Duel In The Somme – Page 24

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77 Responses to “Duel In The Somme – Page 24”

  1. Geoffrey Kidd says:

    "I'll write the letter to Kelso." followed by "If the flight gets too bumpy..." whatever happens between Tom and Lorraine, they're going to go far and enjoy their lives mightily along the way.

    To Ben, Rob, and Bill: Thank you all for one heckuva fun ride.

  2. Omikron says:

    Eh, personally, I would rather have seen a confrontation between the two. However, the fact Kelso made it imperative that Tom hide what he was doing with the physics and just assumed he was flying a vanilla fly sim did make it easy to rip KEI off and grab the precious intellectual property.

    • Adam Ek says:

      IP Theft? Depends on how the contracts were written. Just as the employee's invention belongs to his direct employer if invented on company time. Often a company working on subcontract had to license full rights to the primary contractor. I've worked on projects with contracts like that.

      • Mad David says:

        Of course, just as the IP belongs to Cognotech, Tom's work belongs to KEI. So his is committing a crime by taking his flight simulator directly to Cognotech for personal profit.

        • hfinn says:

          No, the "flight simulator" is just the physics engine--- the very fluid dynamics simulator that CogNoTek hired KEI to write. It ALREADY BELONGS to CogNoTek.

      • ollie says:

        1. the engine was a project he was specifically told NOT to work on
        2. he did the work on the weekend, on his own time
        3. if he was hired for a specific job (contract) he may well be free to keep tools he developed to accomplish that contract but were not part of the end product (i.e. he was hired to produce a specific product, not the tools he used to accomplish this). It would be like a carpenter, who would keep the jigs and templates he used to produce the cabinets he was hired to make, and could use the same templates to make other cabinets, unless the customer paid him not to.

    • hfinn says:

      Don't be silly. It's pretty obvious what the situations was. CogNoTek hired KEI to build a "fluid dynamics solver". Our Hero, employee of KEI, writes ToBIAS, which is not just a "fluid dynamics solver", but a general purpose detailed physics simulator. ToBIAS already belongs to CogNoTek, and the contract allows Lorraine to headhunt Zapopolis, so there is nothing to worry about. The only concern, apparently, is that Kelso might delete ToBIAS and default on the contract out of spite... hence the "make a backup" part.

  3. Krenn says:

    um..... technically, Zorro there just committed intellectual property theft, and lorraine is an accomplice to it. not to mention terrible contractor ethics on both their parts....

    Not that I'm unsympathetic, but it is a problem.

    • Gekko71 says:

      It's only theft if they copy the IP and take it to Cognotech.

      My two cents: Lorraine asks Tom to back up his code - she does not say bring it with you. She also Instructs Tom to take the the code out and put in the flight sim - thus making TOBIAS compliant with his boss's instructions. Just because she nabbed Tom does not mean they stole IP. IF the IP that was removed from TOBIAS is filed with the other developmental notes and always remains in KEI hands, then there is no theft.

      I couldn't see anywhere in their dialogue where Lorraine or Tom suggest or say that the code Tom wrote or his associated algorithms be taken to Cognotech.

      Also, Lorraine does not promise Tom anything, apart from the fact that she would spend the weekend with him. Sex is not promised by either party - though Tom obviously wishes for it. :-)

    • pjz says:

      Actually it's a pretty standard clause in any contract agreement like described where any intellectual property developed on company time/company resources belongs to the employer, not to the employee, whether "employee" is a single human being or a company. This is why, for example, a guy working for Intel invents a nifty new processor, and the patent is owned by Intel rather than the guy who invented it (although one would hope that Intel would compensate the guy well).

    • reteo says:

      There was no theft. ToBIAS is owned by CogNoTek. The "vanilla" flight simulator was the design specced by Kelso. The code Tom worked on over the weekend were outside Kelso's specs, and outside company time, using CogNoTek assets. The only reason they kept it secret was to prevent an attempt by Kelso to try and claim credit for the code.

  4. Alt Monkey says:

    To Ben, Rob, and Bill: Enjoyed every twist and turn. A good story to the end.

  5. Bartimaeus says:

    Well done.

  6. Peter says:

    Heh. Now I just wish I could see Kelso Sr. chew out his son when he realizes that his kid just lost him his best programmer and a lucrative contract, with nothing to gain but a date with a woman who chose not to honor the agreement. This is all in addition to ignoring good advice given to him by his underlings who know much more about the field than he does.

    • Tom says:

      She never actually said she'll go out with who ever won the battle.
      She only offered the weekend trip as an incentive to finish the module. Well, the module is finished, and she is going on a weekend trip.

  7. Dave Wadsworth says:

    I not ready for it to end, more! more!! MORE!!!!!!


  8. Spekkio says:


    After Erfworld, I was expecting so much more.

    • Your expectations (which I infer relate to the writing in this semirealistic-science-fiction short story as compared to the writing in Balder's continuing fantasy epic) were misplaced. I know the credits say "Written by Rob Balder and Ben Bova," but they also say "based on a story by Ben Bova." The comic is an adaptation of an existent piece of Bova's writing into a comic rendered in Holbrook's art; presumably Balder's function was more in helping turn paragraphs into panels than contributing new plot to an already-functional story.

  9. Snuffy says:

    So it appears that Lorraine didn't go do the Hooters thing ... It would have been interesting to see the reaction to Kelso when he realized that the prime objective completely blew him off.

    Any chance of a continuation of this? Ya'll did a good job, I'd like to see more.

  10. Sidney Parham says:

    Thanks, guys. That was awesome. Really enjoyed the comic, and I plan to donate. It was great.

  11. Vorlonagent says:

    Did I *not* say that Lorraine's company could poach Our Hero? If Lorraine is sneaky enough to steal KEI's IP, it wouldn't matter much whether their contract also gives her company the right to headhunt. She'd have Our Hero working for her company. Makes you wonder if Lorraine is really that nice. Will she pay Our Hero all that much attention once he's signed to CogNoTek? There's two sides to being conniving enough to steal IP.

    The physics engine itself isn't the big deal anyway. I'm mildly surprised Lorraine bothered to steal technology her company is already licensing. It's the guy who wrote it that matters. With the Indispensable Man of the project gone, support would be a nightmare and if KEI isn't supporting ToBIAS, CogNoTek would need the rights to KEI's code itself anyway.

    From a writing perspective, it makes perfect sense. Taking KEI's employee, and code is the only way Lorraine was ever going to screw Kelso. And Our hero, Tom, needs to deliver some comeuppance to his "Geek herder" boss. Stealing IP is one way of doing that.

    But seriously, Tom. That's a kludgy fix that will come back to haunt you. When you get settled in, fix the explosion problem for real.

    • Maestro says:

      I think Lorraine's willing to steal the IP more because Kelso's such a jerk than that she's an inherently bad person. It's not too surprising for nice people to do not-nice things in a situation like that. Kelso's definitely the kinda guy most people would like to see screwed over like this. I know I'm tickled to see him get screwed over.

      Also, she probably realizes that Tom's more important than the code, which is why she's head hunting him. Having the code as well is just a bonus. Since KEI had that head-hunting clause in the contract, apparently they didn't think much of CogNoTek's long-term skills anyway, and have planned to hire core people away from the start. Given that I'm betting the contract would handle the situation where CogNoTek can no longer support ToBIAS. Just having the source code and perpetual rights to it would probably be enough.

      • Draxynnic says:

        Related to the above: It's possible that Lorraine also sees Kelso's management style as poisonous - Kelso clearly doesn't respect his staff, and Lorraine might come to an entirely rational conclusion that Tom isn't working at his best in that environment - and, thus, regardless of the opportunity for CogNoTek to one-up KEI or Kelso specifically, moving Tom to somewhere where he can maximise his potential is better for the client.

    • Old Prof. Otter says:

      Yes you were right, you called it well.
      And still am, that kludgy fix has to be ironed out.
      A plane is a group of parts flying in loose formation.
      Well it should not be so.

    • Harald K says:

      Oh yes, that headhunting clause does matter. If you run off with code developed for another company, there's a chance they never find out (if you're careful). But if you run off with the employees, there will quickly be lawsuits.

      Actually, that clause about headhunting may be one of the less realistic things in this series ;-) My old company would never have agreed to something like that, at least not without a prohibitively large "recruitement fee" to them.

      • Vorlonagent says:

        When Tom does better work alone than a team of CogNoTek programmers, a full year's salary isn't a high enough recruitment bonus to bar poaching *him*. Lorraine simply can't nab the entire staff that built ToBIAS, much as she might like to.

      • Sam says:

        The headhunting clause doesn't seem unrealistic to me. Kelso's arrogant enough to think *he's* more valuable than any of his employees, so it wouldn't necessarily occur to him to worry about it.

  12. dr pepper says:

    Good ending. But there's some less than rosy foreshadowing. Yeah i hate the jock and root for the geek. But in this case, a bit more business savvy is warrented. A skilled engineer/designer/artisan should NEVER burn bridges. Sure, write "I feel that my abilities are not fully appreciated" and "I'm interested in an environment that gives me more creative freedom", but leave out "Mr. Kelso's little boy is a sadistic meathead who tyrannizes his employees to gratify his pathetic ego", ok? You never know what might happen in the future but it just might include being asked back on much better terms.

    Plus, it seems clear that Lorraine, sharp cheekbone line and all, is an accomplished corporate shark. They may very well end up in a relationship after Aspen, but i don't see it lasting more than 2 years. But i'm also sure that Tom will find it quite educational and emerge from it with few regrets.

    On the third hand, i foresee much egoboo as more and more games add "with the Zapo(tm) Total Simulation Physics Engine!" to their descriptions.

    • Kiroth 6 says:

      It's probably a good thing that Lorraine's the one writing the letter then. I doubt she'd get quite as heated as he would. Honestly I think they'll make a good professional team even if the romance doesn't work out.

      It was a nice enjoyable story, even if it does encourage me to root for corporate thieves. Though KEI really should have foreseen this risk if they were going to allow licensees to headhunt their own employees.

    • FoolishOwl says:

      My read is that both Tom and Lorraine know that Tom's letter would be all about unwisely burning bridges, which is why Lorraine offers to write the letter for him and why Tom agrees.

  13. D. Jay Newman says:

    I don't like it that Lorraine is actually *asking* for Tom to steal the IP. His company KEI owns it even if they don't want it (it was written on their machines for their project while Tom was working for KEI). Frankly CogNoTek should just *buy* the rights outright from KEI (CogNoTek probably they probably have it licensed) and they could get it for a song when KEI couldn't maintain it or do any fixes to it. Since the contract seems to have specified (according to Mister Kelso) an OTS flight simulator, that is *all* that CogNoTek is really entitled to.

    And yes, I would love to see Mister Kelso get screwed, but that would come as soon as CogNoTek talks with the upper management about any changes or fixes to the physics engine now that KEI has nobody who could maintain the sucker.

    And I admire Zorro, er... Tom otherwise. He could have easily won the duel had he used an OTS flight simulator or if he just wrote a few simple cheats - it wouldn't take much for Mister Kelso's plane to accidentally fail or his bullets to accidentally miss. A few probabilities changed would have done it, but Tom preferred to see the duel done with his physics engine and own flight simulator. And even still, when Mister Kelso beat him, Tom tried to be chivalrous.

  14. denelian says:

    putting a "normal" flight sim back into the program was REQUIRED, because Zorro [much better name!] was specifically ordered to PUT THE FLIGHT SIM IN and NOT USE his own program, by his boss pre-being-head-hunted. and since this was a specific order, with a side of "we don't want your stinkin' code" he's all clear on taking it. morally, if not legally [i'm not up on today's laws in this area - but 15 years ago, that code written on his time and NOT to the spec would have made it HIS IP, not the company's.]

    awesome all around. wish i had more money to tip!

    • Sparks says:

      I'd think it would depend on whether the company has a 'we own everything you do under company spec' clause versus a 'we own everything you do while at the company' clause. The latter is now a lot more common than it once was.

  15. Ben says:

    "I'll write the letter."

    Now, you see, that's being a *good* nerd herder. Lorraine knows that if Kelso is left to his own devices, his letter of resignation might phrase things in a manner that could give a lawyer ammunition in a case regarding IP. Even if Lorraine's contract gives her the right to headhunt, this would be a bad thing. Lawsuits are costly, even when you win them, so Lorraine would like to handle the task of notifying Kelso.

    But she doesn't insult him or chastise him in the process. In Kelso's case, he obnoxiously proclaimed that it was his job to stop Tom from doing something stupid, most likely because it was the only way he could feel confident in himself. In Lorraine's case, she says only as much as is necessary to ensure the situation is handled with the appropriate finesse, then lets the matter go. She probably expects that Tom knows (or will eventually guess) why she wanted to be the one to write the letter, and would probably tell him if he asked, because she trusts that if treated like an adult, he'll act like one.

  16. Sten says:

    Okay, I love the art, and the pacing is well done, but I find the whole "I'll come work for your company if you sleep with me" storyline extremely creepy. You could make a strong case for sexual harassment: he's using his power as a valuable headhunting target whose acquisition is probably worth a bonus or a promotion to Lorraine to pressure her into sex.

    • Tumbleweeds says:

      My interpretation of it was that she was surprised that he prioritized romance over the promotion. Likely attributable to her aforementioned cutthroat/headhunting/sharklike mindset. It also demonstrates to her and us alike that he's a good guy and want a moral victory over a technical one.

    • Smith says:

      To be frank, I also found the storyline creepy. Yes, it's a fantasy story, but it's just not the type of fantasy that I want to engage in.

      Still, thank you for creating this project! It was neat to see happen.

    • Alt Monkey says:

      Big surprise, not real fantasy.
      We all knew Tom obliviously had romance in mind, and while his statements to her could be seen as technically "Sexually Harassing." As a "Geek" he is lucky to have said it that clearly and just pulled it off.

      Wow,, as much as all you went wackko over that I could imagine what the out come if they had put a "Easter Egg" like little green Aliens peaking from under the bankers lamps! :-)

      • Mariana says:

        Hummm... you see creepy? I see romantic. Ok, little nerd Zorro was more lovable than (brrrr) Kelso from the beggining, but the last move, "never mind the job, I´d just wanna be with you" would give him lots of points in my book. It doesn´t seem to me that he was talking in a bargaining or, worst, blackmailing way... he just wanted her to know that he´d really like to be with her. Remember, HE was the one who remembered, in the middle of the testosterone fight, to actually ASK the GIRL´s opinion. I seriously doubt that he´d refuse the new job if Lorraine said "sorry, I´m not interested". He just is more interested in being with her, as jobs come and go, anyway.

  17. Inarik says:

    Great web-comic guys, had a blast reading it.

  18. ShneekeyTheLost says:

    I think both guys were *seriously* underestimating her. The only person who is going to come out ahead is Lorraine.

    Kelso won't even realize the gold mine he lost due to his incompetent management style, and is not capable of recognizing how sharp a corporate shark she really is. Hell, he only sees her as potential date material, and his ego is too big to comprehend just how bad a misjudgment that truly is. So, he's harassing the guy who made the most valuable program for your company, told him to go flush it down the toilet in order to meet a deadline, and publicly humiliated him in front of the team, all for the chance to not date your contractor's rep... when Daddy finds out, someone's gonna be in *DEEP* trouble.

    Tom has happily traded away his ethics for a date. Granted, Kelso got behind him and pushed, and doesn't realize what the physics engine is really worth, but Tom should know just how much money that program represents, that he is literally stealing from his (soon to be former) employer. A fact which can be brutally used in the future to trap him in an even worse position, as no one wishes to hire someone who steals IP. Lorraine is playing him like a violin, and will likely dump him at the next most convenient time, once his usefulness to her is at an end. Assuming she doesn't try to blackmail him over this idiocy. He's armpit-deep in gators, and has no clue how precarious his position truly is. After all, he's only got her word that he actually *has* a job with her company. She could just string him along, then leave him stranded.

    Lorraine, on the other hand, comes out win/win. If nothing else, she can scream Sexual Harassment to either Kelso *OR* Tom. She got not only the IP, but the inventor of the IP to keep inventing new valuable things for her, has made him her willing and devoted fanboy which makes him less inclined to pull this stuff on *her*, made Kelso look like a complete idiot, and gotten exactly what she wanted. And didn't have to lift a finger to get any of it.

    • Geoffrey Kidd says:

      Tom has *NOT* traded his ethics for a date:

      1. The "physics package" was, as noted elsewhere in these responses, written by him on his own time, and tested to HIS destruction in the duel.
      The "flight sim package" was what he was ordered to put in, and, unless he has one of those stupid "all your IP are belong to us" work contracts,
      it's *still* his.

      2. It's not certain that Lorraine will sleep with him. It's a DATE, not a make-out session, although Tom may well try to seduce her.

      3. And if Kelso's incompetent management costs him both his best programmer and the gosh-wow to end all gosh-wow flight simulators,
      that's hardly TOM'S problem.

      But I *would* love to see the expression on Kelso's face when he reads the Lorraine-written resignation letter and just maybe figures out
      just how badly he screwed himself.

  19. NerdOfAllTrades says:

    I've been reading this comic, and for the most part, I've been happy with it. The story has been intriguing, the characters realistic, the premise engaging. The art has been great to look at, always getting the story across. The scenes describing ToBIAS and the dogfight were brilliant.
    I'm not too fond of the ending. Don't get me wrong, I like a happy ending... but it's a bit too happy for my taste.
    There are almost no loose ends to tie up; Tom gets the job, the money, the girl... All for sending a sexually harassing email to a colleague.
    Another thing that bothers me... There's two interpretations of Tom putting the better engine in - he's either following a work ethic of "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right" (which is how he's justifying it to himself in his thoughts), or his boss's interpretation. I've been leaning towards the former until this last page. You're proving his boss right - he's not implementing the physics engine because that's how it should be, but because it's a geeky math thing that he wants to play with. If he really cared about doing it right, he wouldn't have compromised his ethic by pulling the engine out at the end.
    Between the romance plot and the programming plot, the end moral seems to be: Don't worry about deadlines or sexual harassment lawsuits; just do whatever you want and things will turn out in the best way possible.
    Finally, as a reader of Erfworld, I'm very disappointed in the lack of character development. None of the characters seem to have grown or changed at all over the comic. Admittedly, it's only 25 pages, but there should have been room for some sort of development over that time.

    I look forward to reading your future endeavors, but this one, in my opinion, just didn't end in a manner that did the rest of the story justice.

    • kagato23 says:

      Ethically, Tom is actually in the clear, at least in terms of "doing it right." Technically, doing it right is doing exactly what his boss orders, especially when his boss specifically said to do that and specifically not to do the other option. Tom would be Ethically wrong NOT to put the standard flight sim software code in. It's frustrating to a "do it right" person, but that's actually what he's supposed to do.

      Now, there's debate above as to the IP theft issue. Is Tom's backup coming with him? Or is it being kept there? So that if it comes to a lawsuit, they can say that they left exactly what they needed right there? IP theft would, obviously, be horrifically unethical, asshole boss or not. But what's not clear are the contract specifications with CogNoTek and KEI. If TOBIAS actually belongs to Cog, that could change a big part of this debate right there. It's possible that they are actually allowed to take any TOBIAS-specific work with them, and only the flight-sim project software and imagery is KEI's exclusively.

      • Blackbird71 says:

        If you want to take that approach, then ethically Tom should have never been wasting company time and resources developing the physics engine in the first place. If he had used the OTS simulator as instructed, he would have lowered the production costs and shortened development time, instead of costing the company money just so he could attend to his whims. So no, eihter way you slice it, he's not ethically "in the clear" as you put it.

        • kagato23 says:

          Was he charging for the extra time he put in? His salary might be annual. Though your right on a technical basis that he was using company resources. However, at this point, his resource drain is comparatively minimal, and certainly not actionable. If not in the clear, he could well be above legal reproach. At best, he could be fired for wasting company resources on that small a scale, and even that would be a hard sell. Considering he's resigned anyway...

          But yes, no matter how you look at it, he went over some line. But it probably wasn't a very large one. Certainly not one that puts his future at risk, or, as narratives go, makes him inherently evil/unlikable.

    • peter says:

      This comic is to "normal" webcomics what a short story is to a novel.

      A novella has its characters more or less 'set in stone', one plot, and no character-developing deviations from the storyline. While we do get to learn more about the characters as the story unfolds, there is no room or time to develop them wihin the timeframe of the story; we get them 'as is'.

      What Rob, Ben and Bill have achieved is that, apparently, judging fro the stream of argued responses, they have put our brains in gear.

    • Harald K says:

      "None of the characters seem to have grown or changed at all over the comic. Admittedly, it's only 25 pages, but there should have been room for some sort of development over that time."

      It's based on a short story. Trying to squeeze in "character development" in that would just be silly, and any half-decent writing workshop will tell you that too much character development and complex characters => soap opera. I'd say the uncovering of Lorraine's personality (we don't really know much about what she's thinking until the end, and by that time we really want to know) is enough literary craftsmanship for a story this short.

  20. Dave Wadsworth says:

    You guys are taking this comic way to seriously. While they may have some questionable actions it's a 'COMIC' not real life; read it, enjoy it, and move on.

    I've read it, I enjoyed it, and now it's time to more on. Maybe we will see what the future holds for Tom and Lorraine, (I hope so) maybe not.

    As Sam Elliott would say, "Ya dun good"

    Thanks for the enjoyable couple of weeks.


  21. J. Palmgren says:

    It was a nice little comic. I also agree that the people complaining about how horrible the possible theft of IP as well bemoaning the future date with possible sex for our new couple have lost their plot as well as all sense of proportions.
    Food for thought: The Flight physics engine was written independently and was likely not even reported on company code logs. They will never know what they had in their hands. The fact that current American IP law allows a company to say: "You wrote this down on our computer so it is ours!" even if it has nothing to do with what the person is hired for is about as moral and logical as if Stephen King had written a novel on a computer belonging to the university he was currently employed at for lectures and they claimed the novel was now theirs to publish. Current IP law... Yech!

    • kagato23 says:

      Mentioned this above, but, if in fact TOBIAS is CogNoTek property (they said KEI is basically a subcontractor, and Lorraine seems to know a lot about the system, implying it's KEI working with it, not making it for them) those same laws mean code he wrote for it may in fact be CogNoTek property if they want it.

  22. Dave says:

    The comic was cute, but it was a little light for me. I think it really needed to be fleshed out more and a little less predictable. I was *convinced* our Zorro programmer was going to alter the physics of the sim to allow him to win against Kelso... "Fix the physics" so to speak, especially since Kelso *depends* on physics to fly his stunt plane. Alas, that didnt happen and it just fell into predictability from there. No twist at the end to satisfy the reader, just a little too "cookie cutter" of an ending.

    Thanks for the comic Rob Ben and Bill. I like all of your work, this one just didn't do it for me.

  23. Matthew Crandall says:

    Very enjoyable work. The story was fun, the art was delightful, and this was a good read all the way around. I wish folks would remember that this is a story, and thus certain things fall out of the real world. That's what makes it enjoyable: it isn't real-world...just close enough to seem like it. That's what makes for good writing, and Mr. Bova is an excellent writer. Go back and re-read his novel based on THX-1138; it made sense of a movie that didn't totally make sense, and yet was written almost as a stand-alone novel.

    A tip will be coming from me soon!

  24. Charlie says:

    Even if the story as a whole may re-enforce existing themes/memes/tropes. I won't fault it. If all we do is extol the work that subverts the established cliches, who's going to reinforce said truisms?
    As it is, I appreciate good art, good dialogue and a well built story. Thanks guys!

  25. Nick says:

    As for the IP theft thoughts - on page 7 Lorraine states that she was there to make sure her company's(CogNoTek) subcontractor(KEI) meets its deadline.
    This infers that KEI was doing the project for CNT under contract. Its rather comman that contract work is done as a "work for hire" meaning that the contractor holds the IP not the subcontractor. As we don't know the specifics of the contract its certainty is impossible. However the limited view of Lorraine has shown that she likes to work within the confines of the contractual authority granted to her. Its also entirely possible the head hunting clause includes whatever IP the employee has created that is pertinet to the hunt.

  26. Matthew M. Florez says:

    Wow! That was nice! I read a book called "End of Exile" shortly after it came out and forever after smile when I read the name "Ben Bova" Thank ALL of you involved, this is a sweet, tidy piece of work.

  27. Mad David says:

    Very simple ethics test: If you have to cover it up, you're not allowed to do it.

    If Tom has to replace his code with a commercial flight simulator in order to deceive KEI into thinking nothing happened, then what she's asking is unethical and possibly illegal no matter what the contracts say.

    And here's how:

    Tom's work belongs to KEI, because he is paid by KEI.

    KEI is under contract to deliver *something* to CogNoTek, but that *something* is defined by the specifications of the end deliverable. They don't owe CogNoTek the airplane physics package itself; they owe CogNoTek a complete WW I simulator.

    If KEI learned that Tom's work was separately worth $15M, they would be legally justified in simply not billing CogNoTek for the time Tom spent developing it, at which point it would belong to KEI--as long as they deliver the complete WW I simulator, which could clearly be done by swapping in the off-the-shelf flight simulator.

    Hence, in taking the air physics system and running, Tom is performing $15M in corporate espionage.

  28. Steve S says:

    I thought DoD owned all the IP it got under R&D contracts...

  29. Jamoecw says:

    Nick and Steve S is generally correct. depending on what the contracts say really depends on what is legally happening. as far as taking out the air physics, and putting in a standard flight sim, that is precisely what he was ordered to do, therefore he can't be held accountable for that. the reason as to why one would bother to take out the air physics in favor of a standard sim would either be so that KEI wouldn't have rights to it, or so that tom isn't in breach of contract, resulting in penalties and such which might cause problems for CogNoTek (and would definitely cause problems for tom.) as far as stealing the IP, it would only make sense if there wasn't a headhunting clause, as without a headhunting clause there would simply be penalties for resigning early and/or working for someone else within a certain period of time, which would mean that all the clause would allow is allowing the employee out of the penalties if CogNoTek hires them. so it would make sense that there is some sort of clause which transfers IP attached to the employee along with the employee.

    as CogNoTek is working under contract of the DoD, the final product would belong jointly with DoD and CogNoTek (and possibly KEI), but the air physics that was taken out wouldn't be, thus CogNoTek could benefit from the code by doing work (approved by DoD, unless TOBIAS was not made in the contract for the full sim) for another contract.

    as far as a business trip being an incentive to meet the deadline, kelso clearly stated that meeting the deadline was all on tom, so one could interpret the contest being moot, as tom is the only one needing incentive. in the end lorraine may or may not be stringing along tom, and what is promised is a business trip, not a date, therefore if tom doesn't join CogNoTek after going to colorado with him (even if she completely blows him off once there) it would be considered sexual harassment, which may or may not be actionable based on what state CogNoTek is based in.

    in the end the only sure thing is that lorraine holds all the cards, and we don't know what lorraine would want to do, therefore this story is a very well told reason for tom leaving KEI.

  30. Kuro_Neko says:

    Sexual harassment: While the message Tom sent was technically sexual harassment, it was obvious that he was just socially inept and lacking in self confidence. He didn't mean any malice by it and didn't expect sex, he just wanted to spend some time with Lorraine. He was actually probably expecting to simply be shot down or outright ignored by Lorraine more then anything else. Kelso on the other hand was definitely sexually harassing her and definitely did expect sex.

    IP theft/headhunting: Since Lorraine specifically stated that the contract between CogNoTek and KEI included a headhunting clause, that's a non-issue (even if such a clause is somewhat unrealistic). As to the IP theft, as many people have already stated, nowhere was it stated that Tom was to take the code with him. The backup code/insert OTS program comment might have been simply so Tom fulfilled the letter of his orders from Kelso. And also, as was previously stated, we don't know the details of the contract between CogNoTek and KEI, so the code may belong to them anyway. Even if it was legally IP theft, since he did it on his own time using minimal company resources and probably never logged it (since he'd been specifically ordered not to do it), he'd likely not be caught and had a pretty good moral argument from some perspectives.

    Lorraine=ruthless shark: Alot of people are being pretty harsh towards Lorraine. Yeah she manipulated events alittle, but it all practically fell into her lap, Kelso did almost all the work. Considering how she supported Tom and then sided with him after he lost I got the impression she was doing the right thing by Tom. Sure that resulted a plus for her company, but it looked to me that that was secondary. I guess the harsher interpretation is possible, but so is the better one. Whether or not Lorraine and Tom would work out, it's possible it would. I'll admit it's unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Irregardless I think they'll be friends.

  31. Jeremy says:

    I think that everyone who talks about how this might work out badly from Tom really didn't read the last two panels. The Battle of Lorraine was won. The best action was yet to come. Clearly he got the girl and she didn't screw him over.

    The biggest concern I have is that unexploding routine. That's the kind of code that creates a refactoring nightmare for him and his team down the road. Write some unit tests for crying out loud. Freaking genius cowboy coders.

  32. macsnafu says:

    Nice little story. And I like the comments concerning IP and sexual harassment, even though I think some of it's just a little overboard. Really shows that the people reading this are not your average online comic reader.

    I like the art, but it almost seems too light, too cartoony for the story. I guess it's supposed to make the story feel more light-hearted than many of the readers have been taking it. I could totally see the artist doing an excellent copy of Peanuts, though.

    And last, but not least, I have to admit that I have a problem with that "unexploding" routine--it's a band-aid for a problem he didn't fix. Not that I'm a professional coder or anything, but I do know a little bit about programming. So that makes me dangerous! ;-)

    • Zorro says:

      The unexploding routine is not a band-aid solution because it fixed the problem;


      There are many cases in which this is the best solution - especially when dealing with a large scale generated world that creates millions of potential inputs. There is a point in time where a simple fix that takes year.

      Awesome comic!

      • Jeremy says:

        Zorro, I would never hire you... no offense but that is just dead wrong and flies in the face of every programming best practice, ever. What creates situations that take a year to fix are when people leave bandaids like that in software.

      • macsnafu says:

        It's an easy solution, but not necessarily the best solution. Something, somewhere is causing the exploding, and he didn't find out what that is. Besides, what if the plane legitimately needs to explode under the circumstances? The unexplode routine prevents that from happening. It can never explode. I suppose the routine could check for legitimate circumstances, but given that there could be several things that could cause an explosion, a simple routine could quickly become much more complicated.

  33. Dave says:

    There is one thing that I find rather strange in this discussion - Tom's letter sure is "a little weird", but are some of you really thinking sexual harassment??

    As I see it, it is an equivalent of asking someone out in a crazy, romanticized way, the weird part being that it is quite unexpected and for a whole weekend instead of, say, a dinner. Again... "asking", not "suggesting" or "pushing"... If this would be qualified as harassment in your country, boy, am I glad to live elsewhere :)

  34. Rogerborg says:

    The fat sleazy nerd gets the hot rich chick? Setting a story about a VR simulator inside a holodeck is a little meta, isn't it?

  35. Darin says:

    Personally, I thought the illustrations were great. Whoever decided to put a circuit board as the background on page 6, last plate when "Zorro" went geeky deserves props, same for the bullseye under his feet in 7th plate, page 17. They were tossed in just like some of the background colors to give feel without overwhelming or hitting the viewer of the head. The angles, the colors, they matched the pacing very well. Pages 15 and 16 are great examples.

    Well done on Art Director.

  36. Old Prof. Otter says:

    I contributed $10 and have not recieved the hardcopy.

    • Rob Balder says:

      You were probably one of the first. We had to send them off to Dr. Bova to get his signature on them. Those just went out in the mail a few days ago, so any day now. If you haven't gotten it in another couple of days (and you are in North America) let us know. Thanks for contributing!

      • Old Prof. Otter says:

        I got it!
        At last!
        Thank you.

        • Old Prof. Otter says:

          Signed by 3!
          Bova, Holbrook, Balder!
          I thought when I had first put the $10 down that it would be signed,
          later re-read the instructions and found that it maybe would not.
          This is very pleasing and worth the wait.

  37. jslau says:

    Very nice, really loved it! :)

    Big thumbs-up!

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