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Exposing those technology myths

We’ve all heard the tales about how excessive cell phone use can lead to cancer or other health problems; or how watching violent video games can make you more aggressive. But how much truth is there to these stories? Are they based on fact, or are they the digital equivalent of old wives’ tales?

The Online Mom takes a look at some of the top technology myths and asks True or False?

Mobile phones can interfere with airplane navigation systems

Despite the continuing ban on the use of cell phones on most commercial flights, “there is practically no evidence to say mobile phones pose a risk,” says Dr. Adam Burgess, author of Cellular Phones, Public Fears and Culture of Precaution. So why the ongoing ban? Apparently that has more to do with the potential annoyance factor than anything else. Surveys of both passengers and flight crews have repeatedly come down against the use of cell phones while planes are in the air.

Verdict: False

Macs are immune to viruses

For years, one of the biggest selling points of Mac computers is that they appear to be immune from viruses, or at least far less prone to attack than PCs. However, it’s all a matter of market share suggests Clive Longbottom, a director at IT analyst Quocirca: “They could (get viruses), but with Apple’s share of the desktop computer market in the low single digits, it hasn’t been financially viable for hackers to go after them.”

However, that is all changing. Apple’s market share in the U.S. is now over 10% and security companies such as Kaspersky are seeing rising demand for Mac versions of anti-virus software.

Verdict: False

The more megapixels, the better the picture

It has long been the camera industry’s basic quality equation: the more megapixels a camera has, the better the picture it will take. This has worked well for the camera manufacturers, allowing them to effectively charge by the megapixel, and convince consumers that a more expensive camera will automatically make them better photographers.

Not so, says photography expert Ken Rockwell on consumer technology web site CNET: “Sharpness depends more on your photographic skill than the number of megapixels, because most people’s sloppy technique or subject motion blurs the image more than the width of a microscopic pixel.”

Unless you are planning to blow up your picture to billboard size, a well-taken 3-megapixel shot will look much like a 10-megapixel photo.

Verdict: False

It is best to run your battery all the way down before you recharge it

Most people charge their cell phones and other high-use tech devices overnight whether or not the battery has been drained. Does it matter? Yes, say the experts. If you plug in a half-charged battery, some of the components in the battery will settle and lose their ability to recharge. If this is done repeatedly, you will end up weakening the battery, so it holds its charge for much shorter periods.

Verdict: True

Girls don’t play video games

Although the stereotype of the basement-dwelling video gamer is predominantly male, the percentage of women playing games has steadily increased over the past decade. Reuters reports that nearly 40 percent of gamers are now female, and women actually outnumber men when it comes to web-based gaming. The video game industry has recognized the importance of this female demographic and is increasingly producing games that exclusive target women.

Verdict: False

Sensitive information can be recovered from your hard drive even if you have deleted it

Once we hit delete on our computer, those embarrassing photos and sensitive financial files are gone forever, right? Not true, according to security experts. Apparently, “deleting” information merely tags the hard drive disk space as available for new data, rather than erasing the previous data. This means that data-recovery experts – or identity thieves – can still read “deleted” information.

However, there are programs that can effectively “wipe” a hard drive. For Mac users, the Mac OS X operating system has a “secure empty trash” option, which will also get the job done.

Verdict: True

Airport X-Ray machines can erase or damage digital memory cards

The U.S. Transport Security Administration states unequivocally that “our screening equipment will not affect digital cameras and electronic image storage cards.” If you doubt the word of the venerable TSA (shame on you!), then industry tests tend to back them up. In fact, compact Flash cards and other storage cards are a lot more resilient than you think: they can be dropped in a drink, run through a washing machine, and even left out in the snow and they will still retain their data.

Verdict: False

And finally, what about those health concerns surrounding the use of cell phones and aggressive behavior caused by violent video games? Perhaps, no two areas of technology have been subjected to more debate and more conflicting opinions. Suffice it to say that most independent studies – including those conducted by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, MIT and others – have yet to find convincing evidence that long-term exposure to either cell phones or violent video games can have lasting adverse effects.

However, studies continue and the debate is clearly far from over. Perhaps it’s safest to keep those two topics on the “technology myths” list for just a little while longer!

Do you have other technology myths that we can take a look at? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by Robin, posted 12/29/2010, 6:30 AM:

Thanks,you've just settled a few ongoing "discussions"! Great info as usual!!
Comment by Milcah, posted 12/28/2010, 2:02 PM:

Thank you SO much for sharing... I know that I need to change some things :). Looking forward to a new year with you!
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