Top 10 Pervasive Tech Myths That Are Only Wasting Your Time

Ever been told that you should fully discharge your battery to prolong its life? Or that jailbreaking your phone is illegal? Or that you should wait for the newest Intel processor because it's going to be "so much faster"? These are tech myths we hear all the time, and likely spread to our friends -- but most are just a waste of your time (and in some cases, they can actually harm your gadgets). Here are some of the worst offenders.

10. Better Hardware Specs = Better Gadgets

If you're waiting to upgrade your gear until the next big processor comes out, or until the latest Android phone with even more RAM appears, you're probably wasting your time. These days, most hardware specs don't even matter that much. Processors have more power than most users will ever need, and phones come out so often that by the time your dream phone comes out, another one will have already been announced. There are exceptions to these rules, of course -- both for computers and smartphones -- but in general, stop crying over your current device and just upgrade. You'll be a lot happier once you do.

9. Lossless Music Sounds Better Than MP3

While bitrate can make a difference in your music, there's a pretty big misconception that as long as you have a good ear, you can hear the difference between lossless files and MP3. It takes a lot more than just careful listening -- you'd need a very fine-tuned ear, some really high-end speakers, and a specific type of music, like classical or jazz. Don't believe me? Take an ABX test with your own music files and find out for yourself. You may be surprised at the results. Of course, that doesn't mean you should junk all those FLAC files -- they're still ideal if you want to convert that music to a new format later on. Image: Tess Watson.

8. Android Task Killers Are Necessary For Good Performance

Not only have we Android users perpetuated this myth, but lots of hardware manufacturers and mobile phone carriers will recommend you use a task killer to lengthen your battery life and speed up your phone. Not only will they do nothing for your battery life, but most are designed to solve problems that don't actually exist (like running out of RAM). If you experience performance boosts with a task killer, it's because you're killing a task that's either gone awry (in which case you're better off just rebooting your phone) or because you've downloaded a poorly written app (in which case you should uninstall it).

Task killers can cause other problems with your phones, and you shouldn't use them unless you're using a very, very old phone with very, very outdated software. Check out our explainer on task killers to learn more, and if you want to speed up your phone, check out these other tried and true methods instead.

7. Jailbreaking Your Phone Is Illegal

While jailbreaking your phone will definitely void your warranty, people have been going around saying it's actually illegal to do -- which is 100 per cent false. The US Copyright office has officially said that jailbreaking is completely legal to do with a device you own, as long as you aren't using it to pirate apps, of course. That said, there are a lot of ways you're probably breaking the law without knowing it, so read up on those if you're curious. But if you were holding back on jailbreaking your phone, now would be a great time to check out all its awesome, legal benefits.

6. Mac Users Don't Need To Worry About Malware

Mac users have often touted their computers as "more secure" than Windows PCs, which is a very hotly-contested issue -- some say OS X's Unix underpinnings make it inherently more secure, while others claim it's only because the Mac isn't a big target for viruses. Either way, it's important to note that while viruses aren't as widespread as they are on Windows, Macs are far from immune -- in fact, we've already seen a few instances of real Mac malware. Don't let your choice of OS obscure the fact that safe browsing and common sense are the best protection against viruses and other malware. After all, just because that email virus didn't infect you doesn't mean you didn't pass it on to your other Windows-using friends.

5. You Should Buy An Extended Warranty For New Gadgets

No matter how careful you are, we've all broken at least one gadget in our lives -- and it may have tempted you to buy an extended warranty the next time. However, extended warranties aren't all they're cracked up to be. Sometimes they only cover half the things that could go wrong, or sometimes the chances of your device failing are just plain slim. Instead, you're better off setting up an extended warranty fund for yourself -- as long as you aren't really clumsy, you'll probably come out ahead in the end.

4. You Should Fully Discharge Your Laptop Battery Every Time

Battery life is always at a premium these days, and you've probably heard a whole host of tricks for keeping your battery in tip top shape. This particular myth -- that you should fully discharge your battery every time you use it -- is left over from old nickel cadmium batteries that suffer from a memory effect no longer present in modern lithium batteries. Today's batteries take less maintenance, but there are still some good ways you can prolong its lifespan, so check out our guide to battery care for more info.

3. Password-Protected Wi-Fi Networks Are Safe From Hackers

So you've heard about how important security is on public Wi-Fi networks, but a lot of people are still misinformed about what really constitutes a public network. Just because your network's protected with a password doesn't mean it's secure. In the case of home networks, it means it's secure from outside hackers, but if you head to a coffee shop or hotel, that network is still public. Anyone with a password can still connect to the network (like other coffee shop patrons) and potentially sniff your traffic.

So, unless you're at home, always protect yourself when connected to Wi-Fi -- you never know who else is connected. Image: °Florian.

2. Peerblock Will Keep You Safe And Anonymous On Bittorrent

A lot of BitTorrent users are looking to cover their tracks these days, and most are doing so by enabling encryption and using something like PeerBlock to keep unwanted eyes from watching their downloads. However, this does not make you anonymous in any way -- encryption only keeps your ISP from throttling you, and PeerBlock is not even close to being foolproof. If you really want to stay anonymous, you have to use a VPN or a proxy service like BTGuard. You can also use a private tracker, which offers other benefits as well, but still isn't quite as secure as other methods.

1. [Insert Tweak Here] Will Speed Up Your Computer

These are some of the worst myths out there. Everyone's always looking for a quick, free way to drastically increase their computer's speed, and a lot of them are loads of baloney. At best, they'll do nothing, and at worst, they can actually degrade performance. If you really want some speed boosts, upgrade your hardware, or at least make sure you're performing regular maintenance. With proper care, you should never need to do a clean install of Windows again.


Comments

    No.9 isn't a myth to me because I only ever listen to classical music, which is the only time I bother with lossless (synthesised music is pretty pointless in lossless).

      This is completely wrong. Classical music is made up of "natural" sounds, which are a lot easier to compress using psychoacoustic methods, as used in most lossy compression formats. It's the highly synthetic sounds which suffer from lossy compression. For example, grab some chiptune music made up of mostly square wave instruments, compress it into MP3 or OGG at a low bitrate, and suddenly your squares start sounding sloppy and closer to a saw or sine wave.

    I don't know about #8 - on my Galaxy Nexus, before I started using Advanced Task Killer, my phone's battery life was about 60% of what it is now. However, I wasn't tracking how much I was using it so I can't say for sure.

      If ATK is extending your battery life, you need to review the apps you have installed. ATK causes way more problems than it solves. It's just a crutch to support some truly terrible apps. Like the early versions of Angry Birds.

    #9 is not completely true, you can definitely tell the difference between FLAC and MP3 (or any other Lossy formats), as most of the time it does clip high frequencies (makes them sound tinny) and slightly muffles lows. You don't even need high end speakers to tell, you can easily tell the difference between the two with a set of medium or higher end ear buds or headphones.

    But most of the cases people don't really care, and when you are talking about trying to jam as many minutes of audio onto a portable device, a slight audio quality drop is a fair trade off.

    Very good article though!

      +1 to this.
      Although, the brain has a very large influence on what we hear, and I haven't done much blind-testing. In my experience, the dynamic range is noticeably reduced in 320kbps mp3; listening to Kid A by Radiohead was enough to make me swap out the mp3's for ALAC. I was using an Ipod, and HD-25-ii headphones.

    Re #7 the situation in Australia is less clear cut and American copyright law != Australian copyright laws. Jailbreaking your iPhone probably constitutes circumventing a Technological Protection Measure. Since the amendments made to Copyright law in Australia as a result of the Australia-USA Free Trade Agreement (see Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)) this is prohibited. There are some exemptions etc, as always, but Australians don't have anything as clear cut as in the USA.

    The changes of this being enforced against jailbreakers is tiny, of course, but remember the debacle with PS2 mod chips. Jailbreaking shouldn't be illegal, but in Australia it might be. Just be careful!

    Again Re #7, Jailbreaking in Australia does NOT void your warranty. As long as the jailbreak does not itself damage the phone in any way then a consumer's statutory rights (now consumer guarantees) under the Competition and Consumer Act (which replaces the TPA) are unaffected re malfunction or manufacturing defects. There are practical issues enforcing this against Apple, of course, and they may try to avoid it, but in a strict legal sense your warranty is unaffected.

    The thing is that this list is just another list of opinions just like the opinions out there that claim the exact opposite. Statements without studies and proof to support the argument are not fact. Making it a top 10 list is a common technique to make something seem more legitimate because it gives the impression that something was studied to create an outcome that is ranked in an order.

    Problem is I don't see anything here to add credibility to any of these opinions over an above anyone else's, or what the last person write on the dunny

      No, all of that is pretty sound. It's just refuting common misconceptions. You can look any of those points up if you like and see that they're pretty factual. Your argument is like saying that if someone wants to say that gods, ghosts, magic, unicorns and levitation aren't actually real then you need to see studies or all that is just hear-say.
      The point here is that this list refutes commonly believed bullshit, but those who subscribe to that bullshit tend to get a little toey and irascible when their silly assumptions are challenged.

        'irascible' ? are we a bunch of macroverbumsciolists? :)

    I've got two more myths for you - "jailbreaking your phone will definitely void your warranty" and "a memory effect no longer present in modern lithium batteries". Thanks for coming.

      If you want to be picky “a memory effect no longer present in modern lithium batteries” is not a myth. "memory effect" only ever existed in very specific cases (e.g. repetitive charge/discharge cycles in solar powered satellites). The cause of what is erroneously called memory effect is typically overcharging where the excess energy heats the battery and stuffs up the chemistry and composition of the battery. A good smart charger goes a long way to combatting over-charging.

    #8.. well no you don't need an app to do it.. because it's already built in to the phone.. well at least every Android phone I've come across has a "Task Manager" that can individually kill apps and clear RAM. As for running out of RAM.. no.. allowing an app to run in the background might drain your battery though.

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