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Glossary of Internet Terms

Source: www.olliverlyle.com


A color depth of 24 bits, which enables the display of more than 16 million colors simultaneously. With a video adapter and monitor capable of processing and displaying 24-bit color, users can view beautiful, photographic-quality images at high resolutions. Displaying 24-bit color in resolutions higher than standard VGA (640 x 480) requires 2 megabytes or more of video memory.

680 x 0:
"Motorola Inc. is one of the leading manufacturers of microprocessors. Until the early 1990s, Motorola microprocessors were used in all Apple Macintosh computers and in many workstations. Following the development of its 68040 chip in 1989, however, Motorola changed its focus from the 680 x 0 line of CISC chips to RISC technologies.

"In 1993, Motorola joined Apple Computer and IBM in designing a new RISC architecture that would form the basis of the next generation of personal computers. This effort culminated in the introduction of the PowerPC architecture in 1994.

"There are five main chips in the 680 x 0 family: the 6800, 68020, 68030, 68040, and 68060. Many people refer to them by their last three digits. For example, the 'oh-forty' refers to the 68040 chip."


An absolute cell reference is a spreadsheet cell reference that doesn't adjust when you copy or move a formula. An absolute cell reference includes a symbol (such as $) before both the column letter and the row number ($A$6) that locks those values so they cannot change depending on the formula's location in the spreadsheet.
AC-3 An audio standard for delivering 5.1 audio developed by Dolby Laboratories. This system compresses six channels of digital audio into 384 Kbps versus 4 Mbps uncompressed.

1. A piece of hardware or software that makes some other (typically slow and pokey) device in the computer work faster.
2. Another term for shortcut keys. An accelerator enables you to do the same function as a mouse, except using a key or a combination of keys.

One of two types of LTO or Linear Tape-Open format for storing digital information on tape, Accelis uses two reels of 50GB compressed capacity. Having the two tapes instead of one makes for faster data access than in the Ultrium LTO format. Today's data transfer rate of 1.2GB/minute will grow to 2.4GB/minute, then 19.2GB/minute in the more distant future. Capacity will grow too, to 400GB or so, though it won't match that of the slower Ultrium format.

An account policy is a set of rules that defines which access rights are assigned to which users on a network. Network administrators can set up a series of user-account parameters that combine to create the account policy. The account policy is then applied to each account as it logs in. Account policies are restrictive, meaning that they define acceptable behavior and allowable travel for network users -- what they can do and where they can go.

ACK is short for acknowledgment. In other words, it's the signal your modem sends back to a server whenever it receives a complete, correct data packet therefrom. (If the data doesn't come through as it was supposed to, the modem sends back a negative acknowledgment, or "NAK.")

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.

Acronyms are commonly used in e-mail and other electronic communiques, and the military is a fond user of acronyms as well. You may hear business people talking to each other using acronyms. Acronyms are a way of shortening a word or phrase such as BTW (By the way). There are several acronyms in use today for the average person to use where ever they wish. Just a few are:

High Fives
As a matter of fact
As soon as possible
Are you alone?
Bye for now
Be right back
By the way
Can I buy you a drink?
C U later crocodile
Don't look at me like that!
Did you know
(spreading) fear, uncertainty, and disinformation
For what it's worth
Get a life
grinning, running, and ducking
HA HA Only Kidding
Hanging on your every word
In any event
I am not a doctor
I am not a geek
I am not a lawyer
I lied, i'm not really a woman
In my humble opinion
In my not so humble opinion
In my opinion
In our humble opinion
I'll stop rambling now
It seems to me
Is that your hand?
Just a minute
Just joking
Laughing out loud
Love you
My hats off to you
Mine your own business
No reply necessary
On the other hand
Pardon me for jumping in
Read it and Weep
Rolling on floor laughing
Rolling on floor laughing my guts out
See what I mean
Thanks in advance
Ta ta for now
Talk to you later
What are you wearing?
Write back soon
What do you look like?
Way to go
Want to go private?
Yet another bloody acronym
You look nice tonight
Your mileage may vary
Big grin
Very big grin
Tongue in cheek

to name a few of them. If you have any that are not on this list that you would like to sure you can send them to me at the e-mail address below.

Every site on the Internet has an address. The actual address consists of numbers such as the IP Address), and once in awhile you will be able to see numbers like this in the status bar of your browser. You can actually enter these numbers into the address bar of your browser instead of something like www.info.com. However, you do not have to worry as you will be able to use words instead. This is why you will see addresses such as http://www.yahoo.com/ instead. The two major browsers Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape allow you to leave off the http:// part of the address. Internet Explorer 4.+ allows you to leave even more of the address off. For instance you could simply type yahoo, hold down the control key and press enter; Internet Explorer will fill in the http://www and .com parts.

Adaptive Differential Pulse Code Modulation. An encoding format for storing audio information in a digital format.

An agent (also called an intelligent agent) is a program that, when triggered by specified circumstances or events, runs all by itself and performs tasks for you. Your e-mail program, for example, might have an agent (or let you create one) that automatically deletes month-old messages or alerts you when you receive a message from a particular person. Server-side agents are agents that run on a network server and automate network administration tasks.

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.

Ever spend several precious minutes of your time--minutes you'll never get back--downloading a gigantic sound file from the Web, only to find that you can't play it? It may be because the sound file you downloaded is in AIFF, or "Audio Interchange File Format." AIFF is an Apple Macintosh sound file type that you can play on either a Mac or a PC but not without installing a browser plug-in first. Fortunately, the Web is overrun with places to download such a plug-in.

The Alpha family of microprocessors is famous for being sophisticated, powerful, and fast. Based on the RISC architecture -- Reduced Instruction Set Computing -- Alpha's design rejects having a long list of fundamental operations in favor of having a few operations that it can perform very, very quickly. Digital Equipment -- now part of Compaq -- designed the Alpha processor. Some potent workstations have been designed using the Alpha, but it has had little market life in competition against Intel's popular X86 line of microprocessors, which includes the recent Pentium III

An alphanumeric expression or word contains both letters and numbers. Examples of alphanumerics include most license plate numbers, the acronym Y2K, and many Web site URLs.

1. The character is correctly called an ampersand. Ampers comes from the ancient Vulcan for "this squiggly symbol means" and and, meaning "and."
2. Commonly used to represent and, as in "such & such" or, more accurately, "Sterling, Worbletyme & Grockmeister." Most purists reject this form, preferring to spell out the letters a-n-d.
3. In computer programming, & sometimes represents a "logical and." For example:

4. In the C programming language, two ampersands are used to make a logical "and" operation: &&.

To understand analog, you really have to understand digital as well. Analog is an adjective used to describe things that are continuous. Think of the two types of stereo system volume control for comparison. With some, turning to raise or lower volume is smooth. With others, as you turn, the knob clicks into several stops between low and high; there's no setting in between. The smooth turning is analog, offering infinite variations between 1 and 10. The digital side offers only 10 choices, but is highly accurate. Unfortunately, you've learned the downside of analog if ever you've copied an audio or videocassette and noticed the degradation in quality from first generation to second.

Programmers. 90% of computer programming is understanding the problem and defining it in a way that computer logic can handle.

Slang for a poorly designed user interface or Web page that uses too many bright colors.

The ability to access a remote computer system on which one does not have an account, via the Internet's File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Users have restricted access rights with anonymous FTP and usually can only copy files to or from a public directory, often named /pub, on the remote system. Users can also typically use FTP commands, such as listing files and directories. When using anonymous FTP, the user accesses the remote computer system with an FTP program and generally uses anonymous or ftp as a logon name. The password is usually the user's e-mail address, although a user can often skip giving a password or give a false e-mail address. In other cases, the password can be the word anonymous. Many FTP sites do not permit anonymous FTP access in order to maintain security. Those that do permit anonymous FTP sometimes restrict users to only downloading files for the same reason.
API stands for "application program interface," a set of programming tools included with a software

A program or operating system that allows a programmer to write applications that work with that program or operating system. APIs save programmers a lot of work by giving them easy ways to "hook into" the various capabilities of a program or operating system, instead of reinventing the wheel themselves. Microsoft has an API for programmers wishing to write programs that will work with its operating system Windows X or Windows NT.

To add data at the end of a file or a database. In database management, for example, to append a record is to add a new record after all existing records.

On the Web, you're most likely to see the term "Java applet," but applets have been around since before the Java programming language came to prominence. Essentially, an applet is a little application program that is built into or added to a larger application program. An applet is designed to be executed from within another application and cannot be executed directly from the operating system. A well-designed applet can be invoked from within different applications.
With Java--which is a programming language designed for creating small, easily distributed program objects--an applet can be downloaded from a Web page. The user can then click an associated image or button and trigger the applet. Java applets are commonly used to create animation, work with database material, and calculate equations

Computer engineers started referring to themselves as system architects and referring to their work--their system designs--as architectures. The phrase has caught on.

Even before the Internet was a household word (if not a household tool), its precursor was being developed as the ARPAnet. ARPAnet stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, and it was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense in the late 1960s and early '70s.
ARPAnet was essentially an experimental network designed to see how well a slew of computers spread all over the U.S. could be networked in such a way that they would continue to be connected in the event a bunch of them were nuked off the grid. Luckily, the ARPAnet was never put to this test and eventually evolved into the Internet as we now know it.

Artificial intelligence is computer technology designed to imitate the human brain--specifically, to solve problems by learning and reasoning. Originally, in the early 1950s, AI was called "computer intelligence," which you have to admit is a much more accurate term; interestingly, it was an MIT professor, and not a marketing weenie, who renamed it artificial intelligence in 1956. AI is still a ways from replacing human brains, but as Deep Blue's victory of Gary Kasparov demonstrated, it can sure play a mean game of chess.

Say "as-key." ASCII stands for "American Standard Code for Information Interchange. ASCII files are "plain text" files with no formatting. Every computer can open an ASCII file, and almost every word-processing program can make and save ASCII files. ASCII files are made up of characters from the ASCII table which is a computer standard. There are other character tables, but ASCII is by far the most common and standard.
The ASCII table is made up of printable and non-printable characters. There are a possible 256 characters in the ASCII table. There are not 256 characters, so the last 128 or so can be just about anything. If you have a word processor---such as MS Word---where you can insert a special symbol, you can look at the different symbols represented by the upper 128 character places as you change the font. Your ASCII table for a Mac should not be any different for the first 128 characters, but you may see some difference in the last 128.

An Application Service Provider (ASP) makes it possible for you to use a program without having or owning that program. Instead the program is on the ASP's computer and you connect to it through a network or the Internet. Just as ISPs provide Internet for people to use as they like or need, ASPs provide application programs, typically charging by the hour or month. ASPs are tempting to some businesses because they relieve the company of tech installation and maintenance responsibilities.

The relationship of width and height. When an image is displayed on different screens, the aspect ratio must be kept the same to avoid either vertical or horizontal stretching.

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.

Authentication is one of those few terms that means the same thing in nerdland as it does everywhere else: It's the process of proving that something is genuine. In nerdland, that something is a user dialing into a computer server via a remote connection or the Internet.
Here's how authentication typically works: When a user tries to log into a server, he or she is prompted to enter a user name and password; the user name and password are then compared to the user name and password information on the server. If the information matches, the user is allowed access to the server. There are more complex forms of authentication, but we won't go into them here.
Suffice it to say that whether you knew it or not, you've probably been authenticated hundreds or thousands of times. And you're none the worse for the experience.

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.

Some chat rooms let users adopt an icon, picture, or other visual persona to represent them while they're chatting online. This picture is called an avatar (pronounced AV-uh-tar), which is Sanskrit for the earthly incarnation a god takes. Examples of avatars would be the Hindu god Krishna, who appears as the philosopher king, and Varaha, who appears as a boar. (Fans, PR agents, and movie trailers notwithstanding, Brad Pitt is NOT an avatar.)
Depending on the chat room, you may have to use one of the prefab avatars, or you may be able to supply your own.

AVI stands for "Audio Video Interleave"--one of the longest-running file formats for digital video. AVI files are big: An AVI that plays for about 10 seconds could be 2MB in size and take a long time to download over a telephone-line Internet connection. Many popular Web video technologies, such as Apple's QuickTime and Microsoft's Video for Windows, create and play video files in AVI format.


Paper that measures 11 x 17 inches.

A secret way of getting into a program that usually only the original programmer knows about (such as a secret password). It sounds sneaky, but it allows programmers to update software with a minimum of hassle. It is not a bug or a virus. The term Back Door has been used in several movies, and has been used to access a program for malicious reasons. Although, a back door may have legitimate usage, it also can be used for various not-so-legitimate uses. The USER has no idea whether the program they are using has a back door in it or not. This can make one very nervous, if you are into conspiracy type stuff.

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.

A program is said to be backward-compatible if you can open documents created in newer versions by using an older version. For example, Microsoft Word 98 and Word 2000 are backward-compatible.

Something that tends to grow and grow without stopping. An out-of-control project. From the old saying "I know how to spell banana, but I don't know where to stop."

This refers to the amount of data that can be sent over your phone line, satelite, cable or whatever. If your modem is 28.8Kbps you have a bandwidth of 28.8Kbps, supposedly. Many times your modem will not be connecting at its rated bandwidth. The noise on a phone line can affect the connection bandwidth. Once you get onto your ISP or the Internet your bandwidth can still be degraded depending on how busy the Internet or the ISP is.

Those Web site ads that are rectangles across the top of the web page, or the bottom, or worst of all right in the middle, those ads that you can click in order to immediately jump to the advertisers own web site, are called banner ads.

A bunch of files, grouped together to be printed, transferred, transmitted, or otherwise acted upon all at one time. Obviously, doing something to a batch of files at once is a lot more efficient than doing the same thing to each file individually.

Baud (pronounced "bod") used to be the way to measure bandwidth or data transmission capacity (that is, how much data can be moved and how quickly) on your modem. However, baud has mostly been replaced by the more accurate term, bps, which stands for bits per second. Now, when you hear people talking about baud, they're probably misusing the term and really talking about bps. For example, many folks will claim to own a 28.8-baud modem when actually what they have is a 28.8-kpbs modem (kbps stands for kilo--or thousand--bits per second).

You may have a modem rated as a 28.8Kbps. Technically 1 baud is not necessarily equal to 1 bit, but for all practical purposes you can think of 28.8Kbps as 28.8 thousand bits per second. Most of you probably know that "K" is the metric letter for "thousand." The higher the Kbps the faster the modem, but there are problems associated with higher speeds. For one, the amount of noise on the telephone line can degrade the speed. For another, your connection to the Internet or your ISP must support the baud rate.

An inexpensive supercomputer created by clustering off-the-shelf personal computer components linked by a high-speed network and powered by Linux; each of the networked computers executes a portion of the program in parallel. The term originated with the Beowulf Project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

BBS stands for Bulletin-Board System, a network comprising one or more PCs equipped with modems and special communications software which are set up for the purpose of taking calls from subscribers. Once a subscriber calls in, they can navigate the system to talk to other users or download information. While they are fading from popularity now, due to the Internet and the World Wide Web, BBSs were the main source of online community for many years. The main drawback to BBSs is that you have to dial in over normal phone lines. This is fine if the BBS is in your town, but not if your favorite virtual hangout is two time zones away.

The Blind Carbon Copy -- is a copy of an e-mail sent to someone other than the main To recipient, without revealing that any other copy was sent. Most e-mail programs will have this capability. If you are sending e-mail to more than one other person you should think about using BCC. When you send something of interest to just two other people (or more) and you do not use the BCC option, you will expose their e-mail addresses to everyone else that the message is forwarded to. You should think about protecting the privacy of others by using BCC. In the TO field you would put your own e-mail address and everyone else's e-mail address would go in the BCC field. The CC option is talked about later.

The flat area on the top of a scanner, that glass surface where you put the document to scan, is called the "bed." So the "bed size" is the area you can scan, typically either letter-size or legal-size. That's why these are called "flatbed scanners." The few scanners that capture much larger areas rarely have a larger bed. Instead they roll or "feed" the document through

If you were around during the early days of personal computing, you may remember the Bernoulli Box--a removable, reliable floppy disk drive that people used to archive and transport large amounts of data. The box was so named because it worked on a kind of reverse of Bernoulli's Principle: It spun the disk at such a high speed that it actually curved UP to the drive head, as opposed to having the drive head come DOWN to the disk--thereby all but eliminating the possibility of a disk crash. Bernoulli Boxes are pretty much extinct today; the manufacturer, Iomega, now makes Zip and Jaz drives.

A person who tests a program before its release to the public and reports bugs to the manufacturer. "Before Microsoft released Windows, they gave it to 50,000 beta testers around the country. After they discovered it to be full of bugs, Microsoft sold it to the rest of us." 

1. Abbreviation for "background."
2. Acronym used in e-mail for "big grin." The intent is to show expression in your mail because the recipient cannot see you sitting there with a big grin on your face.

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:

  1. It is the program your PC uses to start up the system when you turn it on.
  2. 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.

A bit is the smallest unit of binary data; it can either have the value of 0 (usually meaning "off" or "no") or 1 (usually meaning "on" or "yes"). For instance, the binary number 10110001 has eight bits. The bits are numbered 0-7 starting at the right-most bit. In our example bit 0 is a 1, bit 1 is a 0, bit 2 is a 0, bit 3 is a 0, bit 4 is a 1, bit 5 is a 1, bit 6 is a 0, and bit 7 is a 1. There is an introductory article to the binary number system on this Web Site if you want to know more.

A bitmapped graphic is a picture made up of dots, each of which represents one or more bits of data (the more bits per dot, the more color possibilities for each dot). Here are three things to remember about bitmapped graphics:

MP3 sound files can be recorded at several different bit rates, which measure how many bits are used to represent each second of sound. The higher the bit rate -- the more bits used -- the higher the sound quality. But more bits also means bigger files, which take longer to download and more room to store. The typical bit rate of 128Kbps (128K bits per second) is sometimes referred to as "CD-quality." Some expert listeners deem that number overly optimistic. These pundits say 192Kbps or even 256Kbps gives higher quality sound, though not that noticeably better to untrained ears, while 64Kbps makes for a low-fidelity recording.

Internet service providers are suffering more from spam -- junk e-mail -- than you are. An individual might get five or ten or twenty spams a day. ISPs receive thousands, even millions, and their computers spend a lot of time storing and forwarding all of that drivel. So ISPs, naturally, like the idea of "blackholing" utility programs that will keep a list of known spam-sending addresses and automatically and permanently delete any mail coming from them.

In typography, a family of typefaces derived from German handwriting of the medieval era. Black letter typefaces often are called Fraktur (after the Latin word fractus, meaning "broken") because the medieval scribes who created this design lifted their pens from the line to form the next character, fracturing the continuous flow of handwriting. 

Bloatware is what nerds--and the rest of us--call software that has become so loaded with features that it practically takes up all of a computer's hard disk and requires much too much of its RAM to run. Bloatware was a real problem a few years ago, when the leading office suites (Microsoft Office, Lotus SmartSuite, and Corel Office, for example) required as much computing power as most people could afford. Bloatware is more difficult to create today, when you can buy a PC with 128MB of RAM and a 10GB hard disk for less than $2000.

A blue bomb is a packet of information that one computer sends to another computer for the sole purpose of causing the other computer to crash. Why would anyone want to do such a thing? Well, players who are about to lose online games have been known to send blue bombs, as have chat participants who want to be sure theirs is the last word. (It's called a "blue" bomb after the "blue screen of death," which Windows 95/98 displays when it's about to crash.)

To "boil the ocean" means to try something way too heroic or ambitious, when a lesser accomplishment would suffice. For example, creators of new hybrid cars (cars that can run on gas or electricity) might accuse creators of electric-only or solar-powered cars of trying to boil the ocean.

A bookmark is a placeholder to a particular URL, or web address, that you want to go back to at some later time. Different browsers have different ways of saving the bookmark. Internet Explorer calls a bookmark a Favorite Place. They are both one and the same thing.

Short for "robot," a bot is an electronic sentry--also known as an intelligent agent--that scours the Web to help you find what it is you're looking for. It's kind of like a search engine, but a bot is a little more fine-tuned and personalizable, able to adapt to your needs and learn from previous retrievals. Three-year-old BotSpot is the site to visit if you want to learn more about these programs and where to find the best ones. The site profiles a "bot of the week," reviews the selected bots, and provides a glimpse at this fascinating and burgeoning area of computing.

E-mail that is returned to you when it can't reach the address you attempted to send it to.

A "bozo filter" is a feature that filters out e-mail or discussion group postings from people whom you'd rather not hear from--in other words, "bozos." We dream of the day that bozo filters extend beyond cyberspace, protecting us from seeing or hearing from all the bozos in our lives.

Bits-per-second. This is a common term to see with modems. A 56Kbps modem is 56 thousand bits per second. Just because the modem says it is a 56Kbps or 28.8Kbps does not mean that you will connect at that speed, as more times than not you will get connected at a lower speed. Your downloading speed can be much lower as well. The speed at which you get connected and surf the Internet on depends on many different things besides the speed of the modem.

A brouter is a hybrid device that combines the functions of a bridge and a router. It operates on two layers of the OSI model: the Data Link layer (as a bridge) and the Network layer (as a router). A brouter is just what it sounds like: a cross between a bridge and a router. It can act like a router for routable protocols and like a bridge for non-routable protocols.

The operating system got a big makeover at the University of California at Berkeley. The resulting BSD UNIX introduced the vi full-screen editor and other changes, and is an ancestor of Sun's Solaris operating system. It was also the foundation for the open-source Free BSD operating system, which is used at some major Web sites, such as Yahoo because of its reliability and flexibility.

A bubble-jet printer is a special kind of inkjet printer developed by Canon. Instead of ionizing the ink, a bubble-jet printer heats it; the ink expands and "drops" out of the nozzle and onto the paper. The results are similar to those achieved with an inkjet printer. The only way to choose is to go to a computer or an office supply store and compare for yourself.

A buffer page is a page that either requires you to do something (such as read a warning) OR tries to get you to do something (such as visit one of the site's advertisers) BEFORE you enter the site itself.

Yes, your computer has a bus; no, you don't need tokens to ride it. A bus is a group of wires that carries data from one part of your computer to another. If you have a relatively new computer, you probably have three buses:


A byte is a single data character--a letter or number. It's also the amount of disk space or memory required to store a single data character. It takes eight bits to make a byte. As fundamental as bytes are, we don't often talk about them individually; most often we hear of bytes packaged together in kilobytes, megabytes, and so on. There is an introductory article on the binary number system on this Web Site if you wish more information.


CAB--or more specifically, .CAB--is a type of file called a "cabinet" file that contains several compressed files. Many application CD-ROMs contain CAB files. When you install the application, the files within the CAB files are decompressed and copied onto your computer's hard disk. When you run across a ZIP file you need a special program to unzip or to see what files are listed in the compressed file. You will also need a special program to see what files are contained in the .CAB file. Microsoft is a big user of .CAB files, and the distribution disks of Windows 95/98 have many of them. Microsoft has a CABVIEW program included with its "Powertoys" utilities. Since this set of utilities moves around on their Web Site you will need to do a search for it on the Microsoft site or a general Internet search should do the trick. The program WINZIP should be able to read the .CAB files as well, and you can download a free copy of it at http://www.winzip.com/

A modem you use to connect to the Internet over coaxial cable. Today's cable modems can transmit data at 500 kbps and, more importantly, receive data at 250 kbps--about 50 times faster than the 56 kbps modems used to connect over telephone lines.
However, don't rush out thinking you can get a cable modem. The cable companies are installing two-way fiberoptic networks, but it may take some time before you are able to go online in your locality. Cable modems do bring up questions about security and service, but these things have a way or working out as demand rises.
Using cable modems will cost you more than your present dial-up service, but they are not that expensive. You can probably get a package for around $40 to $60. To get more information about connecting your computer to the Internet with a cable modem call your local cable provider. The techology will probably be making some rapid changes, as technology seems to do in the digital world.

CAD--"computer-aided design,"-- a software program used by architects and engineers to design three-dimensional objects, like cars, houses, light switches--you name it.

CAE stands for "computer-aided engineering," a class of software that lets engineers analyze engineering designs created with a CAD (computer-aided design) application. For example, an engineer can use a CAD program to draw a bridge and then use a CAE program to see if the bridge holds up under various stresses and conditions.

In desktop publishing (DTP), items of text that name parts of an illustration, usually with a line or arrow pointing to the part of the illustration that the text describes.

A cam or webcam is a video camera, usually attached directly to a computer, whose current or latest image can be viewed from a Web site. A live cam is one that continuously provides new, live images transmitted in rapid succession (or even in streaming video). They recently caught on, and now many are focused on scenic areas, traffic, and elsewhere.
Great panoramic shot of the Santa Cruz, California boardwalk and wharf
KPIG Radio Online Ham Cam
Ham Cam
Live shot of Bourbon Street in New Orleans:
Bourbon Street
By the way, these cams were located with the help of Tommy's List of Live Cams Worldwide:
Tommy's List

An anonymous group of people who watch the newsgroups for identical, large postings. If they find a post that has been sent to several newsgroups, the moose issues forged cancel notices to all the newsgroups to wipe the postings out. "The Cancel Moose is illegal, but since no one has been caught, they still do it."

CarbonLib is an "extension" to the Macintosh operating system. It is a small piece of software that installs with version 9 of the Mac OS. With CarbonLib in place, OS 9 Macs can run Mac OS X programs. There aren't many of those yet, because OS X is only just appearing round about now. But X is the future of the Mac -- according to Apple -- so giving older Mac's some ability to run the newer programs written for X, even when those Macs can't run the full-blown X, is sure to warm some Mac user hearts.

Distinguishing the difference between upper- and lowercase letters.

Category 3 (CAT-3) cable is a twisted pair of insulated copper wires that can carry the data bits of a local area network. CAT-3 is good enough to move data at 10Mbps between a Network Interface Card and a hub. Officially, it is good enough to handle signals up to 16MHz in frequency. For more bits or megahertz, you need a more expensive and complex kind of wiring.

In database management, a list of related database files you've grouped together so that you can easily distinguish them from others. All relational database management systems can work with more than one file at a time. A catalog helps you track all of these files in a unit.

Carbon Copy---Unlike BCC, when you use CC, anyone else that the message is sent to will be able to see the e-mail address of anyone in this field. There may be times when this is needed, such as in a work environment. You should use this option sparingly. The BCC (talked about above) is a much better means of protecting the privacy of others.

Intel's new microprocessor chip. A Celeron chip is essentially a Pentium II chip without the Level 2 cache--which makes it somewhat slower but a whole lot smaller and less expensive to make. So a Celeron is a great value..

Cellpadding is what HTML programmers use to specify the space between table cell borders and the text or graphics within them. Cellpadding is measured in pixels; HTML code that reads "cellpadding=10" creates a 10-pixel "pad" around the text within the table cells.

CERN stands for "Conseil European pour la Recherche Nucleaire." In English this translates to "European Laboratory for Particle Physics," which yields the decidedly less mellifluous acronym, ELPP. The CERN, headquartered in Geneva, is where the World Wide Web was born as a result of a CERN initiative to improve the way scientists exchanged data over the Internet.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) happens twice a year, in January and in mid-summer. The January meeting is traditionally held in Las Vegas and is one of the largest conventions of any kind. It is not a scientific conference but a sales and marketing event, where companies making computers, televisions, phones, cameras, videocameras, CD players, and a thousand other goodies try to drum up interest with dealers who will then sell that stuff.

So what's a "cgi-bin," that little phrase you so often see tacked to the end of the URL in your browser's location box? Turns out it's pretty much what it sounds (or reads) like: a place (folder or directory) on a Web server where all the CGI programs are kept. When you see "cgi-bin," you're either at a page you arrived at as a result of a CGI program or on a page from which you can run a CGI program.

Chad--a collective noun--consists of the little rectangular pieces of paper punched out of computer punch cards. Where did the name come from? Well, for a long time those little pieces of paper didn't have a name at all. Then someone named Chadless invented the Chadless keypunch--a device that punched little u-shaped holes into computer cards, eliminating the mess of the little rectangular pieces of paper. And since this new punch was called "Chadless," computer geniuses immediately deduced that the old punch produced "chad."

A group of characters and symbols, organized into groups for different purposes. Because a byte has 256 different bit patterns in a PC, there are typically 256 characters in a character set. The standard ASCII characters appear as codes 0 through 127. Character codes 128 through 255 are different for each character set. For example, one character set may contain graphics characters, another may contain symbols used in foreign languages, and another may contain financial symbols.

The metal frame where electronic components, such as circuit boards and power supplies, are mounted.

A Chernobyl packet is a packet of data that, by design or accident, brings a network to its knees.

1. A keyboard that consists of tiny buttons instead of keys. The buttons resemble candy Chicklets. Chicklet keys are usually too tiny to type on comfortably.
2. The IBM PCjr keyboard. The idea was to make it unattractive for business use. They succeeded to the extent that nobody bought it. Now this sounds like an IBM PC move, as they have never really been able to have much success in the PC market. Go figure with thinking like this.

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.

A "click-through" is a Web advertiser's term for a person who clicks a Web ad, such as a banner, and arrives at the advertiser's Web site. Because a click-through is a better prospect than someone who simply stumbles upon a Web site, smart Web advertisers make sure that the click-through arrives at a special page designed to capture his or her name, e-mail address, or other information.

Last time, we explained click-throughs; today, we cover "click rate." A click rate is the number of times a Web advertisement is clicked, divided by the number of times it is seen (specifically, the number of times the page containing the ad is visited). Another way to put it: The click rate equals click-throughs divided by ad views. The higher the click rate, the more effective the Web ad.

A design model for applications running on a network, in which the bulk of the back-end processing, such as performing a physical search of a database, takes place on a server. The front-end processing, which involves communicating with the user, is handled by smaller programs (called clients) that are distributed to the client workstations.

A collection of graphics, stored on disk and available for use in a desktop publishing or presentation graphics program (some word processors offer clip art as well). The term clip art is derived from a graphics design tradition in which packages of printed clip art are sold in books and actually clipped out by layout artists to enhance newsletters, brochures, and presentation graphics. Most page layout or presentation graphics programs can read graphics file formats used by clip art collections available on disk.

Coaxial cable is the "cable" in "cable TV." But Internet people see coaxial cable as the future of the Web, because:
1) It's in many people's homes already and can easily be put into the homes it isn't in;
2) It has a far greater bandwidth (up to 2 million bits per second) than ordinary phone lines (which max out at around 52 thousand bits per second). See Cable Modem listing above for more information.

Codec is an abbreviation for "compressor-decompressor" and, not surprisingly, is any technology that compresses and decompresses data. MPEG and MP3, are excellent examples of codecs

As most of you know, to "boot" (also to "boot up") means to start your computer. You perform a "cold boot" by turning the computer off and then back on again--and losing all unsaved work in the process. As a result, you usually perform a cold boot only in dire circumstances.

It's the computer industry's biggest trade show. In fact, the fall show--traditionally held in Las Vegas (this year, November 16-20)--attracts upwards of 120,000 attendees. Which is like having one of every 2000 Americans attend.

In computerese, a command line is the screen location where you type in a command. If you ever entered a DOS command into a computer, you did so by typing the command at the DOS command line. Windows--especially Windows 95--has made command lines a not so warmly remembered anachronism for most PC users. UNIX users, however, still spend the bulk of their days typing at a command line.

A video recording and playback technique that employs separate channels for chrominance (hue and saturation) and luminance (brightness). Component video produces higher resolution and better quality images than composite video.

A book of small code segments that the reader can use to do things in programs. For example, the cookbook may contain a routine for sorting information, which a program could use instead of having to develop it from scratch. 

A cookie is a small piece of information that a web server sends to your browser to store on your disk until it's time for the server to read it, such as when you return to the site that gave you the cookie. Internet Explorer users can view their cookies in their Temporary Internet Files directory. The cookie contains specific information about your visit/s to the specific site. Typically they hold your password to the site and your ID. However, they can keep track of files you downloaded or items you put into your shopping basket. If you were disconnected before you could purchase them or delete them, the cookie would have this information the next time you went back to the site. The cookie could contain information about your customization of the site. The use of cookies would take pages to describe. Should you accept them? Do they invade your privacy? The answer to those questions and others is up to you. One place you can go is http://www.zdnet.com/ and search for cookie information. They have some good information about them.

Many of you know what the three-letter extensions (.com, .edu, and so on) at the end of Web URLs mean. The two-letter extensions such as "uk" or "za" are country codes, assigned to domain names registered in a country other than the United States. For a complete listing of country codes, see
Country Codes

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:

Ever find that, after you've spent several long days in front of the computer, your eyes start to hurt, your vision starts to blur, and you get headaches? You've probably got yourself a case of CVS, or computer vision syndrome. Don't worry: You can "cure" CVS simply by taking a little hiatus from the computer--something you ought to be doing from time to time, anyway.

The "c" in cXML stands for "commerce." cXML is a set of additional document type definitions for XML designed specifically for exchanging the kind of data you need to conduct electronic commerce--purchase orders, invoices, payment data, security, and so on. Many companies, including the 40 or so that jointly "invented" it, view cXML as one of the key elements in making electronic commerce a faster and more pleasant experience.

Here's a quandary: You'd like nothing better than a midafternoon coffee break, but the idea of going to a coffee shop and actually talking to other people makes you, well, sick. The solution? Try a cybercafe--a kind of restaurant/cafe that just happens to include PCs you can use to surf (or chat) while you sip. Of course, you COULD just get a coffee machine for your desk.


Although it sounds like it should be a bit more malevolent, in geek parlance a daemon (pronounced DEE-man) is simply a program that runs without human intervention. A typical daemon waits quietly in the background and then comes alive when a certain condition arises. For the most part, daemons work out of sight of the user, and you're most likely to encounter one only when an e-mail cannot be delivered to the address you've requested. In this case, the daemon bounces the message back to you, and you see the original message along with a short note from a mailer daemon.

In displays, the act of linking several monitors together so that they all show the same thing. Daisy chaining is convenient when large numbers of people must see the output of the computer simultaneously, such as at a convention or trade show.

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.

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.

A data glove translates your hand movements into digital information and then transfers that information to a computer--or, even more commonly, to the headset of a virtual reality game system.

In a database management program, an operation that adds new records to the database. Unlike appending records, however, insertion lets you add records anywhere in the database.

A modem that can send and receive data, but not faxes.

A printed circuit board that is designed to attach to another larger circuit board, such as a motherboard or an adapter.

Long name is Dynamic Data Exchange.
These days, data isn't bound by programs: If you have some data in your spreadsheet that you want to put in your word processing document, you can just drag it from the spreadsheet and drop it in the document. Even better, when you change the data in the spreadsheet--presto!--it changes in the document, too. How does this magic happen? Through the good graces of DDE. If you're using a recent version of any Windows or OS/2 program, chances are good that the program supports DDE; check the program's Help to be sure.
Warning: Because DDE often uses lots of memory, files with lots of DDE links can slow down your computer. Use DDE carefully, according to the amount of memory you have.

Deep Blue:
An IBM computer designed specifically to defeat world champion chess player Garry Kasparov. Deep Blue wasn't smart or anything, and it knew chess only as well as its programmers. But it had the advantage of speed, being able to think through 200 million chess board positions in three minutes, whereas Mr. Kasparov could manage only 340, give or take. With that advantage, Deep Blue went on to defeat Mr. Kasparov in their second match in 1997. Garry Kasparov got paid $400,000 for losing a chess match to Deep Blue.

The settings that a program uses unless you specify another setting. For example, a word-processing program has a default font, and a spreadsheet has a default column width.

A programming language developed by Borland, one that looks surprisingly similar to its once-popular Turbo Pascal product

Most fonts offer at least two "weights": regular and bold. You've probably seen these choices in font dialog boxes. But they aren't the only possible weights. Some fonts offer light, medium, demibold, bold, and extra bold.

This word can mean a couple of different things. The Desktop is basically your on-screen real estate. The desktop is that part of your display area that displays icons for your hard drive, other drives, and (if you like)various folders and files that you like to keep handy. However, you will often hear the term "Desktop Computer," which is a PC that sits (where else) on your literal desktop. A desktop computer is not a laptop computer, but the basic PC that most of you are using while sitting at your desk.

A program that provides the operating system with the information needed for it to work with a specific device, such as a printer.

A Windows utility that displays a list of the installed hardware on a system and enables the user to configure each device.

A utility program that tests computer hardware and software to determine whether they're operating properly.

In a graphical user interface (GUI), an on-screen message box that conveys or requests information from the user.

A dialup access method that gives you full access to the Internet. By means of dialup IP, you can use graphical programs like Netscape Navigator to browse the World Wide Web (WWW).

Digital cash (also known as e-cash) is money that exists on your computer's hard drive, where it can be spent on electronic commerce (the appropriate sums are subtracted as you spend). In theory, you can spend the money in very small increments, such as tenths of a U.S. cent or less, but this practice is not yet widely used. There are three primary commercial vendors of digital cash on the Web: DigiCash, CyberCash, and First Virtual. In general, you set up a digital cash account by making payments with a credit card or by using an account with a participating bank (the list of banks is pretty short, but likely to grow), but each company handles the details in its own way.
For more information, point your browser to:
First Virtual

Applied Digital Solutions has the patent rights to a miniature Global Positioning System (GPS) chip that can be injected underneath a person's skin. This Digital Angel device can read its position from the GPS satellites and report back to those same satellites. In fact, it can also transmit biological data about the person. Clearly, this would be beneficial for finding kids and monitoring ailments, but might also be considered a threat to privacy.

Knowing full well that nobody wants to put nickel-and-dime charges on a credit card, some intelligent folks came up with digital coins: software "markers" you store in a "wallet" on your hard disk, which you can use to pay for low-cost Web items (icons and other cheap software, online game tokens, and so on). You STILL have to use your credit card to buy the coins in bulk.

Digiterati, a term coined by the same people whom it's supposed to define, is used as the digital version of "literati." Like its literary counterpart, digiterati refers to the intelligentsia of the digital world. For an interesting list of digiterati, check out the "Wired Ones" page, at:
Wired Ones

A digitizing tablet is like an electronic pad of paper: You draw on the pad with an electronic pen (usually called a "stylus"), and your drawing appears on the computer screen. Most graphic artists consider the digital tablet a more intuitive drawing tool than the mouse.

Dual Inline Memory Module, and like the SIMM (Single Inline Memory Module), DIMM is a type of RAM. Be sure to know what kind of memory you need when you are want to increase your memory. There are many different kinds of memory, and new types of memory seem to surface all the time.

A digizine is a magazine that is delivered in an electronic (digital) format on a medium such as CD-ROM or the Internet. A digizine can be a stand-alone document or a supplement to a printed manual or magazine. For example, many computer magazines are packaged with a CD-ROM containing a digizine with articles, reviews, interviews, and demos. In addition to text, digizines often include audio and video.

A written plan, with detailed instructions, specifying an alternative computing facility to use for emergency processing until a destroyed computer can be replaced.

Your color ink jet printer has four cartridges--black, yellow, red, and blue. Your color printer can print each of the hundreds, thousands, or millions of colors you see on your computer screen. How can this be?
The answer is dithering: arranging dots of colors you have to create the illusion of new colors you don't have. Your Sunday comics, for example, are dithered; look at them closely, and you'll see that four basic colors--black, red, yellow, and blue--are arranged in patterns to create all the colors you see. (And they say the comics aren't educational.) Also thanks to dithering, your monitor can display millions of colors, even though each pixel can only be one of 256 colors. It's an illusion that would make KayMar proud.

A DIVX, which stands for "digital video express," is a DVD disc designed to work only for a specified time period, such as two days. As you might suppose, the bigwigs in Hollywood think DIVX would be a great new medium for video rentals; you just slip in the disc, watch your movie, and throw the disk away. But there are still some kinks to work out--not the least of which is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have already bought DVD players, which CAN'T play DIVX disks.

DLL stands for Dynamic Link Library.
Files with the DLL extension contain functions or data used by your Windows programs while they run. Why is knowing this term important? Because like .exe files, DLL files are files you should NOT delete. You can delete DLL files that are not being used by any programs, but this is not so very easy to do. Even utilities that are suppose to fine orphaned DLLs can not be depended on. If you are not a computer geek then you should just leave them alone.

DMA stands for "direct memory access," the process of moving data directly from memory to a device--such as a disk drive or monitor--by bypassing the CPU. To do this, a computer must be equipped with a DMA channel.

The Domain Name System (DNS)-- sometimes referred to as the Domain Name Server -- is a central computer on the Internet that translates word domain names into the actual numeric Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. It also translates the other way, turning the IPs into the word domain names. The numeric addresses are the heart of the Internet system, telling packets of information that are shuttling through the net just when they've reached their destination. But they're awful hard to remember, so the wordy names exist to make life easier for wetware (human beings).

DCC stands for "digital content creation"--a name recently given, by computer companies, to the "target market" of folks who create audio/visual media for the Web. Computer companies have bothered to name this group because as a rule, digital content creators are in the market for the fastest, most powerful computers and monitors available.

A toolbar is dockable if you can drag it to various places onscreen and attach it to the side in a place that works for you. The rest of the window generally adjusts to accommodate your desired.

A device that connects to the rear of your computer, often used as a copy-protection scheme. You cannot use a particular piece of software unless the proper dongle is installed.
Any device that connects to the back of your computer system that somehow enhances the computer's abilities. For example, a dongle may attach to your printer port, giving your PC the ability to capture video images but without interfering with your printer.

"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

A computer monitor's dot pitch is the diagonal distance between the colored dots on its screen, usually measured in millimeters (as in .26mm dot pitch). The lower the dot pitch, the sharper the screen image. These days anything in the low-to-mid 20s is good, and anything in the teens is EXCELLENT.

When you take a program from another computer on the Internet---or for that matter from anywhere---and put it on your computer you have downloaded the program. Uploading is the opposite of this.

In the old days--the days before widespread Internet access--software companies didn't ship programs until the vast majority of features had been perfected and the vast majority of kinks had been worked out. But once downloading fixes, patches, and upgrades from the Web became easy, software companies began to feel more comfortable shipping incomplete programs. Thus, "dribbleware" was born. As the name suggests, dribbleware is software that trickles to you over time, instead of arriving all at once. You might receive the bulk (or sometimes less) of the program in the package and be advised to check the manufacturer's Web site regularly for important updates.

If you hear that the employees of an Internet or other high-tech outfit are "drinking the Kool-Aid," it isn't some macabre reference to the Jonestown Massacre of the 1970s. It's an allusion to the psychedelic parties of the '60s where LSD was put into communal barrels of Kool-Aid. Those drinking the potion had a "mind-expanding" experience and were said to see a different reality than the rest of the world. And so it is with people totally convinced of some new Internet or high-tech business vision.


You will need to read both sections of this term, as it DOES have different meanings. Pay particular notice to the case being used in spelling drive bay.
Drive bay
A drive bay is a space set aside within your computer in which you can install a hard drive, floppy drive, CD-ROM drive, or removable disk drive (such as a ZIP or JAZ drive). You can usually figure out how many drive bays you have by counting the blank panels on the front of your computer.
Drive Bay
A Drive Bay in initial capitals refers to a specification being promoted by Intel, Compaq, and Microsoft. The Drive Bay spec calls for a standard size, shape, and connection type for plug-in computer peripherals such as disk drives, modems, audio adapters, and more. In other words, Drive Bay would make devices like the PCMCIA cards you plug into laptops the same size, shape, and connection--except larger and more capable. Expect computers with Drive Bay slots sometime this year (1999).

A drop cap is a capital letter that begins a chapter or section that's larger than the rest of the text; it's common in formal-looking literature. You can create one of these ornamental letters in most word processors.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is a technology for squeezing a fast Internet connection through a traditional telephone line. There are actually a wide variety of DSL speeds, from only two or three times as fast as 56K dial-up modems to 8Mbps or more. The speed depends on the distance from the computer-and-DSL-modem to the central telephone switch, which should be no more than two or three miles. It can also depend on the DSL hardware plugged into your computer and on the service price paid to the DSL provider, which typically will offer a choice of speeds for various prices.

A dumb terminal is a monitor, connected to a network, that doesn't contain a processor chip, or "brain." It's capable of displaying application information--numbers, letters, and user interface elements--but not much else. Most dumb terminals can't even display bold text. Dumb terminals are installed when it's desirable to have all the "work" done by the network server. Telemarketers and catalog order-takers often work at dumb terminals.

Telecommunications describing how signals are sent and how characters appear on the screen when you're communicating with a modem. Full duplex means that you send characters to the other computer, and everything you see on the screen comes from the other computer. This process is also known as no echo. Half duplex means that the characters you type appear on your screen directly, also known as local echo.

When you don't see the stuff you're typing, switch on half duplex. Or turn on your monitor, if you're really new at this.

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.

Digital Video Discs(DVD) -- also known as Digital Versatile Discs -- hold lots of bits: 4.7GB per side. But the original DVD-ROM version must be created at a factory: you can't record on them. DVD-RAM is a recordable version of DVD that can record 4.7GB per side, and then record it again, and again. It is competing with other DVD-recordable technologies including DVD+RW.

A dye-sub printer works by heating ribbons of colored ink and then transferring the ink to paper--specially coated, expensive paper. The result is true photo-quality output but at a price that might make most of us wonder why you wouldn't just take a picture in the first place. Dye-sub, by the way, is short for "dye sublimation." Another term for the same printing technology is "thermal dye transfer."


The pinball game hidden in Microsoft Word. The flight simulator concealed in Excel. The animated list of contributors tucked into a hidden folder of Windows 95. These are just a few examples of Easter Eggs: undocumented programs--usually games or elaborate screen shows--that programmers hide in applications. Entire Web sites have been created to alert you to the Easter Eggs in your favorite programs. If you don't believe us, check out the Easter Egg Archive at http://www.eeggs.com/

E-books are just what you would think they are: electronic books. Specifically, an e-book is a small, book-sized computer with a screen that allows you to read the digitized text of a book. It also has a touch-sensitive screen and stylus that let you highlight, annotate, or bookmark the book. A single e-book can actually contain an entire library of books, making carrying around a lot of books at once easier. And you download book texts to your e-book from Web sites such as http://barnsandnoble.com/

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the technology being used to replace paperwork with bits, to represent inventories, purchase orders, and all of the other dead-tree products of a busy society. Corporations and governments are excited about using EDI to improve the tracking of their sales and purchases, and hope to integrate it with the actual exchange of funds as electronic bits.

A domain name denoting a United States college or university.

Egosurfing is the understandable yet undeniably selfish act of searching for one's own name on the Web--for example, going to www.yahoo.com, typing your name in quotes (for example, "John Doe"), and clicking Search. This is not to be confused with "stalksurfing," the act of searching the Web for your ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend's name.

A primitive method of providing tactile feedback in virtual reality systems by administering a low-voltage shock to the user's skin. The user feels a mild buzz. Varying the voltage and frequency of the current produces variations in the buzz that the user can learn to discriminate (hopefully the sooner the better). 

In HTML, a distinctive component of a document's structure, such as a title, heading, or list. HTML divides elements into two categories: head elements (such as a document's title) and body elements (headings, paragraphs, links, and text).

Most graphical interfaces with windows put a scroll bar on the right side and another on the bottom of the window. This feature makes it easy to change the view of the window and to move through a document that is too large to see all at once. The scroll bar on the side, the one you use to scroll up or down in the document, is also known as the elevator bar.

Those silly smiley faces -- and other non-smiling variations on the theme -- that you see throughout email messages and Usenet postings. These silly little faces say a great deal to those who know what they stand for. This seems to be our human nature to spice up something that is just plain old dull. You can see how much a person can express in 6-7 letters on a license plate. Likewise we need to spice up our EMail and other typed communications over the Internet. Graphics are one good way that we do this, but not everyone has a graphic program, but everyone does have a keyboard. All emoticons come from your keyboard. I have a page showing many Emoticons and Acronyms you will find useful and interesting.
An exhaustive (and we do mean exhaustive) list of emoticons, point your browser to The Unofficial Smiley Dictionary, at

An emulator is a program that lets you run your software on the wrong computer. That is, it makes a computer pretend to be another computer, at least for the demands of business, game, education, and other "application" software. For example, a Windows emulator running on a Macintosh computer would let the Mac owner run Windows software, without owning a PC. Emulators are rarely 100 percent compatible, and are often slower than the real systems they emulate.

In the HyperText Markup Language (HTML), a code that represents a nonASCII character, such as an accented character from a foreign language.

In a spreadsheet program, a text entry area where the user can type a value or formula. The program does not insert the characters into the current cell until the user presses Enter. The entry line also facilitates editing, since formulas do not appear in cells.

Slang for e-mail.

EPOC32 is a competitor to Windows CE.. Created by Symbian--a partnership born of personal communication device manufacturers Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, and Psion--EPOC32 is designed not only as an operating system for PDAs (previous versions of EPOC have shipped for years with Psion's PDAs) but also as an operating system for wireless devices such as "smartphones." You can view an interesting presentation on EPOC at http://www.symbian.com/story.html

An improved version of the parallel port that supports both the enhanced parallel port (EPP) and extended capabilities port (ECP) standards. EPP/ECP ports can transmit data very fast -- as fast as an Ethernet network interface card.

E-tailing (or less frequently, etailing) is the selling of retail goods on the Internet. In other words, it's short for electronic retailing, and has been in use now for a couple of years.

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

The random access memory (RAM), if any, above 1M (megabyte) that usually is installed directly on the motherboard and is directly accessible to the microprocessor. Windows 95/98 does not make a distinction between the first megabyte and the extended memory; it is all one pool.

Can you remember the days of DOS? If you can, you probably remember the old file name format: up to eight characters, followed by a dot, followed by three more characters that told you what type of file it was. Microsoft Word file names, for example, always had DOC after the dot, 1-2-3 files had WK1 after the dot, and so on.
Well, those three characters have a name: They're called extensions, and file names still have them. You don't see them often because Windows 95 hides them by default. Anyway, next time someone tells you to search for a file with a DOC extension, you'll know what they're talking about.

The unofficial term for the condition of those who read too much information on the World Wide Web. "It was a gruesome sight. Ed had sat at his computer for nine hours straight reading trivia on the Web. When he finished, he had (gasp!) eyeball frazzle (loud scream)!" There are some doctors that claim, if you are viewing a computer screen for long periods of times it can affect your eyes because of the way your eyes focus. You may need to get special glasses. It wouldn't hurt to talk to your Optometrist about this.


An error in a program that, at best, causes the program to abort, and, at worst, causes a system crash with a loss of data. Many users of Windows are familiar with the Blue Screen caused by a fatal error. 

Some sort of mathematical pattern where the third number is the sum of the previous two numbers: 4, 8, 12, 20, 32, and so on. These are used in some computer programs to speed up sorting and to quickly locate information. Named after Leonardo Fibonacci, an Italian mathematician from the 13th century.

The paper is connected in one long sheet, like roll paper, but is folded so it can all fit in a box and handled as a stack of paper.

An error in a program that, at best, causes the program to abort, and, at worst, causes a system crash with a loss of data. Bulletproof programs are supposed to be immune to fatal errors, but they usually are not.

"Bandwidth" is a big concern in technology. The larger the bandwidth a cable or signal has, the more information it can carry. A more picturesque term for large bandwidth is "fat pipe," because just as larger pipes carry more water, larger bandwidth cables or signals carry more information.

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:

By now, you're probably already familiar with the terms "hardware" and "software." (The former is the actual computer and its components, while the latter is the system and applications that run on the computer.) Now, what do you get when you mix the two? Firmware. Firmware is programming that's built into a portion of your hardware's memory--the section called Programmable Read-Only Memory--thereby becoming a permanent part of the hardware. Firmware is actually created and tested like software, distributed like software, and, using a special user interface, can be installed like other software. However, once it is installed into PROM, the combination of software and hardware is called firmware.
Occasionally, firmware will be distributed for printers, modems, and other hardware devices. By the way, IBM prefers to call firmware "microcode."

In electronic parlance, a "flame" is an online insult, most commonly delivered via e-mail or a newsgroup message. Unfortunately, flames are often directed at new users by old-timers who can't remember all the way back to the days before they knew everything.
As in offline bickering, the exchange of online flames can develop into long-running "flame wars"--what it's called when an online discussion degenerates into a series of personal attacks rather than a discussion of the topic at hand. Extended flame wars are referred to as "holy wars" and are not only annoying to other newsgroup or mailing list subscribers, but are also the ultimate sign that the flamers need to work harder at getting real lives away from their computers.

In an unmoderated newsgroup, a posting that contains opinions that prompt flames (abusive remarks and personal attacks) and that may ultimately launch a flame war. True flame bait unintentionally elicits such responses; when such postings are made intentionally, the post is more properly called a troll.

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 "edge- feed" scanner where individual pages must enter a slot.

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.

flat-square monitor:
A monitor that is more gently curved than most, but really neither flat nor square. Although flat-square monitors have less distortion than most displays, they are not free of spherical distortion, as flat-tension-mask monitors are.

flat tension-mask monitor:
A monitor design that includes an absolutely flat -- and therefore, distortion-free -- display. Flat tension-mask monitors are the only truly distortion-free monitors available but are usually too expensive for most computer users.

A diagram consisting of lines and boxes that programmers use to represent the way their programs are supposed to work. Before you start writing a program, decide how it's going to work by drawing a flowchart first. Then as you write your program, you can modify your flowchart so that it matches the way your program really does work. Flowcharts have applications in many different disciplines.

When people think of a font, they generally think of a typeface family--you know, Helvetica, Arial, Times New Roman, and so on. But what a font REALLY is is a single weight, width, and style of a particular typeface. Here's how it works:
* Helvetica is a typeface family. * Helvetica italic is a typeface. * Helvetica italic 10-point is a font.
Usually, you can get away with calling any single typeface a font. The subject of a font is very complex, and if you ever try to read anything about the mechanics of a font you will soon see.

A trademarked name for a type of disk that uses both magnetic and optical techniques for storing information. Floptical describes both the disk drive and the 3 1/2-inch disk that fits into it. The disk can store up to 21 megabytes of information, yet it looks similar to the standard, 3 1/2-inch disks.

A 1969 film in which the United States designs Colossus, a supercomputer to run all nuclear defenses. But after being turned on, Colossus finds that it has a Soviet counterpart, Guardian. The two computers eventually link up and become a single computer against which both nations must fight to regain control of humanity.

In open source software development, a split that occurs when a team of volunteers disagrees so fervently over development plans that two competing versions of a program emerge.

A program is said to be forward-compatible if you can open documents created in older versions by using a newer version. Most programs are forward-compatible for at least one version.

FPS--as you've probably deciphered from our heavy-handed headline--stands for Frames Per Second; it refers to the number of still images shown in each second of a video. Hollywood movies typically display 24 frames per second (hence, the title of the excellent movie Web site www.24framespersecond.com). Digital video--like the kind you download from the Web--can range from 15 frames per second (which is pretty choppy) to 60 frames per second (which is great, but which still doesn't look as good as film because of its lower resolution).

All of the files sit on some computer connected to the Internet; you use your browser or an FTP (file-transfer protocol) program to find and retrieve the file to your computer. You do not have to worry about any special program as most any browser has that capability already built into it. You can download a file from your browser by choosing the FILE | SAVE or FILE | SAVEAS options. However, many times the file is not a HTML file so you do not have any access to it other than by FTP. This is what is happening when you download a program from the Internet whether or not you are actually logged into the FTP site. You should visit an FTP site sometime to see just what it looks like. Try this link ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/

The lightheaded feeling you get if you stare at your computer screen too long. 


Internet chat room acronym for get a life.

Garbage Collection 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).

A General Protection Fault (GPF) is Windows' way of saying something terrible has happened, and that your computer is crashing. What does "protection" have to do with it? A GPF means some program got into an area of memory that was supposed to be protected, memory that was already in use by another program. There usually isn't much you can do about it except to restart the program and hope it runs successfully the next time.

Most of the graphics you run across on the Web will be in the GIF format. The GIF is readable by most graphics programs. You can tell a file is a GIF by looking at its extension as it's extension will be .GIF. GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. A GIF supports 256 colors and is a very good compression candidate without any loss.

It used to be that only real geeks knew what a gigabyte was, and the rest of us didn't even dream that we'd ever have a need for one. Now it seems like every PC on the market comes with a gigabyte hard drive as standard equipment. So how big is a gig?
A gigabyte (GB) is about 1000 megabytes.
A megabyte (MB) is about 1000 kilobytes.
Computer talk sometimes isn't telling you the whole truth. If you say that your file is 1K, you might think that means 1000. However, in computer talk that is not correct. The computer is based on the binary number system, so you have the base 2 raised to a power. When you come to 2 raised to the power of 8 is 256, 2 raised to the power of 9 is 512, and 2 raised to the power of 10 is 1024. Therefore, in computer talk 1K is actually 1024. You can do the math, or you can just keep doubling 1024 and you will come to 1,048,576 for the value of 1Meg, which is 2 raised to the power of 20. For 1Gig you would get 1,073,741,824, which is 2 raised to the power of 30.

a unit of measurement approximately equal to 1 billion bits (1,073,741,824 bits): usually used when indicating the amount of data that can be transferred or transmitted per second (Gbps)

A glitch is a momentary power interruption or some other unexpected fluctuation in electronic circuits, such as those caused by a power surge or dirty connection, that causes computer systems to generate garbage output or to crash. A glitch is a hardware problem; a software problem is called a bug.

Ever been accused by a chat room companion of gonking? If so, it was probably in response to a story that just seemed too outlandish to be true--or an actual lie--because to "gonk" is to stretch the truth. Cyberspace is full of gonkers, for the simple reason that it's easier to lie to someone online than face to face.

A blanket name for efforts by the Free Software Foundation to create a free version of UNIX. There are GNU (noo or ga-noo) about every UNIX-like program: GNU C/C++, GNU Emacs, and other GNU things. GNU stands for GNU's Not UNIX, which is sort of a recursive pun. Many programs that come with Linux are GNU.

Google is a new, bare-bones search engine, the beta (or prefinal) version of which is currently being tested on the Web. Google doesn't offer all the organizational categories, site reviews, and other sizzle features you find on other search engines. Instead, it concentrates on delivering as many sites that match your search criteria in the shortest possible time. It's named for "googol," which is 10 to the 100th power, a huge number. Try it out at

To attempt to discover a pair of keywords that will return only one result from the Google search engine.

This recent nerd craze may have multiple origins, but Gary Stock claims to have coined the term (based on "bushwhack: to make one's way through thick woods by cutting away bushes") on his Web site Googlewhacking: The Search for "The One", where you can find classic examples of successful googlewhacks coupled with clever questions, such as the following, googlewhacked by Steven Bliss:

Stock admits that, ironically, as soon as he posts a googlewhack on his site and the Google search engine recognizes it, it ceases to be a googlewhack because the Google search results then become 2.

Gopher, a precursor to the Web, is a protocol for storing, organizing, and retrieving information on the Internet. Developed at the University of Minnesota, home of the "Golden Gophers," gopher allows you to navigate up and down through menus to access files. Once you find what you're looking for, Gopher can either download the file to you or display the text (provided it's a text file). Before the advent of the Web, gopher was the cutting edge in worldwide information retrieval. Try this link gopher://gopher.micro.umn.edu/

Gouraud shading is an advanced method of putting the colors on the polygons that make up a simulated 3D image -- the kind that is actually displayed on a 2D screen. It makes for smoother and more realistic images, though it requires a lot of processing power and memory.

In geek-speak, the more components or options a system has, the more "granular" it is. Suppose, for example, that you have two security systems. If one lets you password-protect every page of a Web site and the other lets you password-protect every page AND certain data entry areas of each page, then the latter security system is the more granular of the two. It follows that the more granular a system is, the more flexibility it offers its users.

The degree or level of detail available in an information system. A database with high granularity offers highly specific or detailed information. 

In Web lingo, a gravesite is a Web site that's still accessible--still "up" on the Web--but that has apparently been abandoned by its creators and/or updaters. Marketing weenies also use "gravesite" to refer to Web sites that have stopped attracting enough traffic to interest advertisers.

Images can be color, black-and-white, or grayscale. That last uses a variety of shades of gray, typically either 16 shades or 256 shades. Grayscale provides for some subtlety in an image without requiring all the additional hardware that color needs.

"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.
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).

With line printers it was common to print on 132-column paper. It was hard to follow the lines of text, so green bar paper was invented. A horizontal light green strip alternates with strips of the same width of the natural paper color, so your eye can follow the green bars across the page.

Robert Heinlein's novel Stranger in a Strange Land has been enormously popular with nerds. His newly-coined verb "grok" meant to completely observe and understand. And in Nerd World, it still does, even for those who've never heard of Heinlein or the book (and that the grokker protagonist was an Earthling raised on Mars).

Groupware refers to a class of software that supports a group of people working together in a collective effort, despite being located away from one another. Groupware, like the popular Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, is typically used over a local area network and helps workgroups organize their activities. Features may include the sharing of calendars to schedule meetings and allocate resources, collective writing and editing, e-mail, shared database access (with password protection) and file distribution, and sometimes even electronic meetings wherein each person is able to see and display information to others. Groupware is sometimes called "workgroup productivity software."
For more information, point your browser to CSCW & Groupware index
Groupware FAQ list
Groupware FAQ

Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications is the transmission standard for mobile phones throughout most of Europe and much of the rest of the world. That doesn't include the United States. This standardization makes it possible for European phone porters to wander from one European country to another, talking and connecting to the net on their phones the whole time.

(Pronounced gooey) stands for Graphical User Interface,a fancy way of saying pictures--of course, not pictures in the traditional sense, but pictures in the computer sense. In other words, if your computer displays lots of cool looking icons, toolbars, and other graphical elements, it's GUI.
Of course, most computers these days are GUI. But in the old days, computers used what we call character-based interfaces, which use only words, numbers, and symbols. (If you've ever had the unfortunate luck of entering a DOS command or two, you know what an improvement your GUI is over a character-based system.)

Guiltware is shareware (software that you can try for free and then "purchase" for a nominal fee entitling you to support and other amenities) that includes a tear-jerking or otherwise over-the-top plea for you to pay the purchase price so that the developers who created the software don't have to forage and beg for food. Of course, whether you pay them or not is up to you, but would it kill you to call them once in a while?

The gutter is the area between printed columns (as in a newspaper) or the space left for the binding when a document is bound. Some word processors have a margin setting you can use to create a gutter if you plan to bind your document.


The exchange of signals between two networked computers, indicating that data transmission can safely take place. An exchange of characters between two modems before they start talking.

When people say they want a hard copy, they just want a copy that's printed on paper.

A heat sink is a device that is either built onto or attached to a microprocessor chip to help keep the chip cool. Typically, a heat sink looks like a series of spikes or fins rising out of the top of the chip, which channel heat away from the chip. Occasionally, the device takes the form of a fan that spins while the computer is on and blows the hot air away from the chip. Either way, the heat sink is what keeps your computer from becoming a very expensive toaster.

A unit of measurement of electrical vibrations; one Hz is equal to one cycle per second.

Most chart elements can tell you just one thing about each item being charted. In a bar chart, for example, each bar gives the value of a charted item; in a pie chart, each slice indicates an item's percentage of the whole.
Well, in a high-low-close-open chart, which is used to convey information about stock prices, each chart element tells you not one but FOUR things about each stock being charted: the stock's highest value, lowest value, closing price, and opening price on the day in question. To see an example of a high-low-close-open chart, see http://www.quadbase.com/cyberchart/manual/

A hot key is a keyboard shortcut that accesses a menu command. A shortcut key, in contrast, gives you direct access to a dialog box or other feature.

Computer maintenance, including organizing files and directories in a logical manner, running utility programs such as defragmentation utilities and virus checkers, and deleting unneeded files to free up disk space.

HPC is short for "hand-held PC," what the rest of us more likely refer to a personal digital assistant, or PDA. HPC is what Microsoft wants you to call the device--probably because if you start thinking of it as an actual PC, you're more likely to choose one that runs Microsoft's Windows CE, a Windows 95-like operating system created especially for PDAs, or HPCs, or whatever you choose to call them.

HREF means "hyperlink reference" and is an HTML meta-tag. In other words, it's a code you'll find in HTML documents. It tells Web browsers that the following information is a hyperlink to another Web page. For example, HREF="http://www.dummiesdaily.com" tells the browser to make a link to the Dummies Daily Web page.

HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML is the language used to create hypertext, which includes text called TAGS. HTML was used to create every single page you've ever visited on the Web (including this one). HTML uses a series of commands---TAGS with or without attributes---written in ascii text to tell your browser how to display each page. If you want to see what the HTML code looks like for whatever page you're on, just use the "View Document Source" command under the "View" menu in your browser.

An Ethernet local area network that connects computers needs Network Interface Cards (NICs) in each of the computers. Each of those cards then runs a cable to a hub -- a small hardware box. Data runs from NIC to Hub to a NIC in another computer. Older hubs run at 10Mbps; newer hubs at 100Mbps, or at "switched" speeds, adapting to the speed of the NICs.

A technique for compressing data so that it takes up less space. The data can be decompressed back to its original form. This is the basis on which archiving programs, such as ZIP and StuffIt, operate as well as how disk compression programs, like Microsoft's DriveSpace, work. Named after D. A. Huffman, who developed the technique in the early 1950s. 

Hypertext is a system of writing and displaying text that enables the text to be linked in multiple ways, be available at several levels of detail, and contain links to related documents. The World Wide Web uses both hypertext and hypermedia.


Poorly designed, inefficient, wasteful of system resources due to fundamental design errors. 

An inexpensive but powerful Macintosh computer, the iMac is based on the G3 processor and was introduced in 1998 for use in homes and schools. The popular system features easy Internet connectivity , a stylish design, ample memory and hard disk space, and a built-in modem.

In HTML, a program that enables Web publishers to create an image map easily by drawing rectangles, circles, and polygons on the image map graphic and then associating the marked region with a URL.

In graphics, the use of a computer to enhance, embellish, or refine a graphic image. Typical processing operations include enhancing or reducing contrast, altering colors, correcting underexposure or overexposure, and outlining objects so they can be identified.

The method of representing output on-screen. In a graphical user interface (GUI), for example, the imaging model is for the screen font to closely resemble the way the text is printed. 

To load a file created by one program into a different program.

Late last year, the Reuters news agency broke a story on a new medical condition it named Information Fatigue Syndrome (IFS for short). In a report called "Dying for Information?" Reuters suggests that people are becoming overly stressed trying to cope with the mountains of information flooding them from books, faxes, telephones, journals, and the Internet.
According to the article, Information Fatigue Syndrome includes symptoms such as "a hyper-aroused psychological condition," "paralysis of analytical capacity," and "anxiety and self-doubt." The report also says IFS particularly affects so-called "knowledge workers," those of us whose jobs mainly involve dealing with and processing information.
"To ensure a story about the widespread existence of IFS received maximum publicity, we knew that it was also essential to identify real people who had suffered from IFS. Given that this was a medical condition we had invented, we knew that finding sufferers may not be easy! Adverts and Internet inquiries revealed two women and one man who believed that they had suffered from overdosing on information and agreed to appear on TV and radio."
For more information you can try:

An inkjet printer does just what it sounds like it does: It prints by spraying jets of ink on a sheet of paper. To make sure that the jets wind up in the right place, the ink is first ionized so that it can be directed to the proper location by magnetized plates within the printer. Inkjet printers make laser-quality (or near-laser-quality) color printing affordable.

A special hole into which a computer mouse is plugged.

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:

  1. The instant messaging system alerts you whenever somebody on your private list is online; you can then initiate a chat session with that individual.
  2. 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.
AOL has an Instant Messaging system that they call IM. This is only for users who are on AOL. However, you can download an IM program to work over the Internet. You will need to see AOL for details on this. Netscape Communicator 4+ has an IM messaging system as part of it.

A way to display a GIF file (a compressed bitmap graphic file) as it loads so that the viewer sees the entire graphic but in increasingly clear values. Some people like this option because viewers may be able to click the image before it fully downloads, reducing their waiting time.

The ratio of sectors on a hard disk that are skipped for every sector actually read or written to. This was done because the hard drive would spin faster than the controller could read information from the disk. Today's hard drives are interleaved at a 1:1 ratio, meaning that they can read and write information as fast as the disk can spin.

The Internet is essentially the connection between thousands of computers worldwide, right? There is a great deal of information about the Internet if you are really interested on how everything got started, and just how everything is put together. The subject is just too vast for here.

Among the Internet and Web cognoscenti, a 404 is a link that takes you not to another Web page but to an error message--specifically, a "404 Not Found" error message, which means that the URL you requested cannot be found.
You can find a comprehensive list of Internet Error messages at: Internet Errors

Internet telephony is the potential revenge of anyone who hates getting calls from long-distance companies begging you to switch carriers. Internet telephony is technology that lets you place long distance calls to ANYONE using your local Internet phone number. Put more simply, it lets you talk to your next-door neighbor OR your relatives in Malta using the same local phone number. There are two catches:


Companies use intranets to set up Web sites that are accessible only to their employees. ("Intra" means "inside.") Of course, a company might have Internet links on its intranet so that employees can surf beyond the confines of their own site; but the whole point of an intranet is that outside users can't surf in.

IP stands for Internet Protocol. The IP Address is the numeric code that the Internet uses -- paying attention to its TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) rules -- to route information. IP addresses are currently four groups of up to three digits each, with periods in between. But you may never have to work with them personally because Internet server hardware and software translates them into Domain names like living.com.
You may never have to work with them personally because Internet server hardware and software translates them into Domain names like DummiesDaily.com.

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 for those who need it.

IPP stands for "Internet Printing Protocol." It's a set of standards for printing over the Internet--that is, for printing a file on your computer to a printer via an Internet connection. Among other things, Internet printing would enable you to print a document from your home PC directly to a printer at work.

Internet Relay Chat is the OnLine equivalent of CB radio. This activity is live on the internet, and you type in your response, press the ENTER key sending your input into the conversation thread. Others will or will not respond to you. You can use a different name and even use a special icon to represent you. You must have a special IRC program to enter into these conversations. Your ISP may have the program that you will need, or they should at least be able to tell you where you can get one. You will need to get your IRC utility and then check out all of the information. Some people get quite addicted to them. Many of them are nothing more than flirt places, but I am sure there may be some worth while chat rooms out there.

ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network and it represents one of the fastest ways you can surff the Web (for now, anyway). In the past, only the Big Players had ISDN lines, but as the technology becomes more acessible, 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:


A far more descriptive word for aliasing. The jaggies are the stairstep effect that takes place when a computer tries to draw circles and arcs. "If you make the letter O too big, you'll notice little jaggies all around the edges."

Java is a computer programming language. A Java program could be as simple as a "stock ticker" that lets information scroll across a web page, or as complex as an entire game. Web designers like Java because it lets them create things that will work for everyone that visits their pages. (On the other hand, some designers stay away from Java because it's not very kind to slower modems or older browsers. The Web is the main place to find Java "applets" (computerese for a small program, as opposed to a big application such as a word processor or a spreadsheet), but expect that to change over the coming months. You should not confuse JAVA with JAVASCRIPT. JAVA is a programming language that is similar to C++. JAVASCRIPT is a series of commands written in ASCII text that you browser must interpret line by line as it loads the HTML page.

JavaScript is a scripting language that you can just type into your Web page without any special tools. JavaScript gives the Web Page designer many more options that HTML coding does not. JavaScript has many built in functions that allow you to get the current date, perform a certain math operation, and much more. JavaScript allows the designer to use variables, run FOR loops and others. JavaScript is fairly well accepted on the Web by the major browsers. Microsoft is trying to push it's own scripting language called VBScript, but JavaScript was first and has the momentum right now.

JDK stands for "Java Development Kit." A Java Development Kit is a package of software tools that enable a programmer to write Java applets or applications.

Joint Photographic Experts Group and is pronounced "JAY-peg." JPEG is a file format that is used when saving graphic images (primarily photographs) for displaying on the Web. Its biggest claim to fame is that it sports a range of compression qualities, so the designer can decide whether to retain the most quality (which gives a larger-size file) or go for a smaller file (which loses some of the quality).

A small, plastic, rectangular-shaped plug used on circuit boards to open or close certain circuits. Usually, a two- or three-prong pin sticks out of the circuit board, and the jumper slides over these pins (kind of the way a jumper you wear slides over your head). When adding a second hard drive to your computer you will need to use jumpers; the instructions should come with your new hard drive. Usually you will have to purchase a jumper, but you can try just asking the computer store for one, and they should give you one.


Abbreviation for Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie, but it really refers to the book they wrote, The C Programming Language. For the longest time, this book was the only specification for the C language, the only real reference anyone had. A C compiler that follows the standard set forth in Kernighan and Ritchie's book. 

This is AMD's K6 processor. This is a Pentium II-compatible processor that, according to AMD, "delivers performance competitive with the Pentium II and superior to Pentium with MMX and Celeron" for less than the price of the Pentium II.

KDE is one of the most popular graphical user interfaces or desktops for UNIX operating systems, such as Linux. It provides those menus, icons, and mouse controls familiar to Windows and Macintosh users. But unlike those programs, KDE is an open-source program. You are free to look at its instructions to see how it works, change it as you like, and to copy it as many times as you need for free.

When you are searching for information on the Internet you can search by trying keywords. Keywords are words that the Web Page designer specified as words that identify their site, because their site has a relationship with the keyword. For instance, if your site dealt with Windows 95 tips a keyword would certainly be Windows 95.

Abbreviation for kilohertz. The word kilo means 1,000 of something, so kilohertz must mean 1,000 hertz. And hertz is a term for the number of cycles per second, so a kilohertz is the number of thousands of cycles per second.
"The human brain operates at about 1KHz, compared with hundreds of megahertz for a typical microprocessor. But don't feel inferior: Your brain can do billions of operations in each cycle, whereas a typical microprocessor does only six." 

Most people don't buy a piece of technology for its own sake. They buy it for what it can do, for its application. And when that application is hugely easier, faster, or cheaper than previous solutions to the same problem, it can create instant fame and wealth for the creator or marketer. Every few years there seems to be an innovation so popular that it is termed a "killer app," bringing importance and a huge market to some new tech device, while killing off the market for competitors and predecessors.

Appropriately, it rhymes with "stooge." A kluge is a poorly and often hastily-designed device or add-on for a device. It isn't expected to do or work or look elegant, but simply to get a job done. Sometimes the term is entirely negative, castigating bad design. Sometimes it is said with a measure of sympathy, for a job that wasn't given the time or resources necessary.


If someone in a chat room or discussion group calls you a lamer, well, you haven't been making the right impression. A lamer is someone who just isn't doing things correctly, someone who betrays a total lack of online savior-faire. There ARE worse things to be called--just not in cyberspace.

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

Lara is the hero of the Tomb Raider game. She's agile, able, armed, and amply 3-D endowed, wearing skimpy outfits as she blasts her way through the opposition. She has managed to expand her career beyond just the game itself, to TV, movies, plenty of posters, a a few action-figure toys thrown in for good measure.

1. To print something on a laser printer. Slang from the term lase (layz), which means to activate a laser.
2. Used by the military in sighting targets. Became widely known during Desert Storm.


1. In a computer network, the amount of time required for a message to travel from the sending computer to the receiving computer. This is far from instantaneous in a packet-switching network, given the fact that the message must be read and passed on by several routers before it reaches its destination and results in jitter.

2. In disk drives, the time required for the portion of the disk containing needed information to rotate under the read/write head. The faster a disk drive spins, the lower its latency.

Once it meant the hullaballoo around releasing a new program or piece of hardware to the market. Now it often means the shindig for the official first day of a dot com Web site, a big expensive party meant to draw publicity to the venture and venture capitalists to the workers.

Inkjet printers make spots on paper by squirting little blobs of ink. Laser printers make spots by aiming a laser at an electrically-charged drum, which then has patterns of static charge changed by the laser. Then the drum attracts powdered ink called toner, transfers it to the paper, and the toner is heated so that it melts to the paper. LED printers work pretty much as laser printers do, but they create the static charge pattern with light-emitting diodes instead of with a laser. Computer stores rarely distinguish between laser and LED, often calling them all "laser" printers.

A legend is the part of the chart that tells you which color or pattern stands for which element being charted. For example, if the legend includes a blue box next to the word "Flanges," you know that the blue bar or line in the chart indicates the value(s) for flanges. It seems very simple, but a chart without a legend is essentially meaningless.

A light pen is a pen with a special tip that lets you select and move objects on your computer screen by touching the pen tip directly to the screen. Light pens are popular for giving presentations on huge, TV-sized monitors. However, you don't see many light pens on people's desks because they're not as comfortable to use as a mouse or a keyboard.

Pops, buzzes, clicks, or other random noise that happens on a phone line. During conversation, you don't notice line noise. But when a modem uses the phone line, the line noise may often be misinterpreted as a signal from the other computer. The result is often garbage characters on the screen.

Carry over from the old days when a mainframe was connected to a line printer, hince LPT designation. Today any printer is called a line printer even if it only prints one character at a time.

A link is a connection between where you are to somewhere else on the same page or anywhere else on the Internet. You will generally see a link as highlighted underlined text, and when you place your cursor over the text it will turn to a hand icon. However, this is not entirely true in all cases as the page designer can change this icon to something else. Most links will be self evident. You will find many graphic links on the pages you visit and once again your mouse cursor should change to a hand when placed over it.

Link rot" is a problem that affects Web sites when their links are not monitored and updated periodically. Over time, sites disappear or change location. If the links to places outside your site are not maintained, your visitors could be stuck with 404s galore.

A loop is a series of programming instructions that are repeated until a desired result is achieved. Each run through the repeated loop is called an iteration.

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.

Slang for a technically unsavvy person. 
Also applies to a graphic. Sometimes you have a graphic of a high resolution, but you want to save bandwidth and disc space, so you make a copy of the graphic at a lower resolution.

Luminance is the part of the signal from computer to display screen that dictates how bright the image should be. It is sometimes also used for the brightness controls on the display screen.

LZW is an algorithm (a fancy word for "method") for compressing data files. If we may attempt an analogy, using LZW compression is like replacing a book with an index: It finds repeated words or pieces of information, lists each once, and then includes pointers (such as page numbers) indicating where each is repeated. The pointers take up less room than the actual pieces of information, which makes the file smaller. By the way, LZW stands for "Lempel-Ziv-Welch," the names of the three folks responsible for this miracle of data compacting.


A line of personal computers created by Apple Computer and released in 1984. The Macintosh pioneered the graphical user interface (GUI), which was first developed but never successfully marketed by Xerox Corporation. The Macintosh also pioneered the concept of Plug and Play peripherals, built-in SCSI device support, and built-in local area networking. Early Macs were based on the Motorola 680x0 series of microprocessors; today's Power Macintoshes use Motorola's PowerPC microprocessor, a RISC chip. Since the introduction of Microsoft Windows, Apple has seen its technological lead steadily erode. In 1998 and continuing into 2001, Macintosh sales picked up after the introduction of powerful new models based on the G3 and G4 microprocessors, including the iMac.

You're probably familiar with the most popular definition of the term "macro": a sequence of keystrokes or commands that you can trigger by pressing a single keystroke (usually called a "keyboard shortcut"). But if you can use a macro with one LITTLE keystroke, why do they call it a macro, which means BIG? Because long before the rest of us even knew of the term, programmers used "macro" to refer to a small program that, when executed, expands into a larger program. And if you think about it, that's what happens with your macros: You press one key, and that little action expands into a whole mess of actions. So it makes sense, in a geeky kind of way.

MAE stands for "Metropolitan Area Exchange," which is a point on the Internet where Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can connect with each other. The first MAE was built in Washington, D.C.; the second, built in the Silicon Valley, is called "MAE-West."

An MO drive is just what it sounds like: a disk drive that uses both magnetic storage technology (as does a hard or floppy drive) and optical storage technology (as does a CD-ROM drive). The combination yields what is, in effect, a better floppy disk: a removable, writable disk that holds more data and is faster than a typical floppy.

Thanks to all the junk mail we receive each day, most of us are very wary of signing up for anything called a "mailing list." But don't worry: Online mailing lists are about as far from junk mail as you can get.
A mailing list is a group of people who subscribe to a periodic email distribution on a particular topic. They work similarly to discussion groups in that any message you post is read by everybody else, and you can read all messages posted by others. The biggest distinction between mailing lists and discussion groups is that mailing list postings are delivered straight to you via e-mail, while you have to seek out discussion groups.
However, unlike most mailing lists out there, some lists are a one-to-many list, meaning that you can't send to the list; you can only receive. Most mailing lists are set up as discussion groups, however--meaning that every reader can also post messages to the list.
There are literally tens of thousands of mailing lists available, and most of them follow a standard procedure for subscribing. One way to locate a mailing list on your particular interest and to view instructions on subscribing to most lists is to point your Web browser to Vivian Neou's Search the List of Lists page, at
Mailing List

"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.

A mainframe is a large computer capable of serving applications and data to thousands of users at the same time. Whereas a supercomputer (explained in yesterday's tip) is designed to use all of its colossal power to run a single application as quickly as possible, a mainframe is designed to run many applications at the same time.

In the non-tech world, a Major-Domo is the head servant in an old-fashioned household. In the tech domain, a Majordomo is a particular UNIX program that maintains a mailing list, helping e-mail recipients sign up for or unsubscribe to a regular flow of e-mail messages. Its main competition is the popular LISTSERV program.

The manufacturer site for your hardware or software

Derogatory term for a marketing person in the computer industry. Often used by engineers who seem to feel that their stuff would fly off the shelves without anybody's help. Marketing people often don't get it and nod their heads rapidly when talking with any engineer. They love three-letter acronyms and are responsible for most of them.

The term megapixel, often used when discussing digital camera resolutions, indicates how many million pixels make up an image. The higher the megapixel number, the sharper your pictures will be.

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.

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.
Meta Tag

Codes in Web pages that tell a Web browser how to interpret information on that page. Meta tags are part of the HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) standard for creating Web pages. If you go to a Web page and select "view source" in your browser, you'll see the page in its original form -- with characters and words between angle brackets. That's a meta tag. In this case, the brackets tell the browser this is a tag, and characters inside the brackets tell the browser what style and position the text or image should inhabit.

An employee of the Microsoft Corporation. Popularized by Wired magazine.

Once upon a time, Internet e-mail could only transmit ASCII text, and all you received in your e-mail box were bland text messages. But then, maybe a few years ago, you started noticing more interesting stuff in your in-box: file attachments from other programs, pictures, audio and video clips (usually tasteless), and more. And we can thank the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions protocol for the change. MIME lets Internet servers recognize and handle all this new stuff so that we can send and receive it over the Internet (just as we had been sending and receiving it over our in-house e-mail systems for years). Of course, your e-mail program must support MIME for all this magic to work. There's always a catch.

A minicomputer is a class of computer that falls somewhere between a personal computer--which is designed to service one person at a time--and a mainframe computer, which is designed to service thousands of people. A minicomputer typically has multiple processors (say, four Pentium chips) and can simultaneously support several hundred workstations. And it isn't "mini" at all: It typically requires its own space on the floor rather than on a desk

An acronym for million instructions per second. A benchmark for measuring the rate at which a computer executes microprocessor instructions. A computer capable of 0.5 MIPS, for example, can execute 500,000 instructions per second.

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.

Management Information Services. People who make the computers in the company run. We are not talking about computer repair. MIS selects software, makes sure it runs and schedules updates. They may even write custom applications.

The Microcom Networking Protocols, or MNPs, are a series of standards that modems can use to speed and improve data transmission. MNP-1 is history, MNP-2, -3, and -4 are error-correction protocols. If both sender and receiver have them built into the operating software, any mistakes in a transmission will automatically prompt a retransmission of the original material. These are all part of V.42 modem compatibility. MNP-5 adds some data compression and is built into most current modems. You don't actually need to know if any of these are in your own modems because they are so widely and transparently used that the topic will probably never come up.

Magneto-Optical (MO) drives can read and write large amounts of information. They use both a laser and a magnet to write information. The laser heats the disk surface enough that the magnet can change the polarity of small areas. They read information using only the magnet, which can sense those polarities. MO can access data more quickly than magnetic or CD-ROM drives can.

"mobo" is computer slang for motherboard.

The conversion of a digital signal to its analog equivalent, especially for the purposes of transmitting signals using telephone lines and modems.

A program that keeps track of and records the behavior of other programs, often for purposes of tracking bugs.

Moore's Law states that the growth of microchip technology is such that the amount of data storage that a microchip can hold doubles every year--or at least every 18 months, as the newly updated definition states.
This phenomenon was noted by Gordon Moore in 1965 and has pretty much held up to the test of time. In fact, IBM's recent announcement of copper chip circuitry suggests that Moore's Law will continue to ring true.

In your computer, the motherboard is the main board, the one that contains the circuits connecting the computer's processor to its hard disk, memory, and other components. Motherboards also contain slots into which you can add other components, such as an internal modem, a scanner card, and so on.
You can find a great deal of information on motherboards via the Internet. I have chosen not to list any specific sites, as they come and go. Your best bet is to go to http://www.altavista.com/ or your favorite search engine and do a search for "motherboards."

When your mouse screws up and leaves a trail on your computer monitor that looks like the cursor is scattered all over the screen. This could be a sign of a driver problem.

Mozilla is Netscape Navigator's original name. Industry legend has it that the name is a combination of "Mosaic" and "Godzilla," the idea being that Mozilla would be the "Mosaic Godzilla" or "The Beast that Ate Mosaic." Want further proof of the developers' hubris? If you have Navigator, type about:mozilla in the Location box and press Enter

You've probably heard the term MP3 bandied about of late, and you probably know it has something to do with digital audio. Well, here's the rest of the story: MP3 (which stands, loosely, for "MPEG audio layer 3") is an extension of the MPEG compression scheme that compresses sound from a CD by a factor of 12, without sacrificing the quality of the sound. MP3 is the biggest step yet toward making downloading entire songs or albums from the Web to your computer practical.

MPEG (pronounced "Em-Peg") refers to a set of digital video compression standards and file formats developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group. MPEG videos are usually more compact and of higher quality than videos in popular competing formats such as AVI.

MUD originally stood for Multi-User Dungeon, but some folks now prefer Multi-User Dimension or Domain. In either case, a MUD is basically a make-believe world that exists on the Internet. In these lands of make-believe, the users create a loosely organized context or theme, such as a haunted old castle or a period in history (most of which seem to lean toward the Medieval).
MUD participants adopt a character or persona when they join or log-in, and these characters generally fit in with the overall style or ambiance of the domain as well as follow the domain's rules. MUDs are run by advanced participants or programmers called wizards.
Some MUDs are ongoing adventure games; others are educational; and some are simply social.
To check out a list of MUDs, stop by this Yahoo page: MUDs

Some "smart cards" (those credit-card-sized devices that hold memory and processor) are called multiapplication cards because they can process more than one type of information. This capability enables them to work with one kind of program without losing their security for the stored data that another program can use.

Relating to video, audio, and graphics on a computer. Multimedia software combines two or more media for presentation or analysis purposes. For example, many packages let you combine graphics with sound. Large multimedia applications are often stored on CD-ROM devices because of their incredible size and memory requirements. Emphasizing multimedia was a fad because all computer programs are heading that way naturally.


A program that converts names into Internet addresses.

Within a defined zone (such as a program or a network protocol), a collection of names in which all names are unique and cannot be confused with each other. For example, the uniform resource locator (URL) standard creates a namespace in which it is possible to indicate unambiguously the precise location of a computer resourced on the Internet.

Sign a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, and you've agreed not to discuss or publicize some kind of information. Often, in the tech world, journalists and analysts are asked to go "under NDA" on the specifics of new hardware or software that aren't yet on the market. But NDAs are also popular when companies discuss new business plans, new technologies, and even the inner-workings of technology that's on the market but not yet fully detailed in the public record.

In multimedia, using a short excerpt from a recorded musical piece instead of creating an original composition. The term stems from the days of vinyl phonograph needles. Also called sampling. 

Netcheque is a technology that enables individuals--more specifically, registered Netcheque users--to write checks to one another via e-mail or Web applications. The checks are "deposited" to a server, which then authorizes a transfer from the writer's bank account to the recipient's bank account. Figure out what percentage of the mail you send consists of bill payments, and you can quickly quantify the threat Netcheque poses to the U.S. Postal Service.

It's a combination of the words "network" and "etiquette," but it's more than a cute play on words. This informal code of manners governs online conduct, from simple cases such as leaving your Caps Lock key off while inputting messages (upper-case words are taken by readers as shouting and result in "Ouch! My ears!" responses). Netiquette also addresses stickier issues, such as where and how to post commercial messages to newsgroups. For more:

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)

Usenet has thousands of newsgroups on every topic you can imagine. These newsgroups are not live like IRC, but rather you post questions and answers to the newsgroup. It is a good idea to read through a few threads to make sure someone has not already posted the same question or answered someone 0elses' question. Usenet is easily reachable through the Net and through your web browser.

In Usenet, a client program that enables you to access a Usenet news server, subscribe to Usenet newsgroups, read the articles appearing in these newsgroups, and post your own articles or reply by e-mail. Many Web browsers (such as Netscape Navigator) include newsreader functions.


OCR stands for "Optical Character Recognition," the technology that scanners use to "read" text from a piece of paper and put it into your word processor or other software application. While the technology has improved over the years, even the best OCR tools still miss a few letters and can really goof up pages divided into newspaper-style columns. Which means we're still a long way from never having to type again.

Build software or hardware and you can sell it directly to the people who use it. Or you can sell it to OEMs, Original Equipment Manufacturers, who will then incorporate your stuff into theirs, put their own name on the result, and sell the full package. For example, Microsoft sells a lot of its Windows to computer-making OEMs who then install it on their computer hard drives and sell the systems to individuals. Sony sells a lot of disk drives and display screens to computer-making OEMs too, who then include those as parts of the computers they sell to the public.

No, OLE is not the cheer you hear over and over again at the bullfighting arena. OLE stands for object linking and embedding--and, while bullfighting may be exciting, OLE is probably more valuable to you in the long run. Thanks to OLE, you can insert a fully functional (or almost fully functional) piece of one program, called an object, into a document created with another program. For example, you can insert a spreadsheet object into your word processing document and then, by double-clicking the object, use all the features and commands of your spreadsheet from within your word processing program! Now there's something to cheer about.

A mathematical function that transforms a message of any length into a code of fixed length so that the code is a fingerprint of the original message. However, it is impossible to determine the content of the original message by means of an examination of the code.
A one-way hash function can be used to determine whether a message has been altered during transmission over a network; the code is transmitted along with an encrypted message, and the receiving computer performs the same hash function on the message after it is decrypted. If the two codes differ, then the message was corrupted or altered en route.

"On the fly" has two definitions in the nerd world. The first, which dates back to the late '80s, is to do something while doing something else, thereby allowing you to get two or more things done without two distinct processes. For example, most word processors let you set text in bold format "on the fly" by pressing Ctrl + B as you type.
More recently, "on the fly" also describes a technology for creating customized Web pages by building a new, unique version of a Web page for each user who clicks a link to that page. This type of page is different from a static Web page, which is created one time before it's uploaded to the Web site and looks the same to everyone who views it.

In Nerdland, "open" is a synonym for "freely available"; an open architecture is an architecture whose specifications are public and can be used freely by everyone. The IBM PC architecture has been open since its inception, resulting in the wide variety of IBM-compatible PCs, or "clones," now available. However, this statement is not entirely true.
The IBM Bios was not OPEN. You could find all of the necessary chips to clone an IBM computer except the BIOS chips. Compaq Computers hired a man to reverse engineer the IBM BIOS, and through some legal maneuvers you can now get BIOS chips that are compatible with the IBM. Thus the IBM clones or more commonly called today, the PC.

According to the official Open Transport Web site from Apple, Open Transport is the modern networking and communications subsystem for the Mac OS.

Stands for Operating System, and it's the part of your computer's programming that makes it work the way it does. The OS is the major liaison between your computer (the nuts and bolts and wires and connectors) and your software programs. When a program, such as Microsoft Word or Netscape Navigator, communicates with your computer, it must go through the operating system. Most of you use either Windows OS or Macintosh OS. Of course, other operating systems are out there, like Unix and OS/2, but they're definitely in the minority.

The Open System Interconnection, or OSI, is an official international standard for networking. It dictates how communications work within a network. OSI has seven defined layers, in an attempt to logically describe how information can move through the net, with each layer depending on the layer underneath it. Routers, switches, network interface cards, and hubs all depend upon the OSI model so that they can talk to one another.


The name for the numerical Internet address. You type names, such as www.wheretheheckami.com, in a Web browser, but the Internet translates those names into numbers, which tells the browser where the page truly lies.

What the computer spits out after it churns through the information you put into it. Output can be in the form of characters on your screen, sounds out of speakers, or hard copy from a printer. The machines that give you the output are called output devices. "When your input is poorly conceived, you shouldn't be surprised when your output is garbage."

A condition in which a program tries to put more data in a memory area than the area can accommodate, resulting in an error message.


A packet-switching network is a network that divides data into little bundles, or "packets," before sending it to some other location on the network. When these packets arrive at the appropriate destination, the network reassembles the packets into the original whole. There are different formats for the packets, so you need to be sure that the sending and receiving computers are using the same protocol. On the Internet you are using the TCP/IP protocol.

A program designed to search the data packets coursing through an Internet line for some predetermined pattern, such as a password, Social Security number, or credit card number; these are often transmitted via the Internet in cleartext. The ability of computer criminals to intercept such data is a fundamental security shortcoming of the Internet and explains why use of the network is inherently insecure unless encryption is used.

A graphic containing two separate pie graphs. For example, a paired pie graph is appropriate for showing the breakdown of product sales in two different time periods. To show the difference in the size of the totals represented by each of the two pie graphs, a proportional pie graph is useful.

1. In multimedia, the capability of a synthesizer or sound board to alter the left and right channel volumes to create the illusion of movement of the source of the sound.
2. In a video card, a feature than enables the user to zoom in on the desktop and then scroll to view different parts of it.

Panic is programmer slang for a system or computer crash, or for the fatal error that causes the crash. It may also become slang for the attitude of day-traders working with dot-com options.

The Pantone color matching system offers hundreds of accurate, precise, and numbered colors. By specifying these colors when you send a print job to a service bureau, you can be sure of getting just the color you intend.

Ever visit a Web site that provides links to other Web sites and, when you take one of those links, displays the other site in a frame within the original site? The original site is a para-site. Para-sites are good because they let you surf many sites from within the friendly confines of a single site. Para-sites can also be annoying because they don't allow you to directly bookmark the sites displayed within the frame--which forces you to be overly dependent on the para-site.
One way of getting around this is to "right-click" on the link, and from the menu that pops up choose "Open link in new window." You generally do not have any indication as to how a link will open up, so you must decide for yourself how you want the link to open.

In a computer network, a feature of the network operating system (NOS) that keeps track of the last time you changed your password.

PCS stands for Personal Communication Service, the umbrella term for several wireless telephone technologies that work on the 1900 MHz frequency. These PCS phones are the smaller, digital successors to the older 800 MHz cell phones, though they are sometimes also referred to as cell phones.

A peripheral is ANY device attached to a computer. This includes a printer, monitor, disk drive, keyboard, mouse, joystick, modem, scanner--all these and more--ANYTHING.

The third generation of Dolby's audio depends on perceptual coding. That technology filters out audio frequencies and noises that humans can't hear, using the bandwidth instead for more detail of sounds that can be heard. This same kind of coding that helps Dolby's Surround sound is also busy in some of the latest sound-compression schemes for digital music online.

One quadrillion bytes or 2^50 (two to the fiftieth power). Exactly 1,125,899,906,842,624 bytes. Finally, a computer with this much memory would allow me to save a week's Spam emails.

PGP stands for "Pretty Good Privacy," one of the current standards for encrypting Internet e-mail. Turns out that "pretty good" is actually about as good as encryption software gets--extremely secure, easy to implement, transparent to users, and FREE. In fact, PGP encryption is so hard to crack that the U.S. government actually sued its inventor, Philip Zimmerman, for making it freely available to America's enemies on whom we might like to eavesdrop someday. (The government dropped its suit in 1996.)

Also called a "solid ink-jet printer," a phase-change printer is a color ink-jet printer that melts its ink (which usually begins as a waxy block) BEFORE it jets the ink onto the page. Phase-change printers print crisper, smoother colors than do regular ink-jet printers and do so on just about any type of paper or output media. They're also a lot slower and more expensive.

A phreak is a type of hacker who uses his or her computer to break into a telephone network to either:

  1. listen in on other people's conversations
  2. make long-distance phone calls for free.


"Piezoelectric" crystals change size slightly when you apply an electrical charge. Some inkjet printers use this "piezo" effect. They have tiny crystals beside the ink tubes and each time a droplet is needed, a charge is applied. That expands the crystal, squeezes the tube space, and ejects a droplet toward the paper.

You've probably heard the term PIM often, but you still may not know what it means. Even though it's been around for almost 15 years, the concept never really caught on with the general public.
A PIM is a personal information manager--one of those programs, such as Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Organizer (or, a long time ago, Borland's Sidekick), designed to help you manage your schedule, to store addresses and phone numbers, and to perform many of the same functions as your Day-Timer-style schedule book. In other words, it's really useful software with a really corny acronym. Maybe you can come up with something catchier.

Pipelining is a process in which a processor sends off one instruction and then another before the previous instruction has been completed. Pipelining enables your computer to do several things at once. Early desktop computers did not have this capability, but pipelining was introduced to the destop PCs by Intel. The other chip makers have followed suit.

There are things your browser can do by itself, such as showing graphics and, of course web pages. Other things are tougher, and your browser needs help. Thankfully, you can expand the capability of your browser by "plugging in" various tools to let you see (and hear!) certain things, such as audio or video files. When your browser needs a plug-in you don't have yet, it will tell you it's encountered an "unknown file type." If the web page designer is kind, they'll tell you which plug-in you need and where to get it. Currently, some of the most popular plug-ins are Shockwave (for audio and video), RealAudio (audio that broadcasts to your computer like a radio station), and MPEGplay (more video). Plug-ins are very similar to another kind of Web tool called helper apps.

A Point Of Presence 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.")

A "portal" is a starting web site, the sort of web page you go to first before going to others. Why do that? Because it brings together information you want -- such as news, weather, sports, and such. Because it offers a directory of other sites. Because it has a search engine feature. Or maybe because your company configures your computer so that one specific page appears first whenever you start your browser program.

POTS stands for "plain old telephone service." It's the term techs use when comparing the existing phone lines to other Internet service conduits, such as ISDN or broadband (cable). It may be plain, and it certainly is slow, but right now POTS is the most affordable, widely available, and widely used means of connecting to the Internet and the Web.

A computer's power supply does three very important things. First, it takes the required amount of current from the outlet into which the computer is plugged. Second, it converts that current from AC (alternating current, what you get from your wall outlet) to DC (direct current, what you need to run the computer reliably). Third, its built-in surge protection eliminates spikes and surges to some degree but is no substitute for an external surge protector.

Proprietary means "private and protected." A proprietary technology or architecture is a design or architecture whose specifications are not publicly available and may be used or duplicated only with permission of the creator. Apple's Macintosh architecture is the classic example of a proprietary architecture; there are no Macintosh clones.
Packard Bell and Compaq Computers are proprietary systems as well. I do not recommend either of these computers except in certain instances. When buying a computer you should generally buy a computer that is not considered a prorietary machine.

A mouse with a special connector that fits into a mouse port. PS/2 mice, or mice equipped with PS/2 connectors, do not require a serial port to operate and are much simpler to install.

Anonymous remailers are services that will automatically forward your e-mail message after stripping off all originator-identifying information. The result: You can write to someone without them learning who you are. Because that provides a level of anonymity that worries governments, looking to protect individuals and themselves from nastygrams or covert goodies that can't be traced, truly anonymous services rarely live for long. If you crave some cover, you might try a pseudoanonymous remailing service. These can also strip your e-mail of any ID and then forward it to your intended recipient. But keep in mind that the service will keep its own database of who sent that message, so that a government armed with a court order can track you down.

A unique form of scrambling data that requires two separate passwords (or keys): a private key and a public key. The private key can scramble and unscramble data that was scrambled with the public key. The public key can only scramble data. For example, if your favorite FBI agent wants to send you a message, he must use your public key, but only you can unscramble and read the message using your private key.

Push technology enables a Web server to send data to YOU instead of waiting--or hoping--for you to get the data yourself. Probably the most well-known example of push technology is the PointCast news service, which delivers business news reports to users' Web browsers.
In a more general sense, push refers to any network technology that sends data to your desktop without the desktop actually requesting the data. E-mail--which sends you messages whether you go get them or not--is the classic example of this more general notion of push.


A group coding technique used in modems to modulate the carrier. Modems that use quadrature modulation can exchange data at 2400 bps. Trellis-code modulation enables higher data transfer rates.

In database management, a query is a search question that tells the program what kind of data should be retrieved from the database.

The wild-card symbol that stands for a single character at a specific location, unlike the asterisk (*), which can stand for one or more characters. In AB?DE, for example, only file names or characters strings that are five characters long with AB as the first two characters and DE as the last two characters, are selected.

The object-oriented graphics and text-display technology stored in every Macintosh's read-only memory (ROM). When creating Macintosh programs, programmers achieve a common look by drawing on the QuickDraw resources to create on-screen windows, dialog boxes, menus, and shapes.


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.

A RAM disk is RAM (random access memory) that works like a disk drive: It gets its own "letter" (such as D:\ or E:\), you can save or copy files to it, and you can open files from it.
The plus:
RAM, which has no moving parts except for semiconducted electricity, is up to 1,000 times faster than a disk drive.
The minus:
Like your computer's memory, a RAM disk loses everything that's on it once you shut down the computer, so you have to copy all the files on the RAM disk back to your hard disk before you shut down. Thus, a RAM disk makes sense only if you work with programs that need to access a disk frequently--and run too slowly when that disk is a hard disk.

What does the "random access" in random access memory (RAM) mean? Well, it means the opposite of sequential access. To demonstrate, imagine you're a baseball player, and you hit a long ball off the top of the wall. If you ran in sequential access, you'd run to first, to second, and then to third base.
However, if you ran in random access, you'd run directly to third--in baseball you would be out of course, but in computers you would just be faster than running sequentially. So random access memory is memory that lets you access a piece of data directly instead of forcing you to access a sequence of other data first.

Some folks use the terms "raster graphic" and "bitmapped graphic" interchangeably, but they shouldn't. A raster graphic is a vector image that's been converted into a bitmapped image. In most cases, this is done to make the graphic suitable for printing on a particular kind of printer. In fact, if you're having trouble printing a vector graphic on a laser printer, try using your printer's raster printing option, if it has one; you may get better (if somewhat slower) results.

Capable of being displayed or used, but not deleted. If a display of read-only data can be edited, formatted, or otherwise modified, it can't be saved under the same file name.

In a hard disk or floppy disk, the magnetic recording and playback device that travels back and forth across the surface of the disk, storing and retrieving data.

A phrase commonly heard by software companies in reference to the exact date that they'll release a new version of their program that everyone's waiting for. This phrase is often leaked out to the press to con people who haven't yet learned that every new version is usually full of bugs and not worth getting in the first place. "Many companies promise to release a new version of their program Real Soon Now in a subtle attempt to keep you from defecting to a competing program."

Real time is NOW. In nerd-speak, real time describes any experience in which the computer responds INSTANTLY to your input or to something happening in the real world. For example, a live chat session, in which someone reads what you type as you type it and responds instantly afterward, is a real-time experience; e-mail is not. If your computer receives stock quotes as they change, instead of every half hour, you're getting real-time stock quotes.

1. To restore a deleted file. You can often recover deleted files using an UNDELETE utility or command.
2. A program's ability to continue operating after any errors that would normally send it crashing into outer space.

In computer lingo, a statement, or command, used in many programming languages (including the DOS batch file programming language) that lets you add a line to the program without affecting the program itself. In other words, it lets you enter remarks or comments to help explain what the program is doing.

In a local area network (LAN), a means by which mobile users can gain authenticated access to internal network resources, preferably without posing a security risk to valuable assets within the network. The simplest but most expensive means of remote access is a direct long-distance call to a modem within the network, but this method of access is risky without some means of strong authentication.
Medium- to large-scale corporations provide remote access to branch offices and business allies by means of private data networks (PDNs); new developments in this area include extranets and virtual private networks (VPNs), which make use of Internet connections. 

Programs use "redlining" to show the parts of a document that have been changed. This makes it possible for a group to collaborate on a document to see the alterations made by others in the group. It also makes it possible for one person to see the evolution of a document with older versions remaining in redlined form rather than deleted entirely.
However, not all programs actually draw a red line under the changed elements. Some change the color or style of changed text or images.

The speed (measured in Hertz) at which a monitor redraws an image on the screen. The faster the rate, the less likely the screen is to flicker, which saves wear and tear on your eyeballs and brain. (Eyeball frazzle is the unofficial term given to those who read too much information on the World Wide Web.) A faster refresh rate also means that you pay more for your monitor.

RF simply means Radio Frequency. That's all the electromagnetic vibrations from a mere 10KHz (ten-thousand cycles per second) to 3,000GHz (three-thousand billion cycles per second). When electromagnetism is cycling faster than that, you're looking at light.

In local area networks(LANs), a decentralized network topology in which a number of nodes (including workstations, shared peripherals, and file servers) are arranged around a closed loop cable. A ring network's workstations can send messages to all other workstations.

A ripper is a program that takes song from an audio CD in a computer's CD-ROM drive and turns the data into computer files, typically a .WAV format file. Then the song is ready to be recorded to a blank CD-R or CD-RW drive or encoded into an MP3 file.

In desktop publishing (DTP), a formatting flaw that results in the accidental alignment of white space between words in sequential lines of text, encouraging the eye to follow the flow down three or more lines. Rivers injure what typographers refer to as the color of the page.

Standardized name for the four-wire modular connector used for telephone and modem connections.

A router is a device that connects two LANs. (A LAN is a local area network. 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.
If you want to see the route your computer is taking there are third party utilities that will do it. You can check at the http://www.zdnet.com/ WebSite, as this is where I got mine. For Window 95 users, and I believe Windows NT, you can go to the DOS prompt once you are connected to the Internet and type tracert www.microsoft.com. When you loaded Windows 95 or NT this utility was probably loaded along with it.

Used to be you heard the term "runtime version" all the time. But these days, if you're not a full-fledged nerd, you might hardly hear it at all. But in case you do, a runtime version is a subset of a program that lets you run an application created with that program. For example, some database programs (dBase and FoxPro, for example) let you include a runtime version of the program with the database applications you create so that people who don't have your database program can still run your database application on their computer.


A suite of programs designed to make working on remote computers seem like you're working on your own computer. For example, you can use a Samba server on a UNIX computer to view and edit documents on your own Windows computer.

In graphics, an editing technique in which one crops an image to a size determined by a frame that he or she places over the image. 

Scripting is a specialized programming language that is used to create scripts that, when inserted into a Web page, control various elements of the page, such as the user interface, styles, and HTML mark-up. JavaScript and VBScript are the most popular scripting languages.

(Pronounced "scuzzy") stands for Small Computer System Interface; it's the standard interface for the majority of the peripheral devices you attach to your PC. These peripherals include CD-ROMs, tape backups, scanners, and so on.
Many PCs come SCSI-ready, which means that the PC already has one (or more) SCSI ports. If your PC isn't SCSI-ready, you have to install a SCSI card to add the port to your PC before you can plug in a SCSI device.
Don't be concerned if your PC has only one SCSI port: A SCSI controller can handle up to seven devices, as long as the devices are arranged as a nonlooping "chain." The chain must have your PC on one end and must link all your SCSI devices one after the other

A Software Development Kit, or SDK, is made up of software that helps you make software. Nice fantasy, right? But it's true. When a company introduces a new computer, a handheld gizmo, an updated version of an operating system, or a sophisticated word processor, it generally wants other people to start developing add-on software for that computer, gizmo, OS, or app. And they can develop software only if they have the tools -- programs for designing, streamlining, compiling, debugging, and adding graphics to their own new software. So the company that wants other companies to work with its wares comes up with an SDK, chock full of tools.

Cache memory that is on the motherboard rather than inside a microprocessor. Also called L2 cache memory, secondary cache memory dramatically improves system performance and is essential to every computer system.
Several kinds of secondary cache memory are available, ranging from the slow but inexpensive direct-map cache to fast and expensive four-way set-associative cache. Write-back secondary cache memory is better than write-through secondary cache memory.

A servlet is simply an applet that runs on a server. If you recall yesterday's Nerd Word, you know that an applet is a little application program that runs from within a larger application program. A servlet is usually a subclass of Java applet that runs on a Web server. One typical use of servlets is to automatically redirect users to a Web site that has moved.

Generally is any computer that provides services to other computers in a network. However, when you're talking about a Web server, you're referring specifically to the mega-big computer that contains all the pages or files that make up a Web site. In other words, a server is the actual computer that contains the files you're accessing via the Web.
A server does not need to be a mega-big--mainframe--as it can be your desktop PC. The amount of work that your server must do and the speed at which it needs to operate will depend on how powerful it needs to be. Many servers are simply desktop PCs.

Shareware is a program that you can use for a trial version. The author requests that you send them a certain fee to continue using the program after so many days. Certain tactics are used to encourage you to send in the fee. One such tactic is to always have certain notices come up reminding you that you are using a non-registered copy of the program. In order to get rid of these reminders you will need to register the program with the author and sending in the required fee.
Many of these Shareware programs are quite good, and they are a bargain at the requested fee. You can find many of these programs at:
PC Magazine
PC World Magazine

An extension or plug-in for your Web browser that allows you to see animations (created by special programs such as FLASH) or run programs over the Internet. This plug-in is not needed to run regular GIF animations.

The Special Internet Group for Graphics 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.

Originally a technical term refering to a ratio that described how information was coming through a transmission, signal-to-noise is now a slang term as well. In the technical world, it compares the amount of information in a transmission to the amount of conflicting hiss and interference. As a slang term, it compares the amount of useful commentary to the amount of angry "flames" and off-the-subject digressions in an e-mail or newsgroup posting. A high signal-to-noise ratio is a good thing; a low signal-to-noise ratio is a waste of time or an insult.

In e-mail vernacular, a signature is a few lines of text that appears at the bottom of each e-mail message. Many people use signatures not only to convey their name, address, and phone numbers, but also to display a short quote or even small pictures made from text. According to standard netiquette (which was yesterday's word, by the way), having a signature longer than five or six lines is considered very bad form.
Related terms: signature file (or sig file) A signature file is the text file that contains your signature. Many e-mail programs let you store your signature in a text file and automatically append it to all of your outgoing mail.

Single Inline Memory Module, which is really nothing more then a more precise way to refer to your computer's RAM. SIMMs come in all sizes and can often be grouped together when you're adding memory to your PC. For example, to expand your computer's memory by 64MB, you may add two 32MB SIMMs, or four 16MB SIMMs. You need to read your computer manual, as it may give you certain memory configurations that will work on your computer. You need to make sure that your computer will handle the larger memory.

A sitelet is a small--and often temporary--section of a Web site, usually focused on a particular topic or purpose. Most Web banner ads take users to hard-selling sitelets instead of main Web sites. More and more often, we're seeing sitelet addresses, rather than domain names, in magazine and direct mail advertisements.

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. Another program that uses "skins" is the Microsoft Media Player."

Pronounced "skew," the SKU or Stock Keeping Unit is the retail identification number given to all products that appear in typical stores, online or off. SKUs are the handles stores use to differentiate last year's model from this year's, the red item from the blue, the economy size from the budget package.

Any device containing microprocessor-based electronics that enables the device either to branch to alternative operating sequences depending on external conditions, to repeat operations until a condition is fulfilled, or to execute a series of instructions repetitively. Microprocessors are so inexpensive that they can be embedded in even the most prosaic of everyday devices, such as toasters, coffeemakers, and ovens.

Smudge is the name of a popular command or filter in graphics editing programs. When you aim the smudge tool at an area of the image, the pixels in that area are randomly mixed around, as though it were a real painting bumped by a finger.

Spam is the e-mail equivalent of junk mail. This spam also has a verb form, as in "I've been spammed by a Web pornographer." Not only are you spammed by Web pornographers but a wide variety of topics. Some ISPs try to help you to reduce spam, and there are programs out there to help you reduce spam. However, the result is marginal at best.
Some people try to send several messages back to the origin of the Spam hoping to overload their mail server. There are some that would respond in a more violent way if they could.
Spam is like junk mail or unsolicited telemarketers. The best thing you can do is to ignore them. Throw the junk mail away, and tell the telemarketers that you do not accept telephone solicitations and to take your name off their list and hangup. Do not argue with them or even listen to them.
Spam mail is like that, the best thing you can do is to ignore it and delete it (never respond to it) and move on to better things.
Some people actually respond to Spam messages, as they are interested in seeing what their promotion is all about. If you are one who likes junk mail then have at it, because there is plenty of it out there.

A reset that involves only part of the system. For example, quitting MS-DOS mode in Windows results in a soft boot where MS-DOS is unloaded and Windows is reloaded, which is not the same as restarting (rebooting) the entire computer.

A "spamdex" is a block of text, usually hidden on a home page (typed in the same color as the home page background), that includes either:

  1. multiple instances of the same keyword so that the home page appears at the top of the list generated by a search on that keyword
  2. hundreds of related and not-so-related words so that the page appears in the results of more keyword lists.


No need to cringe: In nerd-speak, a spider is about as far from a hairy, eight-legged blood-sucker as you can get. A spider--also called a Web spider--is a software program that regularly searches (or "crawls") through the Internet, indexing all the text in all the pages on the Web. Spiders allow search services to keep up with the new content being added to the Web, without having to depend on the creators of that content to index it themselves.

A "spindle" is the axle, or shaft, around which a computer disk revolves. Technocrats use "spindle" interchangeably with "disk drive," primarily to confuse others less familiar with the former term than with the latter. For example, when a nerd refers to a "three-spindle" laptop, he or she means a laptop with three disk drives (typically a hard, floppy, and CD-ROM drive). The nerd could just SAY "a laptop with a hard drive, floppy, and CD-ROM," but then he or she wouldn't get the satisfaction of hearing you ask, "Er, whaddaya mean?"--the three (or so) words every nerd lives to hear.

A splash screen is a programmer's term for the pretty little introductory screen that appears when you first load a program, before the program window itself appears. Usually, it includes the product name, the manufacturer's logo, the program serial number, and other information that, while interesting when you first purchased the program, has grown quite tiresome. Fortunately, many programs' Help files include instructions for suppressing display of the splash screen.

Many newsgroups are busy discussing the latest books and movies. Others buzz with video game tips. Some participants can't help themselves from giving away the endings or secrets, or they simply want to discuss the entire plot with others who have already read or seen the work. Messages that are giveaways are called "spoilers" and are generally thought rude. One way to get the word out, without ruining it for everyone, is to make sure any spoiler you post is encrypted in an easily-undone code, such as the rot-13 code built into most newsgroup readers.

To elude detection of nefarious deeds, Internet hackers sometimes use IP Spoofing. They have their computer connect to the Net using the Internet Protocol address of some other computer, so that any record of their actions will seem to have come from someone else. This can also allow them to enter systems to which they don't have authorization.

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.

stalksurfing is the act of searching the Web for your ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend's name.
The vast majority of us are NOT VERY SECURITY MINDED when we get on the Internet, and we leave little trails of our identity for others to find. Many times you may not have placed your identity in a specific location but someone else has. There are many people that work the Internet gathering e-mail addresses and other bits of information that they sell to marketing companies or anyone else willing to pay for such information. Sometimes the information can originate off of the Internet and then be placed on the Internet.
I am passed several e-mail messages wanting me to pray for this child--they usually use a child--who is terribly sick or any number of other schemes to get you to respond. When you respond they have your e-mail address. There are some who go through a special Web Site that keeps their identity from going with them as they surf. One such site is:
However, unless you are a gluten for very very very very slow connections you will need to pay a small fee.
Anonymity in our lives is pretty well over, so STALKSURFING on the Internet or off the Internet is always available, and the more they know how to look the more they can find.

Streaming refers to transferring data--specifically, multimedia content--in a continuous stream over the Web so that a surfer can "play" the content bit by bit as it arrives, rather than be forced to download all of it first. Many Web sites today stream video and audio. To receive the stream, you need to have a browser plug-in such as RealPlayer, QuickTime Viewer, or NetShow Player. Streamed audio/video isn't exactly radio/TV quality, but it sure beats waiting.

A subwoofer is a speaker that can produce very low-frequency sounds. Often the subwoofer is the largest speaker in a set, and is usually positioned on the floor instead of on stands or on the desktop. Inexpensive speaker sets may not even have a subwoofer, which in turn may have its own amplifier and power supply. Subwoofers are good for music and great for games, which may use the low frequencies for sound effects.

In the Macintosh environment, an icon containing a screen font or desk accessory (DA) not yet installed in the System Folder.

A supercomputer is a giant computer with incredible calculation power, used for special calculation-intensive applications--such as cinema-quality animation and high-level artificial intelligence. Or playing chess (which, we suppose, qualifies as high-level artificial intelligence). It was an IBM supercomputer named Deep Blue that beat Russian grandmaster Garry Kasparov in a series of chess games a few years ago--and then once again in a rematch this May.

1. To be able to work with a device, file format, or program. For example, Netscape Navigator supports a variety of plug-ins. 
2. To provide human assistance with computer problems (also known as technical support).

They're those long strips of outlets that protect your computer from surges in the electrical lines, which can do everything from scramble your hard disk to destroy your computer's power supply. Today we want to tell you that if your computer is connected to the phone lines via a modem, you should make sure your surge protector also includes protection against phone line surges, which, while not as powerful, are a lot more common than electrical line surges.

Exploring the Web by following interesting links -- to some, a monumental waste of time; to others, a joy.

In Microsoft Windows, a large, hidden system file that stores program instructions and data that doesn't fit in the computer's random-access memory (RAM).

An encryption algorithm that uses the same key to encode and decode messages. Symmetric key algorithms have several advantages:
1. They require relatively small amounts of computer overhead.
2. When used with keys of sufficient length, they produce virtually uncrackable ciphertext.

However, it is necessary to convey the key to the message's receiver by some secure means. This should not be done over an unsecured line such as a telephone, email, fax, and etc.; that is, if you are interested in security.


In addition to being a type of dance, tap refers to the most common way of communicating with a handheld device, such as a Palm. Tapping is touching the screen with the stylus, and it's often used to choose or select objects, kind of like clicking a mouse button.

In a program, a document or worksheet that includes the text or formulas needed to create standardized documents. The template can be used to automate the creation of these documents in the future. In word processing, for example, templates frequently are used for letterheads; the template version of the file contains the corporate logo, the company's address, and all the formats necessary to write the letter, but no text. One uses the template by opening it, adding text to it, and printing. In spreadsheet programs, templates are available for repetitive tasks such as calculating and printing a mortgage amortization schedule.

Computer graphics experts discovered long ago that 3-D images didn't look real no matter how high the resolution or how superb the lighting and shadows. Images also needed texture, the appearance of surface irregularities and reflections that real-world materials would show. Today's PCs are fast enough to add textures to images, storing the textures as patterns that are then applied to the areas of polygons within the graphic.

A computer printer that creates an image by burning a sheet of wax paper in a neat and tidy fashion. Actually, burning is too harsh of a word. The wax paper is merely darkened by the printing mechanism, creating text and graphics in a smooth, quiet fashion without wasting any ink. Unless your fax machine uses plain paper, it contains a thermal printing mechanism. Thermal paper is often waxy and will turn all black if you leave it out in the sun.

Sewing thread binds fabric together and can weave sinuously over and around and through multiple layers. It can also be considered just one part of an elaborate garment.
In computing, thread has two meanings that reflect those sewing concepts:  

A series of messages in a newsgroup or other discussion area, where each message of the thread replies to a previous message.

A single-process task that makes up part of a multi- threaded program in a multi-tasking system.

Within scroll bars and elevator bars -- those long, narrow rectangles on the side and bottom of a window -- you often find a thumb. The thumb is a rectangle that represents the current view in the window. If the document is only slightly larger than what you can currently see, the scroll bar is only slightly larger than the thumb. If the view is only a small portion of the entire document, the thumb is very small compared to the scroll bar. By clicking above or below the thumb, you can move a full screen's view at a time. Drag the thumb and you can change the view dramatically -- up, down, or sideways.

"Thumbnail" is one of those terms that has evolved over history. It referred originally, of course, to the fingernail on your thumb. Later--say, sometime in the mid-1900s--it began to be used as an adjective, meaning "brief" (as in "thumbnail biography"). Then advertising types began using the term to refer to small pictures used in storyboards. Later, in the early '90s, software manufacturers added "thumbnail views" to presentation software and desktop publishing programs; these views enabled one to see multiple, miniaturized pages on one screen. And now, with the advent of the Web, thumbnail also means a miniaturized image that you can click to see the full-size image.

Thanks In Advance (TIA) to a reader for this week's suggestion, an abbreviation that's handy in e-mail, newsgroup, or chat. It's also been known to suggest a little, or more than a little, sarcasm offering gratitude for unlikely results. Not that we mean that here!

When you make an XY graph, and have points on that graph, you may also want to have your graphing or presentation program add "tick marks." These are mall line segments drawn on the X and Y axes precisely where the points' coordinates fall, making it easier for your graph viewers to see the numerical positions of the points.

The "tilde" character -- ~ -- had a rebirth of popularity when the Internet came around. Because it is at the end of the alphabetizing list of characters under UNIX operating systems, and because it isn't used for anything else except occasionally in mathematics for the word "approximately," and because UNIX was the most popular system for Internet development, the tilde appears in many Web addresses. Often it is used in front of the users last name to represent a personal home directory at a Web site, such as www.thiswebsite.com/~doe.

TLA stands for Three Letter Acronym or Three Letter Abbreviation. Satisfyingly, TLA is a TLA, a type of abbreviation which is very, very popular in technology and computing, from USB to VCR to VHS to DVD to so on and so forth.

Some computers (many portables) have something called a "touchpad," a device that lets you move the mouse pointer around the screen by moving your finger around on a touch-sensitive pad and "click" by simply tapping the pad (or clicking one of the buttons just below or beside the pad).

"A method of feeding paper through a printer. Tractor-feed printers have two sprocketed wheels on either side of the printer that fit into holes in the paper. As the wheels revolve, the paper is pulled through the printer. Tractor feed is also called pin feed.
"The other principal form of feeding paper into a printer is friction feed, which utilizes plastic or rubber rollers to squeeze a sheet of paper and pull it through the printer.
"Tractor-feed printers require special paper (with holes), whereas friction-feed printers can handle most types of cut-sheet paper, including envelopes. Some printers support both types of feeding mechanisms."

GIF is a popular format for graphics files. Most graphics on Web pages are either GIF or JPEG. Typically GIF is used for all non-photographic images, with JPEG seen as best for photos. One advantage of GIF for logos, symbols, and other small graphic images is that it can be made "transparent." That is, the background parts of the GIF image rectangle can be made transparent, so that any background text or other images can be seen right through those parts. This leaves the actual logo or symbol of the graphic floating above the background.

To change the order in which characters, words, or sentences are displayed. Some word processing programs include commands that transpose text.

In nerd land, "Trojan Horse" refers to software that looks like a program but is actually a virus. When a user runs it, it does something devastating, such as formatting the computer's hard drive, uninstalling software, or causing insoluble problems all over the system. A good tip-off to a Trojan Horse is a free program offer that:

  1. seems too go to be true and
  2. comes from someone you don't know.

Real-life examples include a program that promised free access to AOL (forever, that is, not just for the first 100 hours) and, ironically, a program that promised to rid one's system of viruses.

A troll is a message that is intentionally controversial or insulting. Some people post trolls in newsgroups just to see what the reaction will be -- because they enjoy watching or participating in an argument or because they want to disrupt the current discussion in the group.

Outline font technology uses mathematical descriptions of letters to let a computer easily change the size and style of displayed or printed documents. PostScript was one of the first popular outline font technologies. Then Apple developed TrueType as a competing outline technology. It is available for both Mac and Windows computers.

TWAIN is the standard interface for transmitting data from a scanner to a software program. If your desktop publishing program supports TWAIN (and many do), you can use a command from the program's menu (usually the Acquire command) to scan a photo directly into a document. TWAIN, by the way, stands for "Technology Without An Interesting Name."

A staple in the diet of computer programmers and other nerds. The consumption of Twinkies has been used as a defense in the most egregious crimes. Thus, if you need a scapegoat, invoke the Twinkie defense.


Rarely used, but often seen, U/lc refers to text that contains both uppercase (U) and lowercase (lc) letters in standard text. The alternative is to have all the letters in uppercase, or All Caps, or in all lowercase.

A scenario for future computing in which computers are so numerous that they fade into the background, providing intelligence for virtually every aspect of daily life.

Ultrium is one of the two types of Linear Tape-Open storage. This uses a serpentine format to store 200GB compressed on a single reel of half-inch tape. Ultrium can transfer data at 1.9GB/minute. Each of these Ultrium memory tape cartridges has its own built-in memory chip for control. Future versions of Ultrium may reach capacities of 1.6TB (1600GB) and a data transfer rate of 19.2GB/minute.

ASCII, or "plain-text," codes work okay for simple documents written in English. They don't work for documents in other languages with other characters. For that you need more than the 8-bits of ASCII. The 32-bit Unicode, for example, has room for not only all of the ASCII characters but also for many foreign characters, including most of the vital characters of popular Asian languages.

A computer that can access a wide variety of applications on the network, such as a mail program (an e-mail, for example) that can access multiple messaging systems.

Generic term for a family of 32-bit operating systems used on a wide variety of computers, from mainframes to personal computers; the various versions (called flavors) of Unix are not always mutually compatible.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) flat panels polarize the light that bounces back through them. That's how they have some pixels pass light unimpeded and some block it off entirely, making light and dark areas. LCDs with supertwist technology use greater polarization to provide lighter lights and darker darks, for more contrast and a better view. VIGNETTE:
Take a rectangular image, round its edges so that they shade gradually into the background, and you've made it into a vignette. This gives it the appearance of having been a photograph from the 19th or early 20th century, when many photos were cropped and framed in that shape. Many photo editing programs have a vignette filter that will automatically process images into that form.

When your power goes out, it's just a tough fact of life that any unsaved data goes out with it, right? Not necessarily. If you're worried about power outages, you could hook up your computer to an uninterruptible power supply--affectionately known as UPS--a device that contains enough battery power to let you save your unsaved data, finish an in-progress download, and shut down your system properly. Tech types call this "exiting gracefully."

Something designed with the future in mind. The item in question, usually a document or file created by some application or piece of hardware, will work with the next version of the product or with components that are not on the market yet. Generally, software is downward compatible only, meaning that the newest versions of the application will work with files generated from the previous versions, but the previous versions will not work with files created with the new version.

Just as every person on the Net has a unique email address, every file and page on the Web has a unique URL. The URL is the address of a web page. You can see the URL for the web page you're on now; look up above the page to the thin white horizontal box. The jumble of letters in there is the URL. The first part of the URL (http) tells the browser it's looking for a web page. The rest gives the name of the computer that holds the page (www.yahoo.com), the directory it's in (resources/glossary) and the name of the file that makes up the page (g3.html). You can instantly jump to any page on the Web by typing the page's URL into the white box. Alphabet Soup Watch: URL stands for "Uniform Resource Locator." http stands for "Hypertext Transfer Protocol."
Why do some Web pages have an address like http://123.888.423 instead of real names?
Unlike humans, computers have no problem organizing things and remembering them using numbers. So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that the whole addressing system for the Net actually runs on a numeric system rather than one based on words. Since we humans have such difficulty remembering numbers, we have a system that turns them into words for us.
Every domain name (www.yil.com, for example) has a corresponding number for addressing. When you tell your browser to go to www.yil.com, it goes and checks with a big table of names and the numbers that correspond to them. Once your browser finds the numerical address of where you want to go, it uses that to take you to the Web site.
So next time you visit us, just remember: Catchy, isn't it?

USB is short for "Universal Serial Bus." If your computer has a USB port, you're lucky, because you can use the port to connect all kinds of devices--mice, modems, scanners, you name it--to your computer WITHOUT HAVING TO OPEN THE COMPUTER AND INSERT SOME KIND OF CARD IN ONE OF YOUR COMPUTER'S SLOTS. Attention, Windows 98 users: Word on the street is that Windows 98 makes connecting USB devices an extremely simple process.

A voluntary association of users of a specific computer system or program who meet regularly to exchange tips and techniques, hear presentations by computer experts, and obtain public domain software and shareware.

Your user name is the name by which a network server knows you and, consequently, the name that you must provide to gain access to a particular computer or network. Your Internet e-mail user name, for example, is the part of your e-mail address that comes before the @ sign--for example, the "ed" in ed@bigcompany.com.

Originally, "uuencode" was a utility program that could convert binary files such as images or programs into ASCII text files that were easily transferred through the Internet. Now that same ability is built into most modern operating systems, such as Windows and Mac, uuencoding and then uudecoding files you command send or received through e-mail or newsgroups. You may not even know the coding is happening because it is done automatically.

What is UUNET? Nothing less than the very first ISP! UUNET was created by Rick Adams, who was one of the original developers of ARPAnet, the nuclear-war-proof network that is now recognized as the precursor to the Internet. After a chain of mergers and acquisitions, UUNET is now an MCI company. If signing up with the first ISP sounds like something interesting or nostalgic to you, you can check out UUNET's services at :


A type of Internet virus that visits unsuspecting Web page browsers. Using Java or ActiveX, it invades a computer and can either destroy files or send sensitive information back to the host over the Internet. This is not the same thing as a cookie, which is passive.

A system with no extra features, stripped down to its basics, is sometimes called the "plain vanilla" version. Vanilla is wrongly seen as the absence of flavor, much as white is often thought of as the absence of color.

The term--typically, in combination with the word "plain"--to denote computer equipment or software without bells and whistles. For example, they might use "plain vanilla Netscape" to refer to the standard-issue Web browser, without any of the options available in, say, Netscape Communicator Gold.

Vaporware is the (sarcastic) term for software that is either publicly announced before it's available in order to deter customers from buying competitors' products, or hyped and hyped and then delivered very late or not at all--usually with plenty of excuses.
Most software publishers have, from time to time, delivered vaporware, whether intentional or not. However, the gaming industry seems to be one of the worst offenders, which has led to the Vaporware Hall of Shame for games software:

Last time we talked about vCards--electronic business cards you can attach to e-mail and drag into your personal information manager. Today we talk about vCard's sidekick, vCalendar, a similar data exchange format for dated information. You can attach vCalendar information--such as a scheduled event, a record of time spent on a project, or any other dated or timed event--to an e-mail message. The message's recipient can drag it and drop it into the calendar, to-do, or project management area of their PIM (provided the PIM supports vCalendar information).

Last time, we introduced you to the term PIM, or personal information manager. If you have a recent version of a PIM--or if you've been shopping for one--another term you've probably heard a lot is vCard, which has two meanings:
vCard, without an article (for those of you who didn't pay attention in English class, articles are words like "the," "a," and "an"), refers to a data-exchange format for transferring business-card-type information from one program, such as your Web browser or e-mail, to another program, such as--you guessed it--your PIM.
A vCard, with an article, refers to a unit of vCard information--as in, "I'll send you a vCard." Many of the latest e-mail programs let you attach vCards to your messages; many of the latest PIMs let you drag vCards from e-mail messages directly into your address book.

A vector graphic, one of two major types of computer graphics, is a picture made up of lines and shapes drawn from geometric formulas. Here are three things to remember about vector graphics:

Veronica is a search engine for finding information in all gopher sites. Veronica uses a spider to create a continually updated index of all the text in these gopher sites. For links to a number of Veronica engines, visit Yahoo!'s Veronica page, at:
By the way, Veronica stands for "very easy rodent-oriented Net-wide index to computerized archives"

A monitor design used in Trinitron-type and other monitors that somewhat reduces image distortion.

As you're no doubt aware, the Web has spawned an entire industry of Web marketing specialists. As you're no doubt also aware, the primary job of marketing specialists is to invent jargon that nonmarketers can't understand. Hence the term "vertiport," the marketing term for a Web site that's focused on one topic. Cookierecipe.com, for example, is a vertiport because it publishes cookie recipes and nothing else. Amazon.com USED to be a vertiport, until it expanded beyond selling books to sell music, videos, toys, and soon, plastic surgery.

An adapter that plugs into the computer's expansion bus and that enables a person to control a video camera or videocassette recorder (VCR) and manipulate its output. Video capture boards (also called cards) usually compress the video input to a manageable size and are useful for developing multimedia presentations.

For sheer, mindless evil, there's little in the computer industry to compare with the computer virus. It's a program that can hide anywhere a computer stores information: a floppy disk, PC Card, hard disk, network, or various parts of memory. They can travel across any means of connecting computers, like modems and networks. And, depending on its developer's intent, it may do any number of things, such as reformat your hard disk (destroying all your data) or corrupt the activities of your operating system (making your system act as though it's gone crazy). There are even viruses that change the way they hide their presence from anti-virus (AV) software with every replication from computer to computer (these are referred to as "polymorphic viruses"). The one way that viruses cannot propagate, however, is through email messages (at least not yet). If you get an email warning you of a virus your computer can catch if you simply read a piece of email -- such as the notorious "Good Times" virus hoax -- disregard it.

VoD stands for "Video-on-Demand"--technology that lets you select the video of your choice from a multimedia server for viewing on your computer or television. VoD would mean the end of television schedules (and the end of TV GUIDE?); you'd watch whatever you want to watch, whenever you want to watch it. Some hotels already offer movies via VoD. Whether VoD arrives in every home depends on whether the cable TV companies can put together the worldwide network necessary to deliver it.

VON stands for "Voice on the Net." It's a society of Internet telephony software manufacturers and users who want to make sure that the telephone companies do NOT pass legislation that outlaws Internet telephony (and if you read yesterday's definition of Internet telephony, you can understand why the telephone companies would want to do this). This battle is likely to go on for a long time.

If a "portal" is a starting point web page, with directories, frequently-requested information, and maybe a search engine command, a "vortal" is a "vertical portal," a portal devoted to, or at least focused on, a specific kind of information. Instead of taking on the entire web, a vortal might offer a directory and search engine for just Job-searching, or even for Jobs for Engineers in Ohio.

VRM stands for "voltage regulator module," a small part in your computer's motherboard (or main system board) that controls how much voltage gets flowed to the microprocessor chip. The VRM does an important job: Too much voltage can fry the chip.

VRML--pronounced "vermal"--stands for "Virtual Reality Modeling Language." Think of VRML as a 3-D version of HTML: Whereas HTML lets you create two-dimensional Web pages, VRML lets you create three-dimensional Web pages. These days, you can find quite a few VRML spaces on the Web; you can browse them if you have a VRML browser or a VRML plug-in to your existing browser (which you can download from several locations on the Web).


W3 stands for "World Wide Web."

Stands for the World Wide Web Consortium. Founded by Tim Berners-Lee--who, despite what Al Gore says, is the actual developer of the World Wide Web--W3C is a group of companies from around the world that have decided to base a huge chunk of their business on the Web and who want to make sure that its development standards stay open, or accessible, to everyone.

With All Due Respect 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."

WAP stands for "wireless application protocol," a technical specification for enabling people to securely access digital information (such as messages, e-mail, faxes, and so on) via their mobile phone, pager, personal digital assistant (PDA), or other wireless device.

"Warez" is an unofficial, though popular, name for software that has been illegally posted to a Web site so that others on the Internet can download, own, and use it. Some sites with "warez" in their names now also offer legally downloadable software, but the illicit connotation remains.

As most of you know, to "boot" (also to "boot up") means to start your computer. A "warm boot" is a way of restarting your computer without actually shutting off the computer. For example, you can warm boot a DOS-based PC by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Delete or warm boot a Windows 95 PC by clicking Start, choosing Shut Down, selecting Restart, and then clicking OK.

A method in information systems development that returns the focus of the systems development project to a previous phase if an error is discovered in it.

In print publishing, a watermark is a background image on the page, visible behind the main printing on the page. The mark is typically used to authenticate an official document, proving that the underlying paper is from the stocks of some particular agency or company. Watermarks also exist in the digital world, where they are hidden bits intertwined with the text or an image of an electronic document. These high-tech watermarks can also authenticate works, helping intellectual property owners track down their own goods online.

For Windows users, sound files usually come in WAV format (pronounced "wave"). These audio files can best be identified by their file names, which end with the .WAV suffix. As of late, however, .WAV files can be played on both Macintosh and Windows computers--with the right setup. Windows users will need a sound card and its accompanying software to play .WAV files; Mac users don't require any special hardware, but do require .WAV-compatible software, such as version 3.0 of America Online.

Web portal is one of those terms whose meaning has changed in just the past few years. As recently as four or five years ago--when setting up your own Web access was a process fraught with peril and not-so-friendly software--a Web portal was an online service provider such as Prodigy or AOL that provided ready-to-use Web access as one of its services. With the advent of simplified Web access, the definition of Web portal has expanded to include Web sites, such as Yahoo! and Excite, that provide search engines, site indexes, e-mail, and online chat communities.

A Web ring is a way of linking Web sites that are related so that a user can move quickly and easily from one site to another. The Yahoo! WebRing webring.yahoo.com/rw site provides the tools for you to create, join, or find Web rings.

WebTV lets you surf the Web and retrieve your e-mail on a television set over cable lines rather than on a computer over phone lines. WebTV is faster than a phone-line Web connection, and it lets you experience the Internet without forcing you to buy a computer (lots of folks buy computers these days for no other reason).
Tip: If you decide to go with WebTV, definitely get the optional wireless keyboard; surfing the Web with a TV remote is like washing your floor with a toothbrush.

Hardware is the chips and boards and circuits and disk drives. Software is the programs--the operating system, the applications.

Up until very, very recently, a white paper was something a company published to explain the science or philosophy behind a particular product or product strategy. For example, IBM might publish a white paper on "the future of network computing." Today, most white papers are brochures masquerading as white papers: They're published in a white paper format--on white paper, with a simple design and a few unsophisticated diagrams--but in fact extol the virtues of the company's products. This change occurred when responsibility for writing white papers shifted from research people to marketing people.

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 pcworld.com, 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
Technical Contact, Zone Contact:
nic-contact NICXX-ORG contactnamehere@PCWORLD.COM
Fax: 415-555-1234
Billing Contact:
Lastname, Firstname AB353BC123 contactname@PCWORLD.COM
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.
You can get more information about this by checking out this site.

Sometimes a long document will have paragraphs that only manage to fit their first line onto the bottom of a page -- following other paragraphs of text or following illustrations. The rest of that paragraph then continues on the following page. The languishing line, all alone on the bottom of the page, is called a Widow. Desktop publishing programs, and most word processing programs, give you the option of preventing widows. They can automatically find any widows and push them onto the next page to join the rest of their related paragraphs.

It was invented by Xerox, commercialized by Apple's Mac, made more popular by Microsoft's Windows, and went open-source with such projects as GNOME. It is the graphical user interface that shows information in specific areas on screen called windows, that depends on icons to represent programs and documents, that gives the computer user a mouse to click those windows, icons, and a set of pull-down menus that organize the commands. Sometimes called a GUI (pronounced "gooey") for graphical-user-interface, it is also called a WIMP, for windows, icon, mouse, pull-down. The tech gurus who prefer a faster text-only interface prefer "WIMP" because of its put-down connotation.

There's no clear line separating templates and wizards, and they do much the same job. But a template is generally thought of as a static document, containing a layout that you can fill with your own words, pictures, and numbers. A wizard tends to be more interactive and to follow a script in collecting information from you about just what you need, which it then uses to generate a more customized document or template.

WML stands for "wireless markup language." It is the language that programmers use--or WILL use--to display Web content on an emerging class of wireless devices, including smartphones, large-screen pagers, and Web-ready personal digital assistants (PDAs).

A group of computers tied together via some network configuration that share a common function.This keeps users within the confines of the resources that they need without taking away from others. For instance, a group of workers who are working on a particular project might be divided up into various groups. These groups could be layout, instructions, graphics, and others. Most of the workers could be put into their own specific group. This is like people breaking up into separate groups with each group talking about something different, as it would be pretty confusing if they were all in the same group talking about different things at the same time.

A worm is a program that makes copies of itself as it moves across a network is a worm. Don't confuse this with a WORM, a Write Once Read Many optical disk that can be recorded on just once. IOW Short for "In Other Words," this abbreviation is used in e-mail and news postings, and even more in chat discussions (though only the most erudite sites, most likely).

RE: has become too commonplace, and almost too automated by e-mail. That's why other, similar terms are gaining some currency, such as the WRT that's short for With Regard To or With Respect To, depending on whom you ask. It's a transition shorthand for e-mail and IM messages, helping the reader understand context.

Not so widely used at auction sites which neatly separate buyers and sellers, but still found in newsgroups and company bulletin boards, WTB is short for Want To Buy. It's a sign that the author is describing what they want, not what they have and are willing to sell.


Each font makes lowercase letters some standard percentage of the height of uppercase letters. This is called the X-height because it's typically measured by comparing the height of a small x to a capital X. Often, the X-height ranges from 40 percent to 60 percent. A larger X-height will make a font look larger, even if the uppercase letters are kept the same size.

The Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML), is a hybrid of the original Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) that built all Web pages, and the newer Extensible Markup Language (XML) that brings database extensions and flexibility to Web sites. Ideally, XHTML could allow for standardization of Web pages so that they could appear on computer, handheld, or even cell phone displays.

A registered trademark for a pop-out phone chord connector typically found on laptop computers. Also written in all caps: XJACK. "Most of the better PCMCIA modem cards have an Xjack connector on them, which makes hooking up a phone line easier than some of the dorky methods of the past."


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been a pioneer in many ways. But one of their more embarrassing inventions has been the phrase "Your Mileage May Vary," now abbreviated online as YMMV. Originally meant simply to remind drivers that the actual mileage -- miles per gallon of gas -- they experienced in their cars would depend on location, weather, tune-up status, and their own driving habits. Because the EPA's own published estimates always seemed wildly optimistic, with everyone's actual mileage significantly less than those rosy figures, YMMV can also cynically mean "as if you'd ever get this in the real world."

The collection of electromagnets precisely arrayed around the outside of a cathode ray tube (CRT). The yoke, which is controlled by the monitor circuitry and video adapter, steers electrons from the electron guns to the proper pixels on the display. If the yoke gets out of alignment, the monitor is useless. 

Memory, processor speed, bits -- they're all getting bigger and faster. First we measured in Kilo, then came Mega, and lately Giga seems the standard. Soon we'll be measuring in Tera and Peta. But someday you may be buying a full "YottaByte" of memory or a screaming "YottaHz" processor chip. Yotta means 10 to the 24th power.


ZINE:zine (pronounced ZEEN) is short for "magazine" and used to refer to homemade (usually photocopied) periodicals, generally with a narrow focus (or no focus at all), a strong personality (a.k.a. attitude), and a low circulation. These days, zine is also used to refer to small-time magazine formats on the Web, which, by the way, are more appropriately called "e-zines."
If you're interested in self-publishing a zine, or want to check out some of the thousands of zines published around the world, look for a copy of Factsheet 5 at your local newsstand. Factsheet 5 reviews zines and gives helpful advice on producing and distributing your own zine. You can also find Factsheet5 on the Web at

Have you ever downloaded a file from the Internet and been confused by its .ZIP suffix? That suffix tells you that the file has been zipped (compressed)to take up less space. You can zip one or several files into one compressed package for easier transmittal and storage.
Several popular tools can be used to compress your files: PKZIP for DOS, WinZip in Windows, and MacZip for Macintosh users. Likewise, the popular StuffIt shareware decompresses .ZIP archives.
After you download or otherwise receive a zipped file, you have to decompress the contents back to the original files before using them.

Zombie is the cyberspeak term for an abandoned or neglected Web site -that has been moved to another Web address, or URL. You read it right: Nobody has bothered to update the site, but somebody HAS bothered to move it. The term zombie is appropriate: The site is something that's dead but seems to move. Do not confuse this with "gravesite" which does not move.

Source: www.olliverlyle.com

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