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Question of the Week #42: 42 Questions of Awesomeness!

September 10, 2012 by . 0 comments

The number 42 is amazing, and so to honor Douglas Adams answer to live, the universe and everything, I have collected 42 amazing questions/answers that we haven’t featured yet.  These aren’t in any particular order, as they are all interesting or awesome in some way or another.

1 Storing hard drive near electric wireEver wonder if your hard drive could be ruined while being near electical lines well here’s the tl;dr answer:

In short, don’t worry about it, unless you’re working with some kind of industrial equipment with VERY high currents on that cable (the amount of interference emitted from a power cable is proportional to the current on it). Household currents are unlikely to be a problem.

2 What are PATH and other environment variables, and how can I set or use them? – Environment variable can be a powerful tool to use.  The answer is a great guide on the how’s what’s and why’s of environment variables within Windows.

3 Why do disks fragment? – With the advent of SSD’s and their completive prices there may come a day when fragmentation will become a thing of the past, but for now it’s something we need to deal with.  The answers still provide insight to the woe’s of the the past when it comes to disk drive fragmentations.

4 How does a CPU ‘know’ what commands and instructions actually mean? – There’s a lot of “magic” that goes on behind the scenes as you operate your computer.  All of this magic eventually ends up being assembly level instructions which in turn…  well that’s the question, and the answers are pretty good at explaining the basics.

5 What makes a laptop overheat? – Laptops are notorious for overheating, and this question/answer duo helps to try to explain what it is.

6 Why can’t I email myself at: MyEmail@ IP address is google’s.  What’s really interesting about this question is actually the answer, which goes into great detail of what DNS is and how it works.

7 Determining if a hard disk has been removed and data copied from it? – For all you paranoid freaks out there, this is right up your alley.  There are some great answers addressing how to prevent and how to protect yourself from hard drive tampering/stealing.  My favorite detection is the little sticker on the drive and chassis.

8 Security Concern with my Windows 7 Box at Work – Did you know there’s an automatic admin share on your drive?  Ya kinda scary, but hey at least the account has to have local admin access to be able to see it…

9 How to find the process(es) which are hogging the machine – We treat our linux resources (memory, CPU usage, etc,.) as Gollum treats his precious dark Lord’s ring.  So when we find out that there’s some little computer hobbit stealing them away, we gets a little mad.

10 Does a computer use fewer resources when programs are minimized? – What happens when the program is minimized.  Does it still suck the life away from my computer, or is Windows smart enough to reduce it’s impact.  The answer… depends, but in general it actually does!

11 Why don’t you see binary code when you open a binary file with text editor? – The answer here gives a great explanation of what the differences are between binary files (like images) and text files are.

12 How can I prove (with logging) where a port block is occurring? – Is your ISP blocking ports it’s not supposed to be again?  Here’s how to prove it.  Unfortunately the solution is Linux only, so maybe some of your Windows Wizards can add to it?

13 How do I hit the CTRL key without straining my pinky?Carpel tunnel… the painful reminder that your job requires you to sit on your bum all day staring at a computer screen.  Here’s one way to reduce its onset.

14 Can avi files contain a virus? – I’m not going to lie.  I was scared about this as well, same thing with .mp3’s.  So what’s the answer?  Here’s the TL;DR

An AVI file is a video, and therefore not executable, so the operating system can/will not run the file. As such, it cannot be a virus in its own right, but it can indeed contain a virus.

15 How to store and preserve lots of data? – It’s amazing the the prices per GB that just keep dropping.  Good thing too, because the amount of space we use, is getting bigger and bigger.  But how do we handle all of this data and keep it safe from harm?  This question answers just that.

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16 Windows File Copy Dialog: Why is the Estimation So… BAD? – XKCD says it all:


But the real answer is that this is a difficult thing to really guess.  Luckily the new Windows 8 estimations are a little more on par, and getting better.

17 Is the Windows Experience Index calculation the same on Windows 7 and 8 – The WEI, where Super Users can whip out their numbers and see who’s is larger, and guess what, if you’ve got Windows 8, you’ve got a chance to be even bigger.

18 How can I read my hard drive’s SMART status in Windows 7? – I won’t go into whether or not SMART is smart to use, but it is tough to read those values from Windows.  This question provides a few good answers on how to do just that.

19 Securely erasing all data from a hard drive – Whether you’re an IT professional trying to keep your data from entering the outside world, or an individual with important data, before your throw out those drives, make sure they’re clean of your data, even broken ones.

20 How can I visualize the file system usage on Windows? – With your data getting bigger and bigger, it’s hard to spot what takes up all the space on your computer.  These are a few good solutions on how to visualize them.

21 Windows 7 and Vista Activation FAQ: How do language, version, 64-bit or 32-bit, and source affect ability to install and transfer Windows licenses? – This one is a Community-FAQ and a good one at that.  Activation for Windows is difficult to understand and if you get the wrong license, you might be up a creek without the paddle.

22 How does Windows know whether it has internet access or if a Wi-Fi connection requires in-browser authentication? – OK so I lied, this one was already featured… it’s it’s so freakin awesome that it had to be mentioned again.  It’s actually one of the blog posts that still brings in daily traffic.

23 32-bit vs. 64-bit systems – 64 bit has been around for a while now, but believe it or not, there are still a lot of people that don’t know what the difference are.

24 Easiest way to find out if user has either Windows 7 or Vista (through telephone support)? – Tech support over the phone is super difficult as it is, that’s why we have this cheat sheet:

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But finding out which version of Windows over the phone, was a tough one until now.

25 Computer is infected by a virus or a malware, what do I do now? – Another Community FAQ that’s good to point your friends to when they have issues that you just don’t want to deal with at that moment.

26 Who provides the Internet service to Internet Service Providers (ISPs)? – So I may have selfishly put this one in, but I think it’s super interesting an apparently 194+ other people do as well.

27 Does e-mail address obfuscation actually work? – This is another really neat question that’s useful to know.  The answer is getting a little dated, but I think it still stands, it really does help to obfuscate even just a little.

28 What are the Windows A: and B: drives used for? – This one was so popular that even Jeff tweeted it.  If you don’t know what a floppy disk drive is, then I’m going to feel really really old.

29 How does a computer restart itself? – The answer is like a wiki document, but it’s an interesting read that’s very detailed.

30 Transatlantic ping faster than sending a pixel to the screen? – So wait… you’re telling me that the time that it takes a packet to travel thousands of miles is FASTER than the time it takes to update the pixels on my screen?  Yep! Oh ya, and BTW John Carmack answered it.

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31 Why does performance of a regular hard drive decrease over the duration of a benchmark while SSD doesn’t? – HDD’s have a lot of limitations, one of them being the speed of read/write depending on physically where they’re reading/writing to.

32 Preventing applications from stealing focus – This is one of the questions that still isn’t answered.  If you answer it correctly I’m pretty sure a ton of votes and bounties are headed your way.

33 Which of shutdown / hibernate / sleep causes the least wear to an SSD drive? – While they’re cheaper than they used to be, SSD’s are still expensive.  That’s why Super User’s do their best to reduce any wear and tear on their super fast SSD drives.

34 How can I physically destroy data from a failed HDD? – Sometimes software destroying of data just isn’t enough.  I personally like the idea of thermite.

35 Is a laptop cooler really effective and useful? – I don’t know how many times I thought my pants would catch fire from how hot my laptop gets.  That’s why I got a cooler, but did it add to the performance?  Ya it actually does.

36 Best way to sync Outlook 2010 with Google Calendar on multiple computers? – Outlook 2010 is either really hated or loved.  I personally love it, but hate it’s difficulty in syncing with 3rd Party Services like gmail.

37 How can I read a reel-to-reel tape from the 1970s? – Reel-to-Reel tapes are old school, but still used today. In fact Google  still uses it just in case something really really bad happens.

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38 How to avoid exposing my MAC address when using IPv6? – Did you know that your MAC address is by default hidden inside your IPv6 address?  Well it is, and this show’s you how to remove it.  (Little side note for ya… this one has 42 stars…. just saying)

39 How should I interpret the specifications of a SSD? – Since SSD’s are still new, it’s hard to tell what’s good and bad about the ones that are being manufactured.  This should hopefully help you out a little.

40 What regulates Intel SpeedStep CPU throttling? Can I get some control of this on Windows7? – SpeedStep can be a pain when you don’t realize what it is and what it’s doing.  This question/answer pair helps you to figure it out.

41 How badly do SSDs degrade without TRIM? – Again Super Users are all about getting that last little bit that we can from our devices.  TRIM helps, but what if it’s not an option?  How bad can it be?

42 How does a computer render an object to the screen? – I always chalk this things up to the little Bill Gates mini-me’s running around in my PC, but apparently there’s a little more to it than that.

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