Interesting computer stuff you may not know

By | January 5, 2010

Maybe you have heard of them, maybe you have not. But I’m sure if you use your computer everyday, you probably would have wondered about them at one time or the other. I know I did. Here are some bytes and pieces about computer care which have been oft discussed throughout the relatively short history of desktops:

Should you leave the computer running on all the time or turn it off?

USB connectionThere are arguments for both sides. Some say you should leave it on because turning the computer on causes a small amount of thermal shock to delicate components, while others say that isn’t so.

I guess there is no winner in this argument. This used to be true, but now isn’t (quite). Computers have come a long way since the 1990s; I know, cos I’ve been using computers since the late 80s, and one definitely burned out from overuse! I’ve also left my machine on for more than 24 hours on more than a few occasions. Even then, leaving a computer on versus turning it on and off every day only meant the difference between say, nine years of life and ten. It is now safe to off your machine – and save electricity. The exception is big industrial-strength machines (and maybe if you’re an insanely overclocked gamer), whose machine gets so much hotter that subjecting them to the stress just isn’t worth it.

Do you really have to protect against static shock when handling computer parts?

You know the rules, from wearing a wrist-guard to standing on a static-proof mat to touching the case before grabbing the graphics card. Is there any basis for this?

Although you might feel these rituals are just some kind of old geek’s tale, they really do protect against static shocks, which may gradually damage internal circuits over time. One time won’t do much damage, twice or four times might be fine, but eventually, it takes its toll. However, the good news is, unless you live in the desert, chances are good you won’t have static shock problems at any rate.

Are there really no viruses for Linux, Mac, and other non-Windows systems?

I used to run Macs for a year when I was studying graphic design (because I had no choice). That was when I heard all this talk about the “superiority” of Macs. My lecturer who ran Mac and Linux would take every opportunity to brag about their security. So are there really no security issues on these systems?

Since then, I’ve come to the conclusion that for all practical purposes, there aren’t, which helped me understand why these Mac or Linux fanboys keep on raving about them. But if you want an absolutely accurate definition, there are (some) security exploits which have been found in the wild. They’re just rare, and also easily shot down – most of them have been constructed in security research laboratories. Windows is (by far) still the most commonly found system, so it just makes sense that most malware authors would target it, I guess. But due to being raised on Windows, I went back to Windows. Change is uncomfortable – but I can understand why Mac lovers stick with their Macs!

Does a white screen take up more energy than a black screen?

LCD monitorI believe some wonder about this seemingly petty issue, but 3 years ago, a little hubbub sprang up around Google, which has its search page mostly white. Critics said it burned more electricity to show a white screen than a dark one. Google briefly switched to a dark background, but quickly switched back after users complained that it was ugly. I suspect it was more for the publicity stunt than anything else.

The verdict is, no identifiable power is saved having a black background as opposed to a white one – the monitor is still running and using the same power regardless (which the premise owner pays, not Google).. But if you want to know the “maths,” it is supposedly a big number each day. Anyway, most monitors have switched to LCD screens in the past 3 years, including yours truly….

Are screensavers really necessary?

Screensavers were all the rage in the 80s and 90s. They had a very serious purpose before, which was to prevent monitor burn-in.

Here is what I think: These days, monitors are a lot tougher, especially LCD screens over the old CRT monitors. But screens do still burn in, even LCD monitors. The pattern is very faint (even if it does happen), but it’s still annoying. So if you leave a screen turned on all the time, you should either keep it a solid color (such as blank for hibernate mode), or a screensaver going. My machine uses a screensaver and so should you.

Do you really have to burn CDs slowly?

Burn CDsEver since CD-Read-Write devices became common, there are opinions that state that the slower you burn CDs, the better they’ll turn out. So, do we still have to go slow in burning CDs?

You don’t have to burn slowly any more. CD-RWs and writable media have both come a long way, especially with the higher-end models. So, burn away at 32x speed and don’t bat an eyelid. Out of thousands of CDs and DVDs, you might have ten failures. Cheaper burners may need to stay at 4x speed. But here’s the cinch, if you don’t burn too often, what’s the hurry anyway?

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