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Glossary

The following provides a glossary of common computing terminology. To locate a particular term, use the "search in page" functionality of your browser (Windows users press Ctrl F) or your knowledge of the alphabet(!). All terms below are explained in more detail in the relevant sections on this website, and as hyperlinked within the below.

AGP Accelerated Graphics Port. AGP is a standard for connecting graphics cards to a computer motherboard. On more modern computers, it has been replaced by the new standard PCI Express. See hardware.

Android Android is an operating system from Google. It is now the most common operating system on smartphones, and also runs on many tablets and even some netbooks.

App Store An app store - or 'application store' - is a website from which software applications are available. Such applications may either be installed on a local computing device (such as a smartphone) or integrated into a cloud service as happens when applications are obtained from Google Apps Marketplace.

Augmented Reality Augmented reality overlays data from the cloud on a real-time view of the world. For example, a user may hold up their smartphone and see arrows on the pavement directing them to the nearest tube station, or a clickable Twitter feed floating above their friend's head. See cloud computing on this site, or the Augmented Reality page on our sister site ExplainingTheFuture.com.

Big Data Big Data generates value from the storage and processing of very large quantities of digital information that cannot be analyzed with traditional computing techniques See Big Data.

Blu-Ray Blu-Ray (also known as BD or Blu-Ray Disk) is a high capacity form of optical storage already used both for distributing high definition video content and for computer storage. It was developed by the Blu-Ray Disk Association (BDA) and is the winning competitor to HD-DVD. See storage.

Broadband A means of accessing the Internet using a high-speed DSL connection. See DSL below and also Internet.

Cloud The Internet has traditionally been represented on network diagrams by a cloud symbol. In simple terms the cloud is therefore the Internet. However, more strictly, the cloud refers to an online computing infrastructure that facilitates the delivery of online resources including software, processing power, data storage, and artificial intelligence. See cloud computing.

Cloud
Computing
Cloud computing is where software applications, data storage, processing power and even artificial intelligence are accessed over the Internet from any kind of computing device. See cloud computing, the Discover the Cloud page, or the Explaining Cloud Computing video.

Cloud Hosting Cloud hosting is a form of infrastructure as a service where customers rent virtual server instances from a cloud data centre on demand. A major supplier of this kind of service is Amazon Web Services. See cloud computing.

Compact Flash Compact Flash (CF is a type of memory card (solid state drive). It is now less popular than its main rival the SD card, though extremely widely used in a wide range of digital devices, most notably including high-end still and video digital cameras. High performance CF cards also still significantly outperform the best SD cards. See storage.

CRD Computing Related Disorder. CRDs are health problems associated with prolonged computer usage, including repetitive strain injury (RSI), eyesight problems, and headaches. See Display Screen Equipment Regulations.

Crowdsourcing Crowdsourcing is where the Internet is used to generate value from the activities of a great many people. Such "pooled collective intelligence" may be contributed consciously by individuals when they use collaborative computing tools. However, crowdsourcing value may also be created by monitoring and analyzing the unconscious data shadows cast by the things people consume and the objects they manipulate. See cloud computing.

Data Shadow A data shadow is the online record or "digital footprint" cast by a person or object whose activity is monitored in the cloud. For example, future cloud-based vision recognition systems are likely to be fed data by a great many cameras and will use this data to map a data shadow of our travels. See cloud computing.

Data Wrangling Data wrangling refers to the handling and long-term storage of large quantities of data. The term originated in the movie industry where high-speed, random-access digital storage requirements can run into tens of terabytes on a major blockbuster. Keep a close eye on the credits of major visual effects films and you will indeed sometimes now see one or more individuals credited as "data wranglers". See storage or my Explaining Data Wrangling video.

DAS Direct Attached Storage. A DAS drive/unit is simply an external hard disk drive by another name. The term has come into being to distinguish hard disk drives that connect via USB, firewire or e-sata from those NAS units that connect over a network via an ethernet network connection. Isn't progress wonderful! See storage.

Dedicated Hosting Dedicated hosting is a form of infrastructure as a service where customers rent physical servers from a cloud data centre on demand. See cloud computing.

DVI Digital Video Interface. DVI is the most modern standard for connecting monitors to computers, and is replacing the previous VGA standard. DVI has a level of compatibility with the HDMI interface increasingly common on television and video/DVD equipment. See hardware.

DSL Digital Subscriber Line. An Internet connection technology that transmits data over a telephone line using frequencies not used by voice traffic. DSL is commonly marketed as broadband, and is available in two variants known as ADSL (which has a slower upload speed than download speed) and SDSL (which has equal upload and download speeds). See Internet.

E-SATA External SATA is a standard for connecting external storage devices, and in particular fast external hard disk drives, to a computer. See also SATA and hardware.

Ethernet Ethernet is standard for wired computer networks based on UTP (unshielded twisted pair) cables. Most computers now feature an ethernet connection socket. See networking.

Firewall A firewall protects an individual computer or network from illegitimate external access. Firewalls can be implemented via either hardware and/or software. See security.

Firewire Created by Apple, and also labelled by other manufacturers and standards bodies as "i-Link" and "IEEE 1394", firewire is a standard for connecting media and storage devices (most notably external hard disk drives and DV camcorders) to computers. See hardware.

FSB Front Side Bus. FSB speed is a measure of how fast a computer's microprocessor chip communicates with the rest of the components on its main circuit board (or "motherboard"). See hardware.

Gigabyte (GB) One billion bytes (characters) of computer storage. When measuring computer RAM or solid state drive capacity, one gigabyte equates to 1024 megabytes. However, hard disk manufacturers usually measure one gigabyte as 1000 megabytes. See storage.

HaaS Hardware as a Service is where computer processing capacity and data storage is purchased over the web. Hardware as a Service is now a relatively old term that in common usage has been sub-divided in the categories of Platform as a Service or PaaS, and Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS. See hardware.

HD-DVD High Definition DVD was a next generation form of optical disk intended for video distribution and computer data storage. It is a now failed competitor to the rival and more successful Blu-Ray disk. See storage.

Hybrid Hosting Hybrid hosting is a form of infrastructure as a service where customers rent a mix of dedicated physical servers and virtual server instances from a cloud data centre on demand. See cloud computing.

IaaS Infrastructure as a Service. Infrastructure as a service is where a cloud computing vendor provides online infrastructure on which customers can store data and run their own new or existing applications. Popular infrastructure as a service providers include Amazon Web Services (AWS), GoGrid and Rackspace. See cloud computing, the Three Ways to Cloud Compute video and the Cloud Computing Directory.

IDE Integrated Drive Electronics is a standard for connecting hard disks, DVD-drives and other storage peripherals to a computer's motherboard. For reasons not worth mentioning here, IDE effectively also equates to the standards ATAPI, ATA, UDMA, and the more advanced EIDE. However, in practical terms this is all becoming irrelevant, as IDE is now rapidly being replaced by SATA. See hardware and/or storage.

Infrastructure
as a Service
See IaaS.

Internal Cloud An internal cloud is created when a company builds its own cloud computing infrastructure to allow it to deliver browser-based software from its own data centres. Internal clouds are therefore quite distinct from the vendor managed private clouds run by large external cloud vendors. Because internal clouds offer limited benefits, many analysts already view them as last-ditch attempts by internal IT departments to hold on to their data centres and avoid radical change. Indeed, any company with an internal cloud can be argued to not really be cloud computing at all.

Internet of
Things
The Internet of Things refers to the growing number of non-traditonal computing devices that are being connected to the Internet, and in the process accessing online information and/or generating an online data feed. Such devices include televisions, toys, smart electricty meters, Internet fridges, web cams, and remotely controlled robots.

ISP Internet Service Provider. An ISP is an organization with which an individual or organization obtains an account that enables them to connect to the Internet. See Internet.

Linux Linux is a free, open source operating system, and an increasing competitor to Microsoft Windows. Linux is made available in a number of "distributions" by companies including Red Hat, Novell (which supplies a variant of Linux called SuSE) and Mandriva. See software.

Megabyte (MB) One million bytes (characters) of computer storage. When measuring computer RAM or solid state drive capacity, one megabyte equates to 1,048,576 bytes. However, hard disk manufacturers usually measure one megabyte as 1,000,000 bytes. See storage.

MFD An MFD (Multi Function Device) commonly refers to a computer printer with an integrated scanner, photocopier, and sometimes fax machine. See hardware.

Mobile
Broadband
Mobile broadband provides a direct wireless connection between a computer and an Internet Service Provider, and therefore allows access to the Internet from almost anywhere. See Internet and/or the Explaining Mobile Broadband video.

Netbook A netbook is another name for an ultramobile (small laptop) computer that is largely used to wirelessly access the Internet. The term is currently attributed to Intel (2008), although the first "netbooks" were actually produced by Psion in the late 1990s. See mobile.

NAS Network Attached Storage. NAS units are effectively just large external hard disk drives with one or more ethernet ports to facilitate their connection to a network. See networking.

Open Source Open source refers to software written and freely distributed in the public domain, with examples including OpenOffice (a freely available applications suite compatible with Microsoft Office) and the Linux operating system and applications. See software.

PaaS Platform as a Service. Platform as a service provides a customer with cloud infrastructure and development tools that allow them to develop and deliver online applications. Popular PaaS offerings include Google App Engine, Microsoft Azure and Force.com. See cloud computing, the Three Ways to Cloud Compute video and the Cloud Computing Directory.

PCI Express Often abbreviated to "PCIe", PCI Express is a standard for connecting graphics cards and other circuit boards to a computer's motherboard. PCI Express was introduced in 2004 as an upgrade to the previous PCI (peripheral component interconnect) standard. See hardware.

Platform
as a Service
See PaaS.

Private Cloud A private cloud - also known as a vendor managed private cloud - is a very secure form of infrastructure as a service where a cloud vendor provides dedicated servers to a client organization. Infrastructure within a private cloud is never shared with other customers. See cloud computing.

PSP Payment Service Provider. A payment service provider supplies a web service for taking payments online. Examples include Paypal, Netbanx and RBS Worldpay. See Web 2.0.

Platform A platform is a computing environment for developing and running compatible applications. For example, Microsoft Windows is currently the most common platform for running desktop software. Increasingly, however, cloud computing developments are turning the whole Internet into a single computing platform across which online software and services can be accessed..

RAM Random Access Memory. RAM is the memory into which computer applications and data are temporarily loaded when a computer is turned on. See hardware.

RIA RIA (Rich Internet Applications) refer to web offerings that provide functionality more resemblant of locally installed software than traditional web pages. RIAs are therefore very much an aspect of SaaS (software as a service) development. RIAs make use of new Internet programming standards and technologies, with an RIA standards war emerging with Adobe with its Flash and associated Flex and AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) development tools on the one side, and Microsoft with Silverlight and its Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) platform on the other. See Web 2.0.

SaaS Software as a service is a computer application that is accessed over the Internet using a web browser, rather being than installed on a local computing device or in a local data centre. Examples of SaaS include the free online application Google Docs. See cloud computing, Web 2.0 and the Cloud Computing Directory.

SATA SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) is a standard for connecting hard disks, DVD drives and other storage peripherals to a computer's motherboard. It is the modern, higher speed replacement for the earlier IDE standard, and currently exists in three formats: SATA/150 (also known as SATA 1.5 or SATA 1, and which can transfer data at a theoretical 1.5 gigabits per second), SATA/300 (also known as SATA 3.0 and incorrectly as SATA II, with a 3 gigabits per second data rate), and SATA/600 (SATA 6.0) with a 6 gigabits per second data rate. See hardware.

SD Card SD or "secure digital" cards are the most widely adopted type of memory card (solid state drive), and used for data storage in digital cameras and a host of other devices. Although now more popular than its main and physically-larger rival Compact Flash (CF), SD cards can sometimes prove confusing for consumers due to the wide range of standards available. For a start, SD cards come in three sizes, the smaller of which are known as Mini SD and Micro SD cards. SD cards also come in three different capacity types known as SD (limited to 2GB), SDHC (ranging from 4 to 32GB) and SDXC (permitting cards of 32GB to 2TB). Finally, SD cards also come in five speed classes (class 2, class 4, class 6, class 10 and UHS-1). Buying the wrong SD card is therefore rather easy! For more information see storage or my Explaining SD Cards video.

Server A server is a computer that provides remote processing power and/or storage capacity. Servers are therefore the fundamental building blocks of cloud computing infrastructure. When rented online from an infrastructure as a service provider, servers can be real or virtual. Real servers are dedicated, individual circuit boards - known as 'blades' - mounted within hardware racks in a data centre. Virtual servers - also known as virtual server instances - are software-controlled slices of real, physical servers. Virtual servers are created by a process called virtualization that allows many users to share the processing power of one physical server. See cloud computing.

Social Bookmarking Social bookmarking is one aspect of Web 2.0, and involves the use of websites such as del.icio.us, Reddit, and StumbleUpon for storing and sharing your bookmarks online. This means that you can access your bookmarks from any computer with Internet access. See social bookmarking.

Software
as a Service
See SaaS.

Solid State Drive A solid state drive -- or SSD -- is a device that stores computer data on non-volatile "flash" memory chips, rather than a disk media. Examples of SSDs hence include USB memory keys, and Compact Flash and SD memory cards. Some laptop, tablet and ultramobile computers use SSDs rather than a conventional spinning and more fragile hard disk, and this is likely to be a growing trend. See storage.

Streaming
Data
Streaming data refers to data that is delivered to a user in real-time. The most obvious example is an online video file. However, an increasing number of applications require real-time streaming data, including augmented reality and location tracking.

Terabyte (TB) One trillion bytes (characters) of computer storage, or in other words 1000 gigabytes, or one million megabytes. In 2007 the first hard disks with a 1TB became available, with several external hard drives and NAS units now offering multi-terabyte storage. See storage.

Thin Client A thin client is a computing device dependent on network resources to deliver its functionality. A thin client can therefore perform little or no useful independent action without access to (most commonly) the Internet, and from which it will access SaaS applications. The use of thin clients is growing due to both cloud computing and green computing (the latter due to the fact that thin client devices are significantly more energy efficient than traditional "thick client" desktop PCs). See networking and/or cloud computing.

Ultrabook An ultrabook is a stylish, lightweight laptop that meets a specification laid down by Intel. This requires ultrabooks to be less than 21mm thick, to resume from sleep in a few seconds, to have at least five hours battery life, and to include anti-theft technology. Most ultrabooks feature a solid state drive and weigh little more than a kilogram. For more information see. See mobile and/or my Explaining Ultrabooks video.

Utility
Computing
Utility computing is generally accepted as another name for cloud computing, and is where data, software applications or computer processing power are accessed from a "cloud" of online resources. The concept hence includes the development of SaaS and HaaS. The term utility computing was coined to reflect the way in which computing capacity may now be obtained by "plugging-in" to online resources in the same manner as a connection is made to a national grid to obtain electrical power. See the Explaining Cloud Computing video or the cloud computing section.

USB Universal Serial Bus. USB is the most common standard for connecting peripheral devices -- such as storage devices, keyboards, mice and digital cameras -- to a computer. USB currently comes in three standards -- USB 1.1, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. USB 1.1 ports are now only found on older computers, and can transfer data as 12 Mbps (megabits per second). USB 2.0 ports are by far the most common, and are ten times faster at 480 Mbps. However, recently USB 3.0 has been introduced, with a theoretical maximum data transfer speed of 4,800 Mbps, or 4.8 Gbps (gitabits per second). For more information on the new USB 3.0 standard, please see my video Explaining USB 3.0. See also hardware.

VGA Video Graphics Adapter or Video Graphics Array. VGA is a standard for connecting monitors to computers. VGA is still widely used, even though it has been superseded by the more modern DVI connection standard. VGA also refers to a particular computer screen resolution (of 640x480 pixels). See hardware.

Virtualization Virtualization is where a number of physically discrete and usually isolated units of computer hardware (most often servers) are replaced with virtual equivalents that run as software on a single larger-scale computer. Such a move to virtualization may allow the most effective usage of available computing capacity, easier system management, and potential electrical power savings. See green.

Web 2.0 Web 2.0 refers to a range of world-wide web developments that are enabling interpersonal content sharing and online service delivery. Three key aspects of Web 2.0 are interpersonal computing (including social networking and new forms of online collaboration), web services (that can be automatically interlinked into integrated service "mashups"), and software as a service or "SaaS" (and which involves the delivery of software applications online). See Web 2.0!

Web Squared Web Squared is the next Internet development after Web 2.0, and refers to the cybernetic fusion of the world-wide web and the human race that is starting to occur as Web 2.0 matures, more devices get online, and all of our data shadows begin to mingle. See Web 2.0 or my Explaining Web Squared video.

WEEE
Regulations
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2006 came into full force in January 2007 in the UK, and implement European Union Directive 2002/96/EC. These aim to reduce the quantity of waste from electrical and electronic equipment, and place obligations on manufacturers and retailers to recycle electrical and electronic products, including computers and related devices. See green computing.

Wi-Fi Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology based on a set of technologies known as 802.11. These include 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g and 802.11n. See networking and Internet.

WiMax WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a wireless networking standard for both fixed and mobile Internet access. It is based on IEEE standard 802.16 and has a range of around three to ten kilometers. WiMAX service providers are now just entering the market, offering customers an alterative to a DSL Internet connection. See networking and Internet.

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