A - Z of Tech Terms

20 Apr 2016

Artificial Intelligence

AI is the ability of a computer to act like a human being. It has several applications, including software simulations and robotics. However, artificial intelligence is most commonly used in video games, where the computer is made to act as another player.

Augmented reality

AR is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a digital currency that was introduced in 2009. There is no physical version of the currency, so all Bitcoin transactions take place over the Internet. Unlike traditional currencies, Bitcoin is decentralized, meaning it is not controlled by a single bank or government. Instead, Bitcoin uses a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment network made up of users with Bitcoin accounts.

Bitcoins can be acquired using two different methods: 1) exchanging other currencies for bitcoins, and 2) bitcoin mining.

Blacklist

A blacklist is list of items, such as usernames or IP addresses, that are denied access to a certain system or protocol. When a blacklist is used for access control, all entities are allowed access, except those listed in the blacklist. The opposite of a blacklist is a whitelist, which denies access to all items, except those included in the list.

Blacklists have several applications in computing:

  • Web servers often include a blacklist that denies access from specific IP addresses or ranges of IPs, for security purposes.
  • Firewalls may use a blacklist to deny access to individual users, systems located in certain regions, or computers with IPs within a certain subnet mask.
  • Spam filters often include blacklists that reject certain e-mail addresses and specific message content.
  • Programmers may implement blacklists within programs to prevent certain objects from being modified.

Bluetooth

This wireless technology enables communication between Bluetooth-compatible devices. It is used for short-range connections between desktop and laptop computers, PDAs (like the Palm Pilot or Handspring Visor), digital cameras, scanners, cellular phones, and printers.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are a user interface element designed to make navigation easy and intuitive. They are used by operating systems, software programs, and websites. Breadcrumbs display the directory path of the current folder or webpage and provide one-click access to each of the parent directories. Like breadcrumbs in the story "Hansel and Gretel," they allow you to retrace your steps back to where you started.

LAN

Stands for "Local Area Network," and is pronounced like "land" without the "d". (Computer people will think you're weird if you pronounce it "L-A-N"). A LAN is a computer network limited to a small area such as an office building, university, or even a residential home.

Metadata

Metadata describes other data. It provides information about a certain item's content. For example, an image may include metadata that describes how large the picture is, the colour depth, the image resolution, when the image was created, and other data. A text document's metadata may contain information about how long the document is, who the author is, when the document was written, and a short summary of the document.

Web pages often include metadata in the form of meta tags. Description and keywords meta tags are commonly used to describe the Web page's content. Most search engines use this data when adding pages to their search index.

QR Code

A QR code (short for "quick response" code) is a type of barcode that contains a matrix of dots. It can be scanned using a QR scanner or a smartphone with built-in camera. Once scanned, software on the device converts the dots within the code into numbers or a string of characters. For example, scanning a QR code with your phone might open a URL in your phone's web browser.

Real-Time

When an event or function is processed instantaneously, it is said to occur in real-time. To say something takes place in real-time is the same as saying it is happening "live" or "on-the-fly."

Resolution

This term can describe either how many pixels a monitor can display or how fine a printer can print.

  1. Monitors. A small monitor may have a resolution or 640 x 480, which means there are 640 pixels horizontally across the screen and 480 pixels vertically. Some other common monitor resolutions are 800 x 600, 1,024 x 768, and 1,280 x 1,024. The higher the resolution, the more that can be displayed on the screen.
  2. Printers. Printer resolution measures how fine a printer can print. This measurement is known as dots per inch, or "dpi." The greater the dpi, the better the image clarity. Scanner resolution is also measured in dpi.

Speech Recognition

Speech recognition is the capability of an electronic device to understand spoken words. A microphone records a person's voice and the hardware converts the signal from analogue sound waves to digital audio. The audio data is then processed by software, which interprets the sound as individual words.

User Interface

A user interface, also called a "UI" or simply an "interface," is the means in which a person controls a software application or hardware device. A good user interface provides a "user-friendly" experience, allowing the user to interact with the software or hardware in a natural and intuitive way.

Vector

Mathematically, a vector is a quantity, defined by both magnitude and direction. For example, a vector could be illustrated by a 1 inch arrow pointing at a 30 degree angle. Another vector may be 2.5 inches and point at a 160 degree angle. In the computer world, vectors are used to define paths in certain types of images, such as EPS files and Adobe Illustrator documents.

These images are often called vector graphics since they are comprised of vectors, or paths, instead of dots. Vector graphics can be scaled larger or smaller without losing quality.

Virtual reality

VR also known as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user's physical presence and environment to allow for user interaction. Virtual realities artificially create sensory experience, which can include sight, touch, hearing, and smell.

Most up-to-date virtual realities are displayed either on a computer monitor or with a virtual reality headset (also called head-mounted display), and some simulations include additional sensory information and focus on real sound through speakers or headphones targeted towards VR users.

Some advanced haptic systems now include tactile information, generally known as force feedback in medical, gaming and military applications. Furthermore, virtual reality covers remote communication environments which provide virtual presence of users with the concepts of telepresence and telexistence or a virtual artifact (VA) either through the use of standard input devices such as a keyboard and mouse, or through multimodal devices such as a wired glove or omnidirectional treadmills.

The immersive environment can be similar to the real world in order to create a lifelike experience—for example, in simulations for pilot or combat training—or it can differ significantly from reality, such as in VR games. 

Whitelist

A whitelist is a list of items that are granted access to a certain system or protocol. When a whitelist is used, all entities are denied access, except those included in the whitelist. The opposite of a whitelist is a blacklist, which allows access from all items, except those included the list.

The following are examples of different whitelist applications:

  • A network administrator may configure a firewall with a whitelist that only allows specific IP addresses to access the network.
  • A protected directory within a website may use a whitelist to limit access to certain IP addresses.
  • Some e-mail systems can be configured to only accept messages from e-mail addresses that have added to a user's whitelist.
  • Programmers can use whitelists within programs to ensure only certain objects are modified.

 

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