making fun of a trend in documentation for Unix-like systems using the free GNU toolchain.
Historically, UNIX systems had a way to access descriptions of the available programs by using the "man" command (from "manual"). Typing "man [program name]" would output a concise, helpful text, called a "man page", describing the program's functionality, available command-line options, a list of related programs, etc. For some GNU-based systems, however, the output of "man [program name]" will be entirely too brief, mainly telling what the program does, then directing the user to invoke a GNU-specific information system (GNU Info). GNU Info pages can be quite useful, e.g. they often contain much more information than man pages, and are hypertextual, allowing quick navigation through a network of content-related Info pages; however, they often are much more complex to search through than simple man files, which take the form of single scrollable pages, one per program.
As such, the humor is predicated upon understanding the frustration which sometimes arises when GNU users seek out a man page, hoping for an easy, digestible read, only to find that the man page they opened merely redirects them to another, less accessible network of hypertext Info pages. This can be especially annoying when it interrupts a person's workflow; e.g. when what they wanted was to spend three seconds looking up the proper format of a particular command line function, and instead they end up redirected to a maze of detailed documentation. This would be especially dangerous when one is trying to stop a plane from crashing. To add injury to the insult, sometimes the Info pages aren't actually installed, causing the "info" viewer to just render the same old "man" page that had the directions in the first place.
The title text provides a tongue-in-cheek correction to the comic's title, suggesting that rather than typing "man(ual) override", the user/pilot should type "info override" to search GNU Info instead.
- [A plane is in a nosedive with smoke pouring from one wing. Text comes from someone reading in the cockpit.]
- "This is the emergency override system, which can be used to regain control of the aircraft.
- Complete instructions for activating this system are available as a GNU info page."
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