Answers To The Tech Questions You're Too Embarrassed To Ask

From the hardware to the software to the business side of it all, tech can be a big scary subject. So it’s ok if you don’t know everything.

We’re here to hold your hand through a few of the basics. How does Google make money? What’s the real difference between Macs and PCs? And so on and so on.

What's a hashtag?

The hashtag system is an extra way to identify and sort tweets using the pound sign.

During the last round of presidential debates, you no doubt saw tweets containing tags like #presidentialdebate, #obama, and the like. This makes it possible to 'sort' tweets by hashtag and group tweets from all users based on their inclusion of a given tag. Topical tweets may have one like #politics, event-based tweets might have something like #familyvacation2013.

What's a meme?

In generic sociological terms, a meme is 'an element of a culture or behaviour that may be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.' But the word as it relates to Internet culture refers to the captioned photos of people and animals that get passed around on sites like Reddit.

Why does my laptop get so hot?

Some laptops naturally get pretty hot without overheating. A hot laptop is not necessarily a broken laptop still be well within its comfortable operating temperature.

That said, if the heat is a problem, an overheating laptop might be suffering from one of a number of ills: a malfunctioning battery, an overworked processor, and airflow problems are just a few.

What's the difference between a Mac and a PC, really?

It has (almost) everything to do with the software. PCs are usually running some version of Windows, which acts as the 'foundation' upon which the computer can crunch numbers, run software, browse the Internet, and carry out any other task. Apple products run OS X, the company's proprietary operating system for its hardware, which accomplishes the same tasks in its own way.

You might think of them as two different languages. Some people speak Spanish, others speak English. An English-only speaker can't communicate effectively with a Spanish-only speaker in the same way that Mac-only software won't run on PC hardware.

How does Google make money?

For all its fame in the world of searching, Google makes a majority of its income from advertising.

Of the company's $US33.3 billion revenue last year, online ads made up 97%. Google offers two ad platforms, AdSense and AdWords. They earn 70% and 30% of the advertising revenue respectively.

Why do ads follow me around the Internet?

You search for 'dog food' just that one time and then suddenly you're bombarded with all kinds of pet- and dog-related advertisements.

This is because almost all of Google's advertising revenue is derived from AdWords, ads based on what you searched for. For example, a Miami-based law firm might buy the search terms 'Miami law firm' and get prominent placement next to a list of related search results.

A Google 'cookie' is your identifying factor and corresponds to a spot in some computer database telling the ad software to show you ads for dog clothes.

Will Facebook ever start charging to use its service?

We just can't imagine a situation where this would happen. Even famed hoax-busting site Snopes agrees.

Why does Apple use 'i' for all its gadgets?

This is a naming paradigm that was introduced in 1998 with the introduction of the iMac desktop. The 'i' stood for Internet, and has stuck around for iPad, iPod, and iPhone.

How do you make an app?

iOS apps begin their lives as lines of computer code written in a programming language called Objective-C. You'll have to be a fairly savvy programmer to create anything complex, but there are lots of beginner tutorials a Google search away.

If you want to ever submit an iOS app to the App Store, you have to pay an annual $US99 fee to register as an Apple developer.

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