Techie Words
When a piece of hardware is ready for the next task or transmission, it can tell other hardware by sending a DSR or Data Set Ready signal.
Sure, there are millions, even billions of pages, on the Web. But how many really matter? That is, how many mention your name? Egosurfing is the search to find out.


Gopher is a menu-based system used in organizing and retrieving files via the Internet. Gopher is most commonly used to access files found on FTP servers.
Gopher structures information on Internet servers with a hierarchical menu of folder and files that you access with a Gopher browser. Although most Gopher browsers (and files they access) are text based, more recent Gopher browsers have been developed to display graphic images (usually folder and file icons) in the file directories. For that matter, you can access Gopher archives with the Big Two browsers (Navigator and Internet Explorer).
To check out an example of a Gopher archive of files, point your browser to gopher://

WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET(WYSIWYG) WYSIWYG (WIZ-ee-wig) refers to an application that displays documents on-screen just as they would look when printed. Of course, most computer users these days don't know any differently, but there used to be a time when documents were produced with obscure lines of "code" that described how things would appear. For example, some old-fashioned word processors required you to type the command bold in angle brackets, in front of text to indicate that it should appear in boldface. Now, of course, we can apply the command to text and the instruction is transparent: We see words in bold on-screen just as they will appear when printed. That's WYSIWYG. WHAT DO YOU CALL A SYSTEM WITH NO FACIAL HAIR AND A HIGH VOICE? UNIX (pronounced YEW-nix) is a computer operating system meant to be used by many people at the same time, and it is widely implemented in many colleges and universities, as well asˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇ also the most widely used operating system for servers on the Internet. One way to recognize UNIX is by its use of obscure codes to perform even the simplest tasks. Unlike the Mac OS and Windows, UNIX doesn't usually operate with a groovy point-and-click-the-pretty-pictures interface. In case you care, UNIX originated at Bell Labs in 1969 and was codeveloped by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie. PROPER PROTOCOL PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE FTP (pronounced phht-ttp--just kidding; it's really F-T-P) stands for File Transfer Protocol. Not surprisingly, FTP is a language ("protocol" to a geek) that is used to transfer files over the Internet. You can also use FTP to update (delete, rename, move, and copy) files on a server. FTP works both ways--for getting stuff from a server on the Internet as well as sending stuff to a server. There are a number of FTP applications--including the Big Two Web browsers (Navigator and Internet Explorer)--that can transfer files via FTP. Finally, you can identify an FTP site on the Internet by the fact that its URL (or address) starts with ftp:// VERONICA KNOWS GOPHERS Veronica stands for Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives--which is a long-winded way of saying it's an index of Gopher archives (described yesterday). Veronica not only provides an index of the tens of millions of items on Gopher servers but also provides a handy search and retrieval system to locate a specific item. However, Veronica finds these items only by searching for words in titles; it does not do a full-text search of the contents of the resources. (The title is the title of the resource as it appears on the menu of its home gopher server.) To try out Veronica, point your browser to gopher:// and follow one of the Find or Search links. YOU GOTTA START SOMEWHERE A newbie (pronounced NOO-bee) is any new user of a technology, but the word is most commonly used to describe neophytes to computers in general and the Internet in particular. Although some unkind folks insist on using it as a derogatory term, everybody has to start out as a newbie in some way. According to Eric Raymond's The New Hacker's Dictionary, newbie is a variant of the English public-school term "new boy," which refers to someone in the first year of school. JUST ANOTHER GEEK WHO WORKS TOO HARD Originally, multitasking was used to describe a computer's ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time (essentially, in techspeak, sharing a single processor between two or more independent jobs). But today, multitasking has already made its way into our common vernacular. You may have heard it around the office ("I've got Smith on line one, my attorney on line 2, and I'm writing a check to my therapist") or among your friends ("So there I was, playing with the baby, talking to my mother, and writing a check to my therapist"). But whether you use the word in its technical or general sense, it means the same thing: You're working too hard. OO-EY, GOO-EY, RICH AND CHEWY INSIDE . . . Remember the Fig Newton song? Good, then you know how to say GUI (pronounced goo-ey). GUI stands for graphical user interface, and it's often used to describe Windows. If you want to use it in a sentence, say, "Windows is a GUI." A user interface is the way a person interacts with something. So a graphical user interface describes interaction using pictures. That describes Windows pretty well, wouldn't you say? You use graphical (as opposed to text) elements--windows, menus, your mouse pointer, icons, and so on--to communicate with your computer. Now, the next time you hear someone say "GUI," you'll know they aren't talking about cookies fresh from the oven. SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE I'll tell you what shareware is--shareware is great. Picture this: Joe Shmo makes a nifty little program that lets you operate your microwave from your Macintosh. Joe posts his Macrowave shareware on the Internet, where Jane Spain downloads it for free. Jane loves Macrowave, so she sends Joe his requested $19 and continues to use it every day for the rest of her life. She likes it so much, she gives a copy to her sister, Elaine. Elaine, on the other hand, never uses Macrowave. Neither does she pay for it. That's shareware--software that you try before you buy. If you don't like it and don't use it, you don't need to pay for it. If you do like it and you use it, you pay for it. We trust you. Variations of the shareware concept include: freeware (no cost), postcardware (send a postcard), musicware (send your favorite CD), and beerware (well, you get the idea). You can find shareware resources all over the Net, so just look around. WHO'S DRIVING THIS THING? A driver is a small software program that interacts with a particular device--such as a CD-ROM drive, disk drive, or printer--and provides translation between the language your computer speaks and the language that the device understands. In other words, a driver is essentially an interpreter, helping the two pieces communicate. Understand? Comprende? Si. Yes. For Windows systems, a driver is usually in the form of a DLL (dynamic link library) file; for Macintosh, it's usually in the form of an extension. YEAH, BUT IT'S STILL A GUESS, RIGHT? You've heard the term "educated guess," right? And you know that this term has evolved into the slang "guesstimation" (a combination of guess and estimation). An optimisation is similar, but more biased: It means an "optimistic estimation." A point to ponder: If an optimisation is an optimistic estimation, is an optimistic estimated guess an optiguesstimation? What about a pessimistic estimated guess? A pessguesstimation? STOP IT! YOU'RE GETTING ME ALL WET! Have you ever gone to a Web site that had an initial page that appeared on-screen for a short time and then automatically progressed to that site's real home page? Or maybe the initial page offered a couple of choices for going to the real home page--for example, one home page for Europe and one for North America. In either case, that first page is called a splash page. The purpose of a splash page can be to set the tone or mood of a site (mostly for art/education sites), to promote a special offer, to tell the user which browser or software he or she needs, or to give the user a choice between home page versions. You can see an example of a splash page that give users a choice of home pages at the following site: By the way, when a site links two or more splash pages, they've made a tunnel. LAN LAN stands for local area network, a small system of interconnected computers. Usually, LANs are limited to a single office or building, but a really big LAN might span two or more adjacent buildings. Most likely, the computers in your office are connected with one another and possibly even a server--making you a LAN user, whether you knew it or not. I 'M DOWN WITH THAT When you download a file, you retrieve it from a remote computer or server and bring it to your own computer. In a give-and-take world, to download is to take. TO UPLOAD IS BETTER THAN TO DOWNLOAD When you upload a file, you send a copy from your own computer to a remote computer or server. In a give-and-take world, to upload is to give. A STEP CLOSER TO THE PAPERLESS OFFICE PDF stands for Portable Document Format--an electronic file format (created by Adobe Systems) that captures all the elements of a document so that it can be viewed on any platform, without the application that originally created it. This capability actually represents a pretty radical change in the way we use our computers to read documents. Why is it radical? Read on: - PDF is an electronic format, which means that you can create your documents and distribute them without printing. This means you save money as well as wear and tear on the environment. It also means you can distribute documents on the Web, pass them around on floppy disks, and so on. - PDF captures all the elements of a document so it can be viewed on any platform, which means that you don't have to worry about the reader having the same fonts that you used in the document, and you don't have to worry about the documents design changing from one user to the next. A PDF document always looks just like the Original, whether it was made on a Macintosh and viewed with Windows, or vice versa. - PDF documents can be viewed without the application that originally created them. For example, you no longer need PageMaker to view documents created in PageMaker, nor do you need Word to read documents created in Word. - All PDF documents, no matter how they were made, are read with Acrobat, a PDF viewer. If you don't already have Acrobat, stop by the Adobe site to pick up the PDF viewer (it's free). The site also contains links to a wide range of PDF files you can download and view. NOT KNOWN FOR THEIR CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS A neep-neep is someone who is fascinated by computers. The term is less specific than "hacker" and implies that the person has little more skill than is required to start up a game of Quake or to order a pizza from the Pizza Hut Web site. When neep-neeps are said to be "neeping," it means they're engrossed in overly long and boring conversations about computers. WARNING: TRESPASSERS WILL BE TORCHED A firewall can be either a computer or a program running on a computer--but either one serves the same function: to protect the network. As its name implies, a firewall creates a "wall"--typically between an institution's Internet server and the outside worldódesigned to keep out the riff-raff. In other words, a firewall is a way to prevent unauthorized users from tampering with a computer system. One of the simplest firewall screening methods is to check requests to make sure that they come from acceptable sources. For example, a company might put up a firewall for part of its system, allowing access only to users within the company. For more information on firewalls, check out the Firewall FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) at THERE'S A BETA TESTER BORN EVERY MINUTE Beta is a term used to describe software that is still in the preliminary, or testing, stage. Typically, when software is first being developed, it is said to be in "alpha" mode. Then as flaws are ironed out and the program nears a release date, it is advanced to "beta" mode. (Alpha and beta are the first two letters of the Greek alphabet.) Once the software is in beta mode, the company solicits the help of core customers and other suckers to "beta-test" it. As a beta tester, you're given the software to use and are asked to keep a record of all the times it crashes and under what circumstances it destroys your hard work and infuriates you beyond reason. Though you almost certainly won't be paid for your efforts, you may have the option of purchasing the software--when it is finally ready for public consumption--at a reduced price. If being a beta tester sounds like a good deal to you, please contact me about some swampland I have for sale in Florida. MAKING THE WEB MORE ACTIVE Microsoft defines ActiveX as "a set of integration technologies that enable software components to interoperate in a networked environment using any language." Huh? What they're trying to say is that ActiveX lets developers create "controls," self-sufficient mini-applications that your Web browser can automatically download and execute, no matter what programming language was used to create them. ActiveX controls are somewhat like Java applets, except that ActiveX controls have the run of your Windows operating system. Most commonly, ActiveX controls power buttons, list boxes, animations, and other small programs on Web sites. For example, you might go to a financial Web site that will send your browser an ActiveX control to help you calculate interest on a loan. You could then enter the specifics of your loan (amount, interest rate, term, and so on) and perform the calculation from within your Web browser. To see a catalog of commercial ActiveX controls, check out WHEN IS A WORD A MARKETING PLOY? In October of last year, IBM announced it was forming a special group of services aimed at what it calls "e-business." E-business, of course, stands for electronic business--or more specifically, the conduct of business on the Internet. To IBM, this means more than just buying and selling; it means servicing customers through sales and support, collaborating with partners in manufacturing and shipping, and so on. Naturally, IBM is hoping that your e-business will start with your e-purchase of its e-quipment. If you'd like to help IBM do the business of helping you do business, check out FAST AS THE SPEED OF LIGHT Fiber optics (or "optical fiber") refers to state-of-the-art telephone cables. Traditionally, phone cable was made of copper, and information was transmitted as electronic impulses. Fiber optics, on the other hand, use glass or plastic wires ("fiber") to transmit information as light waves. Optical fiber carries much more information than conventional copper wire, transmits the information more quickly, generally isn't affected by electromagnetic interference, and doesn't require as much retransmission or "boosting" of signals. Currently, most telephone companies use fiber optics for their long-distance lines, but not many of them have coughed up the time, money, and other resources necessary to install optical fiber from the local office to your home or business. A GOOD WAY TO END UP BEHIND BARZ Warez (pronounced "wares") is what software pirates call software that has been stripped of its copy protection and made available on the Internet for downloading. (Yes, it's every bit as illegal as it sounds.) In addition to offering a quick way for you to land your cheap butt in jail, these sitez are also notable for pluralizing all wordz with "z." BETTER LIVING THROUGH ELECTRONICS IEEE stands for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and, frankly, we've never heard it pronounced out loud. However, we suggest you say "I-E-E-E" and refrain from the temptation to pronounce it "Aiy-eeeh!" The men and women of the IEEE are the technical and scientific professionals "making the revolutionary engineering advances which are reshaping our world today." They're also the developer of standards (such as the FireWire standard discussed in yesterday's tip) that often become national and international norms. The organization publishes a number of journals, has many local chapters, and several large societies in specialized areas (such as the IEEE Computer Society). With more than 320,000 members in 147 countries, the IEEE pursues such lofty goals as "advancing the theory and practice of electrical, electronics and computer engineering and computer science ... to enhance the quality of life for all peoples through improved public awareness of the influences and applications of its technologies ... and to advance the standing of the engineering profession and its members." The IEEE's Web site is at CEASE AND DESIST A fan club Web site is said to have been "foxed" when it receives a letter of warning about copyright violations from the owners of images or other copyrighted material it has posted. The term was born in October 1996 when Twentieth-Century Fox sent letters to the owners of some fan club sites that were carrying cartoon or photo images from their TV programs. Fox threatened legal action unless all the copyrighted images were removed. For more information, check out the E! Online coverage at,1,379,00.html CHANNEL SURFING--PART 1 OF 3 Each ISDN line has two B channels, or "bearer" channels. B channels are the primary paths used for data communications. Because there are two channels, you can perform two simultaneous tasks. For example, you can use one to make a voice call and the other to connect to the Internet. CHANNEL SURFING--PART 2 OF 3 Yesterday we introduced you to the ISDN line's two B channels, which allow you to make two separate connections, such as when you make a voice call over one channel and connect to the Internet with the other. Today we want to tell you about this kinky thing these two channels can do called "bonding." Bonding is when you use both B channels to create a single, or bonded, connection. Naturally, with the channels combined, you're going to double the data transfer rate. In other words, "Zoom, zoom." (The only drawback is that when the channels are bonded, you can't have two simultaneous connections.) CHANNEL SURFING--PART 3 OF 3 In addition to ISDN's B channels (the two paths used for primary communication, such as voice and data), ISDN lines also have a D channel--the D stands for "delta." You don't use the D channel, but your phone uses it to carry control and signaling information between your connection and the phone company. This channel is mostly used to establish the ISDN call between the telephone company and your phone number for Caller ID purposes. DIGITAL VERSUS ANALOG An analog phone line is the standard line we're all used to, and it uses--guess what?--analog technology. These lines are installed in our houses and offices, and they transfer sound. What this means is that when you transfer data over analog lines, you first have to translate it to sound--that's what your modem and fax machines are for. On the other hand, when you use a digital line (like ISDN), the data can be transferred as is; it doesn't have to be converted to sound. That's one of the reasons information travels so much faster over ISDN lines. FIRE ONE UP FOR ME, MAC FireWire is Apple Computer's version of a new standard for connecting devices to your Mac or PC. It's actually a brand name for Apple's implementation of the IEEE 1394 High Performance Serial Bus standard (if you must know); so you can see why they wanted to come up with something that sounds a little more user-friendly. FireWire (and other companies' IEEE 1394 implementations) provides the following: - A simple plug-in serial connector that lets you use a thin serial cable (rather than the fat parallel cable now required) to connect a port on the back of your computer to many different types of peripheral devices. - A high-speed rate of data transfer that can accommodate multimedia applicationsócurrently 100 to 200 mbps (megabits per second), with up to 400 mbps in the future. - "Hot plug" and "plug and play" capabilities, which let you plug and unplug peripheral devices while your computer is running. - The opportunity to chain up to 63 devices in a number of different ways, without the terminators and other complicated setup requirements currently necessary. Some digital cameras are already shipping with FireWire, and you can expect to see even more devices--such as DVD-ROM disks, digital videotapes, digital camcorders, and music systems--soon taking advantage of this new standard. GEEK FUEL Jolt is an American-made soft drink better known for its mega-dose of caffeine than for its flavor. (Coke drinkers say it tastes like Pepsi, Pepsi drinkers say it tastes like Coke, and coffee drinkers say it tastes like every other cola they've ever tasted.) Hyped as containing "all the sugar and twice the caffeine" of regular colas, Jolt offers the caffeine equivalent of two cups of coffee. It has quite a following among software programmers, college students, Internet surfers, and anyone else who wants to stay awake beyond the p oint of reason. Of course, real geeks know Jolt is totally passe and drink Krank-2-O instead, which has 25 percent more caffeine than Jolt but is otherwise just plain water. Without cola's sugar, sodium, artificial flavors, and colors, you could almost argue that Krank-2-0 is good for you. Almost. INTRODUCING . . . ISDN ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network--which probably means as much to you as "ISDN" did in the first place--and it represents one of the fastest ways you can surf the Web (for now, anyway). In the past, only the Big Players had ISDN lines, but as the technology becomes more accessible, ISDN is finding its way into homes and small businesses. Basically, ISDN is a specialized type of phone line that delivers the wonders of digital telecommunications to your home or office. These wonders include the following: - The ability to transmit both voice and digital information over the same line; - Support for as many as eight devices (telephone, computer, fax machine, and so on) connected to the same line, with up to 64 unique telephone numbers for those devices; - The ability to have three channels open at once; - Speeds much higher than those from even the fastest modems available. ISDN is probably available from your local phone company, but it'll cost you a pretty penny to get wired. Nevertheless, it is becoming more and more popular, inspiring us to define a bevy of ISDN terms in the coming days. Stay tuned to learn the lingo before you call your phone company. IS THAT A LIZARD IN YOUR BROWSER, OR ARE YOU HAPPY TO SEE ME? Mozilla is Netscape's nickname for Navigator, its Web browser. The name Mozilla originated with Navigator's developers before the product had a commercial name and is still used to varying degrees, mostly as a sort of Team Netscape mascot created by illustrator Dave Titus. Navigator users can type "about:mozilla" (sans quotes) in the location field to view this passage from "The Book of Mozilla, 12:10": "And the beast shall come forth surrounded by a roiling cloud of vengeance. The house of the unbelievers shall be razed and they shall be scorched to the earth. Their tags shall blink until the end of days." You can also view the unofficial Mozilla Museum, with links to various information and sites about Mozilla and pictures of his bad self, at IT'S STILL GREEK TO ME "Greek" or "greeked text" refers to text that is either: - Displayed as gray bars or plain lines to preview a page layout or indicate the placement of text that's too small to be legible (usually in desktop publishing programs), or - Mock content used to fill out a page layout preview or demonstrate a typeface. Consider the following: "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetaur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum." The purpose of this greek text is to show a typical distribution of words of various lengths, with a good mix of ascenders (letters that go above the midline, like h, f, and k) and descenders (letters that go below the midline, like g, y, and p). MICROCHIPS IN MANHATTAN Silicon Alley is the relatively new (but growing) community of computer- and Internet-oriented businesses in the New York metro area, particularly downtown Manhattan. The term is a play on "Silicon Valley," the informal name of Northern California's computer development community in and around San Jose. For more information, check out the Silicon Alley News at TAKING FREEDOM TO A NEW LEVEL If you're one of those "information should be free" people, you're going to love the idea behind "copyleft." This concept was pioneered by the folks at the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and applied to their GNU project. Here's how it works: To copyleft a program, first you copyright it; then you add distribution terms that give anyone the right to use, modify, and redistribute the program's code or any program derived from it, so long as the terms of distribution remain unchanged. In other words, anybody can do anything to your program, as long as he or she follow the rules and allows anyone else to modify his or her program in any way he or she chooses. Copyleft mandates that anyone who redistributes the software, with or without changes, must pass along the freedom to further copy and change it, so that these freedoms remain intact with each new evolution of the program. As far as the GNU project is concerned, it wants all users to have the freedom to improve their software. The way they see it, many of the people who could write improvements to free software work for companies or universities that would prefer to hoard those improvements and make money off them. Though the programmer might wish to contribute the changes to the community, the employer is likely to insist on turning those changes into a commercial product. When the programmer explains to the employer that it's illegal to distribute the improved version except as free software, the employer is more likely to agree than to throw it away. Clever, no? As the FSF put it, "Proprietary software developers use copyright to take away the users' freedom; we use copyright to guarantee their freedom. That's why we reverse the name, changing 'copyright' into 'copyleft.' '' Of course, when they speak of "free software," they mean programming freedom, not price. A programmer who changes copyleft software can still charge for the new product, but can't keep its users from making improvements and reselling the software. For more information about the Free Software Foundation, the GNU project, or copyleft, see THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPER PROTOCOL TCP/IP stands for "Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol," and it's the program that every server on the Internetóand every PC that communicates with those servers--uses to send and receive information. Here's how TCP/IP works: A protocol is essentially a formal set of rules for communicating, and all the computers on the Internet have to abide by these rules to ensure the smooth flow of data. The TCP part of the protocol dictates how data is divided into packets for transmission and how those packets are reassembled at their destination. The IP part of the protocol handles the addressing of each data packet so that every piece makes it to the correct destination. Pretty simple, huh? WOULD YOU LIKE MILK WITH THAT? A cookie is a way for a Web site to remember that you've visited the site and possibly to retain some information about you. For example, the first time you visit a site that requires a password, once you type in a password, the server can send it back to your browser as a "cookie." Then the next time you visit, your browser will send back that password cookie and save you the trouble of having to enter your password. (Of course, all of this happens in the background. You may never even know you've been given the cookie in the first place.) In addition to storing a password, a cookie can store other information you send to the server. For example, if you go to a clothing site and tell it that you're female, it could use a cookie to ensure that on subsequent visits, you're shown women's clothes instead of men's. (Remember that cookies can ONLY store information that you send to servers--if it stores your home address, credit card number, date of birth, hair color, and the name of your next of kin, that's because you gave it that information in the first place.) Cookies can also be used to track your movements at a particular site. For example, a gallery site might notice that you came to see the Warhol paintings but lingered over the Mapplethorpe photos. This tracking is limited to a single site or server. Once you leave site A and go to site B, site A can't know a thing about you until you come back. If you want to see what information is stored in your cookie file, use a text editor or a word processor to open a file called cookies.txt (Explorer) or MagicCookie (Navigator) in your browser's Preferences folder or directory. Be forewarned, however, that little of the information you find there will make any sense to you. YOUR WINDOW ON THE WEB Windows 98 is the next major release of Microsoft's Windows operating system for PCs. It is scheduled to be released in mid-1998, was previously called Windows 97 (when it was scheduled for release last year), and may well be renamed Windows 99 if it continues to experience the sort of delays that plagued older sibling Windows 95 back when it was supposed to be released in 1994. The two most hyped features of Windows 98 are the integration of Internet Explorer (Microsoft's Web browser) as an integral part of the operating system and the use of ActiveX controls. (More on Microsoft's ActiveX technology tomorrow.) Windows 98's Active Desktop will let users view and access, directly from their desktops, objects that reside on the Web. In fact, the Windows 98 desktop will essentially BE a Web page, with active links to files and applications stored on your drive and on the Internet. In other words, Windows users should start saving up now for the new software, as well as the increase in online charges they're likely to incur with its use. THE IT'S-NOT-A-MODEM MODEM In the world of ISDN, that thing you typically call a modem is actually a terminal adapter. The word "modem" refers to a device that converts bits of data into sounds for transmittal over regular phone lines. And because ISDN transfers digital data, you don't need to make the conversion, so the term doesn't really apply. Nevertheless, the typical terminal adapter looks like a modem and acts like a modem (which is to say, it transfers data over your phone line). JUST THE BASICS BRI refers to Basic Rate ISDN (also called Basic Rate Interface), which is the standard type of ISDN service you can receive in your home or office. It consists of two B channels and a single D channel, as described in the previous tips. BRI is sometimes also called 2B+D, in reference to these channels. With BRI, the two B channels operate at 64 kbps, and the D channel operates at 16 kbps--both pretty fast. But when bonded, the combined B channel data rate jumps to 128 kbps (about four and a half times the rate of a typical 28.8-kbps modem). That's cookin'. DIPPING DEEP IN THE LAP OF LUXURY If you think BRI, with its two B channels, is zippy, get a load of PRI. PRI refers to Primary Rate ISDN (also called Primary Rate Interface), and it provides 23 B channels and one D channel (23B+D). That makes PRI the equivalent of 24 channels on a high-speed line. Naturally, several channels can be bonded together to achieve even higher data rates. For example, quality videoconferencing often requires the bonding of six channels (to get a speed 384 kbps). And how about this: In Europe, PRI includes a whopping 30 B channels and one D channel. Still, whether you're in the U.S. or elsewhere, this service is usually reserved for companies with deep pockets and a need for serious bandwidth. IT'S ALL IN THE SIZE OF YOUR JACK RJ-11 is the technical term for the little jack at the end of your phone cord that plugs your phone into the wall (at least in North America). RJ-45 is the technical term for the larger jack--about twice the size of an RJ-11--that plugs in your ISDN equipment. (So if you have ISDN, it's okay if your kid tells people that his dad's jack is bigger.) CHECK THE OIL WHILE YOU'RE UNDER THE HOOD DIP switch stands for "dual in-line package switch," and it refers to a set of tiny toggle switches built into a unit called the DIP, which is mounted directly on your PC's circuit board. You can use the tip of a pen or pencil to flip the switches on or off. (Open is "off," and closed is "on.") A DIP switch is a standard feature on most PCs, although some newer models (and all Macintoshes) bypass them and instead use programmable chips that are accessed via a control panel--meaning they're software based. However, for those PCs stuck with them, DIP switches provide the only means of selecting options on a hardware device and will probably be used for some time to come. Naturally, you should consult a peripheral's manual before monkeying with the switches. GASP! I'M SEEING DOTS The halftone process has been around for centuries as part of lithography and other printing processes, and it's been given a whole new life in the world of computer graphics. Whether you're printing on an offset press, a laser printer, or an ink-jet, halftoning is the process used to simulate a "continuous-tone" image (such as a shaded drawing, or a photograph) with dots. Halftoning essentially superimposes a grid over the image and then fills each cell in the grid with an appropriate amount of ink to suggest the original density of color. For example, a grid cell in a dark area may be 80 to 90 percent filled with black, while a cell in a light area may only have one tiny dot of ink that fills 10 to 20 percent. This is one instance in which a picture can tell more than words. Take a really close look at a black-and-white photo in the newspaper--and we mean REALLY close, like with a magnifying glass. You should be able to clearly see the halftone dots that give shading and depth to the image. IN THE LOOP Loop qualification: In order to subscribe to ISDN service from your telephone company, you have to be within a certain distance (about 3.5 miles) of its central office. Before the phone company will install ISDN in your home or office, it will "loop qualify" you to make sure you're within this limit. If you're not inside the loop, you may be able to get ISDN but you have to pay additional fees. MAKE THAT MEETING WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR DESK Data conferencing is the process of interactively sharing data among several users in different locations. It is typically done with whiteboards and sometimes even through application sharing. A whiteboard is the electronic equivalent of the chalkboard or flip chart--except that participants at different locations can simultaneously write on their own notepad, and everyone can view the changes on their own monitor. Application sharing is similar, except that the participants share more than just a simple whiteboard--they work interactively with an application that is loaded on only one user's machine. (A lesser version of this is application viewing, in which everybody can see the same application, but only one party can actually work with it.) MONITORS THAT ROCK A multimedia monitor is a monitor that contains built-in speakers, thereby allowing you to crank out vast amounts of sound as you play your favorite games. In the near future, multimedia monitors will likely contain built-in cameras, too. POTS, OR PITS? As the last in our series of ISDN-related terms, we just had to throw in "POTS." Believe it or not, POTS is the technical term for Plain Old Telephone Service. In other words, it's the standard nondigital telephone service we all grew up with (and most of us still use). THE WIRED NEST NEST stands for Novell Embedded Systems Technology, and it's the set of NetWare 4.x Extensions that provide networking connectivity to office machines and electronic products that don't have the processor power or memory to run the full NetWare package. For example, you can use NEST to link printers, copy machines, fax machines, VCRs, Tvs, and a number of other appliances (but alas, not the kitchen sink). THESE DINGBATS ARE ALL RIGHT A dingbat is a font's character that displays a picture instead of a word. There are dingbat fonts that consist only of pictures and symbols--such as the arrows, pointing hands, stars, and circled numbers that comprise the popular Zapf Dingbats font. THIS SIDE IS MINE, THAT SIDE IS YOURS If you're considering ISDN, here's a term you're likely to see in the fine print: demarc point. The demarc point is the location where phone service comes into your home or business--and it's also the point at which you become responsible for the cost and maintenance of all the wiring. The phone company will only maintain everything up to the demarc point. YOU'RE SUCH A CAD CAD stands for computer-aided design, and it's used widely to describe the vast array of applications used to design all types of products. CAD systems range from desktop computers to high-speed workstations, and CAD software is available for everything from generic design to specialized uses (most notably for architectural, electrical, and mechanical design). DON'T LET ANYONE TELL YOU IT WOULD MAKE A GREAT TATTOO UPC stands for Universal Product Code, and it comes in the form of a bar code such as those commonly found on products in stores. The UPC identifies each product, enabling a cashier to ring up the price by simply passing the bar code over a scanner. (At least that's the way it works in theory--in practice, a code is often passed over the scanner a half-dozen times before the cashier lets out a sigh of disgust and grudgingly rings up the product manually.) LET IT ALL HANG OUT Descender is another typesetting term, and it refers to that part of a lowercase letter (like g, j, p, q, or y) that falls below the baseline, where the body of the letter rests. This is the part of the letter that your first-grade teacher called a "tail." WATCH YOUR HEAD Ascender is a typesetting term, and it refers to that part of a lowercase letter (like b, d, f, h, k, l, or t) that extends above the body of the letter. THE MBONE IS CONNECTED TO THE ... HEAD BONE MBone stands for Multicast Backbone, which can generally be oversimplified as the broadcast of a live signal (usually audio and visual) over the Internet. Before you get too excited, however, we have to tell you that just because MBone broadcasts use the Internet, this doesn't mean you can access them with your puny little Web browser. On the contrary, MBone is made up of a collection of Internet sites with powerful workstations that use specialized hardware and software to receive the high-speed audio and video data. Under the MBone model, the primary server broadcasts the transmission at a specified time, and the recipients are responsible for capturing the broadcast on the other end. In other words, the MBone is similar to television or radio broadcasts, but it uses the Internet as its medium. The primary difference is that only customers who are actively interested in a particular multicast will have that information sent to them, thereby ensuring that the data doesn't hog unnecessary bandwidth. YEAH, BUT DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO VIOLENT? A kill list (or kill file) is a way of filtering out, or "killing," unwanted e-mail or newsgroup postings. The more popular e-mail and newsreader software packages let you create a kill list wherein you define certain characteristics that, when located in an incoming message, cause that message to be ignored. For example, if you find that your favorite newsgroup is littered with spam from someone named, you might add that name to your kill file. Then, when your newsreader sees messages from slimey, those messages will be automatically ignored or deleted. A HARD DRIVE AS BIG AS YOUR CAR Data warehousing is a term used to describe a system for storing, retrieving, and managing large amounts of any type of data. Data warehousing software usually includes sophisticated compression technology to cut back on storage space, as well as complex utilities for fast searches and filtering. In addition to providing an extra measure of safety, data warehousing can also be used to create a "snapshot" of a corporation's data, which can then be accessed by planners and researchers without affecting the actual operations of the company's active database. EXECUTE THIS The EXE file suffix stands for executable file, and it represents, quite simply, a Windows-based program. If you look around your hard drive, you'll see that each of your application files contains the EXE extension. For example, the executable file for Netscape Navigator is NETSCAPE.EXE, while Internet Explorer's is IEXPLORE.EXE. HOW SPREADSHEETS SPREAD The SLK file suffix stands for symbolic link, or SYLK, a format used with spreadsheets. A spreadsheet file saved in SLK format retains the links between cells--even when that file is transferred from one spreadsheet application to another. PAPERLESS PUBLISHING PDF stands for portable document format, and it's quickly becoming the de facto standard for publishing paperless documents. A PDF file can capture all the elements of a printed document, including graphics and formatted text. To view and use a PDF file, you need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader application, which you can download from the Adobe site (follow the URL below) and which works with both Windows and Macintosh. PDF files are especially useful for saving documents like magazines, product brochures or flyers, and forms--in other words, documents that contain complex graphics or graphical elements. So who's publishing with PDF? Quite a lot of businesses and organizations, including the IRS, which has made many of its forms and guides available as PDF files. Likewise, NASA has posted a number of PDF files on its Web site. To download the free Adobe Acrobat reader, go to: Then pop over to NASA to see how it's using PDF files for a wide range of documents: (Note: PDF is also an abbreviation for the Netware Printer Definition File.) THE PEOPLE'S FILE FORMAT Over the next few days, we'll be looking at some file types that computer users are likely to come across whether they're swapping files across the Internet or across the hallway. Usually, file types are indicated by a three-letter suffix at the end of the file's name. We start with RTF, a file type everybody should become acquainted with. RTF stands for rich text format, which allows you to exchange formatted text documents between word processors, and even across platforms. What's the big deal? Well, any word processor can save a simple text file in text-only format and then pass it on to just about any other word processor, but this procedure eliminates any formatting that was present in the original. When you save a file in RTF, on the other hand, it preserves the original formatting. Not only does an RTF file retain bold, italic, and underlined text, it also usually preserves tables, style sheets, color, and more. When you pass a file to a person who uses the same word processor and operating system that you use, you generally don't have to worry about whether your finely crafted document will look the same on the other PC as it does on yours. However, when you can't be sure the recipient will use the same software you do (which is most of the time), use RTF. For example, a Windows 95 user can save a Microsoft Word file in RTF, and that file can be opened with WordPerfect on a Macintosh. To create an RTF file, use your word processor's Save As command and then go to the section of the dialog box that lets you dictate the file type. Unless you're using a word processor from the Stone Age, RTF or Rich Text Format will appear as a choice. (Note: Some word processors refer to RTF as Interchange Format.) KEEP YOUR SEATBELT FASTENED Turnpike effect: You know how it is to be driving along the freeway in heavy traffic and everybody's moving along at a good 50 or 60 miles per hour--and then suddenly it all comes to a standstill? Well, just as traffic jams on the road are caused by too many cars on too little blacktop, communications jams are caused by heavy data traffic and bottlenecks in the various systems through which the data is routed. When all that data gets jammed and comes to a screeching halt, it's said to be due to the turnpike effect. NICE TRICK, CUTE NAME Mouseover: Have you ever noticed that on some Web sites you can position the cursor over a link and the appearance of that link changes? Maybe it turns into bold text or changes color, or maybe a previously hidden picture pops up. Whatever the result, the technique is called a mouseover (sometimes it's also called a rollover) because the effect occurs when you put the mouse pointer over the link. By the way, the Web designer pulls this trick off by using Java. SOUNDS GREAT, LESS FILLING MP3 stands for MPEG Audio Layer 3, and it's the file type used to store CD-quality audio files that you can download and play on your computer. MP3 files rely on complex compression technologies to create sound files that are relatively small but still sound great. You can find out more about MP3 files, including the software you'll need to play them on your PC or Mac, at: THE FINE ART OF SHUTTING UP Lurking is the fine art of listening while keeping your mouth shut--or in this case, reading while keeping your fingers still. New subscribers to newsgroups and mailing lists usually lurk for a while before posting their own questions or thoughts. Lurking for a bit keeps a new subscriber from starting a conversation that is already in progress elsewhere or from asking a question that's already been answered. Lurking also gives you a good idea of the caliber (and attitude) of the other people who use the newsgroup or mailing list. THERE'S DUST ON MY DATA A cobweb is a Web page that has not been updated in a long, long time. While many corporate sites are guilty of leaving outdated information posted at their site, most cobwebs are the results of individuals creating personal home pages and then never bothering to update them. HOW UNFORTUNATE This one's from the Irony Archives: MANIAC stands for Mathematical Analyzer Numerator Integrator and Computer--a low-tech name for what was in its time a very high-tech piece of equipment. MANIAC was a computer built at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It's mostly remembered today for its use in the development of the hydrogen bomb. I WAS OUTA THE LOOP Some time ago, we defined a number of common chat and e-mail acronyms in this space. Those definitions proved to be so popular that we're back with even more of them, starting with AFAIR. AFAIR stands for As Far As I Recall, and these days you see it mostly in postings from NOT AGAIN!? In the continuing guide to e-mail and chat acronyms, we bring you what is possibly the longest acronym in use today: AWGTHTGTWTA. This stands for Are We Going To Have To Go Through With This Again? It often shows up when someone asks a question that has already been answered time and time again, or when someone attempts to start an argument that's already been hashed and rehashed. An alternative would be SKTDH, which stands for Stop Kicking That Dead Horse. SEVEN DEGREES OF E-SEPARATION Today's chat/e-mail acronym crops up a lot during discussions of urban myths and other rumors. FOAF(Friend Of A Friend). It's a quick way of saying, "I wasn't there and I didn't see it happen, and the same goes for my friend, but it really is true." THE SNACK ATTACK This acronym doesn't show up in e-mail, but it is fairly common in Internet chats. JAM(Just A Minute) can be used to indicate that you're researching/composing an intelligent response (even if all you're doing is sneaking off to the fridge). INSERT STANDARD DISCLAIMER HERE Today's acronym, IANAL, is one of the many possible disclaimers in the "I am not a [stick profession here]. but . . ." family. Specifically, it stands for I Am Not A Lawyer, and is usually followed by a legal opinion. Variations include IANAD (for non-doctors) and IANAG (for non-geeks). MY OH MY, HOW SUAVE Now that CULA has started cropping up in e-mail and chats, it's only a matter of time before IAWC finds its way into the lexicon. The former stands for See You Later, Alligator, so the latter could only be In A While, Crocodile. NO, REALLY, I MEAN IT! If you've been with us for the last week, you know that by popular request, we're taking some time to define common e-mail and chat acronyms. Today's entry isn't very useful in e-mail, but it does have its place in chats. HOYEW stands for Hanging On Your Every Word, and we'll let you decide whether or not it's sarcastic. WHEN YOU'RE RIGHT, YOU'RE RIGHT Today's acronym,SWIM, represents another of those common sayings that you hear all the time and people are just too darn lazy to spell out. It stands for See What I Mean? WINK WINK, NUDGE NUDGE While we remain convinced that most e-mail and chat acronyms are the result of nothing more than lazy typists, we do occasionally see one, such as today's entry, that serves a useful purpose. HHOK stands for Ha Ha, Only Kidding, and is best used when you're having a little fun with someone and you want the person to know you're not serious. Consider it an electronic wink and nudge. ENOUGH ALREADY! This message concludes our broadcast of e-mail and chat acronyms and their definitions. We hope you've found a few that you can use, or discovered the meaning of some that others have been using on you. Just remember, the next time you see an acronym you don't recognize, you can always come back with YABA. It stands for Yet Another Bloody Acronym. HE PUT THE William Gibson(1948- ) is an American science fiction author living in Vancouver, Canada. Although he's been writing short stories since the late 1970s, his first novel, Neuromancer, wasn't published until 1984, at which time it won the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards. Neuromancer quickly gained cult status by being one of the first novels in a new science fiction genre called cyberpunk. Professor Paul Brians, in the Department of English at Washington State University, describes cyberpunk like this: "Informed by the amoral urban rage of the punk subculture and depicting the developing human-machine interface created by the widespread use of computers and computer networks, set in the near future in decayed city landscapes like those portrayed in the film Blade Runner, it claimed to be the voice of a new generation." Although some critics argue that cyberpunk as a literary genre is already dead, there is little doubt that William Gibson changed the direction of science fiction in the last decade. Here's a snippet from his groundbreaking work, Neuromancer: "Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts ... A graphical representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding ... " For more information, see the Post-Modern Science Fiction page at MAN OR MACHINE? While he is best known for his pioneering ideas in the field of artificial intelligence, Alan Turing's(1912-1954) ideas also were important in the development of the computer as we know it today. His model for what is now called the Turing Machine remains the lesser known of his achievements, but it proved to be fundamental in the development of the binary system on which modern computers rely. The Turing Machine wasn't so much a "machine" in the form that we think of machines today (with mechanical parts and an engine) as it was a methodical way of describing a logical procedure, or what we refer to as an algorithm. Based on the concept of a machine that could read symbols on and write symbols to a paper tape using a very limited set of instructions, the Turing Machine was instrumental in defining one of the key abstractions in modern computability theory--which is to say, it showed just how much a computer can and cannot do. While developing his notions of how much a computer can and cannot do, Turing speculated on the possibility of artificial intelligence, and it is for this work that he is most widely known. In 1950, Turing published a paper titled "Computing Machinery and Intelligence," which has become one of the most cited works in the philosophy of artificial intelligence. In this paper, Turing surmised that computers would in time be programmed to acquire capabilities rivaling human intelligence, and he theorized that the operations of the brain must be "computable." As part of his argument, Turing usedthe idea of an "imitation game," in which a human being and a computer would be interrogated under conditions in which the interrogator would not know which was which. He went on to argue that if the interrogator could not distinguish the person from the machine, it would be reasonable to call the computer intelligent. This "imitation game" is now referred to as the "Turing test" for intelligence! Unfortunately, Turing didn't live long enough to finish his treatise examining the antithesis of artificial intelligence: genuine stupidity. You can read "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" at THE FATHER OF COMPUTING Charles Babbage (1791-1871) is often referred to as the father of computing for his contributions to the basic design of the computer through his Analytical Engine, but his Difference Engine remains his best-known invention. Never heard of either? Well, the Difference Engine was the first automatic mechanical calculator, designed to produce mathematical tables. Babbage began working on this huge device in 1823, and more then ten years later only one-seventh of the device (about 2,000 parts) was completed. By 1833, he abandoned the project and went on to work on the even more complex Analytical Engine. Although he never completed it (leading some to speculate that Babbage missed his calling as a government contractor), Babbage madehis most lasting contribution to the development of the computer with his realization that a computing machine must be made of an input device (he used a punch-card reader), a memory (which he called The Store), a central processing unit (which he called The Mill), and an output device. Babbage is also credited with inventing the cowcatcher, the dynamometer, standard railroad gauge, uniform postal rates, occulting lights for lighthouses, Greenwich time signals, and the heliograph opthalmoscope. He also had an interest in cyphers and lock-picking--making him a kind of cross between a nineteenth-century Ben Franklin and twentieth-century Mr. Science. For more information on Charles Babbage, check out the following Web sites: Science Museum's Difference Engine Charles Babbage Foundation Charles Babbage Institute THIS + THAT - THE OTHER If George Boole's(1815-1864) name sounds familiar to you, it's probably because you can't swing a virtual cat on the Internet without running across one use or another for "Boolean operators." In particular, Internet search engines use Boolean operators as a way of taking your search request and applying a little bit of computer logic to it. That little bit of computer logic was actually invented by George Boole, a British mathematician and logistician. Back in 1854, Boole published "An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on Which Are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities" (obviously authors in nineteenth-century England didn't hold much stock in short, pithy titles). This work expounded on earlier works and developed the concepts that later came to be known as Boolean algebra. Through his various publications, Boole aimed to demonstrate that logic--the kind of logic described by Aristotle--could be rendered as algebraic equations. "We ought no longer to associate Logic and Metaphysics, but Logic and Mathematics," he wrote (coining a phrase that is oft considered proof that mathematicians do, indeed, use pick-up lines). Boole's branch of mathematics came to be known as symbolic logic, which aims to express logical processes using algebraic symbols. At its most basic, Boolean algebra simply states that one can interchange "and" and the plus sign (+), "not" and the minus sign (-), and so on. All these years later, it's Boole's logic that lets you go to a search engine on the Web and enter a search phrase like "cow and flatulence." BRAINIAC CPU is short for central processing unit--that is, the brains of a computer. Sometimes referred to simply as the processor or central processor, the CPU is where most system and application calculations take place (in other words, it's where the computer does most of its work). The CPU controls all the other parts of a computer. It receives and decodes instructions from memory and also activates peripherals, such as your monitor and keyboard. In terms of computing power, the CPU is the most important element of a computer system. The faster and more powerful your CPU, the faster and more powerful your computer. For more on CPUs, see: The CPU Guide CPU Central BUT WHAT ABOUT MY 8-TRACK TAPES? DVD is short for digital video disc (or less commonly, digital versatile disc), which is a relatively new type of CD-ROM. The big DVD claim to fame is that a single disk holds a minimum of 4.7GB (gigabytes), which is more than enough for a full-length movie. It's widely believed that DVD disks, called DVD-ROMs, will eventually replace CD-ROMs, videocassettes, and laser discs--that is, until a new format comes along to replace DVD. From the consumer's viewpoint, one of the best features of DVD players is that they're backward-compatible with CD-ROMs. That means DVD players can play your existing collection of CDs. NETWORK WITH THE LOCALS LAN stands for local area network, and it's essentially a small system of interconnected computers. Most likely, the computers in your office are connected with one another and maybe even with a server -making you a LAN user, whether you knew it or not. Usually, LANs are limited to a single office or building, but a really large one might span two or more adjacent buildings. For more information on LANs, see LAN FAQs at NETWORKING THE NETWORKS Unlike the tool you used to create that nifty cutting board back in your high school woodshop days, in technical parlance, a router is a device that connects two LANs. (A LAN is a local area network, as discussed in yesterday's tip.) In addition to simply bridging two LANs, a router provides additional features such as the ability to filter messages and forward them to different places based on predefined criteria. Routers are used extensively throughout the Internet to forward data from one host computer to another. In this case, a router maintains a table of available routes and their conditions, as well as distance and cost information, which it uses to determine the best route for a given packet of data. Typically, a packet travels through a number of routers before arriving at its destination. SOUNDS LIKE A HAIRNET FOR ANESTHESIOLOGISTS While we're on the subject of LANs (local area networks), Ethernet is a particular protocol--that is, a set of network cabling and signaling specifications--that provides a relatively inexpensive but fast network connection. Developed in 1976, the original Ethernet specifications support transfer rates of 10 megabits per second (mbps), but a new version, called 100BaseT (or Fast Ethernet), supports data transfer rates of 100 mbps. A newly proposed standard, called Gigabit Ethernet, will support data rates of 1 gigabit (1000 megabits) per second. For more on Ethernet, see: Charles Spurgeon's Ethernet Web Site CALL ME ON THE NET Net telephony is a general category of hardware and software that lets people use the Internet for telephone calls. For users who have free or fixed-price Internet access, Net telephony essentially provides free or cheap telephone calls anywhere in the world. The only drawback is that it offers (at best) the same connection quality as the rest of your Internet services. If you get frustrated waiting for a Web page to download, you can imagine what it's like waiting for the other end of a conversation to travel over the Internet. A number of Internet telephony applications are available. Some, like CoolTalk and NetMeeting, come bundled with popular Web browsers, while others are stand-alone. These products are sometimes called IP telephony, Voice over the Internet (VOI), or Voice over IP (VOIP). See also: Internet Telephony Resource List (including an FAQ link) CALL ME ON THE NETFAX WITHOUT THE PHONE CALL IP faxing refers to using the Internet to transmit faxes. IP faxing is similar to Internet telephony (defined yesterday), but it is optimized for transmitting fax data. IP faxing generally works by sending fax data over the Internet to strategically placed fax servers. Once the fax arrives at a server near its final destination, the server transfers the fax over normal telephone lines to the recipient. Because the data is transmitted over the Internet for most of its journey, the total cost of transmission is much less than if it traveled over long-distance telephone lines, as conventional faxes do. Many products are available that enable companies to set up IP faxing servers for their remote offices; in addition, national and international IP faxing services allow smaller companies and individuals to send IP faxes for a fee. See also: SureFax, an IP faxing service run by Cable & Wireless Xpedite Systems, another company providing fax broadcasting services BIOS CON DIOS BIOS (pronounced "bye-ose") stands for Basic Input/Output System, and it is an integral part of your PC. The BIOS is the lowest-level software in the computer, and it serves two essential functions: - It is the program your PC uses to start up the system when you turn it on. - It acts as an interface for the operating system and hardware, managing the flow of data between the system and attached devices such as the hard disk, video card, keyboard, mouse, and printer. Unlike the operating system, which you can install or reinstall at any time, the BIOS is built into the computer when it is manufactured. Additionally, the PC BIOS is standardized so that all PCs are alike at this level (although there are different BIOS versions). This way, the user can upgrade to a different version of DOS, for example, without changing the BIOS. YAKKITY, YAKKITY, YAK Instant messaging is a relatively new type of communications service that lets Internet users instantly create a private chat room or otherwise exchange communications in real time. While each system has its own way of creating instant messages, typically it works like this: - The instant messaging system alerts you whenever somebody on your private list is online; you can then initiate a chat session with that individual. - Likewise, while you are online, a friend can contact you to initiate a chat session. You can choose from several competing instant messaging systems. However, there isn't a standard for this technology yet, so your buddies have to use the same instant messaging system you do. For more information, see: ICQ America Online Instant Messenger PeopleLink Yahoo Pager MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WEB A mirror site is a Web or FTP site that is an exact duplicate copied from another server. Usually, mirroring is employed to lighten the load on sites with heavy traffic, such as those containing the Netscape and Microsoft browsers for downloading; but a mirror site can also create a copy of geographically distant sites (for example, mirroring a popular British site in the United States). Because the mirror site is an exact replica of the original site, it is usually updated frequently to ensure that it reflects the original's content. POINTING A FINGER Finger is a UNIX program that takes an e-mail address as input and returns information about the owner of that address. On some systems, the finger program only reports whether the user is currently logged on; on others, it returns information such as the user's full name, address, and telephone number. (Naturally, the user must first enter this information into the system.) Many e-mail programs now have a built-in finger utility, but you can also have a separate finger program on your computer, or you can use a finger gateway on the Web. For the most part, however, only large corporations, colleges, and universities are "fingerable" (set up to return information on the user you finger). For more information, see: Finger WHO ARE YOU? Whois is an Internet utility run by InterNIC that returns information about a domain name or IP address. For example, if you enter a domain name such as, whois returns the name and address of the domain's owner. In this case, the returned information looks something like this: PC World Communications PCWORLD-DOM 501 Second Street, #600 San Francisco, CA 94107 Domain Name: PCWORLD.COM Administrative Contact: Lastname, Firstname BC123 contactname@PCWORLD.COM 415-555-1234 Technical Contact, Zone Contact: nic-contact NICXX-ORG contactnamehere@PCWORLD.COM 415-555-1234 Fax: 415-555-1234 Billing Contact: Lastname, Firstname AB353BC123 contactname@PCWORLD.COM 415-555-1234 Record last updated on 11-Apr-97. Record created on 24-Apr-92. Database last updated on 8-Apr-98 04:13:53 EDT. Domain servers in listed order: NS.XXXX.NET 123.45.678.90 NS2.XXXX.NET 123.45.678.90 You can also use Whois to find out whether a domain name is available. If you query a particular name, and the search result finds no match, the domain name is probably available, and you can apply to register it. For more information, go to

BUT WHERE DO I INSERT MY CASH CARD? May 28th, 1998 Today's word: ATM Short for Asynchronous Transfer Mode, ATM is a network technology based on transferring data in fixed-size cells (sometimes called packets). Compared to units used with older technologies, cells used with ATM are relatively small. This smaller, constant cell size allows ATM equipment to transmit video, audio, and computer data over the same network, assuring that no single type of data hogs the line. Currently, ATM supports data transfer rates from 25 to 622 megabits per second, which can be quite high compared to a maximum of 100 mbps for Ethernet, the current technology used for most local area networks. While some people think that ATM holds the answer to the Internet bandwidth problem, there are certain drawbacks. For example, ATM's reliance on a fixed channel, or route, between two points makes for speedy data transfer, but the older standard (called TCP/IP)--which can send each packet on a different route and then compile the packets at the destination--is more adaptable to sudden surges in network traffic and better suited for skirting problem areas.

IT'S A RAID! June 1st, 1998 Today's word: RAID RAID is short for Redundant Array of Independent Disks, which is a specialized category of disk drives that use two or more drives in combination. By combining multiple drives, the user increases performance and decreases the risk of damage to the data or error. RAID drives are commonly used on servers but until recently were seldom necessary for personal computers. (We say "were" after the new Apple Macintosh, with two 4-gigabyte RAID drives.)

NOT THAT CUTE LITTLE BLUE GUY?! May 29th, 1998 Today's term: DoS attack "DoS attack" is short for "denial-of-service" attack, which is designed to bring a network to a halt by flooding it with useless traffic. Many DoS attacks, such as the Ping of Death and Teardrop, exploit limitations in the network but are easily fixed via software patches. As is the case with viruses, however, new DoS attacks such as the nefarious Smurf (described in a Wired article listed at the end of this tip) are constantly being developed by hackers. For more information, go to


Sure, there are millions, even billions of pages, on the Web. But how many really matter? That is, how many mention your name? Egosurfing is the search to find out.


Many PCs have a special port--a mechanical site with electrical wires for connection to other devices--for plugging in game hardware such as a joystick, flight stick or steering wheel. This game port has 15 pins and is often part of the sound card.


One way to pin down a precise color is to specify it in terms of Hue, Saturation and Brightness or HSB. These roughly correspond to the popular notions of color base, color intensity and amount of white or black.


Frequency is the measurement of how often something happens, typically measured in number of times per second. The unit is the Hertz, or Hz, named after a German scientist.


Macintosh application programs have their own means of talking to one another and sharing information and status. It's called IAC (for Inter-Application Communications). You also may hear it referred to as Apple Events.


Most pages are rectangles, not squares. You can view or print them with the short sides at top and bottom--called Portrait mode--or with the short sides on the right and left--called Landscape mode.


Mail Exploder is a program that forwards a e-mail to many addresses is "exploding" that mail. Sometimes this is the action of a virus that digs out a mailing list and sends unauthorized copies of itself to the addresses on that list. It can also be an authorized action to broadcast an authorized message to many recipients.


A Header is the text, page number, date and other information printed in a special zone at the top of a page. An Odd Header appears only on odd-numbered pages.


Apparently invented by the same folks who brought you the jumbo shrimp and military intelligence (our apologies to George Carlin), the Paperless Office concept was supposed to bring us a future where all those documents were seen on screen and saved on disk, not printed, shuffled, filed, and possibly recycled. It isn't happening, with computers instead making it easier to print more every year.


Early processors and computers didn't always have the room to work on a full 8 bits--a "byte"--at a time. Instead these primitive machines sometimes had to make do with "nibbles"--four bits at a time.

SHOT, DUMP, CAPTURE--SEEING THE SCREEN November 22nd, 1999 Today's Term: Screen shot Screen shots, screen dumps, and screen captures are all the same thing: an image of what appears on the screen. Most computers have a way to send a basic screen shot directly to a disk file or to a printer. Some specialized graphics programs let you choose just which part of the screen to shoot.

THE COMPUTERPHONE HAS ITS CALLING November 23rd, 1999 Today's Term: TAPI If a phone or related device is going to be controlled by or communicate with a computer, the programs involved want a standardized set of rules for exchanging information. The Telephony Applications Programming Interface (TAPI) is one such set.

Last time, we asked you who coined the term "cyberspace." Sci-fi writer William Gibson first used the phrase in his 1984 novel Neuromancer to describe a somewhat more intense experience than just surfing over to Gibson was describing a well-established sci-fi notion of the human mind being jacked directly into an electronic network, which would then become tacitly real to the mind within it. Now, the term is freely used to describe sending e-mail. Jargon inflation.

Last time, we asked you to name the triggering device in an H-bomb. Why, it's an A-bomb, of course. The force of the fission explosion creates enough heat and pressure to fuse hydrogen into helium. By the way, H-bombs can use as much fuel as you care to pump into them- -the more juice, the bigger the bang. A-bombs can use only about the amount of unstable atomic fuel that constitutes a critical mass for fission. Wimps.


A Gigaflop is a billion (the giga part) floating point operations (the flop part) per second. A floating point operation is a mathematical calculation, such as 2.277E5 * 4.3567E-7, which involves numbers in scientific form. Floating point operations are more complicated than integer operations (like 2 * 43, for example) and are a good measure of a powerful computer's processor performance.
In the 1980s, the gigaflop was a common measure of supercomputer ability. Now it is starting to appear in desktop computer specs, such as the new Power Mac G4, which claims 1 Gigaflop speed. Which means we could soon start hearing thrilled computer owners saying, "I got such a huge Flop!"


The slowest practical modem speed for using the Web is 14,400 bps. The international standard for modems that run at this speed is called V.32bis. It is an extension of the previous V.32 standard that specified how 4800 bps and 9600 bps modems would communicate.


The Random Access Memory Digital-to-Analog Converter(RAMDAC) chip found in many computer video systems changes stored memory bits into actual analog signals for a monitor. In other words, it runs the digital color representation through its own stored color palette information and translates the result into waves that can produce the actual colors on screen. A video system with a RAMDAC can have a better look and higher processing speeds than one without.


The new USB ports in many Macs and PCs can be faster and easier to use than the older serial and parallel ports. But the "driver" software that makes USB work is generally new and prone to be buggy. This is particularly true when the USB peripheral and its driver try to re-create the older-type ports. Those setups use a piece of software called a "shim" that intrudes upon the main USB driver and tries to intercept the calls for traditional port action. This complicated dance can mean even buggier behavior. The gradual improvement of USB software will help squash these bugs. The disappearance of the need for serial and parallel ports will help even more.


Collaboration is an important element of communication on a network. A Whiteboard program lets one user create, edit or draw on screen while others view that work.


The Universal Disk Format(UDF) is a new way to organize information on a CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, or DVD disc. UDF is meant to replace the old ISO9660 method used pretty much since CD-ROMs were invented. The new standard makes storing all kinds of digital information on the one kind of disc--especially the DVD--easier. It also lets you use that disc in a variety of readers and players.

how the MP3 format jammed all that sound into such little files. MP3, or MPEG 1 Audio Layer 3, simply throws away digital audio information that it considers unnecessary. Typically, the husk that gets dumped is "redundant" sounds, allowing MP3 to compress audio data to one-twelfth its size on a standard audio CD. However, many audio purists complain that those redundant sounds are part of the harmonics of a song, and their absence creates noticeable sound quality degradation on higher-end audio equipment.


Typical computer cables--such as serial, parallel, and 10Base-T Ethernet--carry particular signals on each of 4 to 25 or more wires inside the cable. Those wires are arranged so that they'll make sense to the receiving sockets on peripherals. If you want to feed a set of signals directly from one computer to another, you need a crossover cable--one where the key signal wires are swapped halfway.
To get an idea of how a crossover cable works, imagine that two people call you simultaneously on two phones, and you want them to speak directly to each another. You can't just hold your two phone handsets up to one another. You have to turn one handset upside down--that is, cross it over--so that its speaker is against the other phone's ear piece and its ear piece is against the other phone's speaker.


Local area networks that connect computers in an office typically use the Ethernet specifications to move information around at a maximum speed of 10 Mbps (that's megabits per second). Networks using inexpensive, telephone-style wiring are called 10Base-T networks. A newer generation moves ten times as much information--100 Mbps--on phone wires and is called 100Base-T. The specifications are nearly complete for the next increase: 1,000 Mbps (or 1 gigabit per second). This standard is known as 1000Base-T or Gigabit Ethernet.


The Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is a specification for providing Internet communications and advanced telephony services on digital mobile phones, pagers, personal digital assistants, and wireless terminals. For details about this specification, go to the WAP Forum.


Hewlett-Packard is famous for making printers and plotters. To standardize the way computers spoke to those printers and plotters, HP devised the HPGL, or Hewlett Packard Graphics Language. HPGL has been successful enough that most graphics programs and printers, from any manufacturer, can understand it.


The Secure Digital Music Initiative or SDMI is a specification for playing digital music. Where the popular MP3 specification focuses only on music quality in the most compact file size, the recording-industry's SDMI adds security. The goal is for future generations of digital music players to be able to handle both free MP3 files (which SDMI supports) and paid-for SDMI music files (which can't be copied).
Some MP3 fans see this specification as a heavy-handed attempt to squash the artistic and listener freedom of MP3. Some industry defenders say that without some protection against piracy, artists and producers won't be paid for their efforts.


When a calculation result is so small, so close to zero, that the computer can't represent it properly, you have underflow. The computer can then see this number as an error, or it can be programmed to round the number off so that work can proceed.


Beowulf is a way of connecting many Linux computers together to multiply their power. Beowulf is useful for supercomputing-style work, such as numeric analysis and engineering design. Of course, use it anywhere near a mead hall, and you've got problems.


Basically, ATA/66 is a really fast way to get information in and out of a hard drive and comes close to the speed that the computer bus moves information between processor and memory.
Also known as Ultra DMA/66 and Fast ATA-2, this new interface between hard drives and computer systems has twice the maximum data transfer rate of the previous Ultra ATA/33 interface. The 66.6MB/s rate is four times the older DMA Mode 2 interface rate of 16.6MB/s and is backward compatible with both Ultra ATA/33 and DMA Mode 2.


A set of screen display specifications that changes the look of your interface without changing the basic menus and icons and whatnot is called a "skin." You can find lots of free skins online that can change the look of Windows and of the Macintosh OS. They can even change the look of particular programs, such as MP3 music players.


The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) is a collection of companies such as 3Com, Apple, Compaq, Dell, Lucent, Nokia, Zoom, and Aironet that test and certify wireless networking gear. CUTTING PAGES DOWN TO (PORTABLE) SIZE December 17th, 1999 Today's Term: Web Clipping Internet-compatible cell phones and handheld computers rarely have screens large enough to show even a significant portion of a typical Web page. The solution is "web clipping," trimming away elements of the Web page so that the vital information can fit onto the tiny displays. EPIC BATTLE January 4th, 2000 Today's Term: EPIC The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is a consumer-protection nonprofit agency devoted to online privacy. In 1999, for example, EPIC sued the Federal Trade Commission to take action on privacy complaints from consumers, claiming that the agency wasn't responding. The EPIC site has links to privacy articles, regulations, and laws. HOME IS WHERE THE RADIO IS December 22nd, 1999 Today's Term: HomeRF The HomeRF Working Group is an alliance of companies including Compaq, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, and Proxim that are working on a non-Ethernet wireless scheme for networking computers. PROTECT YOUR BACKSIDE December 15th, 1999 Today's Term: Backside Cache A cache is a small amount of faster, expensive memory used to hold most-recently or most-frequently requested information, which can make all the memory appear to operate faster. Backside Cache is closely attached to the processor but is not inside the processor. SOME OBSCURE CRIME CODE PERHAPS? December 21st, 1999 Today's Term: 802.11 The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) 802.11 standard specifies how wireless Ethernet gear can network computers without cabling. The first generation of 802.11 products ran at 2 Mbps (megabits per second); the second generation runs at 11Mbps, using the 2.4GHz radio band. SPEED X = Y DIFFERENT? December 31st, 1999 Today's Term: X - CD-ROM drives, DVD-ROM drives, CD-RW drives, digital camera memory cards: They all use X to indicate their speed. - In CD-ROM drives, the X means "times the 150KBps speed of the original CD-ROM drive specification." So a 4X CD-ROM drive moves 600KBps (kilobytes per second). - CD-RW drives use three X measures: one for Write speed, one for Rewrite speed, and one for Playback speed, using the same value for X (150Kbps). Therefore, 8X x 6X x 24X means 1200KBps when writing the first time, 900KBps when erasing and writing again, and 3600KBps when reading. - In DVD-ROM drives, the X means ten times. A 2X DVD-ROM drive can read discs at 3000KBps. - X in memory cards refers to the same 150Kbps as in CD drives, so a typical 4X memory card stores pictures at 600KBps and the fastest 12X at 1800KBps (or 1.8MBps). The point? Faster is generally better in any drive, though not if you have to pay too much for it and not if the other system components hold down the speed anyway. TRYING ON THE GLASS SLIPPER December 23rd, 1999 Today's Term: Footprint The square inches of space on your desk (or dining room table) that a computer sits on and covers up is its "footprint." Smaller computers have smaller footprints--generally a good thing because a smaller footprint leaves more desk space that you can cover with papers, books, coffee cups, and other necessities. VOICE MAIL SPAM MACHINE December 16th, 1999 Today's Term: Voice Blast Voice Blast technology lets you automatically send a recorded voice message to many recipient telephones. Sometimes used for business or for community emergency warnings, Voice Blast is also misused for sending out those annoying ad messages. WALLET-ESE December 29th, 1999 Today's Term: ECML The new Electronic Commerce Modeling Language (ECML) specification aims to make the new "electronic wallet" programs compatible with a wide variety of Web shopping sites. It should automate the process of filling in Web forms. Yesterday we asked you what that Nobel prize-winning physicist Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac discovered (coincidentally, also in 1930). Dirac produced the mathematic equations that proved the existence of anti- matter: negative-state subatomic particles otherwise identical to positive-state subatomic particles. The concept has fueled the imaginations of generations of science fiction writers, notably Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Last time, we asked you what Wisconsin farmer Ed Gein did back in the 1950s that shocked America and inspired horror writers and filmmakers for generations. In the interest of good taste, we'll just tell you that Gein, whose puritanical and suffocating mother had told him all sex was evil, turned his big empty farmhouse into a scene far more grisly than the Leatherface homestead. In fact, Gein's story is credited as the direct source material for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and much of The Silence of the Lambs. The entire country was stunned when both Time and Life covered the story in late 1957. Gein was charged with necrophilia and murder, but police were never able to completely sort out the origins of all the evidence. What bizarre tribute to Albert Einstein, we asked yesterday, can be found in Weston, Missouri? Einstein's body was cremated following his death on April 18, 1955. But the doctor who performed the autopsy removed Einstein's brain, part of which is now preserved in a bottle somewhere in Weston. However, there is no truth to the rumor that the brain is stored next to another one that's labeled "Abbie Normal." Yesterday, just for nyuks, we asked what two men followed in the footsteps of brothers Curly and Shemp Howard to accept slaps and pokes from Moe Howard and Larry Fine as members of the Three Stooges. Chubby former vaudevillian Joe Besser, known for his prissy demeanor and un- Stooge-like aversion to violence, appeared in the team's final 16 short subjects. He was replaced by Joe DeRita, who, because of his striking resemblance to original Stooge Curly Howard, was billed as "Curly Joe." DeRita appeared in the Stooges' six feature films and lent his likeness and voice to the Stooges' cartoons of the 1960s. Last time, we asked you what had 18,000 tubes; 70,000 resistors; 10,000 capacitors; 6,000 switches; and 1,500 relays? Of course, it was the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, the first electronic computer. The project's designers, John Mauchly and John Presper Eckert of the University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electrical Engineering, had originally envisioned a machine requiring only 5,000 tubes with a bill of about $150,000; costs grew to about $400,000 dollars in 1940s money. Not the kind of machine you put on your desktop. Last time, we asked you where all the heavy elements come from if we're all made of star stuff. The answer is from stars that blow up (pretty heavy, huh?). When a star's core burns out and collapses, the outer gases fall back on the neutron core and--boom--supernova. For no more than 30 minutes or so, the star's conflicting mass creates incredible temperatures and pressures that fuse atoms into all the elements, from carbon to lead, and then throws them into the void. Scientists could only guess at this until a nearby supernova in 1987 proved that their theories were pretty much dead-on. Last time, we asked you which of the following celebrities Scooby-Doo has not co-starred with. * Mama Cass Elliot from The Mamas and The Papas * Spider-Man * Jerry Reed * The Harlem Globetrotters * Batman and Robin The answer is Spider-Man. Hana-Barbera, the company that made the Scooby cartoons, was in tight with Batman's D.C. Comics, but never Marvel Comics, where Spidey hung out. Mama Cass did an embarrassing voice-over in an episode that did little but make fun of her weight; Jerry Reed had some hang-up with a xylophone. Last time, we asked you how the South Park boys used the Web to get famous. The first time anybody heard of South Park and its creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, was when a short they produced, "The Spirit of Christmas," became a hot e-mail potato. The cartoon boys watch as Jesus and Santa duke it out to see who embodies the true spirit of Christmas. The huge multimedia file was passed around so heavily that many corporate IT departments had to send out warnings to users not to glut their messaging systems. Producers at the Comedy Central TV network got wind of the craze, and the rest is history. Yesterday we asked how much Microsoft paid to acquire DOS (now MS-DOS), which currently generates more than $200 million in revenue for the company per annum. In one of the savviest business moves of the century, Bill Gates and friends acquired DOS from tiny Seattle Computer products for a paltry $50,000. If you grew up in the 1970s, you probably remember the psychedelic Saturday-morning worlds of Sid and Marty Krofft, creators of far-out children's television shows such as H.R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville, Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, and Land of the Lost. By the time bell-bottoms had given way to wraparound shades as the fashion statement of choice, all the Kroffts' trippy TV shows had been cancelled. At the zenith of their success, however, the team became embroiled in a bitter legal battle with one of America's largest corporations. HOW DID A PAIR OF AMIABLE CHILDREN'S ENTERTAINMENT PIONEERS FIND THEMSELVES IN SUCH A SCRAPE, AND WHOM WERE THEY FIGHTING? The answer is that fast-food giant McDonald's asked the Kroffts to present them with concepts for their then-new McDonaldland advertising campaign. Executives halted Sid and Marty in the middle of the team's presentation and dismissed the Kroffts unceremoniously. Yet, five months later, McDonaldland debuted, inhabited by such Krofftian characters as the Pufnstuf-like Mayor McCheese and the irrepressible Hamburglar. The Kroffts responded with a copyright infringement suit, which McDonald's settled out of court. As a result, Sid and Marty are still collecting royalty checks from Mickey D's.


SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is a way for two communicating Internet programs to keep their exchanges secret. SSL ensures encrypted and authenticated communications for Web browsers, newsreaders, and other such software. Many Web shopping sites use SSL connections.


X.509 is an international standard from the ITU-TSS (International Telecommunications Union-Telecommunications Standards Sector) that specifies how programs can use digital certificates to "authenticate." In English, that means it sets the rules for how a program can know exactly who sent a message. Browsers and e-mail programs can put this to use.


Today, you get three terms for one: Java, JavaBean, and Java applet.
  • Java is a programming language for creating programs that can run on a wide variety of computers. All the computer needs is a Java interpreter, like those built into most Web browsers.
  • A JavaBean is a Java program that can run outside of a browser and remain on a computer even after it has run.
  • The more widely known Java applets are Java programs that run inside the browser window.


Yes, we know, those are two terms. But they are so similar, it would be a shame--not to mention a waste of a daily tip--to define them separately. You've almost certainly seen RJ-11 in your home and possibly RJ-14 in your business. They are the standard telephone line plugs:
  • The RJ-11 is a single line (with several wires) that connects your phone and answering machine to each other and to the wall.
  • The RJ-14 is a two-line version more often found in business.
You may also bump into these little latching plugs--and their mated sockets--in computer networking gear, which often uses phone line hardware for computer-to-computer connections. IT'S A NICE THING, UNLESS THERE ARE TOO MANY January 10th, 2000 Today's Term: Courtesy Copy Bet you didn't know that CC is short for courtesy copy. The name you enter on the CC of a memo or an e-mail message line isn't the primary recipient of your message (that's the address in the To line). You CC someone when you want that person to get a copy of the message. Think of sending a CC when you need to CYA (we won't tell you what THAT'S short for). UP AGAINST THE BANDWIDTH AND SPREAD 'EM January 7th, 2000 Today's Term: Spread Spectrum Most wireless communications devices, such as cordless and cellular phones, have been devoted to moving their information on a single frequency. Which is all well and good, except that it doesn't offer the best in terms of security and sharpness of sound. Enter Spread Spectrum, which sends and receives bits on a number of frequencies all at the same time, spreading the message out across the available frequency spectrum, shifting to the clearest route. Spread Spectrum improves both call clarity and security. RFI ELIMINATOR: SCHWARZENEGGER'S NEXT FILM January 6th, 2000 Today's Term: RFI Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) is the noise created in communications and computer gear by the surrounding radio waves. Some of these waves come from distant radio stations. Some come from your own high-frequency gear--a cordless phone, a television's internal electronics, or a processor chip, for example. RIF rarely hurts data, which can resend any missed or mistaken bits without even letting you know there's a problem, but it can make static on any audio or video line. You can buy RFI Eliminators that block out much of RFI. WELL, IT'S NOT THAT SIMPLE January 13th, 2000 Today's Term: SMTP The Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) specifies how e-mail moves over computer networks. It's "simple" in that this protocol works only for text. If you want to e-mail other information, you need a different protocol, such as MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions). Last time, we asked you who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest." That phrase, so closely linked with Darwinism, is nowhere to be found in Charles Darwin's watershed The Origin of Species. It was coined by English sociologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer. It refers to the fact that organisms not well adapted to their environments tend to perish, while those better suited to their environments tend to persist. SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTATION OF ALIASES Today's Term: SPA SPA (or Secure Password Authentication) is a more secure way of signing on to an e-mail account. SPA forces your computer to assure the main e-mail server computer that you truly are who you say you are so that others can't pose as you to send and receive your e-mail or intercept your password. WHOLY SILLY Today's Term: Holy War Computer developers and users can sometimes become thoroughly convinced that their particular hardware or software is the only answer and that any competing products are evil. Their e-mail and newsgroup discussions with those who don't share their beliefs can be so vicious that they're called "holy wars." BIG BODY, LITTLE ARMS You may have looked at drawings of the fabled King of the Dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and wondered what possible use His Royal Lizardness could have for those wimpy-looking arms. OK, well, if you haven't wondered before, then start wondering now. What good would such puny arms do a beast of otherwise impressive and powerful stature? Quite a lot of good, many scientists now believe. IN FACT, THE SPECIES MAY NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SURVIVE WITHOUT THOSE TINY ARMS. WHY? What good did those puny little arms do the otherwise great and powerful King of the Dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus Rex? Those tiny arms helped the mighty lizard regain its footing if it was knocked over. More important--both for the survival of the species and, we're sure, to T-Rex himself--many scientists now think those arms made it possible for the gigantic, ungainly creatures to balance themselves during intercourse, instead of toppling over in a titanic heap of sexual frustration. All of which gives your narrator disturbing mental images about Barney. Last time, we asked what was so strange about the descendants of Martin Fugate, who carried a rare recessive gene capable of causing a striking but otherwise harmless physical anomaly. The answer is that Fugate's family carried a recessive gene that retarded the body's production of the enzyme diaphorase, which, among other things, gives blood its red color. When both spouses carried this gene, their children had blue blood, and thus blue skin. During the first half of the 20th century, when the Fugates resided in a secluded Appalachian valley in Kentucky, many of Martin Fugate's descendants gave birth to blue children, due to excessive inbreeding. In the early 1960s, Madison Cawein, a University of Kentucky hematologist, successfully treated many of the so-called "Blue People" with, ironically, methylene blue. FEAR OF THE GREEN GOBLIN In his early adventures, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man squared off against some of the most formidable characters in comic book history. In his first few dozen issues, the web-slinger faced adversaries such as Doctor Octopus, the Vulture, the Lizard, Sandman, Electro, and Mysterio. He even tangled with Dr. Doom, the metallic miscreant who had repeatedly given the entire Fantastic Four all they could handle. But Spidey dreaded no villain more than the Green Goblin. WHAT MADE THE GOBLIN SUCH A FEARFUL FOE? Last time we asked why it was that, in his early adventures, Spider-Man feared the Green Goblin above all other adversaries in his well-stocked list of enemies. The answer is that in Amazing Spider-Man no. 39, a pivotal issue, the Goblin became the first foe to discover that Spidey was really part-time photographer and full-time social misfit Peter Parker. The Goblin, it turns out, was a creation of the fractured psyche of Norman Osborn--father of Parker's pal, Harry Osborn. Norman received treatment, and for a while, the Goblin disappeared. But Spidey always (and with good reason) dreaded the day Norman might relapse, return as the Green Goblin, and expose the superhero's secret identity. NAME THAT ACRONYM If you know anything at all about the history of that tangled Web we lovingly refer to as the Internet, then you're probably aware it was created by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Back in 1969, the agency funded the creation of ARPANET, which was designed to link research institutions and defense contractors then engaged by the DoD. Initially, ARPANET connected three computers in California with one computer in Utah. But from this modest beginning, ARPANET eventually grew (or mutated, to employ a more accurate term) into what we now know as the Internet. WHAT IS THE TERM ARPANET SHORT FOR? Back in 1969, the U.S. Department of Defense funded the creation of ARPANET, which represented the first step toward what we now know as the Internet. What, we asked, is ARPANET short for? The answer is Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. Limitations of the ARPANET led, indirectly, to the development of the National Science Foundation's NSFNET, which formed the foundation of the modern Internet. This science fiction series had the shortest title in television history. It was probably also the only primetime program to feature shape-shifting lizards from outer space. NAME IT. Last time, we asked you to name the science fiction series that had the shortest title in television history. That series was of course, V, which ran for a single season after enjoying success as a miniseries. The shortest movie title in history, by the way, belongs to Fritz Lang's classic thriller, M. GEEK CURIOSITY GETTING THE BEST OF YOU? With all the nifty stuff available on the Internet these days, wouldn't it be great if there was a place that could tell you exactly what that cool site you're surfing is running? Now there is, and it's called Click Netcraft's What's That Site Running? link and enter the URL of the site in question. Netcraft will quickly determine the OS of the queried host by examining network characteristics of the HTTP reply received from the Web site. Netcraft's unique service provides a simple way to set your mind at ease about the sites you hit. LOOKING FOR WINDOWS UTILITIES? offers many of those nifty little Windows utilities that let you do all sorts of interesting things. Check out these utilities: * Go!Zilla--Helps you resume failed downloads and recover from other download errors. * SSSiter--A free personal search engine. * SS Spider--Submits search criteria to eight search engines simultaneously. * PKZip/PKUnzip--Freeware zip utility for Windows by PKWare. * WebCam Monitor--Find, play, and record live WebCams. also offers other free programs, tools, drivers, and much more. It's the place to turn to for that next big project, such as turning your CD collection into an MP3 gallery. Go to You'll find what you're looking for. ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, OVERCLOCK! You've undoubtedly heard some of those great overclocking stories. Some guy at work gets a wild hair one day and decides to put his motherboard in a freezer so he can overclock his system. If you think that's amusing, then visit You'll be amazed at what some serious computerphiles can do with a little time and a lot of ingenuity. Have you ever wanted to embark on an overclocking odyssey of your own? If so, is the perfect place to start. Here you can get all sorts of essential information, ranging from how to keep your processor from igniting to what kind of case you'll need for that box you're building (be it a refrigerator or something a bit smaller). WHAT DO YOU NEED? There's a scene in Disney's Aladdin in which a genie, just released from his bottle, continues to say, "What do you need, what do you need, what do you need?" That's the kind of the feeling you get when you visit, one of the Web's most accommodating download centers. Whether you need business applications, text editors, file utilities, or games, SourceForge is the place to go. Applications you can retrieve from this site support a variety of operating systems: Windows, UNIX, Linux, MacOS, even PalmOS, and BeOS. The next time you find yourself wishing for a computer genie to solve your problems, check out this site. You'll probably walk away with your answer. WHAT IN THE WORLD DOES THAT MEAN? All you IT pros out there know every computer term and acronym, right? Well, in case you've fallen a little behind, Matisse Enzer's Glossary of Internet Terms is the definitive site to visit. It's certainly the place to point newbies when they say: *Who is this Archie guy, and what does he want? *What's CGI--Cosmetically Gifted Insurance? *Cookies: Yummy! *POP goes the weasel? *Spam? Yuck, that stuff is gross!


Chat messages are full of quickly typable acronyms. A popular quickie in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is AFK for "away from keyboard."


The X2 standard for modems that run at 56Kbps competed with the K56Flex standard. Both are now obsolete because of the newer V.90 standard. You'll still find some modems that support only X2 or K56Flex. If you have one of those, you may be able to upgrade to V.90 through a software change, or you may just have to make sure any 56K number you dial with that modem supports either X2 or K56Flex.


The most popular Web server program is Apache, created by a volunteer team of professionals and amateurs. It was originally a" collection of software 'patches,'" hence the name.


Undernet is one of the international Internet Relay Chat (IRC) networks. When you get an IRC program and want to chat with other IRC users, Undernet is one of the networks that helps you find and link to them.


A domain is the "something" in an address of It is the top level of an address. A subdomain is the "lowerlevel" in an address of Does this matter in daily life? Not much. Nobody really talks about subdomains, only about owning "domain names". If you own a domain, you own all the subdomains.


The Document Object Model (DOM) standard specifies how Web browsers can make Web page information available to processing scripts. In other words, it's a way for Web programs to handle the pictures, words, and other elements of a Web page.


If you read the messages in a newsgroup but never write and post your own, or if you follow the discussions in a chat room but don't add your own words, you're a lurker. To lurk when you first show up is a good thing: You learn the courtesies and traditions of the newsgroup or room. To continue to lurk indefinitely is seen by some as a bad thing: You're taking without giving back. Yesterday, we asked you to explain the Doppler effect. Christian Doppler, an Austrian scientist, explained the apparent change in sound wavelengths emitted by a moving body. The frequency of the wavelengths increases (waves become shorter and the sound is higher in pitch), Doppler said, as the moving source draws closer to the observer. Conversely, the wavelength frequency decreases (waves become longer and the sound is lower in pitch) as the source gets further away. These differences manifest themselves visually (objects moving closer appear "blue-shifted," while those moving away appear "red-shifted") as well as audibly. These basic concepts have enjoyed many practical applications, including the ubiquitous Doppler radar. Astronomers also use these principles to measure the movements of celestial bodies. Last time, we asked how farmers plant seedless grapes. Because seedless grapes in fact produce no seeds, growers cut individual grapes into slices and plant the slices. These pieces take root and eventually grow vines, which produce more grapes. Seedless grapes, by the way, are not a modern, genetically engineered product. They date back thousands of years and probably originated in the Middle East. No one knows exactly how the seedlessness developed, whether by chance or by careful cultivation. PROBABLY GOOD FOR DISCO RECORDS Today's Term: Disc-At-Once CD-R (Compact Disc-Recordable) discs can hold more than 600MB of information. You get the information onto the disc using, naturally a CD-R drive, which looks suspiciously like a CD-ROM drive. When recording a CD-R, there are several methods. You can tell the CD-R drive's software to put a little information on at a time. Or you can tell the CD-R drive to use the Disc-At-Once method that records all of the information in one pass. This puts a table of contents or "lead-in section" at the beginning of the disc, then keeps recording until all information is down, and finishes with a lead-out section. After Disc-At-Once recording, nothing more can be recorded to the CD-R. This makes Disc-At-Once an inefficient way to store files though it is a good way to record music for play on audio CD drives or to make many copies of a single master CD-ROM. TO PROTECT AND SERV Today's Term: Listserv A mailing list server program sends messages to everyone subscribed to the list, adds new subscribers to the list, and unsubscribes those who want off. It also handles other requests from the list owner. Listserv is the name of one of the original mailing list server programs, developed way back in 1986. It has also become a sort of generic term used for any mailing list server, which can be confusing because Listserv itself is still available and widely used. T1 A T1 line can move data at 1.544 megabits per second (Mbps). Few homes boast this kind of Internet connection, but quite a few businesses have one or more T1 lines connected to the net. Typically they share this bandwidth (speed) among a number of employees all linked by a Local Area Network. Terminal Emulation Terminals were those dumb screen-plus-keyboard devices so popular in the 70s and early 80s. A single minicomputer or mainframe might be hooked up to many terminals. But not all mainframes or minis understood how to work with all kinds of terminals from all sorts of terminal makers. So a new kind of terminal sometimes had to pretend to be--or "emulate"--an older kind of terminal just to get along with the main or mini. PCs still use terminal emulation software when they need to act like some standard terminal to connect to a mainframe or mini or to a program such as a text-command bulletin board system. Aperture Grill CRT displays need some way to focus their shooting electrons toward appropriate pixel points on the display surface. The traditional means was a "shadow mask" of perforated metal. Because this could warp and distort the image, the Trinitron design adopted the aperture grill of thin, closely-spaced vertical wires instead. It doesn't warp the same way and, because it doesn't block as much of the screen from electrons, gives a brighter image. BUT YOU CAN'T TELL IT MUCH Today's Term: Telnet With high-speed, reliable connections, the Web has become the premier way to use the Internet. Before the Web was so hot, and still to be found in corners of the world where high-speed, graphical connections aren't practical, you can find Telnet working the Internet. This treats your connecting computer like a simple terminal--a screen and a keyboard--that sends text commands to the distant Internet- linked host computer. ENOUGH TO MAKE AN EVENING FUN Today's Term: Third Party The computer business depends on third parties, and no, they aren't necessarily loud and fun. A third party is an individual or organization that offers goods or services for use with a program or device that they don't make. Dummies Daily is a sort of third party, though not for any particular device. A company that made plug-in boards for, or offered maintenance service on, or published a program for, or sold books about a particular computer would be a third party for that computer. FULL-MOTION JACKET Today's Term: T3 A typical home Internet connection is a 56Kbps modem. Many businesses and some homes now get ten times that speed with a DSL or Cable modem. Business can also choose to use a T1 line that moves 1.544Mbps or thirty times the piddly home connection speed. But for businesses that need to move full-motion, TV-quality video, or that run heavily-trafficked Internet servers, even a T1 line or two won't do. They need T3 lines that move 44.746Mbps. IT'S ALL RELATIVE Today's Term: RDBMS A Relational Database Management System coordinates information in more than one database, through relationships between information common to both. A classic example is a database application that links the Customer ID field in a marketing database to the Customer ID field in an accounting database. MAN'S BEST CONNECTOR FRIEND Today's Term: RCA connector The Radio Corporation of America or RCA gave its name to the metal plug-and-socket used in its radio speakers. That same size-and-shape connector is still in use for connecting audio and video devices, though it is sometimes called a "phono jack". NO TOOL TIME Today's Term: ZIF Processor chips typically have little metal legs that stick down and plug into a socket. If any of these bend or break, the processor won't work, which makes replace or upgrading a processor a dangerous act. So some computer circuit boards have a Zero Insertion Force socket for the processor. This has a tiny handle that releases or grips the processor, eliminating any need to push and pull, bend or break. ROGER TELCO Today's Term: Telco That's short for Telephone Company. The term isn't so popular anymore, what with the breakup of AT&T, the emergence of cell phone services, and now every company wanting to be a Dot Com of one kind or another. WACKY WORDLESS Today's Term: Zapf Dingbats The Zapf Dingbats font isn't letters at all but a bunch of symbols such as arrows, stars, and shapes. It is available in both PostScript and TrueType forms and shows up in a variety of computers and printers. Display simple images made up of Dingbats is much faster than showing the same images as regular graphics. Cascade Many of today's computers can put multiple windows on screen at a time. There are several ways to organize such windows: randomly, horizontally tiled, vertically tiled, or cascading. Randomly just lets them cover each other up in whatever way they open. Tiling doesn't let them overlap at all, instead changing their shape and size so that all fit on screen. Cascading makes them all the same general size and shape, but overlaps them neatly so that each has its title bar showing. This lets you know what's on screen, and lets you easily get to any window by clicking on its title bar. The term Cascade can also be used for menus that neatly drop down, one after another, in an overlapping style. PARTY MIX FIX Today's Term: Check Bits Bits of information saved or sent can be lost or garbled. That's why many systems add extra bits--check bits--that can mathematically tell if information has been lost (called Error Detection) or even recreate that information (called Error Correction). The overhead of adding the extra bits does slow maximum transmission rate or lower overall storage capacity, but is often worthwhile for the improved practical transmission or storage efficiency. WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU Today's Term: Incremental Backup Some backup programs are smart enough to only copy files that have changed since the last backup operation. This "incremental" backup saves time.
The Deutsche Industrie-Norm(DIN) organization set industrial standards important in Germany, Europe and the United States. You'll see DIN standards for everything from paper size to hardware plugs. The International Standards Organization or ISO now administers some of those standards.
The cover of Popular Electronics magazine, way back in January 1975, announced the computer revolution. It showed the MITS Altair 8800 computer kit, which excited the digital lust of many including Bill Gates.
It doesn't seem fair to have "Nerd Words" day after day without telling you where the term "nerd" originated. Apparently the first use was, wouldn't you know it, in a Dr. Seuss book called If I Ran the Zoo. (Makes sense, right, if you are familiar with the way nerdy companies work?) But in Seuss-land the Nerd was just another odd animal. It was the TV show Happy Days, in the 70s, where "nerds" were recognized as the totally-uncool.
Two-dimensional images use two measurements for each point, an X-axis measurement and a Y-axis measurement. 3D images add a Z-axis measurement.
A buffer is an area of memory set aside to hold immediately, important information.
A computer display screen is a two-dimensional device, which can only hint at 3D images by shading, and perspective, and hiding some objects behind others.
A Z-buffer is an area of memory set aside to hold details on which objects would be hidden from view by others.So graphics accelerator hardware that works to speed up the display of 3D images will often be designed with special Z-buffer memory to handle this vital display step.
The System Administrator aka sysadmin is in charge of a computer or network's health. When things aren't working, the sysadmin is the one to call, and often the only one with the right passwords and access to make the network fixes.
Computer Generated Images (CGI) are a big part of many movies today. They are the special effects that make Jurassic Park scary or Flubber funny. Common Gateway Interface is a standard way for web server programs to talk to other software. A web master must know CGI as well as HTML, Java, and JavaScript.
The characters { and } are called Curly Braces. In some programming languages, anything inside curly braces is a "comment", that helps programmers understand the code but that won't be translated by a compiler or interpreter.
Bps vs bps: Bps means Bytes per second where bps means bits per second. So Bps is eight times as fast as bps. (There are eight bits in a byte.)
When you send a file from a computer to another computer, you're transferring the file. When you transfer from a smaller or simpler computer to a larger or more complex computer, such as a network server or Internet site, you're uploading the file. Both the operation and the file that moved can be called an "upload".
Object-oriented software can be "event-driven". The objects--such as buttons, menus, and information fields--can have their own "events" or behaviors--such as changing their on-screen appearance or sending a message to another object or popping up an error message. These can be triggered by the events of other objects or by user interactions such as keyboard or mouse actions.
When millions and millions of free CDs are given away--most typically by online service companies such as AOL--they are often put to other uses than software storage. One such use--sitting underneath drink cups and glasses--has been so common, that the free CDs have come to be known as "coasters".
For What Its Worth (FWIW) is an unusually and truly humble abbreviation for email and newsgroup postings, which are often filled with hot and bull-headed opinions. Watch out, though. FWIW may be intended sarcastically, from someone who is sure of what they're saying but doesn't believe it will do any good to point out the truth.
The blank space bewteen two columns or type, or between two facing pages in a book, is the gutter.
The Digital Video Interface (DVI) is a way of storing video in a file on disk. Invented by Intel, it has become quite popular on many computers.
A dialog box is sort of a window that hasn't quite grown to full flexibility and use. It is a small, self-contained area on screen that asks for user input--from a simple "OK" to an error message to a complex set of options organized into buttons and menus.
Short for List Processing, the Lisp language was invented in the 1950s for Artificial Intelligence work. It seemed ideal for that work, which often had to interpret lists of human knowledge or expertise. There were even some computers designed specifically for efficient Lisp operation, such as the Thinking Machines parallel processing systems. Lisp hasn't found much use outside of AI, and AI hasn't been much in the news as the Internet has grabbed most tech excitement in recent years.
Baby In High Style
Baby Bills is yet another tech term with two meanings:
  • The entrepreneurial companies started around Seattle, funded by and staffed by ex-Microsoft workers.
  • The multiple companies that Microsoft may get split into after government antitrust action. It comes from "Baby Bells," what the various pieces of AT&T (started by Alexander Graham Bell) were called after the government broke up that monopoly.
Buy Me With Your Best Shot
Or Best Offer(OBO) is a common abbreviation in online auction and sales sites. Naturally it means "I'm not stuck on getting the price I suggested, and I don't want you to give up on buying just because you won't pay that full price--try me on something less."
Decent Proposal
The United States' Communications Decency Act(CDA), passed in 1996, outlawed "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent" communications, including those through the Internet. Naturally this raised the question of who was decent enough to decide what passed and what would not. The Supreme Court simplified that decision by declaring the CDA unconstitutional.
Do It Again
Infinite Loop is:
  • 1. The street in Cupertino where Apple Computer has its headquarters, or
  • 2. A program that keeps turning back on itself, with no possible end unless the computer is turned off, or
  • 3. Go to Step 1.
Doing Virtual-Business As
Visual Basic for Applications or VBA is Microsoft's programming language for applications such as Access. Related to Visual Basic, it lets the program user get at and control the objects in the program, such as the menus, buttons, and fields in an Access database application.
Down by the Old Streaming
The RealNetworks company--formerly called Progressive Networks--makes a variety of "streaming media" programs. These let Internet sites send out sound and video, and allow browsers to see and hear the results. Their standard for moving sound across the network is called RealAudio.
Dripping Away
When programs start, they are given areas of memory for their very own. When the programs stop, they are supposed to notify the operating system that these areas are available for other programs. This doesn't always happen. Sometimes programs don't give the memory back, leaving it in limbo, unusable for other programs. This "leak" of memory away from usefulness can cut into your computer's performance. Sad to say, it's a common failure of Windows programs. If the operating system doesn't stop such leaks, the only way to get all the memory back into operation again is to restart.
Field of Weird Dreams
The # symbol, commonly called the pound sign, was originally called the octothorpe. That's because it was a map-maker shorthand for a village with eight fields or thorpes, all around a central square. But we bet you won't hear any voice mail message suggesting "for help, press 1 and then the octothorpe sign."
Hunkering Down In Two Ways
Some think a "cybersquatter" is anyone who acquires an Internet domain name without plans to put up a Web site at that domain, especially if that person hopes to sell the domain name. That would make the smartie who registered "" and then sold it years later for millions a cybersquatter. Others think the epithet -- because it isn't a kindly term -- should be reserved for those who take advantage of the weak connection between traditional trademarks and domain names. For example, this kind of cybersquatter might have registered "" before the film star did, and then offered to sell it to Leo -- or just used the site for all sorts of unflattering information about his film career.
The Standard Generalized Markup Language(SGML) is a bunch of rules for tagging the elements of a document to specify fonts, sizes, styles, and so on. It was simplified for use as HTML, the basis of Web pages.
Of Special Interest
The Special Internet Group for Graphics, Siggraph, is part of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery). The Siggraph conferences bring together all sorts of computer experts interested in graphics for everything from movies to games to science to industrial applications.
The ACM-E of Clubs
The Association for Computing Machinery is one of the most important professional organizations for computer experts. It publishes a magazine and runs conferences. There are lots of ACM Special Interest Groups or SIGs that delve into particular areas of computing, such as graphics or artificial intelligence.
When you search and sift through Internet information looking for references to yourself, you're "egofiltering".
Taking In The Trash
Programs don't always give back the memory they used, even after quitting. Eventually too much of the memory in a computer can be left useless, unless the operating system is restarted (which is how Windows handles thing) or you use an operating system that has "garbage collection" to find and reassign such memory (which is how Java and Linux work).
Which May Not Be Much
With All Due Respect(WADR) is a nice-sounding abbreviation to put into an email or news posting, and can be a courteous inclusion, but it can also mean "I disagree with you completely, and even think you're being a bit of an idiot here, but I'll try to put a diplomatic introduction on my explanation of how far off the mark you are."
You Still Look Good After All These Bits
Digital pictures, sounds and video clips can be big. Very big. They take up lots of disk space and lots of Internet bandwidth. So there is always some urge to shrink them, to compress them to a smaller size. Some compression schemes don't give up any of the picture or sound quality, merely eliminating redundant information. But "lossy" compression can squeeze files to the smallest size by permanently giving up some of the quality. When carefully chosen, this loss may not be noticeable--such as in a picture that runs in a newspaper or on a Web site where the full quality isn't visible anyway. Yet the savings in disk and transmission time can be very noticeable.
No Relation
A database manager that only works with a single table of information, a flat-file database doesn't link to tables the way relational database can.
Only Get A Little Wet
When you start your computer or a program, do you see a smiling logo, a company name, or some other temporary image? That's a splash screen.
When you first visit a Web site, is there an image or warning or notice that appears for a little while and then disappears, to be replaced by the main home page? That's a splash page.
A Brite Idea
G.lite is a version of the Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) Internet connection. DSL can move information at as fast as 8Mbps or even faster, through standard telephone wires. But it is complicated to set up. G.lite only manages up to 1.5Mbps download speeds, which is still 30 times faster than traditional 56K modems. Because it is much simpler than full DSL, it is becoming a popular upgrade to old-fashioned modems.
Management That Isn't Pointy-Haired
Although most people call programs such as Access and Oracle "databases," they really aren't. They're database managers or even database application development environments. The "database" is a collection of information that this kind of program works on--searching, sorting, reporting on the information.
No Pea Under This Mattress
Flatbed scanners have a flat top surface where you place the image you want to capture. (They work the same way traditional photocopiers do, with that flat glass top where you slap down a page to copy.) The other kind of page-size optical scanner is an "edgefeed" scanner where individual pages must enter a slot.
Presence of Mind
A Point Of Presence(POP) is the local connection you make to the Internet or other service. The more POPs your Internet Service Provider has, the easier for you to connect from many places. If your ISP offers a POP that's close to you -- that's a local telephone call --you can keep your Internet-related telephone bills low. (Don't pronounce it "Pee Oh Pee." Pronounce it "pop.")
Car Computer
Clarion's AutoPC [] is a voice-activated, in-dash digital device that runs the Windows CE operating system. It is meant to run driving-relevant programs, such as map directions and Internet-downloaded traffic reports.
Conjugal Confusion
Or is it Back Up? Or Back-up? And after you've saved your information to a safer place, made a copy of it to protect against information loss, do you call yourself "backed up?" Some like this rule: * back up: is the verb, the action, of making a safe copy. * backup: is the noun, the safe copy itself.
DAT's All Folks
DAT Digital Audio Tape is a technology that records audio as digital bits on a thin tape that looks great deal like an 8mm video tape. Sony's DAT became popular with some budget-minded professionals and high-fidelity-minded amateurs, but didn't take much popular-music space from CD or cassette.
E-comm Pincer Attack
An e-commerce Web site that has a close link to a traditional physical-world store can be called a "click-and-mortar" strategy. A take-off on the "brick-and-mortar" description of traditional stores, click-and-mortar caught some investors' fancy as the best way to synergize the efficiency of Internet shopping with the established brand presence of old-fashioned stores.
Of Our Teeth
A "skin" is a piece of software that can change the look of another piece of software. For example, MP3-playing programs -- which let you listen to sound stored in the MP3 format -- often have a wide variety of "skins" available. Each will give the player a different look on screen, with different colors, shapes, and buttons.
Pictures In Motion
Pronounced "em-peg," this is short for Motion Picture Experts Group, a committee that works on standard schemes for compressing digital sound and video clips. It is also short for the group's standard, which has become the most popular way to store and play video on personal computers. Some computers have programs that understand and can play MPEG files; some computers have special hardware that speeds up and smoothes out MPEG play. (By the way, the famous MP3 sound files are compressed using the sound portion of the MPEG standard -- that's where the MP part of the name comes from.)
Pointer To The Future
Sony's Artificial Intelligence roBOt or Aibo [] is a small dog-shaped robot that can move, listen, and interact with you. Realistically it is a toy, but one that points toward future practical robots. After all, early personal computers were largely toys.
Portable Bits
Sony's Memory Stick is small, flat, rectangular card that contains memory chips. It is meant to fit into memory-stick slots in portable computers, digital cameras, digital camcorders, wireless phones and other electronic devices. It competes with other such memory-chip carrying designs, including the Compact Flash and SmartMedia.
Portable Platform
Handspring's Visor is a portable, handheld computer that runs the Palm operating system software. The Visor is different from the various Palm models due to the special slot it has for add-on hardware. Called the Springboard, this is the place to plug in more memory, program cartridges, GPS location sensors, and other devices.
Tag That Mail
"mailto:" is an HTML tag. Here's how it works: 1. A web developer puts "mailto:" on a web page, just before an e-mail address. 2. A web browser opens up that web page. 3. A click on the e-mail address is highlighted and underlined. 4. A click that e-mail address open up the browser's e-mail program, and create a new e-mail message ready to send to the address.
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