Ask Leo! #501 – Thumb drives wear out! Do privacy apps work? Misdirected email, a non-tech item and more…


I mentioned last week that I had a non-tech opportunity come up in recent weeks, and I wanted you to be the first to know.

I am the new publisher of HeroicStories.

HeroicStories is about ... well, the existing mission makes it pretty clear:

HeroicStories™ mission is to use the power of the Internet and existing media to bring diverse, international voices to the world to explore the idea that people are good, that individuals and individual action matter, and that regularly showing examples of people being good to each other will inspire similar actions in others.

HeroicStories has been around since 1999 when it was founded by Randy Cassingham of This Is True fame.

I recently learned that the publisher who took over HeroicStories from Randy in the early 2000's passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. Working with Randy I've been able to step in with a plan to keep HeroicStories going.

The HeroicStories web site will be undergoing some radical changes in the next few weeks, but you can, if you like, head over there and sign up to get on the HeroicStories mailing list right now. That way not only will you begin recieving stories as soon as publication resumes, you'll be the first to know what's going on.

Yep. There's more to life than technology.

Even for me. Smile


Can a USB thumbdrive "wear out"?

I have a database application that I share between multiple computers. We keep the database itself on a USB thumb drive and simply move that drive to the other computers as needed. The database is never copied off the thumbdrive, we just update it in place. Seems very simple.

A friend of mine just told me that I was asking for trouble. He said something about thumbdrives "wearing out", and that sooner or later, probably sooner, the data on my thumbdrive would become corrupt. Is that true? Do these USB drives actually wear out?


I strongly recommend that you backup the contents of that drive – yes, sooner rather than later. And perhaps even rethink how you're sharing that data.

Inexpensive flash memory, the type used in USB thumb drives, memory sticks and other devices, is very, very cool. But there is a dark side that people don't talk about much.

Flash memory "wears out".

Continue Reading: Can a USB thumbdrive "wear out"?

Why am I getting email for another person in another country?

I have a big issue and don't know who to address.

I have a Hotmail account and recently, more by accident, found out that there is another user in a different country with the same hotmail id and I am actually getting e-mails from her so I am sure she's getting some of mine.

I found out by trying to reset my apple id and when I got an e-mail from apple to reset my password, the e-mail kept arriving in French (which seemed odd). After being able to reset the password at apple I took a look at my apple account and hey, this wasn't my account but instead from some woman in Belgium. All her info was visible incl. credit card number etc. – pretty scary. Naturally I didn't touch anything and opened a new e-mail account with gmail but I've called hotmail on this and just keep getting pretty lame excuses (such as "Oh, this never happened before – let us advise you on how to create an alias).

I found your website and I have hopes you have an answer or rather suggestion on how to deal with this. The lame customer service at Hotmail tempts me to go public with this and expose this because I am very sure this isn't the first time. Any suggestions?


Be very careful when typing in your email address. Always.

My guess here is that you don't in fact have the same Hotmail "id" as someone else. They're just very, very similar, in a way that you might not realize.

Continue Reading: Why am I getting email for another person in another country?

Do privacy apps really keep me private?

Do apps like HTTPS Everywhere, Disconnect and DuckDuckGo actually help keep your searches private?

It depends on what you mean by privacy, as the apps you're asking about actually do different things.

And it also depends on exactly who you do, or do not, trust.

It's that trust issue that everything pretty much hinges on.

Continue Reading: Do privacy apps really keep me private?


The Best of Ask Leo!
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The Best of Ask Leo!

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Glossary Term


A reboot is the process of shutting down all running software on a machine, including the operating system itself, and then immediately reloading as if the machine had just been powered on.

A reboot differs from actually powering down the machine and turning it back on only in that the power is never turned off. The software simply acts as if the was shutting down completely, and then immediately acts as if it had just been powered on.

Reboots are common debugging and system stabilization techniques as they force the entire system back to a known initial state. (A power-off shutdown then also includes resetting the hardware to a known initial state as well.) More information: Why do so many tech support solutions start with "reboot" or "turn it off"?

Glossary Terms are featured selections from The Ask Leo! Glossary.
Have a term you'd like defined? Submit it here.

Featured Comments

How do I schedule a nightly reboot in Windows 8.1? (with video)

Nigel writes:

I'm confused as well. No mention, as far as I could tell, as to whether it was a good idea to reboot your computer daily. If it is a good idea then a sentence saying why, would have been nice. Is the idea to save electricity, to save having to tell the wife "Honey remember to switch off the computer." Sorry - It's probably so obvious that it wasn't worth mentioning - but I don't get it.

Leo writes:

There is no "good or bad" when it comes to a nightly reboot. I have in the past run software that was so poorly written that rebooting the computer every so often forcing that software to reload was the only way to work and retain sanity. Rebooting over night was a nice way to ensure it happened at a time that wouldn't impact me. It's not a thing most people need, but it can also solve some marginal problems like that.

How can I send anonymous email?

Zoë writes:

Please do not encourage lying. I disagree with it because of my faith and a Commandment. How would you like to be lied to? In a way magic is lying (the stuff is trickery and a waste).

Leo writes:

With all due respect to your faith, whistleblowers are one case that I believe strongly calls for the ability to send anonymous mail. Yes, they are lying about who they are - to allow important information to be exposed, and in some cases to save their own lives (as in oppressive political regimes).

500 and change

david writes:

You see, Leo, change for the sake of change! (b.t.w. I've been round the sun 57 times but who's counting - and who cares? - but why change things just because of a number?)

Leo writes:

This was not "change for the sake of change". It was change to make Ask Leo! more readable, and a more pleasant inviting experience for those looking for their answers. The Answercast change wasn't "change for the sake of change", it was change to make more of my time available for more productive and personally enjoyable ways.

I think that the common refrain of "change for the sake of change" more often than not overlooks that whomever is making the change has real, honest reasons. You may disagree with the reasons, but I'd absolutely think long and hard before you claim something is just "change for the sake of change".

Leo's Blog

You Speak, I Listen

I started with posing to you a simple question:

What's the single biggest challenge you face using your computer effectively?

My goal was to find out today's burning issues, and with that information fine tune where I spend my time and energy.

You did not disappoint. I was overwhelmed with the number of responses, for which I am truly grateful. Of course that contributed just a little to it taking longer than I'd expected to process the results.

I want to share with you what I've learned, some of the tweaking that has already happened as a result, as well as some thoughts for the future.

Continue Reading: You Speak, I Listen

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