We explain in plain English technology terminology. From the list below, simply click on the letter for the word or phase you are looking for. If you are looking for something specific, or you’re not sure where what you are looking for may appear in our Jargon Buster, please use the search box to narrow down what you are looking for.
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Put simply, a 3D printer is a device which prints real three-dimensional objects rather than flat images onto two-dimensional sheets of paper. The designs for the 3D objects are stored in modelling software on a computer and can be created from scratch or input via a 3D scanner. Various technologies exist, but all currently construct models by building them from layers of material, one on top of the other, which are fused together during the process. Working machines and even electrical circuits can be printed in this way.
This is a monitor that’s capable of displaying ultra-high definition content at a resolution of roughly 4000 pixels horizontally. Although actual resolutions may vary, the most common is 3840×2160 pixels, which is the equivalent resolution of four ‘Full HD’ screens arranged in a 2×2 rectangle.
IEEE 802.11 is a set of media access control (MAC) and physical layer (PHY) specifications for implementing wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication in the 900 MHz and 2.4, 3.6, 5, and 60 GHz frequency bands. They are created and maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) LAN/MAN Standards Committee (IEEE 802). The base version of the standard was released in 1997, and has had subsequent amendments. The standard and amendments provide the basis for wireless network products using the Wi-Fi brand. While each amendment is officially revoked when it is incorporated in the latest version of the standard, the corporate world tends to market to the revisions because they concisely denote capabilities of their products. As a result, in the market place, each revision tends to become its own standard.
If you would like to read more about 802.11 standards, check out our IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standards blog in our News section.
In the home, you’ll typically gain wireless access to the internet via a Wi-Fi router that provides access to your broadband service as well as setting up a Wi-Fi network. An access point creates the Wi-Fi network that’s to be added to an existing wired network, which may already have an internet connection set up using other hardware.
A small box that’s connected between a telephone wall socket and a DSL modem, a telephone or both. The filter’s function is to separate the broadband and voice signals so they don’t interfere with each other.
Active-matrix organic light emitting diode or AMOLED displays feature heavily in mobile devices and TVs, due to excellent contrast and colour saturation. Each pixel in an AMOLED is formed from a thin piece of organic film which emits its own individual light when current passes through it. This differs from LCD which uses a backlight shining through from the rear of the display.
Android Beam is a feature of the Android mobile operating system that allows data to be transferred via near field communication (NFC). It allows the rapid short-range exchange of web bookmarks, contact info, directions, YouTube videos, and other data. Android Beam was introduced in Android version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). This was improved after Google acquired Bump!.
Version 4.1 of Google’s Android operating system for smartphones and tablets. It incorporates an enhanced and more responsive user interface than 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
Want to know more about Android? Check out the ‘What is Android (operating system)?’ post in on our news page.
Poopsocking refers to the phenomenon where a user becomes so engrossed in an activity such as online gameplay that they prioritise the game over all other functions, such as visiting the toilet. Anti-poopsocking features force the player to stop playing periodically, perhaps by requiring them to ask other users for assistance and wait for a response before they’re able to proceed to the next level.
A utility that searches a hard disk (or attached storage) for viruses and removes any that are found if required to do so.
Most antivirus programs include an auto-update feature that enables the program to download profiles of new viruses so that it can check for the new viruses as soon as they are discovered.
A new Apple-created mapping app that’s available in iOS 6.0 and above. Apple designed Maps to replace the rival Google Maps on its mobile devices.
Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, (formerly “Aruba Networks, Inc.”) is a networking vendor selling enterprise wireless LAN and edge access networking equipment. The company has over 1,800 employees and is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. Aruba’s core products are access points (APs), mobility controllers, and network management software through their Airwave Management Platform product.
In May 2009, the company introduced the Virtual Branch Network (VBN) family of products targeting branch offices and remote locations.
For more information on Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, you can visit their website by clicking here.
A digital currency and some associated protocols which allow online payments to be made worldwide. It works with no central authority and runs on free, open-source software. Bitcoins are stored in virtual wallets which can reside on a computer, a mobile device or in a wallet stored online. They can be transferred without the need for an intermediate financial authority.
Want to know more about Bitcoin? Check out the ‘What is Bitcoin’ post in on our news page.
The speed at which bits (units of binary information) are transferred or processed over time. For audio data it can be thought of as analogous to resolution for image files. The greater the number of bits per second, the more detailed and clear the audio can be. In video it doesn’t affect the resolution in terms of the number of pixels in a frame, but it does affect how frequently and accurately they are updated. A low bit-rate usually manifests itself as blurry or blocky video with unwanted visual artefacts.
BitTorrent is a widely-used peer-to-peer file sharing protocol, designed to dispense high-volume data via the Internet. It’s used for distributing large files, such as Linux distributions and also for illegal file sharing. The protocol was invented by Bram Cohen in 2001.
A network of computers that have been infected with malware that allows them to be remotely controlled without the knowledge of their owner. Botnets become powerful distributed computing platforms capable of co-ordinated attacks against websites, sending spam and enabling large-scale identity theft.
It’s important to keep your security software up-to-date to safeguard your machine from being co-opted into a botnet.
For more detailed information, see the ‘The many forms of Malware’ post in on our news page.
Bloatware is the slang phrase used to describe software that has lots of features and requires considerable disk space and RAM to install and run. As the cost of RAM and disk storage has decreased, there has been a growing trend among software developers to disregard the size of applications and the end result is bloated software.
Some people refer to this trend as creeping featuritis (see “creeping featurism“), however, if creeping featuritis is the symptom, bloatware is the disease.
The latest Bluetooth standard greatly improves on previous versions by adding two new technologies and using considerably less power.
Short for Berkeley Software Design, Inc., a commercial supplier of Internet and networking software based on the BSD (Berkeley) version of UNIX. In addition to providing a commercial version of the BSD operating system, BSDI also develops Internet server and gateway products.
A bug bounty program is a deal offered by many websites and software developers by which individuals can receive recognition and compensation for reporting bugs, especially those pertaining to exploits and vulnerabilities. These programs allow the developers to discover and resolve bugs before the general public is aware of them, preventing incidents of widespread abuse.
Bump! was an iOS and Android application that enabled smartphone users to transfer contact information, photos and files between devices. In 2011, it was #8 on Apples list of all-time most popular free iPhone apps, and by February 2013 it had been downloaded 125 million times. Its developer, Bump Technologies, shut down the service and discontinued the app on January 31, 2014, after being acquired by Google for Android Beam.
Standing for Bring Your Own Device, this is a policy by which employees are encouraged to use their own devices for work purposes. Advantages of this policy are that users don’t need to carry two phones or two laptops and can work on a device with which they are already familiar. Disadvantages include concerns over privacy of employees data and far-reaching powers of corporations to modify or erase data on the devices, including personal data.
In computing terms, cache is a quantity of fast memory or storage that transparently stores frequently used data kept on a slower medium such as a hard disk or slower memory. A computers CPU incorporates a small amount of cache to speed up access to your main system RAM, and you can use an SSD cache to speed up access to a hard drive.
Most commonly used in premium smartphones and tablets, capacitive touchscreens are able to sense the electrical conductivity of a human fingertip and use it to determine its location on the screen. Insulating materials such as gloves will prevent such touchscreens working but, unlike resistive alternatives, they don’t require you to exert physical pressure on the screen.
A CCFL inverter is an electrical inverter that supplies alternating current power to a cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL). CCFLs are often used as inexpensive light units in electrical devices that are powered by direct current sources such as batteries. CCFL inverters are small, have switchover efficiency over 80%, and offer adjustable output of light. They are widely used for backlights for LCDs, or for rear lighting in advertising signs.
Abbreviation of Common Gateway Interface, CGI is a specification for transferring information between a World Wide Web server and a CGI program. A CGI program is any program designed to accept and return data that conforms to the CGI specification. The program could be written in any programming language, including C, Perl, Java, or Visual Basic.
CGI programs are the most common way for Web servers to interact dynamically with users. Many HTML pages that contain forms, for example, use a CGI program to process the forms data once it’s submitted. Another increasingly common way to provide dynamic feedback for Web users is to include scripts or programs that run on the users machine rather than the Web server. These programs can be Java applets, Java scripts, or ActiveX controls. These technologies are known collectively as client-side solutions, while the use of CGI is a server-side solution because the processing occurs on the Web server.
One problem with CGI is that each time a CGI script is executed, a new process is started. For busy Web sites, this can slow down the server noticeably. A more efficient solution, but one that it is also more difficult to implement, is to use the server’s API, such as ISAPI or NSAPI. Another increasingly popular solution is to use Java servlets.
A Chromebook is a notebook computer running Googles Chrome OS operating system. Relying heavily on the cloud computing model, these PCs are designed to be used while connected to the internet, with almost all functions carried out via the Chrome browser rather than installing traditional applications, although some offline functionality is available.
This is a term used to describe online content designed to attract as many readers and gather as many clicks as possible, often through the use of teasing or sensationalised headlines. The term suggests that the content is less of a draw than the sexed up headline might initially indicate.
Simple pictures and symbols made available for computer users to add to their documents.
Cloud storage is a model of data storage in which the digital data is stored in logical pools, the physical storage spans multiple servers (and often locations), and the physical environment is typically owned and managed by a hosting company.
A form of online storage where individuals or companies can store data that can then be remotely accessed from any PC (or mobile device) with an active internet connection. The data may be physically stored on multiple servers and separated geographically, but it will appear in a single storage location to the user.
Examples include Dropbox and Mozy.
Used to maintain the settings stored in your PC’s BIOS or UEFI setup, such as the date and time, a CMOS battery usually resembles a medium-sized silver coin. It can be found installed in your PC’s motherboard.
Coaxial cable, or coax, is a type of cable that has an inner conductor surrounded by a tubular insulating layer, surrounded by a tubular conducting shield. Many coaxial cables also have an insulating outer sheath or jacket.
Abbreviated as CMS, a content management system, also called a Web management system is software or a group or suite of applications and tools that enable an organization to seamlessly create, edit, review and publish electronic text. Many content management systems offer a Web-based GUI, enabling publishers to access the CMS online using only a Web browser. Also, a CMS designed for Web publishing will provide options and features to index and search documents and also specify keywords and other metadata for search engine crawlers.
Named after a character in the Halo series of video games and voiced by the same actor, Cortana is Microsoft’s personal assistant. It’s built in to the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system and will respond to natural voice commands. It can access Bing, as well as the users personal information and settings, to provide personalised output and perform functions based on the users requirements, such as setting reminders.
Creeping featurism is a slang term used to describe a tendency for systems to become more complex over time as more features are added than were in the original design or plan. This term is widely used in software and hardware development, but is also used in non-technical industries. In software or hardware development, these added features often come at the expense of major design goals such as stability, simplicity or bug reduction. Creeping featurism is also called creeping featuritis.
Crowdfunding is the funding of a project by taking a small contributions from a large number of people in return for some form of reward, such as equity in your venture. This approach is most easily facilitated through use of the Internet which can quickly bring together a large number of like-minded contributors.
Popular Crowdfunding sites include Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
CryptoLocker is a ransomware trojan which targeted computers running Microsoft Windows, believed to have first been posted to the Internet on 5 September 2013.
CryptoLocker propagated via infected email attachments, and via an existing botnet; when activated, the malware encrypts certain types of files stored on local and mounted network drives using RSA public-key cryptography, with the private key stored only on the malwares control servers. The malware then displays a message which offers to decrypt the data if a payment (through either bitcoin or a pre-paid cash voucher) is made by a stated deadline, and threatened to delete the private key if the deadline passes. If the deadline is not met, the malware offered to decrypt data via an online service provided by the malwares operators, for a significantly higher price in bitcoin.
Although CryptoLocker itself is readily removed, files remained encrypted in a way which researchers considered unfeasible to break. Many said that the ransom should not be paid, but did not offer any way to recover files; others said that paying the ransom was the only way to recover files that had not been backed up. Some victims claimed that paying the ransom did not always lead to the files being decrypted.
CryptoLocker was isolated in late-May 2014 via Operation Tovar—which took down the Gameover ZeuS botnet that had been used to distribute the malware. During the operation, a security firm involved in the process obtained the database of private keys used by CryptoLocker, which was in turn used to build an online tool for recovering the keys and files without paying the ransom. It is believed that the operators of CryptoLocker successfully extorted a total of around $3 million from victims of the trojan. Other instances of encryption-based ransomware that have followed have used the “CryptoLocker” name (or variations), but are otherwise unrelated.
A process that runs in the background and performs a specified operation at predefined times or in response to certain events. The term daemon is a UNIX term, though many other operating systems provide support for daemons, though they’re sometimes called other names. Windows, for example, refers to daemons as System Agents and services.
Typical daemon processes include print spoolers, e-mail handlers, and other programs that perform administrative tasks for the operating system. The term comes from Greek mythology, where daemons were guardian spirits.
Pronounced DEE-mun or DAY-mun.
Often simply called a ‘driver’, this is a piece of programming code that enables a host device, such as a PC, to operate an attached device such as a mouse, graphics card or webcam. A large number of device drivers come pre-packaged with Windows and other operating systems, enabling the devices to work without any extra software. However, the latest features and bug fixes will be found in the most recent versions of the drivers, which can usually be downloaded from manufacturers’ websites.
Devil’s Canyon is Intel’s codename for the unlocked ‘K’ editions of the “refresh” revision of the Core i5 and Core i7 Haswell processors. These include the Core i5-4690K and Core i7-4790K which feature improved thermal interface material, thereby allowing cooler operation and improved overclocking.
Digital distribution (also called content delivery, online distribution, or electronic software distribution (ESD), among others) is the delivery or distribution of media content such as audio, video, software and video games. The term is generally used to describe distribution over an online delivery medium, such as the Internet, thus bypassing physical distribution methods, such as paper, compact discs, and DVDs. The term online distribution is typically applied to freestanding products; downloadable add-ons for other products are more commonly known as downloadable content. With the advancement of network bandwidth capabilities, online distribution became prominent in the 2000s.
Content distributed online may be streamed or downloaded, and often consists of books, films and television programs, music, software, and video games. Streaming involves downloading and using content at a user’s request, or “on-demand”, rather than allowing a user to store it permanently. By contrast, fully downloading content to a hard drive or other form of storage media may allow offline access in the future.
Specialist networks known as content delivery networks help distribute content over the Internet by ensuring both high availability and high performance. Alternative technologies for content delivery include peer-to-peer file sharing technologies. Alternatively, content delivery platforms create and syndicate content remotely, acting like hosted content management systems.
Also see: Digital rights management (DRM)
Digital rights management (DRM) is a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital media. The purpose of DRM is to prevent unauthorised redistribution of digital media and restrict the ways consumers can copy content they’ve purchased.
A high-performance digital interface for connecting displays to PCs and laptops. Like HDMI, it can also include audio information, but adds support for other forms of data transmission, such as USB. It is backward-compatible with VGA and DVI via adaptors, and is capable of higher resolutions than HDMI.
An open source content management platform that supports a variety of Web sites ranging from personal Weblogs to large community-driven Web sites. The Drupal software package can be used by individuals or a community of users to publish, manage and organize content on a Web site. The Drupal platform supports a number of features including electronic commerce, blogs, collaborative authoring environments, forums, newsletters, podcasting, file uploads, and more.
Drupal is open-source software and distributed under the GPL (“GNU General Public License”).
Multi-booting is the act of installing multiple operating systems on a computer, and being able to choose which one to boot. The term dual-booting refers to the common configuration of specifically two operating systems.
As well as being a delicious seasonal chocolate-based confectionery, an easter egg is a hidden feature inserted into any media, sometimes for the amusement of the creator and other times to increase user engagement. Examples include ‘cheat codes’ in video games, hidden extras on DVDs and even a flight simulators hidden within early versions of Microsoft Excel.
(Try searching Google for ‘askew’).
Such services act as middle man between an author and an e-book store. They can offer a more convenient way for an author to publish to multiple stores, and often offer additional services, such as cover design and layout. They will charge an upfront fee or take a cut from any sales.
Electronic paper, also known as e-paper and electronic ink, is a form of digital display designed to emulate, as closely as possible, the experience of reading ink on paper. Most commonly used in eReaders such as Amazons Kindle or the Nook from Barnes & Noble, this technology relies on external light and allows for very long battery life, but only supports monochrome displays with no support for moving pictures.
A Microsoft file system used primarily on removable devices such as flash memory and hard drives. As a replacement for the FAT32 file system, it removes the maximum 4GB size limit on individual files. It is also supported by modern version of both Window and Mac OS X operating systems, making it the file system of choice when using a removable drive on both PC and Mac computers.
FAT32 is a file system introduced by Microsoft in 1996 and commonly used to store information on lower capacity disks and memory cards. Its key advantage is that almost all operating systems and devices can read the format, but it is limited in that no single file can exceed 4GB in size.
This is a mobile phone with advanced features, though, these are less sophisticated than a fully-fledged smartphone. Feature phones don’t run a full smartphone operating system such as Android and therefore offer very limited support for apps, although the distinction between feature phones and smartphones is blurring as technology improves.
A technology that uses glass (or plastic) threads (fibres) to transmit data. A fibre optic cable consists of a bundle of glass threads, each of which is capable of transmitting messages modulated onto light waves.
Firmware is program code stored in non-volatile memory in an electronic device. It often forms a bridge between the hardware device itself and the higher-level software that runs on it. A typical example would be a PCs BIOS and UEFI software. In modern devices such as smartphones, the entire operating system could be thought of as firmware, with new versions of Android, iOS or Windows Phone being considered firmware updates.
To split source code into different development directions. Forking leads to the development of different versions of a program. Forking often occurs when the development of a piece of open source code has reached an impasse. The project is forked so that the code can be developed independently in different ways with different results.
Fibre to the home (FTTH) / Fibre to the premises (FTTP) is the delivery of a communications signal over optical fibre from the operators switching equipment all the way to a home or business, thereby replacing existing copper infrastructure such as telephone wires and coaxial cable.
Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) typically refers to a broadband connection which uses high-speed optical fibre cabling between the local exchange and a cabinet in the street close to the consumers premises. The connection between the cabinet and the customer then uses the existing copper wiring from the telephone network. This results in much higher potential broadband speeds.
The range of colours displayable by a device is known as its ‘gamut’. On monitors, this is determined largely by the choice of backlight and red, green and blue filters used to create the picture. With printers it’s down to the formulation and colour of the printing inks along with the colour of the paper.
In computing terms, a gesture is a command initiated by a movement, usually of a mouse pointer or a finger on a touchscreen. The command depends on the path traced by the movement and sometimes the position on the screen, but does generally does not depend on interaction with icons or other on-screen items. Windows 8 introduces many gestures to Microsoft’s latest operating system such as swiping left from the right hand edge of the screen to bring up the Charms.
Created by Google and found on its Chromebook range of laptops, Chrome OS is an operating system that’s designed almost exclusively for use via the Chrome web browser. It also has the ability to run specially-written applications coded in HTML5.
Also known as Project Glass, Google Glass is a head-worn gadget incorporating a battery powered Head Up Display (HUD). Sitting just above the user’s right eye, it is able to display visual information in your field of view. This could be anything you like, but will usually be similar to the kind of information you would interact with on a smartphone. You can also use it to take pictures and record video of what you’re seeing.
A Google-branded mobile phone or tablet running the Android platform. The hardware is manufactured by various OEMs, including LG (Nexus 4), Asus (Nexus 7) and Samsung (Nexus 10).
Unlike the majority of Android devices, Nexus runs a vanilla copy of Android that hasn’t been customised by hardware manufacturers or mobile operators. Nexus devices are designed to make it easier for developers to install their own modified versions of Android and are the first to receive new versions of the mobile OS upon release by Google.
Short for General Public License, the license that accompanies some open source software that details how the software and its accompany source code can be freely copied, distributed and modified. The most widespread use of GPL is in reference to the GNU GPL, which is commonly abbreviated simply as GPL when it is understood that the term refers to the GNU GPL. One of the basic tenets of the GPL is that anyone who acquires the material must make it available to anyone else under the same licensing agreement.
The GPL does not cover activities other than the copying, distributing and modifying of the source code.
A GPL is also referred to as a copyleft, in contrast to a copyright that identifies the proprietary rights of material.
This video format offers around twice the compression of H.264, the current standard for compressing high-definition video. It will therefore halve the bandwidth required to transmit TV channels and significantly reduce the burden on mobile networks.
Haptic feedback involved conveying information to the user through the sense of touch. This is usually designed to mimic the effect of interacting with real objects with the fingers, adding a sense of feel to tell the user when certain on-screen items have been touched or activated. Many mobile phones employ haptic feedback in this manner by making subtle use of the vibrating alert.
Refers to objects that you can actually touch, like disks, disk drives, display screens, keyboards, printers, boards, and chips. In contrast, software is untouchable. Software exists as ideas, concepts, and symbols, but it has no substance.
Books provide a useful analogy. The pages and the ink are the hardware, while the words, sentences, paragraphs, and the overall meaning are the software. A computer without software is like a book full of blank pages — you need software to make the computer useful just as you need words to make a book meaningful.
A hashtag is a word, phrase or just a collection of letters preceded by a hash (#) symbol. It’s simply a way of creating a label by which people can refer to the same thing. The # means ‘this is a tag’ and enables other users to search for content marked with the same label by searching for the same hashtag. Although they’ve been around for many years, it’s their use on Twitter which has pushed them further into mainstream use. They are also used on services such as Instagram and Facebook. There is no official directory of hashtags as they can be invented by users at any time and inserted into posts. Promotional hashtags in the media can be a good way of creating a buzz. For example, displaying a hashtag on a TV show can be a handy way of initiating group discussion and generating fan interest.
Heartbleed is the name given to a flaw in very widely-used digital cryptography software. The software was fixed in April 2014, but a large proportion of Web servers had already been vulnerable to the attack which could have revealed personal details such as email addresses and passwords available to hackers before the problem was fixed.
HTTPS is the abbreviation for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure – a secure version of the standard HTTP protocol that is used to send pages around the web. HTTPS combines standard HTTP with an encrypted protocol, called SSL/TLS, which ensures that transmissions cannot be intercepted or altered by third parties. The appearance of HTTPS in the web address of a site also signals you are connected to the website you have requested rather than an imposter who may attempt to steal your information.
A virtualisation technology created by Microsoft. It allows the creation of virtual PCs, which can concurrently run multiple operating systems on a single PC. It is available as a free download, and a version of the software is also included in Windows 8 Pro. Unlike popular applications such as VMware and VirtualBox, Hyper-V interfaces directly with the hardware rather than the operating system, giving it several performance advantages. However, it cannot be enabled at the same time as running either of those other virtualisation applications.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is an organisation that oversees the domain name system (DNS) used to name all sites on the Internet and manages the IP address numbering system.
Instagram is an online service for capturing and sharing photos and video. Acquired by Facebook in 2012, Instagram runs primarily as an app on iOS and Android devices and, as of February 2013, served over 100 million active users. A variety of simple graphical filters are available to enhance users photos with various effects and pictures can be tagged and hashtagged to allow searching by other users. The service provides integration with other social networking services where its trademark square-format pictures can be automatically shared and users can be “followed” in a similar style to Twitter.
Currently the most powerful integrated graphics chip from Intel. Iris is built into high-end versions of the companys fourth-generation Core processors. It comes in standard and ‘Pro’ variants, the latter including 128MB of embedded RAM and capable of delivering more than double the performance of previous-generation Intel graphics chips.
‘NUC’ stands for Next Unit of Computing. NUC is a family of ultra-compact PC platforms combining a small motherboard with a non-upgradable Intel processor featuring integrated graphics. Three versions currently exist offering slightly different features and performance levels.
Sometimes abbreviated to the ‘IoT’, the Internet of Things describes an ecosystem of interconnected objects and devices, which are able to communicate and interact without human intervention often using built-in sensors and wireless networks.
Rather like a phone number for networks, an IP address is a number used to identify a particular computer or device on a network that uses the Internet Protocol (IP). This network could be within our home or organisation, or part of a much wider network, such as the internet. The most commonly-used version of IP is version 4 (IPv4) which uses 32-bit numbers for addresses, allowing for around four billion unique addresses. This will eventually be superseded by version 6 (IPv6), which uses 128-bit numbers, allowing for up to 2128 unique addresses and expansion of the internet beyond the four billion address limit.
An in-plane switching (IPS) display is a type of LCD panel used in the manufacture of monitors, phones and tablets, among other devices. It differs from less-expensive technologies, such as twisted nematic (TN), in that it offers better colour reproduction across wider viewing angles. However, some TN panels can offer faster response times, which are favoured by gamers who want blur-free high-speed action. Other technologies include PLS (Plane to Line Switching), from Samsung, and vertical alignment (VA).
Digital cameras use a sensor to capture the image produced by the lens. The sensitivity of the sensor can be varied according to the international standard ISO 12232:2006, commonly referred to simply as “ISO”, which is analogous to the ISO speed designation found on film stock. A setting of ISO 200 is twice as sensitive as ISO 100 and will result in an image twice as bright (assuming all other parameters remaining equal). Higher ISO numbers incur a penalty in the form of increased image noise or grain. Cameras able to shoot at high ISO settings with minimal noise exhibit superior low-light performance.
The short form “ISO” stands for the International Organisation for Standardization, a body which sets a wide variety of standards covering everything from Quality Management Systems (ISO 9001) to the specification for an official wine-tasting glass (ISO 3591). Digital cameras calibrate light sensitivity according to ISO 12232:2006.
The codename for Intels third generation of CPUs. The line-up includes Core i5 and i7 3xxx chips, which deliver better performance and lower power consumption than their predecessors.
iOS jailbreaking is the process of removing software restrictions imposed by iOS, Apples operating system, on devices running it through the use of software exploits; devices include the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and the AppleTV 2 and 4. Jailbreaking permits root access to the iOS file system and manager, allowing the download of additional applications, extensions, and themes that are unavailable through the official Apple App Store.
iOS jailbreaking started as soon as the original iPhone became available in July 2007 and as of April 2016 has continued into the present day. Apple has responded with updates to iOS patching exploits and with new hardware. Jailbreaking communities have not been legally threatened. The legal status of jailbreaking is unclear in most countries; while many prohibit tampering with digital locks, they tolerate jailbreaks that do not infringe on copyrights. In 2010, 2012, and 2015, the U.S. Copyright Office approved exemptions allowing smartphone users to jailbreak their devices.
Joomla! is a free and open source content management system (CMS) designed to assist users in building websites and other online applications.
The Joomla open source CMS, which is offered under the General Public License (GPL) version 2.0, is a continuation of the work of the development team that unanimously resigned from the Mambo project in August 2005. Joomla version 1.0 is derived from Mambo 18.104.22.168 but includes many additional bug fixes and security patches.
The Joomla Web CMS is considered to be a popular choice for many types of websites, including corporate sites, news or blogs, government applications, small business sites and sites where secure logins are required. The ecosystem of Joomla developers and users provide products and services to the Joomla community which has more than one-half million members and more than 20,000 developers.
Organizational, legal and financial support for the Joomla! open-source project is provided by the non-profit organization, Open Source Matters (OSM). OSM is responsible for all project activities that are not the responsibility of the production working group or the community working group, such as operations management, events, the shop, marketing and public relations.
The name Joomla is a phonetic spelling for the Swahili word “Jumla” which means all together or as a whole. Joomla’s main open source Web CMS competitors include WordPress and Drupal.
A keylogger is a type of surveillance software (considered to be either software or spyware) that has the capability to record every keystroke you make to a log file, usually encrypted. A keylogger recorder can record instant messages, e-mail, and any information you type at any time using your keyboard. The log file created by the keylogger can then be sent to a specified receiver. Some keylogger programs will also record any e-mail addresses you use and Web site URLs you visit.
Keyloggers, as a surveillance tool, are often used by employers to ensure employees use work computers for business purposes only. Unfortunately, keyloggers can also be embedded in spyware allowing your information to be transmitted to an unknown third party.
Formed from an abbreviation for Keyboard, Video and Mouse, a KVM switch is a device that allows you to connect a keyboard, monitor and mouse to more than one PC simultaneously. You can then switch control between the connected computers without having to unplug and reconnect them by pressing a button or issuing a special keystroke sequence.
An LC circuit, also called a resonant circuit, tank circuit, or tuned circuit, is an electric circuit consisting of an inductor, represented by the letter L, and a capacitor, represented by the letter C, connected together. The circuit can act as an electrical resonator, an electrical analogue of a tuning fork, storing energy oscillating at the circuits resonant frequency.
LC circuits are used either for generating signals at a particular frequency, or picking out a signal at a particular frequency from a more complex signal. They are key components in many electronic devices, particularly radio equipment, used in circuits such as oscillators, filters, tuners and frequency mixers.
LCD (liquid crystal display) is the technology used for displays in notebook and other smaller computers. Like light-emitting diode (LED) and gas-plasma technologies, LCDs allow displays to be much thinner than cathode ray tube (CRT) technology.
In almost every case, an LED TV is a television set with an LCD panel that’s illuminated by light-emitting diodes (LEDs), just like most flat-panel PC monitors. LEDs have all but replaced the older cold-cathode fluorescent (CCFL) backlight, and can allow for reduced power consumption, slimmer design and improved image quality, thanks to better contrast and a greater range of displayable colours.
Linux is a Unix-like operating system that was designed to provide personal computer users a free or very low-cost operating system comparable to traditional and usually more expensive Unix systems. Linux has a reputation as a very efficient and fast-performing system. Linux’s’ kernel (the central part of the operating system) was developed by Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in Finland. To complete the operating system, Torvalds and other team members made use of system components developed by members of the Free Software Foundation for the GNU Project.
A tool for editing certain advanced settings within Windows. In versions prior to Vista these settings applied to all users on any single PC, but later versions allow configuration on a per-user basis. Typical settings include enabling or disabling access to Windows features. The concept extends beyond the local PC to networks of computers running throughout an organisation, allowing such settings to be centrally managed.
Linear pulse-code modulation (LPCM) is a specific type of PCM where the quantization levels are linearly uniform. This is in contrast to PCM encodings where quantization levels vary as a function of amplitude (as with the A-law algorithm or the μ-law algorithm).
The fourth-generation mobile communication standard is known as 4G. It allows for much faster data-transfer speeds than 3G, and faster than many home broadband services. You’ll need a compatible phone or 4G dongle to take advantage. LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and is a wireless broadband technology that has been widely adopted and has become interchangeable with 4G – they are the same thing.
Introduced with the iPhone 5, iPod nano and iPod touch, Lightning is the name given to Apples new smaller connector that replaces the 30-pin port found on earlier models. An adaptor is available to connect to most, but not all, previously compatible accessories. The initial adaptors available from Apple don’t support video output.
Malware is malicious software. It comes in different forms, many of which you can read about in our ‘The many forms of Malware’ post in on our news page.
Mambo is a Content Management System (CMS) that can be used for simple Web sites to complex corporate applications. Mambo is released under the GNU General Public license. Mambo is aimed more squarely at corporate Web sites or sites for small to medium businesses, families or personal sites.
MeeGo is an open source, Linux project that merges the Moblin and Maemo software platforms into a single open source activity. MeeGo is headed by Intel, and Maemo, by Nokia: the MeeGo Technical Steering Group (TSG). The day-to-day operations of the MeeGo programs are steered by a number of working groups, which are delegates of the Technical Steering Group.
MeeGo currently targets platforms such as netbooks/entry-level desktops, handheld computing and communications devices, in-vehicle infotainment devices, connected TVs, and media phones.
A collection of a million pixels or picture elements. These are the individual coloured dots which represent a digital image, the more of them you have contained within an image, the higher its potential resolution becomes.
Camera sensors with many megapixels are often able to capture more image detail than those with fewer. Be wary of assuming that more megapixels means better quality photos, though. Cramming more pixels onto the same-size sensor usually reduces quality and the lens also plays a big part in quality.
Mobile High-Definition Link is a standard for connecting mobile and portable devices to HD displays such as TVs and monitors. Like HDMI, it uses a single cable to transmit 1080p HD video and up to 7.1 surround audio, but it also adds the capability to power and charge the mobile device.
MHL commonly uses a micro USB connection at one end and an HDMI connector at the other, although others can be used as no specific physical connectors are mandated by the standard. This sometimes leads to incompatibility, as is the case with Samsungs Galaxy S II and Galaxy S III phones, which require different MHL cables to work.
Formerly known as a “Windows Live ID”, a Microsoft account is simply an email address and password used to sign in to Microsoft services such as Outlook.com, Skype or a Windows 8/10 PC.
Abbreviated as MITM, a man-in-the-middle attack is an active Internet attack where the person attacking attempts to intercept, read or alter information moving between two computers. MITM attacks are associated with 802.11 security, as well as with wired communication systems.
Windows 8 apps have, until recently, been known as Metro apps. The codename Metro has been discontinued, and such apps will now be referred to as Windows 8 or Modern apps; the Metro interface will be known as the Modern interface. However, there remains some confusion, since Windows 8 also supports older programs that run in Windows 7.
Mini-SATA, more commonly referred to as ‘mSATA’, is a compact version of the SATA interface designed for use in smaller devices such as netbooks and the thinnest laptops. Rather than using the standard SATA power and data connectors, mSATA uses a connector, which is physically the same as a PCI Express Mini Card interface.
A touch-input system that supports multitouch is capable of detecting a touch from more than one figure at a time, enabling features such as pinch-to-zoom and gestures that involve swipes.
A network-attached storage (NAS) device stores files in a form which is accessible over a network. They typically consist of a specially designed computer without display or keyboard, containing one or more hard drives and running an operating system designed specifically for the management and administration of those files. In the home, NAS devices are often used to store files which are intended to be shared between a number of computers, mobile devices or media playback devices, such as connected TVs and music systems.
A wireless system that allows suitably equipped devices to transfer data over very short distances – usually of just a few centimetres – or by coming into physical contact with each other. NFC can be used for contactless payments or function as an electronic key. NFC-enabled Android smartphones can use Android Beam to transfer files. This uses an initial NFC connection to set up a Bluetooth file transfer.
Created by nVidia, G-Sync is a technology that enables compatible monitors to synchronise with the variable frame rates of certain nVidia graphics cards rather than the graphics cards synchronising to a standard monitor refresh rate (typically 60Hz). This allows the graphics cards to run at their maximum speed without creating a ‘tearing’ effect on screen.
Software designated as ‘open source’ is offered with all the programming code or “source code”, along with the rights to change and distribute it for any purpose. Benefits of this approach include rapid porting of the software to new platforms (operating systems) and the increased speed of collaborative development and bug-fixing. Prominent open source products include Linux, Android and the Firefox browser.
Operation Tovar is an international collaborative operation carried out by law enforcement agencies from multiple countries against the Gameover ZeuS botnet, which is believed by the investigators to have been used in bank fraud and the distribution of the CryptoLocker ransomware.
Read more about Operation Tovar via Wikipedia.
This is the software that talks directly to a PCs hardware and provides an environment for applications to be run on it. It manages resources such as memory, and access to devices including hard drives and keyboards. Common operating systems include Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.
Running a processor, graphics card or memory at speeds faster than they are nominally designed to operate. This can result in considerably better performance, but brings with it increased power requirements and the risk of component failure or damage, including through overheating. Some processors are designed to prevent such modification, whereas others are designed specifically to make it easier.
A disk partition divides a single hard disk into multiple logical pieces, each of which can function as though it were a separate disk. They can be used for organisational reasons or to allow different file systems or operating systems to be installed on one hard disk.
PCM. Pulse-code modulation (PCM) is a method used to digitally represent sampled analog signals. It is the standard form of digital audio in computers, Compact Discs, digital telephony and other digital audio applications.
In a peer-to-peer network, each computer or device both sends and receives data without the need for a central server. This results in a sharing of resources and bandwidth, which reduces the demand on any individual participant.
Colour displays on smartphones and PC monitors use a grid of coloured dots, or pixels, which are themselves each made from red, green and blue subpixels. A standard RGB display typically uses one subpixel of each primary colour to create each pixel, varying the intensity of each to create the full range of displayable colours.
The PenTile system uses a different layout with more green subpixels than red or blue, reducing the total number of subpixels required for a given display resolution and relying on image processing to reconstruct the full-resolution image. In LCD panels, a different PenTile technology is used, adding a white subpixel to the matrix that can allow for significant power savings as more of the backlight can be allowed to shine through. Technically, PenTile displays offer lower image resolution than standard RGB ones, but in modern HD displays this difference is rarely perceptible.
Short for Practical Extraction and Report Language, Perl is a programming language developed by Larry Wall, especially designed for processing text. Because of its strong text processing abilities, Perl has become one of the most popular languages for writing CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts. Perl is an interpretive language, which makes it easy to build and test simple programs.
Bridging the gap between a large smartphone and a small tablet, a phablet combines the portability of the former with the large-screen usability of the latter. With screen sizes typically between five and seven inches, they are often just small enough to use as a phone, but provide a preferable screen size for multimedia viewing.
Examples include the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z1.
This is a device that allows you to run a network connection over the existing electric mains wiring in your building. It offers the advantages of a wired connection without the need to run existing cables and is a good way to extend the range of your network when a Wi-Fi signal won’t reach.
Most modern computer processors are multicore processors. This means they contain more than one internal CPU, each of which is capable of running program code independently and simultaneously. Each of these CPUs is called a core. The more cores a processor has, the more instructions it can process simultaneously, allowing more programs to be run at the same time without slowing down the host computing device.
This is a port used to connect a keyboard or a mouse to a PC. Usually coloured purple for a keyboard or green for a mouse, these small, round 6-pin connectors are now considered legacy ports and have generally been replaced by USB connections. However, gaming keyboards are often provided in PS/2 versions to allow an unlimited number of simultaneous keypresses to be detected. The use of PS/2 peripherals also allows all USB ports to be disabled where required for security reasons.
In physics and engineering the quality factor or Q factor is a dimensionless parameter that describes how under-damped an oscillator or resonator is, and characterises a resonators bandwidth relative to its center frequency. Higher Q indicates a lower rate of energy loss relative to the stored energy of the resonator; the oscillations die out more slowly. A pendulum suspended from a high-quality bearing, oscillating in air, has a high Q, while a pendulum immersed in oil has a low one. Resonators with high quality factors have low damping so that they ring longer.
A Quick Response or “QR” Code is a type of two-dimensional barcode. Unlike the conventional barcodes found on items such as supermarket groceries, a QR code can be read quickly by devices such as cameras and the codes have therefore become popular when designed to be read by smartphones. Usage could be the encoding of a web URL or additional information stored in a code on a printed advertisement.
Only scan QR codes you trust. Scammers can make QR codes which link to fake websites that trick you into giving away personal details.
This is a form of malware that attempts to extort money from its victims by holding their data to ransom until a fee is paid. A recent example is CryptoLocker, which securely encrypts the victim’s documents, offering a decryption key only when the ransom has been paid.
In computer graphics, a raster graphics image is a dot matrix data structure representing a generally rectangular grid of pixels, or points of colour, viewable via a monitor, paper, or other display medium. Raster images are stored in image files with varying formats.
What is a raster file?
Raster graphics are digital images created or captured (for example, by scanning in a photo) as a set of samples of a given space. A raster is a grid of x and y coordinates on a display space. (And for three-dimensional images, a z coordinate.)
What is the difference between raster and vector?
The difference between vector and raster graphics is that raster graphics are composed of pixels, while vector graphics are composed of paths. A raster graphic, such as a gif or jpeg, is an array of pixels of various colours, which together form an image.
What is a raster image made up of?
Raster graphics has origins in television technology, with images constructed much like the pictures on a television screen. A raster graphic is made up of a collection of tiny, uniformly sized pixels, which are arranged in a two-dimensional grid made up of columns and rows.
Also see: What are vector and raster maps?
A “raster map” is a data layer consisting of a gridded array of cells. It has a certain number of rows and columns, with a data point (or null value indicator) in each cell. These may exist as a 2D grid or as a 3D cube made up of many smaller cubes, i.e. a stack of 2D grids.
These can be created by high-end and enthusiast cameras and certain Nokia Lumia smartphones. They contain picture data taken directly from the image sensor in the camera prior to conversion to the more compact JPEG format. As such, they contain more picture information and can allow for higher-quality images to be processed later on your computer. They also require specialised software to process them and take up considerably more disk space. The actual format of the data is often unique to the specific model of camera used.
An RCA connector, sometimes called a phono connector or Cinch connector, is a type of electrical connector commonly used to carry audio and video signals. The connectors are also sometimes casually referred to as A/V jacks. The name “RCA” derives from the Radio Corporation of America, which introduced the design by the early 1940s for internal connection of the pickup to the chassis in home radio-phonograph consoles. It was originally a low-cost, simple design, intended only for mating and disconnection when servicing the console. Refinement came with later designs, although they remained compatible.
RCA connectors began to replace the older quarter-inch phone connectors for many other applications in the consumer audio world when component high-fidelity systems started becoming popular in the 1950s. However, quarter-inch phone connectors are still common in professional audio, while miniature phone connectors (3.5 mm) have become predominant in personal stereo systems.
Retina Display is a marketing term developed by Apple to refer to devices and monitors that have a resolution and pixel density so high – roughly 300 or more pixels per inch – that a person is unable to discern the individual pixels at a normal viewing distance.
In terms of displays, the screen resolution is a measure of the amount of detail which can be shown. Either in terms of the absolute number of pixels in an image, such as 1920×1080 or in terms of the number of pixels contained within a certain area – often expressed as pixels per inch (ppi). Apples Retina displays offer a resolution high enough to exceed the resolution of the human visual system, thereby rending individual pixels invisible and making screen elements appear smooth rather than blocky.
Resonant inductive coupling or electrodynamic induction is the near field wireless transmission of electrical energy between two magnetically coupled coils that are part of resonant circuits tuned to resonate at the same frequency.
This process occurs in a resonant transformer, an electrical component which consists of two high Q coils (see Q factor) wound on the same core with capacitors connected across the windings to make two coupled LC circuits. Resonant transformers are widely used in radio circuits as bandpass filters, and in switching power supplies. Resonant inductive coupling is also being used in wireless power systems. Here the two LC circuits are in different devices; a transmitter coil in one device transmits electric power across an intervening space to a resonant receiver coil in another device. This technology is being developed for powering and charging portable devices such as cellphones and tablet computers at a distance, without being tethered to an outlet.
Resonant transfer works by making a coil ring with an oscillating current. This generates an oscillating magnetic field. Because the coil is highly resonant, any energy placed in the coil dies away relatively slowly over very many cycles; but if a second coil is brought near it, the coil can pick up most of the energy before it is lost, even if it is some distance away. The fields used are predominantly non-radiative, near fields (sometimes called evanescent waves), as all hardware is kept well within the 1/4 wavelength distance they radiate little energy from the transmitter to infinity.
One of the applications of the resonant transformer is for the CCFL inverter. Another application of the resonant transformer is to couple between stages of a superheterodyne receiver, where the selectivity of the receiver is provided by tuned transformers in the intermediate-frequency amplifiers.
Rooting a phone provides the user with full, unrestricted control over all aspects of the operating system. Prior to rooting, many configuration options are deliberately unavailable to the user in order to prevent possible damage to the operating system or even the hardware. Sometimes functions are disabled to ensure that certain preinstalled apps or settings are not tampered with by the user. This is similar to the concept of ‘Jailbreaking’ on iOS, although Android imposes far fewer restrictions on the user by default and therefore rooting is usually required only for very specific tasks.
This is a malicious piece of software installed on a computer system to give privileged access levels to unauthorised individuals. The name is a combination of ‘root’, the name given to the administrative user on most Unix-like operating systems, and ‘kit’ as it usually comprises a selection of ready-made tools to make the software easy to deploy. Rootkits typically employ stealth techniques to avoid detection by their victims, but can be picked up and eliminated by effective antivirus software.
RSA is one of the first practical public-key cryptosystems and is widely used for secure data transmission. In such a cryptosystem, the encryption key is public and differs from the decryption key which is kept secret. In RSA, this asymmetry is based on the practical difficulty of factoring the product of two large prime numbers, the factoring problem. RSA is made of the initial letters of the surnames of Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman, who first publicly described the algorithm in 1977. Clifford Cocks, an English mathematician working for the UK intelligence agency GCHQ, had developed an equivalent system in 1973, but it was not declassified until 1997.
A user of RSA creates and then publishes a public key based on two large prime numbers, along with an auxiliary value. The prime numbers must be kept secret. Anyone can use the public key to encrypt a message, but with currently published methods, if the public key is large enough, only someone with knowledge of the prime numbers can feasibly decode the message. Breaking RSA encryption is known as the RSA problem; whether it is as hard as the factoring problem remains an open question.
RSA is a relatively slow algorithm, and because of this it is less commonly used to directly encrypt user data. More often, RSA passes encrypted shared keys for symmetric key cryptography which in turn can perform bulk encryption-decryption operations at much higher speed.
Safari is a web browser developed by Apple based on the WebKit engine. First released in 2003 with Mac OS X Panther, a mobile version has been included in iOS devices since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. It is the default browser on Apple devices.
This is a mobile-optimised operating system based on the open source MeeGo OS previously owned by Nokia. Based on Linux, it has the advantage of being able to run Android apps, although not via the Google Play store.
This is a security technique whereby a program has access only to a predefined set of resources and can’t therefore interfere with other programs or portions of the core OS. This limits the impact of bugs or malicious code, but can make the sharing of data between applications more difficult.
SATA Express is a computer interface which can support both SATA and PCI Express devices and is designed as a successor to SATA 3.0 enabling faster data transfers. It allows the use of existing SATA connectors, making it compatible with existing storage devices, but also allows for the use of the much faster PCI Express bus via the latest SATA Express connectors.
SATA Express increases the maximum transfer speed from 6Gb/s for SATA 3.0, to about 16Gb/s (but other factors affect it).
Also known as SATA 3, this connection between a motherboard and hard-(or solid-state) drive offers double the speed of its predecessor.
Like USB 3.0, SATA 6Gbps ports tend to be blue.
A type of software that is defined as malware, meaning it is designed specifically to damage or disrupt a computer system. In this case, not only does the software disrupt your system, it’s going to try and trick (or scare) you into making a purchase using your credit card. Scareware is also called smitfraud or rogue security software.
SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) and SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity) are designations given to larger-capacity SD memory cards and can apply to full-size, mini and micro SD variations. SDHC cards support capacities up to 32GB and come pre-formatted with the FAT32 file system, while SDXC cards can theoretically support up to 2TB – although 128GB versions are the largest currently available. These come pre-formatted with the exFAT file system and also enable greater data transfer speeds. You can manually re-format these cards to FAT32 if you need to use them on a system which doesn’t support exFAT.
It’s important to note the distinction between these card formats as not all devices can handle SDHC or SDXC cards. You should therefore check your device for compatibility before purchase.
A standardised method of ensuring that a PC will boot only from trusted firmware and operating systems, Secure Boot prevents malware from installing and hiding underneath the operating system, where it would be difficult to detect or remove.
In the world of computer interface design, skeuomorphism is the imitation of real-world objects and materials, usually with the intention of creating a feeling of instant familiarity. Examples include Windows Sticky Notes which resemble real pieces of coloured sticky paper or Apple’s iBooks store which presents titles as real books on realistic wooden shelves. Apple has recently removed many skeuomorphic items in version 7 of iOS.
A wristwatch with built-in computing features. The first models appeared in the early 1980s and enabled simple data entry and memory features. Modern smartwatches generally integrate with mobile phones to provide app support and notifications.
Snapchat is a multimedia messaging app for iOS and Android devices. It lets you chat via text messages, and send pictures and video clips. The key feature of Snapchat is that content can be set to self-destruct after a pre-determined period of time, at which point they will be deleted from the recipient’s device. Facebook Poke is a similar app from the makers of Facebook, currently available only for iOS.
A program and/or device that monitors data traveling over a network. Sniffers can be used both for legitimate network management functions and for stealing information off a network. Unauthorised sniffers can be extremely dangerous to a networks security because they are virtually impossible to detect and can be inserted almost anywhere. This makes them a favorite weapon in the hacker’s arsenal.
On TCP/IP networks, where they sniff packets, they’re often called packet sniffers.
Software means computer instructions or data. Anything that can be stored electronically is software, in contrast to storage devices and display devices which are called hardware.
Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format, or ‘S/PDIF’, is a digital audio connection for consumer-grade audio equipment. It comes in both coaxial and TOSLINK (Toshiba Link) variants, the former using standard copper cables and connectors and the latter using fibre-optic cable with optical transmission.
A solid-state drive (SSD) is a storage device that appears to your PC as a normal hard disk, but consists of high-speed memory chips that are silent and consume less energy than standard rotating magnetic disks.
Steam is a digital distribution platform developed by Valve Corporation offering digital rights management (DRM), multiplayer gaming and social networking services. Steam provides the user with installation and automatic updating of games on multiple computers, and community features such as friends lists and groups, cloud saving, and in-game voice and chat functionality. The software provides a freely available application programming interface (API) called Steamworks, which developers can use to integrate many of Steams functions into their products, including networking, matchmaking, in-game achievements, micro-transactions, and support for user-created content through Steam Workshop.
Though initially developed for use on Microsoft Windows, versions for OS X and Linux operating systems were later released. Applications whose main functions are chatting and shopping have also been released for iOS and Android mobile devices. The Steam website also replicates much of the storefront and social network features of the stand-alone application.
Valves SteamOS is a Linux-based operating system designed to power the companys Steam Machine gaming consoles. It’s a free-to-use platform that users can install to create their own Steam Machines if they wish.
Along with the hardware specifications for the Steam Machine, Valve has developed a new game controller named the Steam Controller. The controller is designed not only for games developed for controller users, but also for games traditionally played with keyboard and mouse controls so that they can be played through the controller. It features two high-resolution clickable trackpads (replacing the typical thumbsticks on modern console controllers), and sixteen buttons, including face, shoulder, and undergrip buttons. The trackpads include haptic feedback, which can send tactile feedback to the player in reaction to events within the game.
Steam Link is a standalone device to enable streaming of Steam content from a personal computer or a Steam Machine wirelessly to a television, including integration of Steam Controller functionality. The device was released along with the debut of Steam Machines in November 2015.
Steam Link is listed as having the following technical specifications:
Wired 100 Mbit/s Fast Ethernet and Wireless 802.11ac 2×2 (MIMO)
3× USB 2.0 ports
Support for the following control peripherals: Steam Controller, Xbox One or 360 Wired Controller, Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows, Logitech Wireless Gamepad F710, or keyboard and mouse.
The Steam Machine, also known as the Steam Box during development, is a pre-built gaming computer designed to operate Valve Corporations SteamOS through the Steam client. Several computer vendors have engaged with Valve to develop their own versions of Steam Machines for retail, offering additional options atop Valves requirements such as dual-booting options with Microsoft Windows, and the ability to upgrade the computer in the future.
To support the Steam Machine and SteamOS, Valve developed and released its Steam Controller; a highly customizable game controller with touchpad-based haptic feedback that is compatible with Steam and SteamOS, can be used for the OS and most games, including those that normally require keyboard-and-mouse controls, and Steam Link; a device that allows consumers with existing Steam software on their computer to stream content directly from the computer to a monitor and play directly there.
Steam Machines and the related hardware were released for consumers on November 10, 2015, following a two-year testing period. A portable version is to be released in later this year (2016).
The Steam Workshop is a Steam account-based hosting service for videogame user-created content. Depending on the title, new levels, art assets, gameplay modifications, or other content may be published to or installed from the Steam Workshop through an automated, online account-based process.
This refers to media content, typically audio or video, which is delivered to the user at the time they are consuming it rather than being downloaded beforehand. This offers the advantage of being able to start enjoying the digital content almost immediately without having to wait for a download. It also means no complete copy of the content remains downloaded on the user’s device. A disadvantage is that the connection needs to be maintained to the streaming service so you can’t watch or listen to such media where no network connection is available.
A computer interface which allows high-speed connections between a variety of peripherals. It uses a mini DisplayPort connector, and combines the capabilities of DisplayPort, PCI Express and DC power over a single cable.
Devices such as monitors and hard drives can be connected via DisplayPort as well as other interfaces such as USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and Ethernet.
Current versions allow data throughput of up to 10Gbps per device.
A toolbar is a user interface element consisting of a strip of icons, buttons or similar controls. Usually found at the top or the sides of an interface window, they offer a quick and convenient way to access frequently used controls without having to navigate a full menu system. A browsers toolbar is a particular type of toolbar, specific to web browsers, and stays on the screen as you surf the internet.
There are, however, many toolbars you may not want and which may be smuggled onto your system as part of the installation of an unrelated program.
TOSLINK (from Toshiba Link) is a standardized optical fiber connection system. Also known generically as an “optical audio cable” or just “optical cable”, its most common use is in consumer audio equipment (via a “digital optical” socket), where it carries a digital audio stream from components such as CD and DVD players, DAT recorders, computers, and modern video game consoles, to an AV receiver that can decode two channels of uncompressed lossless PCM audio or compressed 5.1/7.1 surround sound such as Dolby Digital Plus or DTS-HD High Resolution Audio. Unlike HDMI, TOSLINK does not have the bandwidth to carry the lossless versions of Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and LPCM.
Although TOSLINK supports several different media formats and physical standards, digital audio connections using the rectangular EIAJ/JEITA RC-5720 (also CP-1201 and JIS C5974-1993 F05) connector are by far the most common. The optical signal is a red light with a peak wavelength of 650 nm. Depending on the type of modulated signal being carried, other optical wavelengths may be present. A less common format is a coaxial cable ending in RCA jacks, which is found on some receivers.
Trolling is a slang term for behaviour (generally online) designed to disrupt or de-rail online discussions – often for humorous effect, but sometimes more malicious in intent. Obvious examples include posting a deliberately controversial opinion in an attempt to goad readers into an angry response.
More recent use of the term has expanded to include sometimes criminal levels of offensive posting, designed to cause offense or upset to others. This has resulted in jail sentences for the worst offenders.
USB Attached SCSI Protocol is a more efficient technology for the transfer of data over a USB connection. Although USB 3.0 is much faster than USB 2.0, its full performance cannot be unleashed without also upgrading the existing data transfer protocol, known as Bulk-Only Transport (BOT).
Most USB 3.0 devices will operate using BOT unless specific drivers are installed and UAS compatible hardware is used at each end of the connection. Some vendors, such as Asus, have released UASP drivers for Windows 7; full native OS support was introduced with Windows 8.
A marketing term for a laptop that has been built to a specification set by Intel, in order to ensure a high-quality user experience. The requirements change as new chips are released and, for Ivy Bridge systems, currently include fast startup, a maximum thickness that varies according the screen size, and a battery life of at least 5 hours.
A popular multi-user, multitasking operating system developed at Bell Labs in the early 1970s. Created by just a handful of programmers, UNIX was designed to be a small, flexible system used exclusively by programmers.
UNIX was one of the first operating systems to be written in a high-level programming language, namely C. This meant that it could be installed on virtually any computer for which a C compiler existed. This natural portability combined with its low price made it a popular choice among universities.
Version 3.0 is the fastest USB standard to date, and is increasingly becoming available in the latest PCs and laptops. USB 3.0 provides connection speeds around 10 times faster than its predecessor, and offers more power to external devices.
USB 3.0 ports tend to be blue, but some are black.
Vector graphics is the use of polygons to represent images in computer graphics. Vector graphics are based on vectors, which lead through locations called control points or nodes. Each of these points has a definite position on the x and y axes of the work plane and determines the direction of the path; further, each path may be assigned a stroke colour, shape, curve, thickness, and fill.
What is a vector image?
Vector graphics is the use of geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes or polygons—all of which are based on mathematical expressions—to represent images in computer graphics. Vector graphics are based on vectors (also called paths), which lead through locations called control points or nodes.
What is a vector file format?
Vector files such as AI and EPS can remain editable so you can open them back up in Illustrator and edit any text or other elements within the graphic. With images that contain text that are saved as a JPG, PNG or GIF, you would not be able to reopen and edit the text.
What is a vector graphics software?
A vector graphics editor is a computer program that allows users to compose and edit vector graphics images interactively on a computer and save them in one of many popular vector graphics formats, such as EPS, PDF, WMF, SVG, or VML.
What is a vector and what are they made from?
The difference between vector and raster graphics is that raster graphics are composed of pixels, while vector graphics are composed of paths. A raster graphic, such as a gif or jpeg, is an array of pixels of various colours, which together form an image.
Also see: What are vector and raster maps?
A virtual PC is effectively a software version of a physical PC which is able to run its own operating system and applications. Typically a virtual PC will boot up in its own window and is often used to run a different operating system to the one installed on the host pc on which it runs. You could therefore use it to try out a version of say, Linux, without having to install it on your main system.
Microsofts free Virtual PC software has been available to do this in versions of Windows up to and including Windows 7, but has been superseded in Windows 8 by the faster and more robust Hyper-V system which is incompatible with other virtualisation software.
Developed by Google this video compression standard is available for use royalty-free and is a competing standard to the H.265 format. Both formats are designed to facilitate 4K and higher resolutions.
A virtual private network, or VPN, allows you to extend a private network across a public network – usually the Internet. To the end user, it will appear as though their device were connected directly to the private network in the remote location. A VPN is often used in business environments where remote workers require secure access to the corporate network. Because the local device appears to be connected to the remote network, VPN can also be used to circumvent local restrictions such as firewalls and the blocking of certain traffic. It can also result in the local device appearing to be situated geographically in the location of the remote network, overcoming geographical restrictions to some sites.
Functional items of technology designed to be worn about the person fall under the umbrella term ‘wearables’. Popular forms of wearable technology include smartwatches such as Apple Watch or Galaxy Gear and health monitoring equipment. A more advanced example would be Google Glass.
A web browser (commonly referred to as a browser) is a software application for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web. An information resource is identified by a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI/URL) and may be a web page, image, video or other piece of content.
Web scraping is the automated collection of data from websites using an interface designed for human, rather than computer, interaction. It is typically used as a way of extracting unstructured data and importing it into a database for later use. Examples could be reading price or share value information directly from a website or posting queries to an online service and reading the results into an app. Steps are often taken to prevent the scraping of data by machines, so sometimes the most basic approach of copying and pasting by hand as the only solution.
The term “white hat” is Internet slang for an ethical hacker, or a person who discovers security problems without exploiting them for criminal activity and with a view to improving existing security systems. Facebook offers a “Bug Bounty” reward starting at $500 for the responsible reporting of qualifying security bugs.
Windows 8 brought with it a raft of new interface features, one of which is the use of Charms. Usually hidden from view, the charms slide into view when you swipe a finger inwards from the right hand side of the screen, place your mouse pointer in the top-right corner or type Windows-C on the keyboard. This column of monochromatic icons consists of a selection of context-sensitive icons which provide quick access to functions and settings relevant to what you’re currently doing on your PC.
Windows stores information about configuration and settings in a centralised database called the Registry. It’s used extensively by the operating system, while most applications also store information here. Some low-level configuration tweaks involve manually editing the Registry using the Windows application Regedit.
Also known an ‘inductive charging’, wireless charging uses magnetism to charge a battery without a cabled connection between the charger and the device. It works by creating a magnetic field in a coil located in the charger, which them induces a similar field in a coil in the device and is converted into power. A newer technique called ‘resonance charging’ also uses a pair of coils, but can operate over a distance of a few centimetres rather than requiring physical contact.
A device that can extend the range of your wireless router by receiving and re-transmitting its Wi-Fi signal.
Wireless N150 is a subset of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard. It incorporates most of the improvements introduced by previous versions, but omits the channel-bonding feature. This limits it to a maximum theoretical data rate of 150Mbps, rather than the 300Mbps available to dual-channel equipment.
If you would like to read more about 802.11 standards, check out our IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standards blog in our News section.
A Windows metafile, usually saved with the file extension .WMF, is a now less often used image format. It can contain bitmap graphics, but has also been popular for storing the vector graphics required for re-sizable clipart.
A popular free open source content management and blog system platform. Based on PHP and MySQL, WordPress enables users to create sophisticated, professional-looking web sites and blogs. WordPress is available under the General Public License (GPL) version 2.0.
WordPress competes in the content management market with other services like Drupal and Joomla, and it currently powers more than 73 million web sites. WordPress also offers users an extensive selection of plug-ins and templates, or themes, to extend the functionality and customizability options of the platform.
Version 3.0 of WordPress introduced a new feature, WordPress Multi-User or WordPress MU, which makes it possible to create multiple blogs with a single installation of WordPress that can be administered from a centralized administration panel.
A security vulnerability for which no fix or patch is available. Developers of the affected program have zero days to produce a patch before malicious exploitation of the bug can occur. The term could also be used to refer to a zero-day virus, which is a piece of malware that currently cannot be removed by security software.