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4 lies you’ve been told about modern technology

Technology continues to advance at an unprecedented pace. With all the new gizmos and gadgets flooding the market, it’s hard to keep track of all the little details that come along with them. Sometimes, facts about older technology mistakenly get associated with new technology and become myths of the modern age. Here are four lies you’ve been told about the tech we take for granted.

Private browsing hides all online activity

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The common belief is that when you click the private or incognito button on your web browser, that you become invisible on the web. Of course, that’s what they want you to think, but really, it’s not entirely true.

Private browsing is best used on shared devices on which you don’t want your browsing history known. It will clear browsing history and won’t store cookies or passwords used in the private session, but only on the device used.

Websites, employers, internet service providers, and government agencies will still have access to everything you did during your incognito session. Private browsing might make it harder for them to track you, but in the grand scheme of things, if they want to find the information, they can. Private browsing is a safeguard only against storing data on your specific device; the privacy stops there.

Leaving your phone plugged in hurts the battery

Person holding phone while plugged into charger
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This myth is a remnant of previous technology. For older batteries, which were nickel-cadmium batteries, it was entirely true. They didn’t like to be over-charged, and, for an optimum lifespan, should be completely run out of energy before recharging. For modern batteries, neither of these beliefs is accurate.

Modern devices run on lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are advanced enough to stop charging when they’re full. Once the battery hits full capacity, the power drawn from the charger drops to a trickle, using only the energy necessary to keep the phone running. As for letting the phone die before recharging, lithium-ion batteries actually prefer to stay between 40 and 80% capacity. In other words, don’t worry about your battery capacity. Just plug it in at night and use it all day.

More megapixels means better pictures

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Camera manufacturers want you to think of megapixel count as a grade for the camera. A 13-megapixel camera is obviously better than one with 8 megapixels, and companies use that belief to sell the “better” camera at an increased price. One megapixel is a million tiny colored dots. The more colored dots that you cram into a space, the more detail your picture is going to have, right? It makes logical sense, but it’s not entirely the truth. There are several factors that influence the sharpness of an image, and the number of megapixels is about the least relevant.

Once you get above 5 megapixels, the images, even blown up, are going to look the same. For the average person, going higher than that is completely unnecessary. In fact, higher numbers of megapixels can actually hurt your image quality in some instances. Camera sensors with more megapixels produce more heat, which can appear in images as speckles called noise, especially in low light. In some instances, a camera with 8 megapixels will take a much better picture than one with 20. High megapixel images also take up more space and fill memory cards and hard drives more quickly.

Having a high megapixel count is only helpful for people who need to crop images to fractions of their original size. Image quality is much more dependent on the camera’s hardware, lens, and, most importantly, the skill and knowledge of the photographer.

Safely removing USB drives

Up close view of USB drive sitting on black laptop
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Always remember to click “safely remove USB device” before pulling it out of the computer. Otherwise the technology police will drop from the ceiling and take you to tech jail!

Don’t worry: None of that will happen, but that’s pretty much what computer users have been told throughout the past few decades. The common belief is that removing a USB drive without safely dragging it to the trash first will corrupt or erase files. The only way that files can be corrupted is to remove the drive while changes are being applied. If you click the save button at the same time as you pull out the drive, yes, things might get ruined. If you wait half of a second after saving your changes before pulling out the drive, nothing is going to happen. The “safely remove USB” button is only to ensure that people allow enough time between saving and removing the device.

In 2019, Windows officially declared that safely removing devices is useless and has even taken the option out of devices running Windows 10. Those of you worried about going to tech jail can breathe a sigh of relief.