E-tales: Absoluteconfusion.com

If you have occasionally wondered what the latest buzzword really means, you are most definitely not alone. Whatis.com has compiled a list of the 10 most misunderstood terms in IT - as reported by those who actually work in the industry.

If you have occasionally wondered what the latest buzzword really means, you are most definitely not alone. Whatis.com has compiled a list of the 10 most misunderstood terms in IT — as reported by those who actually work in the industry.

An acronym is not any abbreviation, just one that forms a “sayable” word. Apart from that confusion, acronyms and other abbreviations cause confusion any time a reader is likely not to know what the spelled-out version is, notes Whatis.

  • ASP — Microsoft’s active server page web technology or application service provider are both frequently-used abbreviations in many development shops.
  • Does ATM mean automatic teller machine or asynchronous transfer mode? IT people who work at banks sometimes use both kinds of ATM.
  • Does bandwidth mean “capacity or speed in general”? Or does it have a more technical meaning of how wide a broadcast band or other data channel is? Is it OK if it means both? (Whatis also notes that channel has at least six meanings.)
  • JavaScript is not the same as Java, though some people tend to think it is.
  • Is a kilobit 1000 bits or 1024 bits? A standards group has invented a new prefix, kibi, to represent something that is a unit of (decimal) 1024 or (binary) two to the 10th power.
  • .NET is Microsoft’s term for using XML to define and share data across the internet so that many application services can now be performed remotely. But whatis notes that the set of tools related to this idea keeps evolving and Microsoft keeps redefining the details.
  • Is a platform hardware (processor and instruction set) or the operating system, or both? Or is it just “whatever products are needed to run something on”? Whatis notes that the semantic fuzziness comes in handy for writers if not for readers.
  • Is a server a program or a computer dedicated to a certain purpose? Often it means both at the same time, but sometimes it can be important to know, especially if you’ve just been asked to install it.
  • The term Windows is a frequent source of misunderstanding since different versions of Windows (95, 98, 2000, XP, etc) offer different behaviours and problems.
Other sources of confusion can be found here.

Post it note

When The Dominion Post launches in Wellington this week, it won’t be the only newspaper in the world with that title. Morgantown, West Virginia got a Dominion Post (this dominion was once part of the British empire, named after the “virgin” queen Elizabeth I). The thoroughly parochial Morgantown Dominion Post — “Nobody delivers like we do” — is at www.dominionpost.com, of course. The dominionpost.co.nz URL is registered to Sovereignty Postal Company in Waikanae.

Cheap Macs

Apple Australia has reportedly let go a longtime spokeswoman for releasing research that found Macs could be up to 36% cheaper to own and run than competing PCs. A ZDNet report said Gartner, which conducted the study at Melbourne University Faculty of Arts, refused to confirm that the figures in the press release were an accurate representation of the details of the report. Apple’s four-year staffer Myrna Van Pelt was fired, says UK online IT rag The Register, after the study found Apple computers cost less to run and support than Windows-based machines. The story naturally generated good press everywhere, except perhaps in the cities of Redmond (Microsoft) and Stamford (Gartner) and perhaps even in Cupertino (Apple).

Mail fraud

The ever-vigilant mail scanners out in corporate New Zealand detected some unacceptable language in a recent IDG online newsletter. One warning came back thus: “Expression: (my OR your OR nice OR big OR the OR her OR his OR fat OR tight OR sweet OR great) FOLLOWEDBY2 arse Triggered 1 times weighting 60”. A resident wit suggested next time making sure the newsletter didn’t use my, your, nice, big, the, her, his, fat, tight, sweet or great in front of arse and it should be sweet ...

No free launch

Along the lines of Telecom warning JetStream Starter users that they couldn’t operate a proxy server, Time Warner Cable sent a dozen letters out to New York City cable-modem subscribers advising them politely that operating wireless networks and inviting others to share them violated their subscription agreements, says the New York Times. The letters cited a clause in the subscription agreement prohibiting redistribution of the company’s internet connection service. The company had no problem with users who share a wireless network within their own home, but didn’t like subscribers providing internet access at no charge to others outside. It was particularly unhappy with people boosting the signal to share with others, which is apparently the aim of so-called free wireless network groups that have emerged in many large American cities (kissing cousins of last week’s WarChalkers). These groups, including NYCWireless, encourage users to share wireless networks, largely Wi-Fi ones, which can send an internet connection as far away as 100m.

Us neither

A run-of-the-mill quote from an interview with a marketer: “Part of our strategy moving forward is to adopt a holistic approach to the way we do business across the group, so that we can achieve functional and operational synergies.”

Humble wizard

We do wonder how long Microsoft and other software makers will continue to call their easy set-up and common-task routines “wizards”, now that Harry Potter and the more rollicking humour of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld fantasy books have dealt a mortal blow to the reputations of those magical practitioners. JK Rowling’s, and especially Pratchett’s, wizards are often presented as bumblers prone to frequent magical accidents and failures. When their magic works, it seems more by chance than intention.

Victorian anthropologist Sir James Frazer summed it up long ago in his classic study of primitive magic, The Golden Bough. The wizard for whom the tribe has most respect, he said, is not the one whose magic works but the one who can think of the best excuses for the occasions when it doesn’t work. Remind you of anyone? Politicians, economists or, dare we say, presenters at IT launches?

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