“Get a Personal Trainer for Your Computer!”©

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


S-REGISTER:  See Modem.

SaaS:  Contraction for “Software As A Service” [pronounced “sass”], referring to a practice of delivering software to a customer over the internet on a rental basis, rather than the traditional “pay and own” model.  Users tap software from the “cloud” rather than buying it outright and loading it onto their computer, often paying for usage in increments of time.  This term has generally replaced the earlier terms ASP (Application Service Provider) and On-Demand.  An emerging type of SaaS is CLOUD computing, which earned its name because it delivers applications from “somewhere out there in that big cloud called the Internet” (i.e. from a remote location). Cloud offerings include databases [Google, IBM, Yahoo, Amazon], backup [Mozy/EMC], storage [IDrive], virtual servers [Terramark], online storefronts, payment processing, CRM and other vertical applications.  In addition, web giants such as Amazon [EC2 - “Elastic Computer Cloud 2”/Cloudfront Simple Storage Service (“S3”)], Google and EMC are now making their vast infrastructures available to a variety of web-accessible services for a very reasonable charge (e.g. 10 cents/hr, 10 cents/Gb).  In October, 2008 Microsoft announced its own cloud computing system, Azure

Offshoots of SaaS are PaaS [pronounced “pass”](a/k/a cloudware) where users are renting not just the individual web-based applications (as used by, but an operating system for those applications, a network as well as a service provider that will perform basic maintenance on that network when necessary; DRaaS (disaster recovery as a service) and IaaS [pronounced “I as”] for Infrastructure as a Service, where the user is renting hourly or monthly virtual servers, storage space, virtual routers, switches and other hardware, networking capabilities, an operating system and applications, with the cloud provider (“Host”) offering even more extensive maintenance and services.  All this, with the ability to scale up or down whenever the requirements change. Even the Federal government has experimented with cloud computing:  The Defense Information Systems Agency (“DISA”) has awarded contracts for on-demand computing services.  Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft has made the move to what some call “WaaS,” or Windows as a Service, as the operating system, apps (like Office 365) and upgrades are all purchased and maintained from the web, rather than residing on the user’s own computer.  Then there’s DaaS (Desktop as a Service) and BaaS (Back Office as a Service)where (mostly enterprise) users pay by the computer and the month for only those apps that they require at that time.

Computer clouds are just beginning to reshape the way businesses access IT services. Cloud computing differs significantly from the earlier type of less-than-successful network and web based services, known as MSPs (Managed Service Providers), which typically required customers to procure processing and storage capacity in discreet units of a particular type of server over a set contract period.  Also, there is a huge difference in scale, because Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and the like can offer such vast data centers, and therefore computing power, at a magnitude never before available.  There are different types of clouds - while Google may be ideal for sifting through data, may be better for running business applications like customer management and accounting software, even allowing companies to write their own programs to run on its servers.  In 2008, IBM (Blue Business Platform) and Google announced a plan to roll out a worldwide network of servers from which consumers and businesses will tap everything from online soccer schedules to advanced engineering applications through the cloud model.  Google has also introduced the Chrome browser, which is cloud friendly.  And, not to be outdone, Microsoft developed its own cloud applications, known as Azure, in early 2009.  See the CLOUD computing page (service models chart) for more on this...

The S’s:  “S” Stands for “service” in business orientation.  See, e.g. SaaS, above, which means Software as a Service.  If you are evaluating business systems, you will see lots of acronyms ending in “S”:  Here are a few:  QoS - Quality of Service; CoS - Class of Service; SOA - Service Oriented Architecture, Factoring as a Service (see encryption).

SAFE:  Scramble and Finally Erase, a hard disk erasure process supported by the National Institutes of Standards & Technology (see Associations). See FAQ #29.

SALT:  See Encryption.

salesforce logoSALESFORCE.COM: A SaaS company in San Francisco that distributes hosted business software on a subscription basis, best known for it’s CRM products.  Founded by Marc Benoiff (formerly of Oracle) in March 1999,’s main business now is the selling of web-based programs to track sales leads, project revenue and help call center reps deal with problems.

SAM: Software Asset Management”.  A collection of processes used to control software assets within an organization, including software asset identification, inventory management and control.  Important if you ever experience a software audit.

Samba logoSAMBA: A free software networking protocol providing file and print services for various Microsoft Windows clients, released under the GNU General Public License, originally developed by Australian Andrew Tridgell in 1992.  Originally called SMBServer, but changed due to trademark conflicts.

Samsung_LogoSAMSUNG:  A South Korean multinational conglomerate founded in 1938.  Samsung Electronics, ranked as world’s largest information technology company in 2012 is a major player in the electronics, computer and mobile phone industries.  For Samsung Pay, see Wallet.

SAMY:  An XSS exploit, a worm which, on 10/4/2005Samy Kamkar photo, infected MySpace users with a payload that displayed the message “but most of all, Samy is my hero” on the victim’s profile.  Up to that time it was the fastest growing worm, infecting over a million computers in only 20 hours. Created by and named for Samy Kamkar, who entered into a plea agreement in 2007 to the felony charges (probation, restitution).  In 2010 Samy created the Evercookie, a web cookie which is almost impossible to erase.  More: See SPYWARE; COOKIES

SAN:  See Storage.

sandboxSANDBOX:  Sometimes also called a “working directory.” It is a “testing” (or virtual) computer environment in which program or web developers check out a copy of the software on a temporary basis before loading it onto the actual servers which will run the program, in order to detect any errors or negative effects on the real system or its security.  They “play” in the sandbox first.  Microsoft has named its sandbox “The Garage”.

SAS:  Serial Attached SCSI.  A protocol with specialized cables and connectors that moves data to and from computer storage devices and hard disk drives.  It has pretty much replaced the older  parallel SCSI technology of the 1980 due to its increased speed and options.  Interestingly, you can use SATA drives on SAS controllers without any problems but not the reverse.

SAS INSTITUTE: World’s largest private software company  Founded by James Goodnight with a corporate campus in Cary, NC, SAS was the first to specialize in sophisticated software for analyzing big corporate data.

SAS 70 Certification:  The Statement on Auditing Standards created to elaborate on the reporting standards mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”) of 2002.  [See LAWS]  For larger and public companies, Certification Levels I and II require that certain actions have been taken to protect data and general network security.

SAT:  Satellite. As in SATphone (satellite telephone) or SATcard (satellite internet card for a computer).

SATA:  Stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment.  This is a newer, faster standard for connecting hard drives and other internal and external computer devices to the motherboards inside computers than the IDE cables and connectors that were used on the previous generation of computers.  Stop reading here unless you’re seriously interested, it’s enough to know that any computer you buy should have SATA drives and cables.

Now, for you techies out there:  SATA technology is based on faster serial signaling (hence the name), unlike IDE, which is based on parallel signaling (i.e. “PATA” or “Parallel ATA”).  SATA drives and therefore cables do not require the master/slave relationship as shared IDE drives do, and give each device on a controller a full dedicated point-to-point connector with 150Mb bandwidth that does not have to be shared (as does IDE, where two devices running simultaneously would effectively halve the available bandwidth).  SATA cables are skinny and usually red, with only seven connectors, compared to the flat, wide gray IDE cables that have forty connectors.  SATA speed keeps increasing, such that SATA/300 is now available and sources predict SATA/600 will be available soon.  Also, SATA has the advantages of much lower signal voltage and being less prone to crosstalk and electromagnetic interference. 

In addition, there’s eSATA, an extension to the SATA standard (with it’s own type of cable, naturally) that enables SATA drives to be connected externally, rather than by USB or Firewire. Click HERE for photos of SATA vs. IDE cables and power connectors.

small satelliteSMALL SATELLITES (a/k/a cubesats, smallsats): Just like it sounds, satellites that weigh just ounces or pounds.  Using the same technologies that shrunk the phone system to the size and weight of cell phones, scientists have shrunk legacy satellites to a small package that can be more quickly deployed, tested and changed, effectively applying Moore’s Law to space satellites.  The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (“OSTP”) has brought NASA, DoD, Commerce and other federal agencies into the Harnessing the Small Satellite Revolution initiated to promote and support government and private use of small satellites for remote sensing, communications, science and space exploration.  For a further discussion of specific programs under this initiative, click HERE.


SBC:  Server Based Computing.  Using a server-based network to provide computing over a network of computers.

SCALE:  Refers to the “size,” usually of a network.  Scalability or scaling refers to the expansion of a network and how well it solves a problem once the size of the network and the problem increases.

Scan & Scram: See Showrooming.

SCAPSecurity Content Automation Protocol.  This is a standard pushed by the federal government which unites a number of existing and new standards that identify software bugs and misconfigurations that could pose a security threat, helping with the so-called “vulnerability management process”.

SCF:  Secure Computer Facility. 

SCHEMA:  A set of rules (structure and value constraints) applicable to XML documents.  Web sitemaps are often submitted to ascertain their compliance with the XML schema.

SCI-FI:  Science Fiction, an entertainment media beloved by geeksScy-Fy is the cable TV channel which shows mostly this genre (don’t know how wrestlng got in there), and it has it’s own awards, the Hugo Awards, named after Hugo Gerasback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, officially named the Science Fiction Achievement Awards until 1992..

SCRAPING:  The practice of websites and blogs of taking large parts of original copyrighted works and using them for their own advantage. Sometimes, but not always, the practice is exempt from charges of illegal copying under the copyright law exception of “fair use,” which has a four point definition, taking into consideration the purpose (commercial vs. educational) and the substantiality of the excerpt itself.  See also copypasta.


SCOOTER:  The name of the Alta Vista search engine spider.

eSCORE:  A number rating of ability (like Elo) or status (like Dunbar or Klout), or number of friends on Twitter or Facebook, used to define achievement or status in the computer or gaming world.

SCRAPING:  See Content Scraping, Contact Scraping. Basically, pilfering original web content and e-mail addresses for marketing purposes. See also transclusion.

scratSCRAT:  Once again, my site, I can put in marginally related items.  Bear with me.  Scrat is the sabre-tooth squirrel in the Ice Age movies that, at least to me, is a metaphor for our lives.  He chases the gigantic acorn while ignoring the little obstacles that blindside him off the path for his quest.  Why is this important for computers?  Actually, aside from lightning, squirrel (not even rat) damage is a major cause of outages.  Really.  Take the power outages which shut down the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in 1987 and again in 1994.  Squirrels.  Recently (2014) the power outage in Silicon Valley (Cupertino, where Apple and Seagate reside).  Again, squirrels. And yes, they do get electrocuted. There are lots of examples of these mischievous critters nibbling on wires and causing outages.  Columnist Jon Mooallem, in a 2013 article for the NY Times, describes how he set up an informal survey of squirrel-triggered power outages using Google News alerts.  The result: Between Memorial Day and late August of 2013, he got alerts of about 50 squirrel-caused power outages in some 24 states, one evensquirrel cutting off power to over 10,000 customers.  An actual site dubbed “Cyber Squirrel 1” actually keeps track of confirmed squirrel (and other animal) related events, confirming incidents all the way back to 1987, finding 137 in 2015.  The American Public Power Assn., which represents municipal utilities, says that squirrels are by far the most frequent cause of power outages in the U.S., because of their sheer numbers and smarts.  Even rats don’t cause damage this often.  Another cause of damage:  Ants!  They’re attracted to the jelly-like substance used in FIOS casings and can (over the course of about 5 years) eat through the cables.  This caused severe outages in June, 2009 and again in February 2017 according to Verizon.

Scratch_logoSCRATCH:  A free educational programming language, primarily for kids, developed at Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT.

SCREENS:  Call them monitors, screens or displays, they proliferate on computers and mobile devices.  But there are many types:  Click HERE for more.

SCREEN POP:  A window that pops up on a telephone call center screen which shows information about the caller on the line, such as the CID, ANI & AVR.

SCREEN SHOT:  An camera image of what’s on a computer or phone screen.

SCRIPT KIDDIE:  Also, sometimes, script kiddy.  A derogatory term applied by more sophisticated hackers and crackers to the less expert exploiters of security lapses on the Internet.  Script kiddies use existing, frequently well known, programs, scripts and techniques to locate and penetrate other computers on the Internet, often randomly and without regard to the consequences.  Pro hackers disdain script kiddies’ lack of art in this endeavor, which they believe ruins their own reputation, because expert hackers take pride in the quality of their attack, often leaving no trace of their intrusion.

SCRIPT:  A (usually short) program (sequence of instructions) that is interpreted or carried out by another program other than the computer’s operating system.  Like an internet browser.  Scripts have their own languages, such as PERL & JavaScript, which are embedded in HTML to create various automated effects on Internet pages.  Click HERE to learn more about what to do when browser scripts don’t function correctly.

SCRUM:  An agile software development methodology which focuses on iterative teamwork to reach a common goal, as opposed to the traditional “waterfall” methodology which uses a defined step-by-step model to achieve its goals.  An analogy to the sport, scrum team members huddle each morning to review progress and essentially restart the project over and over.  At each meeting, the Scrum Master (kind of like a Captain) asks the members:  What did you do yesterday?  What will you do today?  What impediments, if any, are in your way?  The process was originally applied to manufacturing in a 1986 Harvard Business Review paper by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka.

SCSI: Pronounced “scuzzi”.  Stands for Small Computer System Interface, this is a standard for connecting hard drives and scanners to computers.  There are several different generations of SCSI (SCSI and SCSI-2 most common).  There are special cables and connectors for SCSI devices.  See cable photos, connector photos.  Not as common now that the newer SADB-25 SCSI symbolTA and USB connections are available.  See, e.g. SAS and UAS.  This is the SCSI (DB-25) symbol:

SD MEMORY CARDS:  Introduced in 1999 to replace MultiMediaCards, these are the (“secure digital”) memory cards used to expand the capabilities of computers, mobile phones, digital cameras, music players and the like.  These cards come in various forms: SD (most common)), Mini-SD, SD HC (high capacity, i.e. greater than 2Gb), Micro-SD (cell phones), SD-1,2 &3, Olympus XD (exclusively for Olympus and some older Fuji cameras), Memory Stick Pro Duo (for Sony cameras), Extreme IV Compact Flash (used by the professional higher-end digital SLR cameras),  Video HD (for use in smaller video cameras, etc.) and capacities 512Mb - 512Gb).  For more information, click HERE for the summary from the SD Association.  See also, Eye-Fi card, Media.

sd compared

SD, Mini-SD & Micro-SD Forms Compared

SDK:  Software Development Kit. [Such as “Windows SDK”]  Software that developers use to create programs or apps that will operate on a specific platform, such as the Android SDK or the iOS SDK.

SDN:  Software Defined Networking.  Uses the Open Flow Protocol which uses software rather than hardware to determine how network traffic should flow away from individual switches and routers by instead shifting it to a controller, making the process more automated and less expensive.  SDN lets networking pros specify configurations in high-level languages which instruct routers and switches about how to prioritize and manage traffic, resulting in greater efficiency, more security and arguably lower costs.  Used, of course, by larger enterprises.  Often used with NFV (“Network Functions Virtualization”).

SDP:  Software Defined Perimeter.  A next-gen network security software which advances the older NAC offerings.  Based on the “black cloud” concept from the Defense Information Systems Agency (“DISA”) and referred to by the Cloud Security Alliance (see Associations) as “on-demand, dynamically-provisioned air-gapped networks”.  Actively marketed by Google (“BeyondCorp”), Cryptzone, Vidder, Pulse (originally part of Juniper) and others, these offerings include features like next-gen firewalls, NAC, 802.11x, etc. It has strong authentication and is suitable for large data collection systems and granular business policy decisions.  Not particularly easy to use; for large enterprises only.

SD-WAN:  Software Defined WAN.  A sub-type of “software defined networking” (“SDN,” above) technology which is used to connect usually larger enterprise networks like branch offices and data centers over large geographic distances over the Internet.  See also, SDN, MPLS, ASIC.

SEAMLESS:  Having a smooth and continuous transition between parts of a program or internet screens, as in payment processing.  Syn. frictionless.

SEARCH ENGINE:  Also called abrowser- a computer program that lets you search for specific information on the web by typing a keyword, title or topic.  Internet Explorer, Netscape & Firefox are search engines.  In addition, there are specialized search engines, such as Shodan, which search for online devices from traffic cams to water plants which could possibly be hacked.

SEARCH INVERSION:  The morphing of the Internet search function from a useful tool for users into a corporate tool for profiling and targeting Internet users for sales and other financial purposes.  See Internet Privacy.

Second Life logoSECOND LIFE: A virtual Internet world developed by Linden Lab (founded by entrepreneur Philip Rosedale in 1999), launched on June 23, 2003.  Using a game-like console, players create their own avatar and interact in an entire virtual world intricately patterned after our real world.  See also, Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s novel about a metaverse much like Second Life.  While it was popular for a while, and it still exists, it lost its luster in the early 2000s.

SECTION SIGN: “.  Sometimes also called a “squiggly”.  A typographical character commonly used to denote sections in documents and legal codes.  However, respecting computers, it is used as a popular denotation for a unit of currency in games like SimNation, Spore and All-Out-War.  On Craigslist a section sign in the subject line indicates that the subject line comprises the entirety of the post .


Seebeck, T.J.: Developer of the basic theory behind thermoelectric cooling (“TEC”).  See Peltier for more.



Sega logoSEGA: A precursor to today’sSonic the Hedgehog Wii, Playstation and Xbox, the Genesis game console (a/k/a Mega Drive in Japan) was a 16-bit gaming console developed and sold in 1988 and sold through the late 1990s when 32-bit consoles took over.  The mascot and most famous game on the console was Sonic the Hedgehog.

selfie presidentSELFIE:  Short for “self portrait”.  A photo taken by myself of myself (and possibly others).  Usually taken wiJeraldo Rivera selfieth a cell phone, posted to a social network site, like Twitter.  Declared “2013 Word of the Year” by Britain’s Oxford University Press.  Made even more famous by the semi-nude Tweet (at right) by Geraldo Rivera in 2012 with the caption “70 is the new 50!”.  Even President Obama indulged in a selfie with David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox (at left) during his visit to the White House to congratulate the team on winning the 2013 World Series, but when it was revealed that Samsung staged the promotional deal with Ortiz to promote its Galaxy Note 3 phone, the White House considered banning all selfies with the PDeGeneris selfie twitterres. He’d already received some criticism of his selfie of Pope SelfieDenmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning and British Prime Minister David Cameron taken at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in 2014.  Other selfies, however, are well received:  Take Academy Awards host Ellen DeGeneres who, during the telecast used her (also Galaxy Note 3) phone to tweet a selfie of a group of A-List actors, which became the most re-tweeted post of all time. Even The Pope posed for a selfie after the 2014 Palm Sunday homily.  NOTE:  Selfie (a/k/a killfie) deaths (people falling killfie deathsoff cliffs, bit by wildlife, shot by firearms) were 27 in 2015 (127 in 2016, more than deaths by shark attacks worldwide). And, although more women than men take selfies, 75% of fatalities are among men, 10% in the U.S., 19 involving falls from heights. (Priceonomics,  And MasterCard has announced Check Mobile, which allows mobile users to verify their identity for mobile payments with a selfie (or fingerprint) in N. America in early 2017.  See also Shelfie.

Selfie StickSELFIE STICK: An extendable stick for cell phones with a Bluetooth button on the handle which allows users to take selfies at a greater distance, showing more people and backgrounds.  Quite popular, but banned in some countries like S. Korea because they allegedly interfere with scientific, industrial and particularly medical devices which operate on the 2.4Ghz band.  Violations are punishable by $30,000/3 yrs.  Be glad you’re in the U.S.  But not too glad - Disney, MoMA, The Louvre, Kentucky Derby and Wimbledon have all banned the sticks as dangerous and because they could damage artwork, roller coasters, etc., hitby vehicles

SEM/SEIM: Security Information Event Manager. A computerized tool used on enterprise data networks which centralizes the storage and interpretation of the various events and logs of events created by the software and hardware running on the network.  SEM software was pioneered in 1999 by a company named E-Security and the concept is rapidly growing and evolving beyond mere “log management” (collecting and storing the data)  to “security event management” (taking it one step further and analyzing the log data, often integrating with external remediation programs which resolve the reported incidents).  SEMs are often used for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.

SEMANTIC WEB :  A concept thought up by Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the WWW, URLs, HTTP & HTML) and the folks as W3C.  A mesh (“mash-up”) of information linked in such a way as to be easily processable by machines, on a global scale, over the Internet.  It provides a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise and community boundaries.  In other words, data can be accessed and shared over the Internet for many purposes.

SEMAPHORE: In computers, a value (sometimes appropriately called a “flag”) which represents the status of an operating system resource.  It is usually binary, e.g. either available or unavailable, and allows access to the resource if it becomes available.

SEMICONDUCTOR:  A long name for “chips” or “microchisemiconductorps” that are embedded in printed circuit boards and electronic devices.

In electronics, a semiconductor (sometimes called an “electrical insulator”) is a substrate (usually a circular disk or small square) manufactured from a solid substance (usually silicon, but sometimes germanium, gallium arsenide or organics) onto which a layer of another material (like copper) adheres, which can be”masked” and then “washed” to create electrical circuitry.  This “disk” serves as the foundation upon which various electronic devices such as transistors, diodes and (most often) integrated circuits (“ICs”) and chips are placed.  The advantachip on thumbge of semiconductors is that they provide superior insulation between the circuit components, because they conduct electricity under some conditions, but do not under others (see below). 
To manufacture an integrated chip (“IC”), the substrate is first cut into thin disks called “wafers”), onto which the electronic devices are the fabricated by etching, depositing or otherwise attaching.
Semiconductors, which use electronic conduction in the solid state (hence the phrase “solid state” electronics) have almost completely replaced the older “thermionic” (gas vacuum tubes), because they are smaller, last longer and emit less heat. 
Another advantage is that electronic properties such as conductivity and charge can be more easily manipulated.  This is done by a highly-controlled process known as “doping,” which is the introduction of impurities into the material, which can be done in a variety of ways, including via magnetism, light, mechanics and current.  This is a complex process, but basically it involves the introduction of phosphorus or boron impurity atoms into the material, which greatly increases the number of free electrons (known as “holes”), which can be designated as either “p” (positive), “n” (negative) or “p-n,” which contain the charges.
Semiconductor devices can be single discrete devices or can be integrated circuits (“
ICs”) which can contain hundreds, thousands or millions of devices on a single “chip”.  This all fits into the “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin” category.  However, there are limits to this principal, and it is reached at the 7nm diameter, after which Moore’s Law begins to slow and the use of nanotechnology begins to come into play, creating a new era of neural computers.  (Click HERE for more).  The semiconductor chips, in turn, are often embedded in or attached to printed circuit boards (PCBs), acting as the “brain” for an electronic device such as a computer.  And, they’re virtually everywhere – not only computers, but cell phones, appliances, cars, equipment, stereos, radios, etc.

For the history of semiconductor development, click HERE.  To see how a semiconductor chip is manufactured, click HERE for the video. And HERE for how it fits with circuit boards.

SEMS:  Server Environmental Monitoring System.  Records and reports the environmental conditions of servers and clients on a network.

SEO:  Search Engine Optimization.  The process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site, as referred from search engines via algorithms.

SERIALPorts and cables used for computer interface (“connections”) such as printers, scanners, keyboards, mice and other peripherals.  Although serial ports send data in “serial” form (i.e. one bit right after another, using a single channel or wire), which would appear to be slower than the older “parallel” interface (which sends a byte (8 bits) of data simultaneously through a 36 wire cable), recent developments in serial architecture have almost completely supplanted parallel connections, eliminating crosstalk between the 36 wires in a parallel cable, as well as signal “skew”, created by dissembling and then reassembling the 8 bit packets for sending and receiving them over the parallel connection. The original serial connection was specified as IEEE RS-232 Standard (so-called 25 pin “D” type connector, because its shape resembled an upper-case “D”).  Later, the much smaller 9 Pin DE-9 (a/k/a DB-9 or D-sub 9) was introduced.  Since then, most serial connections have been replaced by newer standards such as USB and Firewire.

SERP:  Search Engine Results Page.  This is a listing of web pages returned by search bots in response to a keyword query and is used in web optimization for page ranking.

SERVER: A computer onto which other workstation computers on a network depend for applications, services or data.  Servers can be hardware (file or storage server), software (e-mail server) or services (web server).  The primary function of a server is to act as a library that other computer users can share. I don’t know if this is widely used, but I once heard the term “slow server” to define a server on which are archived items, making them slower to access.  [See also, Microservers, Blade Servers, Windows Home Server]

SERVER FARM:  See also, Data Hotel.  Huge, air conditioned, spaces of buildings with massive power available where racks of computer servers are located, as well as the reams of data that are stored on them.  Server farms can be web hosting providers, enterprise data centers or hyperscale cloud data centers (see serverless computing, below).  Google and Facebook, for example, have huge buildings all over the world for this purpose.  For example, the photo (below) of the Google “Arctic” server farm in Lulea, Switzerland, which uses hydroelectric power to run the tens of thousands of servers at that location and also has immense locational cooling power.  Moreover, the town has the important features of stable access to power as well as internet connectivity.  Contrary to the myth that Internet power is clean and efficient, just the opposite is true:  Because they run at peak efficiency regardless of actual demand, data centers can waste as much as 90% of the vast amounts of energy they consume.  Moreover, the banks of diesel generators that provide a safeguard against power failures generate so much pollution that they have been cited by state (CA, IL and VA, for example) and federal agencies (such as EPA) for violating clean air regulations.  And other backup systems such as flywheels and lead-acid batteries are a further energy and environmental inefficiency.  Then, consider the cost of air-conditioning all of the heat that these thousands of servers put out, and the cost of that equipment and electricity.    The size of these farms is so staggeringly large that it is hard to envision:  Worldwide, these farms use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of about 30 nuclear power plants, about one-third of the output being consumed by the U.S.  The reason for such multi-redundancy:   The fear of losing even a microsecond of down time or a byte of data.  But server farms have evolved - Microsoft’s first server farm, created in Redmond in 1989, was “Generation 1,” having racks and racks of equipment cooled by traditional chillers passing conditioned air through a raised floor.  The next generation of servers involved ITPACS, containerized pods, each one filled with servers, networking gear, power supplies and UPSs, thus viewing data centers as multiple single and transferrable units, rather than thousands of discreet servers to be managed. The current phase of development involves serverless computing (see below) deploying servers in the Cloud as part of Microsoft’s Open Computer Project. As with everything else digital, as the years go by, things like cell phones, satellites and server farms continue to get smaller and more powerful. 

Google Server Farm

<<<Google Server Farm in Lulea, Switzerland.  Photo credit - Sharon Wagner, Cloudyn (fr. Quora post, 7/7/16)

SERVERLESS COMPUTING:  The newest trend in server farm computing, the use of cloud services in place of O/Ss, Virtual Machines or Containers to host server services like web hosting or storage.  Serverless computing dynamically creates cloud services to process events in an ephemeral container that are then executed on your behalf as a backend-as-a-service, so that instead of leasing a virtual machine, then writing and deploying your code, users get to use a new pay-per-event pricing model that lets users choose from a wide variety of executable functions which can be used like building blocks to construct a custom user service.  Simply stated, this type of DIY cloud deployment model allows users to use the cloud the same way that they have become accustomed to using mobile applications on smart phones:  Simply access the app (i.e. function) you need as required, on the fly.  More importantly, serverless services are infrastructure agnostic, as they are constructed as a list of microservices, linked together dynamically with policy enforcement intelligence.  These microservices represent an autonomous application unit that requires access to a small but very specific compute, storage and network infrastructure to be executed from anywhere, including bare metal, container or virtual machines.  Each microservice must be associated with a number of logical resource descriptors which are moved as the microservice is moved, such that the resource resolution protocols behind those logical descriptors automatically find where the resources are actually located.  This is drastically different from the O/S, VM and container oriented world where the O/S controls and enforces the policies.  This concept is already common, used in Amazon’s AWS Lambda and Microsoft’s Azure Functions, and will certainly expand in the future.

SERVICESWindows services, such as those which appear in the Task Manager, are executable programs usually involving Windows management that automatically start when the computer system boots, run continuously in background, and do not have any user interface.

SERVICE CONTROL MANAGER (“SCM”):  An executable RPC which is started at Windows system boot for the main purpose of automatically launching Services. Common failure Event IDs are 7000 & 7024, usually correctable by registry edits for the particular service which failed to initialize.

SESSION ID:  This is specific number assigned by a website server for the duration of a user’s specific visit.  The number is generally an algorithm containing information such as the date and time of the visit as well as other variables defined by the server administrator.

SESSION RIDING: See: Cross-Site Request Forgeries (“CSRF”). Also called a “One Click Attack” or “XSRF”.  A malicious exploit of a website whereby unauthorized commands are transmitted from a user that the website trusts.  This is unlike “Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)” which sounds similar but which exploits the trust that a user has for a particular site.  CSRF, however, exploits instead the trust that a site has in a user’s browser. The attack works by including a link or a script on a page that accesses a site to which the user is supposedly known to have authenticated.  So, let’s say that I regularly visit the Manhattan Products website.  Unknown to me, Bill the Hacker has crafted a message in the form of an image scraped from the Manhattan website that beckons me to click on it.  However, when I do so, this instead allows Bill to connect to my Bank of America website and, if my cookie hasn’t yet expired, Bill can then process a transaction without my approval, thus “riding” on my current browsing session.  Most of these attacks seem most often to be made from Internet forums and chat rooms, where users are allowed to post images.  For more, see SPYWARE.

SET TOP BOX: An electronic device, usually a small metal box that sits on top of a TV set, now more often attached to a wireless network, that receives signals for TV programs and movies.  Used mostly by cable and satellite companies as well as Roku or Sling for non-smart TVs. See FAQ #46 for more.

SEXTING:  The texting of nude or suggestive pictures as selfies, often between teenagers. Nationwide, nearly 40% of students said they had either sent or received a sexually explicit image of themselves, according to a 2014 survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, double the rate only five years earlier.  But, if the photos are of anyone under 17, it is considered child pornography and simply having it is a felony with a mandatory 3 yr. prison sentence.  (See LAWS) If caught, kids could have their records flagged as a sexual predator for life.  Moreover, serious predators can get hold of the photos and engage or blackmail those in the photos, subjecting them to harm.   See Texting ; also, DATA, Social Networking, selfies.

SFC:  Refers to the (Windows) System File Checker, a command that scans for corrupt system files and corrects them. [sfc /scannow]

SHA:  Secure Hashing Algorithm.  See Certificates.

SFTPSecure FTP. A program enabling the transfer of files across the Internet using the secure SSH protocol.  More secure than ordinary simple FTP.

SHADOW COPY (a/k/a Volume Snapshot Service, Volume Shadow Copy Service, VSS): A Windows service, starting with WinXP, which operates at the “block level” of a disk volume, which can take manual or automatic backup copies (“snapshots”) of computer volumes and files in an NTFS file system, even while they are in use.  Unlike backups, the snapshots do not survive reboot.  They are not saved.  Win10 relies on the Previous Versions feature rather than VSS. 

SHADOW IT: IT devices and systems used inside organizations without approval, like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

SHAPER:  A network traffic management tool that configures bandwidth  for security and optimization purposes.

Sharepoint logoSHAREPOINT (a/k/a “SP”):  A Microsoft program which is used for corporate enterprise online solutions, such as collaboration, document management, web publishing, corporate portals, and the like.

SHAZAM:  A smart phone app that recognizes music and other media playing around it, used on both Android and Apple phones. 

SHELFIE:  A g-mail creation meaning “Shared Selfie” which sets a personal photo as a custom theme viewable to all of your friends.  See full.

SHELF BABY:  A virtual identity established by a hacker from scratch, which develops over time as it ages, acquiring a driver’s license, passport, etc. until called into use.

SHELL COMMAND:    A group of Windows shortcuts, accessed by pressing [WinKey] + R to access the Run dialog box, then typing the word Shell followed by a colon (:) and then the shell folder name (with no spaces between the word Shell and the colon or the folder name).  For example, to view the Win10 Application folder with all apps & universal apps), type shell:AppsFolder, then enter, which will allow your to view all apps.

SHELL:  Relating to computers, this term can have more than one meaning.  It often refers to a menu (often displayed at start-up, especially in Linux) permitting the user to click on one key to jump to a program or utility.  Examples below (left to right) are the standard DOS text-based shell, the early Windows shell and the Win 8 shell (both of which are GUI-based).  It also refers to a program named SSH (because it was developed by SSH Communications Security, Ltd.) which logs onto another computer over a network to execute commands or move files.  See also, Kernel, Windows PowerShell.

Win 8 Shell
DOS Shell Menu

SHODAN:  A kind of “dark” Google search engine, which searches for all types of online devices and also can be used to expose security holes to entry.  The resulting list is often called a “Shodan Map”.  See Darknet.

SHOE SHINING:  An unfortunate effect that occurs during reading or writing backup tape where the data transfer rate (throughput) falls below the minimum threshold which the tape heads were designed to transfer the data.  Because the tape can’t stop instantly, as it would if it were running faster, it has to stop, then rewind a short distance and then resume the read/write operation.  The back-and-forth motion resembles the back-and-forth motion of the rag used in shining shoes (if you remember that) and is bad because it degrades tape life and capacity.

SHORTCUT: A symbolic icon on the desktop which, when clicked, takes the user directly to a program, link or file, rather than requiring the user to take several steps through menus to reach the same destination.  In Macs, its called an alias.

Shorties logoSHORTIES:  Annual awards (starting in 2009) which honor the best content producers on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Tumbler and others).  They are primarily sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  See also Webbies, Ig Nobels.

SHORT STROKED DRIVES: Hard disk drives, usually 15,000 rpm data center drives, which use only the outermost diameter of the drive in order to optimize performance.  Only for mechanical, not SSD drives. Not recommended as it is an “extreme” measure and can sometimes harm the drive.

SHOWROOMING:  The practice of looking at products in retail stores and then purchasing the same thing on line from the cheapest source.  Closely related: “scan and scram,” where shoppers scan an item’s bar code in a store and then buy it on line from a less expensive rival merchant.

SID (or SSID):  Short for Service Set Identifier, the SSID is the “Network Name” because essentially it is a name that identifies a wireless network

SIDE CHANNEL (ATTACK):  A form of information that a system generates as a “side effect” of its operations, such as radio emissions, electro-magnetics, sounds, error messages and performance speeds which can be used to break an encrypted system, as opposed to brute force or social network type attacks.

SIDEJACKING:  Seejacking.”  [Originally referred to as “Session Hijacking, a variation of the “man-in-the-middle” attack].  Popularized by a program named Firesheep, a type of WiFi hijacking which targets cookies to sites such as Amazon, Twitter, FaceBook and others which start out as secured connections then drop back to unsecured.  See Spyware for more.

SIDELOADING:  This typically refers to the transfer via device like USB or Bluetooth or using Wi-Fi or even a media card in order to load an Android App onto a smart phone.  It’s also been used in the context of the allowing “sideloading” of various Windows apps from sources other than the Microsoft Store.  It’s similar to downloading/uploading, but specifically applies to transfer of data, usually an Android app in APK format, between a computer and a smart phone.

SIDEWINDER:  The name of the InfoSeek search engine spider.

SGI logoSGISilicon Graphics, Inc. the company founded  in 1981 by Jim Clark of Netscape fame, manufacturer of hi-performance computers in the 3D graphics area, used in many graphic intensive movies.  SGI filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and sold substantially of all of its assets to Rackable Systems in that year.

SIGNAL:  A signal is defined as data communicated between two points.  It can be any type of data, from Morse code between ships to plays communicated between a pitcher and catcher in a baseball game to a wink between two people at dinner.  There are lots of media that can be used to communicate the desired data, such as physical communication, electric currents, magnetic fields or bursts of visible (Morse code) or invisible (fibre optic) light (collectively known as the “carrier”).  Most of the time with computers, we’re talking about electrical, wireless or fibre optic carriers.  Signals can be transmitted across oceans or across the micromillimeters of a circuit board.  This data is often superimposed on the signal carrier by means of modulation, which can alter the signal for transmission in either analog or digital form (see the definition).  Moreover, every signal usually has both a definable frequency (wave height)  as well as a wavelength (which is always inversely proportional to that frequency).  The data message may be as simple as switching direct current on and off, or as complex as some digital information technology which uses multiple digital data streams with multiple messages.  See also, artifact, noise, SNR, modulation, optoisolator and cell phone definitions for more.

SIGNAL BOOSTER:  A device that amplifies a signal.  Click HERE for more...

SIGNATURE:  This refers to a string of bits, or the binary pattern of a virus.  The signature is like a virus’ fingerprint, allowing antivirus software to detect and remove it.  Your daily downloads of virus “patterns” include the signatures that your anti-virus program uses to keep you protected.  See also, polymorphism.

SILICON:  This is the main component of computer chisiliconps, transistors and printed circuit boards.  (see photo at right of raw silicon.)  Silicon is a non-metallic element which is only found as a compound with other elements in nature and is commonly associated with glass.  When bonded with oxygen, it becomes silicia, such as sand and quartz. This is NOT the same thing as SILICONE, which is a man-made material which can be an oil, gel or rubber (elastomer), and which is commonly used in implants because they are well tolerated by the human body.

SILICON BEACH:  A geographic strip in the Los Angeles region which is filled with technology related startups, comparable to Silicon Valley (below).  There is also a Silicon Beach in the U.K. with similar attributes.  Don’t confuse this, of course, with silicone beach which (if it did exist) would be probably be defined by breast implants.

SILICON VALLEY:  The geographic area in the San Francisco Bay area of  California which by virtue of good climate, excellent education and plenty of venture capital have resulted in an incubator for computer companies and an unstoppable growth engine. Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Apple, Oracle & Sun all started in SV.  SILICON ALLEY refers to New York City.

Silk logoSILK:  A browser introduced by Amazon on 11/15/11 for use with its Android tablets, loosely based on the WebKit engine, which speeds up processing because some of the work is performed on Amazon’s own EC2 cloud servers and the rest is done at the tablet level.

Silk Road LogoSILK ROAD:  A large underground web William Ulbrichtsite, available only through the Tor anonymous browser, dubbed the “eBay of drugs,” where people can allegedly illegally purchase drugs without a prescription.  The mastermind, 29 year old Ross William Ulbricht (a/k/a Dread Pirate Roberts, derived from a fictional character (actually a combination of many people) in the novel and later movie, The Princess Bride) was arrested in early October, 2013 (and was tried and convicted in 2/4/15, sentenced to life in prison) and the site shut down.  A month later, another “Dread Pirate Roberts” relaunched the site as Silk Road II, but it too was taken down on 11/6/14, along with the arrest of operator Blake Benthall (“Defcon”), 26.  He was sent to jail, but released on 11/21/14.  Another new version, Silk Road Reloaded, which doesn’t rely on Tor (instead on I2P) or Bitcoin (but instead on other crypto currencies like Dogecoin), appeared on the darknet in 2015, probably more to follow, there always will be.  See Bitcoins, and Darknet for more.  But by now most people won’t touch it.

SILO:  Actually, an “information silo”. Isolated software and/or hardware.   It is “an information system incapable of reciprocal operation with other, related information systems”.  So, for example, in defense systems or banks, the information systems are kept separate and do not communicate with each other.  “Silo effect” in business refers to this lack of communication between departments, computers and the like.    Some server farms were originally designed with silo architecture, which provided protection from some of the catastrophic failures experienced with cloud computing (click HERE for more), but due to speed and expense, silo architecture is now primarily used for smaller enterprises.  See also, castling, encryption, cloud.

SILVERLIGHT:  Microsoft cross-platform software which is a browser plug-in which enables viewing of rich internet applications including media, animation and games, much like Adobe Flash.  And, as with Flash, Silverlight never gained traction, and is being rapidly superseded by HTML 5.

SILVER SATIN:  A older type of cable used to connect a telephone to a wall jack, characterized by a flat shiny silver jacket encasing pairs oSatin Silver 2f wires run side-by-side, rather than twisted as in CAT 3.  Because it is not twisted, it is not suitable for high-speed network connections, as it would result in crosstalk.  Sometimes referred to as “boot cable”.  See also, Trunk Cable.

Sim City logoSIM:  Short for Simulation.  As in Sim City, the program in which simulated characters build and operate an interactive city on a computer.  First designed in 1989 by Will Wright for Maxis, there are now many Sim programs.  With the rising popularity of social networking, packaged games have stalled, while Facebook and others have brought these sims on-line, the most popular of which are Farmville and Empires & Allies (from Zynga, which has about 257 million players on Facebook) and Civilization (from Sid Meier).

SIM CARD:  Subscriber Identity Module. A small plastic removable printed circuit card which securely stores the service subscriber key (IMSI), which is a unique serial number used to identify the subscriber on mobile phones.  [SIMs are mandatory in GSM devices, not so much in CDMA devices.]  Subscribers can thus change phones by merely removing the SIM card from one phone and inserting it into another.  The early SIM cards, starting in 1991, were close to credit-card size; on newer phones they are far smaller than a postage stamp.  Many cell phone providers no longer use SIM cards, just build in the technology into the phone’s main circuit board (e.g. Verizon cell phones).

[THE] SINGULARITY:  This an actual “point” in time (sometimes called a “tipping point”) at which machine intelligence matches the level of human intelligence and then continues to surpass it at an exponential pace while human intelligence is biologically unable to proceed any further.  The result will be “transhumans” [sometimes abbreviated as “H+”], humans with greatly enhanced intellectual, physical and psychological capabilities, thanks to technology.  The term itself is derived from mathematics, where it is defined to mean a “unique event with singular implications”.  This term is used by such prominent technologists as Jeff Hawkins, Gordon Moore (“Moore’s Law”), Steven Hawking, Ray Kurzweil (he wrote a book titled “The Singularity is Now” (2005)) and others to describe this unstoppable upcoming phenomenon.

Although The Singularity will be driven by technological progress such as machine intelligence (“AI”), nanotechnology and/or neural implants, it is not the same thing as technological progress.  Rather it is the concept that technological progress has been limited by the human brain, which cannot by its nature be significantly upgraded.  The brain is, by biological nature, limited to a maximum of one hundred trillion calculations per second, a comparatively slow speed compared to a supercomputer (think IBM’s Watson computer winning at chess games against human competitors). Supercomputers, being non-organic, have virtually unlimited power and speed.  When machines (computers) are upgraded via hardware and/or software, they will reach a point where they become vastly more intelligent than humans (think the 2004 Will Smith movie I, Robot), outstripping the human brain by many orders of magnitude.  At that point, capable machines may themselves design even more intelligent machines, leading to the recursive improvement which defines The Singularity.  These ultra-intelligent machines, known as “artilects” will be millions of times more powerful than the highest order of human intelligence.    Strangely, this was one prospect that Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) ranted about in his Manifesto.  To the contrary, others philosophize that the human brain (and not machines), through perhaps life extension, will achieve the Singularity.  Or, the middle ground, a merger of man and machine, providing humanity with the best capabilities of each (perhaps nanobats injected into the human bloodstream, designed by artilects, will cure disease and extend life, for example).  See also, AI, Ghost in the Machine, IoT (machines becoming an extension of humans), self driving cars, the F-15 ALIS system allowing the aircraft to talk to its supporting systems.

But The Singularity can be a double-edged sword - it has the power to create either a utopian upgrade (solve problems about aging, energy, poverty and war),  or a dystopian downgrade (create diseases, cyberweapons and weapons to eliminate us) in human evolution.  The Stuxnet and other viruses have already begun cyberwarfare, and it will doubtless continue to accelerate in the coming years (see, LAWS; the Tallin Cyberwarfare Manual).  In 2011, Rick Schwall, an internet millionaire, started a non-profit organization known as Saving Humanity from Homo Sapiens which looks to fund researchers who have plans for taming artificial intelligence and developing safeguards that will protect man from machines.  They concentrate upon protecting the planet from “existential risk,” which is a term for catastrophic events which could wipe out the human species.  The term is broader than The Singularity, and includes the catastrophic effects of climate change and external attack from asteriods or non-human forces, synthetic biology, nuclear destruction and nanotechnology gone wild, in addition to our own creation of computers, machines and technology that could go seriously wrong.  While religious groups concentrate on God-caused events, existential risk adherents address a different sort of “rapture,” that caused when machines outpace humans and then enslave and possibly destroy us.  Good technology gone bad, or to the dark side, so to speak.   The term “grey goo,” coined by nanotechnology pioneer Eric Drexler in his book “Engines of Creation,” describes the (unlikely) exponential growth and inherent limits of nanomachines which could replicate themselves so fast that they could outweigh the mass of the earth in only a few days.  So, too, the Lifeboat Foundation, founded by Eric Klein, is concerned about computers gone bad, alien attacks and manmade synthetic creatures.  And Eliezer Yudkowsk, a prolific blogger on the subject, offers scientific explanations you would expect of a computer scientist.  Peter Thiel, first investor in Facebook and Skype and a co-founder of PayPal, has expressed great interest as well. 

Much of the information is exchanged at the annual Singularity Summit held by the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence where speakers and attendees (such as Ray Kurzweil, who predicts that the singularity will occur in 2029)  ponder the upcoming events which may lead to The Singularity. Kurzweil describes The Singularity as a necessarily resulting combination of genetics, nanotechnology and robotics (AI).  Related to this is Singularity University (, a non-profit university founded by Singularity Labs partners like Genentech, Google, Cisco and Nokia in 2008 Singularity Univthat claims it “utilizes accelerating technologies to address humanity’s hardest problems” by drawing on its Silicon Valley location to offer “cutting edge” educational programs.  It’s not an accredited full-time institution, but does hold classes and seminars about Singularity-related subjects.

SIP:  Session Internet Protocol.  A generic P2P protocol that sets up a communication between two end points.  It can be used for voice calls, video conferencing and instant messaging.  It’s terribly useful, particularly as communication services converge, because you don’t have to handle multiple protocols.  Developed by the IETF, SIP is an IP telephony signaling protocol primarily used by VoIP calls.  SIP is a text-based protocol that is based on HTTP and MIME, which makes it suitable and very flexible for integrated VoIP applications. Natively supported by Windows XP and subsequent Windows versions, it uses fewer system resources and is not particularly complex (compared to H.323, for example).  A SIP Trunk is a SIP-based voice service from a telephony service provider, which acts as a delivery mechanism to replace a PRI (“Primary Rate Interface”) “legacy” circuit such as POTS or T1.  The format over which voice traffic is transported is known as Real Time Protocol (“RTP”).  An encrypted version known as SRTP (for “Secure” RTP) is also available.   For the security conscious, a protocol that prevents unauthorized eavesdropping of an IP-based voice communication is known as Transport Layer Security or “TLS”.  [On 3/23/09, Skype rolled out its beta of Skype for SIP that will let enterprises use their regular phones in conjunction with IP PBX systems to make desktop calls to any phone in the world at standard Sykpe rates.]  For more, see VOIP.

SIP TRUNKING:  A VoIP internet protocol and streaming media service based on SIP (above) which facilitates internet telephone services  with SIP-based private branch exchanges (PBXs’), replacing the traditional telephone trunk.

SIRI:  A feature introduced by Apple in the iPhone 4GS and later in other devices like the iPad (in 2016 the Mac and Apple TV boxes) where you talk normally and ask Siri to find things and do things for you, like check the weather, place a call, schedule things and more.  It even talks back to you.  In the U.S. it is a female voiceSusan Bennett, but it’s a male in other countries like the U.K. Ask her what she’s wearing, she replies “Why does everybody ask me that?”  What does Siri mean?  Some say “butt” in Japanese, although I doubt that was their intention.  Apple didn’t name it, but acquired Siri in 2010 from a startup named Viv Labs, founded by Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham, and can’t say for sure where the name came from.  It is, Apple says, always in beta and developing, so it’s not perfect. iOS7 added more U.S. voices, like a male voice.  And in 2016, Appe opened the app to developers.  In October, 2013 it was revealed that the U.S. voice came from Susan Bennett, an Atlanta, GA voice-over professional.  Other countries’ voices, like UK and Australia, have already revealed their identities.  See also, Microsoft’s Digital Assistant, Cortana, Alexa (Echo), FAQ 92.

SITE:  Short for website.  See that definition for more.

SITEMAP(1)sitemap” (all lower case) refers to an HTML page on a website that lists all of the pages of the site in either text of graphic form (see, for example, the site map reference on the home page of this site), including pages not shown on the nav bar or other shortcuts, for the user’s information.  (2)Sitemap” (with cap) refers to a proprietary protocol used by Google for web creators to submit various pages for Google’s consideration, providing specific information and assigning a degree of importance for each such page.

SKINS:  A custom graphic appearance on a Skinsprogram or app which is the result of a graphic user interface (“GUI”) that is applied as an “overlay” to specific base software.  For example, various skins (heavy metal, country, pop) may be applied to customize the software appearance for a music download site.

66 BLOCK:   a/k/a “M” (or sometimes “B”) Block.  A type of punchdown block used to connect sets of standard analog (“POTS”) telephone wires between the telephone company’s (“Telco’s”) Demarc and the (usually commercial) customer’s premises equipment (“CPE”).  [See photos below.]  The 66 block was the first IDC (Insulation Displacement Connector) type connecting block in the original Bell System, introduced in 1962, designed to terminate between 22 and 26 AWG solid copper CAT 3 wires.  It’s called IDC because the wires are held in a knife edge terminator that, when punched down with a special tool, slices through the wire’s insulation and digs into the copper wire, forming a tight seal. (This is the same type of connection commonly used in computer punch down blocks.)  The telephone company generally punches in the service on the left side of the block, their Demarc; the customer’s premises are wired from the right side with station cable.  The tip wire (which is striped) is terminated on the leftmost slot of one row and the ring wire (which is solid) on the row beneath.  [A handy mnemonic to remember the color order is “Boy On Girl Brings Smiles” (S = Slate). Thanks, Darryle Greene!]  Metal bridging clips are used to connect the two center slots, binding the left to the right side of the punch block connections, and also allowing isolation for testing.  The 66 Block can be either a 25-pair split or non-split block.  The split block has long been the industry standard for telephony:  Each row of the 25 pairs contains 4 clips, but the left two clips are electrically isolated from the right two clips.   Some 66 Blocks come pre-assembled with an RJ-21 connector that accepts a quick connection to a 25 pair cable (see below). However, the 66 Block is fast becoming legacy equipment, because of the necessity of terminating higher speed twisted pair data lines (Cat 5, 6) in addition to telephone (Cat 3), and the increasing prevalence of VoiP and digital telephone systems.   Moreover, since each 66 block only accepts about 25 wires, and CAT 5 cables are limited to 4 lines each (4 twisted pairs), after 4 lines it often becomes more cost effective to switch to a digital telephone system which can be programmed over the same cable for multiple signals, although you can have many 66 blocks in an equipment closet.  Modern 110 Blocks have now largely supplanted 66 Blocks, since they are larger and are also Cat 5 and up compliant.  [Note that the “110” refers to the type of IDC connector on the block used for terminations, not the number of connectors.]  See also, punch down blocks.

66 blocks


66 block small 3




SKUNK WORKS:  A small group of people who are given permission to work independent of the usual organizational structure and constraints in order to achieve quick outside-of-the-box results.  The name was derived from the old popular Al Capp cartoon “Li’l Abner”  and is the nickname given  to the moonshine factory in the cartoon.

SKEUTOMORPH:  An aesthetic design element in the digital realm which is used to represent physical real-world items.  They make Apple iPad bookcasecomputer, pad and phone users more comfortable because they parallel items they are already fipad address bookamiliar with in their real-world environment.  An example would be how the buttons on a website nav bar appear to go up and down when depresse-book page turnered, the look of a stitched leather around a digital address book, making it look more like the real-world book that might have been purchased at a stationery store, the look of a bright yellow Post It note on your Android phone, the wooden bookshelf design that holds your books on the iPad, or the way the pages turn on your e-reader.   Apple uses lots of skeutomorphs on its products, apps and interfaces.

SKYDRIVE:  Initially “Windows Live Folders,” part of Microsoft’s Windows Live range of online services.  SkyDrive is the file storage and sharing service that allows users to upload files to the computing cloud and then access them from a web browser. SkyDrive Pro is the enhanced product primarily used for sharing business documents.  Initially it was limited to 25Gb total, files no larger than 100Mb.  An integral part of MS Office 2013, Office 365,Windows 8 and other Microsoft apps for file storage.  In 2013, Microsoft lost a trademark lawsuit over the name to British Sky Broadcasting.  It was renamed in 2014 to OneDrive and OneDrive for Business. Originally limited to 2Tb, now virtually unlimited.

SKYPE:  A popular VoIP phone service co-founded in 2003 by Friis and ZennsgtromDanes Jaanus Friis (L) and Niklas Zennstrom (R), and also Priit Kasesalu (also the co-founders of KaZaA), which was sold to e-Bay in 2005 for $3.1 billion which then parted in 2009 with a 70% stake to an investors’ group led by Silver Lake Partners for $1.9 billion, who then sold to Microsoft on 5/9/11 for $8.5 billion. Also now part of Facebook video calling and contacts.  Friis, Zennstrom and Kasesalu are now working on Joost, which distributes TV shows over the Web, like Hulu.  Skype uses a different architecture than Vonage, which relies on VoIP protocol SIP.  Skype uses proprietary protocols that incorporate a peer-to-peer scheme so that, if Skype cann, mot make a direct connection from one user to the other, it may elicit one of its users who has the Skype application loaded to become a “supernode” and relay the call. Using Skype, all pc-to-pc calls are free, while charging a low per-minute charge for regular telephone service, using softphone architecture.  According to Friis, the three founders started thinking of a name that they would call this service that would allow the world to talk for free.  One of the names they came up with was “Sky peer-to-peer”  which soon got shortened to “Skyper”.  But, as happens in the Internet world, some of the domain names associated with skyper were already taken, so they thought they’d just drop the “r” and make it “Skype”.  In 2014, Microsoft announced its upcoming Skype Translator, for Win 8.1 and later, which will translate both sides of a video chat conversation.  And in early 2016, Microsoft announced Skype for Business, which included features enabling employees to attend meetings using a standard telephone (“PSTN Conferencing), produce meetings for large groups up to 10,000 members (Meeting Brodcast) and retire old PBX systems and then transition to the Cloud, where Office 365 can handle all of the communications duties for an enterprise.  Also, Skype Qik,, (which almost no one remembers), a short video messaging service bought by Skype in 2011, launched by Microsoft after its acquisition, then killed in 2016 as many of the features were added to the Skype software anyway.  See also Google Duo, for video calling between different operating system.

SLA:  Service level agreement.  An agreement between a hardware or software vendor to service, usually business, hardware or software.

Slack_logoSLACK:  A free and paid messaging app for teams like corporate groups or  programmers, popular because chat channels can quickly come to represent all the work that’s going on inside, for example, a company as a set of searchable text streams.  It’s appeal is its simplicity, searchability and ability to integrate with other products (like Dropbox). After he sold the photo-sharing site Flikr to Yahoo! in 2005 and gave up on Glitch, a computer game, in 2012, Stewart Butterfield and his company Ludicorp launched the collaborative messaging tool, which by 2016 has 2.7 million global users, 800,000 who pay for it, valued at $3.8 billion.  An upcoming free competitor from India, Flock, is also popular, as it has a “magic search” feature that automatically displays important groups and contacts without need of typing and has an easier interface.

SLASHDOT EFFECT:  See Reddit (Hug). 

Slender Man/SLENDERMAN:  A fictional (faceless, alien-like) character that originated as an Internet meme.  It was created on a thread in theSlenderman  Something Awful Internet forum on June 8, 2009 for the purpose of editing photographs to look like they contained supernatural or alien entities.  It soon went viral, spawning stories, games, videos and cosplay with a horror oriented theme.  Creator Eric Knudsen  (a/k/a “Victor Surge”) registered a copyright on the name “Slender Man” in January, 2010. SlSlenderman faceenderman made headlines when, on May 31, 2014 two 12 year old girls in Waukesha (Morgan Geyser (L) and Anissslenderman girlsa Weier (R) in photo at right), Wisconsin allegedly stabbed another 12 year old classmate, Peyton Leutner (photo at left),  19 times with a five inch blade, Peyton Leutnerclaiming that they committed the murder in order to become “proxies” (like Acolytes) of Slenderman, who they believed could watch them, read their minds and also teleport.  Even though she had life-threatening injuries, Leutner barely survived.  The girls pleaded not guilty, their lawyers seeking their release and/or delaying the proceedings (which could carry a 65 year sentence for each), first by disputing the Court’s ruling that they should be tried as adults, later by reason of insanity (schizophrenia).  There is an excellent current recap on the Wikipedia Slenderman Stabbing page.  See legend tripping, creepypasta.

Slingbox logoSLINGBOX:  A TV streaming device (“set top box”)that can direct its input  to another computer or mobile device over a broadband internet connection using an electronic box connected to the TV that encodes video into the VC-1 format for transmission over the internet and provides an infrared blaster.  Since only one user can access the Slingbox stream at one time, it is known as placeshifting.  You don’t need this if you have a smart TV. See FAQ #46 for more.

SlingshotSLINGSHOT:  Introduced in 2014, An Apple and Android app  providing for deletion of text messages and their attachments once they’ve been viewed by the recipient.  But, unlike Snapchat and Wikr, you have to send a photo or video in order to have one sent back to you, hence “slingshot”.

SLEEP:  Depending on your computer manufacturer, somewhat synonymous with “standby”, “hibernate”, or even “Zzz”.  See, ACPI, which defines the six sleep states (from S0 [pc fully on] to S5 [completely off]).  If you’re setting sleep states with Windows, you can see the exact sleep configuration with either the Windows built-in event viewer, the BIOS settings or the “pwercfgcommand line.

SLIPSTREAMING:  A process used to create a bootable program CD or DVD with up-to-date patches and changes included.  Vendors originally used this technique to stealthily deliver unannounced patches and updates, often to correct problems without attracting publicity.  The term comes from the idea of dropping new code into the imaginary “wake” of a rapidly “moving” software product, into its “slipstream” as it were, just like a boat’s wake.  An alternate explanation claims that, in earlier days, software vendors slipped bug patches and repairs into installation disks without even telling customers about them or even changing the installation version number, adding code to a product which was “already moving.”  Who knows?

SLOT:  Also sometimes called an “expansion slot” for computer hardware upgrades.  A port or plug on a computer motherboard that is used to connect additional devices or printed circuit boards (see PCBs) with specific connectors (e.g. AGP, PCI, PCI Express, SATA, eSATA, to name a few: See Connectors for photos) in order to increase the computer’s functionality and capabilities through hardware.

SLURP:  The name of the Inktomi search engine spider.

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY:  Not to be outdone by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in 2010 American Exress Co. invented this day to promote pre-holiday sales in local communities.

SMALL CELLS: See femtocells.  Essentially cell towers without the cell towers.

S.M.A.R.T.:  Self Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology.  Pioneered by Compaq, and adopted by all major drive manufacturers, this reliability prediction technology is an “early warning system,” anticipating the failure of a drive in sufficient time to avert data loss. Used on both PCs and Apples.  Click HERE for more.

SMART-:  When applied to electronic devices like those below, the term generally means “connects to the Internet”.

SMART PEN: A genre of real ink pens thaEquilt can turn handwritten notes and doodles into editable digital copies.  See, for example, the Equil Smartpen.

SMART CARD:  A plastic card about the size of a credit card, which has an microchip (which contains much more information than a magnetic strip) embedded that can be periodically refreshed for additional use.  Commonly used for telephone calling, electronic cash payments, etc.  The card can be read with a reader or at a distance (such as at a toll booth).  Because of its programming ability, it can be encrypted to protect against accidental divulgence of data or editing of the data itself.  The two leading smart card operating systems are JavaCard and MULTOS.

Smart DustSMART DUST:  An intriguing, but not yet completely realized, future vision of a dusty cloud consisting of tiny digital (“microelectromechanical systems” or “MEMS”) sensors named “motes” (as in “dust motes”), spread over the planet, gathering information and communicating with powerful computer networks for the purpose of monitoring, measuring and understanding the physical world in new ways.  Positive applications include monitoring of global warning, warning of impending natural disasters, tracking patient or troop movements and the like.  The concept initially emerged from a RAND workshop in 1992, after which the project was presented to DARPA in 1997, where it was selected for funding, along with many other nanotechnology projects.  Particles of “smart dust” already developed at Berkeley University will soon be small enough to remain suspended in air for hours, moving with air currents.  Prof. Kris Pister, Ph.D at Berkeley is generally credited as the inventor of smart dust technology.  Complete with on-board sensors, laser communications and power supplies, they could be used for applications from weather monitoring to espionage, even infusing the human body. Like many other computer-related inventions, this started out as the stuff of science fiction:  Remember “Fantastic Voyage,” the 1966 movie where a submarine filled with scientists (including Raquel Welch, in her first major role) is shrunk and injected into the blood stream of a diplomat’s body to repair gunshot damage and save his life?

Some have warned against this technology, such as Michael Crighton (“Prey”), predicting and end-of-the-world scenario known as “grey goo” in which out-of-control nanotechnology creates a self-replicating swarm of robots which consume all matter on earth while continually building more of themselves, in a scenario known as “ecophagy”  (“eating the environment”).  (Sounds a little like the “replicators” in the StarGate TV series, doesn’t it?)  Denial of Service attacks in the virtual world “Second Life” have been dubbed “grey goo” because of the connotation of infinite replication of objects until the system crashes. 

Many believe that Government “spraying” of chemtrails may be more than mere chemicals, and may contain some type of smart dust as well.

SMART PHONE:  A cell phone that can connect to the Interet.  Such as the Apple iPhone or the Blackberry which provide a convergence of such services as telephone, e-mail, web browsing,  music, games, GPS and more, all on the same device. Click HERE.  They started in 2007 and by 2015, nearly two-thirds of American adults own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011, and smartphone ownership is especially high, at 85%, among younger Americans.

SMART STICK: Sony’s competing product against Google’s Chromecast, but it costs $150, not $35.  See FAQ #68 for more.

SMART TV: Any TV which connects via cable or wirelessly to the Internet to derive its programming, either directly (it’s built in) or through a set-top box, like Roku or Sling.  See FAQ #46 for more.

SMART WATCH:  Surveys show that people tend to check their smartphones for messages an average of 150 times a day, so it’s no surprise that manufacturers have developed a shortcut, allowing users to glance at their watches instead.  [Of course, for younger users, that may mean getting them to wear a watch all over again, since they tend to use their smart phones for everything, including telling time.] A smart watch is a watch which pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth and displays notifications (incoming calls, SMS messages, weather conditions and e-mail messages) right on the watch itself. Popular brands are Samsung’s Galaxy Gear (sometimes almost free with their Phablet phone), Pebble (which earned a record amount on a crowdfunding site, introduced its own App Store in late 2013, but then merged its assets with FitBit in late 2016), BlackBerry’s InPulse, Qualcomm’s Toqm, stylish MartianWatches, Motorola’s MotoActv and the Apple Watch, maybe even one from Microsoft someday, although it’s 2007 experience with its Spot Watch (see below) might deter it from taking the plunge again.  And Blackberry had no luck with the InPulse, either.  And see the photo at rightNippon watch for Nippon’s entry back in 1996, a clunky wristwatch shaped phone system with a voice-dialing system, for about $463 which never happened, but shows how far we’ve come on the phone and watch front. (Although Apple still invented the iPad even after Newton’s failure, proving that “timing is, indeed, everything”.)  Meta Watch for more.  And Google’s rollout of watches with its Android Wear O/S.  There’s also the Tikker watch that counts down to your death, based on an estimate prepared from a questionnaire. Also, the Garmin Vivomore jewelry like “fitness watch you can wear to a wedding ($110).   And the much advertised FitBit, an “exercise band,” which measures exercise activity. It’s called “The Happiness Watch,” but I just don’t see this one as a big seller.  All require a connection to your smart phone, so you’ll be carrying not one, but two, devices for this feature.  Except for the Omate watch, which can place phone calls (See Apple Watch definition for more).  See also, metawatch.  And leave it to the Chinese to make it cheaper - startup Fastfox has launched a campaign to launch a smart watch for as little as $7.  However, smart watch sales dropped somewhat in 2015-6, particularly among business users, although it is still a market expected to reach $17.8 billion by 2020.

A little horological history:  Clocks first popped up on top of towers in the center of towns and over time were gradually miniaturized into watches, later appearing on belt buckles, as neck pendants, and inside trouser and vest pockets.  They eventually migrated to the wrist, first as a way for ship captains to tell time while keeping their hands firmly locked on the wheel, where it has remained for decades.  Now, the smart watch makes its entrance. 

SMARTZONE: The e-mail component for Comcast internet services.

SME:  Small/Medium Enterprise”.  A small or medium enterprise (business). Sometimes SMB (Small or Medium Business).


SMO:  Social Media Officer.  A new title within the enterprise, which requires the officer to blend marketing, advertising, self-promotion, branding and the like through social media such as blogging, tweeting (and re-tweeting), Facebook, company web sites, complaint resolution (a/k/a/ “customer recovery”) and the like.  Just think:  Young adults getting paid to do what they do anyway.  Customers, particularly young consumers who don’t trust big corporations are more likely to listen to individuals, especially those who approach them in a light, witty, self-aware tone, even if they are shameless marketers.  Although it’s tough to prove the worth to the client, those who are successful in this job can command salaries between $60 and $120K from the larger companies.

SMP:  See, Parallel Computing.

SMS:  Short Message Service.  A text messaging service which was originally used as part of GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)  for the  exchange of messages between mobile devices.  The concept was developed in 1984, but it started use in 1992.  SMS sends a limited amount of text (e.g. Twitter is less than 140 characters), while MMS can send multi-media, which includes pictures, video and other attachments as well as simply text.  Used by computer, cellphone and PDA users to send short messages to each other and chatting one-on-one and in groups via instant message through accounts with public IM services such as AOL, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google.  Limited to 160 characters (Twitter limits it to 140) SMS differs from IM in that, while with IM you can tell if the recipient is available, with SMS, you cannot tell if the recipient’s cell phone is on.  IMs are usually just text messages, while SMSs can also include attachments and files.  Partly as a result, SMS may incur additional charges, while IM is part of your general network traffic.  IMs are generally personal and one-on-one, SMSs more corporate (not a whole lot of ads, like IM) , on the whole.  See texting for more.

SMTP:  Outgoing POP  mail server. Stands for “Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.”

SMURF ATTACK:  An Denial of Service attack on an Internet site of such repetitive volume that it overloads the system so much that the victim website server cannot be available to the people who really need it (customers, subscribers, etc.).  The name Smurf comes from the program used for the attack and is unrelated to the 80’s cartoon.  [So you can relax, as no actual or virtual smurfs or smurfettes are harmed through the use of this program.]

SNAFU:  This one should make all you WWII vets feel much better.  You may remember “Situation Normal, All Fouled Up”; this acronym usually went along with FUBAR (“Fouled Up Beyond All Repair”).  See also, glitch, bug.

SNAP:  A Windows 7 and 8 feature that lets two Windows programs (four with Win 8 and later) or apps be viewed simultaneously on a single screen.

Snapchat logoSNAPCHAT:  A mobile app created by two Stanford students (Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy) at their Kappa Sigma frat house.  The smartphone app, which was released in 2012, lets users share images or videos (“snaps”) that disappear after about 10 seconds (hence the “ghost” logo, get it?).  It can also be used with computers, via the Bluestacks Android Emulator.  Snapchat was the most downloaded smart phone app in the first quarter of 2012 and Tech Crunch named it the “Fastest Rising Startup of 2012”!  Since its inception it has grown so quickly (with 100 million users daily) that it has eclipsed even FaceBook and left others in the dust (e.g. Blink, which became part of Yahoo in 2014, which then closed the app.  Also, Facebook released it’s (Apple) version, Poke, which wasn’t nearly as popular as Snapchat and was shuttered in 2012, and after unsuccessfully attempting to acquire Snapchat, acquired WhatsApp instead in 2014.]  The app’s features have greatly expanded as well:  Videos as well as snapshots, playlists, lenses, face swapping, filters, emojis, trophies, almost anything you can imagine.  It takes a little work to master, but is now a very powerful and comprehensive app.

The disappearing feature makes it useful for safely sexting naughty images, mostly by teenagers (hence the Tumblr blogSnapchat Sluts”).  But it is also useful to hide many things that you wouldn’t like to be a part of your permanent record, although it may frustrate law enforcement, legal proceedings in divorces and the like, and may make job or college entrance investigations much more difficult. Users are called “Snappers,” posting called “Snapping”.

There also emulators: On 6/19/14, Facebook released Slingshot, which is similar, but requires users to send a return message to the sender in order to unlock the one that was sent. Finally, on 11/15/15, Facebook introduced a  disappearing message feature that would directly compete with Snapchat.  The feature, which can be activated by tapping an hourglass icon in the top right of the chat window, allows people to send messages that automatically disappear after an hour. A second tap on the hourglass turns the disappearing messages feature off.  And Apple’s iOS 8 (released 9/17/14) includes a disappearing feature.  Wickr, as well, introduced self-destructing messages for Windows and Linux in late 2014.  Of course, for every SnapShot, there’s probably another app or tutorial showing someone how to stop or reverse the deletion! And it happened in October, 2014 when private videos and pictures shared between tens of thousands of Snapchat users -- possibly as many as 200,000 -- were posted online by hackers in an episode dubbed the "Snappening". Much of the content is sexual, including many nude photos -- some possibly of minors. The hackers appear to have gone for maximum embarrassment and humiliation. So you can never trust anything when it comes to cyberspace!   In July 2016, Snapchat introduced its ”Memories” feature that lets users to use it like a camera roll, showing a searchable archive of all the snaps and posts over a time period, a la Facebook timelines.  In response, in 2016, Facebook introduced “Secret Messages,” it own way of protecting messages from prying eyes via end-to-end encryption.  Since this is to opposite of disappearing snaps, it would allow parents, for example, to see what their kids have been posting over time. But users still will have the opportunity to save a private snap “for my eyes only”.  

See also TIP#84 for a full discussion of secure messaging apps.  In 2014, Snapchat added Snapcash, a feature to send money from debit cards to users. See also Decoy apps, or ghost apps, to see how kids hide their private communications.  And Dmail, revocable e-mail.   

In November, 2016 Snapchat began testing Spectacles, for capturing video and sending it to iPhone and Android.  Click HERE for more.

SNEAKERNET:  A slang reference to the days before cloud computing, when data was saved and transferred using floppy disks, memory cards, USB drives and the like to physically move data around using people running between computers.

SNIFFER:  An electronic device or computer software which detects or monitors computer network data through network probes or “snoops” without altering the data.  Most famous sniffer was the Carnivore program used by the U.S. government.  Sometimes used illegally to perpetrate man-in-the-middle malware attacks (see SPYWARE).

SNIPING:  In on-line auctions, the practice of darting in to an auction just before it closes and topping the highest bid (often using a computerized bid).  In computer gaming, it refers to the tactic of using a very accurate, powerful weapon to kill other players or targets over long distances (like a sniper).

SNIPPET:  (1) A small, reusable piece of program code, usually incorporated into larger programs, designed to clarify meaning to cluttered functions in a program or to easily repeat portions of the code over and over. Also (2) A few words (i.e. a “snip” or “fragment”) from a website, displayed alongside a reference to a website produced in search results  (example below):


Snipping_Tool_SNIPPING TOOL:  A feature first introduced in Windows Vista which makes it easy to capture the desktop or other screen on a computer without going to the many previous steps required to copy and paste to MS Paint or another program.  This was a big step forward, allowing users to e-mail screen shots to share with others, send to tech support or use in training instructions. It’s used in many of the explanatory screen shots  created for this site.

SNMP:  RFC 1157.  Simple Network Management Protocol.  Part of the Internet Protocol Suite, this is used in larger network management systems to monitor network-attached devices (usually through managed switches), as well as power and cooling systems for conditions that warrant administrative action. See Hubs, Switches & Routers for more. 

SNOPES:  A website devoted to debunking urban legends and such.  See LINKS for more.  Created by Barbara and David Mikkelson of California in 1995, David says the name comes from an unpleasant family created in the works of William Faulkner.

SNR:  Signal to Noise Ratio:  Click HERE for more.

SOA:  Service-Oriented Architecture.  This is a computer system design that guides all aspects of creating and using business processes (packaged as Services), which are distributed back and forth over a computer network, combined together, and used and re-used to create business applications.

SoC:  System-on-a-Chip. This is the process of packaging all of the necessary circuits and other parts for a full “system” onto a single microchip (a/k/a an “IC,” an Integrated Circuit).  This is often done with consumer electronics devices such as cell phones, GPSs and digital cameras, where the IC may include such components as memory, logic control, analog-to-digital converter and power circuits.  “Social” - A social network introduced late in 2011 by Microsoft’s Fuse Labs, primarily focused toward students, which includes posts with many elements (photos, video, text) for sharing, a layer superimposed on existing social networks, says Microsoft.

SODCASTING:  Playing music through a cell phone in public, usually disturbing others on public transportation, usually by teenagers.  Negative connotation.

SOCIAL ENGINEERING (SE):  A hacking method which relies on human interaction rather than software or hardware (like USBs or keyloggers) to get into computers and networks.  It’s the most common method sophisticated hackers use to penetrate systems.  No malware has to be planted, no phishing e-mails to click on, just evesdropping (”a/k/a “shoulder surfing”; e.g. watching over a secretary as she punches in a password while pretending to deliver a package or at an airport or coffee shop as a user logs on to their account or your grandkids watching you log on to your bank) or posing (a “con” known as “pretexting” where a hacker may impersonate a telephone or IT man requiring urgent network access or exterminator perhaps, even pretending to be the IRS or the police).  Even simple “dumpster diving” is a type of SE.  You see this all the time in heist and spy movies and TV shows.  There are many versions of SE, including phishing, diversion theft, baiting (leaving an important-looking USB drive around), quid pro quo, tailgating and others.  SE that uses phone or IVR (imitating a bank requesting information, for example) are the most common SEs.  About as many ways that con artists can devise for non-computer hacking, appealing to people’s vanity, greed or deference to authority (my favorite - posting an official sign in an office stating that the number for the help desk has been changed, forwarding it to someone who will ask for passwords in order to “help” them.  They all intentionally take advantage of “cognitive bias,” a psychological attribute of human decision makisocial engineering photong.  The best way to protect yourself from SE is to be aware (if you’re an individual) and to establish and train  for security policies (if you’re a business).  Christopher Hadnagy first identified SE and later wrote the comprehensive 2014 book “Unmasking the Social Engineer: The Human Element of Security”.  See also, Wetware. My favorite photo (posted on at right: 

SOCIAL NETWORKING (“S/N”):  Various (mostly free) internet websites which specialize in establishing various “networks” such as school, place of employment, geographic location, or personal preferences (music, photos), to which interested users may join and post information (text and graphics) about themselves.  Popular general sites are Facebook (launched on 2/2/04) and MySpace. Also popular are Linkedin, Ning, Twitter and Friendster. [For an extensive list of social networking sites compiled by Wikipedia, click HERE.] They are essentially online communities that allow friends to keep and touch and meet new friends by posting text and images.  Once you sign up, you create a custom profile (information about yourself), maybe even a blog.  If you want to add a friend, or vice versa, all it takes is a click to accept the invitation.  Also used for employment and viral advertising purposes (companies, such as Starbucks, have sites), as well as specialized groups (e.g. wine drinkers, or Lacrosse players).   For a discussion about getting involved in SN, and the inevitable and increasing privacy concerns, click HERE.

SOFT:  Subject to change. Opposite of firm. A soft opening or introduction means that it can be changed and is not set, while firm takes place no matter what.

SoftAP:  Software which comes with some wireless antennas which enables the Wi-Fi device or computer connected to the Internet to act as a hotspot through which other devices can also connect to the Internet through SoftAP software.

SOFTPHONE:  SOFTware PHONE.  A software-based phone for VoIP that is installed in the user’s PC

SOFTSWITCH:  Software Switch. Any API used to bridge a public switched telephone network (PSTN) and VoIP by separating the call control functions from the media gateway (OSI transport layer).


SOFTWARE COMPLIANCE AUDIT:  This type of audit, which can be conducted by a government entity (e.g. for SARBOX compliance, or DoD security), or a private entity (e.g. by a software manufacturer for compliance with a contract or EULA or the Business Software Alliance (“BSA”) or the Software & Information Industry Association) focuses on the compliance with the terms of the contract or security guidelines for the particular software, including its source and proper registration.  See also, discussion in LAWS.

SOFTWARE COUPLING: See dependency chains.

SOFTWARE DEFINED NETWORKING - Software which allows enterprise network engineers to shape traffic from a centralized “control console” without having to adjust individual switches and routers in order to respond to changing network conditions in an agile manner,

SOFTWARE IS EATING THE WORLD: A famous quote from a Marc Andreeson  August, 2011 Wall Street Journal article, urging everyone to pay more attention to software, as it was going to be the future.

SOFTWARE MODELING: As companies move into a services world (such as virtual and cloud computing) where many of the components of applications they use are not written by the software providers themselves, modeling can help bring those services together more easily, so that code doesn’t have to be written to accomplish this end.  Microsoft’s modeling strategy is named Oslo, and is part of an overall SOA initiative

SOFTWARE STACK:  Several layers of software that load as a package and perform together, usually made up of the operating system (the platform on which everything runs), middleware (the programming that allows applications to talk to one another, and finally the applications (the actual programs that a device will run).  Android, for example, is a software stack, so is LAMP and WISP.  Also sometimes known as an “application stack”.

SOHO:  Small Office/Home Office”.  A segment of the computer business defined as generally less than five stand-alone or networked computers at a home or small business office.

SOLARIS:  A UNIX-based operating system developed and promoted by Sun Microsystems.

sonySONY:  A Japanese consumer electronics company which manufactures and sells TVs, computers and other devices.  Became famous for the Walkman portable music player in the 1980s, which was largely superseded by Apple’s iPod.  The Sony VAIO logo actually has a hidden meaning:

 Sony logo explained

SOURCE CODE:  In order to create a software program that can be run on a computer, it first requires what is known as a source code.  This is the programming statements created by a programmer with a text editor or a visual programming tool which is then saved in a file.  The source code is then run through a compiler/interpreter, constructing what becomes known as the object code, a sequence of binary instructions, in machine language, that the computer processor (but not humans) can understand and execute.  A compiler is a computer program which transforms the human readable source code of a program into the machine readable code that a CPU can then execute (kind of a “before” and “after” version of the program).   So, for example, a programmer can write a program using a series of C++ language statements which he saves in a text file, which is then compiled by a C++ compiler into a C++ object code that can be run by a computer.  When you purchase an off-the-shelf program, it is usually in the form of the object code, while the developer retains the source code, because it is proprietary and used only by the creator to create upgrades and patches and the like, and they don’t want others modifying it.  When you purchase Quicken or Word, for example, you can’t change the underlying code for the programs, although you can create macros or rearrange the menus, because the vendor allows you to.  A few programs (such as Linux) have source code that is “open” to the programming community so that they can submit improvements.  For more information see also object code, compiler, program and Programming.

Sourceforge_logoSOURCEFORGE:  Originally owned by GeekNet, but then purchased by Dice, this was once the most popular internet site established for the collaboration and sharing of  open source software.  But after the acquisition, the site became so riddled with advertising, uninvited toolbars, opt-out installers and malware, that it became known as Scourgeforge.  Go to GitHub, the new Sourceforge.


SPACEWAR!: Generally considered the first Spacewars!interactive video game.  Created in 1962 by MIT students Steve Russell, Martin “Shag” Graetz and Alan Kotok, dueling players fired at each other’s spaceships using an early version of joysticks.  The inventors and the game are shown in the photo at right...Atari’s Pong, invented by Nolan Bushnell, was the first video game.

SPAM:  Unsolicited, usually commercial, messages sent via e-mail as part of a larger collection of essentially identical e-mails - i.e. Internet “junk mail.”  Why Spam (itself a portmanteau for “SPiced hAM”?  The most common explanation for the use of the word is that the phrase arose from a 1970’s Monty Python skit [click HERE for video] in which a couple attempted to order breakfast at a cafe featuring Spam in nearly every entree and where the diners were eventually drowned out by a group of Vikings singing “Spam, lovely Spam, wonderful Spam,” prompting Internet pioneers to label junk e-mail Spam because it overwhelmed other dialogue.  Also, SPIM - which is SPAM sent via an instant message system, and SPIT, which is Spam sent over Internet telephony. A Snapple ad claims that the first spam was sent by telegraph back in 1864.  (Who knew?)These are not the same as SPYWARE, which can infect your system, not just be a nuisance, although excessive spam can overload a network and bring it down. Basically, it’s the price you pay for using a public electronic mail system; no different from the bulk mail solicitations you get in your physical mailbox by virtue of having a public street address.  Contrary to Bill Gates’ prediction in 2004, spam was not soon to be a thing of the past, but greatly increases each year.  Also, SPAMDEXING, the process of attempting to increase optimization of web sites by methods which don’t accurately reflect the true nature of the hits (such as through repeated unrelated phrases or sites to increase traffic).

SPAM (OR ANTI-SPAM) COCKTAIL: See, defense in depth.

SPANNING:  Also sometimes referred to as “JBOD,” (“Just a Bunch of Disks”) this term refers to a group of hard drives or disks that have not been configured with RAID.  While a RAID system stores the same data redundantly on multiple disks which appear to the operating system as a separate drives, spanned drives or disks also appear to the o/s as a single disk, but only because spanning combines all of the disks into a single (non-redundant) one, delivering none of the benefits of RAID.

SPAN PORTS: See, network tap.

SPARC: From Scalable Processor ArchitectureA RISC microprocessor instruction set architecture originally designed in 1985 by Sun Microsystems for use in its UNIX servers, now a registered trademark of SPARC International, Inc. as a fully open and non-proprietary architecture used by many manufacturers.

SPARK: An open source cluster computing framework, which was originally developed by Matei Zaharia at U.C. Berkeley's AMPLab in 2009, and later open-sourced and donated to the Apache Foundation.  Spark is billed as an extremely  fast engine for large-scale data processing using cluster computing.  In the world of big data, Spark is particularly attractive because it provides a powerful in-memory data-processing component within Hadoop that deals with both real-time and batch events.  In recent years, this has extended to artificial intelligence, as the data is used to predict consumer desires, for example, by crunching data to predict who will travel where and when or purchase what. In addition to Databricks, Spark has been embraced by the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, Huawei, and Yahoo.  Each year, there is a Spark Summit which brings together developers.

SPARKLINE:  Small in-line charts that are included along with text in a report.  They are small, high-resolution graphics embedded in a context of words, numbers or images and are design-simple word-sized graphics.  For example:

SPARSE DATABASE: In data storage, e.g. tape backup, data which may have null or empty fields, allowing greater compression with the storage software.  This is because, in most databases rows are sparse but columns are not.  When a row is created, storage is created for every column whether a value exists or not.  These fixed length rows greatly improve read/write times.

SPDIF:  Stands for “Sony/Philips Digital Interconnect Format.”  This is a method for carrying digital audio signals (2 channels only) between devices (including computers) and stereo components over optical or electrical cable.  For example, it can be used to connect the output of a computer’s DVD player to a home theater receiver.  See connector photos.

SPDY:  A competing protocol to HTTP for loading web pages over the Internet.  It is expected that, with the introduction of HTTP 2.0 in 2014, SPDY’s current version will be its last, as HTTP 2.0 and SPDY will essentially be identical.

speakersSPEAKERS:  Devices to hear audio from a computer, pad or phone.  They can be mono or stereo, powered (plugged into an electrical outlet for more amplification) or USB, cabled or wireless, and of varying quality.  See also, earbuds, cans for other types of audio listening devices.  And PPMO/RMS for power measurement.

SPECTRUM:  The part of the electromagnetic radio frequencies typically lower than about 300Ghz (or wavelengths longer than about 1mm).  Typically, radio spectrum is regulated by the U.S. Government to private users for differing transmission technologies and applications (e.g. cell phones, radio, TV & Internet).  The spectrum is further divided into bands (most common VHF & UHF), which are small sections of the overall spectrum and then further into numeric channels which are also used or set aside.

SPECTACLES:  See Snapchat, above. These are sunglasseSnapchat Kiosks sold by Snapchat,  which have a camera that takes 10-second video clips that can be viewed or sent out through the app.  Originally available only in Snapbots, special vending kiosks or a (now closed store in NYC), they are now available from a website and cost $129, available in three colors: coral, teal and black. An IPO was filed in early 2017.

SPEEDS AND MEASUREMENTS:  For an extensive compilation of common speeds, measurements and conversions relating to computers, CLICK HERE.

SPIDER:  Spiders (also known as bots, robots or crawlers) are software programs used by search engines to explore the web in an automated manner and download the HTML content (excluding graphics and applets) from websites, then eliminating anything it deems unnecessary from the websites, and storing the results in it’s database (a/k/a/ its “Index”).  Once indexed, users of the search engines can access the web pages for fast searches.  This type of automated (not requiring human intervention) software is also used for automating routine maintenance tasks on websites, such as checking links or validating HTML code, or for more specific tasks, such as harvesting e-mail addresses from web pages (sometimes, unfortunately, for spamming purposes).

SPINNER:  A feature in Microsoft Excel which offers an easy way to test different input variables to see the effect on a financial model without altering the underlying formulas on the spreadsheet.

spinning wheelSPINNING WHEEL: The Apple “waiting” icon, designed by Keith Ohlfs, comparable to the PC hourglass icon.

SPLITTER:  A device which is attached to a coaxial cable to divide the signal into two or more separate cables.  Click HERE for more information.

SPOOF/SPOOFING:  Spoofing means to hoax, trick or deceive a computer by masquerading as a legitimate user in order to allow it unauthorized access, so that it can send spam, propagate malware, collect keystrokes or otherwise cause damage.  For example, e-mail spoofing is common (see Spyware), involving the collection of legitimate e-mail addresses from a host computer and then sending infected messages to those addresses purporting to be emanating from the host computer while actually coming from another computer dedicated to perpetrating malware.  Also, ARP spoofing is a type of hacking by which an attacker sends a spoofed Address Resolution Protocol (“ARP”) intended to associate its MAC address with the IP address of another host, usually for the network being hacked, allowing it access to the entire network to cause intrusion and damage.

SPOOLING:  In printing, the process of sending a file to be printed to a queue instead of directly to the printer.  The process is used to speed up batch printing processing.  This acronym actually stands for “Simultaneous Peripheral Output On-Line” named by Andy Tannenbaum. (See Linux/Minux).

Spot WatchSPOT WATCH:  Hardly anyone remembers this Microsoft failure.  It was a brick-like timepiece (much like the old Pulsar with the heavy, red glass screen), but it was also equipped with a radio receiver running Microsoft’s Smart Personal Objects Technology (“SPOT”) software, introduced in 2007.  It cost about $300 with a $9.95/mo subscription to MSN Direct data service.  Lasted about 4 years; MSN Direct was discontinued in 2011.  Too big, too heavy, too ugly, too expensive. had to be recharged nightly, didSPOT displayn’t work everywhere.  However, timing is everything:  Apple’s Newton (circa 1993) didn’t make it, but the iPad (2010) was a huge success.  The Spot watch didn’t cut it, but now the folks at Fossil are pushing the MetaWatch, quite similar to the Spot.  Maybe it’ll be successful, who knows.  See smart watch for more.

SPOTIFY:  A streaming audio service which started in Europe then migrated to the U.S. on July 14, 2011.  It remains to be seen if U.S. customers will be content to merely rent audio.  It was started by Daniel Ek and is known for both an easy interface, on-demand audio, and both paid and free music.  For a comparison of current streaming audio services, see below.  In late 2011, it received a big boost from Facebook, when Spotify required that its new users be a member of Facebook first.

SPREADSHEET:  Generally, a document set up with rows and columns, intersecting in cells, into which one may insert text, numbers or formulas for the manipulation of those cells.  The very first spreadsheet was Visicalc, created by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston in Bricklin’s attic in 1979, available first for Apple computers, later in 1981 for PCs.; more current spreadsheet programs include Excel, Works, and Lotus.  Used often for manipulation of financial and accounting data.  A new feature for spreadsheets is data visualization, which converts the data into colorful interactive charts and graphs, following trends in the data.

SPREAD SPECTRUM TECHNOLOGY:  A series of techniques by which a signal which has been generated witHedy_Lamarr-publicityh a specific bandwidth, is deliberately “spread” in the frequency domain, resulting in a signal with a wider bandwidth, decreasing interference and increasing security.  Not widely known, Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr contributed to the invention of spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology (including FHSS [frequency-hopping spread spectrum, THSS [time-hopping spread spectrum, DSSS [direct-sequence spread spectrum], and CSS [chirp spread spectrum], which led to today’s common wireless communications.  She worked on the invention with composer George Antheil in 1941 and was awarded a patent for the invention. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]

SPUDGER:  A tool used by computer and telephone technicians which comes in various materials (metal, pspudgerlastic, wood) and configurations (flat, hooked, sharpened), and is used for prying (e.g. the case off a cell phone), probing, soldering and pulling (e.g. wires through punch-down blocks and 66 blocks) components, cases and wires.  Looks a lot like dental tools, which are also used.

SPYWARE:  For an extensive discussion defining and distinguishing spyware, adware, malware, Trojans, worms, rootkits, etc.  CLICK HERE

Square logoSQUARE:  A smart phone app, created in 2009 by Jack Dorsey, who created Twitter, and Jim McKelvey,which turns a smartphone into a mobile cash register by letting users accept credit card payments over their phone using a free download and a plastic card reader which plugs into the pSquare one logohone’s audio jack.  Also, Square One, which is a payment wallet for charging items wirelessly through your Square account without even swiping a card at participating merchants.  Now there are more thn 80 companies, including PayPal, Quicken and Amazon, which compete with Square.

SQL:  Stands for Structured Query Language (pronounced “sequel”).  It is an ANSI standard computer language for accessing and manipulating database systems such as Access, DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase, etc.  (Many of these programs have their own proprietary extensions in addition to the SQL standard.)  The SQL consists of statements that are used to retrieve and update data in the databases for these programs.  Used primarily in RDBMS programs.

Coexisting with SQL is NoSQL, which really means “Not Only” SQL, another RDBMS technology which has become popular with many Web 2.0 leaders like Facebook, Twitter and Google, which use massive distributed data stores (say, for Facebook’s 500,000 users or Twitter’s terabytes of daily data).  While SQL “scales up” through faster hardware and additional memory, NoSQL “scales up” by spreading the load across the network.  Unlike SQL, there is no fixed schema and no joins.  Some of the big players in NoSQL are Dynamo, Cassandra, BigTable, SimpleDB and CouchDB. Oracle has joined the NoSQL movement in November, 2011.  But as Internet and Cloud have become more reliable, NoSQL has declined slightly in popularity.

The distinction (I’v heard) is that, if the data were, say, a recipe, NoSQL would show all the information on a single page, while SQL would make you “shop around” to find each ingredient, perparation time, cooking settings, mixing, finishing touches, etc.

SQL Light, developed by Dr. Richard Hipp around 2000, is used on most smart phones.


SRI:  Short for Stanford Research Institute, a part of Stanford University which developed many computer related inventions.  See also, Douglas Engelbart.

SSD:  “Solid State Drive” - an electronic drive (like a pen/flash drive, or UMPC)  that has no moving parts like a traditional hard disk drive (see HDD), uses less power (.5 watts vs. 10 - 15 watts used by server HDDs), starts up faster, has faster random access times, virtually no spin-up time, runs considerably cooler, takes up less space, can be 30 times faster, isn’t subject to damage from dropping or shaking, extends battery life, is far quieter and may last longer than traditional hard drives. While SSDs fail, they claim to do so in a more predictable way and their replacement is thus said to be more manageable, thus better suited for server farms.

While they have  finite number of program/erase cycles (see discussion below), it is an enormous number - A TechReport test found that they made it past the 2 Petabyte mark, as much as if you wrote 100 Gb/day for 27.4 years! If you want to see how much data you’ve already written to your SSD, on a Mac, open Terminal and enter the “diskutil list” command, locate the physical drive, then enter “iostat -id disk0” where disk0 is the name of the physical disk, and of the three values (KB/t, xfrs and MB) the MB value will be the total Mb that you have written to your drive from when it was first installed to date. For Windows, there is no similar command, so you must install a third-party app like CrystalDiskInfo, which is free. Once installed, it will show Health Status (should be “good”) and a value for Total Host Writes.  In most cases, your computer will fail long before your SSD ever does!

Introduced in 2007, and propelled by the increase in smart phones, it is now a substantial component of the hard drive market: Samsung, BitMicro, Pliant Technology and other manufacturers now manufacture SSDs in IDE and SATA format up to 16 Terabytes of data or more! A single SSD, for example, could replace several short-stroked HDDs in a data center.  There are some downsides - primarily higher cost ($500 - $600 is not uncommon for larger ones) until greater adoption, and some limitations on those SSDs using volatile DRAM memory vice NAND non-volatile memory, but these problems are being remedied by sophisticated algorithms that govern how they read and write data

NOTE: You never want to defragment them, it shortens their life. Mainly, this is because defragging is meant to overcome the read/write lag caused by the moving mechanical parts in spinning-platter hard drives. But SSDs have no moving parts, just banks of flash RAM.  All data locations are accessed at exactly the same speed.  In fact, the tiny memory cells that store ones and zeros in an SSD can wear out if overused, so defragging would cause needless wear with no offsetting benefit. But Windows 7, 8 & 10 know all this, and have replaced the classic Windows defrag with the Optimize tool which knows not to defrag an SSD and correctly implements TRIM. Even better, there's Windows 7, 8 & 10 SSD-specific TRIM command (enabled by default, see below), which helps to clear left-behind data and file fragments. Without this software garbage collection, SSDs actually slow down over time — an effect that plagued many of the first-generation SSD devices until engineers figured out what was going on. [To check whether TRIM is working on your drive, at the command prompt type “fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify” and Windows will respond with “DisableDeleteNotify =  0” if TRIM is working. If not, you’ll have to get a TRIM utility from your disks’s manufacturer.]

If you’re thinking of installing an SSD on your computer, check compatibility:  If you’re not using the SATA/IDE drive, but a PCIe drive, not all motherboards will boot from a x4 PCIe slot, even with a BIOS upgrade, and you may need RAID drivers if your SSD is more than one drive on the card.  Also, be aware that making image backups of SSD partitions and restoring them to a mechanical hard drive and maybe even another SSD may not work (see wear leveling, below) with the usual programs like Norton or Acronis. The Win 7 and 8 backup and restore features work much better for this purpose.  

Finally, history is showing that they are difficult if not impossible to erase, particularly if they have been encrypted.  However, the newer operating systems like Windows 7, 8 & 10, which include an SSD TRIM function (which, ironically, was intended to enhance SSD performance, but can also make older data harder to recover) may make data recovery significantly more difficult, but not necessarily impossible.  TRIM is one of the functions of AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) which allows a supported operating system to access the storage faster.  TRIM lets the O/S to actively inform the SSD  about which blocks of data are no longer in use and can therefore be erased, making the SSD ore efficient and reducing the effects of Write Amplification, discussed below.  [AHCI and TRIM are both enabled by SSDs by default, but can be changed either in your BIOS/UEFI of a command prompt, if desired.]  Conversely, they’re not like the old platter drives; if you erase a file, you most likely will not be able to retrieve it due to the wear leveling and garbage collection processes of SSDs (see below) that distribute data around the circuits evenly and get rid of leftover bits after files are deleted. It still remains to be seen how well these drives perform over time.

How SSDs operate has much to do with its features: While traditional hard disk drives use an arm hovering above the disk to magnetize or demagnetize sectors into 0s and 1s, and simply reverse the process when “overwriting” old data, SSDs are different:  Because overwriting involves the process of actually erasing data from the flash memory cells and then programming new information onto them, a process known as “program/erase cycles” or “P/E Cycles,” no new information can be programmed to a cell unless the old data is erased.  This means that the more P/E cycles, the more the memory cell becomes exhausted until it becomes totally worn out and eventually (after quite a long time) it becomes unusable.  (Not much different than erasing writing on plain paper so much that the paper’s pigment becomes erased.)  And there’s another wrinkle - Because memory cells are arranged in pages (composed of many cells) and also blocks (composed of many pages), you can write to a page at a time, but you can only erase a block at a time.  This causes what’s known as “write amplification,” such that when you want to save changes to one of several pages, for example, the SSD must copy all of the pages in the block (not just the one changed page), then write all of the pages in the block all over again, saving it with the changed page.  As you can see, this “amplifies” the amount of data to be written, such that a SSD has to write lots more information than just the changed data, further using up the finite number of P/E cycles.  Luckily, you won’t lose any unwritten data, because most SSDs feature “Over Provisioning,” a dedicated and untouchable amount of free space designed to accommodate Write Amplification.

Initial SSDs weren’t lasting particularly long compared to standard drives, some even a shorter time.  But it is predicted that, while the drives may cost up to ten times that of a standard drive ($1/Gb vs. 10 cents/Gb) they may last 10 times as long, up to 50 years (see above).  However, they haven’t been around for 50 years yet and, besides, it’s virtually certain that technology will change over that long a period!  The algorithms discussed in this definition have already made major changes to the technology.  Meanwhile, a type of drive known as a SSD-Hybrid drive has evolved (e.g. Seagate Momentus XT) which claims to be  almost as fast as a SSD, but which still uses a high speed (7200rpm) spinning drive, and is boosted with 32Mb cache, 4Gb of solid state SLC NAND flash storage and Adaptive Memory technology.  And it’s only slightly more costly than a standard SATA drive. Click HERE for more information.

It also has some other differences, key among them being erasure and wiping.  On a SSD, every time data is written, wear leveling occurs. The purpose of wear leveling is to use an algorithm that effectively makes sure that all of the drive’s memory chips are used up, cell by cell, before the first cell can be written to again, thus increasing the life of the drive.  New chunks of data are written to both blank space as well as previous (“worn”) locations, where some of that data may remain.  This is because, unlike traditional hard disk drives, SSDs have no way to completely delete files, allowing the possibility that the data could be recovered. In addition, because SSDs have more memory chips, therefore more storage capacity, in case one or more chips fail, disk erasure will only cover the stated capacity of the drive and not the overflow capacity, where the data may still remain.  Of course, you should NEVER use a disk-defragmentation program on an SSD anyway, as discussed above. 

Also, if you want to destroy an SSD, I suggest that you either encrypt the drive and throw away the key and the drive  (separately) and/or break the memory chips on the drive (you can usually see them on the back) with a hammer.

UPDATE:  In mid-2014, a Japanese research team claims that it has developed a write algorithm that can be added to existing SSD drives to improve speeds by 300 percent.

SSH:  Stands for Secure Shell or Secure Socket Shell, this is program that allows a user to log onto another computer remotely across the Internet while maintaining complete security through a Unix interface (much like a VPN in Windows).  Composed of three utilities - slogin, ssh & scp - that are secure versions of the earlier Unix utilities rlogin, rsh and rcp. See, SHELL, SSL, IPSec,TLS.

SSID:  Stands for “Service Set Identifier,” which is a unique ID consisting of 32 characters and is used for naming wireless networks.  Not the same as the “name” of the wireless network, which is what you might see when you connect to the network (e.g. Linksys or JoesPlace), the SSID is a distinct identifier that ensures that the network is different from other nearby networks so that the data being sent over the air arrives at the correct location and not another wireless network.

SSL:  “Secure Sockets Layer”.  A common but older security protocol on the Internet.  SSL transmits your communications over the internet in encrypted form, protecting it from prying eyes.  Originally developed by Netscape, this protocol is also used to validate the identity of a web site and then create an encrypted connection for sending credit card and other personal information over the Internet.  If you see a closed  “lock” icon on the top or bottom of your browser page (or “https://” in your address bar) you are secure.  The protocol for SSL security is OpenSSL.  Over the past 10 years, most systems have switched to TLS.  Used even less now due to the 2014 Poodle virus.  See also, IPSec, DTLS.  For more, see Certificates.

SSP: Secure Simple Pairing.  See Bluetooth.  A part of Bluetooth 2.1 and later that radically improves the pairing experience for Bluetooth devices and increases security.

SS7 HACKING: A process where hackers can read text messages, listen to mobile phone and video calls and track user locations with merely the telephone number of a device.  This is done by attacking a vulnerability in the worldwide mobile phone network infrastructure known as Common Channel Signalling System 7 (“SS7”), which connects one mobile phone network system to another.

STACK:  This term can have several meanings: (1) Originally, DOS specified the number of “stacks” in the config.sys file, set at “9, 256,” meaning an allocation of 9 stacks of 256 bytes each taking up to 2,304 bytes of conventional memory reserved for (FIFO) hardware interrupts (IRQs).  (2) More recently, used to refer to a hierarchy of software layers (as in TCP/IP stack). (3) Also, sometimes, a Macintosh folder view. (4) See also, software stack, a/k/a application stack, above.

STACK OVERFLOW: A type of computer programming bug that results in running a loop which fills up the computer’s memory and chokes all of it’s resources until it must be restarted.  It’s such a common bug that the Stack Overflow website is the 62nd most visited website in the world.

STANDBY POWER: Also called Phantom Power or Vampire Power.  The type of power that many electronic devices such as computers and TVs consume even when turned off.  To save power and money, see UPS.

STAR: The “ * “ key.  See Asterisk for explanation.

STARTUP TAB: The Windows 8 reconfiguration of the older System Configuration Tool, a/k/a/ msconfig.  It has enhanced functionality from earlier versions:  In addition to disabling programs, it can track down the location of a file on the hard drive and instantly search the Web for more detailed information about the program.  To reach the Tab, users can either go to CTRL+ALT+DEL, or else right-click on the desktop taskbar and select the Task Manager from the context menu. 

STATE: The particular condition that something is in at a specific point in time.  It could be a snapshot of a hardware configuration, the attributes of a bit or byte, or the configuration of a software program.

STATEFUL: The ability to maintain state.   Most software, including operating systems, is aware of and constantly maintains its state.

STATEFUL INFORMATION: A concept designed to lock the operating system to the specific hardware on which it was installed; Your current operating system likes to think that it “owns” that software, making operations like restoration difficult (see backup).

STATEFUL PACKET INSPECTION (“SPI”): Also known as dynamic packet filtering, is a firewall technology based on ports and IPs that ensures that all inbound packets are the result of an outbound request.  Now that videoconferencing is becoming more popular, this security is less common.

STATE MACHINE: See also, Bell-LaPadula Model.  A “special purpose” computer designed with the operational states and hardware required to solve a specific problem. A “state” represents all the stored information, at a given point in time, which the computer or program has access to.

STATEMENT: A coded instruction in a programming language.  It can be simple (containing only one expression) or complex (containing more than one statement).

STATIC:  Fixed and not subject to change.  The opposite of dynamic, which is changeable.  When you get a “static IP address” from your ISP, it stays the same all the time, unlike a dynamic IP, which periodically changes.  Also, of course, electrical interference (“noise”).

STATIC CODE ANALYSIS (a/k/a Static Analysis): A method of computer program debugging that is done by examining a program’s code without actually executing the program. The process provides an understanding of the code structure, and can help to ensure that the code adheres to industry standards.  See also Programming.

STEAM MACHINE:  A state-of-tSteam Machine controllerhe-art video gaming machine being developed by Valve (a U.S. company) which features two haptic-feedback trackpad controllers (right).  Its introduction has been delayed until sometime in 2015 due to design and production issues.  Some 14 manufacturers, including Alienware, will manufacture Steam Machines.

STEAMPUNK: A sub-genre of science fiction andSteampunk cyberpunk in a post-apocalyptic future that typically features steam powered machinery from the 19th century, often adapted to that future. It includes the subculture and styles of that era.  See also, geeks, nerds, sci-fi.  The term was introduced by K.W. Jeter in the late 1980s to describe works which took place in a Victorian era.

STEGANOGRAPHY:  The process of hiding a secret message within an ordinary message so that it can be extracted at its destination (e.g. over the Internet).  Steganography takes cryptography one step further, by hiding the encrypted message so that no one suspects it even exists.  This term is derived from the Greek steganos (“covered” or “concealed”) and graphie (“writing”) and was first used in a work by Johannes Trithemius in 1500 named Steganographia a tome about “Angel Magic” that was reportedly unpublished out of religious fears at the time.  [Info from] Its first uses date back to the fifth century BC, when Demartus, king of Sparta, hid his correspondence beneath a layer of beeswax.  It’s so easy for hackers and even the technologically-challenged to find such programs that there’s even one specifically for the iPhone named PrivateTIP that allows users to encode and send Twitter length pieces of information inside images.  The threat, of course, is that employees may use such subtrefuge to take proprietary information outside of a business organization for illegal use.  See also, Easter Eggs.

One of the more common everyday uses of steganography is hiding the information hidden within many laser printers.  If you’ve watched the TV show “CSI” you’ve seen them trace a letter back to a specific laser printer.  They can do this because specific information about that printer is contained in hidden machine identification code (“MIC”) on every page that it prints.  At least on color laser printers, as a result of an agreement between the U.S. Government and quite a few manufacturers to help the Government track possible counterfeiters, a series of 0.1mm light yellow dots encode data such as the date and time of printing, and a binary-coded decimal of the printer’s serial number which could be traced to the manufacturer and possible the place of purchase and even the purchaser.  The tracking dots, which are printed in a regularly repeating pattern across the entire page (not just the corner) are intermixed with other printed data and can be seen with a blue light.  Click HERE to see an enlarged example of this raster of about 1mm.

STELLAR WIND: An NSA project circa 2001 located in Bluffdale, Utah which used a software program named Trailblazer to spy on U.S. citizens’ communications, as revealed by whistleblower William Binney in 2005.

STEM: Shorthand for “science, technology, engineering and math”.  It usually refers to degrees in these areas, as the U.S. Census Bureau creates reports about education and employment by STEM.

STICK COMPUTER (a/k/a ULTRAPORTABLE: A comINTEL COMPUTE STICKplete (but not necessarily full featured or expandable) computer on a dongle that can be connected to a TV or other device and act as a basic system.  For links, see HERE.  At right, Intel ComputeStick.

STICKY KEY: Sticky Keys is an accessibility feature introduced with Win95 which was originally intended to help users that have physical disabilities like repetitive strain injuries.  When enabled, it eliminates the need to press several keys at the same time (e.g. CTRL+ALT+DEL) and instead programs a modifier key to remain active until the others have been pressed. The first key “sticks” until the other keys in the sequence are depressed.  Ordinarily, tapping Shift five times (or within the Control Panel, Accessibility Icon) activates sticky keys (or in some cases, features like a command prompt, see TIP #81, for resetting the Windows Password), turned off by pressing three or more of the sticky keys at the same time.  It is also available on Apple computers, but requires only one press of the Shift key.

STINGRAYS (a/k/a IMSI Catchers, cell site simulaStingray phototors): The FBI’s antenna, originally mounted on trucks and now also airplanes, that can masquerade as a dummy cell phone tower in order to track cell phones’ locations, identifying information and call content for specific individuals as well as countlQRC Autonomous Lighthouseess bystanders nearby.  For a listing by state of where these devices are used, compiled by the ACLU, click HERE.  Stingrays are manufactured by Harris Corporation, Melbourne, FL.  See also, the QRC/Lighthouse, at left.  See also it’s more powerful cousin, the Dirtbox.

Stoned (Virus): One of the early (1989) boot sector (MBR) virus which would infect computers by first making your screen waver and then displaying the message “Your PC is now stoned -- legalize marijuana”.  See Spyware.

STOP CODE: The hexadecimal code usually associated with a Windows BSOD or other screen which “stops” windows from operating when a driver attempts to write to a read-only memory segment.  It is divided into four parameters: The virtual address of the attempted write, the PTE (“page table entry” contents, and two additional undefined parameters).

STORAGE: Generally, the transmitting of data from a computer, temporarily or permanently, through various media, to another location.  Click HERE for more about the distinction between archival and backup storage.  Also, Memory, bits and bytes, drives.

STORAGE - NAS vs SAN:  Both Network Attached Storage (“NAS”) and Storage Area Network (“SAN”) [and also IP SAN] are used to back up data on a computer network and are, in many respects, identical.  But there are differences.  Basically, NAS involves adding a storage computer to an existing LAN, and possibly a FAN (“File Area Network”) as a manager, while SAN is really separate from the network. NAS is perceived to be somewhat slower, because it runs over an ethernet network (TCP/IP protocol), while SAN uses SCSI architecture (fibre channel).  While both systems back up to RAID (see definition), SAN mirrors the complete drive, while NAS backs up by file.  Over time, the difference between these two solutions are becoming blurred.  If you are a medium or large business (by U.S. Dept. of Labor standards), you should be aware that there are laws that govern the retention and availability or corporate records and e-mail for business and litigation purposes (see, LAWS). 

Recently, storage has migrated to the cloud as well.  Also, storage pooling and tiering and pNFS (“parallel network file system) as well as solid state drives (“SSDs”).  When considering your backup, it’s a good idea to also consider your disaster recovery  (“DRP”) and business continuation plan as well if you’re a business.  Will your data be available from anywhere?  What happens if your provider goes out of business?  If you’re backing up locally, keep in mind that the low, penny-per-gigabyte price of IBM and Fujifilm’s latest tape formulation (at nearly 30G bits per square inch) are still the most cost effective (and the greenest in terms of power and carbon footprint) media for backup.  Today’s densest optical disks (Blu-Ray) store just 50GB, so storing just one 4 inch tape cartridge holding 35TB (35,000 GB) would require 700 Blu-Ray disks at about 30 cents per GB.  Alternatively, storing the same data on hard drives (either locally or in the Cloud) which would hold 1TB each would require 35 drives at about 10 cents per GB.  And each tape drive can read hundreds of tapes, only one of which must be kept spinning when in use, unlike hard drives, which all must spin.  See also, Converged Network Fabric.

STORM: A widespread worm virus, often spread by spam e-mails which contain the phrase “F.B.I. vs. Facebook” and which, when clicked, cause the victim computer to become infected and part of a botnet, used for malicious purposes.

STYLUS: An input device shaped like a pen, used to “draw” on a tablet to transfer data onto a computer; the harder the pressure, the wider the line.  See Wacom, Tablet, Apple Pencil.



<Stylus with tablet

STP:  No, its not the same STP that protects your auto engine.  It stands for Spanning Tree Protocol, a widely used protocol that enables switches to be plugged into other switches so that redundant paths are available to prevent a single point of failure, while loops, which are fatal to network operation, are prevented.

STREAMING:  A sequence of video images or audio that are sent in compressed form over the Internet and displayed to the viewer as they arrive, as opposed to downloading the entire or parts of a large audio or video file before playing.  It is called streaming because the media is sent from the server in a continuous stream and is played as it arrives.  If the receiving client cannot process the data fast enough, the image will be choppy or jerky; if it receives it too fast, the excess data will be stored in a buffer.

STREAMING AUDIO:  The ability to listen to music over the Internet without actually downloading it to your computer or smart phone.  Summary, generally up-to-date:














800,000 paid

90 million



25 mil free 300,000 pd


30 million

10 mil free; 1.5 mil paid

11 million

new 4/2016, claims 175 million

launched 10/12/16


12 mil


13 mil

11 mil

8 mil

10 mil

8 mil

15 mil


100 million

tens of millions





4.99/mo   9.99 w/mobile

free, but      9.99 mobile

$4.99    $9.99 mobile

free               mobile $9.99/mo

$5.00/mo   $10 mobile


14.95 family 

free, $10/mo premium

$10/mo or $8/mo if you’re a Prime member; only $4mo with Echo speakers


songs on demand; thematic channels

no on demand, but plays up to 100 personalized “stations” per user

claims largest library, most licenses with major labels

1300 member blog network helps users discover new songs

provides programmed streams only, you can’t just request a song

Social network oriented. You can map streams to Facebook & Twitter

Users can upload music to shared catalog, but they can be removed at request of copyright holders

on-demand service with licenses from all four major labels

This service replaces Beats streaming music service after 11/30/15

Huge variety of songs directly uploaded by artists

Alexa features like song search by name or tune or genre

OTHER LESSER KNOWN BUT USEFUL SERVICES:  8tracks (free; an indie slant, where you choose your preferred music genre and then a particular atrist or mood, then the site produces any number of DJ and user created playlists that match), (free; plays music designed to help you focus, or music to work by; also has a white-noise alternative (“rain”) as well as downtempo and classical); Hype Machine (free; an aggregator that catalogs the most popular songs from blogs around the world); Noon Pacific (free; delivers a 10-song mixtape via e-mail every week).

STREISAND EFFECT: A name given by Web Mavens to describe a phenomenon where a person or company tries to suppress a piece of information and, in doing so, Streisandunintentionally popularizes it.   This was the effect in 2003 where Barbra StreStreisand houseisand filed an (unsuccessful) lawsuit to remove photos of her Malibu home from the Web, causing the reverse effect - significantly increasing traffic to the web site!  Other examples:  The 2014 protest by 10,000 London taxi drivers against Uber, the startup that matches individual drivers with passengers via cell phones.  Not that many people were aware of the Uber service, but the protest inState Farm commercialformed the public all about it.  It’s probably not a great idea to protest about a relatively unknown service you don’t want the public to use by having a mass demonstration about it!  Or the 2014-15 State Farm commercial with the two men trying to remove the “Borrow Better Banking” message from a billboard, attracting more public attention than they expected.

STRINGY FLOPPY:  See Floppy Disk, Media.  A tape-based storage media used on older computers like the TRS-80.

STRING THEORY:  A physics theory which posits that we live in a “multiverse,” where our universe is not the only one, but one of several universes which co-exist parallel to each other. (Note the parallel to quantum physics.)   It derives the name “string” from the point-like particles comprising particle physics that can be modeled as one-dimensional objects called “strings”.  The term multiverse originated from American psychologist William James in 1895, and rose to prominence in the works of science fiction, notably the works of Michael Moorlock and John Cowper Powys in the 1950s, now a common sci-fi theme.  MIT cosmologist Max Tegmert believes that there are four levels of parallel universes, from the familiar to the extreme. 

STRUCTURED CABLING:  A cable system in an infrastructure (e.g. building or campus of buildings) that is comprised of a number of smaller standardized subsystems. Governed by a set of standards specifying cabling of data centers, offices and other buildings, there are 6 subsystems:  Demarcation point; Equipment Rooms; Riser (vertical) Cabling; Horizontal Cabling and Work Area Components.

stumbleuponSTUMBLEUPON:  A “discovery engine” that finds and recommends web content to its users, rating web pages, photos and videos that are personalized to their users’ tastes.  Founded by Justin LaFrance, Garrett Camp and Geoff Smith in Calgary, Canada in 2002.

STUXNET:  A worm type virus using four zero day exploits (see SPYWARE) [authored by the U.S. and Israel and introduced via infected flash drives, according to anonymous U.S. government sources as well as Symantec security engineers Eric Chien and Liam O’Murchu, who discovered the infection] which specifically targeted programmable logic controllers in many countries in 2010.  Specifically, it targeted Seimens controllers at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Iran, where it was feared that centrifuges were being used to develop weapons grade plutonium.  The virus ordered the centrifuges to spin too fast, destroying them, while disabling alarms and feeding technicians fake log reports showing correct performance.  This was on an air-gapped private network, i.e. “everything can be hacked”!  Click HERE to compare to Duqu and Flame attacks, also see Regin (2014) on the Security page.  See also, The Singularity (above) and cyberwarfare LAWS.  In July, 2016, Alex Gibney’s film “Zero Days” presents a documentary about global threat posed by computer viruses like Stuxnet, making the argument that cyberwarfare may be (or already is) the future of warfare. 

SUBNET:  A part of a network that shares a common address component.  This usually refers to a TCP/IP network, where subnets consist of all devices which whose IP addresses share the same prefix.  Example: All devices with IP addresses which start with 192.168 would be part of the same subnet.  Subnets are useful for increasing performance and also for security aspects of the network.  See also host, gateway.

SUBNET MASK:  A mask or filter used to determine what subnet an IP address belongs to.   For example, the IP address would be divided as follows:  The first two numbers (192.168) establish this as a Class C network, and the second two numbers (0.10) identify a particular host on the network.  For further discussion, see Public vs. Private.

SUITE:  A term used to describe a group of programs which work together.  The Microsoft Office suite, for example, includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database and other programs (depending on the version) each of which can incorporate data and graphics created by the others.

SUN MICROSYSTEMS:  A California company that builds computer Sun logohardware and software, founded in 1982 by Scott McNeally and other Stanford classmates.  Sun is known best for its UNIX based operating system, SPARC workstations, Solaris operating environment and the development of the Java programming language.  But when the tech bubble burst and Java was available for free, the struggling company was purchased at fire sale prices by Oracle in 2009.  The Sun logo, which features four interleaved copies of the word “sun” is an ambigram, designed by professor Vaughan Pratt of Stanford University.  That is, it may be read as one or more words from various viewpoints.  It was originally designed by him in square form, but was subsequently redesigned to stand on one corner.

SUNRISE:  A term used by the domain name industry to describe the initial period of registration of new domains.

SUPERCOMPUTER:  A generic and dynamic term used to describe a computer which has extremely high processing speeds (measured in FLOPS) so that it can be used to solve scientific calculations, modeling applications and military simulations.  For the fastest computer at the moment, click HERE. See also, exascale.

SUPERFETCH:  A technology first introduced in Windows Vista, that allows Windows to efficiently manage systemn memory and preload frequently accessed data and apps for faster performance  by writing to cache on the hard drive for quicker access.

SUPERNODE:  A user’s computer in a peer-to-peer network that acts as a “relay,” depending on network traffic and hardware, usually automatically. Skype uses supernodes.

SUPER WiFI: A nickname given to the higher capacity Iomega Zip and Flash Drives.  Click HERE for more.

SUPERFLOPPY: Microsoft’s version of a tablet computer, complete with Windows 8, announced on 6/18/12.

SURFACE: Microsoft’s version of a tablet computer, complete with Windows 8, announced on 6/18/12.

SURFACE HUB: A device introduced by Microsoft on July 1,  2015 as an all-in-one solution for collaborative meeting space. Aside from the usual teleconferencing, it includes Skype for Business, MS Office, OneNote and Universal Windows apps.

SURFACE WEB: The commercial web (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo) that comprises just the 5% “surface” of the entire web.  The Deep Web encompasses the remaining 95% of the web.

SURFING: As in “web surfing” or “surfing the Internet”.  Slang for “searching” for information on the Internet using software known as a browser.  See also WWW.

SURFRAW: Stands for “Shell Users’ Revolutionary Front Rage Against the Web”.  A Unix/Linux command line tool that automates search queries to many types of websites, including common search engines, mailing list archives, eBay, Wikileaks and lost of portals and repositories.  It accomplishes this through a custom written snippet of shell code called an Elvi.  Click HERE for more.

SURGE SUPPRESSOR: Sometimes also called a surge protector.  A device that looks much like a power strip (which is basically only an in-line extension cord, which provides absolutely no protection) that is designed to offer protection against voltage fluctuations on the AC power line that supplies electricity to the sensitive components in electronic devices such as computers, televisions and the like.  While power fluctuations are often caused by lightning (especially here in Florida), they can also be caused by brownouts (everyone in your neighborhood turns on the A/C at once), a car hitting a power pole, flooding in an electrical main, construction mishaps or a hundred other ways.

Typically, the surge suppressor acts to limit the peak voltage available to the electronic device(s) connected to it, so that if the line voltage exceeds a threshold of say + or - 100 volts, it will be detected by MOVs (metal oxide varistors) and the power line will effectively be short-circuited to ground, while the flow of normal 60Hz current will remain unaffected.  If the voltage fluctuation is severe or prolonged, the MOVs will activate a trip-wire circuits and sacrifice themselves by burning out, then the suppressor may have to be replaced.  Suppressors are rated by joules (a unit of measurement the equivalent of one watt of power radiated or dissipated for one second), clamping voltage (the power threshold at which the suppression will be triggered) and clamp-time (the response time to respond to the voltage exceeding the clamping level, in milliseconds).  The best clamping voltage is 330v (no higher) and (at least) 1000 joules. Response time should be less than 1 nanosecond.  And, even if you never get power fluctuations so extreme as to trip the suppressor, the suppressor will also act to limit the occurrence of “electronic rust” which is the gradual degradation of electronic components due to repeated exposure to small transient surges.  See also, UPSAlso, the discussion in TIPS about printers and surge protection, FAQs about surge suppressors and lightning facts.

And remember that, along with surge protection, grounding is an equally important part of a power protection plan.  Inadequate grounding and power protection can slowly deteriorate the performance of hard drives and other equipment.


SUSE:  A Linux distribution, of German origin and mainly used in Europe, built on top of a Linux open source kernel and distributed with other application software from other origins.

S-VIDEO: This is a video color format that combines the three (YU&V) video signals into two channels.  Brightness/luma (Y) is one channel and color/chroma (U & V) are the other.  Provides a sharper image than composite video, but not as good as component video.  Has a special cable available on many computers and televisions. Now largely superseded by HDMI.  Click HERE for more.

SVN logoSVN:  Stands for Apache Subversion.  A software versioning and revision control system like Git.

SWAP FILE:  See Page File.

SWATTING:  A dangerous type of hacker pranking where a gamer tricks law enforcement via 911 call into deploying the police or SWAT to the location of another unsuspecting gamer, then watches the event unfold over the gaming internet connection, crushing (“swatting”) their competition like a bug. But beware - It’s punishable - In July, 2016, Federal authorities in New York identified a man as part of a computer hacker group that called armed police to the homes of 20 celebrities and other prominent people in 2013 (including CNN TV host Wolf Blitzer, NRA leader Wayne LaPierre, a federal cybercrime prosecutor in Massachusetts and members of Congress.  And in an unsealed case in Washington, Mir Islam, 22, (a member of the online hacking group Underground Nazi) was sentenced to 24 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy that repeatedly posted the address and social security number of NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg and directed web attacks in 2012 against the Nasdaq stock exchange, the CIA and the states of California, Washington and D.C.  He also posted stolen financial information about at least 50 people including Hollywood celebrities and a cheerleader with who he had become obsessed on line and also placed false 911 calls about armed shooters at individuals’ homes to draw police SWAT teams to their doors as well as bomb threat at the White House on April 23, 2015. He was followed and caught in an FBI undercover operation and arrested the day after he became eighteen.  Of course, he’s not the only one, but the FBI often seals the records of this type of individuals.  See also, frape.

Aaron_Swartz_pHOTOSWARTZ, AARON:  (11/8/1986 - 1/11/13 [by suicide at age 26])  An American computer programmer and true digital prodigy, he co-wrote the initial specification for RSS (at age 14) and (at 19, after only one year at Stanford) started Infogami, which in 2005 merged with and advanced the online news site Reddit. Also as a teen, he was one of the founding architects of Creative Commons, a nonprofit devoted to letting creators make their works available for collaboration and improvement, then sharing with others.  And, with Simon Carstensen, he launched site Jottit (a quick and easy website creator) in 2007. But his primary notariety was as an internet hacktivist about privacy issues and political organizer.   He was the founder of both and Demand Progress which launched the campaign against Internet censorship bills SOPA/PIPA (see LAWS), as well as a co-designer (with Virgil Griffith) of the Tor2web anonymous browser, and DeadDrop (with Kevin Poulsen), a system that allows anonymous informants to send electronic documents.  He also wrote a landmark analysis of “Who Writes Wikipedia” at the site  Unfortunately, his hactivism as well as his abrasive personality caused his arrest on January 6, 2011 for breaking and entering and allegedly downloading more than 4 million documents from the MIT campus library (JStor), for which he was facing felony prosecution under the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (see Laws).  While most of the documents were unimportant and the campus library urged the prosecutor to drop the charges, the prosecutors pressed forward and it is believed that the pressure, in addition to physical problems, were what caused Swartz to hang himself at age 26 in his Brooklyn, NY apartment.  A movie directed by Brian Knappenberger,  “The Internet’s Own Boy,” was made about Swartz’s life, and was released in June, 2014, as was a book, The Idealist, (Justin Peters, 2015).  Swartz’s mantra that “information wants to be free” isn’t really directed at copyright infringement policed by the Motion Picture Assn. of America for movie piracy, but rather against academic research and public records, much funded by the Government through taxes and written by academics who had no expectation of living off royalties.  Some members of Congress evidently agree, because since his death a bill named “Aaron’s Law” has been (unsucessfully) introduced twice, a bill that would offset some of the most far-reaching parts of the CFAA.  It didn’t, however, make it to a vote either time.

SWIFT:  A programming language released by Apple along with iOS8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite in June, 2014.  It is intended to become the foundation for applications for both iOS and OS X, and appears to have received almost instant popularity, due to its ease of use and completeness.  It will be fully available to Windows developers starting with at least Version 3.0, although an unofficialport is available meanwhile.

SWITCHES:  (1) HARDWARE switches: See - HUBS, SWITCHES & ROUTERS.  (2) SOFTWARE switches:  This refers to one or more “choices” or advanced options that can be specified to a program to determine how it will be run.  Typically a command line, followed by “/” then another command or letter (e.g. the command line DIR/p means to display the current directory page by page). Or click chkdsk.exe /? for a list of check disk switches.

SWYPE:  Telephone software from the creators of the older T-9 technology that allows users to simply glide a finger across a virtual keyboard to spell words or numbers, rather than tapping every word or number.  For a demo, see THIS, and THIS.  Other companies, such as Google and Nuance are also experimenting with other entry and/or speech recognition technology for today’s new smartphones with apps SlideIT, Swiftkey & Flesky.  See predictive typing, Gboard.

SXSW:  Not actually a technology term, but you’ve probably seen these letters dropped into stories and tweets every Spring and might have wondered what it meant. It means “south by southwest” and refers to three festivals (music, film and interactive) held in Austin, Texas every year, starting in 1987.  It’s importance to technology is highlighted in social networking, because in 2008 Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame gave the keynote interview, and also it was at the 2007 festival that Twitter gained significant ground with the #SXSW hashtag.

SYMBIAN:  The software operating system used on Nokia cell phones through early 2011, when Nokia abandoned the system in favor of Windows Phone.  See Cell Phones for more.

SYBASE:  At one time, one of the most popular database systems (Oracle is first, IBM second, Microsoft third).  Sybase had once made a major leap forward to the second position after developing the Unix-based SQL Server, but when Microsoft produced a Windows-based SQL Server, the Sybase market shrunk to less than 5% of the market. 

SYMBOL:  A character or graphic that stands for something else.  The reference can be a program (like an icon symbol for Word Perfect on a desktop, or an envelope representing e-mail) or shorthand for an action (like a macro) or even a glyph (a symbol for “the man formerly known as Prince,” or the interrobang punctuation mark).  See Punctuation Marks.

SYMBOLIC LINK:  Also, “symlink” or “soft link”.  A special type of file that points to another file or folder.  When you perform an action on a symbolic link, that action is actually performed on the file or folder to which the symbolic link points.  Files which have a “.sylk” suffix refer to a Microsoft file format typically used to exchange data between applications, usually spreadsheets.  But symbolic links can also be used for web sites and other files and folders.

SYMBOLOGIES:  See Bar Codes; different standards for bar codes.

SYNCHING:  Coordinating data and apps across various connected devices, often across the Internet and the cloud, so that all data is conformed and the same on every connected device.

SYNCTHING:  An app that a user to sync devices to a desktop computer rather than cloud servers.  This is excellent for those who don’t trust the cloud and want control over their own data.  Click HERE for more info.

SYNCHRONOUS:  Synchronized, as where coordinated events act in unison, for example GPS-enabled time keeping systems or some types of motors.  The opposite is asynchronous, where events don’t have to occur at the same time, as with e-mail communications.  See also isonchronous, where events occur at regular intervals.

SYNTAX:  The spelling and grammar of a particular programming language.  The form of the input to the computer, without which it will not act.

SYSOP:  Short for “SYStem OPerator”.  That person responsible for the physical operation of a computer system, usually in an enterprise.

SYSTEM:  Generally, any group of related parts that work together to make a functional whole.  This would include such things as a “computer system,”  which would include the CPU, keyboard, screen, mouse and printer into a hardware system which would function to allow “computing”.  Or a “network system” which would include all of the computers and other devices comprising a functional computer network.

SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE:  This term defies strict definition, but applies to the overall design of a computer and its components and circuit boards.  For example, your computer may have a serial port on the back of the CPU, and you may be able to set the IRQ for that port.  But, depending on what motherboard you have inside the CPU, or the other components active in your system, the command to use the serial port may travel differently over the circuit board and system components, and may take a shorter or longer time to achieve its result.

SYSTEM CALL:  A “request” (not to be confused with a “command”) made by a program to a computer’s operating system, requesting services or processes from the kernel.  A system call invokes an operating system interrupt  for performing various low level operations, like creating directories.   The are classified into six categories:  Process management, interprocess communication, memory management, file system, initialization and other.  See kernel for more.



SYSTEM RESTORE:  This is a (quite misunderstood) feature in many Windows operating systems that allows you to restore the system to the way it was on previous dates, called “restore points”.  It can usually be found in the Windows Control Panel>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>System Restore or My Computer>Properties>System Restore tab.  For more discussion about what System Restore is and how it works (and what it doesn’t do), see Tips and Tricks.





























© Computer Coach.  All written materials are the sole property of Computer Coach (unless otherwise attributed) and no part of this website may be used in any format without the express written permission of Computer Coach.