Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Computing/2008 May 29

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May 29[edit]


(moved from Entertainment refdesk)QuantumEleven 08:31, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

How does a computer really work. I mean like, the whole processing ordeal, and memory usage, oh and how does a computer know what you are plugging into the USB port like MP3 players? (talk) 22:38, 28 May 2008 (UTC)Andy

On our Computer page you'll find a link here Central processing unit. Please feel free to ask back if there's something you don't understand, you still have questions or if it's too difficult. Universal Serial Bus should have an answer to your last question. Hope this helps.-- (talk) 23:05, 28 May 2008 (UTC)
Why is this in the entertainment section? But you should also have a look at ALU, cache, address bus, and maybe scheduling to start. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask. There is also a computing ref desk that would probably get you more responses. --Wirbelwindヴィルヴェルヴィント (talk) 04:23, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
Plenty of people use computers primarily for entertainment! —Tamfang (talk) 08:18, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
I presume you want this in layman's terms, so I'll try to explain in the same way I explain to my ten-year old. Inside your rectangular box is a motherboard which binds all the other components together and lets them talk to each other. The CPU is responsible for logic and computations. Your operating system and application instructions are broken down to a basic level that the CPU can understand, such as MUL to multiply two numbers or JE which is a jump to go something else if some condition is equal. Then you have your memory chips which store information temporarily as opposed to your hard drive which stores information permanently. Memory is important as it is MUCH faster than hard drives and a lot of computation goes on between CPU and memory. Then you have add-on cards, such as a graphics card, that plugs into the motherboard and depending on how good the card is, will allow you to run graphics-intensive apps such as games at higher speeds. For example, if you type A on your keyboard, the keyboard controller chip accepts the character, sends it via a bus along the motherboard to the CPU, which converts it to its raw ASCII equivalent, then sends it along to the video controller which sends it to your screen. If you're running a modern game, there are millions of interactions and computations going on per second. In terms of your USB question, there is a chip in the USB device that talks to your USB controller on your motherboard, and the whole process continues from there. There is obviously much more, but I hope this is a good start for a basic understanding. With the complexity of modern computers, I'm surprised that they actually work! Sandman30s (talk) 09:13, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
With the trillions [citation needed] of dollars involved in the computing industry, I'm surprised they work as poorly as they do. -- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 11:01, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
Hmm, you must just have a crappy one, mine works fine :-D  Atyndall93 | talk  11:08, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
As a former software developer (who wrote his first programs on punched cards) I approach every computer-related task with the assumption that it will go horribly wrong or take at least twice as long as I expect. When all goes smoothly I am pleasantly surprised. My wife, OTOH, assumes the technology will all work prefectly first time, and becomes sad and frustrated when it doesn't. No right or wrong here - just different outlooks. Gandalf61 (talk) 11:16, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
Whenever something doesn't work on for me on Windows, I say "#!%$@& Microsoft and their crappy OS". Whenever something does work for me on Linux, I say "how great FOSS is!". -- Meni Rosenfeld (talk) 14:51, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
Aah my brain is exploding over how overly simplistic that is :( --.froth. (talk) 14:06, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
Ah, froth, someday, somehow, you'll learn the difference between being useful and strictly accurate. -- (talk) 14:49, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
Sorry froth I could have given a typical geek answer to "how computers work" but I don't think the OP would have understood much. Funny, though, what your ten-year old can understand and your mother-in-law can't. Sandman30s (talk) 20:05, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

bandwidth of skype[edit]

Hi, can anyone tell me what is the bandwidth of skype, both with and without video? I know that this can vary, but can anyone give an approximate maximum and minimum? thanks in advance, (talk) 11:20, 29 May 2008 (UTC) Also please note, I have looked through the Skype article, but I couldn't find the answer, and the word "bandwidth" doesn't appear in the document (according to my Explorer search function). (talk) 11:21, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

The skype website quotes a minimum of 3kb/s and a maximum of 16kb/s but I am going to look into it further for you. It also says "it is not possible to give estimations about the used bandwidth during a video call."  Atyndall93 | talk  11:28, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
This is probably because their video bandwidth scales with quality, allowing them to use all of the available bandwidth for maximum quality, and significantly less bandwidth if less is available (at reduced frame rate and picture integrity). Nimur (talk) 15:49, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for those answers. I actually just checked the website, and on their q&a forum, it said that the bandwidth was 3 to 16 kiloBYTES per second. So if Atyndall could confirm if s/he has misquoted (kb/s means kilobits per sec, I think), I would appreciate that, but if not, thanks for finding that for me, because I didn't think to check outside of wikipedia (well, actually, I was at uni when I wrote, and they don't provide google access anyway, scumbags :) ). (talk) 17:42, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

Firefox - link captions[edit]

Webpages have links to objects. Many objects have, as part of the link, a caption. Sometimes, the caption is longer than Firefox wants to display, so it breaks the caption, and appends several periods to show that part of the caption was not displayed. F'rexample, the page has a cartoon in the middle of the page. If I place my mouse over the cartoon, I get a little popup that says "Protip: Even without the red spiders, never have that conversation halfway through a ..." However, if I check the page source, the HTML coughs up the following snippet:

title="Protip: Even without the red spiders, never have that conversation halfway through a balloon ride."

How can we modify Firefox to show a longer caption than the the apparent display limit of 85 characters? Or, is there a command to show the rest? If I want to see the whole thing, is there any better solution than checking the source code? -SandyJax (talk) 14:49, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

For your last question, I right-click the cartoon and select Properties. That still requires scrolling the alt-text title field, but it's probably a tad more convenient than doing a view source. This Add-On looks like it might be useful. --LarryMac | Talk 15:04, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
After further research, and looking at an XKCD page source, I see that they are using the "title" attribute, not "alt" - which is the correct way to do it, according to this article. The add-on linked above is probably not going to help (at least on XKCD, I'm sure that some pages do use alt expecting it to show as a tool-tip). So now, why is title limited to 85 characters? Onward with my research . . . --LarryMac | Talk 15:14, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
This extension works on title attributes. — Matt Eason (Talk &#149; Contribs)
This issue is fixed in Firefox 3. You can download Firefox 3 Release Candidate 1 here. — Matt Eason (Talk &#149; Contribs) 15:26, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
If you have an hour to waste, this bugzilla thread spans nearly seven years, with all kinds of back and forth sniping. Finally at the very end of the thread it is revealed that, as Matt says, the fix is in FF3. --LarryMac | Talk 16:12, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Thanks, everyone! I'll wait for formal release before I put FF3 on an income-producing machine. LarryMac: In Bugzilla's defence, that bug report was for SeaMonkey. It's not surprising that it stayed open for so long, if people kept chiming in to complain that the same issue cropped up in other products, too. A lot of those comments look like they should have been separate bug reports. Of course, a lot of them WERE, but got added to this, so, yeah, 8 years. -SandyJax (talk) 16:56, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Note that FF3 is pretty stable and reliable. The only problems I have ever encountered on it were that some of the plugins I used had not yet been rewritten for FF3, so if you are plug-in dependent you might put off upgrading, but otherwise, I would just jump in. -- (talk) 23:23, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

You're not the first one to have been irritated by this. Fortunately, some of the others who were have come up with their own solutions:

  1. Install Greasemonkey.
  2. Go to
  3. Search for "xkcd".

Ilmari Karonen (talk) 21:53, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

"Unavailable" Google video[edit]

[1], [2] Does the tag mean it's been removed or literally that it will one day be there again? I tried a couple of times over the months and other vids work fine! Or does anyone know an alternative place I could watch the episodes (a cache or mirror of Google Video?)? Thanks ╟─TreasuryTag (talk contribs)─╢ 18:11, 29 May 2008 (UTC)