10 Things a Real Geek Would Never Do

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In May each year, the world celebrates Geek Pride day, but for those of us who are true technology afficiandos, every day presents a new opportunity to celebrate our expertise. If you want to join the geek club, you have to understand the unwritten rules of the fraternity.

Just as a true fashionista wouldn't be caught dead wearing off-brand clothes, a real geek would rather be seen with his fly unzipped than heard calling for support. Here are 10 things you need to avoid if you want to be known as a true geek.

Call Tech Support

When it comes to gadgets, geeks don't need your help and we don't appreciate your condescension. If we don't know how to do something tech-wise, we'll use the Google, Bing or the XDA developers forums to find the answer.

We find dial-up tech support particularly humiliating because the operators always assume a tech problem is our fault. Listen up support dude, we tried turning the device off and on again five times before we called you. Do we really need to do it while we're on the phone, just to prove to you we're not as incompetent as you are? The only reason we'll call in is if our gadget is clearly broken and we need an RMA number to send it in.

More: Which Notebook Vendor Offers the Best Support?

Use a  Screen Saver

Those flying toasters looked great on my monitor back in the days of Windows 3.0. But that was over 20 years ago, and though Windows and Mac still come with screen savers built-in, today's geeks know that setting your computer to display animations when you're not using it is a recipe disaster.

Far from preserving your panel, so-called screen savers actually wear down its backlight as much as if you were sitting there surfing the Web. At the same time, the CPU is active and drawing power in order to generate the animation. By default, all of today's computers go to sleep after a period of inactivity and geeks wouldn't have it any other way.

More: 11 Ways to Increase Your Notebook's Battery Life

Send Messages With an ISP-Provided Email Address

Want to show the world that you don't take initiative, that you just sit back and let things happen to you without putting up a fight? Use the email address your Internet provider gave you for all your important correspondence.

Your friends and colleagues will be truly impressed when you write to them from your @comcast, @att or @verizon address, but they'll be blown away if you write to them with a truly vintage reply-to field. After all, nothing says "I should be running your IT department" like putting an AOL email address at the top of your resume.

Real geeks only use their ISP email addresses to register with shopping sites that are sure to send them spam. We wouldn't even given vintage @mindspring or @netzero addresses out to a Nigerian banker.

Hardcore geeks register their own domain names to use for email. Others sign up for free web accounts with popular web services like of Google.

More: How to Use Gmail Offline

Pay Tethering Fees

Wireless carriers want to charge you extra for using your smartphone to connect your notebook or tablet to the Internet. If it weren't bad enough that you pay $30 or more to surf the web, check email and stream videos on your phone, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile want to charge you a second time for using the same exact data with another device.

But, like Kool Moe Dee, we "ain't nice and they don't play that. If it ain't tax then they don't pay that." A real geek will take advantage of tethering apps like PDA.net or FoxFi. These two particular apps on Android don't even require users to root or jailbreak their phones.

More: The 7 Worst Smartphone Injustices and How to Fight Them

Print Stuff Out

In 2012, we have eReaders, tablets and smartphones with us at all times. So why on earth would we take perfectly good electronic documents and output them to dead tree format?

Geeks look at family photos on their smartphones, because they know paper can't hold a candle to AMOLED or Super LCD. If they need to pass along a sentiment, they send an ecard. If they need to trade contact information, they send it electronically rather than handing out business cards.

More: Top 10 Smartphones

Surf the Web With a Stock Browser

Being a geek is all about taking control of your world. So, if you just sit there and use whatever browser came with your operating system, you're not doing it the geek way. Windows and Mac geeks pass up IE and Safari for Chrome or Firefox while Android and iOS geeks opt for Opera or Dolphin Browsers.

More: Top 11 Google Chrome Tips: Control Your Tabs, Work Offline, More

Create a Password Without Numbers or Symbols

It may be convenient to give yourself a simple password that's composed of nothing more than the name of your favorite football team or "abcde," but geeks know how easy that is for hackers to crack. Even the least security-conscious geek will use a few odd characters like the @ sign instead of e or the ! instead of "i," However, serious IT geeks know that a randomly-generated selection of letters, numbers and symbols is the most secure.

More: 6 Password Managers to Protect Your Accounts

Leave a Router Unsecured

You wouldn't leave your front door unlocked with a pile of cash visible through your first floor windows. By the same token, geeks never leave their routers unsecured. We wouldn't even use WEP encryption, because that's not much better than having no protection at all. Opt for WPA2 encryption.

More: Which Dual-Band Router is Best?

Pay Someone to Upgrade a Computer

To geeks, the inside of one's computer is sacrosanct. We'd rather let a candy striper cut out our spleens than pay some knit-shirted tech jockey touch our motherboards. Anyone with an IQ above 50 can insert a stick of RAM or swap the hard drive out of a notebook. We'll do it ourselves, thank you very much.

More: 10 Tech Stupidity Taxes You Should Never Pay

Require a Backlit Keyboard to Type in the Dark

Backlit keyboards are for wussies. Geeks spend so much time typing that we know the keys on our keyboards better than the back of our hands. We can easily bang out 80 to 100 words per minute on the Das Keyboard, which doesn't even have labels on its keys so we have no problem typing in a dark room.

We might be amused by the colorful keyboard backlights on gaming notebooks like the Alienware M18x or MSI GT60, but make no mistake, we don't need light to type. The best of us can type on two keyboards at once while blindfolded.

More: 5 Things to Look For in Your Next Notebook Keyboard

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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment
  • Jeremiah Says:

    I agree with LordoftheMonkeys.
    I do not know about all that he said, so I guess I am not a real geek... yet.
    I agree with him because makes sense.
    Using alteritivr web browsers, having a special email, having a smart phone, using some apps some people don't use, being able to install a memory card, etc makes me a geek?
    And in reply to VicksWRKX:
    I guess you aren't very passionate about it.
    15-20 years?
    Bah buy a bunch of books and teach yourself.
    Get it done in 3 months.
    Okay this might be really complicated stuff and maybe it is one of those 1-3 years things, but I will learn it in 3 years or less.

  • Steve Says:

    I have a better article. Geeks should never:

    1: Believe that they are smarter than every other tech

    2: Fail to recognize the pure beauty that some screensavers are

    3: Give a crap what people think of what Email services they use (or what tech they use, for that matter. What works, works. That's almost a code of ethics for geeks.)

    4: Think that they are super smart for using an app that not everyone else uses.

    5: Think that they are smart for reading eBooks and surfing photos on a touchscreen opposed to sitting down and reading a dead tre- erm... I mean, book.

    6: Think that you are smart for recognizing that Chrome, Firefox, Opera etc... is better than IE.

    7: Think that they are smart for using the Google Password Generator, or using "th!s!sm7p@$$w0rd" for a password.

    8: Think that they are smart for making their connection secure. (since obviously only geeks can do that.)

    9: Ignore all convenience/safety. (I mean, if I purchased a $1000 Intel core or something, I might just leave it to someone else in case I touch it in the wrong place or something. $1000 is a lot to lose on one potential stupid mistake; paying a bit to 100% assure safety is a small price to pay. Also refer to #1.)

    10: Think they are smart because they can type fast on a keyboard that's not lit. (Plus, lit keyboards genuinely are awesome. It does make gaming more fun, especially in a fully dark room.)

  • pwnzr Says:

    This is a really sh!tty article....

    A real geek would never use Windows or OSX unless absolutely forced to. A real geek would immediately install Linux (Hopefully not Ubuntu), with which firefox probably comes pre-loaded...

    A real geek uses the Terminal to do sh!t (I guess windows users call it command prompt? But it seems pretty useless to me...)
    A real geek HOSTS his own web/email server.

    And what's with the never prints stuff out bullsh!t? I kill trees and I'm damn proud of it. There ain't no substitute...

  • Aseries Says:

    I use Easy Tether Pro. I discovered tethering when using the expensive WiFi at Vegas and Laughlin that tends to be brain dead slow. Easy Tether Pro is available on Amazon App store and Google Play for $9.99.

    I swore off screen savers years ago when running a large background print job that required a lot of processing. My Johnny Castaway screen saver came on and sucked down all the CPU cycles and made me late for class.

    When it comes to email domains the only people I pity are AOL users. I should know, I was one of those suckers back in the day and suffered a chain of irritating phone calls to escape.

  • VicksWRKX Says:

    "Want to be a true geek? Read some books for a change. Drop the iPhone or XBox 360 or whatever it is you’re obsessing over and read some hard-core computer books. Start with some O’Reilly books (no, not the Head First ones, try some Definitive Guides), and then work your way up. Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment is a good read. Also, take some time to learn computer science. And by computer science I don’t mean Javascript and Visual Basic, I mean REAL computer science – automata theory, formal language theory, compiler design, distributed computing, things like that. You’ll probably want to learn some of the mathematical background as well; some set theory, formal logic, number theory, and linear algebra should do it. If you can’t be bothered to learn all of this, then you’re not a real geek."

    This will at least takes me 15 to 20 years of in depth study before I can call myself a computer geek. Damn, why wasn't I born to a middle class American family in the early 70s?

  • LordoftheMonkeys Says:

    Let's see…

    1. I don't call tech support simply because making phone calls is a pain in the ass, but I at least know better than to think I know everything about my computer and don't need tech support at all. Thinking that you know everything is evidence that you don't really know anything. Also, what's with all this "gadget" this and "gadget" that? Real geeks don't care about "gadgets". Someone who's into gadgets is called a technophile, not a geek.

    2. I'm aware that screensavers use CPU power, but I sometimes use them anyway, not to save CPU power but simply because I like to watch them. I don't think that makes me less of a geek.

    3. Anyone can buy their own domain name or use a web-based email client. It requires no special knowledge or skill and consequently has nothing to do with being a geek. I don't use an ISP-issued email account, but if I did, it wouldn't make me any less of a geek.

    4. Using tethering apps on your smart phone doesn't make you a geek. If you think knowing how to use a smart phone app makes you a geek, then you really aren't.

    5. I read things in dead tree format all the time. They're called books; ever heard of them? Also, you're forgetting that not every geek owns a smartphone (I certainly don't). Being a geek is not about using technology; it's about actually understanding how technology works and being able to do things with it that no one else can (looking at family photos isn't one of them).

    6. I agree that geeks usually use alternative web browsers rather than stock browsers. I personally do, only because Google Chrome doesn't come preinstalled on any desktop operating systems. Yeah, I said "Google Chrome". Guess I'm not a real geek then, huh?

    7. I was going to point out the XKCD comic about password strength and entropy, but the other commenters beat me to it. Seriously, if you were a real geek, you would have at least some understanding of information theory. But you've probably never even heard of information theory, because you think being a geek is all about iPhones and alternative browsers.

    8. Leaving a router unsecured is not in any way equivalent to allowing people to steal your cash. In the latter case you're actually losing a lot of money. In the former case, the vast majority of times all you're losing is a little bit of bandwidth.

    9. Knowing how to insert a memory card doesn't make you a geek. Anyone can do it, unless they have a hand tremor or other physical handicap (I'm one of these people). Non-technical people lack this skill not because they're dumber than you but because they simply haven't bothered to learn it.

    10. Let me break this to you: EVERYONE knows how to touch type. It doesn't make you special in any way. You might as well be saying "I'm a techie because I know how to play WoW on my PC." or something equally uneducated.

    Want to be a true geek? Read some books for a change. Drop the iPhone or XBox 360 or whatever it is you're obsessing over and read some hard-core computer books. Start with some O'Reilly books (no, not the Head First ones, try some Definitive Guides), and then work your way up. Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment is a good read. Also, take some time to learn computer science. And by computer science I don't mean Javascript and Visual Basic, I mean REAL computer science - automata theory, formal language theory, compiler design, distributed computing, things like that. You'll probably want to learn some of the mathematical background as well; some set theory, formal logic, number theory, and linear algebra should do it. If you can't be bothered to learn all of this, then you're not a real geek.

  • PandoraB Says:

    Got 8 out of 10, but @Admiral Tap Tap's suggestion is the best.
    Come on guys, seriously? I've pretty much had it with these slideshows.

  • Dr. Corndog Says:

    Anthony, you don't use Windows or Linux? I guess that only leaves one option. Should've figured the most arrogant commenter here would be an Apple fanboy.

  • Andre Says:

    Verizon blocks tethering, and you must pay even if using an app like Foxfi.

  • Jeff Says:

    I second Mark and Barb. Real geeks, SHARE their wifi! They don't fall for the fear mongering, they remember the internet before it was completely commercialized and they embody the hacker spirit of sharing and collective progress. They'll even learn to shape their bandwidth if it ever becomes necessary, rather than lock down their internet.

  • Tatarize Says:

    Munroe (xkcd) is right. correcthorsebatterstaple is better than icu4at! as a password. It's much less crackable and far more memorable. Those strings of BS just make people write them down. And that defeats the purpose.

    The EFF has made a pretty compelling case for leaving your router largely unsecured. You can protect your network through a few different protocols, while still giving random people in your vicinity access to the internet, it typically requires open source alternative firmware though. You shouldn't let such silly fears end your charity. Goodness knows I've had an open hotspot save my ass more than once.

  • MaryC Says:

    #11 Proofread

  • Reality Says:

    # 11 Get laid.

  • Herman Says:

    Stop these damn slide-show things. Waste of clicks. I should bill you for mouse over-use. Seriously. STOP IT!

  • Digsy Says:

    "Geeks look at family photos on their smartphones, because they know paper can't hold a candle to AMOLED or Super LCD."

    Hahaha, made my day! You guys are funny. :)))

  • 2noob2banoob Says:

    A real geek would never talk about jailbreaking an android phone.

  • Everett Says:

    Personally, I love screensavers. I have even tried my hand at writing an xscreensaver. If my CFL burns out, I will replace it myself, or substitute it out with some LEDs. At least in the winter, CPU power/heat is a non-issue for me, since I have electric heat anyway.

  • Anthony Says:

    What's a geek? You're an idiot.

    I don't use Windows because its underpinnings are a nebulous void. I don't use Linux as anything other than a server (though, FreeBSD is preferred over Linux) because I don't want the computer I use to be a massive tinkering project. Chrome is an overrated Safari knock-off (WebKit, anyone?). And Firefox is just a browser, get over it already.

    Knowing where to point and click does not make someone an expert at anything. Knowing how to use Javascript does not make you an expert either. All of the interfaces and scripting languages were made specifically to be easy and accessible to the average user and/or slightly above average user. Upgrading a computer's memory or hard drive or installing a new expansion card along with drivers is meant to be a brain-dead process. Why would anyone congratulate themselves for it? Is that what you're striving for? Barely above average?

    Learn a real programming language like C and stop believing your ability to enable the Emoji keyboard on your iPhone qualifies you as a techie.

    Also, patting yourself on the back for following a web fad is the antithesis of an innovator and trailblazer. I'm sorry to break it to you, but Google is not some intellectual behemoth. They created a search engine of questionable value and purchased a web advertising company which provides them with all of their money. Not ever Android was developed in house. It was an acquisition. What have they done that has been truly innovative? And Facebook? Social networking was done by MySpace, Geocities, AOL, Compuserve, even ICQ. Why would anyone assume Facebook has some magic staying power? People get bored after awhile and do something different.

    My point is all of this "I am a techie or geek because..." is just silly, even more so because the vast majority of people who classify themselves as such have no real clue how their computer works, nor how the Internet works. They believe they know, but almost invariably, they're wrong.

    Read a book.

  • Hayden Says:

    "the Google"?? Seriously? On a geek article, of all things!

  • Mike Says:

    I call tech support only when I need them to do something for me on their end. "Cut to the chase, I need a replacement wifi card. I already have the service bulletin in hand so I will NOT restart my computer 10 times, thank you."

    My favorite thing geeks DO do is assume they're on the same level as you just because they built a computer once. K great, you've seen inside that magic box, I'm a software developer.

    I make that ish work.

  • Lucy, Texas Says:

    Oh - and no love to the "techs" who, when a customer calls complaining that IE is constantly crashing, fix the issue by installing Chrome or Firefox. Hello? Have we forgotten that IE is fully integrated into the OS and if its hosed, most likely, Windows is hosed too? It won't be long before Chrome, Firefox or what ever else you gave them is crashing too because of that fact. I know because I end up following up on a lot of calls where I have to explain to the customer that it is time to back up their data and reinstall their five + year old Windows installation because it is past its prime.

  • Lucy, Texas Says:

    I'd like this article even better if it weren't so insulting to tech support. Yes, there are idiots in tech support. I work with a few (like the pair that tried to put together their own computer, didn't put standoffs under the motherboard, wondered why their PCI cards were above the slot, still applied power to the board then wondered why it shorted out...)
    However - I build my own PC's, I only call tech support when I've exhausted all possibilities myself and need an RMA, etc., etc. - and I work tech support because it is the only work I can find. Become an MCSE? Dude - do you know how many people I know who went to MCSE paper mills, work as network admins and their only tech skill is having me on speed dial? Yeah - MCSE's can be idiots too.

  • matt Says:

    stop using slideshows.

  • Barb Says:

    I agree w/ Mark- I think "they" just wanted to scare us all in2 locking up our connections & not share our wi-fi so that "they" make more money by making more people have to pay for it. If more wi-fi connections were open we all wouldnt have 2 spend nearly as much money on data plans for our smart phones (ipads, ipods, kindles and every other device that we may surf with occasionally away from home that they want us 2 buy separate data packages for- not only for each person but for each device...)... if we all cooperated w/ open access wi-fi friendly neighborhoods we would all be able to connect w/out paying ridiculous data fees. But that doesn't bring in obscene profits for "them"- so they scare us in2 locking everything up and not sharing (as wi-fi was initially intended). Mark makes a good point- unfortuneately, as much as I wish we all could just get along and share- I doubt his idea will catch on. But we can hope :)

  • Mark Says:

    I prefer to leave my wifi routers open so anyone within the short range can use it easily. I have been doing this since they invented wifi and have never had a problem. The nice old lady next door is ever so grateful that she does not have to use her limited income on her own internet connection. My other neighbors have their own wifi but appreciate they can borrow mine when theirs goes down. Guests in my house do not need to figure out how to configure a password, it just works.

    There are a few theoretical dangers, but I do not find them compelling.
    1. My wireless does not allow access to my personal computers, just to the Internet
    2. One time a pervert somewhere caused trouble by surfing illegal porn, but he was caught and is in jail now. This is not a widespread problem.
    3. Most people do not use much bandwidth. Nobody using my wifi has ever impacted my use at all. I would rather see easy tools for figuring out who is hogging bandwidth instead of just locking everyone out in case they might.
    4. How many spammers drive around with their laptops? Has this really ever happened? Most ISPs block that port these days anyway.
    It is not like leaving yourself open to attacks from the whole world, it is just people very close to your house and if you are not friendly with them, then maybe you should move.

    I submit that any of the bad things that might happen through open wifi are actually more likely to be caused by your own computer being infected by some malware that came in your email or from a website or with some software you installed.

  • DeeDee Says:

    I am amused at the picture showing a memory card being inserted backwards.

  • Kevin Says:

    @R_Jeff, I am similarly handicapped at typing, however, I can cast an assortment of spells using all my memorized macros in Ultima Online without ever looking at the keyboard...OMG UO I am a Geek!

  • excuzzzeme Says:

    I started out on mainframes in the early 70's and migrated to the latest in PC technology, the one thing I can't do is type without looking. A bad habit I developed early on and never seemed to shake it.

  • R_Jeff Says:

    I think this article show be titled "10 Things a Real Geek in The 21st Century Would Never Do". The reason why is because many of these things would go to the iPad/iPhone/Smartphone generation. And some of the things you say a real geek wouldn't do, they could be questioned. Like the last one for example-the keyboard. For as much as the real geek that I am, I haven't mastered typing w/o not looking down. Yes, I can type w/o looking down, but not 100%. I'd say I'm 95% there. But, because I now have severe vision issues, I'm forced to look down to double-check my spelling. But..of course the geek in me uses voice recognition for extended typing. Nevertheless, I'm old-school..and I'll never stop using a typing. I would love to be able to type using 2 keyboards. Maybe in the next life I will develop that skill :-)

  • Littlelady007 Says:

    Well I got 9 out of 10 - only because my school won't let me use anything BUT IE. I do have chrome as well as mozilla for personal use..does that count?

  • Steven Says:

    Actually, the password item is WRONG. A real geek knows that WHAT characters are used means NOTHING in the face of a brute force hack. To the computer, they are ALL a series of '1's and '0's. The ONLY real security comes from LENGTH of the password.

  • Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director Says:

    Tuomo, but if you store the passwords in a manager like KeePass, you don't have to remember them. OTOH, you then have a single password that unlocks the manager so there's that.

  • ElStellino Says:

    related to passwords:
    It seems I am not geek then. I prefer (and use) correct horse battery staple, in fact.

  • Adam Says:

    You can add "kiss a girl" and "move out of mom's basement" to this list.

  • Admiral Taptap Says:

    You missed one.

    11. Geeks will never suffer an effing ad that pops in front of the article they are reading and can ONLY be dismissed click actually clicking through the effing ad.

    This level of douchebaggery has triggered my "EFFYOU I am never coming back here again" device.

  • Tuomo Kalliokoski Says:

    I disagree with the password part. Those random strings are bad as a passwords, if you want to remember them they end up being quite short and thus vulnerable to brute force attacks. Now the geek thing to do is to have passprhases.

  • Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director Says:

    MarcXW, while many of us think BlackBerry is behind the times, there's still a large community of "Blackberry Geeks." Just because someone likes outdated technology that doesn't mean the person is not a geek.

  • MarcXW Says:

    You should've added "buy a blackberry" (that's actually what I originally thought the tethering image was.

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