April 14, 2008

Comic strip aims for a fun way to educate new Linux users

Author: Tina Gasperson

Jeremiah Gray wants to provide an interesting way to learn about Linux, so he's created a new comic strip, called Hackett and Bankwell, about the open source operating system. The strip will be published as a series of comic books that Gray hopes will appeal to new Linux users, but he says it is "more than just a comic book version of a Linux training guide."

Gray wanted to do something to help educate new Linux users and accomplish his vision of growing the acceptance and use of the Linux platform. Originally he wanted to work within a more traditional classroom experience. "I was interested in starting an organization like Free Geek, in Portland," he says. "But after visiting them a few times and helping out with their command-line classes, I shifted my focus to developing a curriculum that would make key concepts stick. I've endured enough tech manuals to know they're not very fun to read."

The first issue of the comic strip features Woody Hackett (a penguin), young hacker Jerome Bankwell, Kaori, a novice Linux user just learning how to install Ubuntu on her PC, and an unnamed sysadmin. Woody gets an early morning phone call from Jerome, who is in a different country where it is "the afternoon." Woody flies (on a jet) to an unnamed location, apparently not to meet Jerome (because we don't seem him again in this issue), but ostensibly to help Kaori and her sysadmin friend get Ubuntu installed. They talk about the particulars of GUIs, distributions, and disk partitioning, and in the last frame of the strip, there's a loud crash and we're left hanging until the next issue as to what happens next.

Gray has worked on Linux servers since 2000, but "only got into heavy admin stuff in 2003, when I took a job that entailed more responsibilities." Since then, he's migrated into a consultant role, "performing all sorts of obscure and specific tasks." He's a fan of Ubuntu for desktops and CentOS on servers. What he doesn't do is draw. "Goodness no," he says. "We worked with a few different artists in the States and abroad to develop the characters and the style."

The first issue of Hackett and Bankwell will be available "around tax day [April 15]," Gray says, and he'll have a booth at the upcoming Linuxfest Northwest in Bellingham, Wash., where you can purchase a copy of Hackett and Bankwell for $10. If you're not going to Linuxfest, you can order a copy at his site.


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