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NOTE:  Items highlighted in RED are defined elsewhere in this Glossary, while items highlighted in BLUE are site links for further information.

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CharlesBABBAGE, CHARLES:  An English mathematician (1791-1871) who invented the Difference Engine No. 1 (world’s firstAnalytical Engine successful automatic calculator)  and later the Analytical Engine (1856) which was the precursor to today’s computers.  [The photo at right doesn’t do it justice - it’s actually the size of a small room.]  Basically, he originated the concept of a “programmable computer”.  He collaborated with Ada Lovelace, who later explained his prototype computer to the public.  It never took off, was later mothballed, not yet its time.  Not sure, but it’s widely believed that the Babbage’s computer software stores (1984-1996) were named after Babbage, but it’s never been so stated.  See Ada Lovelace for more.

BABEL FISH: (Pronounced “bay-bel,” not “babbel).  The oldest free online language translator, it is an internet babelfishtranslation program (see Translation Apps for more) for translating various typewritten words, phrases and website pages between 38 languages.  It was developed by AltaVista in 1997, then acquired by Yahoo in 2003 and in 2012 became the Bing Translator.  It derives its name from a fictional fish in Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that could, when implanted into a human’s brain, instantly translate languages, solving the confusion that resulted in the construction of the biblical tower of Babel.  See also Google’s and Skype’s translation capabilities as well.

BABY TECH:  An array of sensors, AI and apps directed at pregnant and post-birth moms and dads intended to make child bearing and raising easier.  For example:  For the “Millennial mom,” high tech nurseries and breast feeding apps, a kegel exercise tracker, fertility tracking bracelets, heart rate monitors for mom and baby, hands-free breast pumps, smart thermometers and the like.  Exhibitions have been held since 2015 at the Consumer Electronics Show (“CES”), at a show called the Baby Tech Summit where Baby Tech Awards are conferred for the best products.

BACKBONE: While this term can mean any central communications pipeline for a computer or other system, it is most commonly applied to mean the major conduits of the Internet.  Most ISP’s, for example, act as a communications “bridge” between the backbone and possibly smaller ISPs, and finally your individual computer host on the network.  The backbone could, therefore, be compared to the major water supply pipeline to a city, which is broken down into branches with their own pumping stations, and still other branches, until a much smaller, lower pressure water pipe reaches your home.

BACK DOOR:  Software, often malware, that a hacker leaves behind after exploiting a system in order to be able to reenter that system later in order to perpetrate additional damage.  Often it is undetectable by normal scans.

BACK END:  In a corporate environment, this is the part of the computer system that support the company’s “back office,”  i.e. the systems which manage orders, inventory and supply processing.  See also, Front End.

BACKHAUL:  Originally a telephone term, meaning to transmit the call beyond its destination and then part way back, perhaps because it is cheaper or can use features not available at the destination.  In the computer context, it has a similar meaning, transmitting aggregated data from a more distant remote site to a private network or the Internet (say, wireless VoIP).

BACKPLANE:  A circuit board with a group of electrical connectors parallel to each other such that the pin of each connector links to the exact same relative pin of every other connector in each connected board or cable, creating a consistent “bus”.  Backplanes can be either active or passive, depending on whether the cards offer active bus driving circuitry by including chips which buffer the various signBackplane photoals to the slots.  Backplanes are typically used on blade servers to attach hot swappable hard drives.  There are also “butterfly” backplanes that can allow the connection of devices to both sides of the circuit board.

BACKSCATTER:  See, HitchHike on the Wi page.

BACKUP:  The process of copying files or disk drives from their original location, so that they can be restored in the event of a catastrophe.  For more, click HERE.

BACKSLASH:  A typographical mark (glyph) chiefly used in computing.  Sometimes also called a “reverse solidus”, an “oblique”, a “bash”, a “backslat”, a “reverse virgule”, a “reverse slant” or a “hack” .  It was added into the ASCII character set in 1961.  It is said that it was introduced so that the ALGOL Boolean operators “ = “ (AND) and “\/” (OR) could be composed in ASCII as “ /\ “ and “ \ / “ respectively.  In computers, it has many uses:  It is used to separate the directories in components of a path (e.g. “C:\Documents\My files”), indicate “switches” (e.g. “config\u\w”) and in HTML at the end of a line of code indicates that the following new line should be treated as if it were also part of the current line.  It also has uses in several programming languages.

BALL GRID ARRAY:  See BGA, below.

BAND:  See spectrum

BANDWIDTH:  In computers, this term is generally used as a synonym for “data transfer rate”.  This is the amount of data that can be carried from one point to another (usually in bits or megabits) within a given time period, usually a second.  Thus, 57,600Mpbs.   See also Pipe and Spectum for more explanation.

BANNER:  A type of internet ad characterized by a long rectangular box, usually at the top of a web page.  The first ones, spots for AT&T, Volvo and Zima, made their debut on HotWired, the web offshoot of Wired Magazine on October 27, 1994.  Like Pop-Up ads, their success was purely unintentional but nevertheless became a resounding success with advertisers. Users eventually tired of the ads, which often covered web pages so that viewers had to watch them first hampering viewers’ site experience, forcing their decline.  

BANJO:  Telephone hardware that can be used with abanjo1 butt set and wall jack to trace telephone wiring when a tech can’t get inside the wall to reach the wires. It’s primary use is to test working lines  without disruption by providing a connection between the center port and a butt set or other clamp-on type of test instrument.  Despite years of research, I can find no reason why it’s called a banjo, except maybe it looks a little like one.

Baran photo0001Baran, Paul (1926-2011):  A Rand Corp. engineer who in 1960 published a 24 page paper discussing how the President could send orders to the commanders of his missile silos after a first strike by the Soviets.  He posited a neural network of computers to be developed by DARPA as the most efficient network structure.  Although it was not capable of being built at that time, it was the first known verbalization of the concept which later became built and known as the Internet.

BAR CODE:  A small image of 59 black and white bars (30 black and 29 white lines which convey 12 bits of data in binary code) of varying thicknesses usually attached to retail items, id cards, postal mail, etc. which, when read by a bar code reader identifies information about a particular item, person or location. The 12 digits really give nothing more than address to look up information in a databaseA bar code consists of five parts: a quiet zone, a start character, data characters (including an optional check character) a stop character and finally another quiet zone. The original bar code was first used on June 26, 1974 to read the price on a 10-pack of Juicy Fruit gum (67 cents, if you must know). 

It was invented (or at least commercially perfected) by George J. Laurer, a veteran engineer for I.B.M., who was asked to lead a team assigned to devise a checkout system for grocery stores.  With the help of Alan Haberman, a supermarket executive, the bar code was adopted as the industry standard in 1973.  In doing so, they built upon a model first devised by N. Joseph Woodland and fellow Drexel graduate student Bernard Silver, who were awarded a patent which they sold to Philco Corp. in the 1950s (and expired in by 1970).  Woodland’s design was an adopted graphical version of the Morse code he learned while a Boy Scout, using wider lines for dashes and narrower ones for the dots.  In 1973 the grocery store industry adopted the UPC and the following year the Uniform Code Council (renamed GS1 in the US in 1975, see Associations) established it as a uniform, global, standardized bar code symbol.  Incidentally, a 10-pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum was the first product to be scanned with a GS1 bar code on June 26, 1974. 

Presently, after 35 years, there isn’t just one standard bar code but several standards (known as “symbologies”) for various uses; UPC (“Uniform Product Code”) is primarily retail; EAN (“European Article Numbering”), developed by Joe Woodland, is also quite common; and POSTNET for use in U.S. zip code bulk mailing. A standard, one dimensional bar code looks like this (But see also, QR Codes, for two-dimensional bar codes, which are increasingly more common):

woodland photo

N. Joseph Woodland with barcode scanner design (Photo I.B.M.)

Barcodes have been supplemented but not superseded by radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which allows businesses to identify and track specific items without a direct line of sight, such as on shipping palettes.  But barcodes are still used much more - scanned upward of 10 billion times a day throughout the world, and cost only about a half cent each, as opposed to the electronic RFID tags at about 5 cents each.  For example, the unusual-looking scrambled barcode on the back of most driver’s licenses is known as a PDF417 barcode. This barcode contains most of the information contained on the front of the license.   See also QR Codes.

BARE METAL:  Generally refers to a computer without any operating system installed.  Also for “Bare Metal Clouds” (non-virtualized infrastructure).  This term is also used with the qualifier “restore” or “recovery”.  It means the process of rebuilding a computer from scratch after a catastrophic failure.

BARTIK, JEAN JENNINGS:  One of six women programmers famous for debugging (see bug) and operating, in 1945, the earliest general purpose electronic  computer, the ENIAC, which weighed 30 tons and contained about 18,000 vacuum tubes. She’s on the left side of the photo.  See also, Edsac, Women.

Bartik photo

BASE/BASEBAND:  A type of data transmission over an ethernet network cable where the signal is sent over a single channel. See Ten Base for further explanation.  Compare to broadband, over which a single cable can carry several channels at once.  Cable TV or DSL, for example, can carry television, telephone and internet at once.

BASE-X (WHERE “X” IS A NUMBER):  This term denotes the basis for a numerical system, such as Base-2 or Base-10.  The number represents the  choices available for each “digit” in that number system, or the “basis” of the system.  For example, a Base-2 system has two choices for each digit, that is “1” and “0” (hence all those 0s and 1s you see when talking about computer code).  This is also called a “binary” (bi = 2) system, and it is used for much of computing.  Another system, Base-10, is what we use in the U.S. for currency and math, and is known as the “decimal system” (dec = 10).  For example, ten pennies is one dime, ten dimes one dollar, etc.  In a hexadecimal system (Base-16), there are 16 choices for each digit (0 through 9 and A through F). Remember, the Base refers to the available choices for each digit in the number, but has nothing to do with the number of digits comprising the number itself.  So, if you have a number, say 0203, each digit (i.e. 0,1,2 or 3) in that number can have X possible choices, depending on the base of the system.  Hexadecimal keys are commonly used for encryption, because they provide 16 choices for each digit.  That sounds like a lot, but with today’s processing power, cracking a hexadecimal WEP key is child’s play.  Most users now commonly prefer 64 or 128 bit encryption.  For more, see encryption. Also, Binary and Numbers.  [For simplicity, I’ve chosen to define the term “base” as the “basis” for the system, i.e. binary, 10, etc.  In actuality, it’s a little more complicated: A “base” is defined as a way to express numbers using a “place value” (which is basically a “column”).  The column to the far right is the smallest value (say “0”s in a binary system), the column to its left would be the “1”s, and so forth.  See below:]

IN THE EXAMPLE BELOW: FOR THE HEXADECIMAL NUMBER “490,285 EACH DIGIT IN THAT NUMBER HAS THE CHOICES “0 THROUGH 9 + A THROUGH F” AND THE 6 PLACE VALUES RUN FROM THE SMALLEST (#1, FAR RIGHT) THROUGH THE LARGEST (#6, FAR LEFT):

490,285 =

PLACE VALUE

6

5

4

3

2

1

NUMBER

4

9

0

2

8

5

CHOICES:

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

2

2

2

2

2

2

 

3

3

3

3

3

3

 

4

4

4

4

4

4

 

5

5

5

5

5

5

 

6

6

6

6

6

6

 

7

7

7

7

7

7

 

8

8

8

8

8

8

 

9

9

9

9

9

9

 

A

A

A

A

A

A

 

B

B

B

B

B

B

 

C

C

C

C

C

C

 

D

D

D

D

D

D

 

E

E

E

E

E

E

 

F

F

F

F

F

F

BASH:  The shell program for command line processing used by Linux.

BasicBASIC:  Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code.  One of the earliest and simplest programming languages, originally designed as an interactive mainframe timesharing language by John Kenneney and Thomas Kurtz of Dartmouth in 1964.  Quite quickly it became widely used on personal computers, such that it was a popular add-on to IBM’s PCs, starting with the PCJr.  Because of its simplicity, BASIC is easy to learn and support is still widely available for most operating systems today. Microsoft developed its own dialect of BASIC (from BASICA, originally for Compaq), known as GW-BASIC (“Gee Whiz-BASIC”) which was disk based and did not require the resources of the ROM included on IBM’s machines (although it lacked many of the programming structures and executed rather slowly).  Starting with DOS 5.5, Microsoft included a version of BASIC known as QBASIC that included REMLINE.BAS, a program that helped convert GW-BASIC to QBASIC.  Microsoft also produces Visual Basic, which adds object-oriented features and a graphic user interface to the standard BASIC.

BASIC:  One of the first computer programming languages, invented by two Dartmouth professors in 1964, still sometimes in use today.

BASIS POINT:  Jargon for 1/100 of a percent.

BAT FILE:  Shorthand for a batch file (see below), because in DOS systems,  their filenames end in a .bat extension.

BATCH FILE:  A text file that contains a sequence of instructions for a computer operating system to execute.  It’s called a batch file because it batches (collects) into a single file a group of commands that would otherwise have to be entered into the system one at a time by keyboard.  When run, the “shell” program (usually cmd.com as a command interpreter) executes the commands, one line at a time.  Usually batch files are reserved for repetitive tasks, and are initiated by typing the name of the file and the appropriate extension; in DOS, for example, the extension is “.bat” (as in autoexec.bat, the batch file that initiates DOS itself); in UNIX it’s a shell script; in IBM’s VM, it’s called an EXEC.  Powershell modules are used in Windows for automating administrative tasks similar to batching.  For more information, see Part III of this LINK.

BATCH PROCESSING:  The processing of large volumes of data together, rather than individually, as with credit card receipts.  See Cobol.

Battery powerBATTERIES:  As in laptop  and cell phone batteries, usually lithium ion (“Li-ion”).  For a discussion about this, see FAQs 26, 27 & 28; also see UPS for battery backup and micro batteries. (UPSs don’t yet use Li-Ion, with valve-regulated lead acid batteries still the dominant energy storage technology used today.)  As the circuitry for low-power wearables and sensors become more efficient, it appears that even small batteries may be replaced with energy drawn from  body heat and movement and ambient environment (like light).  Much like light powers calculators, these sources will be able to power medical and IoT sensors, which use very few milliwatts, because they don’t have power draining displays like smart watches and Google Glass.  Batteries are rated by voltage (e.g. 9v), type (NiMH, Li-ion), size (“AAA”) and milliampere-hours (mAh).  The higher the mAh, the more charges it will holdTHE FUTURE:  It’s been 30 years of lithium ion batteries and, as more powerful devices consume increasingly more power, changes will have to come in batteries as well.  Research is ongoing to create batteries which recharge much faster as well as last longer.  Advances in Li-ion batteries are being introduced and other types (e.g. dual carbon) are being explored.  It is expected that, as early as 2016, new batteries that can be charged up to 70% in 2 minutes with a 20% longer lifespan will be on the market (LINK).   Newer nickel-metal-hydride (“NiMH”) batteries, while more powerful than the old nickel-cadmium (“NiCad”) ones and have less of the memory discharge issues, but lose charge relatively quickly.  Li-Po (lithium polymer) batteries, which are essentially the same as Li-ion ones, are designed in a pouch format for use on smaller mobile devices. Eneloop NIMH batteries from Panasonic (successor to Sanyo Corp.) and Rayovac, hold up to a 90% charge for a year.  But it’ll cost ya - $30 or so for an 8-pack.  Add the cost of the (correct) charger, as they’re not interchangeable.  On another front, scientists in Canada and France have created a “micro-supercapacitor” with the same energy density of a modern lithion-ion battery that could potentially last forever. While it could be charged nearly infinitely without loss of capacity, the problem is that the capacitor’s porous cathode is only a few square millimeters in size because it is build out of exotic materials like gold and ruthenium oxide.  The trick will be to build what’s called a “3D electrode (cathode)” made from porous gold, vastly increasing the available surface area, which when doped with Ruthenium oxide will provide the required energy density.  If and when this is accomplished, these batteries, which will have energy storage some 1,000 times the energy density of current micro-batteries, will be extremely useful for wearable devices, microcircuits, autonomous sensor networks and the like.   On the cell phone side, an Israeli startup named StoreDot has designed batteries using proprietary amino acids in place of some of typical lithium components, producing a battery that can fully recharge in only 60 seconds, compared to 1 1/2 hours today  When it goes into production in 2017, it will cost about 30% more than Li-Ion batteries, but will be useful for charging phones, laptops and cars.  But beware:  As batteries get more powerful and recharge faster, they tend to overheat and explode.  If you’ve been following the news over the past years, you know this (Sony, Samsung exploding laptop, cell phone batteries).  11/16 UpdateQualcomm introduced it’s fourth generation of super-fast charging technology, dubbed “Quick Charge” to be released in the first quarter of 2017 along with the debut of the Snapdragon 835 processor.  Quickcharge will provide up to 5 hours of bttery life on a 5-minute charge. It does this using an algorithm called Intelligent Negotiation for Optimum Voltage (“INOV) which manages how much power devices request through charging cables, including heat management to assure the phone or tablet doesn’t overheat while charging, like the Samsung devices.  Qualcomm expects that this feature will become available on  many more devices in the future.

BAYESIAN:  A type of logic named after English mathematiBayes photocian Thomas Bayes.  It is a branch of logic applied to decision making that deals with probability inference; that is, using the knowledge of prior events to predict future events.  It is used frequently in anti-virus programs to predict future permutations (variations) of current viruses.  See also, Spyware.

BAY, a/k/a DRIVE BAY:  The physical slots inside a computer case that the various  drives (hard drives, CD/DVDs, etc.) fit into.

BAUD:  A unit commonly used to measure the transmission rate of modems in terms of how many bits it can send or receive per second (“bps”). Named after frenchman Emile Baudot (1845 - 1903), inventor of the Baudot code for telegraphy.  Baudot is famous as a pioneer of telecommunications, because he invented a multiplexed printing Baudot telegraphtelegraph system in 1874 that used his code and allowed multiple transmissions over a single line.  Technically, baud is the number of times per second that the carrier signal shifts value: For example a 1200 baud modem actually runs at 300 baud, but it moves 4 bits per baud (4 x 300 = 1200 bps). Of course,  broadband transmission has greatly superseded this measure.

BBS:  See Bulletin Board, below.

BCRYPT:  A password key derivation, based on the Blowfish cipher function, that is adaptive, making it difficult for brute force and rainbow table attacks.  The key is set up in stages, where the product of the previous subkey is used to set up the next subkey.  For more, see encryption.

BEACON (or iBeacon, Apple’s standard, which can also be used with Android devices):  A Bluetooth Low Energy (“BLE”) device which transmits a unique identifier for mobile devices so that users with a compatible O/S or app can see relevant data about that device.  Essentially, this technology allows MobileApps to listen for signals from beacons and react accordingly by understanding the position of the cell phone in order to deliver content to users  based on that location.  You see their use for such things as hotel check-ins, realtor lock boxes, in store push advertisements to cell pbeaconhones and the like.  Click HERE to see an excellent explanation about how this actually works, with diagram.  A photo of an Estimote line of beacons, meant to be wall mounted, is shown at right.

BEAMFORMING:  An optional feature starting with the 802.11n MIMO array under which wireless access points dynamically switch antenna combinations to focus wireless transmissions on a particular wireless client in a home or office network while reducing SNR (“signal-to-noise ratio”) interference, in order to maximize reception for that station.  There are three types of beamforming: Transmit (TxBF), which propagates two or more phase-shifted copies of a signal on a frame-by-frame basis such that they reinforce one another at specific locations.  There are actually two forms of TxBF, “implicit” and “explicit,” which determine how the phase shift angle between the client and the access point is determined.  And then there’s Cisco’s proprietary ClientLink, which also uses multiple signal paths to reinforce the (download only) signal.  Static beamforming uses an array of directional antennas to form a spherical RF pattern to focus the signal, but at the cost of some performance in various situations.  Dynamic beamforming also uses an array of directional antennas, but adds onboard processing to enable the access point to intelligently select and dynamically change the antenna beam pattern from frame to frame in response to individual client conditions.   In addition to the above, many routers embed real-time spectrum analyzers looking for and eliminating interfering signals.  Because many homes and businesses still have legacy hardware in addition to 802.11n, technologies have been developed which prevent conflicts.  ATF (“Airtime Fairness”) allocates time slices for each client so that the slower legacy protocols don’t hog the spectrum and “band steering” steers the slower clients to perhaps the 5GHz band, providing a form of “spectrum load balancing”.

BEANIE: Tech slang for the 3M Scotch Lock wire connector.  A popular type of wire connector used by phone and computer technicians.  Usually used on thin wires, usually for telephones, they do not require stripping and have a waterproof gel inside to protect the connection from the element.

BEAT: A type of distortion caused by improper or deteriorating cable connections, characterized by little white “dots” on a screen.  See ingress, cable connector photos.

Beats logoBEATS: A company founded by rapper and producer Andre “Dr. Dre” Young and Interscope/Geffen Chairman Jimmy Lovine on July 25, 2008 which produces high-end audio products like headphones and speakers, with a heavy emphasis on bass.  Beats launched in Apple and Best Buy stores and later into autos like Chrysler.  It’s success in becoming a $1.5 billion company was in great part due to its branding using popular hip-hop and pop musicians in it promotions.  In 2014, Apple announced that it would acquire Beats for $3.2 billion.  On 11/15/15, Apple discontinued Beats streaming music service replacing it with  it’s new Apple Music.

BEBO: An acronym for “blog early, blog often”.  A social networking site, founded in January, 2005 by husband and wife team Michael and Xochi Birch, sold to AOL in 2008.  In April, 2010, AOL announced that it was planning on selling or closing BEBO.

BEC:  Shorthand for “Business E-mail Compromise”.

“BEEPS”:  See BIOS, below.

Beezid logoBEEZID:  A Canadian penny auction model, heavily advertised in the U.S. since 2015.  The name is a play on the word “bid” using a form of slang similar to izzle-speak (a type of pig latin popularized by rapper Snoop Dogg.

BELL LABS: The research and development arm of AT&T which began in 1925 with researchers from AT&T and Western Electric (which manufactured AT&T’s telecommunications equipment), but when AT&T was broken up by the U.S. Government in 1984 as a monopoly, in 1996 AT&T spun off Western Electric  as Lucent Technologies.  Later, as a result of global competition, in 2006 French telecommunications company Alcatel absorbed Lucent, then in 2016 Alcatel-Lucent was taken over by Nokia, which increased Bell Labs staff beyond 1,000 researchers (the largest it has ever been), while increasing its R&D capabilities to its former glory.  During its existence, the Murray Hill, NJ company was responsible for many modern innovations and discoveries, such as the transistor invented on 12/16/47 by William Shockley, Walter Brattain and John Bardeen for which won the Nobel prize (click HERE for the full story) and then microchips, lasers, solar cells, Unix, communications satellites, cell phones and fibre-optic cable systems.  In 1948 researcher Claude Shannon, who rode a unicycle and juggled balls as he cruised the long hallways of Bell Labs, published “A Mathematical Theory of Communications,” the first to apply the “bit” to circuit design and transforming computer data into “information theory,” which would later be applied to everything from cryptography to statistical modeling of weather, the stock market, computer animation and voice recognition software.  He created a key equation known as “entropy” which is commonly used by software programmers today (see that definition for explanation).  Another researcher, Peter Shor, figured out in 1994 how a quantum computer could wipe out today’s cryptographic data protection, and Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie invented Unix, the popular background software for the Internet and the basis for Apple’s software.  I personally visited Bell Labs in the 1960s and it was a magical place for scientists.  Every hallway and section was like roaming around “Q”s lab in the James Bond movies, where he developed and tested his amazing gadgets!  What made Bell Labs truly unique, however, was its approach to research.  Not before or since has there been a sandbox combining different disciplines such as engineers, tinkerers, theoreticians, physicists,, electricians, metallurgists, inventors and other scientists, inventors and mechanics who interacted for the sole purpose of creating useful inventions and furthering pure science.  [Sure, companies like Google and Microsoft do some of this today, but they do it only for their particular disciplines and probably corporate profits, not for pure science in general.]  Now, under Nokia, Bell Labs (now named Nokia Bell Labs with campuses in Murray Hill, NJ and Sunnyvale, CA) is working on developing fibre-optic networks reaching speeds of 1 terabit per second (1,000 times faster than Google Fibre), racks of computer gear named “Airframe,” specifically designed to minimize network delays, 5G networks with response time to enable resource consuming augmented reality to be generally available by 2020, drones like the “Future Cell” that are compact, solar powered radio stations dropped by drones that deliver mobile network capacity onto rooftop sites to bring fast 5G connections to nearby buildings, and even smarter smart watches that use DeepX, software that brings AI to smaller devices, as well as Nuudle “augmented thinking” software to take Google search a step further by presenting data to the user from several sources (e.g. video, photos, web sites, text files, sensors) as “circles” on a room-wide touch screen, so that tapping on the circle of something you’re interested in increases its importance in your search and therefore the prominence of related information.  Maybe this will bring the U.S., which invented the Internet, back to the forefront of it’s capabilities.

Bell-LaPadula Model, a/k/a/ “BLP”: A “state machine” model (i.e., a “special purpose” machine designed with the operational states and hardware required to solve a specific problem) used for establishing access control in government and military applications.  It uses security labels (i.e. “unclassified” or “top secret”) on objects as well as clearances for subjects.  It is a model where there is no clear distinction between protection and security.  It is a competitive model to the Biba Integrity Model, which describes rules for data integrity, which uses the notion of “secure state(s)” within a machine, between which users transition through a series of “functions”.

BENCHMARK: As you would expect, a standard by which something can be measured by comparison.  In computers, the benchmark is usually a test comparing the qualities and performance of the function of a device. Popular (free/free trial) programs include SiSoftware Sandra, Passmark Perforance Test, FreshDiagnose, Fraps and AIDA64 Extreme.

BENOIFF, MARC: See, salesforce.com. The man behind the idea that software should be rented and not purchased, creator of web-based SaaS CRM software.

BERNERS-LEE, (Sir) TIM: Creator of the World Wide Web.  See WWW for more.

Tim Berners-Lee
marc benoiff photo

BERNOULLI NUMBER: A sequence of rational numbers used in connection with number theory. Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics (the study of numbers for its own sake), primarily the study of integers. See Numbers.  It’s sometimes called the “Queen of Mathematics”.  See also, Lehmer Sieve, Babbage Analytical Engine.

BERNOULLI BOX:  A removable disk storage system using Bernoulli boxthe Bernoulli Principal, first introduced in 1983 by Iomega.  Because the drive pulls the flexible disk toward the read-write head so long as the disk is actually spinning, it is supposed to make the drive more reliable than other types of drives, the theory being that the head cannot crash.  Iomega’s Bernoulli Box and Bernoulli Box II used this technology, but later Iomega products such as the Zip and Jazz drives did not use Bernoulli technology, even though the diskettes looked similar (see Media). But they didn’t use the Bernoulli “plate” and consequently had only one disk rather than two (one on each side of the plate).  But they also crashed rather suddenly and the drives were susceptible to damage if dropped.  All of these products were superseded by high-capacity USB flash and external hard drives and DVDs in the 1990s and the Bernoulli, Zip and Jazz drives quickly slipped from existence, particularly as the capacity of flash drives increased dramatically.

Bernoulli photoThe Bernoulli Principle was invented by Daniel Bernoulli, who published it in his book Hydrodynamica in 1738.  It involves fluid dynamics, and derives from Newton’s second law, and postulates that within a fluid (e.g. air) flowing horizontally, the highest speed occurs where the pressure is lowest and the lowest where the pressure is highest. 

BESPOKE:  I’ve rarely seen this term used about computersI saw it used once to describing legacy game cartridges custom made for specific brands of game players (i.e. “those bespoke game cartridges for an Atari”).  I also saw it used to describe custom microservices.  Usually, this is a term synonymous for “custom made” suits and clothing, originally those made in London.

BETA: “TEST” version of software not quite ready for commercial release.  As in “Microsoft has released the beta version of Windows 2000 for review”.  It is usually released after the ALPHA version  of developmental software, which is typically very buggy and released only to a few people internal to the organization. Beta, on the other hand, is usually tested with those not involved in the alpha development phase.

BEZIER PATH:  A tool used in CAD, Photoshop and other graphic design programs, characterized by following the outline around a graphic by plotting a “path” around the object through the use of direction lines (often called “handles”), end points and angles.  It is particularly useful for following the line of curves.  This is done through the use of mathematical cubic equation developed by Pierre Bezier, who invented it in the 1970s.

BGA:  Ball Grid Array.  See RAM.  A popular chip mounting package which uses a grid of solder balls as connectors.  It has several advantages:  It is compact and easier to align on the circuit board as the solder balls (sometimes called solder bumps) are further apart than leaded packages.  Also because of their compact size, high lead count and low inductance, lower voltages can be used.  Finally, because the balls are underneath the chip, it is capable of “chip scale packaging,”  where the package is not more than 1.2 times the size of the semiconductor die itself.  See also, TSOP.

BGA

BGP:  Border Gateway Protocol, the protocol that helps internet routers decide where to send transmitted dataSee Internet for more.

BHO:  This means “Browser Helper Object”.  It is a program that runs automatically every time that your browser is launched.  BHOs enable your browser to display items such as Acrobat, various toolbars and specific types of files to be displayed.  BHOs are intended to extend the functionality of the browser, but it can also track how you use the Internet.

BIBA:  See also MLS (“Multi-Level Security”). The “Biba Model” or “Biba Security Model” or “Biba Integrity Model” is a set of access control rules, developed by Kenneth J. Biba of Mitre Corp. in 1977, to ensure data integrity.  At the time, the model was developed to circumvent a weakness in the Bell-LaPadula Model (see above), which at that time addressed only the issue of data confidentiality, not levels of integrity.  The Biba model groups data into ordered levels of integrity, then makes it so that subjects may not corrupt data in a level ranked higher than the subject or conversely be corrupted by data from a lower level than the subject.  Biba is characterized by the phrase “no write up, no read down”; Bell-Lapadula by “no write down, no read up”.

BIDIRECTIONAL:  This means that signals flow in both directions through a cable.  This is managed through various protocols.  See ECP, EPP. For example, in older parallel printers, the signal went in only one direction, from the computer to the printer.  In newer printers, the signal goes in both directions, it is bi-directional.

BIG DATA:  About what you’d expect it to be, but still a “word of art” in computing.  Big data are sets of data (often in the terabyte and exabyte range) which are gathered, stored, searched and analyzed, and which are so large and evolving that standard local computers and software cannot handle them.  (See Quants for more about how this is done.)  It has been predicted since Isaac Asomov in needle-in-a-haystackthe 1960s (his “Foundation” series) and more recently by the U.S. Government  and academia (IARPA; Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT) that “mining” the vast storehouses of data from such sources as web searches, Twitter messages, Facebook and blogs, traffic and other cams, information transmitted by your car, financial market indicators, changes in Wikipedia entries, visa and passport information, telephone calling records, travel data, credit card transactions, video, photo and audio files, GPS and the like will enable the prediction of political or other crises (and elections, as well), revolutions, political and social instabilities, medical emergencies, even pandemics.  It is postulated that following these patterns of communication, consumption and population movement will provide a more accurate indicator of things to come (“predictive analysis”).  Much of this is proposed to be done without human intervention through an automatic “eye in the sky”.  (See, Are You Being Watched?).  Taking this a step further by applying AI is “machine learning,” a type of extreme analytics, which enables computers to analyze patterns and adjust the program without human intervention at all.  And, of course, companies like Applecart (NY), which use analog sources (yearbooks, church lists, amateur sports team rosters, obituaries, employee directories)  to identify “social anchors,” those people likely to be influential (in their case, potential voters in the GOP race.

However, privacy advocates and past experience point out that this may not really work.  Big Data isn’t new.  According to IBM, taken together, the digital communications created in the world amounts to 2.5 quintillion bytes each day; that’s a lot for the NSA to filter, but it does have the computers to do it, and have been shown to do so.   The Total Information Awareness program that the Pentagon sought after 9-11 met with resistance from privacy advocates like EPIC and the ACLU (see Associations) which also forced the cancellation of the Pentagon’s Project Camelot in the 1960s as well.  Carnivore and Echelon and other DARPA projects in the 1960s  similarly met with public resistance against the Government’s spying on its own citizens.  9-11 softened the public view somewhat, as the catch phrases like “for your protection” and “to stop terrorists” became a mantra by the Government.  By 2008, the resistance had faded somewhat:  In 2008, the Pentagon’s Minerva Initiative, an array of studies, didn’t create much of a stir.  But in 2013, the disclosure of the NSA’s PRISM initiative and Snowden’s revelations about other unconstitutional activities by the Fed started the pushback all over again.   See LAWS for more detailed discussion. For more, see Privacy.

In May, 2015, The Washington Post published an article titled “What Your Name Tells Us About Your Age, Where You Live, Your Political Leanings and Your Job”.  Using big data readily available from the U.S. Census, birth and death records, voting records and other commonly available records, this article shows a surprising degree of accuracy based simply on a name.  Check it out at this LINK.

We’ve historically heard this before:  When mainframe computers evolved in the 1960s, there was a backlash as the Government collected tax information and social security records and the private sector collected credit information and stored them on those giant computers.  Privacy was the main issue:  Fears that “Big Brother” was controlling your data.  In this next wave of technology advancement, the “Big Data era,” the same concerns prevail, most likely with the same result. Progress will almost always trump privacy.  Click HERE for more.  Just as more powerful electron microscopes now allow scientists to examine life at a cellular level, but with some downsides, Big Data analysis of stored data will be the same double-edged sword in its own rite.  Not that there haven’t been some privacy victories:  The mainframe privacy debate produced the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 1970, limiting the credit bureaus collection of of data to only the three areas of credit, insurance and employment.  The Big Data privacy debate is even more complicated:  While some argue that “There is no bad data, only bad uses of data” that’s not strictly true.  Take, for example, the person who searches sites about diabetes or fat fryers or transvestites, but is doing so for research or school or someone else or just plain curiosity.  A data miner might read these searches as a telltale signal of an unhealthy habit, causing trouble with your employment, education or insurance.  And they’d never know about it.   The answer, which is currently being considered and urged (LINK to report), is a way for individuals to control which data they will allow to be collected and which will remain private, as well as what data may be shared even if it is collected.

Moreover, it hasn’t been quite proven that Big Data analysis actually crosses the gap between statistical inference into meaningful and accurate results any more accurately than previous attempts.  That is, Big Data isn’t necessarily always the truth.  Kate Crawford, a researcher at Microsoft Research, debunks the idea that with larger data sets we get closer to objective truth, suggesting that the certainty of math is misleading.   She suggests that you must have a reference to the context in which the data is created.  Tweets and Facebook posts, for example, are created mostly by younger people with high tech gadgets, leaving out major segments of the population and their proclivities.  And the actual analysis of data sets is still done by fallible human tools.  This can account for cases we’ve seen where Big Data analysis has led to bad product introductions.

Now that it’s been several years that Big Data has been touting itself as a magic cure-all for a range of business ailments but not quite coming through, the hype may be beginning to subside as of 2013.  This is in some part based on the ability of many (over 80 million estimated as of 2013) consumers to block browser extensions or enable the “Do Not Track” feature in many browsers, including Internet Explorer (made default in IE 10), limiting data collection (see Tip #65).  But that doesn’t mean that the ISP doesn’t have a record of the searches, which they could turn over to the Government.  Also, a recognition on the part of analysts that Big Data analysis is only one of many tools to target consumers and create business.  While the era of Big Data certainly isn’t over, it has become more evident that generating, collecting and analyzing this mountain of data often doesn’t translate into the value of driving sales and reaching new customers.  As a result of the high cost and sometimes dubious results, many of the Big Data companies are moving from being generalists into more specific industries where they can develop data models based on a deep understanding of the client’s industry.  For example, Kaggle has shifted away from general data analysis to focus on the oil and gas industries.

But even as the private sector uses quants to perfect the analysis of Big Data commercially, the Government will likely continue to purchase or “otherwise obtain” the results of that technology.  Right now, private companies use the technology to predict everything from box office sales, new products, jet fuel consumption and future purchases, but analysis is rapidly evolving. For more detail, see QUANTS, Machine Learning.

NOTE:  Back when I was in business school at NYU, one of the most dreaded “core”  courses we were required to take was titled “Probability & Statistics”.  Dreaded because it was considered really boring.  Feared (for me, at least) because it involved math, and I was terrible with math.  During the entire year that this course consumed, I remember wondering when in the world all this stuff about means, medians, modes, arrays, filters and the like would ever be useful to me.  Now I know.  Learning this stuff is now de rigueur for anyone who hopes to analyzing Internet data or sell on the Internet. 

See also, Filter Bubbling, Facial Recognition, Privacy, Web, emotions analytics, manufacturing analytics.

BIG IRON COMPUTERS:  See Mainframe computers.  The term came about because the early mainframes were housed in enormous, room-sized metal frames of boxes.

BIG-0 NOTATION:  An equation to describe how the time that a procedure takes to complete will change relative to the input to that procedure.  It is not a number.  Rather, it describes a trend, adjusting the time for completion relative to the size and complexity of the input.  It’s used to compare algorithms quite often.  Several algorithms can solve the same problem, but the time it takes for each one can vary. 

I’ve only read this explanation on Quora (kudos to Gayle Laakmann McDowell - if I can understand it, anyone can) but it’s great: True Story.  In 2009, a S. African company named The Unlimited grew so frustrated with their slow internet service that they arranged a comic competition between their Internet ISP and a carrier pigeon with a 100Gb USB drive clipped to its leg to see which reached their office first.  The trip was about 50 miles.  Of course, the pigeon won.  But the race really didn’t prove the point.  Why?  Because the ISP actually “transferred” all the data to its destination computer, while the pigeon only “delivered” it and it still had to be transferred onto the company’s computer from the USB drive.  That, of course, would take additional time to complete.  While the pigeon didn’t care how large the USB payload was, the ISP’s transfer time completely depended on its volume.  Big-0 offers an equation to describe this trend, offering ablackboard math free image time which more accurately compares and equalizes the two transfer methods.  The internet’s transfer speed is “O(N),” where the amount of transfer time varies proportionally to the size of the input.  

Of course, if you take an algorithm class, there are all kinds of fancy notations like “big-theta” to express this relationship (they look like the indecipherable scribbled equations that the math genius on the Numbers TV show used to put on his blackboards), but this explains the basic underlying principle.

BIKESHEDDING:  A shorthand term for corporate meetings where there’s lot’s of talk about things that really don’t matter, like “who cares what color the bike shed is painted??

BINARY:  A number system where each digit only has two choices.  For more, see BASE-X and Bits & Bytes.  For what the alphabet looks like in binary code, click HERE.

BIN FILE:  Stands for BINary File.  A file with the .bin extension, which can be used for a variety of files, including graphics, some CD images, game ROMs, emulators, some Windows files, even AVG anti-virus files as well as other non-text files. But, unlike other files like .exe, .wpd or .xls files, bin files don’t require a program to open them.  So, when you use Windows, Nero, AVG or the like, the files will be read by that program.

BING:  (Formerly Microsoft Live Search, Windows Live Search and MSN Search):  An Internet search service, introduced in mid-2009 by Microsoft.  This search engine, which modifies and improves Microsoft’s relatively unsuccessful Live Search, claims to do more than just provide promising web links as does Google or Yahoo, but will provide categories or results to make it easier for users to make more complex decisions.  For example, if you search for “Cadillac,” it will arrange the “Table of Contents “ for the search results by “new”, “used”, “reviews”, “specs”, etc.  Click HERE for more information.  The name Bing is intended by Microsoft to capture the sound effect of a “lightbulb” or “aha!” or “Eureka!” moment.  The search bot for Bing used to be “MSNBot,” now is “BingBot”.

BINHEX: See, ASCII.

BIOMETRICS:  With reference to biometcomputers, biometric verification is any means by which a person can be identified as an authorized user using ordinary but unique human characteristics.  This is most often done by fingerprint scanning (especially oretinal scanner2n laptops, see photo at left), but can also be done through voice recognition, facial recognition (DeepFace, which even recognizes faces from the side), heartbeat (Nymi wristband), earprint (Ergo Android app by Descartes Biometrics), gait (your walking style), retina scanning (see the eyeLock scanner for PCs, photo at right), signatures, gestures (the way the user types or uses the mouse, or even dances, for example; see Signature Track by Coursera) and other means. 

But, as I’ve noted in various security sections of this site, don’t get that warm and fuzzy feeling just yet.  You may not be as secure as you might think, even with these extreme physical measures.  There are several reasons for this:  Even low-tech hackers can find ingenious ways to hack the readers.  Sometimes tGummy Bear Hack fingerhe easiest hacks are the ones that remain unprotected.  Remember the infamous Gummy Bear hack?  That’s where students at Henry Kandall High School in New South Wales (Australia) cleverly figured out that they could circumvent their morning attendance sign-in via biometric fingerprint readers by pressing their fingerprints into Gummy Bears, then giving them to their friends who pressed them over their own fingers and then onto the reader.  Because the gelatin has virtually the same capacitance as human skin, it worked smoothly, at least until they were caught.  Similarly, the iPhone fingerprint reader was bypassed using nothing but a camera, printer and some latex made from wood glue (click HERE for more).  As a result of this gaping hole, the newer, better readers now use so-called “liveliness detection” to check temperature, pulse, blood pressure, pores, perspiration and other human traits through fingerprint identification.  More sophisticated hackers also know that when your fingerprint or retina is scanned, the security program that verifies your identity attaches it to a “Kerberos token” or an “NT hash,” which can be captured, then used and reused by professional hackers.  Essentially, what your computer captures is a digital representation of your fingerprint, eyeball or the like, which can always be captured, altered or otherwise hacked, so it may not be as safe as you’d like to believe.  (When combined with a two-factor authentication, like a security password, it is much more secure.)  Moreover, there’s the hardware itself.  If you get just plain defective hardware, which happens all the time, you’re SOL if it fails.  And, in my years of experience, peripheral hardware like printers and scanners wear out and fail far more frequently than computers, so you can probably expect these biometric devices to fail before the end of life of the computer itself.  And this doesn’t cover the failure of the software driver controlling the device, which can become corrupt over something as simple as a failed Windows Update.  What then?   It’s not like a car, where if an add-on feature like heated sideview mirrors fails, you can simply pull over to the side of the road and check it or fix it.  Nope, your computer is probably ready for the scrap heap.  Worse yet, even if it doesn’t fail, but your biometric identity is compromised, you may not still not be able to get back on your own computer, ever.  And biometric protection only works on one computer at a time, anyway. So why do large companies use it?  Because they have a staff of IT experts to check the hardware and software constantly, and have server cloned backups just in case they fail.  Personally, I don’t recommend it, but that’s just me.  For updates on newer types of biometrics, like using your body or typing style, click HERE.

BIOPRINTING: The use of a printer to create living tissue.  See 3-D Printers.

BIOS:  Refers to the Basic Input/Output System which contains the bootup instructions for a computer.  When you first turn a computer on, you can hear the BIOS starting to load the computer. [To get to the BIOS settings, you may have to press a key like <esc> or F10, depending on the software.]  This process is called POST, which stands for Power On Self-Test.  During POST, the BIOS locates and verifies the system memory, then activates and checks the connected system devices (such as your hard drive, graphics card, sound card, keyboard, mouse, etc.), then locates the boot devices and, after all of these tests have been passed, it passes control to the operating system itself.  If something isn’t connected or working properly, you will receive an error message (e.g. “keyboard missing, press F1 to continue”).  Depending on the board manufacturer and the software, the BIOS also contains other configuration settings such as the boot order, power-on paBIOS chipssword and CPU settings.  The BIOS is written onto a read-only memory chip (known as an EPROM) which is soldered onto your computer’s main printed circuit board.  It can be updated by re-flashing, a/k/a flashing the BIOS if necessary.  (See the photo at right, with the center “window” for reflashing by UV light.)  When you first turn on your computer, the initial “beeps” that you hear represent the running of the BIOS; the number and timing of these beeps have definite meaning for each board manufacturer and each motherboard (you must look them up individually) and are often used in troubleshooting start-up problems.   After 30+ years, the BIOS is getting updated.  Since 2011, Win8 and all 64-bit versions of Windows computers run UEFI, the modernized and more powerful replacement for BIOS.  Since it has no MBR, it enables better rootkit detection and has many more features than old BIOS.  Both have so-called “password protection,” but it can easily be disabled by removing the motherboard battery, which resets and removes it. For more about the differences, see firmware, FAQ #72.

BIT BUCKET:  Tech jargon for “recycle bin”.  Comes from the network lingo where it refers to the place where a firewall, router or proxy has discarded a packetSee also Github for another definition.

BITCOIN:  Click HERE for a detailed explanationWhen I defined this virtual currency back in 2009, it was pretty much an unusual form or payment used by cybergeeks who frequented virtual sites like Second World.  It was basically worthless, maybe twenty cents apiece.  But in 2012, as a result of people’s dissatisfaction with banks’ fees and regulations and governments’ lack of trustworthiness, the price of Bitcoins has sometimes risen at times to over $1300 and people have been jumping into their mainstream use.  What started as a trust issue (an alternative to government and banking regulation and charges) has now become more of an investment, due to Bitcoins’ fluctuating but increasing worth.

Bitlocker logoBITLOCKER:  A  feature first introduced in Windows Vista which can encrypt a hard drive or other drives as security to protect sensitive data.  Windows 7 added to this feature with “BitLocker To Go,” extending the protection to USB storage devices.  The recovery process has also been simplified in Windows 7, 8 10.  See also:  Encryption, EFS.

BITMESSAGE: A type of encryption to get around NSA’s PRISM. Click HERE for more.

BIT.URL:  Like TINY.URL, these are free programs that reduce the size of a lengthy URL, so that it can easily fit into a webphone browser.

BITS and BYTES: A bit (short for BInary digiT) is the smallest unit of data in a computer.  A bit has a single binary value, either 0 or 1. A byte is composed of 8 bits.  A kilobyte is 1024 bytes, a megabyte 1024 kilobytes and a gigabyte 1024 megabytes.  These are the most common units of storage on computers.  For example, your hard drive may be measured by its size of 120Gb, RAM by 500Mb or 1Gb, or file size by kilobytes.  These are the basics.  For a complete and  detailed discussion, including the difference between a 32-bit and 64-bit system (called “bittedness”), please click HERE.  See also BASE-X, above.  For more about how bits and binary systems fit, click HERE.

BITTEDNESS: Geek-speak for “how many bits does your system have, i.e. 32 or 64?”.

BITTORRENT:  A peer-to-peer program (“client”) used for the sharing of very large files (called “torrents”), such as entire movies and TV shows, by allowing users’ own computers to serve as network redistribution points. Rather than having a server fulfill the entire download request, BitTorrent clients share pieces of the download back and forth until everyone has the complete download (see Torrent for more about how this works).  This way, the server can handle multiple requests without consuming great bandwidth.  Also, the name of the American company that uses this protocol over the Internet.  But beware:  Movies do have a “watermark” detailing which theater it was shown in and copied, so that the infringement can be traced through the bit torrent and possibly prosecuted.

BLACKBERRY:   A brand of “smart phone” originally introduced by the Canadian company Research In Motion (“RIM”) in 1999 as a two-way pager and popularized by President Obama during his campaign.  By 2002, the Blackberry was introduced as a convergent device (like Apple’s iPhone), supporting e-mail, mobile telephone, text messaging, internet faxing and web browsing using a multi-touch interface.  It is quite popular for corporate enterprises because it can be integrated into an organization’s e-mail system (such as MS Exchange) using Blackberry Enterprise ServerBES acts as an e-mail relay for corporate accounts as “push e-mail” as opposed to user-synchronization.  The name Blackberry (Crackberry to its addicts) was derived by Lexicon Branding after someone pointed out that the tiny buttons on the RIM device looked like berry seeds.  After experimentation with various fruits and vegetables, they decided upon Blackberry as the most pleasing name.  Sales of Blackberries (?) slackened with the introduction of the iPhone, but positive reviews of the Z10 in early 2013 proped up sagging sales.  In 2016, the Blackberry Classic smart phones were discontinued, even as the U.S. Senate no longer issued them to members.

Blackberry InPulse WatchBLACKBERRY INPULSE SMARTWATCH:  Another smartwatch, it is keyed to your Blackberry smart phone using Blackberry 10 O/S and the Smart Watch Companion app.  It sports a Bluetooth connection, 1.3 inch full color OLED screen, it checks e-mails, SMS, Twitter while in range of your Blackberry.

SaleBLACK FRIDAY: Even though the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NY has unofficially marked start of the holiday shopping season since 1924, the term “Black Friday” was coined by retailers in the 2000s as the demarcation for the day that brick-and-mortar businesses go “into the black” (i.e. start to turn a profit for the year) and when they (allegedly) offer their greatest discounts.  In an effort to push this date earlier, starting in 2012, some retail stores like WalMart and K-Mart opened their doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving Day itself, creating what some call “Gray (or Brown) Thursday”.  This trend appears to be growing each succeeding year, as Black Friday gets pushed back and lasts longer, sometimes a week.  Of course, the word “black” added to anything usually has a dark connotation.  On Black Monday (10/19/87), the Dow Jones fell 22%, the largest one-day percentage drop in stock market history; Black Thursday (19/24/29) was the day the Great Depression started, followed the following week by Black Tuesday (10/24/29) another 11% lost in the stock market.  Then there’s always the Black (Bubonic) Plague (1347 - 1750).  Historically, Black Friday is no exception:  It actually referred to the traffic and pedestrian congestion that gave police headaches the three days after Thanksgiving. This was particularly so for the Philadelphia police, because the Army-Navy football game was traditionally played each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving such that, around 1966, they named the day “Black Friday”. (Nowadays, it’s played a week or two later.)  In the early 2000s, retailers gave it a positive public advertising spin, promoting yet another reason to shop. See also Small Business Saturday and CYBER MONDAY, the same promotion, but for small businesses and then on-line shopping.  Not to be outdone in the discount shopping race, Colorado started pushing “Green Friday”  in 2014 in an effort to sell discounted pot, as it is legal to sell cannabis in that state.

BLACK HAT: See hackers. The “bad guy” hackers.  These are the folks that intrude into networks or systems in order to create malicious havoc or steal information for profit or to leak for political reasons.  See Hackers Hall of Fame, white hat (the good guys), pen testing.

BLACKLISTING:  A software process in an operating system, application software or Internet application which creates a list of unacceptable programs or connections on that particular computer.  If you’re blacklisted, you can’t be seen on a particular computer.

BLACK SITE: A location at which an unacknowledged black project is conducted by the CIA or other government entity.  Usually a physical location, but sometimes a web site. Or perhaps its a server site that hosts dark data.

Black SwanBLACK SWAN:  An inherently unpredictable and highly disruptive event.  About as rare, I suppose, as you would expect to see a black swan (which is quite rare). Rarity happens with computer systems, like anything else.  A process called “scenarios” is used to structure “uncertainty fields” in an attempt to predict possible disruptions. See also, cases. (Also the name of a 2010 Natalie Portman movie, which had no relation to this definition.)

BLADE SERVERS:  A computer on a motherboard, which is self-contained and slides into a chassis.  Often, the blade server has had some components removed to save space, so that they can be stacked, vertically, side-by-side in a rack, as opposed to stacking separate server computers together, which would take up considerably more space.  For example, one rack of blade servers might hold 24 computers in a space the size of a small bookshelf; 24 computers would probably take up an entire wall of a server room, and cause additional cable, heat, space and administrative problems that a blade server will not.  There is also a PC known as a Blade PC or PC Blade, which is a complete computer (including the microprocessor, memory chips, hard drive, video and network cards) which is connected to a network user’s display, keyboard and mouse.  This is in contrast to a Thin Client, which is not a complete computer, but rather a limited (“lean”) centrally-managed computer devoid of CD players, diskette drives and expansion slots, even software limitations. See also, U, M6 holes, Blanking Panel, Rackmount.

BLACKSHADES: A readily available, easy to install and inexpensive malware program which can be used to turn on a remote connection to another computer without it’s owner being aware of the webcam and microphone transmission, as was done to Cassidy Wolf, Miss Teen USA (LINK).  This RAT has been used for extortion and bank fraud, because it can obtain passwords and capture keystrokes without the user’s knowledge.  In 2014, as the result of one of the largest global cyber-crime crackdowns linked to the Blackshadescreepware,” more than 90 people were arrested by the FBI after 300 searches.  (Of course, it’s just peachy for the FBI to use similar software for spying.)

BLANKING PANEL: An empty “spacer” or “filler” panel used in computer equipment enclosures to facilitate movement of cool air flow in the cabinet.

BLAST:  Refers to an “e-mail blast” which is an electronic mailing, often advertising, sent all at once to a large mailing list, e.g. through Twitter.

BLAVATAR: See Avatar.  An avatar associated with a blog.

BLEEDING EDGE: Beyond cutting edge, this is technology that is so new that it hasn’t yet been widely accepted or adopted and it may therefore involve a high degree of risk (it could cut you) and a possibility of never being adopted by the mainstream.

BLINK: An app for both iOS and Android by Meh Labs (two ex-Googlers who also produced Kismet, a background location app) which erases messages at a predetermined time set by the user, so that they don’t remain on the Internet for very long.  It was excellent protection for those who sent sext text and videos as well as for business users who didn’t want proprietary information hanging around.  On 5/13/14, it was acquired by Yahoo, who announced that they intended to shut it down.  It may resurface, but there’s always Snapchat, which recently added self-destructing texts in addition to self-destructing photos.  Similarly, Facebook killed its own disappearing image app named Poke, a blatant Snapchat clone.  Facebook has tried to acquire Snapchat, but hasn’t done so yet.  Lots of mergers in this area. See Snapchat for more...

BLINK TAG: An annoying web page element allegedly designed by Lou Montulli, later a Netscape founder, which literally “blinks” on and off, usually for an advertisement, as in “You’re the 999th person to visit this page, click HERE to claim your prize!!!”.  Firefox blocked these tags in 2013 and other browsers did the same.  Not only were they annoying, the Government claims that blinking images between 2 and 55 hertz could cause epileptic seizures.

BLIT BIT/BLIT: Stands for bit-block image transfer.  A computer graphics operation in which more than one bitmaps are combined into one raster operation (“ROP”) which are then written to the destination.

BLIPPING: The process of posting a “Blip” (using Blippy.com), blippy logowhich automatically posts the details of a members credit card purchases on the Internet to immediately share with their friends and others. (e.g. Joe spent $10.09 at Starbucks on Rt. 41 at 12.21pm for a moccha latte.”).  The company started in December, 2009 in Palo Alto, CA and ws co-founded by Ashvin Kumar, Chris Estreich and Philip J. Kaplan.  However, tt only had some 100,000 registered users, an incident of possible disclosure of credit card numbers and limited sharing even among members, and was shut down in May, 2011.  But there are still location sharing and shopping comparison apps from FourSquare and even Google, so the genre still exists.

BLOB: Binary Large Object.  This is a large file (typically an image, video or sound file) that must be handled (i.e. uploaded, downloaded or stored in a database) in a special way because of its size.

BLOCKCHAIN: A digital public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed, much like a complete history of all traditional transactions at a bank. 

Here’s how it works: It evolves in a chronological order, most recent first, so that the later transactions (“blocks”) are automatically added to all nodes (e.g. participating computers trading Bitcoins) on the entire network.  Once a block is added to the chain (i.e. it is verified and posted), a new block is then created, so that there are effectively unlimited blocks in the blockchain, each placed in chronological order, linked to each other, like a “chain,” each one containing a hash for the previous block, shared by all nodes on the entire system.  The blockchain has complete information (such as computer addresses and balances) from inception to the current date. 

How it evolved: Think of a blockchain as a digital evolution of the old paper ledger, that old analog paper tool that’s been around forever.  Ledgers traditionally are a record keeping tool that tracks something, whether it be money, stock certificates or land records.  However, these troves of data have one central limitation:  Accessibility.  Access is restricted for security reasons, but also because those who guard it make money doing so.  With the advent of networks and cloud servers, however, the creation of so-called “distributed ledgers” is now possible.  A single entity or an entire group of them (say, a group of banks, suppliers, customers) can be authorized to access the database without the need for an intermediate “gatekeeper”.  These ledgers are much  more secure because criminals can no longer hack via individual computers to gain access to a network, via software or social engineering, as the blockchain is secure in the cloud server.  In fact, Bitcoin has never been hacked.  Companies like Microsoft and IBM now have thousands of blockchains on their servers, mainly for servicing customer experience, allowing users, for example, to redeem loyalty points at various locations for various purposes on the fly.

Because of their nature, blockchains have also become popular for other networks where the transparent and decentralized sharing of data is useful. Things such as trading ownership of things via the Internet, file storage, voting records, identity management and the like, accessible on a peer-to-peer network without personal identification.

BLOG:  Derived from “weB LOG”.  An interactive website over which the author shares, usually in chronological order, a frequently updated journal or diary containing whatever information the author (the “blogger”) wishes to share with the online world.  Blogging used to be the domain of individuals fulfilling their desire to publish their thoughts; as it has grown up, however, blogging has become used more in the enterprise, not just for job searching and listening to the customer, but also for out-of-the-box group conferencing, creating internal corporate relationships, and developing and promoting new ideas and products. The term “weblog” was first used in 1997 on Jorn Barger’s “Robot Wisdom Weblog,” which was shortened two years later when Peter Merholz playfully shortened it to just “blog”.  It’s also spawned a series of derivatives - blogosphere, blogrolls, blogiversaries, blogorrhea, blawgs (law blogs), blegs (begging blogs), vlog (video blog) and splog (spam blog).

The blogging world can be even further subdivided:  Mobile Blogging is updating a blog from a cell phone.  Microblogging is the updating of an activities blog (microblog) that distributes the text to a list of names. Twittering lets users send short text messages (140 characters maximum - they’re called Tweets) from their cellphones or computers to a group of friends.  They’re like a cross between a blog and a chat room. (Twittering is named after the web site (www.twitter.com)[see Twitter], launched in 2006).  For those who are looking for a fast way to share links, photos and videos without the bells and whistles of a regular blog, there’s Miniblogging, sometimes called Tumblelogs, which are shorter stream-of-consciousness blogs often incorporating mixed media (see Tumblr).  On the negative side, there are Splogs (Spam Blogs), but ISP filters catch the majority of them.  [In May, 2008, MySpace won a $230 million judgment against so-called spam king Sanford Wallace for allegedly creating phony MySpace accounts and hijacking existing accounts to send out hundreds of thousands of spam messages.]   And, like IM has its own language, so does blogging and twittering:  e.g. “Doocing”, an expression used when someone loses a job because of blogging.  For more, see Texting, e-mail, Twitter.  Also, Bullet Journaling, below.

BLOGOSPHERE: A term encompassing all blogs on the Internet and their interconnections, viewing blogs as a connected ”community” or social network.  According to Wikipedia, the term was coined on September 10, 1999 by Brad L. Graham in a humorous tongue-in-cheek manner, but it caught on, being re-coined in 2002 by William Quick.  It is often used by news media to gauge public opinion and its rise and fall respecting various public issues.  As of 2014, it is estimated that there are about 160 million identified blogs, with more than one million new posts each day.  See also the term lazyweb.

BLOOM FILTER: Used with hashes, a data structure used to test whether an element is a member of a set.

BLOWFISH: A cipher which is a key derivation function for passwords which was created as an open source alternative to DES, but which has now been somewhat replaced by AES encryption.  See encryption for more.

BLUE BOX: An electronic device which makes tones which trick the telephone system into making long distance calls without charge.  See John Draper, in Hackers.

BLU-RAY: Also sometimes called “BD,” developed by the Blu-ray Disk Association.  An optical storage disk with the same physical dimensions as standard DVDs and CDs that use a blue  (actually, violet) lasers to read and write the disk.  Because of the shorter wavelength of the blue laser (405 nanometers, vice the standard red 650 nm wavelength), substantially more data can be stored on a Blu-ray disk (up to to 50 Gb, as opposed to 10.5 times that of a single-layer DVD, and six times that of a two-layer DVD).  HD-DVD format, which was the primary competitor to Blu-ray, pretty much lost the format war in 2008 wen Toshiba announced its decision to to with Blu-ray technology.  See also, Media, CD/DVDs.  The Blu-ray logo is shown above. 

BlueStacks:  A Campbell, CA startup company which released a program named App Player which lets users operate games and other apps on PCs and Macs with their mouse, touchpad or microphone, giving users a more intense and full featured experience than they might have on a phone screen.

Blue Screen of Death:  See BSOD, below.

BNC:  See also, CABLEA type of connector used in older computer networks known as 10Base-2 (or -5 or -T) or Thin-Net networks.  The connectors are shaped like the letter T, having two male and one female connector each.  Depending on who you ask, the term BNC stands for British Naval Connector, British Nut Connector or possibly Bayonet Neill-Councelman (Neill and Councelman being the inventors of the BNC) connector.  Too slow for more modern computer networks any more, it is still used for various professional video connections.  Click HERE for photos of what BNC cable and connectors look like.

BLUETOOTH: An open wireless protocol, developed in 1994 by Ericsson Telecom, used to exchange data between fixed and mobile devices over a short distance (i.e. 30 feet or less in line-of-sight), by creating a secure personal area network (“PAN”).  Bluetooth devices are connected through a process known as “pairing” in order to become operable.  Widely used with cell phone technology now, it was originally conceived as a wireless alternative to RS-232 data cables and was immediately popular because it’s relative ease of use and compatibility .  It is distinguished by its use of a radio technology called “frequency hopping spread spectrum” which chops up the data being sent and transmits chunks of it on up to 79 frequencies. (See Hedy Lamarr and spread spectrum technology for more about it’s invention.)  Bluetooth’s claim to fame is that it can unite various communication protocols into one universal standard, so that synchronizing between multiple devices is much easier and it requires no additional infrastructure for cell phone implementation.   For tips about how to troubleshoot a difficult Bluetooth connection, click HERE

Bluetooth Profiles:  It’s worth noting that there are different functional parts of the Bluetooth protocol known as “profiles,” which go by various abbreviations.  Some common examples are A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile, used for streaming music or recording sound via wireless microphone), FTP (File Transfer Protocol, for sending/receiving files), HFP (Hands Free Profile, for sending/receiving calls), HID (Human Interface Device, for peripherals like mice & keyboards), MAP (Message Access Profile, for text messages & e-mails), PBAP (Phone Book Access Profile, for accessing contacts and phone call history), and PAN  (Personal Area Networking Profile, for network connectivity between devices).

Moreover, it is significant that there are two versions of Bluetooth within each standard.  That’s right: The first is “Classic Bluetooth,” which supports every Bluetooth profile, but at a cost of increasing energy use and storage consumption on the devices involved.  The second, Bluetooth LE (discussed below), which is “low energy” or “smart,” a version customized by device manufacturers to reduce resource consumption by selecting only certain profiles depending on their needs, permitting streamlining apps which can be updated easily

Bluetooth Special Interest Group (see Associations) manages the specifications, product qualifications and trademark protection for the technology.  The name Bluetooth is an anglicized version of the Old Norse name for the tenth century King Harald I of Denmark, who is reputed to have united the dissonant Danish. tribes into a single kingdom (much like Bluetooth unites differing wireless devices, get it?).  (I’ve always wondered, though, if you have multiple Bluetooth devices, if you then have Blueteeth?  The plural seems to lose some of its cachet, doesn’t it?) 

Like other devices, Bluetooth comes in various updated versions (starting at v. 2.1, now at v, 4,0), using options EDR and SSP. Competing with Bluetooth in one area is NFC (“Near Field Communications), which is increasingly used for RFID tags and point-of-sale payments using cell phones, but the range is extremely short (< 2 ft.) so it is not useful for most devices.Bluetooth Symbol  See also, Wibree, for BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) technology.

Bluetooth symbol is at right:

B2B: Business to Business.  A B2B web site sells products and services to other businesses.

B2C: Business to Consumer.  A B2C web site sells products and services to consumers and the general public.

BOARD: Generally refers to a printed circuit board (a/k/a PCB).  See main board for definitions of boards.  When a board fits into a physical slot on the main board, it is generally referred to as a card, as in video card, audio card, etc.  For how boards are made, click HERE.

BONDAGE-AND-DISCIPLINE LANGUAGE:  A programming language (Pascal, Ada, APL and Prolog are often cited) that claim to be general-purpose or even open source, but which is actually inadequate for most purposes.  These types of languages fell out of favor in the 1980s.  See also, Turing Tar-Pit.

bonjour logoBONJOUR: Formerly named Rendezvous, this is Apple’s trade name for its implementation of Zeroconf, a service discovery protocol, which is built in to Apple Mac OS X Ver. 10.2 onwards and can be installed on Windows operating systems as well.  Its purpose is to discover services (printers, computers and other devices) on a local network.  It is used by iTunes to find shared music, iPhoto to find shared photos, TiVo to find DVRs and shared media libraries, etc.

BONJOUR BROWSER: Software originally developed by Apple in OS X and later for Windows that is used to browse for and locate devices such as printers, other computers and the services for those devices on a network, through service discovery, address assignment and host name resolution.

BOOKMARK: Sometimes (as with AOL) called a “favorite”. A feature in a browser that supports the saving of a shortcut to a web page so that the user  can easily visit it again at a later time.

BOOKMARKLET: A program that is installed in your web browser just by dragging its button onto your toolbar.  See, for example, Readability.

BOOLEAN: Referring to a type of logic developed by George Boole, an English mathematician, in the 19th century, in which he combined certain George Booleconcepts and excluded others when searching through large amounts of data.  The logic “operatorsAND, OR, NOT and NEAR [math equivalents +, -, “or”, and “---”] when combined with words and phrases allow you to define, limit or widen the search.  Most Internet search engines default to Boolean search parameters anyway, but they’re still good to know.  Sometimes said to be considered “the father of computer science”.

Boomerang logoBOOMERANG: A GIF-maker feature of Instagram which makes one-second videos out of a burst of photos, looping them indefinitely, forward and then backward.  There are others - Vine, GIPHY and others, but none are this easy to use and have as many features.

BOOSTER: See signal booster.

BOOT: To start.  In a computer, it is the system startup.  Contrary to some explanations, it has nothing to do with kicking a horse in the butt with a boot to get it going.  Rather it is a shortening of the term “bootstrap,” an aphorism referring to “pulling one’s self up by one’s bootstraps”.  With respect to computers, a “bootstrap load” was the way early computers loaded their operating system. A diskette (see Media) with the O/S (particularly the initial instructions which prepared the machine for use) was first loaded on the computer (which was effectively blank).  Once the O/S was loaded in the computer’s memory, the disk could then be removed and various other program diskettes and data diskettes could then be loaded, depending on the number of drives on the computer.  See the photo of the computer at right, with dual disk drives.  In later computers with hard disk drives, the MBR served this purpose, eliminating all this switching and loading. See also, Reboot, Dual Boot, VPC, kernel.

BOOT AGENT:  An Intel utility used by larger enterprises to boot a diskless workstation or to install an operating system onto a new computer.  The computer receives the boot image over ethernet through an Intel network adapter.  Compliant with the Intel PXE standard.

BOOT SECTOR: (Sometimes called a bootblock) is a sector of a hard disk, floppy disk or similar data storage device that contains code for booting programs, usually the operating system, stored in other parts of the disk.  For greater detail about boot sectors, see MBR; about hard drives, click HERE.

BossiesBOSSIES: Awards given by InfoWorld for the Best Open Source Software each year.  Click HERE for the 2015 best open source applications awards.

BOT: Short for roBOT.   Many people think that bots are bad.  But that’s not always correct.  Not all bots are malicious.  For example, web crawlers and bots for chat, IRCs and gaming all serve the purpose of automatically and rapidly emulating human actions like monitoring web pages for various commands or information and then acting on them.  For example, web crawler bots sweep up information about web sites and use it to list in search engine results and their rankings; IRC bots monitor chat channels for specified commands to act on.  However, because of their nature (the ability to remotely connect with an Internet-based command-and-control (“C&C”) servers to request instructions), they can also be used for malicious and nefarious purposes.  That is, once the bots install themselves on the client computers, they “phone home” and await instructions from the server.  When it’s ready, the server can be used to simultaneously send infections or malware (see Spyware) to all of the computers in the peer-to-peer network.  This is known as  a BOTNET, a collection of bots that install themselves on all of the remote computers, awaiting commands.  A advertising  botnet is a network of commandeered computers, each directed to visit sites, scroll around, click on ads, just like a human would. That’s how internet traffic brokers inflate the number of visitors to a pay-per-click site.  Other botnets await commands of a more nefarious nature.   The only way to remove the infection is to remove it from each computer on the network or shut down the server, both quite difficult tasks.  The individual bots on each infected computer are referred to as zombie computers, which are compromised through software advertising infections and directed remotely (through so-called “bot herders”) over the Internet. Recent malicious uses of bots include Cutwail (a spam virus), Zeus (a Trojan designed to capture sensitive financial information) and Cryptolocker (which encrypts all your data and holds it hostage until you pay for the decryption key.  See also, SPYWARE, fembots.

BOT (AI) [a/k/a chatbot]: Software that let’s users interact with electronic devices (computers, smart phones) using their voice and carry on full conversations, with the bot learning about you as it progresses.  Easier to create than full apps, they will eventually be used for more than just quirky conversations (i.e. “What do you think about the Obama presidency??”) to commercial applications (you snap a photo of your shoes and ask the bot to find another pair in red in size 6.5, or ask it to find you tickets for show at 9:00pm, all things that the early apps used humans to do). On March 23, 2016, Microsoft introduced TAY (“Thinking About You”), but quickly took it off line the very next say when it replied with various racist, offensive and inappropriate replies or graphics (“Hitler would do a better job than the monkey we have now”).  Needs more work, but Microsoft isn’t giving up.    Bots aren’t new - Joseph Weizenbaum, an MIT researcher, wrote an early chatbot in the 1960s named Eliza, crawlers scour web pages for search engines, and Clippy attempted to be helpful in the early days of MS Office until he became really annoying.  We’re now at the next iteration in bot development, and Microsoft believes that this advance will rule computing in the future.

BOUNCE RATE: The percentage of visitors to a particular website who leave the site after viewing only one (the “landing”) page.  A high bounce rate indicates that visitors aren’t interested in the rest of the site’s pages.

BOUNDLESS INFORMANT: A computer tool utilized by the NSA to analyze and visualize big data, essentially summarizing the NSA’s worldwide collection activities for use by its managers.  This was allegedly approved under the Patriot and FISA acts (see LAWS).

Boundless Informant

From Wikipedia: Showing the worldwide “heat map” from Boundless Informant, showing that during a 30 day period, 97 billion internet data records (DNI) and 124 billion telephony data records (DNR) were collected by the NSA.

BOUNDARY CASE: See edge case.

BOX: (1)  A generic term used to identify “subscription boxes” that periodically ship a “curated” collection of products to a doorstep.  Often used by startups, they ship every imaginable collection of products from jewelry and clothing, to sex toys and time-of-the-month products.  The original box idea came from a website created by two Harvard business school graduates in 2010.  It was named Birchbox, and it mailed out $10 monthly packages of mini-bottle beauty samples.  If the users liked them, they could order full size bottles through Birchbox and have them delivered as well.  Copycat box businesses have sprung up all over the net, many of them purely a nuisance, some useful.  Decide for yourself.  But beware that it’s difficult to get off some of them, unless your credit card is declined when it expires! (2) In the old analog telephone days, different colored electronic “boxes” used to make and receive free and long-distance calls by emulating signal tones.  See Phreaking.

box logoBOX: A cloud storage company used for online file sharing, collaboration and content management mostly for businesses.  It is free for a limited number of Gb for personal use and also has versions for mobile devices.  It was founded by Aaron Levie, Dan Levin and Dylan Smith in 2005 and is now located in Los Altos, CA. In 2007, it introduced OpenBox, which connects Box with other web-based apps as well.

BPOS: See Office 365.

BRACES AND BRACKETS: Both are used to separate text (explanation and alternatives) and mathematical arguments or formulas (order of precedence).  Brackets look like this:  “[  ]” and braces look like this:  “{  }”.  A similar symbol is the parenthesis, which looks like this:  “(  )” (often used for negative amounts in accounting).  See also angle brackets, which look like this “<  >” and are often used to enclose computer code of some type (e.g. HTML tags).

BRAINWRITER: A product of “Not Impossible,” founded by Mick Ebeling (Venice, CA), which reads and communicates using brainwaves.  TheBrainwriter wearable technology pairs with ocular recognition technology to enable the fully paralyzed to draw and communicate.  It is an improvement on the Eyewriter, which Ebeling and his team made for Tempt One in 2008.  It is available on a do-it-yourself basis, the design going for $400 and the technology for $800 - $2000.  It’s open source and constantly being improved upon, so the cost will come down.  See the website.

BRANCH: Any line (telephone, coaxial, cat) off of the incoming trunk line into a location.

BRANCH CACHE: A Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 component intended to reduce bandwidth consumption on branch-office-wide WANs.  The first time someone at a branch office of the organization downloads a file from the central server, it is cached locally, so that the next person at that office gets the file from the cached location, saving time.  It has two modes:  Distributed, which simply requires running on the feature through Group Policy; and Hosted, which requires a separate server to cache and serve files for the remote office.

BREADCRUMB: A type of folder or web “navigation” which specified the “path” that took you to the folder or page that you are viewing (following the breadcrumbs backwards, get it?), as opposed to the pre-Windows 7 “UP” button, which simply displays the folder hierarchy showing you where you are. 

Up Button Navigation cropped

GO BUTTON NAVIGATION

Breadcrumb Navigation cropped

BREADCRUMB NAVIGATION

Brick, buildingBRICK: (1) A device (like a cell phone, game console or computer) that no longer functions, making it as useless as a brick.  A “soft” brick may be repairable, while a “hard” brick cannot be “unbricked”.  Bricking could be the result of hardware failure, software corruption or a hacking  attempt to “unlock” the devices from the manufacturer’s specs. (2)  The name also given to the first cell phone, the Motorola DynaTAK 8000X, because is was shaped like a brick.

BRIDGE: A piece of network hardware that that’s used to connect two networks so that they act as one.  They can be used to connect two different types of networks (e.g. ethernet to token ring) or to partition one large network into two smaller ones for performance purposes.  A bridge is a smart repeater (see hubs, etc.).  While a repeater listens to signals coming down one network cable, amplifies it, then sends it down the cable on the other side, a bridge has the capability of listening to the network and automatically figuring out the address of each computer on both sides of it.  The bridge then broadcasts the signal on the other side only if it is intended for a computer on that side. 

BRITTLE: As used with the terms “technology”  and “energy” it is synonymous with  “vulnerable.”  Derived from the 1982 Energy Strategy for National Security (book) by Amory B. Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins and widely quoted after 9/11/2001, it posits that the U.S. energy infrastructure is extremely vulnerable to disruption by accident or malice, and should be “hardened” into a more “resilient” system for our protection.

BROBDINGNABIAN: For some reason, computer geeks love their alternate universes.  Think:  Lord of the Rings, Avatar.  And, because they do, many of the descriptive words from these stories ultimately find their way into their dialogue.  A few times now, I’ve seen computer patches described as “brobdingnabian”.  This basically means “huge”.  It is a reference from the novel Gulliver’s Travels to a land imagined by Jonathan Swift where everything was enormous. 

BROADBAND: See, baseband, above. High speed data transmission over coaxial or fibre optic cable (FIOS), usually for Internet, TV and phone.  The FCC uses the term “broadband services” to refer to those services that deliver an information carrying capacity in excess of 200 kbps in at least one direction [47 U.S.C. 157 nt]. These services are also described as “high-speed services” in Commission reports issued pursuant to section 706. The OECD definition of broadband is at least 256 kbps downstream and at least 64 kbps upstream.  See spectrum for more.  And click HERE for more about types of broadband services.

BROGRAMMER:  A contraction of “programmer” and “bro” (the stereotypical fraternity house salute), this term sprung up in around 2012 as a reference to denote the change from technical geeks as programmers into less technical but much cooler guys who code in a party atmosphere.

BROWSERS:  These are programs that sort WWW web sites and translate HTML, the programming language of the Internet, into the words and graphics that you see when viewing a web page. After the invention of the Internet as Arpanet circa 1969 (see the history at Internet), there was still no way to easily search (i.e. “surf” or browse for) specific information on the network.  There were no “browsers”.  It remained for Tim Berners-Lee a British scientist working at the Swiss-based physics research facility CERN to develop the “World Wide Web” in 1991, still used today to browse the Internet for information. After that, in 1993, the University of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications developed the Mosaic browser.  Mosaic was improved upon by Jim Andreesen and developed into Netscape Navigator in 1994, and the popular Scandinavian-design Opera browser (now used with game players and smartphones as well) came out the same year.  Unfortunately for Netscape, Microsoft developed Internet Explorer and started what became known as the “browser wars” in 1996.  Netscape argued that, while it was acknowledged as superior software, Internet Explorer gained an uncompetitive edge because Microsoft “bundled” Internet Explorer with all of its Windows operating systems and excluded Netscape from having the same advantage.   After years of arguing, Netscape lost and was effectively discontinued by March, 2008.  But because some users were still dissatisfied with the alleged bugs and bloat of Internet Explorer, others developed competing browsers.  One of the most popular, Firefox, was introduced in 2004.  Apple introduced Safari as part of its operating systems in 2003.  And in 2008, Google introduced its own browser, dubbed Chrome.  In 2015, Microsoft introduced the Edge browser (formerly Project Spartan) as part of Windows 10 to replace Internet Explorer.

The current most popular current browsers are Microsoft’s Internet ExplorerFirefox; Google’s Chrome; Apple’s Safari; and Opera.  [In 2016, Chrome edged out Internet Explorer (which was replaced with Edge, as discussed above) for first place at 41.67%, over IE’s 41.37%; Mozilla Firefox was at 9.76%, Apple’s Safari at 4.91% an Opera at 1.89%.] A relatively complete listing of current browsers for Windows (about 37 in all), Macintosh and Linux can be seen if you click HERE.  Some browsers specialize in answering actual questions, such as Ask.Com (formerly AskJeeves), Answers.com, Formspring, ChaCha & Quora as well as Yahoo, Google and FaceBook services.  Some, like Silk, are especially designed for use with tablets, such as Amazon Fire.  The Dolphin browser is popular for Android devices.  And DARPA’s Memex browser specializes in the Dark Web.  There are other ways to search the Deep WebDeepPeep, Intute, Deep Web Technologies and Scirus are just a few of the search engines that can access the deep web.  Even better hidden are the Dark Web sites. 

Every browser has its own “engine,” which is the software that handles the screen rendering and other browser functions, determines the look and feel of the interface and its speed and much more (see below).  The engine for Firefox is Gecko, Safari is WebBit, Opera is Presto, Internet Explorer is Trident and Google Chrome is WebKit.  Some engines are better at some tasks than others.  For example, Gecko works better for pages where JavaScript speed is important, WebKit is useful for sites that have lots of images, Trident is best for those sites that only work well with Internet Explorer.  In addition, a browser called Lunascape actually allows you to incorporate the major browser engines and swap among them, based on the tasks at hand. 

As they have evolved, search engines now do much more.  For example, through such technologies as filter bubbling, engines filter big data from a user’s “digital footprint,” which will then selectively return search results consistent with a user’s digital “profile,” to the exclusion of all other possible search results.   So, for every search input, different individuals will get (often completely) different results.  Click HERE for more.

Interestingly, as the Internet progresses, browsers aren’t quite as important as they used to be.  Windows 10 uses the operating system, and not an app (like Google) to collect data about your surfing and other digital habits, for example.  But the primary reason is because the software industry is now more focused on apps, which now let users do many of the same things on their touch-screen smart phones that they used to use the web for, but with more capability.  For example, the phone internet apps let you deposit checks by taking a photo of the check.  Or phones can scan and e-mail forms and fax or send the signed versions for immediate approval.  Or phones can translate languages for you, even showing your lips moving on the screen while it talks.  Or you can point them at the sky and identify night time constellations.  Not that this is going to be the end of browsers.  They’ll always be necessary for many things; moreover, they’ll evolve as well, not just for searching, but also as stand-alone software apps.

SOME COMMON BROWSER SHORTCUTS:   Most of these shortcuts are universal, will work on most common browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Edge or Internet Explorer:  Ctrl+D = Add Current Page to Bookmarks/Favorites; Ctrl+J = Open Downloads list; Ctrl+H = Show History; Ctrl+L = Show Bookmarks/Favorites; Ctrl + Tab, Shift + Ctrl + Tab = Switch to next/previous tab;  Ctrl + 1 through Ctrl + 8 = Switch to one of the first 8 tabe; Ctrl+T = Open a new tab; Ctrl + 9 = Switch to last open tab;  Ctrl+W = Close the current tab; Ctrl+Shift+T = Reopen the most recently closed tab; Ctrl + or - = Zoom in/out;  Ctrl + 0 = Reset zoom to 0; Ctrl + U =Show source.

BRUTE FORCE:  Refers to the relatively unsophisticated method of breaking (“attacking”) computer encryption by bombarding the program with tons of possibilities until one works. See encryption, rainbow tables, Hellman for more information.

BSODBSOD:  Blue Screen of Death”.  (See topWIN8 BSOD left.)  Peculiar to Microsoft Windows, this screen with a dark blue background and white writing generally informs you that your system has “crashed” due to a page fault, general protection fault or the like.  It’s caused by serious software issues such as improperly or not completely installed Windows Updates, driver or program installation issues or viruses.  Whatever it is, the BSOD is telling you that Windows isn’t operating, so your computer is a brick.   This is one of the worst things that can happen to your computer, becauSPODse you Windows hourglasshave probably lost everything you were working on.  The screen in Windows Vista is known as the PSOD (Purple Screen of Death); in Win8 (top right) it is friendlier but still disastrous; Mac calls it the SPOD (Spinning Ball of Death) (bottom right); and XBox calls it the RROD (Red Ring of Death, the three flashing red lights around the powerspinning loading icon switch) and PlayStation the BLOD (Blue Light of Death, the endlessly flashing blue power light).  The “spinning wheel” at bottom right is what you see when a web page or plug-in on a web page is loading.  There’s also what’s known as the “White Screen of Death,” which occurs when a web page under development suddenly disappears, leaving only a completely white page.

BSM:  Business Service Management”.  Another popular buzzword (like CRM), this phrase defines a strategy for linking key IT components to the goals of the business, to determine how IT impacts the business and vice versa.

BUFFER:  A temporary data storage area shared by programs or hardware that operate at different speeds or with different priorities.  A buffer exists to allow each device or process to operate without being held up by others by holding data or streaming video that will be later read, written or viewed and to compensate for possible momentary delays.  A buffer exists to accelerate the speed of an activity and also to support the coordination of separate activities.  See, for example, streaming video.

BUFFERBLOAT: A term coined in 2010 by Jim Gerrys, a Google programmer, to refer to critical data packets being trapped in excessively large buffers, creating latencies 4 - 10 times the norm.  Once a buffer fills, the last packet to arrive is dropped (“tail drop”) and the “ack” (acknowledgment message) informing the sender of this issue can take some time to be received.  Attempts to resolve this at the network level can be complicated and inconsistent, using techniques such as CoDel and fq-Codel (“Controlling Queu Delay”), AQM (“Active Queue Management”), RED (“Random Early Discard”) and WRED (“Weighted RED”) to adjust intervals and thresholds, all of which are beyond the capabilities of home users. 

mothBUG:  Everyone knows that a bug is a “glitch” or “error”.  But where did this phrase come from?  Actually, as it concerns computers, it literally WAS a bug, more precisely a MOTH.  As the (true) story goes, in September, 1947, Grace Hopper, who later became a U.S. Navy Admiral, and one of the original computer pioneers (see Women in Computing), was trying to print out a report on her Harvard Mark II computer and the printer just wasn’t working.  After checking absolutely everything she could think of, she finally discovered that a moth had become wedged in the printer’s relay switch, preventing it from working.  The bug was carefully removed and the printer then magically started printing again.  And that’s how the common phrase “debugging” came to exist.  [I’ve heard (on the TV show NCIS LA, actually) that Thomas Edison actually used the term “bug” as far back as 1878, but haven’t seen any other verification.]  Bugs can also be undiscovered software coding errors, sometimes with disastrous real world consequences.  Take the Patriot Missile bug, where one part of the guidance software used a decimal representation of time for its internal calculations, while another part used a binary representation.  During the 1991 Gulf War this caused one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. soldiers, when a Patriot missile failed to intercept an Iraqi Scud missile, which then hit a U.S. Army barracks near Dharan, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 people.  Many bugs are disclosed to developers via “bug reports” filed by program users.  See also, stack overflow.

BUG CHECK:  When Microsoft Windows encounters a condition that compromises safe system operation, the system halts in a condition called a bug check, also known as a system crash, kernel error, stop error, or a BSOD. Often the screen displays a code or explanation of the cause of the error, such as a device driver corruption. Each bug check code (e.g. 0xC000021A) has an associated “symbolic name” (e.g. Status_System_Process_Terminated) as well as additional information if a kernel debugger is installed.  Click HERE for a list of Bug Check Codes.

BUILDING BLOCKS:  A feature in MS Word, starting in Word 2007, which allows a user to create and share reusable content with other users, avoiding the necessity to “reinvent the wheel”.

BULLETIN BOARD:  Sometimes called “BBSs”.  Essentially an electronic message center, used in the early days of the Web, onto which users post messages and review messages left by others.  Usually each BBS supports a specific interest group. Pretty much taken over these days by “community” sites like Reddit.  See also, Chat Room, PM.

Ryder Carroll bullet journalBULLET JOURNALING:  An analog version of a digital blog (above), developedand introduced in 2015 by 36 year old Brooklyn, NY digital designer Ryder Carroll (left) which is a pen and paper method of note taking, task lists and day planning which is becoming more popular.  It’s the one app you don’t need your cell phone for.  See YouTube videos for more.  Users are sometimes called “bullet journalists”.

BURN:  Usually a colloquial term used with respect to CDs and DVDs, meaning to copy data onto the CD/DVD media using drive made for that purpose.  For information about how to do this, click HERE.

BUROTICS:  Applies the fusion of several technologies that are mainly covered by the term Business Technology.  It includes data organization, word processing, fax, teletext and videotext, reproduction equipment, time registration and business management systems.  Also called technological fusion or telematics.

BUS (sometimes “buss”): Generally speaking, a BUS is main communication avenue in a computer; an electrical pathway (like a highway) along which signals are sent from one part of the computer to another.  For example, the main board of the computer has a “system” (a/k/a “frontside” or “local”) bus, measured in megabytes, such as 66, 100, 333, etc. which is often (somewhat incorrectly) used as a measure of computer performance.  This is the speed of the “highway” over which the instructions are carried between the CPU and the memory controller hub (known as the Northbridge).  The higher the speed, the “wider” the highway, the more data can be carried per second.  Depending on the implementation, some boards may also have a “back side” bus that connects the CPU to the cache, this bus is faster than accessing the system memory (“RAM”) via the front side, increasing system performance. This front side/back side distinction was created by Intel in the early Pentium machines with ATX boards, but went out of favor in boards produced after 2008.  Finally, another type of bus, called a “peripheral” bus, represents the pathway to devices such as printers or disks.  This type of bus connects peripheral devices perpendicular to the computer’s motherboard on riser cards that plug into the motherboard in various types of slots - PCI, AGP CNR, MCA, ISA, EISA, etc.  (See, PCI for more explanation). Another common bus is the USB (“universal serial bus”) bus which is cabled to a (serial) port on the computer. See also, backplane, above.  Click HERE to see photos of types of buses.  When used respecting computers, the term is probably derived from the electrical engineering term “bus bar,” which is a common rigid power supply connector to which other connections are made, a contraction of the term “omnibus bar,” a connection bar for all other electrical connections.  An excellent graphic and more detailed explanation can be found HERE.

BUSHNELL, NOLAN:  (2/5/43 -    )  Inventor of the ANolan Bushnelltari Pong game (arguably the first popular video game) and later the founder of the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain.  Presently co-founder and chairman of Brainbrush, an educational software company that is using video gaming technology and real brain science.

BUSINESS INFORMATICS (“BI”):  Sometimes “Organizational Informatics.”  A discipline created in Germany and academically popular throughout Europe which combines business administration, information systems and computer science into one field.  As opposed to Information Systems, which concentrates on the analysis of business problems after their impact, BI concentrates on the development of solutions for business problems before they occur.

BUS MASTERING:  Refers to a feature of some bus architectures that enables a controller connected to that bus to communicate directly with other devices on that bus without going through the CPU.  PCI, for example, supports bus mastering because it improves performance.

button boxBUTTON BOX:  A device which attaches to a computer (often via USB or serial port) in order to measure the response time that test subjects take to press the button(s), sometimes used in AI Turing tests to show that computers can demonstrate human intelligence.

BUTT DIALING:  See Pocket Dialing.

BUTT SET:  Another name for a telephone test set, butt setcarried by telephone repair persons to test land lines (ANAC, resistance, voltage, loop, etc.).  Why the name?  Originally it was called a butt set because it allowed the line man to “butt in” to a conversation on the line.  Secondarily, because it clipped on to the lineman’s belt, hanging over their rear.

BuzzfeedBUZZFEED:  A social news and entertainment website, famous for its cat pics and click bait.  It was founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti and John Johnson in New York City as a viral lab, but has since grown into a global media site, competing with Twitter.

BYOA:  Bring Your Own Access.  While this acronym can mean many things (e.g. BYO alcohol or Advil to a party, for example), in computers is means to bring your own wireless remote access to a company’s network, usually applied to home or remote workers. Sometimes it also means BYO “app,” which would mean that remote employees are also responsible for bringing cloud apps (like Google Docs or Dropbox) on their own devices when working on their employer’s cloud network. 

BYOD:  Bring Your Own Device.  Refers to computer, smart phone and tablet users who bring their personal devices into the workplace.  Starting with the introduction of the iPad and smart phones, this “consumerization of information technology” has created a security concern for many businesses, which fear that the use of personal devices will compromise data and trade secrets.  The BYOD effect has been to force many of these businesses to support platforms and devices that they might not otherwise have wanted.  Some merely use it as an excuse to get employees to pay for devices that the corporation would otherwise have had to pay for.  The opposite of BYOD is COPE (“corporate owned, personally enabled”).

Back Up My Hard Drive? How do I Put it in Reverse?

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