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Network Chico Computer terms glossary

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Mac OS: This is the operating system that runs on Macintosh computers. It is pronounced, "mack-oh-es." The Mac OS has been around since the first Macintosh was introduced in 1984. Since then it has been continually updated and many new features have been added to it. Each major OS release is signified by a new number (i.e. Mac OS 8, Mac OS 9). Since the core of the Mac OS was nearly decades old Apple decided to completely revamp the operating system. In March of 2001 Apple introduced a completely new version of the Mac OS that was written from the ground up. The company dubbed it "Mac OS X," correctly pronounced "Mac OS 10." Unlike earlier versions of the Mac OS, Mac OS X is based on the same kernel as BSD Unix and has many advanced administrative features and utilities. Though the operating system is much more advanced than earlier versions of the Mac OS it still has the same ease-of-use that people have come to expect from Apple software.

Macintosh: This is the name of the computers that are made by Apple Computer. The first Macintosh was introduced in 1984 and was seen as a major innovation in computing ease-of-use. The Macintosh was one of the first personal computers to use a graphical user interface (GUI), which allowed the user to interact with the operating system by using a mouse to click and drag objects. Since 1984 Apple has continually revised and upgraded the Macintosh product line and now makes both laptop and desktop versions of the Macintosh. The Macintosh product line includes the following five different models.

  • Power Mac: the high-performance desktop computer for professionals
  • PowerBook: the high-performance laptop computer for professionals
  • iMac: the creatively designed consumer desktop computer
  • iBook: the laptop computer for students and home users
  • eMac: the all-in-one desktop computer for educators and entry-level consumers

Apple also makes other equipment such as displays, MP3 players, and networking hardware, but the Macintosh is the heart and soul of the company. Macintosh computers run the Macintosh operating system, creatively named the "Mac OS."

Mainframe: This is an ultra-high-performance computer made for high-volume, processor-intensive computing. They are typically used by large businesses and for scientific purposes. You probably won't find a mainframe in any household. In the hierarchy of computers mainframes are right below supercomputers, the most powerful computers in the world. (Which is why they are aptly named "supercomputers.") Yet a mainframe can usually execute many programs simultaneously at a high speed, whereas supercomputers are designed for a single process. Currently the largest manufacturers of mainframes are IBM and Unisys.

Malware: Short for "malicious software," malware refers to software programs designed to damage or do other unwanted actions on a computer system. In Spanish, "mal" means "bad," making the term "badware," which is a good way to remember it (even if you're not Spanish). Common examples of malware include viruses, worms, trojan horses, and spyware. Viruses, for example, can cause havoc on a computer's hard drive by deleting files or directory information. Spyware can gather data from a user's system without the user knowing it. This can include anything from the web pages a user visits to personal information, such as credit card numbers. It is unfortunate that there are software programmers out there with malicious intent but it is good to be aware of the fact. You can install anti-virus and anti-spyware utilities on your computer that will seek and destroy the malicious programs they find on your computer.

Megabyte: Like the kilobyte, the megabyte doesn't contain a nice even number of bytes. By name a megabyte should contain 1,000,000 bytes, it actually contains 1,048,576 bytes (or 1,024 x 1,024). This is because 2^10 equals 1024 and not 1000. Abbreviation: "MB"

Megahertz: One megahertz equals one million cycles per second and is used to measure operating speeds of electronic devices. The most common area you'll see Megahertz used is in measuring processor clock speed (i.e. an 800 Mhz Pentium III). However megahertz only measures the clock speed of the processor (how many cycles it can handle per second) and not the overall performance. Because megahertz measures only a single aspect of a processor it is possible that a 500 MHz PowerPC G4 is faster overall than an 800 Mhz Pentium III. Mac users love to stress this point. Abbreviation: "Mhz"

Meta Tag: This is a special HTML tag that is used to store information about a web page but is not displayed in a web browser. For example meta tags provide information such as what application was used to create the page, a description of the page, and keywords that are relevant to the page. Many search engines use the information stored in meta tags when they index web pages.

Microprocessor: This little chip is the heart of a computer. Often referred to as just the "processor," the microprocessor does all the computations like adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. In PCs the most popular microprocessor used is the Intel Pentium chip, whereas Macintosh computers use the PowerPC chip (developed by Motorola, IBM, and Apple). The speed of a microprocessor is measured in megahertz or gigahertz, or cycles per second. But higher megahertz doesn't always mean better performance. Though a 600-MHz chip has a clock speed that is twice as fast as a 300-Mhz chip it doesn't mean that the computer with the 600-Mhz chip will run twice as fast. This is because the speed of a computer is also influenced by other factors such as the efficiency of the processor, the bus architecture, the amount of memory available, and the software that is running on the computer. Some processors can complete more operations per clock cycle than other processors making them more efficient than other processors with higher clock speeds. This is why the PowerPC chip is typically faster than Pentium chips at that are clocked at higher megahertz.

MIDI: "Musical Instrument Digital Interface" It is a connectivity standard that musicians use to hook together musical instruments (such as keyboards and synthesizers) and computer equipment. Using MIDI a musician can easily create and edit digital music tracks. The MIDI system records the notes played, the length of the notes, the dynamics (volume alterations), the tempo, the instrument being played, and hundreds of other parameters, called control changes. Because MIDI records each note digitally,editing a track of MIDI music is much easier and more accurate than editing a track of audio. The musician can change the notes, dynamics, tempo, and even the instrument being played with the click of button. Because MIDI files are basically text documents they take up very little disk space. The only catch is that you need MIDI-compatible hardware and/or software to record and playback MIDI files.

MIPS: "Million Instructions Per Second" It is a method of measuring the raw speed of a computer's processor. Since the MIPS measurement doesn't take into account other factors such as the computer's I/O speed or processor architecture it isn't always a fair way to measure the performance of a computer. For example a computer rated at 100 MIPS may be able to computer certain functions faster than another computer rated at 120 MIPS. The MIPS measurement has been used by computer manufacturers like IBM to measure the "cost of computing." The value of computers is determined in MIPS per dollar. Interestingly, the value of computers in MIPS per dollar has steadily doubled on an annual basis for the last couple of decades.

Mirror: In the computer world a mirror is a web or FTP server that has the same files on it as another server. Its purpose is to provide an alternate way to access files when the main server is so swamped with people connecting and downloading files that other people can't get through.

Modem: The word modem is actually short for Modulator/Demodulator. A modem is a communications device that can be either internal or external to your computer. It allows one computer to connect another computer and transfer data over telephone lines. The original dial-up modems are becoming obsolete because of their slow speeds and are being replaced by the much faster cable and DSL modems.

Motherboard: Also known as the main board or logic board this is the main circuit board of your computer. If you ever open your computer up the biggest piece of silicon you see is the motherboard. This is where you'll find the CPU, the ROM, memory expansion slots, PCI slots, serial ports, USB ports, and all the controllers for things like the hard drive, DVD drive, keyboard, and mouse. Basically, the motherboard is what makes everything in your computer work together. Each motherboard has a collection of chips and controllers that is known as the "chipset". When new motherboards are developed they often use new chipsets. The good news is that these boards are typically more efficient and faster than their predecessors. The bad news is that you may not be able to add certain memory and CPU upgrades to older motherboards.

MP3: "MPEG-1 Audio Layer-3" It is the most popular compressed audio file format. An MP3 file is about one tenth the size of the original audio file but the sound is nearly CD-quality. Because of their small size and good fidelity MP3 files have become a popular way to store music files on both computers and portable devices. There are also many web sites, like MP3.com and RioPort.com, that maintain huge archives of audio files in MP3 format. To listen to MP3s on your computer you'll need an MP3 player like Musicmatch (for Windows) or iTunes (for the Mac). To create an MP3 file from a CD audio track you'll need an encoder program to convert the audio track to an MP3 file. Once you have converted your favorite songs to MP3 files you can listen to them on a portable MP3 player, like the Apple iPod or the SonicBlue Rio.

MPEG: "Moving Picture Experts Group" The MPEG organization, which works with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), develops standards for digital audio and video compression. The group constantly works to develop more efficient ways to digitally compress and store audio and video files. The term MPEG also refers to a type of multimedia file which is denoted by the file extension ".mpg" or ".mpeg." These files are compressed movies that can contain both audio and video. Though they are compressed MPEG files maintain most of the original quality of the uncompressed movie. This is why many videos on the web, such as movie trailers and music videos, are available in the MPEG format.

Multimedia: As the name implies multimedia is the integration of multiple forms of media. This includes text, graphics, audio, video, etc. For example a presentation involving audio and video clips would be considered a "multimedia presentation." Educational software that involves animations, sound, and text is called "multimedia software." CDs and DVDs are often considered to be "multimedia formats" since they can store a lot of data and most forms of multimedia require a lot of disk space. Due to the advancements in computer speeds and storage space, multimedia is commonplace today.

Multiplatform: If a software program is developed for multiple operating systems it is considered to be "multiplatform." Since Microsoft Word runs on both the Windows and Macintosh platform it is a mutliplatform application. In the consumer gaming market mutliplatform games run on more than one gaming machine. For example, a sports game developed for Xbox, Playstation, GameCube, and PC would be a multiplatform game. If a game is developed exclusively for one system, i.e. "The Legend of Zelda," for Nintendo, it is not multiplatform. Gaming hardware manufacturers use exclusive software as a reason for consumers to buy their system.

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