I'm still writing up the next "Staying Safe on the Internet" column, but today is yard cleanup day to get ready for the 4th. So today I'll give you all some quick tips to help debunk some common myths. Have a great 4th!
Myths, Misconceptions, and Misnomers
- "I can't download this because my computer is full and I need more RAM/Memory"
Actually, you need more hard drive space.
The hard drive is where things are stored for longer-term storage. RAM is what your computer uses when it's running and it needs quick access to data and programs.
Think of it this way: RAM is like a table, and hard drives are like filing cabinets. When you want to work with a document, you take it out of the filing cabinet and put it on the table. You can have many items from the filing cabinet on the table at once, but once you run out of space, you'll have to either put some stuff away (meaning, close some programs) or get a bigger table (more RAM).
- My ISP says I can download files as fast as 50 Megabytes per second! So why is it taking so long to download this 4 gigabyte file?!
I have to say that the marketing departments at ISPs are brilliant. Here's the thing: You are not getting 50 megabytes per second. Hold on, don't cancel your cable and hire Saul Goodman as your lawyer yet. The thing that the ISPs didn't tell you is the terminology (which they did use correctly).
The abbreviation Mbps means 'Megabits per second', whereas the abbreviation MB/s means 'Megabytes per second'. Note the difference - bits gets a lowercase 'b', and bytes gets an uppercase.
50Mbps = 50 megaBITS (not megaBYTES) per second. The difference? A bit is 1/8th of a byte. Take the binary number 00000001 - the 1 at the end? It's 1 bit.
So how fast is the service they've sold you? Well, 50/8 = 6.25 MBps - that's 6.25 megabytes per second. Which really isn't that bad, when you consider that your computer and the network you're on has so much overhead that you'll never really achieve top speed - it's like you get a car, and the ad says "Its 300-hp engine goes 0-60 in 6.2 seconds". Well, that's pretty nice, but you are never going to need that, ever.
- Apples/Macs are more secure than Windows
- My Mac never gets a virus, it's immune to the ones out there
Wrong, and wronger.
This is a very widely-held belief that I'd like to squash right now. If you get nothing else from this column, please remember this. Apple benefits from "security through obscurity", in that Apple has such a small market share of home computer users, it's not really worth it for your average hacker to write anything for MacOSX. To have the maximum impact, they write malware for Windows.
Also take into account that a lot of the same software is used between Mac and Windows - Apache, Adobe, iTunes, Flash, Quicktime - just to name a few. All of those programs have major flaws and vulnerabilities that get patched and exploited and patched over again - every single day.
It's also worth it to mention that iPhone and iPad malware is now a very real and prevalent threat - why? Because they suffer from the same problem Windows has - a huge market share.
Finally, I'll mention this: A recent hacking competition saw a MacBook Air get owned in just under 5 seconds. 5 seconds was all it took for some random dude to just work his way into the system and get an administrative prompt.
So the moral of the story is, nobody is immune. Be careful out there!
More myths and misconceptions busted after the holiday! Enjoy, and stay safe!