Linux-related Spanish comic strip now available in English

By Norbert Cartagena

Since 2001, the es.comp.os.linux (ECOL) mailing list has had the pleasure of reading a slapsticky, snide Open Source-themed comic strip by GonzoTBA. Unfortunately for most of our readers, the strip was available in Spanish only. Until now. But does it deliver in English as well as it does in Spanish?
The world of Open Source software is a place where information freely flows
from denizen to denizen, available to any who cares and dares to look for
it. This set of ideas has successfully created a sub-culture that has over
time developed its own identity, its members generally sharing a set of views
and values that can over time become stronger than the confines of their
nation’s borders. The sense of humor of this sub-culture has developed a life
of its own, including a number of comic strips based on the life from the
eyes of its members. The most famous example of this is, of course, Illiad’s
User Friendly.

Recently, another
comic strip made its debut, at least to the English-speaking world. The Dilbert-like strip is written
in Spain and comes to us via the es.comp.os.linux
(ECOL’s home page is in Spanish). The comic strip, created
by GonzoTBA, doesn’t officially have a name, so I’ll refer to it simply
as the ECOL comic strip (sp).
Note: all links to the comic strip will go to the English version
of the strip. The Spanish version link will will be denoted with “sp.”

The ECOL comic strip is based on the lives of two characters, Bilo and
Nano. Bilo is a Linux geek, a member of the es.comp.os.linux mailing list.
He runs Debian, IceWM, is a fervent user of Vim (he strives to understand why
people use Emacs), and enjoys getting his little “pet” robot high on FreeBSD.
His roommate is Nano, your above-average, porn-addicted Windows user. The
ECOL comic strip takes a humorous look at Linux, its newsgroups, SPAM, computers
in general, life, death, and sex (well, mostly porn).

The comic strip uses a variety of common situations within the lives of
Linux users to create a humorous look at the world that surrounds most of
us in this community. Like other comic strips, it can sometimes get a bit outlandish,
but generally stays in the realm of plausibility. GonzoTBA has a habit of
using more graphic language and content than I’m used to in my comic strips,
but I have to admit, it had me laughing out loud a number of times. With
episodes about the eternal Vi vs. Emacs debate
(sp), graphics vs. command line (sp), and — of course
distro wars (sp), anyone familiar
with the culture of the Linux world will find this very amusing.

Provided you know Spanish…

The transition over to English has not been a particularly smooth one.
A number of episodes rely heavily on the sounding out of letters or words,
word connotations and cultural understanding. Unfortunately, that doesn’t
bode well for the translations. About half of the episodes are universal (sp) in their scope and
funny in any language. The other half, however, just don’t make much sense
in English
A second problem is that using the current translation method, some of
which is side-splittingly funny in Spanish is only mildly humorous in English.
The author (or the translator) attempts to alleviate this by sometimes changing
the strip to suit the need of the language, but although this looks promising,
it still has a ways to go.

Overall, the comic strip should be enjoyable to both English and Spanish
readers. English-only readers, however, might have a hard time understanding
some of it. This might push away some first-time English readers, but if we can expect some improvement in the translation, this strip could become a long
standing favorite of many in the Linux community. For now, perhaps should start linking
to the comic.


  • Management