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GEEK GLOSSARY / TECH TERMS

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a type of access control technique used by copyright holders, publishers, and hardware manufacturers to limit the use, manipulation, and distribution of digital content after the initial sale of that content.

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Encryption, a sub-set of cryptography, is the process of encoding data so that it is accessible only to authorized parties.  Modern computer users enjoy the benefits of encryption in many different forms including encrypted browsing connections (via SSL) while accessing financial data or submitting credit card payments, the ability to encrypt entire hard disks with modern operating systems and tools (such as BitLocker in Windows 7), and email/message encryption (via tools like Pretty Good Privacy).

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A botnet is a collection of computers (or devices like smartphones) connected to the internet that are controlled by a third party for malicious purposes.  This control is usually gained when the end user executes malicious software on their system and, in doing so, grants access to the botnet’s operator.

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Most computer users are familiar with one-factor authentication wherein they must provide a password to log into a computer or service (such as email).

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Spam is unsolicited commercial communication, most commonly in the form of email contact with the recipient.  Spamming is a distinctly electronic phenomenon as it is would be be prohibitively expensive to send out mass mailings via physical mail in the same fashion.  In the case of electronic spamming the cost is almost entirely borne by internet service providers and end users with next to zero cost for the spammers themselves–thus it remains profitable to send tens of thousands of spam emails and receive only one or two replies.

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A Trojan Horse, more commonly referred to as simply a “trojan”, is a non-replicating malware application that masquerades as a useful application but instead allows unauthorized access to a user’s system.

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Netcat is a Unix networking tool (since ported to every major operating system) that is commonly referred to as a “Swiss Army Knife for TCP/IP”. It was designed to be a reliable back-end tool that can be either directly accessed by the user or called by other applications.

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HyperText Markup Language is the text language that defines all of the content on every web page that you visit, and is even used in most email clients to display the text you’re reading right now.

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The Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) is one of the core networking protocols used to run the Internet. ICMP differs from other transport protocols such as UDP and TCP in that it is not usually used to exchange data between systems but instead used as a diagnostic mechanism.

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Routers are a vital component of home and business network connectivity. While a simple hub or a network switch can do the job of linking your computers together into a local network (to share files, play LAN-enabled games, or share a printer), you need a router for the critical task of linking two networks together.

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If you need to connect multiple wired devices to your network–such as a laser printer, computer, DVR, and so on–you need a switch. A network switch is a telecommunication device that relays messages from devices connected to it and then transmits them only to the specified receiving device on the network. Switches are more advanced than hubs–hubs are “dumb” network devices in that they simply repeat every message sent to them to every other device on the network. Switches also include mechanisms for avoiding and detecting message collision.

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RAID, or Redundant Array of Independent Disks, is a form of storage technology that combines multiple disk drives into one logical storage unit. RAID can be implemented at the hardware or software level, and comes in a variety of RAID schemes based on the needs of the end user. The RAID hardware or software is what distinguishes the arrangement of disks from simply being a Jumble of Hard Disks (JOHD) arrangement. RAID specifically links each hard drive in the array together into some sort of scheme that either increases performance, data redundancy, or both in a manner that could not be achieved by simply adding more hard drives to a static system.

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A firewall is a network security tool designed to monitor network traffic and allow or block network activity based on a set of predetermined rules. The firewall acts as a bridge between an internal network and an external network.

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The Power Supply Unit (PSU) is one of the most critical components of a computer system. The PSU is responsible for converting the mains AC (the power from the outlet) into low-voltage and properly regulated DC power for the hardware components of the computer can safely utilize. Manufacturing defects in a Power Supply Unit can have catastrophic consequences for the attached hardware.

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In computing, form factor refers to the specifications of the motherboard and encompasses the physical size, mounting hole pattern, power supply type, the back-panel ports, and other design parameters.

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The Central Processing Unit, or CPU, is the proverbial brain of the computer. Modern CPUs are made from silicon and have a very high density of integrated circuits etched into silicon wafers.

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Bluetooth is a widely adopted wireless standard designed to replace cables for low-power data transmission over short spaces. The standard was developed by Swedish technology and telecommunications giant Ericsson in the early 1990s. Early versions of Bluetooth were not widely adopted thanks to poor cross-device implementation and security issues. Later upgrades to the standard increased security and manufacturers more closely adhered to design guidelines.

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Near Field Communication (NFC) is a set of standards for close-proximity communication between smartphones and similar mobile electronics. NFC is built upon existing Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) standards but expands functionality by enabling two-way communication and encryption.

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An internet meme is a concept that spreads by the internet and may take on the form of a image, video, hashtag, website, or may simply be a word or phrase. Memes spread organically and by mechanisms similar to those of evolutionary biology including mutation and replication as well as pressures like competition and differentiation within their environment–the term was originally coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

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Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) are a sub-genre of role-playing video games focused on player interaction in a virtual world. Unlike traditional stand-alone RPG games, the majority of the player’s in-game experience is not with Non-Player Characters (NPCs) controlled by the game itself but with characters controlled by other players who are connected to the game via the internet.

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In computing terms, Communication Latency is the time it takes for a data packet to be received by the remote computer. Most computer users, and especially gamers, refer to this communication latency simply as lag.

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BitTorrent is a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing protocol designed to reduce bandwith overhead and decentralize the distribution of files. BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files on the Internet today and the most frequently used P2P protocol. Estimates regarding how much Internet traffic is driven by BitTorrent activity at any given moment range from 40-70% of the total global Internet activity.

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Secure Digital (SD) cards are a form of non-volatile memory used for storage in portable devices such as digital cameras, mobile phones, MP3 players, and other mobile electronics.

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MPEG Audio Layer III, most commonly called MP3, is a digital audio storage format currently the de facto standard for both portable consumer audio devices and internet streaming audio.

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HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is a digital cabling standard for audio/video transmission that replaced previously used analog cabling standards such as Component video cables. HDMI is commonly used for digital televisions, projectors, and included on many modern computer monitors.

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