glossary of computer terms (part 3)
- what do those computer words mean,
- and what do all the bits and pieces do?
[click on an underlined word if you want it explained -- this glossary is A-Z, so if you click on 'file', you will find yourself in the 'f' section, further down this page -- just use your Page Up key, scroll bar or 'back to alphabet table' to return]
This document will take a while to finish loading on your screen, because I have written it all in one piece so you can Save it (as 'source' or 'html', not 'text') and then have your own mini-computer-dictionary on your hard disk.
[This glossary is an ongoing project - growing and changing as I am able to add to it.
If you are Saving this glossary to have a computer dictionary on your own hard disk, please remember to come back regularly and Save again, to take advantage of the updates!]
Saving as source/html means that all the links from words to their meanings will work fine within this document, without you being online. :-))
Unfortunately, browsers seem to have a mania for being online (they don't pay for the connect time!), so you may need to find a way to stop yours yelling for the modem when you open a html file like this one, from your disk.
One way is to open your browser first, then Open File (choosing this document).
Another is to disable the automatic proxy setting (which seems to get your browser all excited) and choose the manual proxy setting.
Your ISP will have step-by-step instructions for making these settings.
On riverland.net (where this page is hosted), see:
Netscape v4 has a 'work offline' option which might let you open html documents without yelling for the modem (I don't know about Internet Explorer v4).
Any link that leads outside this document (to another document or location [URL]) won't work unless you are online.
I have coloured all those 'outside' links green so they look different from all the links that just belong to this document.
When you do want to click on a green 'outside' link, make sure your modem is turned on and plugged in, so your browser can take you online to find that 'outside' document/location.
If any of this doesn't make sense to you or doesn't work for you, please click on my email address at the bottom of this page or any of the Lookfirst pages, and ask me about it.
- getting in to something, being able to get in
- your access to a server, webpage or file may be denied if you don't have proper authorization, such as a password
- the design of your operating system and computer hardware should make access to your own files and programs as easy as possible
- the design of your programs should make 'accessing' the program, doing what you need to do, as easy as possible
- stands for Artificial Intelligence
- AI programs are designed not just to process data, but to teach themselves, actually to learn and grow through experience
- several years ago, Apple's Newton palmtop computer was probably the first consumer product to feature AI programming: the Newton learnt to recognize your handwriting over a period of time (pretty quickly if your handwriting was legible!)
- what have been heralded for a long time as 'fifth generation' computers will not only have AI programming, but will be designed around it: not only their job, but their nature, will be to learn
- literally 'going under another name'
- in computer terms, if means making a shortcut to a program or other file, which will take you straight to that file, but leaves the original file where it is stored, so it's not being moved around enough to confuse you, or to the wrong place, or being exposed to other people fiddling with it
- aliases are very handy on the desktop, and when you want to use a different (shorter? for security?) filename but don't want to, or shouldn't, alter the name of the original file
- in a text or word-processing document, it means to line up the text against the left side, from the centre, against the right side, or spread it out so that it lines up straight on both sides of the page
this is also called "justify", and lining up evenly on both sides is "fully justified"
- you can also align icons within a window
- and objects (such as text boxes and images) within a document
- alignment is one kind of formatting
- an anchor is an underlined link within a webpage
- clicking on an anchor will take you to that heading or section of the page
- e.g. clicking on 'm' above, will take you straight to the 'm' section of this glossary
- anchors make it easier for people to get around a webpage, and save wear and tear from too much scrolling up/down the page!
- noun (thing): an archive, or action (verb): to archive something
- usually handy and compact storage, in computer terms
- some FTP sites or university sites host large archives of software for people to access and download
- you are archiving your programs and files when you compress them and store them on another disk, for safety and to make space
- so an archived file can be a compressed file, and will need to be decompressed before use
- a filetype .sea, Self-Extracting Archive, will decompress itself when you open it
- for Macintosh and Windows: .sea makers, and Stuffit Expander v4, which will decompress practically anything (including .zip and other Windows files), are both available from:
- for Windows only: you can simply compress or decompress .zip files, with WinZip, which can be found (along with lots of Windows and Macintosh software) in the TUCOWS software archive
- an interactive kind of help (see also guide and wizard)
- interactive help isn't just pages of information to read, even with links like this one
- it actually leads you through things you want to do with your program, and gives you examples
- so you can make, for example, a table in your ClarisWorks word-processing document, with no risk of messing it up, because the Assistant will lead you through each step, and tell you if something isn't correct, showing you what you need to do instead
- this kind of help, when well-designed, is very useful, and one of the best ways to train yourself in using your software
- people have characteristics, files have attributes
- common attributes of files, which make describing them, and finding them much easier, are:
- file name or part name ("name contains")
- file size equals, is more than, is less than
- date created or changed was, was before, was after
- location -- on what disk?
- file type: program/application, document (of what kind?), image file (of what kind?)
- your operating system will offer your various ingenious ways to find files:
for example, I just noticed that mine will simply look for, and list, everything that is, or is not, locked!
(the things you find when you get around to looking... ;-)
- something that happens without your direct intervention
- e.g. gear change in an automatic car or
- your modem dialling your ISP's modem's phone number without you typing it in, or
- your browser finding the current proxy settings without you having to check them
back to alphabet table
- to copy files you wouldn't want to lose, onto another disk
- it's much safer to keep your backup disk(s) in another location and/or in a fireproof safe or safe-deposit
- doing regular backups won't help you much if you leave them in the same place as your main computer, and something happens there
- have you seen any programs getting smaller recently?
- bigger, more expensive, need more RAM, more hard disk space, have more accessories, enough Help information to fill a telephone book, more features than you are at all likely to use, and more bugs, more system conflicts...
- I think you get the picture
- a layered flat rectangle, mostly of plastic, with circuitry printed into it, and chips and their supporting electronic bits and pieces soldered onto it
- with micro(extremely small)-electronics, boards are seldom repaired, but are completely replaced if there is a problem, since working on the very delicate and complicated circuit through all those layers and tiny attached pieces is beyond normal human handskills
- the 'mother'board usually has the main processor on it; a 'daughter'board is an add-on for a specific reason
- literally to kick, in this case to 'boot' your computer into action
- booting is starting the operating system from the beginning
- thus it goes through the whole process of looking for system software, loading it into memory, looking for connection software (drivers) for everything supposed to run off the processor (e.g. disk drives), and making sure that everything is up and on deck ready for you to start using the computer
- reboot, nowadays more often restart, means to shut down momentarily and then start the system up from scratch again (usually because something did not load or perform correctly!)
- meaning bits per second, measuring how much data travels through a phone connection (using a modem) per second
- in the case of data transfer, 10 bits per second = 1 byte per second; 10k bps = 1k bytes per second
- for more information, see the question on measuring Internet connection speed in the FAQ
- a browser is a program designed for viewing webpages, for 'browsing' through the mass of information on the World Wide Web
- you enter the page's address (URL) into the browser, and it takes you there
- unless, of course, there are problems with the browser itself, or with any of the many connections that may exist between you and your desired website
- browsers are currently limited to Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer
- it's like a weed, where a weed is a plant you don't want
- a bug is software behaviour that you don't want!
- programmers will sometimes say that a bug is just a feature people don't appreciate...
- but you and I know when something is not working properly, not doing what the program says it can do (or worse, crashing the computer!)
- nowadays a lot of software is released to the general public without rigorous testing, so bugs showing up in software performance is not uncommon
- and is good reason to email the programmer, ring the company or simply use another program
back to alphabet table
- literally a hiding place (from French: cacher, to hide)
- but has come to mean a convenient place to keep something
- in computers, any kind of cache is rather like having a space for parking the car right outside the front door, so you don't have to go through putting it away and getting it out again, when you know you have to use the car again straight away
- your browser has a disk cache, located away from its main folder, where it keeps webpages you have accessed
- that way, if you go back to a page, or visit a certain page often, it can bring it up in your browser window quickly
(less waiting for data to come down the phone line!)
- accessing pages from overseas, or with a lot of graphics, can be very slow, and irritating, so your cache gives you almost instant access to recent pages
- in your browser options/preferences, you can choose how large you want your cache to be (remember it will take up that much space on your hard disk)
and can hit a button to have it purged (cleaned out), or leave it to do the purging when it is full (hopefully not when you are online!)
later browser versions also have a RAM cache (see memory cache below)
- your ISP's proxy server is a local (close to you) and much larger cache, working in the same way
- both browser cache and proxy server remember webpages for you, to save time, but you need to remember to reload/refresh any page you think may have changed (e.g. weather details)
- similarly, in your computer, a disk cache is a part of your RAM which is set aside to contain recently-used data from your hard disk, allowing quicker access to that data by the processor (more RAM = more available for a disk cache)
- and a memory cache
(level 1 = built into the processor, or level 2 = added onto the motherboard)
is an amount of higher-quality and thus faster RAM available to the processor
- so all these caches work to save you time
- circuitry is printed on, and chips and other bits and pieces are soldered on, to a card, which usually fits into a slot designed for it, inside the computer, where it is protected from contact with the computer box, and thus from normal vibration and being touched
- a computer may have several different types of card slotted inside
- the advantage of printed circuit cards with tiny chips, is that they are very small, can be slotted into or removed from computers by qualified technicians, and can be replaced completely if some unimaginably tiny thing somewhere in the card has gone phut!
- a chip in computer terms is a complex but tiny layered piece of (mostly) silicon, with microscopic circuitry built into it
- integrated circuits (ICs) are designed to perform complex processes, and VLSI (Very Large Scale Integrated circuits) chips were a breakthrough to doing even more in less space
- there will be all kinds of different chips inside your computer and its peripherals, but there's not much to see on the outside of any of these tiny and delicate rectangular objects, micro-soldered into the whole circuitry of your computer
- "What's that?" "It's a chip." "Oh."
- the sound the mouse button makes when you press it
- so it's quicker to say 'click on that', rather than 'press the mouse button when the cursor is on that'...
- one click selects (chooses) something; a double-click opens a file or program
- holding down the mouse button (Macintosh) or using the right mouse button (Windows) offers you a range of options and commands
- and you can drag things around the screen by holding down and moving
- you can also pick up the mouse and move it to a more convenient position on the mouse pad, without moving the cursor at all, since the movement of the cursor is affected only by the movement of the trackball (under the mouse)
- a circuit is literally following the path right around
- since electronic connections will only work when there is a closed circuit, a complete pathway from the power source to whatever needs it, circuitry means a complete electronic pathway
- this pathway is 'broken' when things are not plugged in properly, not soldered on properly inside the computer, fuses are blown, or switches not turned on
- circuit boards or cards have one or several layers of pathway running through them and all the chips and devices for managing the current, which are micro-soldered onto them
- a command is an instruction you give to your computer
- e.g. "Open", "Save", "Print", "Shut Down"
- "Sit", "Beg", "Play dead" (OK, maybe not that one ;-)
command line interface
- a command line interface allows you to type in commands, including minor or major changes in programming languages, directly
- it usually appears just as text on an otherwise blank screen
- MS-DOS and Unix/Linux have command-line interfaces
- Unix/Linux in particular is the choice of 'serious' programmers, who look down on anything that we might think makes computing easier (like pictures of what's going on!)
- it is wise not to allow anyone you cannot trust implicitly, to enter any commands into your command line (and thus to give instructions to your computer)
- means 'get along together OK'; e.g. personalities who 'fit' well enough together that there are no recurrent serious problems
- the word entered computer usage with the licensing of other companies to copy the IBM personal computer: these computers were described as "IBM compatible", meaning that they would be able to run the same software and handle the same peripherals
- compatibility has varied, however, and you do need expert advice on what is a good brand or model of machine now running the Windows operating system, because although "IBM compatible computers" are similar, they are not exactly the same
- Apple licensed other companies to produce computers which would run the Macintosh operating system, a few years back, so there are now 'Mac clones' on the market too, with no guarantee that they will have all the features that have become 'standard' in a Macintosh (the opposite of a bare-bones computer!).
- fortunately, cross-platform compatibility has improved a great deal in recent years, so files can be transferred between different operating systems quite readily
- how long you are actually connected to your ISP's modem via your modem
- your ISP runs a log file which records each time you connect and disconnect, and these amounts of time are then added up each month and billed to you, or deducted off your credit amount if you are paying in advance
- riverland.net invites you to try out its new how-much-credit-have-I-got-left page, and to email email@example.com with feedback
- although you pay so much per hour, you can be on for any number of hours, minutes and/or seconds -- each time online, or the total time, can be in odd amounts like 2 min 03 sec, and your ISP will add up for the month, work it out for you, and round down to the nearest 5c
- your ISP will probably have a webpage which allows you to read your own logfile, showing you when, through which server, and for how long you have been connected each time, with a total for the month at the bottom
- meaning Central Processing Unit, the very complex but miniaturized computer chip which actually processes all the information which is sent to it, carrying out the instructions of your software
- the 'brain' of the computer: small but vital
- processors come in different designs and varying speeds: talk to your experienced computer technician about what kind of processor, at what speed, you need for what you want to do
- the mouse-point cursor, which appears whenever you are moving the mouse around on the screen (outside a document) is the most common shape of the cursor (which literally 'runs' around); usually a pointer of some shape
- when working with keyboard letters (e.g. word-processing), the mouse-point cursor is a dog-bone-shape standing on end,
and there is also a mark-your-place straight-line cursor, which flashes on and off to show where you are in your document
(you can move this around with keyboard arrows, or click the dog-bone cursor in the place you want)
- in a spreadsheet, the cursor is usually a solid white 'plus' sign
- drawing and painting programs will provide a variety of cursor shapes, to indicate which function of the program you are using (e.g. a paintbrush)
- a hand-shaped cursor means an active link on which you can click to go somewhere else
back to alphabet table
- information, usually in the form of numbers, but since a computer stores everything from letters to fine art in the form of numbers, all information stored by a computer is data
- pronounced 'dah-ta', the plural of 'datum' (from Latin: one piece of information)
- 'the default setting' is the way things are usually done, and will be done unless you choose otherwise
- e.g. a New document will always open in the default font (which I don't like!), so I create Stationery which uses the font I like
- however, I'm quite happy with the other default settings of one line space between each line of text, no columns, plain text, moderate margins etc.
- programs are given 'default options', so that if you don't make a choice, they can still carry out your command (e.g. a default folder for downloading into)
- so you can go with 'the default setting', or choose your own
- you can delete a file by dragging it to the Trash/Recycle Bin, or by selecting the file and choosing Delete from the File menu of your operating system
- deleting a file simply tells the computer that the storage space used for that file can now be written in, and that it doesn't need to remember or list that filename any more
- from the "Whoops! I didn't mean to delete that one!" point of view, and the security point of view, it's useful to remember that your 'deleted' file remains on your disk until it is written over
- it can in fact be retrieved using software such as the Unerase program that is part of
- but of course the sooner you try to find it, the less disk activity (such as saving, moving files around, copying, making new files) that has occurred, the better, because your file's 'address' is now up for rent, and some other info will move in when it gets the chance.
- from the security point of view, this means that supposedly deleted files can be recovered: you need to use a security program such as Wipe Info, which again comes as part of Norton Utilities, and which writes zeros and ones all over the deleted file, truly and completely erasing any trace of it.
- literally the top of a desk, of course ;-)
- in a GUI, the desktop is another folder or directory belonging to the startup disk, which displays its contents on the screen in front of you
- so you can save a file 'on the desktop', so it's handy, you can see it and you don't have to look for it to keep working on it
- and while putting a complex document together, you can move other files, including image files, 'onto the desktop', so all the information and/or resources you need are right there, handy for use
- e.g. I have a folder named "to print" on my desktop, because my laptop is not connected to my printer, so I save documents to be printed (e.g. snailmail) in that folder, and either copy them onto a floppy disk for transfer to the computer connected to the printer, or connect my laptop to the printer and simply print anything waiting in that folder
- if your operating system allows you to drag files onto their applications, in order to open/view them, then it is very handy to have aliases to these programs on your desktop, handy for dragging onto!
- e.g. I also have a small window called "drag on" on my desktop, always open just far enough to show the very small icons and not so small names (eyesight going ;-) of these applications:
BBEdit Lite - freeware, excellent text editor and will open any text file [look for it in large FTP download sites]
DropStuff - shareware compression utility
Graphic Converter - shareware, excellent image handling program, for opening and/or editing just about any images and translating all those awkward image-file types
JPEGView - postcardware, specifically for opening and editing scanned photos, but good with .gifs as well [look for it in large FTP download sites]
Netscape - [Netscape and Internet Explorer are both free to download for personal use] for reading .html files saved off the Net
Stuffit Expander - freeware decompression utility for a very impressive range of compression methods
- so you really can setup your desktop to keep the things you use most, or are using a lot at the moment, right on hand
- in a program's menus, some commands will "just do it", like Close or a change of Font
- where others need you to make some choices about how you want them to do it
- e.g. the first time you Save, the program needs you to tell it the file's name, where to put it, and sometimes what kind of filetype to save it as
- if you open a New document, the program asks you what kind
- if you Quit/Exit, and haven't Saved, the program will ask you if you want to Save before doing it
- so a dialog box is more than you just telling the computer what to do (a command) -- it's you getting information from the computer as well -- it's a two-way communication, a dialog
- (English spelling: dialogue; American spelling has invaded computing words)
- we have so many choices in how we set up programs and other software nowadays
- sometimes one of those choices will cause a system conflict or otherwise interfere with what you want to do
- in which case you disable that option
- e.g. a new control panel or extension may be causing a program or the whole system to crash, so you disable it (with Extensions Manager in Mac OS, not so easy in Windows) if it is only sometimes a problem, and get rid of it if it is a serious problem
- another example is a setting which might dial up via your modem when you don't want it to, so you disable it
- a document is something that will usually be saved and/or printed for some purpose, and will always contain some text (words);
- e.g. a word processing document (mostly text)
a spreadsheet document (mostly numbers in a table)
a database document (information organized in categories)
a drawing or painting document is usually saved in one of many specific drawing/painting file types, and is then no longer a document
- directly transfer a file from one place to another, usually from another computer to your computer
- used most often to describe 'getting a file' from a server on the Internet
- a device driver is an add-on piece of software which gives your computer the capability to handle a particular piece of hardware (make it work!)
- e.g. a CD-ROM drive, a printer, a modem
- in the Macintosh OS, many drivers are built in, and others are added as extensions or control panels
- means DeskTop Publishing, being able to create a professional-looking piece of printed work, usually including formatting and images;
- from letters, fun and study at home, through advertising posters, newsletters, magazines and whole newspapers, design and layout of printed material is DTP and it is done on computers
- on top of a desk
- although since I'm mostly bedridden, I do my stuff propped up at a 45 degree angle with a laptop perched on my knee, so I suppose that's KneeTop Publishing ;-)
back to alphabet table
- meaning electronic mail, previously written 'e-mail'
- email is just text, just writing, and is very quick and easy to do
- the popular and free email program Eudora Light, for both Macintosh and Windows:
makes it very easy to 'pick up' your mail, to 'reply' or write 'new messages', to 'filter' incoming messages into different 'mailboxes', to 'save' and/or print messages and to understand all the other things you can do!
- common email problems:
- problem: sending to an incorrect email address (bounces back)
- solution: always check the outgoing email address for typos (mistakes typing, letters reversed or missed out or the wrong key hit) and that it is correct
- problem: sending or receiving very large files (constipates getting or sending your mail)
- solution: don't send or receive large files by email: FTP, IRC or ICQ are more direct
- 'attaching' files to your mail without checking with the person at the other end, what kind of encoding for attachments will work for his/her machine
- solution: attach a really small file, like the word Attach saved in a file, and send it with each of the attachment encodings available in Eudora, asking your email correspondent which encoding worked.
Then type in the 'Notes' section of your Address Book entry for this person, which encoding to use, so you have that info whenever you want to attach a file to send to that person.
The appropriate encoding does vary between operating systems and machines, so keeping that information in your address book for each person you send attached files to, will make it practical and possible.
- i.e. when you want to attach a file, go to your Address Book and select the address of the person you want to email:
if you have already worked out and noted which encoding works for that person, open a new msg to him/her and select that file encoding;
if when you select the address of someone to mail to, there is no file encoding info in the Notes section, you know you need to test it out first (as described above)
- from the Latin (crypticus) for hidden or secret
- if a file is encrypted, it is protected from anyone reading it except the person who has the 'key' to the encoding procedure used on it
- this key can be a password, as in Norton Utilities' Encrypt feature
- or it can be a personal key, as in the PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encoding used by people wanting to send privacy-protected emails or news posts
- people who create and/or break codes are called cryptographers
back to alphabet table
- a file is a collection of information which has been saved to the computer, or loaded on the computer, under one heading (filename)
- e.g. 'letter.doc'
- your computer will store operating system files, and program files, where the software instructs it to store them
- however, it is up to you to organize your information, your files, so that you can find things easily
- your operating system will have a find command, but if you can't remember the name of your file, you may have to search by other attributes, e.g. part-name or by the date it was written, in order to find it
- there are several main file types, and it's useful to understand what they mean:
- applications or programs (.exe executable file)
- these are the instructions for the main part, the 'body' of a program
- they are usually stored in the main program folder or directory
- you can usually run the program by opening this file
- if this file is damaged, you can reinstall it from your original program disks
- for shareware, always keep a compressed copy of the original program on a floppy or other disk, in case the one you're using gets damaged in some way (it happens!!)
- when you run a program, you make choices about the way you want it to do things
- these are then stored as the program's 'preferences'
- it's not the end of life as we know it if your preference file gets damaged, but you will have to make and save those choices again
- your email Address Book and your browser Bookmarks/Favourites, however, can also be viewed as preferences, since you choose to keep that information, and it is important that you backup them onto a floppy for safety -- losing all your email addresses or Internet addresses is the end of life as we know it, because you then have to find them all again!
- control panels and extensions
- these pieces of software interact with your operating system
- some are essential for what you want to do (e.g. making choices about memory allocation, choosing a printer)
- some are useful (e.g. date and time)
- and some are just gadgets (e.g. big eyes following your mouse pointer around)
- non-standard (not installed with your operating system or main programs) control panels and extensions are the culprits in many system conflicts: the less little programs you've got jumping up and down and fighting for your operating system's attention, the better!
- help files
- most programs have Help information, ranging from one 'readme' file to active guides or wizards which lead you through what the program can do
- help files can save you a lot of time and confusion: read/use them please!
- I well remember one 'readme' file I didn't bother to look at, and which I later suggested should be renamed 'read me or die'...
- files created and saved in a program
- here is where your time really comes in: the files you make yourself
- these can range from brief email messages, to massive databases or highly complex page-layout or graphic files
- your operating system will usually identify a file as having been made in a particular program, e.g. "Photoshop file", "Wordpad file", "ClarisWorks document"
- but it is up to you to keep your created and saved files organized
- some programs are unco-operative, and won't produce files which any other program or operating system can read
- however, most widely-used programs have translators, and the ability to "Save as", so (for example) you can save your word-processing file as text (.txt) with no formatting or as Rich Text Format (.rtf) which will keep standard formatting like bold, underline, font and font size, or as one of many common word processing file types, if you are sending it to someone who does not have the same word-processing program as you do
- files which come with a particular program
- these include index files, stationery, sounds, libraries of clip art or scripts and anything else the developers of the program thought might come in handy!
- it is essential that you keep these files where they are installed (usually in the same folder as the program), and if any part of the program has become damaged (corrupted) in a crash, that you delete/trash all parts of the program which were installed on your hard disk, before installing a 'clean' copy of the program.
- the operating system for your computer
- whenever you do something on your computer, the operating system is the software which keeps track of it, and makes it possible for you to run programs and arrange things the way you want
- operating systems have become very large and complicated, and it can be very difficult to install a 'clean' copy of your system when it has become damaged
- especially if your operating system has its bits and pieces scattered all over your hard drive, in all sorts of different folders (directories)
- current major operating systems are Unix/Linux, Macintosh, Windows and OS/2
- is software that has been burned into a ROM chip, built into a piece of machinery
- it cannot normally be accessed or changed by the user
- it is basic survival 'startup like this' information for your CPU, your hard disk, your modem, even your keyboard
- in modem upgrades, some modems' firmware can be accessed and upgraded by loading the upgraded driver
- so firmware is definite and basic, but not always set in concrete, ahem, silicon
- a folder is used to hold papers which would be filed (kept) in the same place
- in computing, folder icons are created to show where more than one file is kept together (representing the 'directory' of these files)
- you can create new folders, and move them around in the space on your hard disk drive, in order to organize your information the way you want it
- just as with paper folders, when a folder is open, you can see what is in it, and when it is closed, it takes up less room in front of you and is filed tidily out of the way
- in typesetting and printing, so now in computer DeskTop Publishing, a font is a particular way of representing the letters of the alphabet (and numbers, usually all keyboard characters)
- a font may be serif (with beginning- and ending-bits on letters), used for any body of text because it leads the eye on, making reading easier (e.g. Palatino)
- or sans serif, meaning without any extra taggy bits (e.g. Geneva), used for headings and titles because the letters stand out more
- bitmap fonts are still available (basically low-resolution graphics of the letters) but true-type fonts have been designed to print out cleanly at different point sizes (12 pt is usual for any body of text) and give much better results
- there is an incredible variety of fonts (you can even design them yourself!), including ones that look like handwriting, or fancy text, or include mathematical symbols; even 'dingbat' fonts which are not letters but instead, shapes like circles or check-boxes you might need
- however, after the first excitement of having so much choice, most people settle down to a few useful ones, because fonts take up space on your hard disk, and take up time being loaded (yes, all of them!) into any application where you can use them (e.g. every time you want to write a quick letter)
- any true-type font may be changed in size (10 pt, 12 pt etc) and style (bold, italic etc)
- but remember: if you send someone a file (or swap files between computers) in an unusual font, or put up a webpage specifying an unusual font, it won't work unless the person reading that file has that same unusual font ;-)
- meaning the shape or form of something
- a disk is formatted to make it suitable for the computer using it
- documents are formatted to make them suitable for the people reading them
- a format is the foundation, the basic shape on which other things are laid out
- means you don't have to pay anything for the program
- the person writing it wants to make it easy for people to use it, and generally only asks that if the program is downloaded or copied, that all the bits and pieces of the program and its information are kept together
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- stands for Graphic Image Format, filetype .gif
- an image-compression format for use on webpages
- any competent image-editing program will be able to save your created or scanned photos/pictures as .gif
- GIFs must be small on webpages, so they don't slow the page loading down
- anything that leaves a strong visual memory can be described as 'graphic'
- in computing, 'graphics' are images created or chosen to get a message across
- good graphics, for computing presentation, catch or interest the eye but do not distract from the aim of the text, and should make the text more readable (not harder to read!)
- a graphics tablet is a pressure-sensitive surface, plugged into your computer like any other input device
- using a stylus (which can be cordless and battery-less), you can draw on the surface (from 4 x 5 inches, to 12 x 18 inches) of the flat 'tablet' just like you would draw normally
- the tablet and stylus work together to offer you different pressures, and also pop-up menus and erasing, while you use your graphics/design program
- pronounced "gooey", it stands for Graphical User Interface
- this was largely invented by Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Centre) and implemented by Apple in early Macintosh computers; is now available on all common operating systems
- it means that instead of a blank screen waiting for you to type in commands, you have a screen which shows you icons (small pictures representing programs and files), folders (which contain files), menus of different kinds, and best of all, windows which can be opened in different programs, but kept on the desktop so you can use different programs at once, and swap between them simply by clicking on another window
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- a host provides what you need (entertainment, accommodation, food and drink, whatever)
- so a host in Internet terms is the server which is providing space for a webpage or website, and access for the people who want to get to it
- stands for HyperText Markup Language
- and means: getting the most out of text by marking it up with special pieces of code (tags) which allow the text to have links within itself and to other documents or locations (URLs)
- these files have names which end in .html (or .htm where operating systems limit filename endings to 3 letters)
- 'hyper' meaning 'the most': hypertext is more than normal text, because it contains links which help you move between different documents
- where an ordinary printed page is flat, so what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG), a hypertext document has many different levels and possibilities
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- a small image which represents something of importance, becomes a recognizable symbol of that important thing
- specifically, in computing, icons are designed and used to represent particular programs and files, or identified parts of your file system, like folders
- you can design and make your own icons, which can be fun, but remember! too many pictures slow your computer down ;-)
- pronounced 'I seek you'
- it's like a pager for your computer
- it allows messages, direct chat, file exchange...
- for more information see:
IRC and ICQ
- an image is usually a picture of some kind
- but in computer terms it basically means "not text", meaning not just keyboard characters
- examples of images are: clip art, a logo, the buttons on webpages, the animated banners on webpages, photos, drawings...
- images are usually created in drawing or painting programs, some of which are very complex and powerful
- images are saved in many different file types (causing much confusion!)
- GIF (Graphic Image Format) is the current image file type for use on webpages
if you put .gif files on your webpage, it is easier for the reader if you make them as small as possible, so they load quickly
- high-quality images, such as photos or high-resolution (very fine dots in printing) graphic design, take up a lot of space on a hard disk drive, and use a lot of memory
- literally putting in information
- "give me/I value your input" = give me/I value your own information/opinions
- computing 'input devices' provide information from a person or from some other 'real world' source (such as a scanner which can input pictures of real pages)
- computing input devices include the keyboard, mouse, touch-screen, digital camera, microphone, and scanner
- more sophisticated voice-input systems are being developed:
- "Computer, do my work!"
- "More information needed"
- "Unknown instruction"
- meaning 'put in', make room for
- word processors usually work in 'insert mode', meaning that when you put your cursor into a piece of text and start typing, it doesn't type over your text, but makes room for the new text
- you can insert text, data, images, URLs etc. into a document
- to put something in position and ready for use
- installing software means that you can't just copy a file or some files over to your computer
- complex software must be installed very carefully, by an Install program and/or an experienced computer technician, so that the different parts of the program are put in the right place, and then set up so you can use them
- software which is damaged in a crash will need to be removed completely (all the parts of it) and reinstalled 'clean'
- (this is where competent tech. support, where you take the time and money to employ a qualified technician, can save you a lot of ongoing hassle, including lost data)
- to interact is to act together
- interactive means acting together
- interactive software gets the user involved in what is going on: the user can make things happen, and the program can react differently to the user depending on what the user has done
- two excellent examples are:
assistants/guides/wizards help software, and
the Living Books series of children's CD-ROMs
- like an good interpreter, an interface solves communication difficulties
- in computing, an interface is where two different computing processes meet and are translated to each other; for example, simply a plug/socket where different kinds of wiring can be put properly in contact with each other
- interfacing has become a jargon term for effective communication between different groups of people
(similar to liaising, which I think has become a less common word because nobody feels confident to pronounce it [from French: in English "lee-ayze"] or spell it!)
- 'inter' meaning between, and 'net' standing for network, as in
- the International network of millions of computers
- see It started with email
- means a network within a particular group or organization
- the aim of this network is to communicate and share information as efficiently and effectively as possible throughout that organization
- whereas the aim of the Internet is to communicate and share information with as many people, in as many places, for as many purposes, as possible
- meaning Internet Relay Chat
- live chat using IRC server-networks worldwide
- each network hosts an incredible number of channels on all sorts of interests
- you can have DCC - direct client contact - with separate conversations and the ability to send each other files
- for further information, including recommended software and where to find it, see:
IRC and ICQ
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- language developed around a particular occupation or activity
- making little sense to someone who does not share in it!
- jargon stops being jargon and starts being real language when you learn what it means
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- stands for Local Area Network
- meaning a number of computers networked together, usually in the same building, and thus not requiring telephone line connection of any kind (no modems)
- LANs often work off a network server, and enable a number of machines to share equipment like a laser printer or modem (Internet) connection, and to share data, so it's not necessary to have copies of everything that might be needed, on each machine
- Windows NT, AppleTalk and Novell are different types of LAN software
- a computer small enough to put on your lap while you are using it
- ideally, a laptop has everything you need, without going back to your desktop computer
- and is particularly useful for travelling, people who are confined to a bed or chair, and taking up very little space
- a laptop runs off a battery, so the less you are opening and saving (and otherwise making the hard disk work), the less light you use, the longer the battery will last, especially if you follow the directions for its maintenance
- e.g. NiCad (Nickel Cadmium) batteries develop a 'memory effect', and must be completely discharged each time, before being recharged; while NMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries must never be completely discharged
- more modern laptops now have colour screens ('active matrix' being of higher quality than 'passive matrix'), CD-drives (sometimes leaving out the floppy drive), internal modems, and some aim for data transfer using infra-red light, to minimize the number of cables you need to hook up
- however, you still need to plug your laptop in to recharge, your modem into the phone plug, your laptop into the printer (although very compact portable printers are also available) and into other things you may need
- but laptops are light, small and endlessly convenient -- still more expensive, because of the miniaturization of components (especially the screen), but getting cheaper as they continue to be developed and become more common
- since I am mostly bedridden, my laptop (with a modem) is my link to the rest of the world, and allows me not only to communicate but also to create -- a critical element in my quality of life
- the layout of a document is the way text and images are proportioned throughout its space
- e.g. so they are not crowded, all fit in and appeal to the eye
- laying out is an experimental stage in making something - trying out different appearances and combinations, to find the best one for the purpose
- a link on a webpage is an underlined word or group of words; sometimes it's a graphic, a button or a picture
- whenever your cursor passes over a link, it will change to a hand-shape
- clicking on the link once will take you to the place it 'links' to:
anywhere from another part of the page (see anchor), to another website somewhere else in the world (marked in green on this page to save confusion!)
- holding down the mouse button, or using the right mouse button, will give you other options (choices) in using your browser,
e.g. 'open this new page in a separate window', 'copy its address into your Bookmarks/Favourites'...
- a link always has underlined text (words/letters), although there may be an image on top of it
- an 'active link' is one that works; a 'broken link' is one that doesn't
you can report broken links to the webmaster of the site
- in colour, a link you have already clicked on, will then be a different colour to the untried links
- load in computer terms means to put some file directly into the memory of a computer (or of a program: e.g. your word processor may load fonts when opening)
- as opposed to installing, where a program may decide what you need and where parts of the (usually large and complex) installed program will go
- loading images from a webpage, is an option in your browser; because of the slowness of these extra files, you can often save a lot of time by just sticking to the text
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