System Restore is a utility included in Windows since the release of Windows Me. The System Restore utility takes snapshots of the system including the state of the Windows registry, installed applications, system files, and system settings. These snapshots, or Restore Points, can be used to roll the system back to a previous state in the event that system changes (updating Windows, upgrading drivers, etc.) render the computer unusable or unstable.
Historically, computer manufacturers shipped optical media (such as CD/DVDs) with each computer that contained recovery software the purchaser could use to restore the computer back to factory settings in the event of data corruption or other problems. As a cost cutting measure, most manufacturers have moved away from optical media and now simply partition off a portion of the machine’s primary hard drive to serve as a recovery partition; this partition is not directly accessible by the end user and houses recovery software as well as an image of the computer’s hard drive as it was when it left the factory.
A recovery disc is a bootable optical disc (or discs) that typically contains the base operating system and applications that came pre-installed on a commercially produced computer. In the event of severe operating system failure, failed hard drive, or other problem, the end user can boot from the discs to perform a reinstallation of the operating system and the original applications, effectively returning the computer to the state it was in when it shipped from the factory.
Safe mode is a feature in modern operating systems that allows you to enter a troubleshooting mode wherein only essential components (such as the OS kernel and basic drivers for the display and input devices) are active. While in safe mode, problems with updated drivers, corrupt data, or other issues can be resolved.
Ghosting, also referred to as cloning, is the process of duplicating the entire hard drive of a machine onto another machine. Although of limited utility to a home user, ghosting is widely used in corporate and government settings as it is much faster to copy an operating system/software configuration across duplicate machines than it is to independently install and configure the software on each individual machine.
QR Codes, or Quick Response Codes, are a trademarked (but widely used) type of matrix barcode. Instead of encoding the data in a series of vertical stripes (as the data is encoded in a traditional UPC barcode) the QR code data is encoded in a grid that looks like a plot of pixels.
Disposable email is a type of temporary email service, typically web-based, wherein a user can create an email address quickly with the intention of using it a handful of times (or even once). Many web sites require valid emails for simple tasks (e.g. downloading an application or a one-time registration) and people avoid the potential of future spam and unwanted email by providing a disposable address they can use, check to get the confirmation link, and then dispose of. One of the most popular disposable email address services is Mailinator.com.
Landscape mode is an orientation wherein the display is positioned so that it is wider than it is tall. This is the orientation of movie screens, modern widescreen HDTV sets, and widescreen monitors. Smartphones also include software functionality to rotate the screen orientation from portrait (the default state) to landscape for media playback and other tasks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.