Mar 112009
 
Authors: Glen Pfeiffer, Ryan Gibbons

Computer myths are like good New York hot dogs, long and juicy.

OK, so maybe that’s a bad comparison and computer myths have nothing to do with the characteristics of hot dogs. But they do exist. Here are a few common ones that may not surprise you, but will improve your computing practices.

Myth: Apple computers can’t get viruses.

Busted – Yes, there are viruses out there that can and will infect your Mac. We’re not saying that your Mac is more vulnerable than a Windows computer. We’re just saying that it is possible for your Mac to become infected. Earlier this year, some 20,000 Mac computers became infected with a Trojan virus hiding in illegal copies of iWork ’09.

Apple will say their computers are safer because their operating system is based on UNIX, which is far more secure than Windows. The difference is Microsoft’s huge market share. For example, if someone were programming viruses, he or she would be more inclined to write one that affects 89 percent of the market (Windows) not 10 percent (Macs.) So as Apple gains more and more of the market, especially the businesses that hold valuable information on their servers, it will be interesting to see if viruses become more prevalent on their systems.

Myth: It can harm your information to remove a flash drive without ejecting it.

Confirmed – All of us have, at some point or another, pulled a flash drive from the USB port of a computer without hitting the eject button. This is a little two-sided, however. You only have to eject the drive if it is in use (i.e., the light on it is flashing.) Only when data is being used or transferred can problems arise.

Myth: When you delete a file from the Recycle Bin/Trash Can it’s permanently erased from your hard drive.

Busted – Hard drives don’t ever actually erase anything permanently; when something is deleted your computer simply tells the hard drive that it can overwrite the file. Up until that happens, you or anyone else can recover the files with the right software and know-how. Such files can include bank account details, credit card numbers, questionably downloaded content and passwords. So if you are trying to scrub that hard drive down to nothing, we’d suggest you download a copy of Killdisk (http://killdisk.com,) this handy program will fill your hard drive with nothing but “0”s. Now if the National Security Agency is hunting you down we’d suggest you run the program a few times over, and once that’s done grab a hammer and go Office Space style on that bad boy.

Myth: Leaving your computer on is actually better for it.

Busted . no wait, Confirmed? – The argument here is that the hundreds of on/off cycles that your computer will go through during its lifetime are actually detrimental to its lifespan. The culprits are thermodynamic expansion and power surges which over time lead to internal components biting the dust. Years ago those problems plagued many computers, but luckily today our technology has progressed enough to negate these effects. Processors have a 10-year life span and hard drives are tested for tens of thousands of on/off cycles.

If you’re constantly connected to the Internet, any time your computer is turned on, the chances of it being hacked increase. That being said, leaving it on or off is a toss up — the pros and cons are about equal. So friends, with some myths busted, go forth and be not afraid of the unknown.

It would be much more fun to reach columnists Glen Pfeiffer and Ryan Gibbons on Twitter (binaryboys) than by email at verve@collegian.com

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