Computers are extremely complicated machines, to say the least. The modern IT world is so complicated and moves so fast that even the most cutting-edge technology ages in dog years, times three. As such, it's no surprise that many people still believe things that are either inaccurate, outdated or just downright fabrications.
Human beings have been described as the "story telling ape". We seek out patterns and stories to explain everyday life, and myths, both computing and urban, are an example of this. In some cases they are useful - parables are an important feature of learning by example - but in some cases they can be counterproductive.
This week, we take a look at some of the more prevalent urban legends of Silicon Valley. Some have a basis in truth, while others are just a good tale to tell. Let us know if you have any favourites we've missed.
mention: Macs cost more than PCs
Shaun Nichols: This one only made honourable mention because, well, it's true on some levels. You can get a Dell or Gateway notebook or desktop PC for less than an iMac or Macbook. The catch is that you also get less hardware.
Apple likes to load even its low-end models with a certain amount of power and connections. If you were to check the option boxes for all the bells and whistles on a Mac, the cost difference shrinks dramatically, and in some cases the PC is even more expensive.
So the rub here is whether you actually want and need the extras found on the Apple computer. If not, then it's cheaper to go with a PC. Pound for pound, however, the idea that Apple arbitrarily prices its systems higher is wrong.
Iain Thomson: Apple has always concentrated on the high end of the computer market because it likes making quality products, and that costs money. But I have to say that a quick trawl through web sites shows that you do seem to get less for your money from Apple.
Looking at base specifications, an Apple MacBook Pro 17in shipped to California sells for $3,036 (£2,137). A Dell Studio 17, pretty much the same machine (although it's not as pretty), costs a touch over $2,000 (£1,407), albeit with a $375 (£263) sale discount. In trying times like these, that's a big saving and it's difficult to see how Apple justifies the price.
mention: Pirated material makes up the bulk of internet traffic
Iain Thomson: In one legal case after another this same statistic gets trotted out: pirated material, especially torrents, makes up the vast bulk of internet traffic. This is a highly useful fact if you're trying to limit some people's bandwidth, for example, or pressing for the jailing of a suspected software pirate. But how true is it?
I've heard figures of 50, 60 or even 70 per cent but, when it comes to specifics, people seem less certain. The fact is that no-one's particularly sure and those that are, aren't telling, or at least providing the data to back up their claims. One court case in Canada forced an ISP to confess that, in fact, such material made up less than 10 per cent of traffic.
What also makes this claim suspicious is that not all files sent by torrents or peer-to-peer systems are pirated. Most Linux distributions are sent using these methods, and plenty of people, myself included, use the technology to send large files between systems. Until I see hard data, I'm treating this with a pinch of salt.
Shaun Nichols: When Comcast laid out its plan to cap bandwidth usage it said that, in order to reach the limit, a user would have to download an average of three full-length movies per day. As few people download entire movies, and even fewer do so every day, the idea that pirated media traffic is clogging systems to the tune that some companies are crying seems improbable.
Maybe this has a little more to do with copyright law than it does actual bandwidth problems. Cable providers certainly don't want to find themselves in the crosshairs of the Motion Picture Association of America or the Recording Industry Association of America for 'enabling' users to pirate material.
Being able to claim that peer-to-peer traffic is clogging the tubes is a nice excuse to discourage users from pirating movies and songs.
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