Overcome Common Tech Misconceptions!

Are Your Bits Flipped?

Joe Kissell

Just as a single flipped bit in a piece of computer code can bring an otherwise reliable app crashing to a halt, a single misconception in your understanding of personal computing technology can cause all manner of problems. Join tech expert Joe Kissell as he untangles common confusions surrounding the digital products and services we all rely on every day.

This product has been discontinued.

This book was discontinued on November 22, 2022.

Just as a single “flipped bit” in a piece of computer code can bring an otherwise reliable app crashing to a halt, a single misconception in your understanding of personal computing technology can cause all manner of problems—including lost data, wasted time, and frustration as you live and work in today’s increasingly digital world. In this unique title, which is packed with little-known facts and debunked beliefs, tech expert Joe Kissell untangles common confusions surrounding the high-tech products and services we all rely on every day.

By eliminating your tech misconceptions, you’ll:

  • Avoid common errors that waste precious time or result in data loss.
  • Make decisions based on an accurate understanding of how things work.
  • Find yourself asking for—or paying for!—computer help less often.
  • Have clear explanations on hand when others ask you for help.
  • Better understand tech topics in the headlines—encryption, passwords, privacy, and more.
  • Make a stronger impression at a job interview, user group, or wherever your tech skills may be judged.

I won this ebook in the raffle at my Mac User Group and wanted to thank you. I haven’t read everything yet, but I am learning so much more than I thought I would. —Lenore Gessner, Dayton OH

Some of the 16 chapters in this 190-page book are updated and expanded versions of essays originally published in TidBITS.

You’ll start thinking more clearly about:

  • Trust: Can you trust an online service like iCloud or Gmail, or a password manager?

  • Privacy: How do you evaluate your privacy when a website wants you to give it personal information? What if the site wants to track the way you use it? What if you want to store confidential data on it?

  • Fear: Should you worry about using Java or JavaScript, two computer languages that have little in common except their names?

  • Clicking: Why click twice when you can click once? Sort out once and for all what a single click versus a double click can accomplish rather than just clicking randomly like a teenager.

  • Opening apps: Are you in the shockingly large group of people who spend too much time on the mundane action of opening apps?

  • Cloud accumulation: How many cloud services (like Dropbox or Google Drive) do you need, where are your “cloud” files actually kept, and how can you keep your monthly cost down?

  • Email: How can you ensure that attachments make it through? Do you worry about where your email is actually located? Did you know you can choose an email address that will work over time and make you look better online?

  • Backups: Are you relying on a backup strategy that will let you down? Should you worry about what happens if you start up your Mac from a bootable duplicate?

  • Encryption: Do you understand why the U.S. government is going after the giant tech companies, and why the stakes are high for your own use of encryption?

  • Passwords: Do you know why it’s such a bad idea to use the same password for multiple sites, or to rely on a pattern? (Please, please, use a password manager.)

  • Web: Are your web searches finding what you want quickly and easily? Did you know that you can navigate the web more effectively if you understand how URLs work?

Joe Kissell

About Joe Kissell

Take Control publisher Joe Kissell has written more than 60 books about technology, including many popular Take Control books. He formerly wrote for publications such as Macworld, Wirecutter, and TidBITS. He lives in Saskatoon with his wife, his two children, and his cat.

Is this book for a person like me?

We designed the book for people with a wide range of tech experience, from those who do little more than read email and browse the Web all the way up to people who provide technical support professionally. A few topics focus on the Mac, but the majority of the book is of general interest.

Joe Unflips Bits with Chuck Joiner on MacVoices

Posted by Michael E. Cohen on May 4, 2016

Joe sits down with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices to explain some of the common misconceptions that people have about technology, why this Take Control book doesn’t have “Take Control” in the title, and how the book came to be written. The discussion includes visual aids, reveals the astonishing fact that there isn’t a hamster in your Mac, demonstrates what you can do with two thumbs, and treats us to Joe’s performance of a famous line from “Hamlet.”

June 26, 2020—We are exploring the possibility of creating a new edition of this book for release in late 2020.


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