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GEEK GLOSSARY / TECH TERMS

The command line is a software tool included with an operating system to give users the ability to feed commands to the operating system for immediate execution. Using the command line contrasts with using the Graphic User Interface (GUI) of the operating system. Many users prefer using the command line over the GUI because of the speed and power afforded by command lines.

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The Dvorak Keyboard layout was created in the 1930s by Dr. August Dvorak and his brother in-law Dr. William Dealey. The two created the layout in order to alleviate problems with the popular QWERTY keyboard configuration (the very configuration still in use today by hundreds of millions of typists worldwide).

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The QWERTY keyboard, called such because the first five keys in the top letter row form the word, is the standard English keyboard used by hundreds of millions of computer users world wide.

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Multi-core processors are a recent innovation in computing. Historically, computers had a single core, or processing unit. All computations performed by the computer were directed through the single core in a linear fashion. The only way to increase the speed of the computer was to increase the power of the single processor–and this was precisely how desktop and server computing grew throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

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Web 2.0 is a phrase used to encapsulate the design choices of web sites from the early 2000s moving forward. Unlike earlier web design choices that presented users with static web pages and no chance for interaction or alteration, Web 2.0 sites are designed for a richer user experience.

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In the early years of the web, sites were designed around what are now referred to as Web 1.0 elements. These elements included static pages (as oppose to user-generated content), segregated and inaccessible user data, use of frames and tables to position content on the page, prolific GIF buttons (also supported via tables), and email forms. The most significant element of the Web 1.0 experience was that users consumed content and rarely, if ever, contributed in any meaningful way to web site they were visiting.

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A memory leak occurs when a computer application acquires computer memory but fails to release it back to the operating system when the memory is no longer needed. Memory leaks diminish system performance by reducing the available pool of memory accessible to the operating system and other applications.

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DivX is a family of video codecs and container formats created by DivXNetworks. The format is most notable for being the first video codec for the Microsoft AVI container format that allowed for reasonable video streaming over the internet and allowed for a DVD (4.7GB of data) to be compressed to fit on a CD (~700MB of data). As such it was the codec of choice among early file traders–the majority of all pirated movies traded in the early 2000s were encoded via DivX.

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Overclocking is the process of increasing the speed of a CPU or other computer component beyond the clock frequency specified by the manufacturer. This is achieved by increasing the clock rate, changing the chip multipliers, or manipulating timing cycles.

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A container format, or wrapper format, is a metafile format whose specifications describe how different data elements and meta data are arranged. Although container formats are used for a variety of file types within and across operating systems, the most frequent way the average computer user interacts with container formats is via multimedia files.

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A backdoor is an element included in a computer or cryptographic system intended to allow the user to bypass normal authentication methods built into that system.

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Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the machine recognition of printed characters. OCR software takes a scanned document, photograph, or other digital source that includes printed text, and uses sophisticated algorithms to search out letter patterns in the text, converting it from a non-machine-readable image to a machine-readable (and human-editable) ASCII text.

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CAPTCHA, or Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, is a term used to encompass technological tools used to differentiate humans from computers during online interactions–usually with a focus on preventing automated computer systems from abusing email services, repeatedly trying to enter passwords, or otherwise creating undue strain or security problems for networked services.

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Metadata is data which describes other data, usually to provide additional information about the content of the original data. Digital cameras, for example, routinely include a wide range of metadata with each photograph they take. The photograph itself is the primary data, the metadata is data attached to that photograph such as the date of capture,  the settings the camera used (EXIF data that includes such information as the shutter speed or aperture settings), and the file size.

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Netiquette is a portmanteau of the words Internet and etiquette. Netiquette is broad term encompassing appropriate behavior on computer networks and the greater internet. Much like real-world etiquette governs things like appropriate dress, topics of discussion, methods of communication (such as wedding invitations and RSVP standards), and so on, netiquette seeks to provide similar structure to online interactions.

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A URL, or Universal Resource Locator, is the convention by which domain names are combined with file path syntax to create human readable addresses for internet stored materials. This convention was proposed by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, in 1994 as a method of making web-based resources more accessible.

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Historically, a “mashup” referred to the blending of musical genres. While the term still retains that meaning in the music world, in computer lingo mashup has come to refer to the blending of multiple web applications (and their data) into a single interface or application.

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RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a wireless non-contact data transfer system used for identification and tracking. The RFID chip is a small electronic module roughly the size of a grain of rice that contains a unique serial number and other information about the object to which it is attached. This information can be read over short distances (several meters or less) via special RFID readers which emit the proper radio frequency to both activate the chip and read the resulting transmission from the chip.

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A Local Area Network (LAN) is a computer network that connects computers and devices in a limited physical area such as a home, school, or commercial building.

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An IP address, or Internet Protocol address, is the unique numeric identifier attached to all devices on an IP-based network. Every client, server, and network device is assigned a unique IP address to ensure that it can send and receive data on the network without interfering or colliding with another networked device.

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Progressive video, also known as progressive scanning, is a way of displaying video wherein each line of the video display is drawn in sequence. This is a direct contrast to interlaced video wherein the odd and then even lines are refreshed.

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Interlaced video is a technique used to double the perceived frame rate of a video source without consuming extra bandwidth. Rather than increasing the total frame rate by two, interlacing instead alternates which lines of the display are refreshed in each pass creating the illusion of a higher refresh rate.

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Unlike Local Area Networks (LANs), Wide Area Networks (WANs) are designed to transmit data across geographic regions, countries, and even between continents. Large corporations routinely deploy WANs to connect geographically diverse employee populations, enabling them to connect easily to shared resources and conduct business as if they were sharing a massive company LAN.

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Network hubs are simple pieces of network hardware that connect multiple Ethernet devices together so that they share a single physical Ethernet connection and function as a single network segment.

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Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is a popular image format developed by CompuServe in the late 1980s. Originally created to replace a previous CompuServe created format RLE (which could only display black and white), the original version of the GIF was essentially just another image format in a sea of file formats.

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