ITworld cartoons 2015: The year in geek humor (so far)

Each week, ITworld's Phil Johnson pokes fun at the tech world's top news and newsmakers

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Cartoon of a couple watching the Super Blood Moon without devices
September 30th - Super Blood Moons are better without devices

Hopefully, everyone out there got to see the Super Blood Moon this past Sunday night. Like most people, my Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/etc., feeds were filled with tons of pictures people took of this rare event. More interestingly, though, a number of folks I know noted that they made it a point to put away their devices while sitting out to watch the eclipse and simply be in the moment. I’m not sure, though, that everybody left their devices behind so willingly...

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Cartoon of a man at the doctor finding out his Fitbit lied to him
September 25th - Warning: That device may be lying to you

The craziest tech story in a while is the recent admission by Volkswagen that the software in its diesel cars was designed to cheat on emissions tests. Not surprisingly, aside from the E.P.A., many owners of the 500,000 vehicles affected in the United States aren’t happy at being deceived about the real environmental impact of their cars. This makes me wonder what other smart devices in my life aren’t being completely forthright. Hmmm….

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Cartoon of a man focus group-testing a Facebook post
September 18th - Focus-group-test twice, post to Facebook once

This week Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that, oh by the way, Facebook would soon be experimenting with adding a Dislike button, or something along those lines. So, if you already feel pressure to make your life sound fun and exciting when sharing things on social media, it’s about to get worse. If you want to minimize the number of thumbs down from your Facebook friends, you might want to consider putting more effort into your posts. Maybe even run them by a focus group first, you know, just to be extra safe.

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Cartoon of a couple about to take a selfie.
September 11th - Prepare to spend more time getting ready for that selfie

Apple did one of its big events this week during which, among other goodies, they announced the newest iPhones, the 6S and the 6S Plus. Among the new features are (significantly) better cameras; the rear camera is now 12 megapixels, up from 8MP in the 6 and 6 Plus, while the front camera is now 5MP, up from a measly 1.2MP. Other phones have even higher res cameras, like the 16MP rear camera on the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the 8MP front camera on the LG G4.

What does all this mean? It means these phones are really going to capture every nook and cranny on your face, whether you like it or not. If you’ve been putting it off, it might really be time to give your face that bee venom treatment to smooth out of some of those wrinkles. But, hey, it’s up to you.

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Cartoon about a drone and kids on the first day of school
September 4th - Drones make embarrassing your kids easier!

My two kids officially went back to school this week - yay! When they were littler, one of the best parts of the first day of school was walking them right up to the doors of their classroom and giving them big hugs and kisses before they went in to start the new school year, which they liked. The bad news is once they reached middle school age, however, they weren’t so keen on getting affection from mom and dad in front of their buddies. The good news is technology may now have a partial solution for those of us who miss that special moment.

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Cartoon for Windows 95 20th anniversary
August 28th - Hopefully, Windows 95 is just a memory

This past Monday marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Windows 95. Naturally, a lot of people took the opportunity this week to reminisce and look back on the impact of this historic operating system. Whether you loved Windows 95 or not, hopefully, at this point, it remains only a memory.

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Cartoon of an Amazon drone crying
August 21st - People aren’t the only unhappy Amazon employees

By now you have no doubt read, or at least heard about, the New York Times’ big exposé of what it’s like working for Amazon. If not, then the following quote in the Times piece from a former Amazon employee sums it up quite well: “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.” Sadly, we can only assume that this high pressure cutthroat unhappy work culture is also taking a similar toll on Amazon’s non-human employees.

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Cartoon with Big Bird and a lawyer on Sesame Street
August 14th - Google’s changes felt from Wall Street to Sesame Street

Earlier this week, Google announced a major corporate restructuring that includes the forming of a parent company to be called Alphabet. While many have been ruminating over what this means for the tech and business worlds, I, for one, am more than a little concerned about Google taking ownership of the word “Alphabet.” What could go wrong?

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Cartoon about the hitchBOT
August 7th - The hitchBOT took even more abuse than we thought

The strangest tech story of this week was that of the poorhitchBOT, the Canadian-made robot which was trying to hitchhike alone across the United States. After successfully hitching its way across Canada, its U.S. trip was cut short early on in Philadelphia when some unknown vandals decided to, um, dismember it. The real extent of the damage is still unknown, so for now we can only imagine what other horrors were visited upon the little guy.

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Cartoon for Sysadmin Appreciation Day
July 31st - Here’s the best gift to give to your favorite sysadmin

Today, as you may know, is System Administrator Appreciation Day. If you’re a sysadmin, here’s hoping you get shown lots of love by the folks you take care of each day. For the rest of us, be sure to show your appreciation to that special admin in your life. There are many ways to do so, like a gift certificate, some nice baked goods, or even just a hearty pat on the back. Or, you could think more outside the box…

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Cartoon of an email spammer begging on the sidewalk
July 24th - Email spammers hit the skids

Last week we learned that the percentage of email that’s spam has fallen to less than 50% for the first time in a decade. The decline in spam is a trend that began five years ago and has continued thanks to more aggressive efforts to rein it in by service providers and law enforcement. While you’re probably happy to get few spam emails, try and have a little sympathy for the poor email spammer who may be going through some rough times.

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Cartoon about a man learning to code to work his coffee maker
July 17th - Here’s why you should learn to code

As you’ve probably heard by now, if you don’t already know how to code, you should probably start learning. But, why, you might ask? Well, for one thing, it sure can’t hurt your job and salary prospects. More importantly, though, with everything around us becoming “smart” the day is coming quickly when you’ll probably need to know how to code just to operate things like your coffee maker. So, get cracking and learn some Java! See what I did there?

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Cartoon of a girl creating an emoji passcode for her dad
July 10th - Finally, a passcode even dad can remember

It was bound to happen and now it has: Emoji-based passcodes are officially upon us. Experts say that emoji passcodes are more secure than numeric ones. Also, studies suggest that people are better at remembering information via pictures, so, in theory, an emoji passcode should be easier to remember. I don’t know about you, but this middle-aged fella’s memory isn’t getting any better, so I’m all for this emoji thing. I already know what my new passcode will be...

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Cartoon of Taylor Swift asking a guy to sign up for Apple Music
July 6th - Why you should sign up for Apple Music

Apple Music officially launched last week and, if you haven’t yet signed up for a free trial, you may have to answer to Taylor Swift. After all, now that she’s agreed to let her music be streamed by the service, she has an interest in it succeeding. Plus, if she can get Apple to do what she asks, who are you to say no to her?

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Cartoon about a man sleeping through the leap second
July 3rd - How did you spend your leap second?

Hopefully, everyone realized that they gained a little extra time this week, when another leap second was added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) this past Wednesday. Even more hopefully, you used that extra free time to do something fun or relaxing. If you missed out, don’t worry, you should get another chance in a couple of years when the next leap second is added to the clocks (exact date and time TBD).

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Cartoon of a man trying to rescind a wedding toast using Undo Send
June 26th - If only Google could help with the wedding toast

This week Google added an Undo Send feature to Gmail, which gives you up to 30 seconds after you click "send" to change your mind and cancel the email from going out. Hopefully, this will save more than a few of us from making fools out of ourselves with dumb, rash, or inappropriate emails. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had the ability to rescind something potentially embarrassing that we say or do before it actually goes out there elsewhere in life? Get cracking on that, Google.

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Cartoon of a dad wearing an iPad with an ugly tie
June 19th - Father’s Day gifts get even more embarrassing

This Sunday is Father’s Day, which means you’d better come up with a nice gift for your dear old dad. Back in the day, you could just go to the mall with mom and pick out a tie, which, of course, dad would have to wear to work at least once, no matter how goofy it was. These days, though, technology has made things easier. After all, there’s an app for everything. But, one thing hasn’t changed: Dad still has to wear what you give him.

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Cartoon about Apple Pay
June 12th - Apple Pay giveth and Apple Health taketh away

Lots of big news out of Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) on Monday. Included among the many announcements was that the list of merchants accepting Apple Pay will soon be expanding to include a number of well-known stores, such as Baskin-Robbins. Of course, while Apple Pay may be fine with you getting a few scoops of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, other apps on your iPhone may not approve.

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Cartoon Google presents This Is You Life
June 5th - How you know it’s time to check your privacy settings

Earlier this week Google rolled out a new hub for managing all of your privacy, security, and account settings. Basically, it’s much easier now to review what data you’re sharingwith Google, whether you knew it or not. Be sure to take a look-see and review your settings before something, er, awkward happens.

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Cartoon of a man cutting the vacuum cleaner cord instead of the cable cord
May 29th - Measure twice, cut the cord once

For years, millions of oppressed cable TV customers have dreamed of cutting the cable cord without having to give up watching their favorite channels, shows, movies, and sporting events. Now, thanks to things like the Xbox One offering an over-the-air TV tuner and other similar products and services, many are finally living the cord-cutting dream. Just a heads up, though, if you’re finally going to cut the cord: Be sure you cut the right one.

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Cartoon about a dad who's Snapchat is stuck blinking 12:00
May 22nd - A mid-life tech crisis

I’ve finally realized that I’m now old. I realized this not because of my age (45, or, as I prefer to think of it, my late-early 40s) but rather because, for the first time, I’ve finally run into a technology that I’ve had trouble mastering: Snapchat. I signed up for it recently because it’s the main form of electronic communication my two teenaged daughters use. Pretty quickly, though, despite their attempts to explain how easy it is to use, I became baffled by the whole thing. Why do the videos stop when I take my finger off the screen? What are stories? Why can’t I go back and see an old message? Bah, I give up. GET OFF MY LAWN! It’s only a matter of time, I figure, before Snapchat on my phone is permanently blinking 12:00.

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Cartoon showing AOL downloading Verizon's offer using dial-up modem
May 15th - Verizon dials-up a big deal

The best tech story of the week was, hands down, Verizon’s deal to buy AOL. For $4.4 billion, Verizon will get a bunch of well-known media properties, such as The Huffington Post, Engadget, and TechCrunch. It will also get, whether it wants them or not, more than 2 million (!) people who still use AOL’s dial-up service. Hopefully, AOL’s lawyers aren’t included in that group.

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Cartoon of a boy live-streaming his mom on Mother's Day
May 8th - Be careful what you surprise mom with on Mother’s Day

As you kids hopefully know, Mother’s Day is Sunday. While it’s usually a good idea to surprise mom on her special day with something nice, like flowers, a homemade card or breakfast-in-bed, there’s one thing you definitely shouldn’t surprise her with: live-streaming. Periscope and Meetkat are fun and all, but just make you get mom’s permission before you broadcast her to the world.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms!

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Cartoon of kids playing on monkey bars talking about the Apple Watch
May 1st - What the Apple Watch can teach kids

Last week, I helped to chaperone a week-long school trip for my 7th grader and her classmates. It was a summer camp-type of place and the kids weren’t allowed to bring smartphones or tablets or any such devices (luckily, the adults could). While the kids were too busy having fun romping through the woods, learning how to build fires, and looking for frogs to miss their devices, there was one problem: Without their phones, the kids had to always ask adults what time it was. Not a single one (that I saw) had a watch, which made me wonder if they even knew what watches are. I’m going to guess that they do, but if any of them don’t, the Apple Watch, which is now shipping, will teach them what it means to have a clock on their wrist, as well as a web browser. Sigh.

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Cartoon of a drone and a guy sitting on a couch drinking beer
April 24th - So much for drones helping us to get in shape

There was a great story out of Seoul, South Korea this week, site of the 2015 Computer-Human Interaction Conference. It was there that researchers from RMIT University in Australia shared the results of a study which found evidence that drones would be welcome companions for joggers and would help motivate people to get out and run. That may be true in Australia but I have feeling that drones would face a taller task trying to get most of us Americans off of our couches. In fact, I’d wager it would more likely be the other way around, with the drones picking up our couch potato ways.

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Cartoon about a man buying an Apple-1 because it was the cheapest Apple product he could find.
April 17th - The Apple-1 is starting to feel like a bargain

Recently, the tech news featured stories on both the newest Apple offering as well as the very first product the company sold. On one hand,Apple began taking orders for its new Apple Watch. On the other hand, one of the few remaining original Apple-1 computers (which was actually just a circuit board) went up for sale on eBay. Previous Apple-1’s have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, which seems like a lot. Then again, given the rate of increase of prices on new Apple stuff, the prices Apple-1s are going for are starting to feel like a bargain.

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Cartoons about a robot holding a guy's hand as he asks for a raise, sees the doctor, etc.
April 10th - Robot hand-holders are finally here!

There’s no doubt what my favorite tech story of this week was: the one about robots in Vietnam that help people to cross busy streets. Designed by researchers from Duy Tan University, the humanoid robots hold pedestrians’ hands at intersections and lead them from one side of the road to the other. How great is that? I think we could all use a hand-holding robot to help us navigate tough or stressful situations in life. Or, better yet, to keep us from getting into such situations in the first place.

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Cartoon about live streaming
April 3rd - Breaking up is hard to do, but easy to live stream

Out of nowhere, seemingly, live streaming through smartphones has become a real thing. Recently released apps Meerkat and Periscope have made it very easy for us to share live videos of whatever we’re doing, and even easier for other people to watch along and comment. The potential for useful and fun applications of live streaming is great - as is the potential for, um, awkwardness. You’ve been warned!

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Cartoon of a man holding a leash attached to a drone
March 27th - The FAA is being a serious drone buzzkill

This week Amazon let the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have it good for being so slow to approve the company’s request to test out drones that it would like to eventually use to deliver packages (later in the week, the FAA gave Amazon the go-ahead to begin test flights). Amazon is also unhappy with a set of drone regulations proposed by the FAA that would be pretty limiting, from Amazon’s point of view, at least. The proposed rules, for example,  would require that drones be flown in sight of their operators at all times. All in all, the FAA is seriously harshing drone-fans’ mellow.

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Cartoon with Clippy and Internet Explorer in retirement
March 20th - Internet Explorer’s golden years are looking dim

Microsoft confirmed this week what has been rumored for some time: that it is killing off the Internet Explorer brand. A new yet-to-be-named browser will debut in Windows 10, though IE will live on in some versions for compatibility reasons. Whether or not you’ll miss Microsoft’s old warhorse, you’ll have to admit that IE’s retirement years aren’t looking too exciting. Farewell, old frenemy!

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Guy showing off his $10,000 Apple Watch to two women
March 13th - Consult your doctor before buying a $10,000 Apple Watch

This week Apple finally revealed the full details on its new smartwatch. The Apple Watch will come in several different flavors, that is, different sizes, casings, and bands. Prices will range from $349 for an aluminum Watch Sport all the way up to $10,000 for an 18K gold Watch Edition. This news, of course, has left most of us scratching our heads asking, “Who the heck would buy a $10,000 smartwatch?” If you have the money and the inkling to be one of those people, you might want to swing by your primary care physician first for a checkup.

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Cartoon of a man getting yelled at for putting his feet up on the phone charger (a coffee table)
March 6th - IKEA’s phone charging furniture will revolutionize home arguments

Earlier this week at the Mobile World Congress in Spain, everybody’s favorite low-cost Swedish furniture store, IKEA, introduced furniture that will wirelessly charge your phone. As the owner of far too much IKEA furniture, I look forward to one day cutting the cord and charging my phone by just putting it on the coffee table. However, I don’t look forward to the new ways that I’ll be able to get in trouble.

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Woman on front stoop with large car-sized box from Apple
February 20th - Apple is reportedly developing a new way to get our money

We learned recently that Apple may be secretly developing its own car. Assuming an iCar does happen, if you’re the type who buys the latest gadget as soon as its available, you better make sure you’re on the same page about buying one with your significant other. Otherwise, he or she may not be too happy when a really big package from Apple arrives on your doorstep.

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A couple sitting on the couch in front a smart TV, speaking under a Cone of Silence
February 13th - It might be time to go back to a dumber TV

I love my smart TV; having access to apps and the Internet through my ginormous flat screen TV gives me even fewer reasons to ever get off the couch. Now, though, things may have gone too far. Samsung is apparently warning owners of its smart TVs that “personal or other sensitive information” that you speak around your TV could be picked up its via voice recognition capability and transmitted to a 3rd party for transcription. Great. So, it’s probably time to either go back to a dumb TV, or invest in a Cone of Silence.

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A lawyer for Sprint on the phone about the RadioShack deal
February 6th - Sprint’s lawyers better read the fine print

Sad news this week: It appears that RadioShack will soon be no more. The New York Stock Exchange has suspended trading its stock and word on the street is that the 94 year-old company is considering filing for bankruptcy and may be selling half of its stores to Sprint. In reaction to this news, many people mentioned how RadioShack was the go-to place to pick up batteries for those new consumer electronics that came with the warning “Batteries not included.” Naturally, then, if you’re thinking of buying RadioShack’s stores, there’s one question you’ll want to be sure to ask...

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A robot twerking
February 3rd - Why you shouldn’t worry about robots taking over anytime soon

If you’re the kind of person - like, for instance, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking - who worries about machines one day becoming smart enough to instigate a Terminator-like war against humans, then the work going on at the University of Maryland should make you sleep better tonight. Researchers at that school have created robots that are actually learning how to do things by watching YouTube. So far, they’ve learned how to cook but I have no doubt that the more they watch YouTube, the dumber and lazier they’re going to get, just like the rest of us. Bullet dodged!

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Kid in the snow saying Hey ma! Find My iPhone found dad's iPhone - and dad!
January 30th - Find My iPhone can find more than your iPhone

The biggest tech stories of the week were about the news that came out of Microsoft’s Windows 10 event on Wednesday. Among other things, they announced that Windows 10 would be free for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, an Xbox app is coming for Windows 10 and they revealed the new Windows HoloLens. That last one is what I thought was the most interesting: it’s an augmented reality headset that will let you interact with holograms that will appear around you. Of course, when people hear the term “augmented reality” they may get the wrong idea, so don’t get your hopes up.

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A woman in the Microsoft store trying on the Windows HoloLens headset.
January 23rd - When reality needs more augmenting

The biggest tech stories of the week were about the news that came out of Microsoft’s Windows 10 event on Wednesday. Among other things, they announced that Windows 10 would be free for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, an Xbox app is coming for Windows 10 and they revealed the new Windows HoloLens. That last one is what I thought was the most interesting: it’s an augmented reality headset that will let you interact with holograms that will appear around you. Of course, when people hear the term “augmented reality” they may get the wrong idea, so don’t get your hopes up.

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Linus Torvalds standing in a room saying, Wait, what did I come in here to rant about, again?
January 16th - Happy belated birthday, Linus Torvalds!

Linus Torvalds is known for lots of things, like creating Linux and Git. He’s also known for not being shy about expressing his displeasure with technologies that he finds substandard. At the end of December, Torvalds let loose again; this time his ire was aimed at Apple’s HFS+ file system. Just a few days after that rant, Torvalds turned 45 which means he’s now squarely in the throes of middle age. As someone who’s the same age and often can’t remember why he came into a room, I can only imagine that Torvalds also has the occasional “senior moment.”

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Chief, you'd better come see this - the Wilson's labradoodle is drinking from the toilet
January 9th - Watch out, Rover, the NSA is watching what you're doing

This week in Las Vegas was the big International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where lots and lots of new gadgets were introduced. The one that most caught my eye, though, was a new smartcollar for dogs, the Scout5000, made by a company called Binatone. This smartcollar will sync with the owner’s smartphone has GPS tracking, speakers (so you can talk to your dog remotely) and a video camera (so you can see what he or she is looking at and doing). When I read about it, all I could think was, “The NSA is now going to be spying on a lot of dog's-eye videos.” You’ve been warned, Rover!

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Guy hungover on New Year's Day, asking Siri for a hangover cure.
January 1st - Don’t blame Siri if you’re starting 2015 hungover

Happy 2015! Hopefully your head doesn’t hurt too much from last night’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. But, if it does, you can ask Siri for help, but be prepared to hear, “I told you so.”

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