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The Old Twitter Is Dead – Long Live Twitter

Elizabeth Technology September 12, 2023

What Made You Think You Could Just Do That?

When a company is big enough to become an official channel of communication for the White House, it’s not shocking that jerking it around in an effort to break things off of it is going to break a lot more than leadership bargained for. Twitter, now X, is experiencing quite a bit of seismic activity in response to their rebrand.

Purely From A ‘Visibility of Leadership’ Viewpoint

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the current CEO’s reputation as a funny rich guy is going down the pipes. He launched a car into space! Haha, what a Bond villain! He sold a flamethrower! Haha, what a Bond villain! He smoked a joint on Joe Rogan’s show! Haha, what an Everyman. He illegally started taking Twitter’s old sign down and replaced it with an incredibly bright one that strobes every twenty seconds! Haha…. what… but that’s not….that’s like… Lex Luthor, not Tony Stark. A man who made a program that Twitter bought had to tweet at Twitter leadership to ask whether or not he was still going to receive the money he was owed for his work, and the CEO, barely researching the issue at all, tried to embarrass him into dropping it with private medical info that Twitter The Company did not have the right to share. That’s not even Lex Luthor – that’s abominable.

 It’s important to know these things for context. Musk, the current CEO, is not and has never been playing 4-D chess with this purchase. Turning Twitter into X instead of simply making X is a result of impulsive tweets and communications that (falsely) boosted the hopes for Tesla’s stock price. Remember how hard he was trying to get out of it? Especially the stuff about the bot count? He didn’t want it. But not following through would have landed him in hot water with the US government for stock manipulation, perhaps even insider trading.

He could have made his own social media platform instead of buying the most expensive one on the market, and he probably would have been better off for it if he hadn’t been memeing, but he had something to prove. He had to prove he was funny and cool and so rich he could just buy Twitter on impulse.

Being Important

Musk’s incredible wealth has insulated him from consequences. Worse, Twitter’s status as an important communications tool is delaying further consequences for the company itself. The companies hosting the servers are reluctant to shut it down or throttle. Advertisers pulled away from Twitter, but losing their money didn’t turn off the lights like so many predicted it would. Meeting the definition of ‘doing business with’ terrorist organizations may have already triggered investigations by the US government, but they’re moving so slow it’s impossible to tell what’s happening. The company itself is running on a skeleton crew, but the people remaining are effectively held hostage by visa requirements or somehow believe they can fix what’s been broken. View rate limits keep people from scrolling perpetually like they always have. Despite everything, despite waves and waves of bad choices, bad updates, firings, missed rent payments, bad sources of income, all the things that used to take down giants like Sears, MySpace, Kmart, et cetera, Twitter lumbers on, a giant among giants. The landlord can’t even get them out of the building despite Twitter tampering with the signs outside of it without a permit. Part of the reason people are so eager for the ship to go down is because by all rights, Twitter should have died already. And yet users keep going back! Twitter keeps limping forward! Few websites have ever been able to keep crawling forward like this after getting kneecapped, but by golly Twitter is hanging in there.  

One More Sign, One More Change, One More Anything

The sign’s hanging in there too! The sign(s), actually. The whole reason I’m writing this article is because of the signs and what they represent within Twitter, now X. We know rebranding to X is wiping out a ton of brand recognition. How does Musk intend to make up for all the lost years of bird? By changing the sign on the San Francisco Twitter building into a giant, blinding white Unicode character X. This is after Twitter tried to take down the old sign without getting the building’s permission first, and the cops came and stopped them taking letters off before they were even half done. Both signs, both bad, were on the building at the same time, and neither had the necessary permits from the city to be in the state they were in, either partially torn down or powered up.

Musk’s blinding X sign was an unusual sight on the San Francisco streets because those signs are a genuine danger to drivers at night, so nobody else puts them up. It’s likely that they’re not allowed to. Twitter happened to be right across from a residential building (which is occupied even on the weekends) but even if it wasn’t, several thousand lumens of strobing, flashing light is irritating unless you’re actively seeking it out at shows and such.  It didn’t stay. Like the process for removing the sign, Musk did not get permits to put this new one up – it wouldn’t have strobed like that if he had. It wouldn’t have been as bright, or as annoying, if he’d just gone through the process and let someone tell him no.

History of the Emulator

Elizabeth Technology August 24, 2023

An emulator is a program that emulates a game console, usually for the purpose of playing a game that is – either by price, age, or device – inaccessible. Streamers commonly use emulators to play Pokemon games made for the Gameboy, so they can screen-record their gameplay directly from their computer instead of having to somehow hook the Gameboy up to it. Zelda fans might want to play Ocarina of Time, but they might also find that the console to play it on is awfully expensive for one game, but an emulator is pretty cheap! In certain cases, games are geolocked – countries restrict access to certain forms of art as a means of censorship. Emulators can make those games accessible to people who want to play them in that country.

In the 1990s, consoles were on top when it came to games. Computers were rapidly gaining in power, however, and some folks realized that the console could be recreated using a home computer. The first emulators were born via reverse-engineering console coding. They evaded legal action by only copying devices that were outdated, but that changed too with a major emulator made for the Nintendo 64 while it was still in production. Nintendo pursued legal action to stop the primary creators, but other folks who had already gotten their hands on the source code kept the project going.

Ever since then, emulators have lived in a delicate balance of making games available and making them so available that the parent company decides to step in and try to wipe it out, which is nearly impossible once it’s out on the open web. Gamers simply won’t allow a good emulator to die!


Copyrights are crucial to the gaming ecosystem, and it’s a delicate balance of allowing fan art, but disallowing unauthorized gameplay. Allowing game mods, but disallowing tampering that could lead to free copies being distributed against the company’s wishes. Copyright laws are always evolving – new tech comes with new ways to copy, create, and distribute intellectual property. Generally, though, copyright falls back to permission: did the original company intend for their IP to be used in this way?

Emulators and copyright don’t get along very well at all! Emulators are, by their very definition, creating access to the game in a way the original company didn’t intend. As such, it’s unofficial, and if money is exchanged, it’s not normally between the copyright holder company and the customer, it’s the customer and some third unauthorized party.

Games aren’t selling you just the physical disk. You’re buying a license to play the game. If you take it as far as Xbox intended to back when the Xbox One was coming out, friends are only allowed to come over and play with you on your license because the company can’t enforce it. It’s a limitation of the system that they can’t keep you from sharing disks.

Not every company thinks like this (see the Playstation 5), but that’s the most extreme possible interpretation. You bought a disk so you could play a copy of their game that they have licensed out to you. You own the right to play that copy of the game, you don’t own the game itself.

Consider: Death of a Console

When a console dies, it’s taking all of its content with it. There is no more money to be made off of it, and the games are going to slowly disappear into collections and trash bins.

Does art need to exist forever, or is it okay if some art is temporary? Not every Rembrandt sketch is still in trade – some of it was just sketches, and he obviously discarded some of his own, immature art. Immature art is interesting to see, but it’s not what the artist wanted their audience to see. Otherwise it would have been better kept. Think about the ill-fated E.T. game that Atari made. They weren’t proud of it, they didn’t want it seen, and they saw fit to bury it. So they buried it. It was directly against their wishes for people to find this game and then play it. Emulating it is obviously not what the programmers who made it wanted for it.

But then consider all the little games included on a cartridge that’s just forgotten to the sands of time, made by a programmer who didn’t want it to fade away? Acrobat, also for the Atari, isn’t very well-remembered, but it still made it onto Atari’s anniversary console sold in-stores. 97 games on that bad boy, and Acrobat was included. It’s not a deep game, it’s nearly a single player Pong. But the programmers who made it didn’t ask for it to be excluded from the collection, so some amount of pride must exist over it, right? Does the game have to be good to be emulated? Is only good art allowed to continue existing officially?

Is all art meant to be accessible to everyone?

If some art is made with the intent to last forever, is it disregarding the creator’s wishes to not emulate it, against their production company’s wishes?

If art’s made to last forever but the artist (and society) accepts that that’s simply unrealistic, is it weird to emulate it, in the same way it’s weird to make chat-bots out of dead people? Every tomb we find, we open – even against the wishes of the grave owner, in the case of the Egyptians, or against the wishes of the living relatives, in the case of Native Americans. Video games are kind of like tombs for games that have lived their life and then died. But they’re also kind of like art.

When you get past the copyright, it’s a strange, strange world to be in.

Ethical Dilemma

Stealing goes against the ethics of most societies, modern or not. The case against emulators is that it’s stealing. It often is! An emulator/ROM (ROMs act as the ‘disc’ or ‘cartridge’ for the emulator) for Breath of the Wild was ready just a few weeks after the game launched, which could have seriously dampened sales if Nintendo didn’t step in to try and stop that. That first emulator, the one for the Nintendo 64, also drew a lot of negative attention for the same reasons, potentially siphoning away vital sales.

However, there’s a case to be made for games and consoles that aren’t in production anymore.

Is this a victimless crime, if the original game company really can’t make any more money off of it? It’s one thing to condemn piracy when the company is still relying on that income to make more games and pay their workers, it’s another entirely when the game studio isn’t interested in continuing support, and the console had a fatal fault in it that caused many of them to die after 10 years. That game is as good as gone forever without emulators. With no money to be made, why not emulate it?

In less extreme circumstances, the console’s still functioning, but the cartridges that went to it are incredibly rare. The company could potentially make money off of the game if they someday decided to remaster it, but that’s unknowable. Licenses could be available for purchases… but they aren’t right now.

Or, even better, the cartridges are still available for purchase in the secondary market. You just don’t happen to have the console, which has now spiked to a cost of 400 dollars due to reduced supply over time. You buy the cartridge – you’re still buying the license, you just don’t have the car, right?

According to copyright, you need a specific car for a specific license, but ethically, you’ve done the best you can as a consumer.

Assuming you have tried to buy a license for the car. The biggest issue with emulators is that they allow unlicensed drivers access to cars, making piracy much easier than it should be.

Brand Name

Much like Disney did with Club Penguin’s many spinoffs, emulators are kind-of sort-of overlooked up until they start eating into sales. Most companies just don’t want to spend money to enforce an issue like emulators – their game is still being played, their brand is still out there, and the users are going to be very upset if this big company decides to step in and ruin fun when they don’t need to. It may do more harm than good to try and wipe the emulator out when most people want to do the right thing.

Obviously, they’ll need to put a stop to emulating new games – the goal is to spend just enough money to do that effectively without also overstepping and destroying emulators for consoles no longer in production. It takes money to make games, games should earn money as a result. Removing emulators for games and consoles no longer in production isn’t helping them earn money – as such, many are allowed to stay. For now.


What’s Up With VHS Tapes?

Elizabeth Technology August 17, 2023

Yeah, CDs are impressive or whatever, but have you ever seen the inside of a VCR?

What makes a VHS different from other options?

Many things! It’s entertainment predecessor, film, was dropped for a couple of reasons. Film is composed of individual images on thin, photosensitive tape, where magnetic tape is the image’s information translated into computer language. A reel film projector is shining a light behind the reel to show the image. If you shined a light behind a VHS’s tape, you’d see nothing but brown! Plus, you can pause VHS tapes. Pause a reel film on the projector without moving the tape, and you risk burning it.

Betamax, VHS’s primary competitor, is arguably superior in every way. Betamax had better resolution, better sound quality, etc. and it came out at the same time as the original VHSs. What separated the two was cost: a Betamax tape was more expensive than VHS, and since VHS was only marginally worse, companies picked it up. Secondly, VHS tapes could record more, but since most movies were under three hours anyway that didn’t do as much for it as pricing did. CED tapes, Hi8 tapes, better, smaller reel tapes, and the rest were also vying for the ‘primary choice’ crown – and the VHS beat them all with durability.

From the beginning, VHSs were kind of an underdog. Radically new tech was always coming and going, VHSs could be another flash in the pan and disappear the next day, like CEDs did. The first company to launch VHS tapes set up standards to prevent VHSs from dying out due to quality issues, but widespread adoption would be up to marketing and luck. Plenty of good ideas on paper died once they were actually put into manufacturing.

How does the tape itself work?

Where CDs and DVDs have no moving parts, VHS tapes are full of them. The tape itself moves on spools, and that forces VCRs to read the data linearly (instead of randomly). All that means is that that the VCR had to read the rest of the tape before it can get to the part you’re looking for, where something like a hard drive can pick a file without reading other files first.

Additionally, the tape is not a loop, it’s a strip. Many media types got caught up in trying to make a self-rewinding form of media, but the tech simply wasn’t there yet to do that cheaply. if you got to go to a Blockbuster before they switched away from tapes, they would kindly remind you to rewind the tape after you were done watching it so the next person to rent the movie doesn’t have to rewind it first. Since the reader works on the tape in both directions, having to do that can spoil the movie.

The information is encoded onto the tape in a couple of areas: there’s a control track, an audio track, and a visual track. The reader can’t read the tape without the audio or control track – trimming either off will cause the tape to fail. A reader head is actively looking for the control track to synchronize with the other tracks, which will ‘pulse’ in sync with each other to ensure correct alignment. If it can’t find it, it doesn’t have a backup plan!

Visual information is encoded onto the tape using two separate writing heads held at a slight angle. The data is magnetized into the tape in an almost herringbone-like pattern, which the VHS can read fast enough to generate smooth images on-screen. This has the added benefit of ‘self-correcting’ – each reader head only reads the data slots that are at its angle, so there’s no weird flashing or jumping between frames. Given the end-user is not doing something strange to the tape, VHSs run pretty smoothly as a result.

How does the reader work?

The reader is composed of a motor, some internal mechanisms to control the speed of the tape, and a couple of reading and writing heads. To play content, the VCR pulls the tape in front of it’s readers, which then decode the information written on the magnetic tape into video. The tape itself is divided into separate areas for audio and video, as well as a timing track. Different heads along the inside of the VCR read the tape as it’s pulled by, and rollers keep it taut between them to prevent tangling.

If one wants to write to a VHS tape, their VCR should be capable – all but the cheapest usually are. VCRs completely revolutionized the entertainment industry by enabling the consumer to record particular episodes or events cheaply. Suddenly, a TV show didn’t need to re-run an episode five or six times to be sure their fans saw it. Their other revolutionary trait was being able to do this when the user wasn’t home – again, all but the cheapest of VCRs were able to record at a set time, with minimal user interference.

VCRs are specially adapted to reuse VHS tapes. It’s possible to tape over other tapes because the VCR, while in writing mode, erases the tape as it goes by so that the writing head has a clean surface to write to. “Taping Over” something persists to this day, even though very few consumer devices use tape anymore!


 VHS tapes are pretty durable – but they aren’t invincible. No form of media is! VHS tapes are vulnerable to many of the same things hard drives are: excessive heat may cause warping and a loss of quality, cold and radiation exposure can ruin the information on the tape. Unlike reel film, however, VHSs don’t become worthless when exposed to light. The tape shouldn’t be out of the container, but it’s not ruined if it somehow gets stuck outside the casing for a little while.

It takes a little bit of hunting to find working VCRs, but luckily they’re so simple that even broken ones can be used again. Replacement parts are still sold in specialty stores and online!

Assuming digital content really is the future forever and physical media declines, there are things you can do to convert tapes if you’re worried your home movies aren’t storing well in the attic. VHS-to-digital converters are available for purchase, for example, and places that do photo-printing also frequently offer mail-out services for conversion.


Parallel ports: A Brief History

Elizabeth Technology August 15, 2023

Parallel and serial ports used to be everywhere, and now they’re more or less limited to ancient printers and old iPads. What happened to them?


Serial ports came first, but just barely. Serial in this context means that the information is processed one stream at a time, which the receiving device will then have to stack up to read. For example, printers: a serial connection on a printer would give the printer the ASCII data one bit at a time, and it’s up to the printer to stack up the bits to make the words.

But if the data’s being transferred one bit at a time, why does it need so many pins?

On a computer, each pin on a serial port does something different – some regulate the out- and in-put speed, some are purely for grounding the connection, and some are responsible for transferring the requests for data between the computer and the peripheral it’s connected to. And each peripheral has different needs! A mouse or a CNC is going to need more information about the data than a printer or a bar code scanner. There might also be a parity pin, which ensures the data sent is correct. They came in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from circular 7-pins to trapezoidal 25-pins for motherboards.

Serial ports are actually faster (now) than parallel ports because the data’s transferring one bit at a time. If you can make the bit transfer faster, then the entire serial port speeds up with it, because data transfer speeds are basically arbitrary! Serial ports could keep up with computers as they improved. Parallel ports have to be sure that their data’s being received all at the same time: if one pin can’t be optimized any more than it already is, then that pin holds back the speed of the data for the other data-transferring pins. If the data doesn’t make it at the same time, then the computer doesn’t know how to interpret it. Imagine receiving parts for an IKEA chair out-of-order and being told you had to start assembling it now even though you don’t have the legs or screws yet.


Parallel ports actually appeared at about the same time as serial ports, and allowed for multiple streams of bits (the ‘parallel’ part) instead of just one. The port was feasible in the 1970s, but the first commercial parallel port appeared on IBM printers, in the early 1980s. Printers were where they found most of their use. The pins sped up printing by presenting the ASCII (a character library that uses sets of binary characters to represent letters) to the printer all at once, instead of serially.

However, parallel ports came with a couple of problems. They couldn’t match a serial port’s speed, once bit-cycle-times shot down, and the three major companies attempting to use them for their printers came up with different protocols for each operating system, so everything had to be double checked for compatibility.

Where’d They Go?

As said before, the USB has taken over much of the parallel port’s turf, and where USB is inconvenient, network printing rules supreme. There’s not much space left for these parallel pin plugs out in the wild. They’re still around – people still need access to legacy machines no matter the industry or time – but they’re not usually on regular, consumer electronics anymore.

And yet, they aren’t extinct. Serial ports still exist on old or simple tech that can’t take high speeds and still function, things like scientific equipment, or stenotype machines. Because the transfer’s tightly regulated, serial ports avoid overloading the tiny computers inside these several-thousand-dollar instruments.

Universal Serial Bus (or USB) plugs use similar tech, just highly compressed and much faster. USBs are also transmitting data serially, hence the ‘serial’ in the name. Parallel ports may have been left behind, but serial’s sticking around. If you look at the inside of the actual connecting piece, you’ll still see pins, albeit different ones than the kind serial connectors used to use.

 Serial ports represent a major breakthrough in data transfer tech, and they’ve stuck around to this day!


Who is this Apple Gadget Built For?

Elizabeth Technology July 11, 2023

Apple’s newest VR headset, the Apple Vision Pro, is technologically impressive – but it’s priced out of reach for many VR enthusiasts. Who is it for, exactly?

The Device Costs As Much as a Used Car

Apple’s Vision Pro headset costs 3,499$ not including tax. It’s such a gigantic price point that it’s hard not to picture what an average consumer could get elsewhere with that money. Many highschoolers drive cars that cost less than this device – before the pandemic completely destroyed both the new and used car markets, finding a used car that still drove reliably for under 2,000 American dollars was possible. Less, even, if that highschooler had family looking to get rid of a beater. You could get four touchscreen Dell computers with i5 cores, 16 GB of RAM, and Windows 11 included for the same price as one Apple Pro headset as of this article’s writing.

This is the latest in a long line of Apple products priced prohibitively. Apple devices were always costly, but they were a sort of costly that made sense – if you really need a photography-grade camera in your phone, then save up for an Apple device and be set for years. As of recently, every device demands a significant investment, whether ‘better’ equipment exists for the task or not.

Technologically Impressive

It was always going to be expensive, though, even without Apple branding. The price reflects what might be a breakthrough in wearable tech, and the device is certainly impressive. It can do things that the Apple iPhone can do as well as simulate Virtual Reality around the wearer. Images of the device seem to hint you may be able to walk around with these things on without being completely blind behind the visor – the presentation states that this is the first Apple product you look through, not at. The ‘screen’ is transparent. You are seeing reality with the augment layered over it in the lenses, the way Google wanted to do it years ago but couldn’t make look natural.

This isn’t smaller or more discreet, but “ski goggles” that can run intensive apps without another computer attached to them is the stuff science fiction writers have been dreaming of! It’s goofy now, sure, but the iPhone was goofy – the first iPhone was four or five good products mushed into one okay-ish product before it found its footing and started doing things well.

While this is goofy, and expensive, and right now its usefulness is pretty much just for entertainment, it is still impressive. Someday it might be a regular piece of techwear. It depends on what people can find them useful for, the true question that determines the product’s life.  

How Much Use Are Headsets Anyway?

Most of the advertising seems to suggest this is best for filming videos and consuming content. That’s certainly an increasing part of everyday life for many people, but for the same price, those people can buy a quality TV and soundbar and couch and have a decent home entertainment system that shows stuff to more than one person at a time. Even if they wanted the apps, they could buy at least two of the newest iPhone for the same price as one set of ski goggles. Nobody can agree on whether headsets, augmented reality glasses, and metaverses have real value beyond entertainment.

Potential monetary gain is getting in the way of real assessments! If augmented reality or metaverses ever find their footing, the money made by the people who establish themselves first will be completely insane the same way the first NFT sales were insane. They have a motivation besides advancement of the technology to push this stuff. It’s why Facebook bought Oculus, and then never seemed to do anything with it. Zuckerberg saw the potential for purchasable avatar clothing and virtual storefronts that would have to pay ‘rent’ for the virtual space, which Facebook/Meta could sell for massively inflated prices compared to website domains.

Worse, some of the people pushing hardest for Metaverse successors don’t even think that potential money will last, they just figure a boom-bust cycle is inevitable – the sooner the boom, the sooner they can extract money from people and then bounce before it all comes crashing down.

However, while that attitude is everywhere within the companies, it’s getting in the way of making an enjoyable experience for the end user. There is no money to be made until the consumer is having enough fun to spend a couple dollars on a virtual arcade game, or uses their avatar enough to buy it a funny hat. The only reason so many of the crypto ones exist at all is because the funding comes in before they have time to set up all the little microtransactions designed to bleed consumer wallets dry. Once those are in place, the Metaworld’s player count usually drops sharply. Not even the worst arcades in the world steal quarters like these places plan to, and every single one thinks they’re the first to have the idea.

 Metaverses are often painted as a sort of cyberpunk wonderland, the future, the inevitable next step in technology, but they never seem to end up getting there because ‘visionaries’ and ‘early adopters’ make promises they can’t keep and slink away with whatever they got first. If the virtual parts of augmented and virtual reality never improve because of this cycle, then there just won’t ever be a stable set of apps and programs to use on the very expensive hardware bought to facilitate it. Apple has the potential to fix the second part of that because it has final say on every app in the app store as well as the funding necessary to make new and exciting apps for the headset should it choose to do so, but the first part is going to take some serious reimagining of the space’s potential.  

In the face of all of that, what can a peripheral do to prove itself worthy of a consumer’s time? Does Apple really believe this headset is the future, or is it banking on customers buying it to use as a status symbol-slash-fashion statement? For that matter, if money is removed from the conversation, if you could just have one, would you want it, and use it if you got it?

What would you use it for?

It’s Summer for Computers, Too

Elizabeth Technology June 22, 2023

Listen, sometimes machines get old, and they work too hard, and then you don’t want to burn yourself by watching Netflix, so you resort to other methods of cooling your computer. There are right ways, and there are wrong ways.

DON’T: Put Your Machine in the Freezer or Fridge

It sounds like a good idea, but it’s really not. Condensation can form on the inside of the machine, which can then permanently break things as said condensation re-melts and drips onto other components inside your device. Plus, if it’s a systemic issue like a broken fan or overworked CPU, this isn’t actually fixing the issue. You’re going to be taking your machine in and out of the freezer forever!

Cold screws up glues over time, too, meaning internal elements can gradually wiggle their way loose.

As an unrelated hack, freezing gum can usually get it off the bottom of your shoe.

DON’T: Put Ice Packs, Popsicles, or Bags of Ice on or in the Machine

Condensation, once again, can ruin your machine if it drips into the wrong spot. However, ice bags have the added danger of leaking! Ice sometimes has sharp enough points to pierce its own bag. Popsicles, while usually sealed for safety, are not worth the risk of some sharp component in your machine piercing the bag full of sugary dyed liquid. If that doesn’t kill the machine, it will make you wish it had when the keyboard is too sticky to type on quickly.

DON’T: Run Every Program at Once

You shouldn’t be running high-distance Minecraft alongside high-render Overwatch while also running your internet browser for a live Youtube stream in 4K unless you’ve got a super-computer. If it even lets you get those programs open and running, but you notice your computer is unusually, abysmally hot, those programs might be contributing. You can overload your CPU! If you can’t identify which program specifically is eating up all your CPU’s power, check the task manager. Windows devices have a task manager that allows them to see how much of the RAM, the hard drive, and the CPU a program is using. Just hit (Ctrl + Alt +Delete) and you’ll reach a menu with Task Manager at the bottom. If you can’t narrow your issue down to a specific program, then restarting the computer may fix whatever background program has gotten stuck in the RAM. It’s a good idea to reboot regularly anyway!

Now that we’re past the don’ts, what should you do? You obviously can’t let it stay hot, that will slowly fry the hard drive. Excessive heat is worse for electronics than cold is, especially the kinds with batteries in them. You should take steps to cool off your machine if it’s getting ridiculously hot.

DO: Use a Fan

There’s a small fan inside of your computer already. If it’s not cutting it, then the next best step is to use a real fan, and just position the intake for your device in front of it. The extra air flow is just doing what the fan inside the device was already doing, but on a bigger scale! You might find that repositioning your computer so the fan will fit by the intake can help cool it down, too – computers in front of windows might be absorbing more heat than you realize.

DO: Use a Specially Designed Cooling Pad

Some companies sell cooling pads, pads that cool the device down externally. These are specially designed to avoid generating condensation inside the device, while still wicking away heat safely. If you can’t get a fan into the area it needs to be, a cooling pad is a solid second option. Unfortunately, due to the shape and size of PC towers, this is generally only feasible for laptops.

DO: Make Sure the Vents Are Clear

If the machine’s pretty young, and the programs on it aren’t too intense for its specs, the reason may be external. Check where it’s vents are! Especially for PCs. If the tower is pushed right up against the wall, it might not be able to generate the airflow it needs. Also, don’t put stickers or decorations over vents. That’s also bad for the vent’s venting power.

Speaking of vents, make sure the vents are cleared of dust, too! Cleaning them improves efficiency.

DO: Restart Every Once in a While

Your computer is doing a lot of things in the background for you. Many programs are still doing things after you close them! Steam, a popular gaming platform, is almost always also connected to the internet when users aren’t looking. It does this at start up, and it keeps an eye on it’s own connection to let you know if you lost internet. As such, it’s important to occasionally restart, so these programs don’t ‘get stuck’ eating processing power for their own little functions.

DO: Consider a Shop

If the computer’s hot enough to fry eggs, the odds are pretty good that something’s up with the CPU, the fan, or it’s own internal thermometer, depending on the age of the machine. If you’ve tried everything you can think of to cool it off, or keep it from getting so hot in the first place, it might be time to visit a shop. At the very least, you should be keeping backups of your files. If the heat eventually kills the machine, a backup saves you a lot of money on very expensive data recovery.


Why Not Make Elder Scrolls 6?

Elizabeth Technology May 9, 2023

The Wii U was a console that operated on the same mechanics as the Wii, but was much more powerful. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, is almost unrecognizable from the base game that launched over ten years ago, in 2011.

What was once considered peak design is outdated; what sold well in the past sells well now, but begrudgingly.

What happened to designing games and consoles?

It Has to Be Impressive

The worst recent trend when it comes to electronics is that no matter what company is making the product, the product has to be impressive. In fact, newer companies have to be more impressive than ever to get a fighting chance in the market, without costing so much that a potential buyer is turned off. Plenty of smaller companies would love to make games for gaming consoles they designed themselves! (And in fact, plenty of consumers would love to buy a simple device like an iPod shuffle with only 16 GB of memory – but Apple won’t make anything that costs less than 400$.) But they can’t keep up with the biggest companies on the market, and trends suggest indie games are where users look to change up their experience, not indie consoles. The Switch is technologically unique, the PS5 and the Xbox 1 are the most powerful consoles ever in their respective lines – nothing but desktop computers could even hope to keep up. Buying a console has become a market like buying a major appliance. If you could spend just 100$ more on a fridge for a fridge that also defrosts itself automatically, wouldn’t you?  Sure, minifridges are cute, but unless you’re a college student, you probably have access to a better one. Indie developers over a certain size can design games for the big consoles as well, so the more expensive fridge still has space for artisanal cheeses, even if it wasn’t built just for Mimolette.

The second problem is that gamers sort of don’t want to invest in ‘new’ right now. Everything seems to be on fire outside. Games are a comfortable distraction. Gamers want ‘familiar’. They want the things that reviewers have looked at and invested time into, even if they’re realistically a B or a C grade game at best. Old, huge companies like Nintendo make custom-tailored consoles like The Switch, but if Soulja Boy’s console company had come up with it first, it might have bombed. Nintendo making a console that mainly serves Nintendo games is no accident, as well. If Sony were to release an updated PSP or a PS Vita in an attempt to compete, there’s no guarantee it would work out for them as well as it does consistently for Nintendo, partly because it would be freakishly expensive to match the performance that Playstation fans have come to expect, but also because the Playstation has an enormous gaming library that’s pretty intimidating to approach as a newcomer. The ratio of games they make to games they outsource is completely different. It couldn’t guarantee a market for either old fans or new ones.

Nintendo releases its own games – Nintendo makes Mario, not a gaming studio that Nintendo owns. Nintendo can pull from old catalogue favorites like Legend of Zelda and remake them for the Switch without starting a copyright spat. This is not only a built-in age gate (Nintendo Games made for kids will always look like they were made for kids, and Nintendo Games that aren’t, don’t) but an easy flag for quality the consumer can keep track of. Nintendo rarely has ‘bad’ games. You don’t have to really research that ahead of time to know the worst Nintendo game is miles ahead of the worst game available on Steam.  When games are consistently reaching 60 and 70 dollars new, a dud is a serious disappointment. That’s four movie tickets out here in Vegas. Of course people are expecting to get at least four movies’ worth of entertainment from a game that costs that much.

 And Familiarity Wins The Crowd

With all that said, it’s no wonder Skyrim is eating up development time that could have been used on a new Elder Scrolls game. Everyone still likes Skyrim! It plays on every console, so it doesn’t matter which one you’ve already got. You can buy mods for it, download free mods, and the dungeons are neverending if that’s your jam. It’s easy to take a break from serious quests if you want, or to beat the game and spend time doing the multiple hours’ worth of side quests once the final boss is dealt with. Skyrim is a good game. You’re going to have a good time playing it unless you go out of your way not to. It’s comfortable and easy to access. At this point, Skyrim’s replayability may steal sales from the next game, if Bethesda ever gets around to making it. Bethesda has a golden goose, and it’s not going to get rid of it until the goose dies of old age.

Wii U

The Wii was much the same, except Nintendo wanted to make the goose a little better. The Wii U’s mistake wasn’t in making a console designed to appeal to the fans of the Wii – the Wii U’s mistake was not making it clear that the Wii U was a younger sibling to the Wii, not it’s twin. Not enough was done to ensure that fans of the console knew the difference, and if you believe it to be a slightly different Wii and not a complete overhaul of the console, then why would you ever spend the money on it? The Wii U is more powerful, but it didn’t secure enough games that were unique to the Wii U and the Wii U alone – why would game developers make games for a device that sold as poorly as the Wii U did when they could keep making games for the Wii and get better royalties in the process? The failure to market the console trickled into every facet of it’s existence to ensure it could never eclipse the Wii.

Skyrim has cursed Bethesda. If the next game is too similar to Skyrim, it’ll be a Wii U. If it’s too different, and the reviews are mixed, game reviewers might not take to it so easily after a solid ten years of good Skyrim content.

Maximalist Mouse – What Else Can You Use It For?

Elizabeth Technology May 4, 2023

You can bind keys on your keyboard, but you can also bind those extra keys on a gaming mouse, if you dare.

Gaming mice are designed with games that use hotbars in mind. A hotbar usually refers to the number keys across the top of the keyboard, sometimes including the F# keys as well. Within the game, you can tie specific usable items to those number keys, and simply hit the right key in the heat of battle to use the item. However, keyboards meant for gaming usually have bigger keys than ones attached to laptops or designed for travel, and sometimes it’s difficult to use the hotbar while your character is still moving – if you need a health potion for your character, but you can’t contort your hands to hit the right hotbar key, a gaming mouse with those hotbar bindings instead can save the day!

How to Bind Keys Elsewhere

Gaming mice are designed for games. Many of the games expecting a mouse like a gaming mouse will let you go into the settings and manually change the keys you need to press for certain actions, whether that’s to other keys on the keyboard or to the buttons on your gaming mouse. While most mice have two or three buttons (mice designed for Windows at least) the sky is the limit!

Be careful doing this – you don’t want to override the primary function of the left or right click buttons, just the ones that shouldn’t already have another function attached.

1) Click Start, and then click Control Panel.

2) Double-click Mouse.

3) Click the Buttons tab.

4) Under Button Assignment, click the box for a button to which you want to assign a function, and then click the function that you want to assign to that button.

5) Repeat this step for each button to which you want to assign a function.

6) Click Apply, and then click OK.

7) Close Control Panel.

Your imagination (and Microsoft’s bindable shortcuts) is the limit!

Maximalist Mouse – What Else Can You Use It For?

Elizabeth Technology April 20, 2023

You can bind keys on your keyboard, but you can also bind those extra keys on a gaming mouse, if you dare.

Gaming mice are designed with games that use hotbars in mind. A hotbar usually refers to the number keys across the top of the keyboard, sometimes including the F# keys as well. Within the game, you can tie specific usable items to those number keys, and simply hit the right key in the heat of battle to use the item. However, keyboards meant for gaming usually have bigger keys than ones attached to laptops or designed for travel, and sometimes it’s difficult to use the hotbar while your character is still moving – if you need a health potion for your character, but you can’t contort your hands to hit the right hotbar key, a gaming mouse with those hotbar bindings instead can save the day!

How to Bind Keys Elsewhere

Gaming mice are designed for games. Many of the games expecting a mouse like a gaming mouse will let you go into the settings and manually change the keys you need to press for certain actions, whether that’s to other keys on the keyboard or to the buttons on your gaming mouse. While most mice have two or three buttons (mice designed for Windows at least) the sky is the limit!

Be careful doing this – you don’t want to override the primary function of the left or right click buttons, just the ones that shouldn’t already have another function attached.

1) Click Start, and then click Control Panel.

2) Double-click Mouse.

3) Click the Buttons tab.

4) Under Button Assignment, click the box for a button to which you want to assign a function, and then click the function that you want to assign to that button.

5) Repeat this step for each button to which you want to assign a function.

6) Click Apply, and then click OK.

7) Close Control Panel.

That’s it! Your buttons should be working.

What is WiFi?

Elizabeth Technology March 30, 2023

Wi-Fi’s older than it may seem, as it spent quite some time at the fringe of new tech. The market was already flooded with dial up internet, and replacing it was going to take quite a bit of doing. When it first launched, it had an average speed of 2 mbps, which is actually pretty good, about four times faster than dial up, which had a max speed of 56 kbps. However, systems were so heavily dependent on that dial up system that it took many years for it to become the standard.

Wi-Fi is understood to mean Wireless Fidelity, but apparently nobody in the labs that studied or made it ever designated Wi-Fi as the official shortening of that term, it just sort of happened, and then licensing and officiating went from there.

Kind of Like Radio

AM and FM radio have been around for decades, now, and they work fairly similarly to Wi-Fi if Wi-Fi did both at the same time. AM radio changed the amplitude of the waves to transmit information across different bands, where FM changes the frequency of the band. However, AM and FM stick to kilohertz and megahertz frequencies, while Wi-Fi is in the significantly higher gigahertz frequencies.

Electromagnetic Radiation is a spectrum: at one end, there is infrared radiation which is extremely low-frequency, and at the other, gamma radiation, which is extremely high frequency. Visible light falls somewhere near the infrared side, where red is closer to the low end and violet is closer to the high end. Microwaves fall on the low side. A 2.4 GHz microwave has a gap between wave crests about the size of a baseball – the waves aren’t nearly as close together as they are in visible light. (Note – a microwave oven has the same frequency, it is much higher energy than Wi-Fi. Loud sounds can be the same pitch, or frequency, as quiet sounds, the same goes for microwaves). Microwaves, just like colors, are broken up into bands, and different frequencies can do different things. For this article, we’re focusing on information transmission.

What Can Stop Wifi?

Wi-Fi does get weaker when walls or other obstacles get in the way, although this is usually a good thing – there are only so many viable ‘bands’ for Wi-Fi to transmit over, just like radio, so crowded buildings would run out of available bands if they weren’t so easily stopped. While microwave ovens use metal, eventually those same microwaves would be stopped if they came into contact with walls or other solid materials. Eventually, distance also stops Wi-Fi. The waves lose energy as they travel and then carried information is lost.

Bluetooth devices can interact poorly with Wi-Fi as well – they work on similar principles, but Bluetooth is much weaker. If your headphones are undetectable to your phone, even when your device is on, it’s possible the Bluetooth is being drowned out by local Wi-Fi. Bluetooth typically has a range of about 30 feet, compared to Wi-Fi’s much larger 240 feet in ideal conditions.

How Does Protecting WiFi work?

Wi-Fi transmits over those microwave frequencies to bring information to the computer and send it back out.

How do you protect information if it’s just being broadcast like that? Well, a couple of things. While it is very similar, it’s not exactly like radio, where the information from the station is broadcast across the city, and all you have to do is tune it. The computer has to find the network first, and as previously stated, both physical objects and distances can keep Wi-Fi from reaching a compatible device. Distance is a solid defense. If a hacker is in the same building, however, how do you protect the network then? Assuming their device is within accessible distance of the network, can it intercept information sent over that network?

The second part is encryption: it doesn’t matter if the data’s intercepted if the interceptor can’t un-scramble it. Transmitting unencrypted data over unprotected Wi-Fi can get you into trouble – see all the warnings about using public Wi-Fi to do banking – but encrypting it stops most issues before they start. Hence, the rise of VPNs. However, encryption alone won’t stop intruders, so the third part is network security.

The next logical step for a hacker is to get into the protected network and then seek out the info they want, skipping the encryption step entirely. The network itself has to be protected as well! Network protection can be passwords, or firewalls, or anything that prevents closed data ports from being opened. An open port in data security just means something that will allow packets of data to go in or out. A website has open ports so you can access the information on it, for example. If a poorly configured application on a computer has an open port, it’s looking for information, and that can be used to get into the network, bypassing the encryption.

2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz

Some modems allow two frequencies of Wi-Fi, a faster channel, and a further channel. The 5GHz channel is what you’ll want to use for your video streaming. The frequency is higher, and that means information is transported to your device faster. The 2.4 GHz frequency is probably what the printer in the other room is best on. It’s better at penetrating solid objects than 5 GHz, and it has a larger range, but it’s also weaker. 2.4 GHz is also more prone to interference, because many things use that frequency. Microwaves, for example. If you’ve had issues with your Wi-Fi while the microwave is on, get that microwave checked! The odds are good it’s shielding is faulty.

Modem Vs. Router

What’s the difference? A router routes traffic from your network to the internet. It’s sometimes referred to as a WLAN (or a wireless local area network) device. Most houses have a router because of the number of network-enabled devices in a modern home. Printers are rarely connected by cable to a computer anymore, for example.

A modem, on the other hand, is designed to connect devices directly to the internet. Modems are hard-wired into cabled data lines, like telephone lines, so they’re less popular than they used to be. Routers have taken their spot in-home, as dial-up internet is basically non-existent.

Routers and Wi-Fi are here to stay, at least until the next big things comes out!