Ethan Feerst and Dylan Stewart (Technology Therapist, Mac Guru) gives expert video advice on: What is a "search engine"?; What is the difference between "upload" and "download"?; What is "spam"? and more...
What is a "website"?
A website is a publication that exists in electronic space. It's hosted on a server, and a server is just a fancy name for a computer that is probably faster, more powerful and capable of doing more things at the same time than just what we would normally call a computer. The server hosts this web document or website, and that web document can be accessed and read by one or many computers at the same time. A website is a document that's published initially in something called HTML---Hyper Text Market Language, one of the early inventions of the internet. This allows publication of the information to be standardized on the server and still be read by many different computers that may not at all be the same. But even so, they can read that same information the same way.
What is an "HTML document"?
HTML, hypertext markup language. It's what allows a web page to be so dynamic. It what allows the publisher, the creator of that web document, to create different links That's the great thing about surfing information through the internet, is that it's a very three-dimensional experience. You can start on one page and find a particular thread that you like and hop over someplace else. That hypertext, that hyper-threading, is what allows different documents and different ideas to be linked together. That's what allows the creator of a web page to allow somebody who may start on one page to grab one subject and hop someplace else. It's also what is commonly known as being responsible for attention deficit disorder.
What is an "Internet server"?
An Internet server or a host is what will actually hold the main repository, the library, that has the content that's going to be available to you or people that are surfing the Internet looking for particular content. Somebody's home computer, your home computer can act as a server in a small way, or a server can be a building with racks and racks of servers and computers that are connected, that are handling millions and millions of requests at the same time.
What is a "search engine"?
A search engine is the librarian of the internet. Search engines grew out of a combination of small programming technologies that allowed little spiders and bots and crawlers to go out on the internet and do searching and indexing for various kinds of information. Of course this has now been perfected by our boys at Google and Yahoo! and different companies that have now brought these services into an easy portal for us to make use of. But behind the scenes of these search engines, there's crawlers and bots and spiders and all kinds of little cybernetic animals that are constantly combing through the internet and looking at keywords on different sites and indexing different references and cross-referencing things and figuring out how many sites are pointing to Joe and how many sites is Joe pointing to and they're rating these things and indexing them constantly.
What is a "cyberbot" or "spider"?
Spiders crawl around: they crawl around the Internet, and they have many tendrils and many legs. They go out, they touch and index and take a look at different kinds of information, and feed them back into a central place, and essentially pull them back into the World Wide Web so that they're easily indexed and accessible by you, by somebody searching for them.
What is a "login"?
The concept of a login has always been primary to computers, which have always been coming from a security-conscious place. Information that's on computers was originally the domain of the Department of Defense or academic institutions, highly technical and highly proprietary in nature, so no kind of computer access was ever allowed without some level of security; at the very least, some kind of user name and password or login name and password. And fundamentally, because if you're going to receive email, you need a way to identify yourself to the computer so that you're allowed to pick it up, you do need to create some kind of login name and password that you're going to use to identify yourself so that you can pick up your e-mail.
What is an "URL"?
Well, Google's probably going to ask you for a search term. But what's gotten confusing for people recently, is I think that they're used to only looking for websites by putting in the search term; and in fact, the search term is going to bring them to this URL, which is really the address of the website. Yahoo.com would be considered a URL. MySpace.com would be considered a URL. CNN.com would be considered a URL. They're not search terms, these are the actual addresses for these locations in cyberspace.
What is "http"?
Http stands for hypertext transfer protocol and these days it is likely you'll really need to actually put in that http. There are certain aspects of cruise around the Internet, as there are carry overs from the early intense programming in engineering days when all those stuff was developed. There are also certain common standards that were used, and can still be used, to identify different locations on the Internet. It all goes back to engineering and programming, and these things have a syntax and grammar of their own.
What is a "domain name"?
If somebody's asking you for your domain name, they may be asking you for your company's domain name, they may be asking you for a website domain name. This is just another way of referring to a website name. It's the www.mycompanyhere.com, that mycompanyhere.com, .tv, .biz, .net. Whatever that name is, that's your domain, that's your domain name.
What is a "browser"?
A browser is like a television set, and this is really important for people to understand, because nothing is on Explorer, nothing is on Firefox, or Safari. It's no different than having a Sony or a Magnavox or a JVC. It's all just the frame. The browser is just the frame. The browser is what contains the journey, the browser is what allows you to point to different locations on the internet, and the browser will then actually pull up content from different locations. But you can pull up a Yahoo.com or CNN.com on Internet Explorer 6, on Explorer 7, on Netscape 8, on Firefox, on Safari, on Opera.
What is a "blog"?
The term blog comes out of two words. It comes as web log. A log as we know it is kind of journal or a diary that people add new statements to; add new comments to as they go along. A blog is a journal or diary on the Internet, so there are many sites that hosts blogs, and most websites have them - most professional websites have blogs. These allow the runner of website or an individual to on a daily, weekly, monthly basis add new information to what they're doing. It could be a personal as this is the trip I took to Tahiti or as technical as here is the new information that I have come across this week.
What is a "cache"?
The cache was a lot more necessary during the original days of dial-up on the internet. The reason for this is because websites contain massive amounts of information, and a lot of that information stays the same from one day to the next. So if you were to go on one website today and the same website tomorrow, most of the information would stay the same, some of the text would change. So caches were created as a way of storing that data that doesn't change, because dial-up was a slow form of communication. In today's days of high speed internet, it's much less necessary to cache your websites as you browse. In fact, with a high speed connection, caching your website can actually slow you down. Because if your computer has to look in your cache and find out what's new, what's changed, what's different, it takes much more time than just pulling the new information down.
What is "Dpi"?
DPI stands for dots per inch. Anybody who's been involved in printing and graphic design may be familiar with this term completely outside the idea of computers, but it has to do with how detailed the resolution is of the image that you're looking at. This is actually one of the most confusing things for people to get a grasp of when they're dealing with basic, basic digital photography. If you're posting images online; if you're just sending an email with a photograph and somebody is just going to look at it onscreen, then 72 DPI is typically what you'd use, if this image is going to be displayed on a webpage or just sent to look at onscreen. That image is going to look great onscreen, but if you try to print it out it may not look very good. Then, you're going to want to kick it up to something like 300 DPI, which becomes more appropriate for printing a basic image. If you're going to do big, big, high resolution blow-ups of something, or real photographic quality prints then you can go up to 600 DPI or 2400 DPI. You can really go even higher and higher in terms of that detail and resolution. The more DPI you have, the more resources and more memory that takes to contain the image, but the more quality you're going to get out of it. The higher the DPI and the bigger the image, the longer it's going to take to transmit, the longer it's going to take to print, the longer it's going to take to work with, and the better it's going to be.
What is "Telnet"?
When you were at a university doing research and needing to hop around to different university computers, telnet is a way that you could actually transport yourself from one university's library computer to another. You could actually sort of move around the internet that way. Telnet really existed and was used before browsers came into widespread existence as a way to move between different computers and resources. Nowadays if you are really still wanting to know what telnet is, you should probably become a network engineer and get your Cisco certification.
What is "LAN"?
LAN stands for Local Area Network. That would be a simple home network, at your office or at you house, where all the different computers on the network are sharing their internet connection and are connected through the same switch, the same router and the same networking device. They're all on the same local segment, they're all part of the same and they're all coming off the same branch of the tree so to speak.
What is "WAN"?
WAN stands for "wide area network." This would be computers that are on different local segments and that are only interconnected because they are on the World Wide Web. They're on the Internet, and their only connection to each other is through that wide area network. They are not on the same branch; they are not on the same local segment.
What is "PAN"?
PAN is a personal area network. As computers become more ubiquitous, as more people have them, they become smaller, and computers end up being in small things, such as your cellphone and on laptops. PAN, a personal area network, means a connection that you personally have with the technology that is around you. The way your cellphone communicates with your laptop, the way your Bluetooth headset communicates with your cellphone and your laptop, the way you communicate with your car's Bluetooth system. Bluetooth is currently the most notable Personal Area Network, but Infra-Red is also a notable Personal Area Network, and some low level Radio Frequency and wireless can also be considered that, especially if you're using it to communicate with some other device or technology that is around your basic body.
What is "Bluetooth"?
Bluetooth is one of the more recent developments of technology. It's been around for a couple of years, but it's really picking up popularity right at the moment. The most common Bluetooth is a headset that is used to connect with a cell phone. This allows you to have the good sound in and out through your cell phone without holding the phone to your ear and making it uncomfortable. It's hands free. You also don't have the problem of a cord.Bluetooth technology can send sound as well as data very, very easily between a cell phone and one of these Bluetooth devices. Another term of Bluetooth is for PDAs-- personal data systems like Palm Pilot, a Blackberry, or a Trio. These devices can sometimes-- if they are enabled with Bluetooth-- communicate with your computer to synchronize data, information, addresses, calendars, phone numbers, etc. without needing the bulky cord to be connected to your computer and your phone.
What is "Wi-Fi"?
Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi like Hi-Fi, it's all changing now. Wi-Fi is what wireless Internet is all about. It's a short-range wireless broadcast that allows you to turn your DSL or cable Internet connection into something wireless that can be transmitted over a short distance through your home or office. Wi-Fi has been standardized over the past several years and it's kind of like FM radio. Wi-Fi is Wi-Fi is Wi-Fi, there's no difference between Wi-Fi and a Mac or Wi-Fi and a PC. Different brands of wireless manufacturers all put out the same kind of Wi-Fi. You've probably heard terms like 802 11B or 802 11G; these have all become mostly standardized and it's now relatively easy and inexpensive to take your home DSL or cable Internet connection and turn it into a short-range wireless broadcast for your home or office, that can allow you to go wireless and go without strings like Pinnochio, and walk around with your computer and get the Internet.
What is a "cellular router" or "3G" device?
A cellular router or 3G device is the same technology that allows you to talk on the cell phone, where your wireless carrier is basically converting your voice into data. What these 3G devices now allow you to do is plug in with a card that has a phone number assigned to it, but the card's only function is to transmit and receive data. It does no talking, it simply sends and receives data through the use of this 3G technology.
What is "FTP"?
FTP stands for file transfer protocol. It's one of many standardized protocols that allows the internet to function. It's what allows transmissions, sending and receiving of data, sound, images on the internet to function. It's one of the protocols thats existed on the internet for a long time that allows packets of information to be moved around. Either transferred out of my computer, up there, or taken from up there down to my computer.
What is a "modem"?
Modem stands for "modulator demodulator." Now, it's going to sound really silly when I describe what it does. But in the early days of the Internet, in order to create some method that computers in different locations could talk to each other, there was no infrastructure laid out, there was no broadband network that existed, and so computers had to call each other on the telephone. A modem, a modulator demodulator, would sit there and convert sounds to zeroes and ones, and zeroes and ones back into sounds. Thus all those whistles and bells and clicks that you hear whenever you dial a fax machine, or whenever a fax machine dials incorrectly and you pick up, what you're hearing is this old style modem technology where data is converted into sound and then back again from sound into data. Very inefficient, but it was the only option available for a long, long time, and still has applications here and there.
What is "Java"?
Java's one of many programming languages on the Web. It's very powerful. It does deliver certain kinds of applications and functions on many, many web pages that you probably experienced and don't even realize that they're using Java technology behind the scenes. On the most extreme end of the spectrum, Java was actually used to program the most recent Mars rovers. So, it's a very powerful, elegant language that can create a lot of different kinds of interactive possibilities for the user as they're browsing the web.
What is "Active X"?
Active X is one of the many newer web technologies that allows your experience of browsing the web to move away from being a static experience, into something more animated. Active X was developed by Microsoft as opposed to java for example which was developed by Sun Microsystems. Its one of the technologies behind the scenes of the internet that allows for the easy deployment of animated and more active kinds of web content.
What does "scripting" mean in reference to computing?
Whenever you job a script, whenever you see the word script, you need to kind of translate that to me in a kind of secure or very geek-like coding in language. That's sort of what that scripting refers to. So there can be things like java scripting, there can be CGI scripting, there can be flash scripting, all different kind of scripting. The scripts are different kind of programming languages or coding that is used. And your web browser speaks all these different languages, whatever you use, Internet Explorer, Firefox, whatever it is it speaks all these little different kind of languages that are used in combination with each other to drive and deliver the content that you get to surf around and experience the web.
What is "CGI"?
CGI stands for “Common Gateway Interface”. It's one of the many ways in which interactivity between the user and the web page can be programmed and experienced. It's one of the ways that you when you interact with a web page can be prompted to enter certain information, and consequently drive and actually alter that web page by entering information through this common gateway interface. CGI scripting is used for something as mundane as entering your address on a web page.
What is the difference between "upload" and "download"?
Down, down, downloading, uploading What am I doing? How does this happen?Directions in terms of your interaction with the Internet, ver,y very simple. Anything that comes to you on your computer: your Aunt Millie sends you some photographs of her niece, your niece and her daughter, whatever the case may be. And you want get that picture on your computer, then your downloading it. Your taking if from up there on the World Wide Web and your bringing it down to you. If you're creating a webpage or perhaps posting a picture on the internet on one of many many sites that you can find allow you to host your pictures so Aunt Millie and her friends can see them, then you would be uploading that picture, taking it from your computer and sending it up there, the World Wide Web. If it's going from you to a host or service on the internet then it's going up. It's being uploaded from you and away. If it's coming from there and to you then it's being downloaded. At the simplest level downloading can be when you've encountered a link that says 'click here to download this' and if that link is working properly you should be prompted as to where you want to save that object. And as your saving that object it is literally streaming and coming down to your computer from the internet. Downloading can also be something that you do when someone sends you an attachment on your e-mail. And if you have a hosted kind of e-mail such as you might Yahoo or Google then you will have to download that attachment from up there, on the World Wide Web to you.
What is a "POP server"?
POP stands for post office protocol. It's one of many standardized communications protocols that allows for capturing and interacting with e-mail on the web. Specifically what a pop enabled mail server allows you to do is use your local mail client like an outlook and outlook express Mac mail program to actually fetch that mail for you from your web post, from your server bring it down to your computer locally. It's very effective way of fetching mail downloading mail quickly and allows you to organize it easily and really track all your communications.
What is "file compression"?
File compression is the compression of computer files such as a text file, a picture, or even music. Compression is mainly used over the internet for sending or receiving information, sometimes in a smaller or a bundle file.
What is "dial-up"?
Some people I suppose still use dial-up technology someplace, and if you are using dial-up technology you're probably not watching me now. It is still possible to communicate with computers via dial-up, and if you have enough patience and persistance, you'd be amazed at the kinds of performance you can get out of dial-up technology. There used to be no broadband networks. One day not so long ago there were no broadband networks, there was no DSL, there was no cable internet. Broadband was somehting reserved for big, big coprorations and government and very high-priced engineering firms. The only communications structure that existed in this country was the telephone network. Dial-up would use something called a modem, a modulated demodulator to convert information into sound and sound back into information. All those whistles and bells and clicks that you've heard whenever you dial a fax machine or a fax machines dials you, taking advantage of that modem technology, that modulator demodulator, to somehow push and compress and turn all that digital information into something that can actually be transmitted across a phone line. It's not very fast, but it still does work and still does sometimes have applications.
What is a "link"?
A link can be as simple as your Aunt Millie found a great web page, and she wants you to see it. And if Aunt Millie knows enough of her computer basics, she doesn't even need to tell you anything, she can just email you a link to that website. You'll just be able to click on it and in a matter of moments see exactly what Aunt Millie is looking at based on that link that she sending you. Sometimes you may want to send somebody something that is very, very big, that takes up too many megabytes and is just too chunky to really be pushed through an email. So nowadays it's actually very easy to take that big object, maybe a huge photo, a set of architectural plans or a whole proposal that has many different components to it and it's possible to upload that information and park it on a server, maybe something that's hosted for you. Therefore, rather than trying to send somebody on the other side of the world this big chunky piece of information, you can actually just send them a little piece of code that they can click on, that will point right to that server and allow them to access that information directly from where it's been parked.
What is an "IP address"?
Well actually, all these different locations on the world wide web can actually all be reduced to numbers. This number is expressed in something called the internet protocol. It's usually a series of four numbers separated by a dot. The URL, the Universe Resource Locator, is translated out there, somewhere in the mysterious world wide web. If you dial up Yahoo.com, there is a resource out there on the internet that converts that request into that series of digits, into that numerical address that is the translation of Yahoo.com.
What is a "CD-ROM"?
A CD-ROM was a very elegant and revolutionary way of storing all kinds of digital information. Most commonly, of course music. But the fact that music can be stored on a CD-ROM is simply an outgrowth of the fact that a CD-ROM can hold about 7 megabytes of data, and can be used to store documents and digital information, really, of any kind. And now the technology is easily and freely available, and if you're watching me now, you're probably on a computer that has the capability for both reading and burning CD-ROMs.
What is an "icon"?
An icon is part of the experience of interacting with this graphical user interface that we're all used to now in this point and click world of operating a computer. Just like a three-year old, we get to point and say, "I want to do that," and we just get to point and click on that symbol. If we know what that symbol means then that symbol is the key to our understanding of what the computer's going to do for us if we click on that symbol. Sometimes that icon can just be a shortcut; it can just be a pointer, and that little symbol in itself doesn't really do anything except point to someplace else on the computer that does do something.
What is a "plug-in"?
Plug-ins are good. Do not be afraid of plug-ins, people. Plug-ins are your friends. Lots of different companies out there and lots of different people have participated in building this thing that we call the world wide web that is constantly under development. And so, this web browser that you use, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, Opera, Safari, whatever it is, is something that gets souped up and changed on the way, like a hot rod. And so, I would encourage you to go ahead and get that flash plug-in which lets you run certain kinds of animation. Allow that ActiveX control to happen. Download the latest Java update so that your computer can run Java applications more effectively. All these different plug-ins are part of the machinery that just makes your browsing experience more robust. They're okay. Plug-ins are good.
What is "spam"?
For whatever reason, I don't know why, but we like it. For whatever reason spam became the generally accepted term for computer junk mail. We don't call it junk mail, we call it spam. Any kind of electronic junk mail is called spam because they're sending this junk out in mass quantities. Spam is both a noun and a verb. It can be something that a company or somebody with a very agressive email server does to thousands and thousands or millions and millions of people. They can start to spam people or send out lots of spam. It can be a noun or a verb.
What is "Hypertext"?
Hypertext was really the fundamental start of web pages and web languages. Hypertext is this kind of texting, this scripting that allows documents and different parts of different documents to be linked to each other. Hypertext is what allows your experience of browsing the web to be three dimensional, because our thoughts when they proceed in an organic way, are not necessarily linear. We do not necessarily move from page one to page two, sometimes we want to jump into the middle of the book. And as you begin to research and as you begin to surf through different content on the internet, you'll find that it can be a three dimensional experience as you jump from one blue linked item, from one piece of hypertext, to another, you can jump from subject to subject to subject and you can start out by researching The Beatles and end up researching African dung beetles.