Open Thread: Ask a Geek Anything, Our Q & A Shoutout to Non-Geeks!

Hey folks! Hi all of you Geeks and Nerds and Technostraddlers!

Hello Tweeters and Social Medialites and Gamers! Hello all of you Math-Enjoyers and Telescope-Owners and LARPers and Otaku (is that the plural?!) and and Programmers and Scientists and Trekkies and whatever the hell else you kids are calling yourself!

But must importantly, hello to you there:the non-geek.
This post is for you.

All hail the non-geek! You are a different breed, made of strange stuff. We geeks are wary of you. Sometimes you hurt our feelings, like in middle school.

Now that we have ascended into power, some among us might call you a n00b and totally pwn your face. And that sounds terrifying right?  I mean, where are the vowels? And what does it even mean?

But we here at Technostraddle would never ever call you that. Because we love you. And because we are wise and kind and something and so forth. So this post is for you!

Yes, it is that time. It is the dawning of the n00b open thread, wherein you non-geeks, semi-geeks or more specialized geeks (you know, neural surgeons, Magic the Gathering enthusiasts- you guys have your hands full) can ask us meta-geeks whatever you want to know!

That sounds fun right? Like Dear Abby + NPR’s Car Talk  x Technostraddle ÷ Whiskey!

Sure, we might be shooting ourselves in the foot(s) here. Neither I nor Team Technostraddle know everything.

Our areas of expertise are vast, obscure and far-flung, but not complete, by any means. But, hey, I do a mean Google search.

And we can always outsource and consult local experts. We’ve got a pretty good number of geek sleeper-agents here at Autostraddle.

Worst case scenario we’ll turn to soothsayers. They seem to know what’s up.

If we have a grand ol’ time with this 1st Q & A, maybe it’ll stick around! Because computers are always doing weird stuff, and so is your nerdy crush, probably!

But what do you ask, you say? Well, anything! You can’t go wrong. Here are some examples!


1. Why does my computer make noises like an ailing sea lion? Is this distinct from the badger-in-heat noise it made yesterday, and should I be worried?


2. What the heck is a neutrino?! That sounds like an energy drink! Yum!


3. My girlfriend won’t stop playing World of Warcraft and it’s ruining our sex life! (er…thanks for this one, Kelsey! JKJKJK)


4. My friends and I get stoned and talk about free will. Philosophy is so complicated! Help!


5. I can’t seem to master the Na’vi language from Avatar. Do you have any tips or mnemonic devices for conjugating in Na’vi?


See! Those are fun and ever, ever so rando! That’s what’s great about geek stuff– it can be anything! That’s why our brains our so big, to hold all of the weird things! We shouldn’t even have to get out of bed, our brains are so big!

But today we did get out of bed, because we want to put our big ol’ weirdo geek brains into helping you with whatever kinda stuff you feel like needs helpin’.  But it doesn’t have to be troubleshooting. Want to know what apps we use? What games we play? Our best pick-up lines? Well, maybe we can’t tell you those…they’re classified.

So ask away! Ask anything- general, specific, tech-related, geek love life related, hell- ask it in Na’vi! We’re ready! We’ll select some of the best/strangest/easiest (kidding!) stuff y’all inquire about and make a brand new post, chock full of enlightenment, out of it.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Taylor has written 136 articles for us.


    • Long list:
      Questionable Content
      Girls with Slingshots
      Something Positive
      Punch n Pie
      Fun In Jammies
      Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

      Jenny, do you do anything besides read webcomics? Well, I also live in my Dad’s basement and watch Touched by an Angel and then wonder why I can’t get laid.

      • I also love Questionable Content, but I can’t figure out exactly what about it qualifies as nerdy/geeky. Though perhaps the proof is in the fact that everyone here has referenced it.

        • She just asked what webcomics we read, not just nerdy/geeky, or at least, this is how I took the question. But QC could be like…music nerds?

        • What? It’s got all sorts of random geek references. More indie-band-geek than tech-geek, but still. Also: Pintsize and Marigold.

          • True. I guess my frame of reference is xkcd…and you really can’t get more nerdy than that. But right. Robots. (And music).

    • Dinosaur Comics (
      XKCD (
      Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (
      Toothpaste For Dinner (
      Diesel Sweeties (
      Cowbirds in Love (
      Left Handed ‘Toons (
      Surviving the World (
      Wondermark (

    • Also, felt like I should probs list the ones I read:

      A Softer World []
      Boy on a Stick and Slither []
      Daisy Owl []
      Diesel Sweeties []
      Dinosaur Comics []
      LOLBots [which is a Diesel Sweeties spin-off that caters to mobile phones] []
      My Milk Toof []
      Octopus Pie []
      Questionable Content []
      xkcd []
      YU+ME []

    • I will naturally come back to this question, but dude, if you are even vaguely a gamer, or a nerd (and you revel in profanity, like me), read penny arcade!

      today’s apple tablet comic is hysterical.

      Nerd confession: i have a signed penny arcade shirt that is basically publicly unwearable (like my WoW shirt, but not my X-Men shirts, strangely).

  1. The question that really burns into my soul late every evening(well, sort of..since I only got it yesterday) is are there any decent lady on lady iphone apps..not the pervy kind (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that) but something clever..and funny and hot and giantly gay.

    Ok sod it, that was my not-so-thinly veiled attempt at asking if (when?) Autostraddle applications will be taking over my iphone since you already have control of my internets

  2. I feel disheartened by the mean/fa*g*t-calling bros in Modern Warfare 2. I feel like it’s recess circa 1993 all over again. I don’t want to go cry in the corner, and I don’t want them to call me a dyke (even though I am, and anyone else can call me one). I’m trying to level, but obvs that takes some time and patience and being called a f*g or other unmentionables is a huge gamer turn off. Also someone made a joke about hiding in a bush today. Yeah, THAT KIND OF BUSH. Maybe that’s why I feel like I am playing with 12 yr olds?

    Soo…any tips for handling the T-town (as in testosterone town, pop. gamers) that is war-games these days?

    • If you can’t beat em, join ’em. And by that I mean we completely totally devolved last night into young boydemons.

      • it depends what mood i am in sometimes i just devolve myself and yell into the mic and trash talk. Sometimes I just mute them. Although often times I am playing with friends, so they trash talk back if things get really bad or just leave.

    • I either a) toggle mute or b) try to nuke/kill the sense out of them. Be advised, nuking may cause more anger. I find that playing with a group of friends is a good way to avoid such douchebaggery. They’ll stick up for you, you’ll have more fun, etc. If that doesn’t work, ask people to stop being so insensitive (which, sadly, hardly ever helps) so toggle mute away! To be honest, I don’t think the hate will ever end on live… It’s become routine for me, just mute, party up, or knock some sense into them, I guess? Hope that helped a little… *sigh*

  3. Also my sex life is doing just fine, thank you. It’s called xbox LIVE, as in,



  4. My now-maybe-recently ex girlfriend didn’t know what a blog was until I met her. So I have two questions:
    1. Was this a red flag? I mean she’s cute and all, but seriously?
    2. How can someone concisely but accurately explain what a blog is? I feel like blogging covers so much ground these days that it’s hard to explain.

  5. Okay. *gulp* So, now that netflix has decided to send me non-scratched copies of BSG, I’ve decided to pick it up again. I feel so left out of conversations! I was wondering where the movies fit in with the show/what order to watch them in? It’s so confusing, seriously, do I have to watch them in between series? Consecutively? What? I feel such nerdshame right now guys…

    • um Razor you could watch in between. But The Plan could wait till the end. It really was not that good in my opinion.

      • yea, the plan is meh. razor is lesbosexy (Tricia Helfer!), and you can watch it any time after season 2, i believe. also there are even more gay webisodes!

  6. Ok, serious question:
    I have Firefox (3.5.7) installed on Windows Vista. For the past month, Firefox has been crashing at least twice a day. Both Norton antivirus and Spybot say my computer is completely clean. At one point my computer gave me a DEP warning when Firefox crashed 9but only one time, all other crashes seem to be random, while on totally trusted websites). Has anyone else had problems with Firefox crashing and know how to fix it?

    Also, a neutrino is an electrically neutral elementary subatomic particle.

    • My Firefox has also been crashing at will. I fix it by switching to Chrome or Safari. Somebody else probably has a better solution, but this one has worked effectively thus far.

    • Try starting in Safe Mode. It gets rid of extensions, but it might be an extension causing the problem. Disable plugins if that doesn’t work, same deal.

      Alternately, switch to Chrome. I like it much more.

        • Did 3.6 JUST get released? Because I swear I checked to see if my version was out of date a couple days ago and Firefox told me there were no new updates.

          Updating now. Thanks!

      • Chrome is really quick, intuitive and sexy. I love it. Also, look at all you Technostraddlers helping one another! IT BRINGS A TEAR TO MY EYE

    • Thanks, I’ll try safe mode. I’ve thought about switching browsers, but I don’t WANT to. I WANT Firefox to go back to working properly. (pout)

    • I agree with the “try turning off all your addons” thing. Unless, of course, the upgrade fixes all.

    • Use Opera instead! I got so fed up of firefox crashing alll the time too and actually havent had that problem once since using Opera. For reals its brilliant.

      • Pheew, I read that as Oprah. Dear lord, if that woman had a browser… o_0 I’m a total supporter of chrome. It’s sleek, fast, and if it crashes it restores to the same page. *thumbs up*

  7. I have questions! I use a MacBook Pro, but I’m too scared to take it outside of my apartment because I damage things. So I’ve been thinking about getting one of those little notebooks – the ones that only cost a few hundred dollars and are stripped bare application-wise. Which is fine, I just want to write words and read autostraddle. So!

    1) In general, are these notebooks any good?
    2) Do they operate fast? I’m a very impatient person.
    3) What are the better brands / models on the market?

    Thank you technostraddle!

    • I have a netbook and love it. It’s what I use to sit around on the couch or the coffee shop or whatever, because they are so small and light and wonderful. I ended up buying an MSI Wind after researching it, and adore it. I looked at a bunch of models, and the Wind was just right for me. I would NOT recommend the Acer or the Gateway. But everything else is kind of up to you. I think MSI is the best netbook brand, but I am obvs biased because that is what I bought.

      • Oh, also, my Wind is super-fast. You can’t keep as much on netbooks, but I have Chrome and Openoffice and all that jazz on it and it works fantastically.

    • I love my net book. I named it the sambook ‘cuse my name is sam clearly. It is an Acer and its blue which also makes it adorable to me. I’ve had it maybe close to a year. I use it mostly for taking it around with me and writing and or yea autostraddle. OR i have also taken it with me on short trips where i dont feel like schlepping my macbook pro. What is great about the net book idea is that most of the processor heavy applications can be substituted for an online or “cloud computing” which basically means everything is stored somewhere on a sever and you can access it very fast. My netbook has the following specs. 1.2 ghz atom processor 120 gig hD. 9 inch screen, camera and mic and some ports. They do run fast because they aren’t storing a ton of information. I put windows 7 on it but I am thinking dual booting to run the chrome OS. If you get a certain model of Dell netbook you can put Mac OS X on it which seems like a fun idea. as well those come in colors too I think.

      • Thanks! I will write those specs down as benchmarks for when I shop around.

        I am thrilled that you brought up cloud computing because next to Autostraddle, CLOUD COMPUTING IS MY LIFE. Not by choice, but still.

    • I have an eee PC that I use for writing on the train. I like it, but I wish I’d had a chance to try out the keyboard first – it’s VERY small. But it’s one of the 7″ ones, which I don’t even think they make anymore (I was an early adopter). The 10″ ones have a full keyboard, I think.

      I’d suggest trying it out at JB Hi-Fi or Officeworks or whatever and then buying online. I saved a bundle that way.

    • Dear crystal, I had a normal laptop but it was old and slow and hurt my back when I took it to the library with my bajillion of notes and excessive number of pens and highlighters and most importantly snack/study food. So I bought a netbook and a couple of months later my laptop died (followed by my creative mp3 player. It wa a pretty tragic month). The point of the story is, I haven’t replaced my laptop yet. And its fine! I don feel empty. And it’s been over a year. And I am totally connected to the Internet/on my netbook like 22/24 hours a day. The only downside is haing no cd/DVD drive. Which was fine when I ha a DVD player in my room. But…I can deal. I don’t know anything about computers but it’s fast. And shiny.

      I have a msi wind as well. The u100 model, but there’s probs newer ones now. I got it for $650 like a year ago. And it’s 120gb. oh the other thing is it has shitty speakers. But I just connect it to external ones/use headphones. And I don’t find the keyboard too small. All the keys are pretty normal sized. Just the like. Full stop, forward slag keys are a tiny bit smaller so you end up hitting the wrong ones at the start. I found alot of other netbooks awkward.

      • Marlene and Dina – Thanks! It’s especially helpful when Aussies recommend brands / products because I know that they’re available locally. I’ll definitely check eee and msi out.

    • When I get stoned I talk about snowflakes and how cool it is that they are unique and special, each and every one. I lose, you win.

      In all seriousness though, there is no such thing as free will. So you don’t need to discuss it anymore!

      Free will assumes that one can will completely free from the influences of internal forces (desires, feelings) and external agents/agencies (other people, and the social, cultural, historical, biological, etc.), and that is just crazy talk. The whole free will debate is summed up very simply in one sentence – either one can detach its will from all internal and external influences or one cannot. I say one just cannot – human experience is a product of social, historical, and biological conditioning and one cannot will separately from those constructs.

      This of course does not negate the importance of choice, as choice can exist within a world where free will does not. But only if/when our definition of choice admits that while we are free to choose between various options/paths, the choices we are given are influenced and constructed by internal forces and agents/agencies external from ourselves.

  8. Are the little tiny workers who carry information bits back and forth in the intertubes regulated by any sort of labor laws? Can they have smoke breaks in there? Do they know that smoking kills?

    Alright, now for a serious question: World of Warcraft… ?

    I was never allowed video games growing up and never had the money on my own, so my video game experience is limited to playing old school Super Mario Brothers and Tony Hawke at a friend’s circa 1996 (ish?) and college encounters with Rock Band/Guitar Hero. I need to know what people are talking about and I hear lots of people talking about this.

    Also, will the public admission of this lack of knowledge decrease my chances of dating a geeky girl? And if the answer is yes, then can you tell me how to pay off the tiny tube workers to sneak into Autostraddle and delete it?


    • The girl I had a date with last night (YAY FOR JENNY) doesn’t know/like video games at all, and I am MORE than willing to be her tutor of geekdom.

      So No.

      • Whew, great. That’s a load off my mind. And yay for your date. :D

        I’m a geek in my own ways (I nearly actually drooled while ogling some nice cameras the couple behind me had at the cafe today), but there are so many geek areas I am just entirely uneducated in.

  9. Any recs for good online Flash games (whatever sort)? I’m on Ubuntu, so most game downloads don’t work, but I often spend my time wasting it on Bejeweled or something else random and I’d like some ideas. (I love Myst-style point & clicks, but anything goes really, and I know about Jay is Games but would like to know your secrets).

  10. ok! real talk autostraddle- what’s your favorite thought experiment, as in like schrodinger’s cat not like girls in boyshorts on netbooks with glasses and some wine sitting in your room…. wait why did I ask that first question?

    • schrodinger’s lesbian? but that sounds like a human rights violation to me.

      assuming you actually want to know the answer to this, i am excited!

    • I’ve always been fond of the whole “brain in a vat” thing. Or any variation of Descartes’ evil daemon problem, really. I like the trolley problem too, though “like” might be the wrong word because I spend entirely too long thinking about it and keep changing my answer. And I think Gabriel’s Horn is amazing in its simplicity, could stare at 3-D representations of it all day.

      I think every thought experiment could be improved by adding a girl in boyshorts on a netbook with glasses and some wine. Like Shrodinger’s Lesbian, as Taylor mentioned! Or the Really Really Hot Philosophical Zombie. Though some of them don’t really need an addition–I always imagined the Famous Violinist and Sleeping Beauty from their respective thought experiments to be cute bi girls.

      …I’m sorry, was I supposed to respond intelligently?

  11. For two days all of the YouTube videos that I have tried to play have played like three times as fast and with no sound. This makes me weep because I can’t watch the Autio-Video 2010 Teaser. What is causing this? The only programs that I have open are Firefox and iTunes.

    • youtube is changing a lot of stuff upgrading changing some content. I would make sure your plugins are up to date as well.

  12. I have a problem that has been annoying me for weeks, but since I don’t know how to fix it myself I’ve just ignored it. Until now.

    Windows Update fails to update Windows Update and I cannot update anything else before I update Windows Update! A quick google search shows that I’m not the only one with this problem, but all the suggested solutions either requires me to download tools or updates from Microsoft (WHICH I CANNOT DO BECAUSE I FIRST HAVE TO UPDATE WINDOWS UPDATE), or they involve steps that my non-geek brain does not compute. This is driving me insane!

    I need someone to tell me how to fix this in teeny tiny baby steps, or I have to bite the bullet and ask one of my geeky colleagues for help.

    I have a laptop with Windows Vista Home Premium and Service Pack 2 installed.

  13. I am getting the iphone next month. It is being forced on me. What apps should I waste money on?

    • I’m really not sure on paid-for apps for the iPhone, but there are plenty of really good, free ones!

      • depends what you need/want. a good rss feed reader is def important if you do that kind of thing and worth paying for. A good twitter app- Tweetie 2. I like istat but i have it for my computer and i love knowing what exactly is going on with my devices. Pasetbot is fun too because it is a giant clip board and then it can sync with you mac. As far as games go. I am a fan of must eat birds, field runners, edge doom resurrection and chess puzzles. As far as useless apps go I like Bebot, iNeitzsche, hal 9000, bloom. free apps i would reccomend- boxcar, AP mobile w/ push, rachel maddow well just because, shazam, sportacular, now playing does netflix management and doubles as a movie times application.

        sometimes you can get really good apps for cheap when they go on sale thats what i do with most of the games that i have.

        hope this helps.

  14. @ Taylor- oh, all sexy banter aside, I really do want to know. I sort of had this idea that knowing a lot of different and perplexing paradoxes like that would make me a better conversationalist and therefor cooler at parties. And then I realized most of the parties I go to still involve red Solo cups. Hence the need for internet friendzzz!

  15. OK this is way late, but recent circumstances have made this something of an emergency.

    My laptop just died. Just under 3 years old, one replaced harddrive (which turned out to be dodgy and only lasted for 8 months), went from Windows Vista to Ubuntu. Now it won’t boot up. argh.

    So! Apparently I am in the market for a new laptop. I have been lusting after a tablet since about 2003 (write on the screen! woo!) but the iPad is disappointing and I don’t know what’s good anymore. I used to be a loyal Acer customer but am willing to branch out. My first university was filled with broken iMacs so I have a distaste for them (hell the only reason I even have an iPod is because I won it from MySpace). I am currently writing this from my partner’s netbook, a Kogan running Ubuntu, which is pretty decent.

    I’m mainly using it for office stuff, surfing the web, listening to music, and watching videos. Must have good wifi. Games – not too concerned, so long as I can play Flash games I’m good. I liked how speedy Ubuntu was and I don’t mind Windows; I’ll only consider a Mac if I REALLY have to. It’d be nice to be able to edit pictures but I’m not too worried about that.

    Most of all, I’m after something *robust* – my first laptop ever survived 2 falls and everything unhinged, and it still worked for 6 years on 256MB and Windows 95. Newer laptops seem too fragile. Something that can handle international travel, being tossed around in a bag, and being moved around a lot would be great.

    Any suggestions? Recs? Most of my laptops have been in the RM4000ish range (about US$1200?) so mid-range would be good.

    • My Alienware laptop is pretty much emperor god king of the universe, as far as I am concerned, but they are pricey, and you probably don’t need one. Most laptops are more fragile than I feel they should be, to be honest. BUT here are some that I have had good luck with*:


      I do not recommend:
      Mac (you can get a really amazing laptop for the price of a low-level mac. I say this as someone who owns a Macbook Pro)

      *all of these opinions are mine and mine alone, based on my life experience. Your Mileage May Vary.

  16. I’m trying to get into programming and computers but find it difficult to find a good starting point. What’s the best place to start–learn C? Put Ubuntu on my computer? Honestly I’m kind of helpless and flaily right now. Are there any good resources that will tell me what comp sci will teach me and how to learn these things?

    (Also, I started watching Doctor Who from the beginning, but honestly the first Doctor kind of bored me and the sixties treatment of women as hysterical screaming creatures annoyed me. Which Doctor do you think is the best to start with?)

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