Book Review: Evil Geniuses in a Nutshell

Cover: Evil Geniuses in a Nutshell

It is said that Dilbert reflects the attitude and perspective of disgruntled, under-paid, overworked, and unappreciated cube dwellers all across the United States. It is said that it accurately reveals how certain managers and organizations do business. However, though Scott Adams does delve a little in the technical arena on a regular basis, he keeps it on the surface for a larger audience to appreciate.

There is a “geek” strip that goes deeper and is every bit as sarcastic as Dilbert. It’s called User Friendly and it’s drawn by Iliad. User Friendly hasn’t hit mainstream like Dilbert, but it does enjoy a good bit of success. So much so that O’Reilly published an initial collection of the comic strip in a book appropriately titled User Friendly in 1999. Close on its heels comes the next collection of strips with a title similar to other O’Reilly publications: Evil Geniuses in a Nutshell.

Evil Geniuses in a Nutshell accurately reflects some of the issues that happen in IT, especially customer service calls, system upgrades, and the effects of playing Quake instead of sleeping. Written from an Open Source/Linux perspective, it does take jabs at anything not Linux. However, Iliad spares no one and looks inwardly on the Linux community and their own disagreements between the various flavors that now exist. And Iliad does it in a humorous, light-hearted manner.

Among some of the characters are Pitr the uber-hacker, an AI named Erwin, Erwin’s programmer Dust Puppy (er, I’m not sure what Dust Puppy is but that’s him on the cover), and others such as AJ (graphic design), Greg (tech support) and Stef (evil marketing person) to name a few. Together they form the crew behind Columbia Internet, a not-so-typical ISP. The characters are neurotic, the story lines are close to home, and the entire book is a good read. For more information on User Friendly, visit its official web site. Iliad has a good archive of past strips on up. You can find it at:

Of all the “technical” books I’ve bought in the last 6 months, I rate this one probably the best I’ve picked up. My wife just rolled her eyes at me as I sat in our living room reading and laughing. I found pretty much every cartoon “on target.” The next time you are at your local bookstore weighing whether or not to purchase yet another SQL Server 2000 tome, see if this User Friendly Guide to World Domination (the sub-title) is on the shelf.

Cover used with permission from O’Reilly

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