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GEEK GLOSSARY / TECH TERMS

Portrait mode is the orientation of a display screen so that it is taller than it is wide. The default position of most smartphones is “portrait mode” as the phone design is such that it is most frequently held in the hand via the long edge. Portrait mode orientation is not typically found on television screens or computer monitors outside of specialized applications.

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The V-chip is an electronic chip included with televisions (with 13″+ screens) and cable boxes manufactured after January 1 2000. The chip allows parents, via in-device menu, to set a lock on the type of broadcast/cable media displayed based on content ratings. The provisions regulating the inclusion of the v-chip were part of President Clinton’s Telecommunications Act of 1996.

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DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) is the protocol that automatically assigns IP addresses to each device on a network without interaction from a system administrator or user. A common example is that of Wi-Fi devices dropping on and off a home network. Each time a device returns (or appears for the first time) on the Wi-Fi network, the router uses DHCP to assign a new and open IP address to the device.

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OAuth is an open standard for authorization that is widely used to allow users to authorize themselves on web applications, mobile apps, and other tools by using already existing credentials.

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A Hackintosh is a computer that runs Apple’s Mac OS X operating system but is not (as is traditionally the case) an Apple-built computer. Hackintoshes are typically built by users who wish to use OS X without incurring the high premium of purchasing an Apple computer.

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Electronic Waste, also referred to as e-waste and e-scrap, is a term applied to the stream of waste generated by discarded electronics such as monitors, cellphones, and other electronic devices large and small.

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CHKDSK, short for “check disk”, is utility found on DOS, OS/2, and Windows-based machines. It is used to check file system integrity on hard disks and removable media and, in its modern form in Windows, can also check for physical errors and bad sectors.

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Whois is a network data retrieval tool used to look up information about a given host. What the Name/Finger command is to personal information lookups, returning information like username and contact email, Whois is to domain name lookups, returning information such as the owner of a given hostname and how to contact them.

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Traceroute is a computer network diagnostic tool that, as the name implies, traces the route packets of data take from the machine the command is executed on to the remote host. Traceroute offers a more granular look at the path the packets are taking than the Ping command, as it reports the length of each leg of the journey as the packets pass through different nodes on the network. By contrast, the Ping command only reports the length of the total trip. While both tools are effective for establishing whether or not a remote host is reachable, Traceroute will show you where the path from the host to remote machine is slowest (or breaks down entirely).

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Finger, also frequently called Name, is a simple network protocol used for the exchange of user status and contact information. Introduced in the 1970s, it was used to locate other users on a given computer network and see if they were logged in and/or available. While historically significant, its use declined steadily into the 1990s, as security concerns, other venues of contact information sharing, and incompatibility with NAT-based routing (such as commonly found in home and corporate routers) quickly made Finger an unattractive communication tool.

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Ping is a common computer network administration tool used to test whether or not a host is reachable on an Internet Protocol (IP) based network and to measure the amount of time it took to reach that host and receive a reply.

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Variable width fonts are typeface fonts that employ a dynamic spacing system wherein the shape of the letters and other characters are considered when spacing the letters on the line. By this mechanism, a “B” takes up more room than an “I” and the letter “a” in the word “Tan” is nested slightly under the “T”.

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A monospaced font, or non-variable width font, is a font wherein each character in the font set is given equal spacing regardless of the size and shape of the letter. A common monospaced font is Courier (aka the typewriter font). Monospaced fonts yield text that takes up more space on the page because there is no mechanism for adjusting the spacing and fitting the letters closer together based on their shape.

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Traditionally, a font was a specific size, weight, and style of a given physical typeface (style of letters). In modern computer-based usage, font has come to indicate the style, but not the size or weight, as modern publishing and design applications can easily scale the size and weight of the typeface on the fly.

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Cookies are small bits of information stored in a browser that (irritating advertising tracking aside) are generally pretty useful, as they allow for things like sustained logins to websites, saved preferences, and other browsing conveniences.

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Voice over IP is an umbrella term that refers to several modern telecommunication systems that encode and transmit traditional voice communications via the TCP/IP networking protocol–in essence, VoIP is telephone over the Internet.

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File Allocation Table (FAT) is a legacy file system that still remains in wide use today; the naming of the system is a reference to the prominent role of the file index table which is created when the FAT disk is formatted.

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In computer science, a file system is a data storage schema used to store, retrieve, and update files. File systems specify a wide range of attributes such as cluster size, maximum file size, whether or not data is integrity checked, and other elements of file reading and writing.

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A Web API, or Web Application Programming Interface, is relative of the traditional computing Application Programming Interface (API). Just like an API helps different elements on a traditional computer talk to each other using common routines and tools, a Web API allows clear communication between a web-based service (and its data set) and a third party tool (like a desktop widget).

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Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are sets of functions or routines that specify how software components should interact with each other. The APIs are, to the end user, entirely invisible and function behind the scenes, handling such tasks as process thread management, error handling, rendering output for graphic user interfaces (GUIs) and other core functions that are part of the computing experience.

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Boolean search is used in applications and search engines that use Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) to restrict or expand search queries. For example, if you wanted to search for web pages that contained the phrases “writing tips” and “starting a blog” but not “essay topics”, you could search with the following query: ”writing tips” AND “starting a blog” NOT “essay topics” .

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DjVu, pronounced like the French déjà vu, is a document format similar (and in competition to) Adobe System’s Portable Document Format (PDF). Developed shortly after PDF, DjVu boasts higher compression ratios and many have argued that it is superior to PDF. Despite better compression, the format never enjoyed the same widespread adoption that the PDF did and it remains a relatively obscure format.

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Portable Document Format (PDF) files are an ubiquitous way to package and share documents. The format was introduced in 1993 by Adobe Systems and remained a closed proprietary format (but free to use) until released as an open standard in 2008.

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Upgradable electronics are capable of accepting additional or replacement hardware components to extend their functionality and lifespan. Highly upgradable electronics include such items as desktop computers, where in it is very simple to upgrade memory DIMMS, swap out hard drives, or otherwise improve the machine. Laptops are less upgradable as many of the components (such as the GPU) are integrated right into the machine and cannot be exchanged for a better model. On the opposite end of the spectrum are items like MP3 players and smart phones where there is no expectation in the consumer that the device will be upgradable in any fashion (and they are prepared to purchase a new unit when theirs is obsolete).

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One of the first tasks given to a student studying a new programming language is to copy a simple program that outputs the phrase “Hello, World” on the screen. This classic exercise helps familiarize the students with the basic structure of the new language they are studying.

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