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Network Chico Computer terms glossary

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SATA: "Serial Advanced Technology Attachment" Often abbreviated SATA or S-ATA is an evolution of the Parallel ATA physical storage interface. Serial ATA is a serial link using a single cable with a minimum of four wires which creates a point-to-point connection between devices. Transfer rates for Serial ATA begin at 150 MB/s and 300 MB/s for SATA II. One of the main design advantages of Serial ATA is that the thinner serial cables facilitate more efficient airflow inside a form factor and also allow for smaller chassis designs. In contrast, IDE cables used in parallel ATA systems are bulkier than Serial ATA cables and can only extend to 40cm long, while Serial ATA cables can extend up to one meter. Serial ATA supports all ATA and ATAPI devices .

SCSI: "Small Computer System Interface" SCSI is pronounced "scuzzy." SCSI is a computer interface that can be used to attach devices like hard drives and scanners to your computer. You can connect up to seven devices to a SCSI interface and still get good performance from all of them. SCSI can support faster data transfer rates than the other popular storage interface IDE.

The different types of SCSI interfaces are listed below:

  • SCSI-1: Uses an 8-bit bus and supports data transfer speeds of 4 MBps
  • SCSI-2: Uses a 50-pin connector instead of a 25-pin connector and supports multiple devices. It is currently the most common type of SCSI. Data transfer speeds are typically around 5 MBps
  • Wide SCSI: Uses a wider cable (168 cable lines to 68 pins) to support 16-bit data transfers
  • Fast SCSI: Uses an 8-bit bus but doubles the clock rate to support data transfer speeds of 10 MBps
  • Fast Wide SCSI: Uses a 16-bit bus and supports data transfer speeds of 20 MBps
  • Ultra SCSI: Uses an 8-bit bus and supports data rates of 20 MBps
  • SCSI-3: Uses a 16-bit bus and supports data rates of 40 MBps. Also called Ultra Wide SCSI
  • Ultra2 SCSI: Uses an 8-bit bus and supports data transfer speeds of 40 MBps
  • Wide Ultra2 SCSI: Uses a 16-bit bus and supports data transfer speeds of 80 MBps

SDRAM: "Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory" SDRAM is an improvement to standard DRAM in that it retrieves data alternately between two sets of memory. This eliminates the delay caused when one bank of addresses is shut down while another is prepared for reading. It's called "Synchronous" DRAM because the memory is synchronized with the clock speed that the computer's CPU bus speed is optimized for. The faster the bus speed the faster the SDRAM can be. SDRAM speed is measured in Megahertz which makes it easy to compare the the processor's bus speed to the speed of the memory.

Search engine: Google, Excite, Lycos, AltaVista, Infoseek, and Yahoo are all search engines. They index millions of sites on the web so that web surfers like you and me can easily find web sites with the information we want. By creating indexes, or large databases of web sites (based on titles, keywords, and the text in the pages), search engines can locate relevant web sites when users enter search terms or phrases. When you are looking for something using a search engine it is a good idea to use words like AND, OR, and NOT to specify your search. Using these boolean operators you can usually get a list of more relevant sites.

Serial port: The serial port is a type of connection on PCs that is used for peripherals such as mice, gaming controllers, modems, and older printers. It is sometimes called a COM port or an RS-232 port which is its technical name. If that's not enough to confuse you there are two types of serial ports; DB9 and DB25. DB9 is a 9-pin connection and DB25 uses a 25-pin connection. A serial port can only transmit one bit of data at a time whereas a parallel port can transmit many bits at once. The serial port is typically the slowest port you'll find on a PC if you find one at all. Most newer computers have replaced serial ports with much faster and more compatible USB ports.

Server: As the name implies a server serves information to computers that connect to it. When users connect to a server they can access programs, files, and other information from the server. Common servers are web servers, mail servers, and LAN servers. A single computer can have several different server programs running on it.

Shareware: There's commercial software and then there's shareware. With commercial software you have to pay for the product before you use it. With shareware you can use the product for a trial period and then decide if you want to keep it. If you want to keep the software after the trial period is up you're supposed to (and should) register the product and pay the shareware fee. As an extra incentive to pay for the software many shareware programs disable certain features in the non-registered version and some will keep bugging you to register the program after the trial period has expired. Shareware programs are usually less expensive than commercial software programs but they are usually less expensive to develop as well. This is why shareware programs are typically not as robust as commercial software programs. However there are numerous shareware programs out there such as system utilities that can be very useful. The most common way to get shareware these days is off the Internet. Check out C|net's Shareware.com for a huge selection of these great little programs.

SIMM: "Single In-Line Memory Module" This is an older type of computer memory. A SIMM is a small circuit board with a bunch of memory chips on it. SIMMs use a 32-bit bus which is not as wide as the 64-bit bus dual in-line memory modules (DIMMs) use. Newer processors require a 64-bit memory bus so it is best to use DIMMs. Sometimes you can get away with installing SIMMS but they generally have to be installed in pairs.

Skin: This strange term refers to the appearance of a program's interface. By changing the skin of a program you can make the interface look completely different, but usually still have all the same functions. It is similar to a "Theme" you may use to customize the appearance of your computer's desktop. Skins have become particularly popular for MP3 players. Because of the simple interface of most MP3 programs it is easy to create different looks for the interface. Other programs such as Netscape 6, ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, and Windows Media Player also support skins. If you're one of those people who can't stand seeing the same thing over and over again skins are for you. Some programs that support skins even provide a skin development kit that your can use to create your own. Though this allows for an unlimited amount of interface customizing it can make it hard to recognize or use the same program on different computers.

Slashdot: Press releases can often trigger increased interest in a certain topic and if a web site link is provided in the release this can translate to increased hits to the web site. If the increase in traffic is so dramatic that it causes the server to be completely unreachable the server is said to have been "slashdotted." The name came into being after October 1998 when a press release was published on the Slashdot.org web site resulting in a major surge in traffic to another web server causing it to go down. You can also use the term as a verb as in "Dude, thanks to that stupid article, our server got slashdotted today, man." It is often abbreviated as /.

SMART: "Self-Monitoring Analysis And Reporting Technology" It is used to protect and prevent errors in hard drives. The SMART technology basically monitors and analyzes hard drives (hence the name) then checks the health of your hard drive and lets you know if there are any problems. The main purpose of SMART is to keep your hard drive running smoothly and prevent it from crashing.

SMTP: "Simple Mail Transfer Protocol" This is the protocol used for sending e-mail over the Internet. Your e-mail client (such as Outlook, Eudora, or Mac OS X Mail) uses SMTP to send a message to the mail server and the mail server uses SMTP to relay that message to the correct receiving mail server. Basically SMTP is a set of commands that authenticate and direct the transfer of electronic mail. When configuring the settings for your e-mail program you usually need to set the SMTP server to your local Internet Service Provider's SMTP settings (i.e. "smtp.yourisp.com"). However the incoming mail server (IMAP or POP3) should be set to your mail account's server (i.e. hotmail.com), which may be different than the SMTP server.

Spam: Originating from the name of Hormel's canned meat, "spam" now also refers to junk e-mail or irrelevant postings to a newsgroup or bulletin board. The unsolicited e-mail messages you receive about refinancing your home, reversing aging, and losing those extra pounds are all considered to be spam. Spamming other people is definitely not cool and is one of the most notorious violations of Internet etiquette (or "netiquette"). So if you ever get the urge to let thousands of people know about that hot new guaranteed way to make money on the Internet please reconsider.

Spyware: As the name implies this is software that "spies" on your computer. Nobody likes to be spied on and your computer doesn't like it either. Spyware can capture information like web browsing habits, e-mail messages, usernames and passwords, and credit card information. If left unchecked the software can transmit this data to another person's computer over the Internet. So how does spyware get on your computer? Just like viruses spyware can be installed when you open an e-mail attachment containing the malicious software. It can also be installed when you install another program that has a spyware installer attached to it. Because of the insidious nature of spyware most people don't even know when spyware is on their computer. Fortunately you can purchase anti-spyware utilities that will search for spyware on your computer and stomp the unwanted software out of your system. A good way to prevent spyware from infecting your computer is to install a security program that lets you know when any program is being installed so that you can choose to authorize or stop the installation.

SQL: "Structured Query Language" SQL can be pronounced as either "sequel" or "S-Q-L." It is a query language used for accessing and modifying information in a database. Some common SQL commands include "insert," "update," and "delete." The language was first created by IBM in 1975 and was called SEQUEL for "Structured English Query Language." Since then it has undergone a number of changes with the a lot of influence from Oracle Corporation. Today SQL is commonly used for web database development and management. Though SQL is now considered to be a standard language there are still a number of variations of it such as mSQL and mySQL. By using a scripting language like PHP SQL commands can be executed when a web page loads. This makes it possible to create dynamic web pages that can display different information each time they load.

Stack: A stack is a type of data structure for storing information in a computer. When a new object is entered in a stack it is placed on top of all the previously entered objects. In other words, the stack data structure is just like a stack of cards, papers, credit card mailings, or any other real-world objects you can think of. When removing an object from a stack the one on top gets removed first. This method is referred to as LIFO (last in, first out). The term "stack" can also be short for a network protocol stack. In networking, connections between computers are made through a series of smaller connections. These connections, or layers, act like the stack data structure in that they are built and disposed of in the same way.

Streaming: Data streaming, commonly seen in the forms of audio and video streaming, is when a multimedia file can be played back without being completely downloaded first. Most files, like shareware and software updates that you download off the Internet, are not streaming data. However, certain audio and video files like Real Audio and QuickTime documents can be streaming files, meaning you can watch a video or listen to a sound file while it's being downloaded to your computer. With a fast Internet connection you can actually stream live audio or video to your computer.

System Unit: This is the technical term that refers to the box that houses your computer. The system unit refers to the computer itself but does not include the monitor, the keyboard, the mouse, or any other peripherals.

Systray: The systray, short for "system tray," is located on the right side of the Windows toolbar. It is the collection of small icons on the opposite side of the Start Menu. The volume control and the date & time are default items in the systray and many more can be added. Some common icons that get placed in the systray are virus-scan, mouse, and instant messenger icons. They usually get put in the systray (whether you like it or not) when their respective programs are installed. The nice thing about the systray is that it allows quick and easy access to programs and control settings. Most systray icons will open a control panel or program when double-clicked. However if you install too many of them the area can get so cluttered you may find it easier to just browse your hard drive and open the program.

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