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Levi's PC Consulting
Computer Terms and Acronyms
Computer Parts
Random Access Memory
A.K.A. System Memory. RAM is the computers workspace, the more workspace you have the more stuff you can work on at once. Not having enough RAM is very detrimental to system performance but having way more RAM than you need is useless and does not speed up the system. Contrary to common beliefs, RAM itself doesn't really affect the speed of the system that much. You either have enough or you don't. Thankfully most systems these day have three to four GB of RAM and providing you're not playing games this is probably enough. I'm currently using 1.6GB out of the 4GBs of RAM in this laptop while I type this, I have Outlook open, Filezilla, Notepad++, a command prompt, Firefox with 15+ tabs, task manager and a few Windows Explorer windows open. If I had 2GB of RAM in this laptop it would be just as fast because I'm using less than 2GB RAM currently. Likewise, I could upgrade to 8GB, 16GB or 32GB of RAM but if I'm still only using 1.6GB of RAM the system would be the exact same speed as it is now, I'm not using the extra empty workspace. On the other side of things when I fire up a game my memory usage jumps to 2.8GB or more. Now if I only had 2GB of RAM things would be slow because I don't have enough RAM to hold all of the information I need at once. My workspace is filled with so much stuff I have to put some of it away to create enough room to work on this other stuff, see Virtual Memory. Again, there would be no benefit to upgrading to 8GB of RAM, I'm still using less than 4GB.
Basic Input Output System
The BIOS is a very low level system that runs before your operating system. Ever notice that press F2 or F10 to enter setup? That is the BIOS running it's POST before staring the OS. These days the BIOS hardly ever needs adjustments, for the most part they just know what to do.
Technology Without An Interesting Name
My all time favourite acronym. TWAIN is a scanner driver protocol which is now being replaced by WIA.
Hard Disk Drive
Most computers for the past 25 years have used mechanical hard drives as the primary storage device. They are cheap and large. Your C: drive or Macintosh HD is probably a mechanical disk drive. Chances are many of you have lost data to a failed hard drive, it happens much more often than most expect. Backup your data ! You can read my little article about why hard drives fail here.
Solid State Drive
SSDs unlike HDDs are solid state devices, which means no moving parts. Having no moving parts eliminates most of the typical HDD failure points. Aside from increased reliability, access speeds are way up, power consumption is reduced, heat production is lowered and best of they produce no noise at all. SSDs can still fail so you should still backup your data to a secondary location. If given a choice between a 3TB HDD and a 500GB SSD, I would chose the SSD hands down.
The handiest part of a computer you probably never use properly. Keyboards have been around since punch cards stopped being used and in-spite of it's long history with the computer very few people use a keyboard for anything more than typing a-z, 0-9 or one of the former with the Shift key pressed. Keyboard short-cuts are just that short-cuts, everyone wants to be more productive so learn your keyboard short-cuts. Every time your hands leave the keyboard to reach for the mouse you are wasting time and energy along with possibly causing strain. Very few programs truly require a mouse almost all of them can be used with complete functionality using only the keyboard. Games are another story most do require a mouse but again many of them have key combinations for things like quick-save, quick-load or new game. So long as you have Windows Vista, 7 or 8 try this. Press and hold the Windows key then tap the TAB key, tap TAB again to switch between your any programs you have open and your desktop. Want to quickly minimize everything on-screen? Press and hold the Windows key then press the M key, all of your open programs will minimize to the system tray.
Compact Disc Read Only Memory
Most of you should be familiar with CDs, those round silver rainbow coloured disks. Before the days of iPods and MP3s we would store music on CD. A CD held a whopping 700MB of data. R.I.P. Sams
Compact Disc Recordable
CD Burners let you copy a CD to a cheap CD-R disc and as such software piracy sky-rocketed, leading us to where we are today. A CD-R held 700MB of data.
Compact Disc Re-Writeable
Unlike CD-Rs that could only be written to once CD-RWs could be re-written a few thousand times. Handy for small backups but too expensive for much else. A CD-RW could hold 650MB of data.
Digital Video Disc Read Only Memory
This is the typical DVD, most often used for movies and game distribution. A standard DVD holds 4.7GB of data a dual-layer DVD holds 8.5GB. Unlike the CD format the DVD format is encrypted to prevent piracy, sadly within a few hours of the first DVD release the encryption was defeated. This made it more difficult to make a copy a DVD compared to CD but not enough to make it beyond the average home user.
Digital Video Disc Recordable (minus format) and the Digital Video Disc Recordable (plus format)
In the beginning there were two standard formats you could read and burn DVDs with. The DVD Forum used the minus R format and the others used the plus R format. Prior to 2007 if you had a +R burner the discs could only be read by a +R reader, likewise -R could only be used with -R. Thankfully around 2007, most drives became able to read and write to either format.
Pre Operations System Test
When you first turn on your computer it does a POST check to verify a few basic things namely that you have RAM and an HDD installed along with a few other things. You may have had a computer that just beeps when you power it on, that would be the BIOS beeping out the POST code to adivse you of what has failed. A common POST error is three short beeps which indicates a base memory failure or no RAM installed.
Wide Area Network
Now a days this pretty much means your internet connection. If something is not in your LAN it's out on the WAN. Prior to everyone having reliable access to the internet you had to link remote offices by running a physical wire. These wires were slow and prone to problems but that's what we had to do, the term WAN stems from those types of connections.
Local Area Network
A local group of network devices. In most situations all of the devices in your house or office are on one LAN. Having everything in the same LAN makes sharing files and printers much easier.
Domain Name System
A service that resolves friendly domain names to IP addresses. It's like a phone book for computers. Ask a DNS for and it will tell you it is located at the IP address Most of the time your ISP provides a few DNS servers on their network to answer your DNS requests.
Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol
This network service automatically provides IP addresses to devices configured for use with DHCP. Everything needs an IP to communicate on the network. Prior to DHCP every device had to be manually configured before it would work on the network. Now you just plug in or connect via wireless and DHCP gives you an IP, tells you how to get to the internet and who to ask when you want to find something. Most device are setup to use DHCP out of the box. Servers, routers, or anything else that should always be in the same logical place should not use DHCP, they should have a static IP assigned to them that is outside of the DHCP scope.
Internal Domain or Domain
A domain is a form of security group used to manage resources.
Domains are an internal grouping of computers and devices. My internal domain here at the office is LPC.local and all of the computers here are joined to that internal domain. This allows me to configure rules for the domain which then apply to all of the computers that are joined to the domain. Home users have little need for a domain, businesses on the other hand often take advantage of the control a domain offers. If you have to press CTRL+ATL+Delete to login to your computer it's probably joined to a domain.
Internet Domain or Domain Name
A domain name is the name of something on the internet. is our domain name. Domain names are often labeled and sold as just a domain, this always implies an internet domain name as opposed to an internal domain mentioned in the item above. Domain names resolve to IP addresses via DNS.
Virtual Memory
Virtual memory, pagefile or paging to disk.
If not for virtual memory your system would crash when you use up all of the physical RAM. Virtual memory or paging to disk is a safe-guard to prevent the system from crashing when it runs out of physical memory. It works by creating virtual memory on the HDD and starts moving the least used data to this fake RAM in the hard drive. Real RAM is thousands of times faster than a HDD, so while it saves you from crashing, performance takes a very severe hit.
External IP address or Internet IP address
This is the IP address that the internet knows you by.
You can read my article on IP addresses here. By the way your current IP address is :)
Internal IP address
Internal IPs are used on internal networks that are not usable on the internet.
Most IP addresses are for use on the internet but a few ranges are specified for internal use. There are two IP ranges dedicated to this purpose, and
A Loopback IP
Another IP with it's own use.
Just about every device assigns itself the IP on a very internal level. The loopback IP is used either for testing connections to itself or to serve as a more direct way to access resources from that same device. If you open a command prompt on computer and ping you should get replies if you don't your TCP/IP stack is broken and chances are you can't surf the internet or access network resources. By pinging the loopback address you are confirming that TCP/IP is working on a basic internal level.
Autoconfiguration IP
If every other method of getting a valid IP address fails your computer assigns itself a link-local address.
When you fail to get a valid network IP address most devices will assign themselves a random address between and this type of IP is pretty much useless, simply having one indicates a problem. If you have a IP your computer could not find a DHCP server to get an IP from, try rebooting your router as they most often provide the DHCP services on small networks. If you're getting a IP after connecting to a network over wireless, check the encryption key.
Downloading is the process of copying something to your computer from another remote computer.
Downloading a program does not install it. Installing is the next step in the process once you've finished downloading the installer.
Installing a program is the process of setting up a program so it can run on your computer.
The old, Welcome to Blahblah Setup, Click next to continue installing Blahblah. Watch the always inaccurate progress bar for a bit, click Finish and now your new program will be listed in the Programs list and maybe it will have even put a new icon on your desktop. Your program should now be ready to use.
Windows Image Acquisition
WIA is a scanner driver protocol which is now starting to replace TWAIN, in Windows operating systems anyway.
Universal Serial Bus
External hard drives, memory sticks, printers, scanners, mice to keyboards, just about every external device uses USB to connect to a computer these days.
Microsoft Windows
Windows is an operating system, it is the middle man between your computer hardware and software.
Windows does include some programs but Microsoft Word is NOT one of them. Word is a part of the Microsoft Office suite which is a separate item from Windows.
Microsoft Office
Word, Excel, Power Point, Outlook, Publisher, Access and a few other programs depending on version are all a part of the Microsoft Office suite.
As mentioned previously Microsoft Office is not a part of Microsoft Windows, it is a separately purchased item.

Another common point of confusion regarding Microsoft Office is the licensing for it. A standard retail copy of MS Office lets you install the software on one computer. Here is where the confusion comes in, to give families a break Microsoft released Office Home and Student which providing you are not using the software for business purposes lets you install it on three computers at a reduced cost.

Two problems arise from this. First, most people expect to install a single retail copy on three computers, which would violate the retail license. The second problem stems from people having to draw a line between personal and business use. If you make money from something you produce by using Word, like making quotes, news letters or invoices, that is business use. A high school student writing a essay or granny typing a muffin recipe would be personal use.

End User License Agreement
A legal agreement between the software publisher and you the user of the product. While my ability to understand legal agreements is quite limited, overall it's a fairly simple concept is most situations.

You, the end user agree to the legal terms in the license if you want to use the software.

Further translation, I'm going to let you use the software so long as you abide by a few rules. One of the primary rules being that you only install the software on as many computers as your EULA entitles you to, this almost always means one computer per licence.

I would highly recommend reading EULAs prior to agreeing to them, in a technical sense and probably a legal one (I'm not a lawyer) but as far as I know these are legal documents which you are signing when you click that "I Accept" button or in many cases these days just by visiting most websites beyond the home page you've accepted to some form of agreement.

Would you agree to being punched in the face each time you clicked on a link? Maybe you did and they are just saving them up so they only have to make one trip...

I jest but really people try to read these things and be aware of just what your part of the deal is. It amazes me that people agree to many of the EULAs they do but as the saying goes, ignorance is bliss.

It is possible to decline a EULA and not use a service, notice I do not have any of the typical social media links anywhere that's because I don't agree to the terms for most of them and as such don't have an account nor am I likely to ever have one.

The United States Computer Emergency Response Team site or US-CERT has an excellent article here on dealing with EULAs and some of the possible repercussions on ignoring them.
A software license entitles you to do or have something, providing you follow the rules.
Most of us have never "bought" a piece of software before, that's because software is almost always licensed. You most likely have purchased a license to use a piece of software, which if you agreed to the terms (which I'm sure you did) let you install and use the software.

In most cases software is a tool that lets you do or create something which in turn either makes or saves you money. The idea being if you didn't have that tool you either could not do your job or it would take you much longer and as anyone in business knows, time is money. Much like a plumber who has to pay for that wrench he needs to do his job, if you need Microsoft Word to print your invoices you should be paying for the tool to do so.

It's amazes me over and over again how many "good law abiding citizens" there are out there who utterly disregard the terms of these license agreements. Stealing ten dollars from their neighbour would certainly be wrong but somehow ignoring a EULA and by virtue stealing hundreds from a software publisher (that probably employs said neighbour) is perfectly fine???

I've spent weeks coding applications and/or web pages and without a doubt it is real work that requires lots of time and effort, coders deserve to get paid. Just because software is not a physical item and is easy to steal, doesn't mean you should. Don't forget, you get what you pay for and karma will always find you.

Oh yeah, if you happen to have a few billion dollars kicking around and want to buy Microsoft Word from Microsoft give them a call but I'm guessing they are not going to sell and you should be reading EULAs prior to agreeing to them.
Terms of Service
While very similar to a EULA it's a bit different. A ToS pertains more towards your behaviour while using said service. On-line games often have a ToS dictating what you can and can't do or say while playing the game or in the game chat, if you violate the rules of the ToS your account may get banned or closed for say selling gold, using an exploit or otherwise hacking the game. Unlike EULAs, ToSes are much easier to enforce because they can cut your account off if you violate the terms, you have to go to them for the service and can easily revoke your access.

The idea that a service owes you money if it is down for x amount of time is laughable. Very few service providers include an SLA that entitles you to any form of compensation for down time.

The best example of this is Blizzards World of Warcraft. I'm sure most of you have at least heard of the game and if you didn't spend 8+ years playing the game like I did, I'll give you a quick run down.

You pay a small monthly fee to play a character in the game, in which you venture about completing quests, slaying monsters, working with other players or just fishing for Ironhead in IF. It is a truly impressive game in so many different respects. Here's the thing, they host or provide the servers that you connect to which hold the "world" that your character "exists" in. By the way most servers have a few hundred players per world.

Sometimes things go wrong and the server go down, it happens. Every time it did, within minutes the support forums would light up with people demanding financial compensation because they could not play the game. Time and time again it came up, "Did you read the ToS? If you had, you would know that your not entitled to anything." To Blizzards merit I have been credited extra game time following very long outages but that is very atypical for most providers and should not be expected.

Another funny thing about WoW, you make a character, you give it a name, pick it's features, choose what items to wear, setup your talents and specs just the way you like, spend years getting achievements and legendary gear but in the end it's not your character. According to ToS, the character always belongs to Blizzard, they just let you play around with it for a monthly fee.

Just like posting pictures to social media sites. Once posted it belongs to the site, it's not your picture any more, you gave it to them. Ownership is a strange thing these days...
Open Office
An open source (that means free) alternative to Microsoft Office
Open Office is a great alternative to MS Office but you have to keep in mind it is not MS Office. If you're willing to learn a slightly different way of doing things and keep your expectations in check it's perfectly usable. It's created by volunteers who spend lots of time with little (if any) thanks so you can have a free alternative.
More to come
I'm slowly getting through my list.
© Levi's PC Consulting 2021