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GEEK GLOSSARY / TECH TERMS

TOR, or The Onion Router, is the world’s largest implementation of onion routing communication techniques. The TOR system is composed of thousands of volunteers around the world who run TOR proxy servers. When someone connects to the TOR proxy network, their communications are encrypted and passed through a series of TOR proxies. Any TCP-based application that supports standard SOCKS proxy protocols can be connected to the TOR network.

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Onion Routing is a method used for anonymous communication over wide area networks. Much like the heart of an onion is wrapped in many layers, messages sent through Onion Routing are wrapped in layer after layer of encryption. Each layer of encryption corresponds to a stop on the route and the layer is peeled away (decrypted) before being passed forward. The very last layer of encryption is removed by the recipient and the message is revealed.

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A common feature of email discussion lists and newsgroup discussions, a digest is a daily or weekly summary distributed to the users. Digests make it easy to read over all the new developments of that day (or week) at once instead of slogging through multiple individual emails or postings.

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Backlighting is the process by which displays are lit via light shined through them towards the user. Smartphone screens, computer monitors, television sets, and other common display interfaces are lit by LED or fluorescent lights in this fashion.

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Produced by the ARM Ltd., based out of the UK, ARM chips are RISC-based microprocessors widely used in smartphones, ebook readers, game consoles, and a wide array of other consumer electronics where having a small chip with low power needs and passive cooling capabilities is a necessity.

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Toshiba Link (TOSLINK) is an optical interface that links audio-capable devices using the S/PDIF standard over fiber optic cables. TOSLINK is capable of transfer rates of up to 1.2 Gbps. TOSLINK ports are found on a wide variety of consumer electronics including DVD players, cable boxes, amplifiers, and other home audio/video equipment.

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Sony/Philips Digital InterFace (S/PDIF) is a serial interface for transferring digital audio from DVD, CD, and other disc-based players to stereo amplifiers, television sets, and other equipment.

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A NIC, or Network Interface Card, is the piece of hardware that provides a connection between the computer and a computer network. Historically, a NIC was a discrete expansion card added into a computer to provide access to a hard wired network such as an Ethernet or Token Ring LAN.

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In computing, a queue is a list of processes to be completed that obey a first-in-first-out rule. One of the most common queues around is the print queue; if ten users around the office all send a document to be printed, the documents will be temporarily stored in the printer’s queue in the order in which they were received. This queue will then be emptied using a first-in-first-out process with the last received document the last to be printed.

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Inbox Zero is a phrase coined by blogger and productivity writer Merlin Mann in 2006 to refer to email management techniques and strategies designed to keep the user’s email inbox as empty as possible. Techniques that fall under the Inbox Zero umbrella include unsubscribing from unnecessary or unwanted mailing lists, setting up aggressive email filters, communicating directly with the high volume senders in your address book, and daily processing of the email inbox to ensure emails are properly dealt with, delegated, deleted, or otherwise removed from the inbox.

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Email bankruptcy is a term used to describe a scorched earth approach to getting an overwhelming backlog of emails under control. The owner of the inbox deletes all unread emails (declaring “bankruptcy” on the account) and starts fresh with the new incoming emails. The term is typically attributed to author and Wired writer Lawrence Lessig. The process may or may not involve sending a blanket BCC’d email to the owners of the unreplied to emails explaining that email bankruptcy has been declared.

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The Media Access Control address, or, MAC address, is a unique hardware identification number assigned to network interfaces. Common interfaces assigned MAC addresses include Ethernet cards, Wi-Fi cards, Bluetooth devices, and other wireless devices and accessories which require access to a data network.

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Daemons are applications which run on modern multitasking computer operating systems as background processes rather than as foreground processes (visible to the user). These background processes sit idle waiting for input and then spring to life, performing their intended function.

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User Account Control (UAC) is a Windows-based security infrastructure introduced with the release of Windows Vista/Windows Server 2008. The development of UAC was a move by Microsoft intended to introduce the concept of regular user/superuser security structures, common in Unix-like operating systems, to Windows.

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Sudo is a program for Unix-like systems that allows users to run programs with the security privileges of another user–typically a user with a higher level of access such as the superuser/root account.

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A Domainer is an organization or individual that profits from the manipulation of and speculation in the Domain Name market. Domainers specialize in the bulk purchasing of new domain names and existing but expired domain names they believe will be profitable in the future.

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Bacn, pronounced Bacon (like the breakfast meat), is an ideological and language offshoot of the idea of Spam. Where as Spam is unsolicited electronic communication you don’t want (the joke being that nobody ever wants Spam), Bacn is solicited electronic communication that you do want (bacon being something you do want, but not all the time).

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Domain Name Registrars are companies that accept new (and maintain old) domain name records. Whether you’re a major corporation or just an individual who wants to hold www.yourname.com for vanity purposes, you need to deal with a Domain Name Registar like Network Solutions or Dreamhost.

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In computer networking, a Workgroup is a collection of computers on a local area network that share resources (such as shared folders and printer access). Workgroups are best suited for small networks of 50 devices or less, such as a home or small office network. Beyond that number of devices, administration and management become unwieldy and setting up a domain system is advised.

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MOBI is the ebook format used by MobiPocket Reader, which bears the extension .mobi or .prc. The .prc extension is rarely used and is a vestige of MobiPocket Reader’s presence on the PalmOS (as PalmOS only supported the file extensions .prc and .db). In addition to the actual document contents, the .mobi format includes flags for a wide variety of information like the total length of the document, where in the document the reader left off, and so on.

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, was founded in 1998 to ensure there was a non-profit, international, and impartial organization to coordinate all of the Internet’s addressing and protocol systems, develop naming conventions, and accredit Domain Name Registrars to handle the commercial side of domain sales and distribution.

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Localhost is the standard networking convention for the local computer. Any time a computer needs to refer to itself for testing purposes or to direct TCP/IP-based commands back to itself, it can use “localhost” or the loopback address “127.0.0.1″–an IP reserved specifically for the localhost.

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A mesh network is a communications network in which each node shares at least two pathways with two other nodes (and thus has redundant access to the communication network). Mesh networks are extremely stable as they are resistant to decay if multiple nodes are damaged or removed from service.

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Ripping is the process of converting audio or video from its native format to another format for the purposes of reducing the file size and/or re-encoding it to play on a wider variety of devices.

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In photography, the Depth of Field refers to the portion of a photograph that is in focus–specifically the distance between the nearest and farthest objects or surfaces in the photograph that appear acceptably sharp and in focus to the viewer.

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