Tech Talk #84 – Aug 18, 2018




Technical stuff can be complicated, so I use analogies to help explain technical stuff in ways non-technical people can understand.


CPUs, hard drive space and RAM, browsers and home pages




CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, your CPU is the “engine” in your device (computer, smartphone or tablet) that does work.


CPUs are also called processors, because hey, let’s make all of this just a bit more confusing, shall we?


Companies make different processors for different devices. For computers running Windows, macOS, or Linux (laptops, desktops, tablet PCs, all in ones, and 2-in-1 ones) the main manufacturers are Intel, AMD, and Apple.


Qualcomm, ARM, and Apple are the main manufacturers for smartphones and tablets running Android or iOS.


OK, sure, but how can you actually use this information?


The only thing you should care about when (if) you think about the processor in your device is “do I have a big enough engine for what I want to do.”


The more you spend the better engine you’ll get.


Processor manufacturers brand their processors differently, but the general rule of thumb is that the higher the number in the processor name, the faster the processor is, i.e., the bigger the engine it is.


For modern Intel processors, a Core i3 processor is the 4-cylinder, the Core i5 is the V6, and the Core i7 is the Hemi V8. AMD processors use the Ryzen name, but still follow Intel’s 3, 5, 7 naming convention to indicate more powerful processors. Apple uses processors named with an A and a number, the higher the number the more powerful.


For checking email, doing some shopping and writing status updates you don’t need a Hemi V8 processor in your device; a low to a mid-range device with a  4-cylinder or V6 engine will be fine.


On the other hand, if you’re doing photo or video editing, landing Falcon 9s for SpaceX, or streaming Fornite or PUBG, you probably do need that Hemi V8 processor.



Hard drive space and RAM


People worry about filling up their hard drive with pictures or music and they worry that all that “stuff” on their computer is making the computer slow.


Every time you open a program or access data, that program loads from your hard drive into your RAM. Running programs and accessing data from RAM is faster than running from your hard drive.


Think of the hard drive in your computer as “the garage” and the RAM in your computer as “the dining room table.” All of the programs you run on your device run at the dining room table and may occasionally go out to the garage to get some data it needs. No matter how full the garage (your hard drive) gets, the dining room table (your RAM) doesn’t get any smaller.


This is true for all devices. Phones, laptops, desktops, etc.



Browsers and home pages


The internet is a big place and it’s one of the biggest stores ever. To help people get around on the internet, we use internet browsers or web browsers or just browsers for short.


If you think of the internet as the Hitching Post Theaters here in Tehachapi, you know can get there by driving your car, or driving your truck, or riding a bike, or (gulp) walking. No matter how you get there, it’s still the Hitching Post.


Browsers are the tools we use to get to the internet. When you open a browser window on your device, you’re opening the internet.


The first web browser most people think of is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE). Microsoft included IE in every version of Windows since Windows 3.1 in 1992. Other popular browsers are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Amazon’s Silk. Any of these browsers will take you the internet. That’s their job. Where they go once they open on your computer is called your home page. Popular home pages are Google, MSN, Yahoo, StartPage, DuckDuckGo and many more.


As internet standards evolve and new techniques are used to make web pages, some browsers don’t work well anymore. Some websites only work with certain browsers.


I recommend having more than one browser on your computer in case you run across a website that won’t work properly with your current browser or in case your current browser develops problems and stops working. Think of it as a spare tire.



Wanna see a movie?


Theaters are always going to be around, and doing fine. With computers and technology, we’re becoming more and more secluded from each other. And the movie theater is one of the last places where we can still gather and experience something together. I don’t think the desire for that magic will ever go away. Wolfgang Petersen, German film director and screenwriter



Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at

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