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PC World Takes on Popular Tech Myths

Written on September 24, 2010

This month’s PC World magazine’s feature story attempts to tackle some of the biggest “facts” about today’s tech that most every user seems to know, but few seem to know why. Everything from TVs to cell phones to disk defrags were discussed, evaluating how testing and facts stack up to common knowledge. Let’s take a look at a few of the most familiar claims. We’ll name the claim first, then see how the truth stacks up.

Internet Explorer is less secure than the competition?    Blame Internet Explorer 6 for the true genesis of this widely-accepted view. IE6 was notorious for security vulnerabilities that (equally notoriously) took Microsoft a long time to successfully patch. In fact, PC World itself ranked IE6 the 8th worst tech product of all time in 2006. “Internet Explorer 6 might be the least secure software on the planet.” They also cited a 2004 Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) recommendation that users switch to any browser other than IE. As a result of the seemingly endless line of vulnerabilities and patches needed (combined with the ubiquity of IE use), Internet Explorer picked up a harsh stigma it has yet to lose. PC World’s 2010 conclusion? Judging from known vulnerabilities and how quickly those vulnerabilities are patched, IE rates as good or better than the big competition (Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Google Chrome).

You get what you pay for with HDMI cables?    A quick look at the vast array of HDMI cables and the equally vast array of prices for them leads to a logical conclusion: there is a vast array of quality between the best and worst of these cables. After all, surely a $120 Monster Cable performs exponentially better than a $20 Cables to Go Velocity Cable, right? As many these days know, that isn’t quite the case. As PC World explains, the digital signal used by HDMI is a much more robust one than an analog signal prone to interference and distortion. HDMI signals function as binaries – 1’s and 0’s – and it takes a large drop in signal voltage to confuse them. PC World does admit this can happen (usually only on cables above 8 feet long however), and Monster has dedicated an entire section of their website to make the case for their high-priced cables. But when it came to testing, PC World found virtually no difference in picture quality between the top-of-the-line cables and the bottom-of-the-barrel ones. Their conclusion is unless you need to cover a very large distance, stick with the lower price range.

Magnets will destroy your hard drive?    Learning to work in and around the delicate electronics of PC’s, there are certain rules that must be committed to memory and abided. Make sure you’ve grounded yourself and discharged any static electricity. Never work on anything while it’s plugged in. And never get a magnet close to your hard drive. Conventional wisdom says committing this tech sin will reward you with a wiped hard drive and irrevocably lost data. Turns out it’s not so dangerous as all that. The article explains that while magnets were very dangerous for 3.5-inch floppies, anything short of a degausser isn’t going to hurt your drive.

Stay tuned for next week, we’ll see what the facts are for 3 more common conceptions: mobile service signal bars, inkjet vs laser jet, and the true value of defragging.

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