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Network Chico Computer terms glossary

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Daemon: A UNIX term for a component of any server program that "listens" to incoming requests for a specific service across the network; for example, a Telnet server might include a Telnet daemon, a program that always runs, ready to server Telnet requests; the same component of an FTP server is called an FTP daemon, and so forth.

Daily backup: Copies all files modified on the day of the backup.

DAS: "Dual Attachment Stations" Computers or concentrators connected to both rings in an FDDI network.

Database: This is a data structure used to store organized information. A database is typically made up of many linked tables of rows and columns. For example, a company might use a database to store information about their products, their employees, and financial information. Databases are now also used in nearly all e-commerce sites to store product inventory and customer information. Database software, such as Microsoft Access, FileMaker Pro, and MySQL is designed to help companies and individuals organize large amounts of information in a way where the data can be easily searched, sorted, and updated. While the first databases were relatively "flat" (limited to simple rows and columns), today's relational databases allow users to access, update, and search information based on the relationship of data in one database to another. Certain databases even let users store data such as sound clips, pictures, and videos.

Data channel: The cables and infrastructure of a network.

Data frame: The basic package of bits that represents the PDU sent from one computer to another across a networking medium. In addition to it's contents (payload), a data frame includes the sender's and receiver's network addresses, as well as some control information at the head and a CRC at the tail.

Data Link layer: Layer 2 in the OSI reference model. This layer is responsible for managing access to the networking medium and for ensuring error-free delivery of data frames from sender to receiver.

Data section: The actual data being sent across a network. The size of this section can vary from 512 bytes to 16 kilobytes depending on the network type.

Datagrade: A designation for cabling of any kind that indicates that it's suitable for transporting digital data. When applied to twisted-pair cabling it indicates that the cable is suitable for either voice or data traffic.

Datagram: The term used in some protocols to define a packet.

DBMS: "Dataase Management System" A client/server computing environment that uses SQL to retrieve data from the server.

DCE: "Data Communications Equipment" Any type of device, such as a modem, that connects a DTE to a communications line.

DDP: "Delivery Datagram Protocol" Data transport protocol for AppleTalk.

DDR: "Double Data Rate" It is an advanced version of SDRAM, a type of computer memory. DDR-SDRAM, sometimes called "SDRAM II," can transfer data twice as fast as regular SDRAM chips. This is because DDR memory can send and receive signals twice per clock cycle. The efficient operation of DDR-SDRAM makes the memory great for notebook computers since it uses up less power.

DDS: "Digital Data Service" A type of point-to-point synchronous communication link offering 2.4-, 4.8-, 9.6- or 56-Kbps transmission rates.

DECNet: Digital Equipment Corporation's protocol suite.

Dedicated circuit: An ongoing (but possibly transient) link between two end systems.

Dedicated server: A network server that acts only as a server and is not intended for regular use as a client machine.

Default: This term is used to describe a preset value for some option in a computer program. It is the value used when a setting has not been specified by the user. For example, the default font setting in Netscape Communicator is "Times." If you don't go to the Netscape preferences and change it to something else, the "Times" font will be used by default. Typically, default settings are set to what most people would choose anyway, so there's often no reason to change them. However, if you're one of those people who has to customize everything that you possibly can, then you can go ahead and change all the default settings you want. "Default" can also be used as a verb. If a custom setting won't work for some reason, the program will "default" to the default setting. For example, say you're working on computer that is on a network and you print something when there is no printer specified. If you're lucky and don't get some nasty error message, the print job will default to the default printer and your work will be printed.

Defragment: Defragmenting your hard drive is a great way to boost the performance of your computer. Though the term "defragment" sounds a little abrasive it is actually a simple and helpful process. Adding and deleting files from your hard drive is a common task. Unfortunately, this process is not always done efficiently. For example, when you delete a bunch of little files and add a new large file, the file may get broken up into mulitple sections on the hard drive. The computer will still read the newly added file as a single valid file but it will have to scan multiple parts of the drive to read it. Because hard disk seek time is one of the biggest bottlenecks in a computer's performance this can drag down your computer's speed quite a bit. If you have a ton of "fragmented" files on your hard disk you might hear extra grinding, sputtering, and other weird noises coming from your computer. You computer doesn't like having fragmented files any more than you do. This is why defragmenting your hard drive is such a good idea. When you start to hear extra grinding sounds, or your computer doesn't open files as quickly as it did before, it's time to defragment. With Windows, you can use the pre-installed Intel defragment program to defragment your hard drive. You can also use a commercial software program like Norton Utilities to defragment your hard drive more efficiently and with more options. For Mac users Norton Utilities or another hard drive utility is the only way to do it. If you use your computer daily, defragmenting your hard drive once a month should keep the fragments away.

Degauss: Ever wonder what that "degauss" button on your monitor does besides make a buzzing noise and cause the screen to go crazy for a second? Though that's its main purpose, the degauss button has another useful feature. To understand it, you'll first need to know that the earth has natural magnetic fields. The magnetic charges from these fields can build up inside your monitor, causing a loss of color accuracy. Degaussing scares the bad magnetism out of the monitor and fills it with good karma. If your monitor doesn't have a degauss button fear not, many new monitors automatically degauss themselves. If you have a flat-panel (lcd) display there is no degauss button because magnetism doesn't build up in flat screen displays.

Demand priority: A high-speed channel access method used by 100VG-AnyLAN in a star hub topology.

Demand signal: A signal sent by a computer in a demand priority network that informas the controlling hub it has data to send.

Designator: Associated with drive mappings. Working in coordination with a redirector it exchanges the locally mapped drive letter with the correct network address of a directory share inside a resource request.

Desktop software: Sometimes called client software or productivity applications this type of software is what users run on their computers.

Device driver: A software program that mediates communications between an operating system and a specific device for the purpose of sending and/or receiving input and output from that device.

Device sharing: A primary purpose for networking: permitting users to share access to devices of all kinds, including servers and peripherals such as printers or plotters.

DHCP: "Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol" A network server uses this protocol to dynamically assign IP addresses and subnet masks to networked computers. The DHCP server waits for a computer to connect to it then assigns it an IP address from a master list stored on the server. DHCP helps in setting up large networks since IP addresses don't have to be manually assigned to each computer on the network. Because of the slick automation involved with DHCP it is one of the most commonly used networking protocols.

Diagnostic software: Specialized programs that can probe and monitor a system or a specific system component to determine if it works properly and, if not, try to determine the cause of the problem.

Diagram: A term used to describe a network's design.

Dial-Up Networking (DUN): The program included with Windows 9x (95 & 98), Windows Millenium, NT, and 2000 that allows connectivity to servers running RAS or RRAS.

Dictionary attack: A method of attempting to determine an account's password by trying every word in the dictionary for the password.

Differential backup: Copies of all files modified since the last full backup.

Digital modem: A hardware device used to transmit digital signals across an ISDN link.

DIP: "Dual Inline Package" An integrated computer circuit that features two parallel rows of pins of equal length, offset approximately 1 cm.

DIP switch: An electrical circuit that consists of a series of individual two-way switches contained in a single chip.

DIMM: "Dual In-Line Memory Module" It is a type of computer memory. A DIMM is a small circuit board that holds memory chips. It uses a 64-bit bus to the memory, whereas a single in-line memory module (SIMM) only has a 32-bit path. This allows DIMMs to transfer more data at once. Because DIMMs have faster data transfer capabilities than SIMMs they have pretty much replaced SIMMs.

Direct-sequence modulation: The form of spread-spectrum data transmission that breaks data into constant length segments called chips and transmits the data on multiple frequencies.

Directory server: A specialized server whose job is to respond to requests for specific resources, services, users, groups and so on. This kind of server is more commonly called a domain controller in Windows NT Server and Windows 2000 networking environments.

Directory services: A comprehensive network service that manages information about network services, resources, users, groups and other objects so that users may access resources and services by browsing for them, or asking for them by type, along with maintaining and enforcing access control information for directory objects.

Discovery: The process by which dynamic routers learn the routes available to them.

Disk duplexing: A fault-tolerant disk configuration in which data is written to two hard drives, each with its own disk controller, so that if one disk or controller fails the data still remains accessible.

Disk mirroring: A fault-tolerant disk configuration in which data is written to two hard drives rather than one so that if one disk fails the data remains accessible.

Disk striping with parity: A fault-tolerant disk configuration in which parts of several physical disks link together in an array and data and parity information is written to all disks in this array. If one disk fails then the data may be reconstructed from the parity information written to the other disks.

Diskless workstations: Network computers that require a special type of ROM in order to boot because they have no built-in hard drive.

Distance-vector algorithm: One method of determining the best route available for a packet. Distance-vector protocols count the number of routers (hops) between the source and destination. The best path has the least number of hops.

DIX: "Digital, Intel, Xerox" The group that introduced the first Ethernet connector.

DLC: "Data Link Control" A network protocol used mainly by Hewlett-Packard printers and IBM mainframes attached to a network.

DLL: "Dynamic Link Library" A DLL (.dll) file contains a library of functions and other information that can be accessed by a Windows program. When a program is launched links to the necessary .dll files are created. If a static link is created the .dll files will be in use as long as the program is active. If a dynamic link is created the .dll files will only be used when needed. Dynamic links help programs use resources, such as memory and hard drive space, more efficiently. DLL files can also be used by more than one program. In fact, they can even be used by multiple programs at the same time. Some DLLs come with the Windows operating system while others are added when new programs are installed. You typically don't want to open a .dll file directly, since the program that uses it will automatically load it if needed. Though DLL filenames usally end in ".dll," they can also end in .exe, .drv, and .fon.

DMA: "Direct Memory Access" A technique for addressing memory on some other device as if it were local memory directly available to the device accessing the memory. The technique lets a CPU gain immediate access to the buffers on any NIC that supports DMA.

DNS: "Domain Name System" The primary purpose of DNS is to keep Web surfers sane. Without DNS, we would have to remember the IP address of every site we wanted to visit, instead of just the domain name. Can you imagine having to remember "" instead of just ""? While I have some Computer Science friends who might prefer this, most people have an easier time remembering simple names. The reason the Domain Name System is used is because Web sites are acutally located by their IP addresses. For example, when you type in "," the computer doesn't immediately know that it should look for Adobe's web site. Instead, it sends a request to the nearest DNS server, which finds the correct IP address for "" Your computer then attempts to connect to the server with that IP number.

Domain: A uniquely named collection of user accounts and resources that share a common security database.

Domain controller: On networks based on Windows NT Server or Windows 2000 Server a directory server that also provides access controls over users, accounts, groups, computers and other network resources.

Domain model: A network based on Windows NT Server or Windows 2000 Server whose security and access controls reside in a domain controller.

Domain Name: This is the name that identifies a web site. For example, "" is the domain name of Microsoft's web site. A single web server can serve web sites for multiple domain names but a single domain name can point to only one machine. For example, Apple Computer has web sites at,, and Each of these sites could be served on different machines. Then there are domain names that have been registered but are not connected to a web server. The most common reason for this is to have e-mail addresses at a certain domain name without having to maintain a web site. In these cases the domain name must be connected to a machine that is running a mail server. Another popular use for multiple domain names is to use forwarding & masking to redirect one domain name to another. A domain name works like an address forwarding service. All of your Web site content sits on a computer with a unique address. This is called an IP address. An IP address is made up of a series of numbers, such as Your domain name directs visitors to your site using this IP address. We use domain names instead of IP addresses because most people find it easier to remember a name rather than a series of numbers.

Dongle: This computer term has two different meanings:

1. A security key. This is a little hardware device that plugs into the serial or USB port of a computer. Its purpose is to ensure that only authorized users can use certain software applications. If you have never seen a dongle, don't be surprised. They are only used with expensive, high-end software programs that most people have never heard of, much less use. When a program that comes with a dongle runs, it checks the dongle for verification as it is loading. If it doesn't find the dongle, the computer execute the program. If more than one application requires a dongle, multiple dongles using the same port can be daisy-chained together.

2. A laptop Ethernet card adapter. This is a little connector that attaches to a PC card in a laptop on one end, and to an Ethernet cable on the other end. Since most PC (or PCMCIA) network interface cards are too small to connect directly to a standard RJ-45 Ethernet cable, they need this little adapter that connects the card to the cable. (3Com cards that use an "X-Jack" connector do not need a dongle.)

Dot Pitch: This is the measurement used to determine how sharp the display of a CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitor is. It is measured in millimeters and the smaller the number the finer the picture. Most CRT monitors will have a dot pitch between .25 and .28. However, some large presentation monitors have dot pitches from .30 to .50 (which would make for really fuzzy images on a standard 17" desktop monitor). The difference between a "dot" (as in dot pitch) and a pixel is that a pixel is mapped onto the dots on the screen. When the monitor is set to lower resolutions, one pixel encompasses multiple dots. So pixels are typically larger than the "dots" on the actual screen. In a CRT display with a shadow mask, the dot pitch is measured as the distance between the holes of the shadow mask, again in millimeters. "So what's a shadow mask?" you ask. It's basically a metal screen full of holes where three electron beams (red, green, and blue) pass through. These beams focus to a single point on the tube's phosphor surface. Thousands of these points make up the images on your screen. In a CRT display that uses an aperture grill (like a Sony Trinitron monitor), the dot pitch is measured by the distance between adjacent slots where electron beams of the same color pass through.

Download: This is the process in which data is sent to your computer. Whenever you receive information from the Internet you are downloading it to your computer. For example, you might have to download an upgrade for your computer's operating system in order to play a new game (especially if you're using Windows). Or you might download a demo version of a program you are thinking about buying from the software company's web site. The opposite of this process, sending information to another computer, is called uploading.

Drive mapping: The convention of associating a local drive letter with a network directory share to simplify access to the remote resource.

Driver: In the computer world a driver is a small file that helps the computer communicate with a certain hardware device. It contains information the computer needs to recognize and control the device. In Windows-based PCs a driver is often packaged as a dynamic link library, or .dll file. In Macs most hardware devices don't need drivers, but the ones that do usually come with a software driver in the form of a system extension, or .kext file.

DS: A specification level for DDS lines. A T1 is a DS-1 or 1.544 Mbps; a single channel fractional T1 is a DS-0 or 64 Kbps.

DSL: "Digital Subscriber Line" It is another medium for sending data over regular phone lines and connecting to the Internet. However, like a cable modem, a DSL circuit is much faster than a regular phone connection, even though the wires it uses are copper like your typical phone line. An asymmetric DSL (ADSL) connection allows download speeds of up to about 1.5 megabits (not megabytes) per second, and upload speeds of 128-384 kilobits per second. That is why it is called aDSL and not just DSL (because of the asymmetric speeds). There is also a "Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line" (sDSL) which is similar to aDSL, but allows data transfer speeds of 384 Kilobits per second in both directions. Theoretically, this type of connection allows download speeds of up to 9 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 640 kilobits per second. The difficult part in establishing an DSL circuit is that it must be configured to connect two specific locations, unlike a regular phone line or cable modem. DSL is often seen as the new, better alternative to the older ISDN standard.

DTE: "Data Terminal Equipment" Any device that transmits digital information over a communications line.

DVD: "Digital Versatile Disc" It can also stand for "Digital Video Disc," but with the mulitple uses of DVDs, the term "Digital Versatile Disc" is more correct. A DVD is a high-capacity optical disc that looks like a CD, but can store much more information. While a CD can store 650 to 700 MB of data, a single-layer, single-sided DVD can store 4.7 GB of data. This enables massive computer applications and full-length movies to be stored on a single DVD. The advanced DVD formats are even more amazing. There is a two-layer standard that doubles the single-sided capacity to 8.5 GB. These disks can also be double-sided, ramping up the maximum storage on a single disc to 17 GB. That's 26 times more data than a CD can hold. To be able to read DVDs in your computer you'll need a DVD-ROM drive. Fortunately, DVD players can also read CDs. To play DVD movies on your computer you'll need to have a graphics card with a DVD-decoder which most computers now have.

DVI: "Digital Video Interface" It is a video connection standard created by the Digital Display Working Group (DDWG). Most DVI ports support both analog and digital displays. If the display is analog, the DVI connection converts the digital signal to an analog signal. If the display is digital, no conversion is necessary. There are three types of DVI connections: 1) DVI-A (for analog), 2) DVI-D (for digital), and 3) DVI-I (integrated, for both analog and digital). The digital video interface supports high bandwidth signals, over 160 MHz, which means it can be used for high resolution displays such as UXGA and HDTV. You may find DVI ports on video cards in computers as well as on high-end televisions.

DVM: "Digital Voltmeter" A network troubleshooting tool that measures voltage, amperage and resistance on a cable or other conductive element.

Dynamic routing: The process by which routers dynamically learn from each other the available paths.

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