By Andrea Eldridge
Tech Myths — Nerds On Call Computer Repair
“Don’t swim for 30 minutes after eating!” This warning had me twiddling my thumbs by the side of the pool for what felt like hours when I was a kid. There are myths that seem to float around forever, spurred on by someone “re-sharing” them on social media, sometimes years after they’ve been proven inaccurate. Tech myths follow the same course, and they shape our behaviors and relationship with the very technology we love so much. It’s about time to get some of those myths debunked.
More bars on your mobile device means better service…right? Actually, it depends. Your signal strength is measured by the number of bars you have. Four bars means that you’re relatively close to the cellular tower. The problem can lie within the number of people connecting to that particular tower at the same time as you. Think of it as a data river — the more people swimming in it, the more congested it becomes, and the more likely you are to drop your call because you bumped into another swimmer. Also, network providers play a part as well, so your speed will vary depending on the speed of their network.
Emptying the Recycle Bin permanently deletes a file. I once thought I lost all my Hawaiian vacation pictures from my camera’s disc. Turns out they were all still there, but the link to the files was corrupted. Deleting the trash in your Recycle Bin works in sort of the same way, by deleting your computer’s link to the files. The space where the file was contained is re-allocated so that it can be written over again. This is good news for someone who accidentally deleted something important. It can be bad news if you were hoping to protect your data from a hacker. There are ways to more permanently delete a file. Mac users can choose “secure empty Trash” when emptying the bin, and PC users can download a command-line interface called Sdelete to get the job done.
You’ll shorten your phone’s battery’s life if you recharge too soon. This myth likely arose from the old Nickel-Cadmium batteries, used in older phones, back when it did make a difference. The shortening over time of your Lithium-ion’s battery life has nothing to do with how much or how often you recharge it. It has more to do with how many “charge cycles” it’s been through, and this is a finite number. You can expect a Li-ion battery to last you about two to three years, or about 500 charge cycles. Additionally, you won’t hurt your battery by leaving it plugged in all night. Once your battery is full, the technology is “smart” enough to know that it’s full and stop trying to charge.
You should leave your computer on all the time. The experts are pretty firm on their recommendation here. Shutting down regularly has plenty of advantages, and they generally outweigh the inconvenience of waiting around for your computer boot back up. For starters, Windows systems often default to installing updates upon shutdown, so powering down your system will give it the opportunity to stay up to date. Also, it’s better for the environment, not to mention your electric bill. Computers can be power hogs, and left on around the clock — even in hibernate mode — can suck a ton of power from the grid. Finally, giving your computer a rest puts less stress on its components and a reboot can help your machine avoid those weird little temporary system issues that crop up when they’re left on too long.
Macs don’t get viruses. While there are more viruses and malware floating out there that attack PCs, mostly because Windows is a more widely-used operating system, it is simply not true that Macs are magically immune. The Flashback Virus burned its way through about 250,000 Macs, and as a result, Apple changed their “we’re virus-free” stance to “we keep you safer.” The best way to avoid malware on both your PC and your Mac is to practice safe browsing habits and make sure your antivirus software is always up to date.
Private/incognito browsing means you’re anonymous. You didn’t really believe this one, did you? Using Incognito Mode in Google Chrome or Private browsing in Safari does not prevent ad trackers, various websites or your ISP from recording where you’ve visited; it only keeps your browser from doing so. Also, anything you download while you’re browsing will remain on your computer. If you want to truly remain anonymous online, it requires a complicated process of proxy servers or a VPN connection so it looks like you’re in one location when you’re really in another and you can secure and encrypt your information. Try to remember to clear your browsing history and cookies every week or so.