Google Doodle celebrates Douglas Adams and HHGttG - remember, "DON'T PANIC!"

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Today's Google Doodle celebrates what would have been the 61st birthday of Douglas Adams, the British satirical author who gave the world The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

What started as a BBC radio show morphed into a book, which in turn became a series of books.

In true Adamsian style, the HHGttG series, as fans call it, is resolutely referred to as a trilogy.

(It comprises five books.)

Adams died in 2001, at just 49 years old, of a heart attack caused by an undiagnosed problem with his coronary arteries.

The HHGttG referred to in the radio show's title is a sort of intergalactic Wikipedia-meets-eBook travel guide for freeloading space travellers.

The Guide left behind a range of catch-phrases that have entered popular speech, notably amongst techies and geeks, because they apply so well to the vagaries of IT and IT support.

The best-remembered, and most frequently heard, are probably:

* Mostly harmless, which is how the Guide summarises Earth. (Even in an electronic travellers' Wikipedia, there are bound to be a few articles that are on the brief side.)

* Don't panic, written on the cover of the Guide "in large, friendly letters."

Regular Naked Security readers will have spotted irregular references to HHGttGisms in our articles, from my use of a giant DON'T PANIC logo in an article about a vulnerability that the media was blowing out of proportion, to Graham Cluley's perfectly purposeful deployment of the term hoopy frood, intergalactic slang for "cool dude."

As it happens, Graham's dip into the space traveller's argot related to another Google Doodle, back in 2010, when Google celebrated the 30th birthday of the game Pacman with a playable version on its search engine's home page.

Googlers, of course, are HHGttG fans of the first water, with an operating system distribution called Android, and even a short-lived series of mobile devices under the brand name Galaxy.

The Android in the Guide series is Marvin the Paranoid Android, a robot with a "brain the size of a planet" who is perpetually bored and depressed due to his untapped intelligence.

At a claimed 50,000 times smarter than a human and 30,000,000 times smarter than a live mattress, you can begin to see Marvin's point.

Don't panic

DON'T PANIC is an excellent guideline when it comes to computer security response, especially when malware is concerned.

Sometimes, what seems like an obvious response may be quite the worst thing to do.

That's been true since the earliest days of malware.

Boot sector viruses, like Michelangelo (which had its 21st anniversary just a few days ago on 06 March 2013), used to be the most common sort of infection.

And received wisdom said, "Format your hard disk - it's the quickest and easiest way to remove the virus."

Except, of course, that a regular FORMAT removed everything except the virus, which survived intact in your PC's Master Boot Sector, and could cannily outlive the reinstallation of DOS, the copying back of all your software, and the recovery of your data from backup.

Assuming you had a backup, that is.

Reimaging infected computers is much quicker and more reliable these days, but it's often overkill, and (if you need to do it en masse) can still take ages and be pretty inconvenient for your users.

Your best defence, as always, is not to get infected in the first place.

But even with the best will in the world, malware can slip through. If it does, always remember those two useful words.

Don't panic!

If in doubt, get in touch with someone you know (preferably someone you have actually met!) and trust...

PS. I've been clicking around on the HHGttG Doodle, but I haven't yet found the button that, when pressed, illuminates a sign saying, "Do not press this button again." If there is such a click sequence, and you find it, please let us know in the comments!

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16 Responses to Google Doodle celebrates Douglas Adams and HHGttG - remember, "DON'T PANIC!"

  1. The "Trilogy" is actually six books!
    Although Douglas Adams only wrote the first five.

    • Paul Ducklin · 590 days ago

      I think we can consider the sixth book in the trilogy a sort of "supplement"...that leaves us both correct :-)

      • Colin · 590 days ago

        Quite. I gave up two-thirds of the way into the sixth book ("...And Another Thing").

        ...and I seldom give up part-way through reading a novel.

        But I thought an exception could be made for Eoin Colfer's novel, which really is quite atrocious.

  2. 2072 · 590 days ago

    I cannot see the doodle on Google.com nor on their doodle page : http://www.google.com/doodles/finder/2013/All%20d...

  3. thearchivest · 590 days ago

    Douglas is terribly missed. His brand of humour was unique. But it does live on in others like Neil Gaiman, and in comic novels like THE MYOSHI EFFECT. Happy Bday DNA.

    • Fanboyo · 590 days ago

      Did you know that Innsbruck, where Adams is supposed to have come up with the idea for HHG, now celebrates an annual Towel Day?

  4. Sturgeon · 590 days ago

    Dr Solomon's AV software said "Don't panic" in the help files, and elsewhere I think, quite some years ago; and of course Graham Cluley is a former employee of Dr Solomon's Software company.

  5. JohnC · 590 days ago

    Sorry, but I must offer a quibble about grammar. "...an article about a vulnerability that the media was blowing out of proportion..." should be "...that the media *were* blowing out of proportion..." "Media" is the plural of "medium."

    The children is playing.

    • Paul Ducklin · 589 days ago

      The word "media" has become accepted, in common usage and by lexicographers, as a collective noun (singular in number) its own right.

      That's because we often use it in a way in which is doesn't function as the plural of "medium".

      Much like "agenda" (which even has an unexceptional plural form, agendas) and "data".

      PS. If I meant to write the plural of "medium", I would almost certainly use the regular English-flavoured plural "mediums", much as I prefer to write "geniuses" instead of the doesn't-really-look-like-English "genii."

      • Steve-O · 589 days ago

        How about removing a singular "the" before a plural "media" in JohnC's suggested correction? If yer gonna quible, go all out! Honestly, I prefer the original text.

        Children are playing. (FTW)

  6. Jim Frazer · 590 days ago

    a friend has a slightly different, non-animated douglas adams doodle on her google search page - any idea why?

  7. Andrew · 589 days ago

    It's just as well the comments aren't numbered here, there would be an almighty rush at number 42. ;-)

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog