Tech myths: The nonsense and the reality

Updated on Jul 30, 2011 08:15 PM IST

An important document, a confidential file, that embarrassing picture – you’ve deleted it and also emptied it from your recycle bin. Now it’s gone forever. Not really. Busting a few claims, legends and rumours. Read on for all this and more in the second part of the series.

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Hindustan Times | ByRajiv Makhni, New Delhi

Time for part two of Tall Tech Tales. No time for chit chat or lofty openings – lots of myths to cover, very little space – time to hit the ground running.

Magic Cables

The whole wires and cables myth has been around for years. It’s most prevalent in the sound sphere (you need very, very expensive speaker cable to get pure sound); but it’s now very widespread in the display field too. Selling HDMI cables has become a big racket. You buy a new TV, and immediately the perfectly packaged Rs 5,000 HDMI cable is thrust into your hands.

You are made to believe that the only way you’re going to get that perfect picture is through the magic of this incredible cable. Hogwash! HDMI ports emit a purely digital signal. Just zeros and ones are transmitted. They are not going to lose anything to interference or signal loss. Either you’ll get a picture on the other side or not. Unless you’re running a very long HDMI cable, you’re perfectly fine with a standard Rs399 HDMI one. Spend the money you’ve saved to buy a bigger TV.

It’s gone forever

An important document, a confidential file, that embarrassing picture – you’ve deleted it and also emptied it from your recycle bin. Now it’s gone forever. Not really. It’s right there. All that has happened is that your OS has just marked that area on your hard drive as empty, it doesn’t touch or remove the data itself. Any file recovery software (there are thousands) can bring it right back in a second. Great news for those who may have accidentally deleted something, terrible news for all those who deleted that secret letter.

The Deadly switch off

Switching off your computer (any kind – laptop, desktop, netbook) – will kill either the hard drive or the whole computer. This is now called the grandfather debate as it’s a question that has been around for years. The answer is – it will not. At the time of the switch off if you have unsaved data – that may get lost (most applications will still try to retrieve it) – but that’s the extent of damage it may cause. Chances of errors on the hard drive or some component inside going phat are near impossible. Don’t make it a habit, don’t do this as a rule, but if your computer’s frozen or not responsive – then go ahead and switch it off. It’s not going to implode on itself.

Size zero doesn’t work here

Conventional wisdom said that you must drain your battery to zero before you recharge. This was true earlier as the underlying battery technology at that time was Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH), which had a notorious memory effect. Modern equipment, including laptops, phones and tablets, use lithium ion batteries and they do the exact opposite. They can actually lose maximum battery charge if you take them down to zero as the batteries develop a chemical resistance to recharging, which can kill their lifespan. Recharging often and every day is a more idiot-proof and safer option.

The 750 Million Dollar question

A myth that rears up every few months. Facebook is going to start charging for its services. On the face (!!) of it, it makes a lot of sense. At about 750 million users, each charged just a dollar a month – Facebook could generate an incredible sum of money. The probability is nil.

Facebook makes embarrassingly ugly sums of money from advertising and selling off data (and keeps finding new ways to do it). The whole business is based on getting more and more people there. A subscription model would kill that phenomenal growth within seconds. And now with Google+ giving it a few shudders (25 million and growing); the chances of you paying for Facebook are as much as Bill Gates giving you free money. Which conveniently brings me to the next big myth.

He’s not that rich

Bill Gates is conducting an experiment. Forward the test email (tracked by them) and for every person you forward the message to, Microsoft will pay you hundreds of dollars. And for Bill Gates it’s no problem as he will just write it off as a small marketing expense. Be truthful. How many times have you got this mail and how many times have you frantically mailed it to everyone you know? And the cheque still hasn’t come. It never will. It’s an old practical joke. Nobody is going to ever pay you to forward a mail; even Bill Gates isn’t that rich! (And while we’re at it, no Nigerian uncle of yours has left you a fortune and no bank in London has suddenly found a secret account opened in your name by an admirer.)

Next week, I’m going to take on legends from the world of the mobile phone. From petrol pumps that may catch fire if you use a phone, to how you can kill patients in ICUs by using a mobile in their vicinity, to how you can open a locked car door with just a mobile phone, to how carrying your cellphone in your pocket can render you childless and what is the secret technique to recover a lost or stolen mobile phone. And no, I haven’t forgotten – the code that will unlock a secret battery inside your mobile phone that will power it up when all hope is gone.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at

From HT Brunch, July 31

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