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Word Explanation
FireWire - Institute of Electrical and E

FireWire is Apple's cross-platform implementation of a high-speed serial data bus defined by IEEE* Standard 1394-1995 that is able to transfer large amounts of data between computers and peripheral devices. FireWire features simplified cabling and hot swapping, and provides a single plug-and-socket connection to which up to 63 devices can be attached with data transfer speeds up to 400 megabits per second. FireWire is designed to support much higher data rates than USB 1.0; both standards are expected to exist together, serving different device types. With the introduction of the new FireWire 800 standard, Apple now refers to the original standard as FireWire 400. *This nonprofit U.S. engineering organization develops, defines, and reviews standards within the electronics and computer science industries.

SCSI - Small Computer System Interface

While the PC was settling for rankly inferior alternatives, the Mac adopted SCSI as its expansion standard. With SCSI, you could add up to seven new devices to your computer. It's a robust standard, but it requires some system overhead, slows down your computer's start-up, and demands that during installation you handle device ID administration and a process called termination that closes the SCSI circuit. Pronounced "scuzzy" by those in the know. Newer Macs use USB (universal serial bus) and firewire connections.

DSL - digital subscriber line

Digital subscriber lines carry data at high speeds over standard copper telephone wires. With DSL, data can be delivered at a rate of 1.5 mbps (around 30 times faster than through a 56-kbps modem).

DNS - domain name system

When you send email or point a browser to an Internet domain such as, the domain name system translates the names into Internet addresses (a series of numbers looking something like this: The term refers to two things: the conventions for naming hosts and the way the names are handled across the Internet.

USB - universal serial bus

Imagine replacing all those ports on the back of your Mac--mouse, keyboard, serial, parallel, joystick, and more with a single port. Now imagine you can daisy-chain as many as 127 peripherals off that port and use them all at once. Finally, imagine that the port supports data transfer rates up to 12MB/sec, making it suitable for even high-bandwidth applications such as video. Imagine no more. USB, designed by a consortium of PC manufacturers including Compaq, Digital, and IBM, can do all this and more. USB-ready systems and peripherals hit the market en masse in 1997 and are now the industry standard. Apple implemented firewire which is able to transfer large amounts of data between computers and peripheral devices. Macs purchased today have both USB and firewire ports.


This term refers to a type of program that tightly integrates with a larger application to add a special capability to it. The larger app must be designed to accept plug-ins, and the software's maker usually publishes a design specification that enables people to write plug-ins for it. Some notable applications designed around a plug-in architecture are Adobe Photoshop, Internet Explorer and Netscape. Notable examples of plug-ins are Shockwave, RealPlayer and Flash for your internet browsers.

SMTP - simple mail transfer protocol

When you are exchanging email on the Internet, SMTP is what keeps the process orderly. It's a protocol that regulates what goes on between the mail servers.


Graphics files are big, and most file formats (such as BMP, TIFF, PICT, and PCX) are inefficiently coded, so they are larger than they need to be. So how do graphics programmers save disk space? They develop compression techniques. Graphics compression techniques fall into two camps: lossless and lossy. Lossless techniques throw away redundant bits of information without affecting the quality of the image. Lossy techniques, such as JPEG, crunch files down smaller, but they throw out image quality in the process. Most of the time, however, you can't see the difference in image quality unless you try to print the graphics on a professional imagesetter.

PDF - Portable Document Format

This Adobe technology is a popular way of formatting documents in such a way that they can be viewed and printed on multiple platforms using the freely available Adobe Acrobat Reader.

CD-R - compact disc recordable

A CD-ROM format that enables you to record data onto compact discs so that regular CD-ROM drives can read it. With a CD-R drive, you can record data onto a recordable disc on different occasions, known to experts as multiple sessions.


Modern operating systems are typically built in layers, with each layer adding new capabilities, such as disk access techniques or a graphical user interface. But the essential layer, the foundation on which the rest of the operating system rests, is typically called a kernel. In general, the kernel provides low-level services, such as memory management, basic hardware interaction, and security. Without the kernel, your system would stop.

AVI - audio/video interleave

Next time you see a video clip on your Mac, there's a good chance that it's an AVI file. AVI is the file format used by Video. For Macintosh they are MPEG and QuickTime. In AVI, picture and sound elements are stored in alternate interleaved chunks in the file.

TWAIN - toolkit without an interesting n

While there are some who claim that TWAIN stands for toolkit without an interesting name, in fact it stands for nothing but itself. But what is it? TWAIN is an interface standard that should be on the checklist of anyone buying a scanner or OCR, graphics, or fax software. If your scanner supports TWAIN, you can use any TWAIN-compliant software to run it. TWAIN's signature command is Acquire--if you spot the Acquire option under a program's File menu, you know the software is TWAIN-compliant.


Data is streaming when it's moving quickly from one chunk of hardware to another and doesn't have to be all in one place for the destination device to do something with it. When your hard disk's data is being written to a tape backup device, it's streaming. When you're watching a QuickTime movie on the Internet, it's not streaming, because the movie must be fully downloaded before you can play it.

GUI - graphical user interface

A graphical user interface lets users interact with their computer via icons and a pointer instead of by typing in text at a command line. Popular GUIs, such as Sun Microsystem's OpenWindows, Microsoft's Windows, and Apple's Mac OS, have freed many users from the command-line interfaces like MS-DOS.


A cookie is a small data file that certain Web sites write to your hard drive when you visit them. A cookie file can contain information such including a user ID that the site uses to track the pages you've visited. But the only personal information a cookie can contain is information you supply yourself. A cookie can't read data off your hard disk or read cookie files created by other sites.


Developed by Apple Computer, QuickTime is a method of storing sound, graphics, and movie files. If you see a MOV file on the Web or on a CD-ROM, you'll know it's a QuickTime file. Although QuickTime was originally developed for the Macintosh, player software is now available for Windows and other platforms. If you don't have a QuickTime player, you can always download versions for either Mac or PC from Apple's Web site.

TIFF - tagged image file format

This graphics file format was designed to be the universal translator of the graphics world back in the 1980s when sharing graphics across computing platforms was a great headache. TIFF can handle color depths ranging from one-bit (black and white) to 24-bit photographic images with equal ease. Like any standards, however, the TIFF developed a few inconsistencies along the way: some graphical software companies estimate that there are more than 50 variations on the TIFF format.

PPP - point-to-point protocol

PPP is the Internet standard for serial communications. Newer and better than its predecessor, SLIP, PPP defines how your modem connection exchanges data packets with other systems on the Internet.

MP3 - MPEG-1, Layer 3

MP3 is a codec that compresses standard audio tracks into much smaller sizes without significantly compromising sound quality. *codec (coder/decoder or compression/decompression algorithm) As the name implies, codecs are used to compress and decompress various types of data, particularly those that would otherwise use up inordinate amounts of disk space, such as sound and video files.


This piece of hardware does what it says: it routes data from a local area network (LAN) to a phone line's long distance line. Routers also act as traffic cops, allowing only authorized machines to transmit data into the local network so that private information can remain secure. In addition to supporting these dial-in and leased connections, routers also handle errors, keep network usage statistics, and handle security issues.


SIT files are created by Aladdin Systems' Stuffit compression and decompression software. If you see a file with the extension .sit, you'll need a decompression program to open it. And although such files are typically compressed using Macintosh software for other Mac users, you can also open them using some PC programs, too.

RTF - rich text format

This file format, developed by Microsoft, enables you to save text files in your word processor with formatting, font information, text color, and some page layout information intact. Sure, saving an AppleWorks file in AppleWorks format does the same thing, but saving it in this rtf format is intended for exchange among all kinds of word processors, both PC and Mac.

OCR - optical character recognition

When your computer gets a fax or scans in text, all it sees are graphical bits on a virtual page. That text is not usable, searchable, or editable. If you pass the page through an OCR program, the software converts the shapes on it into a text document. However, few documents are perfectly recognized and the errors are frequent if the type is small or the scan unclear. But the conversion is more often faster than typing text manually.

DVD - digital versatile disc

Originally referred to as digital video discs, these high-capacity optical discs are now used to store everything from massive computer applications to full-length movies. While similar in physical size and appearance to a compact disc or a CD-ROM, DVD is a huge leap from its predecessor's 650MB of storage. A standard single-layer, single-sided DVD can store a whopping 4.7GB of data.

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