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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.


QAM:   Quadrature Amplitude Modulation is a modulation scheme which conveys data by changing (modulating) the amplitude (height) of two carrier waves.  These two waves, usually sinusoids, are out of phase with each other by 90 degrees and are thus called quadrature carriers.  Used for measuring the optimization of CABLEDSL FIOS transmissions.  Generally, the acceptable signal level is between -10dB (decibels) and +10dB.  Signals lose about 6dB for each 100€ distance, also 4dB for a 2 way splitter, 12dB for an 8-way splitter.  When you see the cable technician, for example, with a meter, he is measuring the signal strength in decibels to make sure it is within the +/- 10dB range.

QAT: Short for Quick Access Toolbar.  In MS programs liQATke Office, it resides in the top-left corner of the screen, just below the ribbon, and it is used to add various options (commands€) to the ribbon(s):

QNX: A smart phone operating system supposed to be released by Blackberry’s RIM sometime in 2012.

QOS TAGGING: Quality of Service.  Refers to achieving maximum bandwidth on a network through optimization of performance metrics such as latency, error rates, transmission speeds and uptime.  This is done through “traffic shaping” techniques such as packet prioritization, application classification and congestion point queuing.  For packet prioritization, using the Internet's Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP), packets passing through a gateway host can be expedited based on policy and reservation criteria arranged in advance. Using ATM, which also lets a company or user preselect a level of quality in terms of service, QoS can be measured and guaranteed in terms of the average delay at a gateway, the variation in delay in a group of cells (cells are 53-byte transmission units), cell losses, and the transmission error rate.  The Common Open Policy Service (COPS) is a protocol that allows routers and Layer 3 switches to get QoS policy information from the network policy server  (see hubs for more).  All of these techniques increase QoS for the end-user experience.

The 802.11n wireless standard, for example, supports QOS tagging, meaning that data requiring priority such as audio and video will work considerably better under that wireless standard. 

Not to be confused with COS (Class of Service), which only classifies traffic into categories of service (high, medium and low), but doesn’t guarantee that traffic of any given category or application will arrive in time, only that some will be handled ahead of others.

Geek GeekQUANTS: A shorthand name for “quantitative analysts”. At the pinnacle of geekdom lie those mathematical savants, prized by financial and web institutions, who make a living examining measurable and verifiable data in order to extrapolate predictions.  That is, they create sophisticated formulas (formally known as algorithms) to analyze vast amounts of big data (both structured, that which can fit neatly into the columns and rows of relational database - like sales, shipments & addresses; and unstructured - such as customer complaints or blog comments).  The results of these algorithms may dictate decisions (say, buying or selling stocks or adding or modifying product features), often in milliseconds (by using powerful computers).  Most retailers now have a predictive analytics€ department devoted to understanding not just consumers’ shopping habits but also their personal habits, so as to more efficiently market to them. Moreover, the science of habit formation€ has become a major field of research in neurology and psychology departments at hundreds of major medical centers and universities, as well as inside extremely well financed corporate labs. Quants who specialize in consumer technology are sometimes known as WANTS€ because it is their job to troll through data, hunt for trends, identify types of personalities and lifestyles, all to put the right ad in front of the right person at the right time (what they want€) and have them click on it and buy a product or service.  Think of a bunch of guys in a room, parsing information about what you’ve searched for on Google, what you wrote about on g-mail, the websites you like to visit, the geostamps on your photos, the places you and your GPS-enabled phone or car have visited, where you have flown, what purchases or services you’ve charged and the like, all in order to hit you with a customized ad when you sign on to your browser.  That’s what quants do.

This is becoming big business. Gartner says databases alone brought in $24 billion in 2011, and predicts a market surpassing $120 billion by 2015.  And all of this requires powerful computers. Tracking, say, thousands of ankle bracelets of convicted criminals and their whereabouts (SecureAlert), patients’ biologies to detect cardiac or other threatening abnormalities (IRythm’s Zio patch), trucking company or ambulance vehicles in real time or retail sales (Amazon, eBay, Macy’s) and the like, mostly over the Internet, requires tremendous computing power. 

Hadoop logoThe sea change occurred in 2006, when a software consultant working for Yahoo named Doug Cutting released an open-source system known as Hadoop (named after his son’s toy elephant, below left) which dramatically changed data hadoop 2analytics.  Old-school business intelligence software required the loading of huge relational databases using rigid, slow schemas to sift through queries one at a time on a single mainframe computerBig data analytics, on the other hand, handles variably structured data in real time from many sources without the delays inherent in the static schemas of the old relational databases.  Rather than running massive data through one huge computer, it chops up the data into bite-sized chunks and distributes them among thousands of smaller (but still large) computers, then probes that pool of data for answers to various queries.  As a result, companies can now, for example, look at recent point-of-sale transactions alongside clickstreams, online enrollment and social media chatter simultaneously to draw analytic conclusions about their customers, often in real time. This software became an instant hit at companies like GoogleYahoo!, Facebook (especially for the Like button), Walt Disney and Dell, which either used Hadoop or crafted their own software. OracleIBMCiscoEMC and Sun later joined the fray. A 2013 study found that 20% of businesses with 1,000 employees or more and at least 100 servers have implemented Hadoop, another 20% are in the process and more than 30% are considering it.  In addition, dozens of startups like Datameer, MapR, Cloudera, HortonWorks, Splunk, Infoblox and ServiceNow are refining the software at a lower cost than the major players.  And, in 2012, MemSQL claims to have developed database software 30 times faster than the others. Go to the Hadoop definition for more.

Want to see how this works for yourself?  Click on this link to the Wolfram Alpha Facebook Data Tool, which can provide a detailed report that can analyze data about you and find patterns and stats about your online life or that of your friends.  It’s free.

Quant analysis is not like the old number crunching. (Click HERE for more about the bell vs. bathtub curve.)  It’s much more.  For example, companies like RetailNext collect and integrate data from sales, surveillance video, RFID tags and motion sensors in order to detect not just how often a particular brand of cereal is picked up and purchased (or not), how long a purchaser stands in front of a particular display showing interest or purchasing, how often the shoppers turn left or right afterwards or when entering a store, how store traffic and patterns influence purchases, how the colors, size, shape and location of displays and product itself influence interest and purchases, how often they purchase the same product from an end cap, which size boxes are more popular, and a host of other variables which influence purchases.  Add to this cellphone tracking technology like that of Path Intelligence (FootPath€), which uses the phone’s cellular GPS signal to follow its owner throughout a store or building.  Although Path is located in England, it has been tested in the U.S. in Richmond, Va., Temecula, CA and at J.C. Penney at one location, but it has been pretty much abandoned in the U.S. due to privacy concerns, even though signs were posted identifying the service and advising persons to shut off their phones if they wanted to opt out of the tracking.  See also, beacons.

Taking this a step further is machine learning,€ in which computers with AI are learning on their own, eliminating the human evaluation of big data patterns and, instead, are performing neural analysis and adjusting the program algorithms as the data analysis evolves. This process is already in play, and is becoming more developed every day.

Not to be left out, the U.S. Government has purchased (or otherwise obtained) such software to track everyone’s moves on the Internet€.  Federal intelligence agencies such as NSA and DARPA have already spent millions to grab essentially every kind of data there is€ and to track the spread of ideas on networks such as Facebook to find people participating in persuasion campaigns€ and develop countermeasures,€ they say.  For more, see Privacy,Are You Being WatchedWhistleblowers & NSA.

QUANTUM COMPUTER:  computer which would perform calculations based on the behavior of particles at the quantum (i.e. atomic and sub-atomic) level. Until recently, such a computer was a theory but not a reality, but now no  longer (see below).  Such a computer is capable of processing many millions more instructions per second (MIPS€) than traditional (binary,€ sometimes also called classic€) computers can process, making them immensely useful for scientific and cryptologic computing.  Quantum physics would make this possible by providing the ability to exist in multiple states€ (see qubit, below) and therefore to perform tasks using all possible permutations simultaneously.  That is, while classic computing Quantum computerrelies on the Boolean principle of a 7-mode logic gate [which can exist in as little as 3 modes (AND, NOT and COPY)], a quantum computer can work with a two-mode logic gate (see QUBIT, below, and BITS) by virtue of the two aspects of quantum physics known as superposition and entanglement.  So, while classic binary computers require an exclusive singlestate at any particular moment in time (i.e. 0€ for off/false€ or €1€ for on/true€), they nevertheless can only be in one state at any given moment, no matter how fast they can switch at the next moment.  Regardless of how fast they can switch€ back and forth, there is a physical limit to that ability, and that is where quantum computing takes over, increasing the number of simultaneous states, and therefore the number of simultaneous calculations, exponentially.  Simply stated, a qubit is neither a 0 or 1 until it is measured. (See my diagram, below.)  An excellent primer on quantum computing for non-technical types would be Seth Lloyd’s “Programming the Universe”.

Quantum theory has progressed from its introduction by Max Planck in 1900, then modified by Niels Bohr, and programmed by Peter Shor and Lov Grover of Bell Labs in the 1990s.  The so-called Shor algorithm€ could run on a quantum computer with a sufficient number of qubits to break public key encryption such as the widely used RSA scheme.  One of the main issues to be resolved in quantum computer development is that of quantum noise,€ in which qubits are sent into undesirable states, making it difficult to execute programs normally or accurately.  That, plus volatility issues surrounding cooling, have slowed progress.

In 2013 it was revealed that the NSA was actually developing a quantum computer to speed up its code-cracking efforts as part of its spying.  As discussed above, a quantum computer would be able to attempt to crack encryption keys by trying all possible keys protecting a particular key or data stream rather than attempting to unscramble them sequentially. As of 2013, D-Wave, a Canadian company, has built a quantum computer that generates 512 qubits of computing power, and is housed at NASA’s Ames Research Center and used by Google. Also in 2013, U.S. Defense contractor Lockheed-Martin (which acquired an early version of such a computer from Canadian company D-Wave Systems in 2011) announced its intention to become the first company to actually use the previously theoretical quantum computing as part of its commercial business.   IBM, is also spending billions to develop its own quantum and neural computer chips (see Computers for more discussion), corolet.  And in 2016 it was revealed that scientists made a key breakthrough in the ability to build quantum circuits, the basis for quantum computers.  The Fredkin Gate (a/k/a the controlled-swap gate) has been adapted to exchange two qubits depending on the value of a third qubit, something which, due to its complexity, has never been built.  Whereas the Fredkin gate typically requires a circuit of 5 logic operations, researchers from Griffith University and the University of Queensland have used the quantum entanglement of particles of light to implement the controlled-swap operation directly.  Don’t worry if you don’t understand this:  This essential point is that quantum computers require lots of quantum circuits, which are typically quite small.  By applying this research, the computers could be built with fewer larger circuits, putting quantum computers within closer reach.  If this doesn’t work out, scientists at Florida State University’s National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (“MagLab”) also reported a breakthrough with similar promise by minimizing qubits’ susceptibility to magnetic disturbances.

For more, see Steven Hawking and Richard Feynman for their contributions.  Also, string theory, this Glossary.


© Computer Coach, 2014

QUANTUM: A prefix that refers to the nature and behavior of matter at the atomic and sub-atomic particle level.  This complex scientific field involves the concepts of “quantization of energy,” “wave-particle duality,” the “uncertainty principle,” the “correspondence principle” and much more.

QUANTUM CHIP: The chip that powers a quantum computer (above).  One example is the superconducting quantum chip with nine qubits shown here: (Credit: Julian Kelly/Google)

quantum chip

QUATTRO PRO: A Windows spreadsheet originally developed by Borland, then purchased by Novell in 1994 and after that by Corel in 1996, where it is now packaged with the Word Perfect Office Suite.

QUBIT: A name coined by engineers to denote the fundamental data unit in a quantum computer (see above).  Because it is viewed through quantum mechanics, it is a similar to a bit of data in an ordinary binary computer, but it can exist in multiple locations at the same time.  So, while a 2-bit register in an classic€ computer can store only one of four binary configurations (00, 01, 10 or 11) at any point in time, a 2-qubit register in a quantum€ computer can store all four numbers simultaneously, because each qubit represents two values. 

The best and most famous analogy for this concept is the most celebrated paradox in quantum theory, that of Schrodinger’s Cat.  (N Schroeder with cato, not Schroeder, the Peanuts cartoon character who plays the little piano [right], but Nobel Laureate Erwin ShrodingerSchrodinger (1887-1961), the Austrian physicist [at left])  In his 1935 paradoxical thought experiment (often quoted in the Big Bang Theory TV sitcom), he put an imaginary cat in a box with a small bottle of poison, which the cat could tip over, possibly resulting in its death.  He posited that, until the box were actually opened and the cat’s fate positively sealed, the cat exists in a suspended state, simultaneously both alive and dead, coining the term Verschrankung (“entanglement,” more about that below). [The poison’s release is set to be triggered by the radioactive decay of a tiny subatomic particle, dead catwhich scientists do know is capable of being in multiple states at once, meaning of course that it could be decaying or not decaying at the same time.  Therefore, it follows that the poison with the cat could simultaneously be released and not released and, by extension, the cat could be dead and not dead.  Get it?]  As it happens, Schrodinger was actually criticizing the then-prevailing theory of quantum mechanics, the Copenhagen interpretation, by demonstrating how preposterous that interpretation would be when scaled up from the microscopic state to the real world, such as cats.  (Copenhagen had posited that particles existed in all possible states (different positions, energies, speeds, etc.) until they were observed, at which time they collapsed into one set state.) 

It is this multiverse of simultaneous states that makes quantum mechanics such a powerful tool, and which expands the capabilities of a quantum computer exponentially (as discussed above). Until the box is opened and, of course, the universe collapses upon itself into reality.  But nothing’s ever simple:  Some philosophers theorize that when the box is ultimately opened, the universe splits in two - in one universe the cat is alive, in the other dead, so there may still never be just one answer.  In case this isn’t weird enough for you, the paradox has been ramped up to encompass an imaginary situation where it can also be both dead and alive at two or more locations at onceQuantum entanglement (a theoretical phenomenon that Einstein described as “spooky action at a distance”) holds that when two interacting subatomic particles become entangled, any change thereafter induced in one will be inflicted upon the other, no matter how distant they are from each other.  Back to the cat:  This would mean that the cat in one box would cause another cat in a box to be similarly both dead and alive.

This is gonna take quite some time to unravel....

So what’s the big deal with applying this to computers?  Simply, it’s a “quantum leap” in speed from processing instructions “sequentially” to processing them “simultaneously”.  [See the graphic above.]

QUEUE: A line.  Just like at the bank or the movie theatre ticket booth.  In computers, it is usually a list of items or commands in which only the earliest (first) item may be accessed, one at a time, until the entire list is finished.  For example, a printer queue would be a series of files (jobs€) waiting to be printed on a specific printer (see spooling).  See TIP #1 (“Your Printer Is Not An Elevator€”) for what not to do with a computer queue.

QUERY: A question.  Most commonly a request for specific information from a database (usually in formula form) or through an Internet browser.

quicken logoQUICKEN: A popular accounting program for computQuickbooks logoerscreated by Scott Cook and Tom Proulx in their dorm room at Stanford in 1984, which they sold through their company, Intuit, which went public in 1993, and now sells products for use over the Internet as well as mortgage apps and businesses (Quickbooks).  It’s long time CEO and Chairman (who died in 2016), “Coach” Bill Campbell, has been considered a legend in the computer industry, advising the likes of Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Eric Schmidt (Google).

Quickoffice logoQUICKOFFICE: See Google Quickoffice.  A mobile office suite.

QR CODE:  A matrix code is a  two-dimensional bar code, as opposed to the standard one dimension bar code, such as the ones you see in your supermarket.  It is also known in advertising as a mobile tag€ or just a tag€.  QR stands for quick response,€ allowing higher speed decoding than standard one dimensional bar codes, and are used more commonly in Japan, but increasingly in the U.S.  They were originally used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, pharma deliveries and the like. Now they are used to request information or content from a web site like details of a promotion, perhaps a discount voucher or to activate a download like a ring tone or video.  Click HERE to expand...

question-markQUERY: A question.  Usually a request for information, written in a specified format, from a database, as in a query for certain information from an Access database (e.g. all records about Donald Trump). 

Quora logoQUORA: A question-and-answer feed and website where the answers are provided by a community of users.  Covers a lot of questions about computers and coding.  The company was founded in 2009 by Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever, two former FaceBook employees  Aside from the Q&A format, another unique feature of Quora is the reward of credits to users for providing a quality answer, which can later be used to compensate experts to answer a question for them.

QWERTY: Refers to the arrangement of keys on a standard English typewriter, later the computer keyboard.  The name derives from the first six characters on the top alphabetic line of the keyboard.  Designed in 1868 by Christopher Latham Sholes, the inventor of the typewriter (collaborating with Samuel W. Soules and Carlos Glidden), no one really knows the true reason for the design.  It is commonly thought that he designed the keyboard to prevent the ja Christopher Sholesmming of the type bars on the typewriter when using frequent combinations of commonly typed letters, but there is no proof of this.  Other keyboards, such as the Dvorak design (frequently typed keys in the middle of the keyboard, for speed typers)  have not become popular and QWERTY is still the standard.  Recently, devices such as iPads and Android smart phones have introduced chorded€ on-screen keyboards, which literally change their structure depending on what you are doing or what keys you have already pressed. For example, if you start typing an e-mail, the @ sign, as well as the hyphen and underscore symbols, common in e-mails, prominently appear on the keyboard.  Similarly for search queries and the use of varying on-screen keypads for punctuation, symbols and advanced punctuation; the touch screen displays look like keys on a keyboard, but are actually mini apps€ which adapt responsively to users’ input.  At the moment, at least, this trend appears to be the future.  For more about keyboards, click HERE.





























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