Just like your spinal cord connects the tens of thousands of peripheral nerves in your body, massive high speed fiber optic lines connect major cities and regions. These “internet backbones” link the smaller networks built by individual Internet Service Providers, which in turn connect to the end user. When you send a file to a friend across the country, for example, the data leaves your home network, passes to the local ISP maintained network, and then from your ISP’s local/regional network over one of the major internet backbones until the process is reversed to deliver the data from the backbone, to the regional network, and then down the final leg to your friend’s home network.
An ISP, or Internet Service Provider, is the company that provides internet access between the greater internet infrastructure and the end consumer. In other words, the company you pay to provide “the last mile” of connectivity to your home or business is your Internet Service Provider. In addition to providing simple TCP/IP network connectivity, most ISPs also offer an array of peripheral services including email hosting, small personal web hosting, and increasingly–as large telecommunication and media companies continue to merge–phone and premium television access, too.
The rise in popularity of Wi-Fi enabled devices has fueled an interest in mobile hotspots–small devices that act as a hybrid cellular modem and Wi-Fi router. The mobile hotspot connects to nearby towers via the cellular network and shares the data connection it establishes with nearby Wi-Fi enabled devices, just like a regular Wi-Fi node shares its hard-wired data connection.
A cellular modem is an add-on device for a mobile computer that plugs into a USB port or ExpressCard slot to provide cellular data service to the mobile computer. While many people tether their phones to their computers in order to gain access to their cellular data plan, this practice is frowned upon by many cellular providers. Dedicated cellular modems are an official way for cellular subscribers to add mobile data to their devices.
Tethering is the process by which a computer is connected to a cellphone in order to provide internet access to the computer. Tethering was originally a wired process, wherein a cellphone would be connected to the computer via specialized cable (and later via standardized USB cable) in order to share its data connection with the secondary machine. Advances in phone design have made it possible to tether a cellphone to a computer or other secondary device via both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Localization is the process of customizing software and accompanying documentation for a specific region, country, or social group. The process includes text translation, adaptation of user menus, and inclusion of specialty characters. In many operating systems, the bundles of localized files and settings are called “locales”.
A task manager is a computer utility which allows the user to view the status of all running applications and background services. Typical features include the ability to monitor CPU and memory usage globally as well as on an app-by-app basis. In addition, users can request more information about individual applications and terminate applications which are not responding or otherwise non-functional.
Thermal paste, also commonly called thermal grease, is a conductive substance used to form a seal between two objects to ensure a consistent and thorough transfer of heat. When installing a new heat sink on a computer, for example, you need to clean off the thermal paste residue from the previous heat sink and then add a thin layer of thermal paste onto the new heat sink before tightening it down. This process creates a seal between the hot body of the CPU and the metal of the heatsink where the heat can migrate more effectively than it could through an air gap.
The Fn key (FuNction key) is a special key found primarily on notebook computers. Not to be confused with the Function Keys (typically F1-F12 on a regular desktop keyboard) the Fn key is a modifier key designed to give keyboard buttons a secondary function. It is common, for example, for notebook computers to have symbol labels on their top row numeric keys designating system functions accessible via the Fn key (e.g. the 1 key + FN yields monitor dimming or the 5 key + FN turns the Wi-Fi on and off).
In addition to the standard function keys on a keyboard (typically F1-F12), many modern keyboards include special function keys that are specifically designated for a given purpose, such as controlling the computer’s multimedia functions, hibernating the computer, opening specific folders such as My Documents, or otherwise providing one-button access to individual functions.
The function keys, typically labeled F1 through F12, are hardware keys on a computer keyboard reserved by the operating system or the current application to perform a given function. Common function key assignments include F1 to open the help file and F5 to refresh the content of the current pane (such as in a file explorer or web browser).
An email storm is when a very large volume of email messages are sent within a very short span of time. This has the potential to temporarily cripple both the sending and receiving mail servers. Although email storms may be generated by viruses that have gained access to user’s email clients (or even the email server itself), some of the largest mail storms have been generated by human error–typically when a mailing list is improperly configured and a single user is able to reply-all to tens of thousands of other list recipients.
The at sign (@), originally and traditionally called the ampersat, is a symbol used to separate the user from their domain within an email address, such as email@example.com, where the user is “admin” and the domain is “google.com”.
Resolution is a designation of the number of discrete elements an electronic or printed image is comprised of. In the case of displays (both large displays like HDTVs and small displays like those found on smartphones), the resolution is generally described in terms of the horizontal and vertical resolution. An HD monitor or TV, for example, has 1920 pixels running from side to side and 1080 pixels running from top to bottom. Although when discussing computer monitors and displays it is common to refer to the horizontal x vertical pixel count (as in the previously described 1920×1080 monitor), it is more common to talk about smartphone and other small displays in terms of Pixels Per Inch (PPI), which is another way to describe the resolution with an emphasis on how many pixels are in a given area (and thus how sharp and realistic the image is).
Just like DPI (Dots Per Inch) refers to the resolution of a printer’s output, PPI (Pixels Per Inch) refers to the resolution of a display screen. Historically, the PPI of computer displays was fairly low (the CRT monitors that dominated the computer display market up until the early 2000s, for example, generally had a PPI of around 60-100). The introduction of LCDs pushed the PPI above 100, and the PPI value of displays large and small have been increasing ever since (the Retina Display on the iPhone has a PPI of 326, and the HTC One sports a PPI of 468).
DPI is a common term used primarily in regard to printers and their output. It stands for Dots Per Inch and represents the resolution number of dots per inch in digital printing. The actual print resolution can be calculated by squaring the DPI number. Thus a printer with 100 DPI rating is capable of printing 10,000 dots per square inch, and a printer with a 1200 DPI rating is capable of printing 1,440,00 dots per square inch.
System-on-Chip designs have been pivotal in the development of powerful but energy efficient mobile electronics. Compared to a traditional computing system where functions are performed by discrete components (the CPU, GPU, sound processor, etc.), the SoC design packs everything onto a single chip. It is this miniaturization that allows a single chip in a modern smartphone to handle the core processing needs of the device as well as decode video, audio, and manage the extras on the device like motion sensors and cameras.
Vampire devices are electronic devices that still draw power even when the device appears to be off. In some cases the the draw is quite small as is the case with an electronic transformer which carries a steady 1 watt load when the device attached to it is turned off. In other cases the draw can be surprisingly high, as is the case with many cable boxes and other media peripherals that consume a significant amount of power when they are powered off (as they do a variety of tasks behind the scenes such as updating programming schedules, recording and downloading content, etc.)
Compared to a traditional blog–wherein posts are usually developed like essays–microblogs quite tiny, focused on short snippets of content and typically only include very short commentary and/or photo, video, or other multimedia elements.
A Blog (a portmanteau of “web” and “log”) is a website that contains stories and updates in reverse chronological order–the most recent entries appear at the top of the front page, and you browse backwards to move through the past articles. Blogs exploded in popularity the late 1990s with the advent of sites like Open Diary, Live Journal, and Blogger, which made it easy for individuals without web design experience or their own web host to have a personal blog.
Ultrabooks are high-end subnotebooks. Although the term has become synonymous with very lightweight yet full size laptop computers, it’s actually a trademark of computer company Intel and has specific criterion. The specifications cover battery life (5 hours or better), height (21 mm or thinner), time from hibernation resume (7 seconds or better) and, as you would expect, and Intel processor.
Netbooks are a class of subnotebooks. Introduced in late 2007, the tiny laptops are optimized for long battery life, low weight, and cost. Netbooks typically feature a screen ranging from 6-12″ in size, weigh around 2 pounds, and have 5-10 hour battery run times.
Subnotebooks are a class of portable computers designed to be smaller and lighter than a typical laptop computer, yet still run a full fledged operating system (such as Windows 8) and not a lightweight mobile-device operating system (such as Windows CE).