Network Chico Computer
Some definitions from the Sharpened Glossary
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Packet: This is a small
amount of computer data sent over a network. Any time you receive
data from the Internet it comes to your computer in the form
of many little packets. Each packet contains the address of its
origin and destination and information that connects it to the
related packets being sent. The process of sending and receiving
packets is known as "packet-switching." Packets from
many different locations can be sent on the same lines and be
sorted and directed to different routes by various computers
along the way. It works a lot like the post office except billions
of packets are transferred each day and most packets take less
than a few seconds to reach their destination.
Parallel port: This interface
is found on the back of a PC and is used for connecting external
devices such as printers or a scanners. It uses a 25-pin connector
(DB-25) and is rather large compared to most new interfaces.
The parallel port is sometimes called a Centronics interface,
since Centronics was the company that designed the original parallel
port standard. It is sometimes also referred to as a printer
port because the printer is the device most commonly attached
to the parallel port. The latest parallel port standard, which
supports the same connectors as the Centronics interface, is
called the Enhanced Parallel Port (EPP). This standard supports
bi-directional communication and can transfer data up to ten
times faster than the original Centronics port. However, since
the parallel port is a rather dated technology, don't be surprised
to see USB or Firewire interfaces completely replace parallel
ports in the future.
Parse: To parse text means
to break it up into smaller parts. The term is commonly used
in computer science to refer to reading programming code. For
example, after a program is written, whether it be in C++, Java,
or any other language, the code needs to be parsed by the complier
in order to be compiled. Web scripts, written in scripting languages
such as Perl or PHP, need to be parsed on the web server so that
they can output the correct HTML to a user's browser. Parsing
can also mean breaking up ordinary text. Search engines typically
parse search phrases entered by users so that they can more accurately
search for each word. Some programs can parse text documents
and extract certain information like names or addresses. Spreadsheet
programs can turn formatted documents into tables with rows and
columns by parsing the text.
Partition: A partition
is a section of a hard drive. When you format a hard drive you
can usually choose the number of partitions you want. The computer
will recognize each partition as a separate drive and each will
show up under "My Computer" (Windows) or on the desktop
(Macintosh). So why would you want to create multiple partitions?
Well, there are two main reasons. One is if you want to have
multiple operating systems on your computer. Typically, an operating
system needs to be installed on its own partition so that it
won't conflict with other operating systems on the machine. The
other reason is that multiple partitions can improve the efficiency
of your hard drive. On larger drives, the cluster or block size
(which is the minimum amount of space a file can take up), is
larger than on small drives. This can result in a waste of disk
space if you have a lot of small files. So creating multiple
partitions can actually give you more space. "Partition"
can also be used as a verb meaning to create multiple partitions.
Component Interconnect" It is a hardware bus designed by
Intel and used in both PCs and Macs. Most add-on cards such as
SCSI, Firewire, and USB controllers use a PCI connection. Some
graphics cards use PCI but most new graphics cards connect to
the AGP slot. PCI slots are found in the back of your computer
and are about 3.5" long and about 0.5" high. Before
you go buy that Firewire expansion card make sure you have at
least one PCI slot available.
Computer Memory Card International Association" It can also
mean, perhaps more appropriately, "People Can't Memorize
Computer Industry Acronyms." This way-too-long acronym stands
for an association founded in 1989 which develops standards for
expansion cards for portable computers. The term is most commonly
associated with the actual cards standardized by the organization.
These cards are referred to as "PCMCIA cards," or simply
"PC cards." There are three types of PCMCIA cards,
all of which are rectangular and measure 8.56 by 5.4 cm., but
have different widths:
- Type I: up to 3.3 mm. thick, mainly used to add additional
ROM or RAM
- Type II: up to 5.5 mm. thick, typically used for fax/modem
or network (NIC) cards
- Type III: up to 10.5 mm. thick, often used to attach portable
PCMCIA slots also come in three sizes: a Type I slot can hold
one Type I card, a Type II slot can hold one Type II card or
two Type I cards, and a Type III slot can hold one Type III card
or one Type I and one Type II card. PC Cards can be removed or
inserted "on the fly" which means you don't have to
turn your computer off to exchange them and you don't have to
restart for your computer to recognize them.
PDA: "Personal Digital
Assistant" These are the little electronic devices you see
people jotting stuff down on in public. The first PDA, called
the Newton, was created by Apple in 1993. Since then numerous
other companies have jumped on the bandwagon and have added many
new designs and options to the PDA market. The Palm Pilot, Handspring
Visor, HP Jordana, Compaq Aero, Sharp Mobilon, and Sony Clié
are all common PDAs. Sadly Apple's Newton was discontinued when
the company was having financial difficulties in 1998. Today's
PDAs allow you to organize your schedule, take notes, do math
calculations, play games, write memos, and even surf the Internet
and send e-mail.
PDF: "Portable Document
Format" PDF is a multi-platform file format developed by
Adobe Systems. A PDF file captures document text, images, and
most impressively, the formatting of documents from a variety
of applications. You can send a PDF document over the Internet
to your friend and it will look the same way on his screen as
it looks on yours. PDF documents also print out the same way
they look on your monitor. To view a PDF file you need Adobe
Acrobat Reader, a free application distributed by Adobe Systems.
There is also an Acrobat Plug-in for web browsers that enables
PDF files to be viewed from within your browser. For more information
on PDF's check out Abobe's PDF Page.
Perl: Perl actually stands
for "Practical Extraction and Report Language." Perl
is a scripting language which uses a syntax similar to C/C++.
It is commonly used by web programmers to create scripts for
web servers. Perl is especially good at parsing text so programmers
often use it for reading and searching through text files. As
a regular computer user you won't get to see Perl in action since
it does most of its work "behind the scenes." Perl
scripts are run on the server computer before any information
is sent to your web browser.
PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor,
sometimes mentioned as Post Hypertext Preprocessor or Pre Hypertext
Processor. The acronym is recursive with the initial P standing
for PHP. PHP is an HTML-embedded web scripting language. This
means PHP code can be inserted into the HTML of a web page. When
a PHP page is accessed the PHP code is read or "parsed"
by the server the page resides on. The output from the PHP functions
on the page are typically returned as HTML code which can be
read by the browser. Because the PHP code is transformed into
HTML before the page is loaded users cannot view the PHP code
on a page. This make PHP pages secure enough to access databases
and other secure information. A lot of the syntax of PHP is borrowed
from other languages such as C, Java and Perl. PHP has a number
of unique features and specific functions as well. The goal of
the language is to allow web developers to write dynamically
generated pages quickly and easily. PHP is also great for creating
database-driven web sites. If you would like to learn more about
PHP the official site is php.net.
Trivia: 'Personal Home Page' was the original name for the server-side
scripting language PHP. Occasionally referred to as Perl Handler
Pages. This web page employs PHP.
PIM: "Personal Information
Manager" A PIM is a software application that serves as
a planner, notebook, and address book all in one. It can also
include things like a calculator, clock , and photo album. PIMs
are especially popular for PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants)
since this is why most people have them. However, for those of
us who don't have all the latest portable gadgets, PIM programs
are also available for desktop computers.
Ping: A ping is a test
to see if a system on the network or the Internet is working.
"Pinging" a server tests and records the response time
of the server. Pinging multiple computers can be helpful in finding
network or Internet bottlenecks so that data transfer paths can
be rerouted a more efficient way. A good way to make sure you
do not get disconnected from your dial-up ISP for being idle
is to send a ping every 5 minutes or so. There are a number of
shareware Ping programs that will do this for you.
Pixel: The term "pixel"
is actually short for "Picture Element." These small
little dots are what make up the images on computer displays,
whether they are flat-screen (LCD) or tube (CRT) monitors. The
screen is divided up into a matrix of thousands or even millions
of pixels. Typically, you cannot see the individual pixels, because
they are so small. This is a good thing, because most people
prefer to look at smooth, clear images rather than blocky, "pixilated"
ones. If you set your monitor to a low resolution, such as 640x480
and look closely at your screen, you will may be able to see
the individual pixels. As you may have guessed, a resolution
of 640x480 is comprised of a matrix of 640 by 480 pixels, or
307,200 in all. Each pixel can only be one color at a time. Since
they are so small pixels often blend together to form various
shades and blends of colors. The number of colors each pixel
can be is determined by the number of bits used to represent
it. For example, 8-bit color allows for 2 to the 8th, or 256
colors to be displayed. At this color depth you may be able to
see "graininess," or spotted colors when one color
blends to another. At 16, 24, and 32-bit color depths the color
blending is smooth and, unless you have some kind of extra-sensory
vision capability, you should not see any graininess.
Platform: In the computer
world a "platform" typically refers to a computer's
operating system. For example a Dell computer running Windows
XP would be considered to be running on a Windows platform. An
iMac, on the other hand, runs on the Macintosh platform. It is
a more generic way of referring to a computer's operating system
than having to specify, for example, Windows XP Professional
SP 2, or Mac OS X 10.3.5. The term platform is often used when
referring to what kind of computer systems a certain software
program will run on.
Plug-in: A software plug-in
is an add-on for a program that adds functionality to it. For
example a Photoshop plug-in (such as Eye Candy) may add extra
filters that you can use to manipulate images. A browser plug-in
(such as Macromedia Flash or Apple QuickTime) allows you to play
certain multimedia files within your web browser. VST plug-ins
add effects for audio recording and sequencing programs such
as Cubase and Logic Audio. Most graphics and audio programs today
support plug-ins since they are a convenient way to expand the
capabilities of the program. Though some plug-ins may be shipped
with the program, most are developed by third-parties and are
sold separately. Because companies that make browser plug-ins
are often competing for a standard (such as Flash and QuickTime)
these plug-ins are usually available as free downloads from the
PNG: "Portable Network
Graphic" This format was designed as an alternative to the
GIF format (which has been plagued by copyright issues). Like
GIFs, PNG files are lossless, meaning they don't lose any detail
when they are compressed. They support up to 48-bit color or
16-bit grayscale and typically compress about 5% to 25% better
than GIF files. However, they do not support animations like
GIFs do. A format similar to PNG, called MNG, is currently under
development and will support animations.
Port: As if computer terms
weren't hard enough to understand, there are three different
meanings of the word "port."
1. An Internet port. This is a number that indicates what
kind of protocol a server on the Internet is using. For example
web servers typically are listed on port 80. Web browsers use
this port by default when accessing web pages, but you can also
specify what port you would like to use in the URL like this:
http://www.excite.com:80. FTP uses port 21, e-mail uses port
25, and game servers, like a Quake server or Blizzard.net use
various other ports.
2. A hardware port. This refers to any one of the ports that
are on the front or back of a computer where devices can be hooked
up like a keyboard, mouse, printer, digital camera, etc. Some
common ports found on today's computers are USB, Firewire, and
3. The verb "port." This refers to the editing of
a software program's code so that it can run on another platform.
For example to get Final Fantasy VII to run on a PC programmers
needed to port it to the PC from the Playstation. Popular Windows
games are often ported to the Macintosh as well.
Portal: An Internet portal
is a web site that acts as a starting point with links to many
other sites. Some of the largest portals include Yahoo, Excite,
Lycos, Netscape, AltaVista, MSN, and AOL.com. There are also
many smaller portals known as "niche portals" for specific
interests. These sites include C|net (for computers and technology),
Fool.com (for investors), and Garden.com (for gardeners). Most
large portals have millions of web pages indexed for visitors
to search though. They also have a large directory of web sites
which are categorized by topic. Though the primary purpose of
a portal is to find other sites for you many now include a lot
of information within their own sites.
PPGA: "Plastic Pin
Grid Array" PPGA is a type of processor design or "form
factor" used by the Intel Celeron processor. The design
allows the heat generated by the chip to dissipate more quickly.
This enables the processor to use more transistors and run at
higher speeds without burning a hole in the side of your computer.
If you'd like to know more about PPGA check out Intel's own documentation.
PPP: "Point to Point
Protocol" This is the Internet standard for dial-up modem
connections. PPP is a set of rules that defines how your modem
exchanges packets of data with other systems on the Internet.
If you connect to your ISP with a dial-up modem you're most likely
Protocol: When computers
communicate with each other there needs to be a common set of
rules and instructions that each computer follows. A specific
set of communication rules is called a protocol. Because of the
many ways computers can communicate with each other, there are
many different protocols. Some examples of these different protocols
include PPP, TCP/IP, SLIP, HTTP, and FTP. Can you guess what
the last "P" in each acronym stands for? If you guessed
"protocol" send yourself a congratulations e-mail.
Proxy server: Most large
businesses, organizations, and universities these days use a
proxy server. This is a server that all computers on the local
network have to go through before accessing information on the
Internet. By using a proxy server an organization can improve
the network performance and filter what users connected to the
network can access. A proxy server improves Internet access speeds
from a network primarily by using a caching system. Caching saves
recently viewed web sites, images, and files on a local hard
drive so that they don't have to be downloaded from the web again.
While your web browser might save recently viewed items on your
computer, a proxy server caches everything accessed from the
network. That means if Bob views a news story at cnn.com at 1:00
and Jill views the same page at 1:03 she'll most likely get the
page straight from the proxy server's cache. Though this means
super-fast access to web pages it also means users might not
be seeing the latest update of each web page. The other main
purpose a proxy server is to filter what is allowed into the
network. While HTTP, FTP, and Secure protocols can all be filtered
by a proxy server, HTTP is the most common. The proxy server
can limit what web sites users on the network can access. Many
organizations choose to block access to sites with objectionable
material such as hacking information and pornography, but other
sites can be filtered as well. If an employer notices workers
are spending too much time at sites like eBay or Quicken.com,
those sites can be blocked by the proxy server as well.
Network Chico Computer
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