by Joy Arrieta
POTS stands for "plain old telephone service." It's the term tech
weenies use when comparing the existing phone lines to other Internet
service conduits, such as ISDN or broadband (cable). It may be plain,
and it certainly is slow, but right now POTS is the most affordable,
widely available, and widely used means of connecting to the Internet
and the Web.
Fuzzy logic is a system of logic that can deal with the "gray area"
between absolute truth and falsity. In other words, it's a system of
logic more like the one we humans use in our heads. Not surprisingly,
fuzzy logic plays a big part in artificial intelligence systems, which
are designed to emulate the human mind.
In a search, a wild card is a character that you use in place of
letters to indicate that you'll accept more than one possible result
for that particular character. For example, to search a document for
all forms of the word "mean" ("means," "meant," "meaning," "meanings,"
and so on), you'd search for "mean*". The asterisk is a wild card that
indicates you'll accept any word as long as its first four letters are
"mean." Of course, this particular search also returns the word
"meander," which is not a form of the word "mean." Therein lies the
downside of wild cards.
A commerce server is software that lets you set up an online store,
complete with a product catalog, order forms, and a direct connection
to your inventory applications. A commerce server either includes or
works with an online payment system so that customers can use credit
cards to purchase items from your store.
In geek-speak, replication is a way of synchronizing a single database
that many people use, even at one time. Each person using the database
has his or her own copy of the database; periodically or on command,
each copy is updated so that everybody's changes appear in every copy.
It's pretty slick--and a whole lot more complicated to pull off than
our description might indicate.
ISV stands for "independent software vendor"--in other words, a
company that makes software. Microsoft, Lotus, and Netscape are all
ISVs. ISV is a classic example of a technocrat finding a long
name--and a corresponding acronym--for something they could describe
in a simple and universally understood word or two.
Google is a new, bare-bones search engine, the beta (or prefinal)
version of which is currently being tested on the Web. Google doesn't
offer all the organizational categories, site reviews, and other
sizzle features you find on other search engines. Instead, it
concentrates on delivering as many sites that match your search
criteria in the shortest possible time. It's named for "googol," which
is 10 to the 100th power, a huge number. Try it out at
A user group is a group of people that meets regularly (maybe once a
month) to discuss a favorite aspect of computing--usually a particular
software program (such as Microsoft Word) or a particular computing
task (such as desktop publishing). If this doesn't sound like the kind
of club you want to run right out and join, ask yourself where ELSE
you can go to meet people who might be able to provide no-charge tips,
advice, and answers to your annoying questions.
SIG stands for "special interest group." A SIG is like a user
group--which we told you about last time--but with two important
differences. First, a SIG is usually more specialized: While a user
group might focus on Microsoft Excel, a SIG is more likely to focus on
budget forecasting with Excel. Second, a SIG usually "meets" online:
Users exchange information electronically by posting messages to
A DIVX, which stands for "digital video express," is a DVD disc
designed to work only for a specified time period, such as two days.
The bigwigs in Hollywood think DIVX would be a great new medium for
video rentals; you just slip in the disc, watch your movie, and throw
the disk away. But there are still some kinks to work out--not the
least of which is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have
already bought DVD players, which CAN'T play DIVX disks.
A blue bomb is a packet of information that one computer sends to
another computer for the sole purpose of causing the other computer to
crash. Why would anyone want to do such a thing? Well, players who are
about to lose online games have been known to send blue bombs, as have
chat participants who want to be sure theirs is the last word. (It's
called a "blue" bomb after the "blue screen of death," which Windows
95/98 displays when it's about to crash.)
Ever find that, after you've spent several long days in front of the
computer, your eyes start to hurt, your vision starts to blur, and you
get headaches? You've probably got yourself a case of CVS, or computer
vision syndrome. Don't worry: You can "cure" CVS simply by taking a
little hiatus from the computer--something you ought to be doing from
time to time, anyway.
In Web lingo, a gravesite is a Web site that's still accessible--still
"up" on the Web--but that has apparently been abandoned by its
creators and/or updaters. Marketing weenies also use "gravesite" to
refer to Web sites that have stopped attracting enough traffic to
interest advertisers. You can always count on marketers to co-opt a
Zombie is the cyberspeak term for an abandoned or neglected Web
site--which is a "gravesite"--that has been moved to another Web
address, or URL. You read it right: Nobody has bothered to update the
site, but somebody HAS bothered to move it. The term zombie is
appropriate: The site is something that's dead but seems to move.
Linkrot refers to the overall percentage of bad links--links to pages
that cease to exist or have been moved elsewhere--on the Web. For
example, suppose that tomorrow the folks at Amazon.com changed the
address for a popular book (such as Angela's Ashes) to which many
sites include a link; the occurrence of linkrot would increase by
quite a bit. Because sites don't make a point of TELLING others when
they move pages or reorganize themselves, we'll probably have linkrot
for as long as we have the Web.
A phreak is a type of hacker who uses his or her computer to break
into a telephone network to either 1) listen in on other people's
conversations or 2) make long-distance phone calls for free.
In your computer, the motherboard is the main board, the one that
contains the circuits connecting the computer's processor to its hard
disk, memory, and other components. Motherboards also contain slots
into which you can add other components, such as an internal modem, a
scanner card, and so on.
A "mobo" is computer weenie slang for motherboard. If you encounter a
person who uses the term "mobo" often, he or she is undoubtedly the
most devoted form of computernik--a person to be avoided in virtually
every social situation, except when you need help with your computer.
Ever visit a Web site that provides links to other Web sites and, when
you take one of those links, displays the other site in a frame within
the original site? The original site is a para-site. Para-sites are
good because they let you surf many sites from within the friendly
confines of a single site. Para-sites can also be annoying because
they don't allow you to directly bookmark the sites displayed within
the frame--which forces you to be overly dependent on the para-site.
Sneakernet, jargon for "sneaker network," is the derogatory phrase
that techies use to describe the practice of carrying files on
floppies from one computer to another instead of transmitting them
over a REAL network. In this case, the techies have a point: Today,
with e-mail on virtually every desktop in the world, there's little or
no excuse for time-consuming file transfer via sneakernet.
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