[NERD ALERT] Nitpicking Last Night’s TV

I know I need to let some things go and I don’t want to end up being one of those guys who can write a thesis on the inaccuracies of a show like House or Law & Order, but two things irked me about shows that I like very much last night.

THE BIG BANG THEORY – I was reminded by my lovely wife that BBT has had different writers recently, which explains why the show has gone from “must see” to “typical sitcom with geek references” in recent years. This week’s episode was a funny one, mainly thanks to Mayim Bialik giving me one of the first LOL moments I’ve had with BBT in recent memory after Amy receives her gift from Sheldon. But the part that irked me the most was a throwaway moment early on in the episode: Sheldon comes out of the bathroom and mentions his annoyance at the rest of the gang’s antics have taken away from his enjoyment of his Batman comic while in the bathroom.

Two things.

  1. Sheldon, previously written as the poster child for Asperger’s and OCD and at heart a comic nerd who appreciates them as someone would their children, would NEVER take a comic into the bathroom. Seriously – the bathroom? I’m surprised that Sheldon actually has bowel movements at times, but there’s no way he’s bringing a comic into the bathroom where a stray spray from the toilet could damage one of the top three mainstream titles currently in comics.
  2. Even if we look past #1, Sheldon comes out of the bathroom holding the comic with the pages folded back. Really? He’s willing to bend the crease of one of his cherished comics (and harming it’s value) for the convenience of one-handed holding? Comic and tech geeks like Sheldon and his group would buy comics digitally if they needed something convenient to read one-handed in the bathroom, while keeping their physical copies bagged, boarded, and tucked away in a long box in a closet somewhere. And please don’t tell me they’re not collectors; look at that apartment.

Think I’m crazy? The Onion’s A.V. Club noticed it too.

BONES – First things first – I loved the episode. I haven’t grown tired of Brennan and Booth as a couple yet, surprisingly, and guest star Andrew Leeds was great as a potential Big Bad. No 44-minute-resolution, but I’m OK with that every once in a while.

My issue, as it often is with Bones, had to do with the technology. I’ve learned to deal with the fact that Angela Montenegro, the artist with a minor in computer science, is possibly the greatest computer expert in the world, creating the magic Angelatron with her vast computer knowledge. But Angela’s magic computer gets a magic virus worm which causes mass havoc, setting the lovely glowing Dell servers ON FIRE due to its effects. We learn that the fire was caused due to the worm changing the settings on the servers so that their cooling fans didn’t trigger until it was much too late.

OK. In theory, a logical explanation. But that doesn’t happen, and I’m willing to let slide the magical way that the worm got into the Angelatron in the first place (trying to keep this as spoiler-free as possible). Worms (and malware in general) exploit an operating system, with worms specifically using the operating system to send itself to other machines on the network (hence it being a “worm”, and not a “virus”, as we are corrected in the episode). But, despite it being government-funded, I can safely assume that the Angelatron isn’t running Windows XP, or 7 for that matter. Since it’s a homegrown magic computer, one would have to assume that it’s Linux-based, and it’s MUCH harder (although not impossible) to infect a Linux machine.

Assuming that this is an uber-l33t piece of Linux malware that manages to infect one of the most advanced computers in the universe, it still needs to do something rarer – infect the BIOS. Computer cooling fans are attached to motherboards, which are not controlled by an operating system but by hard-coded instructions in the motherboard itself, called the BIOS. It’s incredibly rare to come across a piece of malware that can infect the BIOS on an easily exploitable OS like Windows, so you can imagine how unlikely it would be to do it on something much more secure like Linux. If a BIOS exploit in Windows is like Horton hearing a Who, one in Linux is like him figuring out that JoJo the Who is the single Who who isn’t shouting “WE ARE HERE!” as the Whos are trying not to get boiled in beezelnut oil.

Assuming THAT somehow happens and the nearly impossible malware infects the magic computer and spreads itself to the pretty glowing Dell servers, there’s one other thing. Overheated servers (and computers in general) don’t catch fire when they overheat.

They turn off.

As a safety measure, there is a function in the BIOS (usually hard-coded by manufacturers) that causes a computer – once it hits a certain temperature – to turn off. This isn’t something that’s in there to make your computer run better; this is a “feature” that prevents the device from getting to a temperature too hot that would cause damage (and yes, possibly fire). There is no reason for a manufacturer to make this setting accessible, since it protects them from liability if/when that 16-year-old who overclocks his laptop to get the edge in World of Warcraft does run it too hot, it won’t damage the computer/house/user and cause the manufacturer to get sued by the precious snowflake’s parents.

So we’re talking about a piece of malware that gets into the Smithsonian by [SPOILER REDACTED], infects the greatest computer ever running an almost impossible to infect operating system, then infecting the almost impossible to infect BIOS via the almost impossible to infect operating system, that spreads itself to other almost impossible to infect operating systems, causing them all to change two nearly impossible to change settings. I guess it’s possible. But it’s a HELL of a stretch.

Now that I’ve shown you the full extent of my geekdom, I’ll go back to my mother’s basement and overanalyze baseball stats for a future post to complete the trifecta.

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