Mythbusting Technology

A recent post on Mashable detailing the way we send our technology items to an early grave got me thinking about some of the other technology myths or seldom observed best practices that we may be unaware of.
Myth:  “I can use any power cord to charge my [insert device here].”
Truth:  Most power cables that have a transformer (some form of box in the middle or on one end) are not interchangeable.  The reason for this is the box actually plays a role in preventing the battery from overcharging or getting too much power, two things that can at best shorten the battery life and at worst destroy the item being charged by overheating the insides or even catching fire.  The differences are even model-specific so, for example, you cannot use any Dell laptop cable on any Dell laptop, you should use the one designed for your model.
Myth:  “I don’t have to stop my flash drive, I can just unplug it.”
Truth:  The majority of the time you will not do significant damage to the flash drive or data if you fail to eject it in Windows before removing it from your computer.  But, there is still a good chance that the drive may become corrupt or short circuit if you fail to eject or stop it using My Computer or the icon near the clock.  A few extra seconds spent stopping the drive is good insurance against data loss.
Myths:  “It’s OK to leave all my pictures on the memory card in my camera.”  “It is better to delete bad images right after I take a picture so I have more space for more pictures.” “I always connect my camera to download my pictures so I don’t lose the card.”
Truth:  This trio of memory card myths are all related, so it is best to address them all at once.  First, most cameras are not harmed by connecting them to a computer to download pictures, but if you do so frequently you should consider alternatives such as using a memory card reader or your PC’s built-in memory card slot.  For point and shoot cameras, note that every time you turn the camera on to download pictures, the lens motor will open and, on DSLRs, the shutter will turn on.  Both are critical parts that are getting extra wear when not in use while the camera is powered on to download.  Plus, the battery runs down faster.  The concern about the card being small is a valid one, which gets us to leaving the pictures on the card; this is not a good idea for many reasons.  In addition to losing your pictures if you lose the card, you never want to get close to filling up a card since it will lock and then you cannot get anything off of it.  A better solution is to save the pictures to your computer and then back them up to a flash drive or external hard drive.  The final myth relates to the space issue, but removing pictures while on the camera is bad for two main reasons – one, the picture may not be as bad as you think since it is hard to see detail on the small camera screen and two, deleting single files puts more stress on the card than just deleting a batch of bad ones when you transfer to your computer.  So use a card reader to download a batch at a time and then reformat the card.
Myth:  “I can plug an extra power strip into another power strip or use an extension cord.”
Truth:  This is called “octopusing” and is actually a fire hazard.  Power strips should only be plugged into a wall outlet, not an extension cord or another power strip.  Also, extension cords should not be used for permanent power solutions or ever used to plug in a PC or laptop.
Myth:  “I heard that new [software or device] is garbage and should be avoided.”
Truth:  It is true that you should not believe everything you read or see on TV.  In the technology world, there is often more than one way to accomplish a task and personal preference and opinion factor into a lot of reviews and rumors.  Something that gets one star reviews is probably pretty bad and should be avoided, but that does not mean three stars is bad or five stars is great.  Make sure to read reviews carefully to see if they mention specifics, i.e., a button is poorly placed or a feature that was once well-used is no longer included in the software.  And do not forget to try stuff out, the demo models are on display in stores for a reason.
Myth: “Only a camera with a lot of megapixels will take a great picture.”
Truth:  If you are a professional taking pictures that will go on a billboard, then splurge on the 30MP camera.  If you want nice vacation pictures that you may want to blow up to 8x10, stick with spending money on features and overall picture quality or extra accessories, since anything above 4MP makes a crisp 8x10.
Myth: “Old technology like desktop PCs and cameras will be gone soon because of tablets and camera phones.”
Truth:  Tablets and camera phones are great items, that have their limits.  Most tablets still cannot display all websites or run traditional software that is used by companies, nor are they easy to use for people who need a large monitor or have mobility issues that make using a touchscreen difficult.  Even the best camera phones cannot reproduce the manual controls of a high-end camera to capture motion or images in darkened venues.  Not that this will not happen in the future, but the end of the desktop or camera is not something to look for this year or any other time soon.
- Laura N.


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