Service Notices

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Service Notices

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Stands for "Peer to Peer." In a P2P network, the "peers" are computer systems which are connected to each other via the Internet. Files can be shared directly between systems on the network without the need of a central server. In other words, each computer on a P2P network becomes a file server as well as a client.

The only requirements for a computer to join a peer-to-peer network are an Internet connection and P2P software. Common P2P software programs include Kazaa, Limewire, BearShare, Morpheus, and Acquisition. These programs connect to a P2P network, such as "Gnutella," which allows the computer to access thousands of other systems on the network.

Once connected to the network, P2P software allows you to search for files on other people's computers. Meanwhile, other users on the network can search for files on your computer, but typically only within a single folder that you have designated to share. While P2P networking makes file sharing easy and convenient, is also has led to a lot of software piracy and illegal music downloads. Therefore, it is best to be on the safe side and only download software and music from legitimate websites.


This is a small amount of computer data sent over a network. Any time you receive data from the Internet, it comes to your computer in the form of many little packets. Each packet contains the address of its origin and destination, and information that connects it to the related packets being sent. The process of sending and receiving packets is known as "packet-switching." Packets from many different locations can be sent on the same lines and be sorted and directed to different routes by various computers along the way. It works a lot like the post office, except billions of packets are transferred each day, and most packets take less than a few seconds to reach their destination. Even FedEx same-day delivery can't compete with that.

Page View

Each time a user visits a Web page, it is called a page view. Page views, also written "pageviews," are tracked by website monitoring applications to record a website's traffic. The more page views a website has, the more traffic it is receiving. However, since a page view is recorded each time a Web page is loaded, a single user can rack up many page views on one website. Therefore, unique page views are commonly tracked to log the number of different visitors a website receives in a given time period.

Page views are commonly confused with website hits. While people often use the term "hit" to describe a page view, technically a hit is recorded for each object that loads during a page view. For example, if a Web page contains HTML, two images, and a JavaScript reference, a single page view will record four hits. If a page contains over two hundred images, one page view will record over two hundred hits.

Page views are more similar to impressions, which are commonly tracked by online advertisers. Page views and impressions may be identical if one advertisement is placed on each page. However, if multiple ads are positioned on each page, the number of ad impressions will be greater than the number of page views.

Parallel Port

This interface is found on the back of older PCs and is used for connecting external devices such as printers or a scanners. It uses a 25-pin connector (DB-25) and is rather large compared to most new interfaces. The parallel port is sometimes called a Centronics interface, since Centronics was the company that designed the original parallel port standard. It is sometimes also referred to as a printer port because the printer is the device most commonly attached to the parallel port. The latest parallel port standard, which supports the same connectors as the Centronics interface, is called the Enhanced Parallel Port (EPP). This standard supports bi-directional communication and can transfer data up to ten times faster than the original Centronics port. However, since the parallel port is a rather dated technology, don't be surprised to see USB or Firewire interfaces completely replace parallel ports in the future.


The word "parse" means to analyze an object specifically. It is commonly used in computer science to refer to reading program code. For example, after a program is written, whether it be in C++, Java, or any other language, the code needs to be parsed by the compiler in order to be compiled. Web scripts, written in scripting languages such as Perl or PHP, need to be parsed on the Web server so that they can output the correct HTML to a user's browser.

Parsing can also refer to breaking up ordinary text. For example, search engines typically parse search phrases entered by users so that they can more accurately search for each word. Some programs can parse text documents and extract certain information like names or addresses. Spreadsheet programs can turn formatted documents into tables with rows and columns by parsing the text. As you can see, the ways to parse are clearly not sparse.


A partition is a section of a hard disk. When you format a hard disk, you can usually choose the number of partitions you want. The computer will recognize each partition as a separate disk, and each will show up under "My Computer" (Windows) or on the desktop (Macintosh).

So why would you want to create multiple partitions? Well, there are two main reasons. One is if you want to have multiple operating systems on your computer. Typically, an operating system needs to be installed on its own partition so that it won't conflict with other operating systems on the machine. The other reason is that multiple partitions can improve the efficiency of your hard disk. On larger disks, the cluster or block size (which is the minimum amount of space a file can take up), is larger than on small disks. This can result in a waste of disk space if you have a lot of small files. So creating multiple partitions can actually give you more space. Yep, more room for all those MP3s. "Partition" can also be used as a verb, meaning to create multiple partitions.


A password is a string of characters used for authenticating a user on a computer system. For example, you may have an account on your computer that requires you to log in. In order to successfully access your account, you must provide a valid username and password. This combination is often referred to as a login. While usernames are generally public information, passwords are private to each user.

Most passwords are comprised of several characters, which can typically include letters, numbers, and most symbols, but not spaces. While it is good to choose a password that is easy to remember, you should not make it so simple that others can guess it. The most secure passwords use a combination of letters and numbers and don not contain actual words.


Just like you can paste a note on a sheet of paper, you can paste data into a document on a computer. The paste function can be used to paste copied data into text documents, images, Web browser address fields, and just about any place where you can enter data. However, to paste data, you first need to copy it to the "Clipboard," which is a temporary storage area in your system's memory, or RAM. This is done by first selecting the data you want to copy and then choosing "Copy" from the program's Edit menu.

Once you have data copied to the Clipboard, you can paste it within the same document or within a different document in the same program. You can even paste copied data into a document within a different program. However, you can typically only paste data into a document with the same kind of data. For example, you cannot paste an image into your Web browser's address field or an audio file into image editing program.

To paste a copied piece of data, select "Paste" from the Edit menu in the program you wish to paste the data in. Text documents or programs with text fields will typically paste the data wherever the flashing cursor is. You can also use the keyboard shortcut "Control-V" for Windows or "Command-V" for the Mac OS to paste the data. The reason the "V" key is used is because the "P" key is usually reserved for the "Print" shortcut and "V" is right next to the "C" key, which is used for copying.


A path, also known as a "file path" or "directory path," defines the location of a file or folder. Paths can either be relative or absolute. Relative paths describe file and folder locations from the current directory, such as "pdfs/instructions.pdf." Absolute paths define locations of files and folders from the root directory, such as "/Users/[username]/Documents/pdfs/instructions.pdf." Both relative and absolute paths are useful in describing the location of files and folders within a computer's file system.


When data is sent over the Internet, each unit transmitted includes both header information and the actual data being sent. The header identifies the source and destination of the packet, while the actual data is referred to as the payload. Because header information, or overhead data, is only used in the transmission process, it is stripped from the packet when it reaches its destination. Therefore, the payload is the only data received by the destination system.


Stands for "Personal computer." PCs are are what most of us use on a daily basis for work or personal use. A typical PC includes a system unit, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Most PCs today also have a network or Internet connection, as well as ports for connecting peripheral devices, such as digital cameras, printers, scanners, speakers, external hard drives, and other components.

Personal computers allow us to write papers, create spreadsheets, track our finances, play games, and do many other things. If a PC is connected to the Internet, it can be used to browse the Web, check e-mail, communicate with friends via instant messaging programs, and download files. PCs have become such an integral part of our lives that it can be difficult to imagine life without them!

While PC stands for "personal computer," the term can be a bit ambiguous. This is because Macintosh computers are often contrasted with PCs, even though Macs are also technically PCs. However, Apple itself has used the term "PC" to refer to Windows-based machines, as opposed to its own computers, which are called "Macs." While the Mac/PC dilemma remains, PCs can always contrasted with other types of computers, such as mainframes and server computers, such as Web servers and network file servers. In other words, if you use a computer at home or at work, you can safely call it a PC.


Stands for "Printed Circuit Board." A PCB is a thin board made of fiberglass or a similar material. Electrical wires are "printed" onto the board, connecting the central processor to other components on the board. Some examples of PCBs include motherboards, RAM chips, and network interface cards.

Printed circuit boards are sometimes abbreviated as "PC boards," which is fitting, since the boards are commonly used in personal computers. However, PCBs are also found in other types of electronic devices, such as radios, televisions, and computer monitors. Because PCBs are relatively flat, they can also be used in thin devices such as laptops and portable music players.


Stands for "Peripheral Component Interconnect." It is a hardware bus designed by Intel and used in both PCs and Macs. Most add-on cards such as SCSI, Firewire, and USB controllers, use a PCI connection. Some graphics cards use PCI, but most new graphics cards connect to the AGP slot. PCI slots are found in the back of your computer and are about 3.5" long and about 0.5" high. So before you go buy that Firewire expansion card, make sure you have at least one PCI slot available.

PCI Express

First came PCI, then PCI-X, then PCI Express. PCI Express can be abbreviated as PCIe or, less commonly and more confusingly, PCX. Unlike earlier PCI standards, PCI Express does not use a parallel bus structure, but instead is a network of serial connections controlled by a hub on the computer's motherboard. This enables PCI Express cards to run significantly faster than previous PCI cards.

Because the PCI Express interface is a serial connection, it does not have a speed measured in Megahertz, like PCI or PCI-X. Instead, its performance is measured in data throughput speeds, which are several times faster than PCI-X. Furthermore, PCI Express is available in x1, x4, x8, and x16 implementations, which increases the bandwidth by the corresponding amount. However, larger implementations require longer PCI Express slots. For example, a x4 slot is larger than a x1 slot and a x16 slot is larger than a x8 slot. A PCI Express card can be inserted in any slot that is large enough for it. For example, a x8 card could be inserted into a x16 slot, but a not a x1 or x4 slot.

Since PCI Express connections can support such fast data transfer rates, they can be used to connect high-speed devices such as Gigabit Ethernet cards and high-end video cards. For this reason, PCI Express is expected to replace both PCI and AGP connections. Fortunately, PCI Express was designed to be backwards compatible with both PCI hardware and software. However, to use a PCI Express card, your computer must have at least one available PCI Express slot.


Stands for "Peripheral Component Interconnect Extended." Once again, "Ex" is abbreviated with an "X" instead of an "E." Most desktop computers include one or more PCI slots for expanding the computer's I/O capabilities. Common PCI cards include network cards, sound cards, and video cards. In the early 1990s, when PCI was first introduced, the 66 MHz speed of PCI was more than sufficient for PCI cards available at the time. However, a decade later, expansion cards supported much faster data transfer rates and therefore became faster than the PCI bus would support. To prevent the interface from becoming a bottleneck, PCI-X was introduced.

The first version of PCI-X supported data transfer rates of 133 MHz, which is more than twice as fast as the original PCI standard. Then along came PCI-X 2.0, which can run at speeds of 266 or 533 MHz. These speeds are fast enough to support Gigabit Ethernet cards and video capture devices without slowing them down. PCI-X cards can only be installed in PCI-X slots, but the slots themselves are backwards compatible with PCI cards.


Stands for "Personal Computer Memory Card International Association." It can also mean, perhaps more appropriately, "People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms." This way-to-long acronym stands for an association founded in 1989 which develops standards for expansion cards for portable computers. However, the term is most commonly associated with the actual cards standardized by the organization. These cards are referred to as "PCMCIA cards," or simply "PC cards." There are three types of PCMCIA cards, all of which are rectangular and measure 8.56 by 5.4 cm., but have different widths:

  • Type I: up to 3.3 mm. thick, mainly used to add additional ROM or RAM.
  • Type II: up to 5.5 mm. thick, typically used for fax/modem cards.
  • Type III: up to 10.5 mm. thick, often used to attach portable disk drives.

PCMCIA slots also come in three sizes -- a Type I slot can hold one Type I card, a Type II slot can hold one Type II card or two Type I cards, and a Type III slot can hold one Type III card or one Type I and one Type II card. PC Cards can be removed or inserted "on the fly," which means you don't have to turn your computer off to exchange them and you don't have to restart for your computer to recognize them.


Stands for "Personal Digital Assistant." These are the little electronic devices you see people jotting stuff down on in public. Usually, when you see someone with a PDA, they will be holding it out far front of them for everyone to see. Fortunately, as PDAs become more common, more people will have them and we won't have to deal with the people who make sure everyone else sees that they have one.

The first PDA, called the Newton, was created by Apple in 1993. Since then, numerous other companies have jumped on the bandwagon and have added many new designs and options to the PDA market. The Palm Pilot, Handspring Visor, HP Jordana, Compaq Aero, Sharp Mobilon, and Sony Cli? are all common PDAs. Ironically, Apple's Newton was discontinued when the company was having financial difficulties in 1998. Today's PDAs allow you to organize your schedule, take notes, do math calculations, play games, write memos, and even surf the Internet and send e-mail. They are cool things to have, but if you decide to get one, please do us all a favor and don't show it off in public.


Stands for "Portable Document Format." PDF is a multi-platform file format developed by Adobe Systems. A PDF file captures document text, fonts, images, and even formatting of documents from a variety of applications. You can e-mail a PDF document to your friend and it will look the same way on his screen as it looks on yours, even if he has a Mac and you have a PC. Since PDFs contain color-accurate information, they should also print the same way they look on your screen.

To view a PDF file, you need Adobe Reader, a free application program distributed by Adobe Systems. Adobe also makes an Acrobat Plug-in for Web browsers that enables PDF files to be viewed inside a browser window. 

File extension: .PDF


A computer peripheral is any external device that provides input and output for the computer. For example, a keyboard and mouse are input peripherals, while a monitor and printer are output peripherals. Computer peripherals, or peripheral devices, are sometimes called "I/O devices" because they provide input and output for the computer. Some peripherals, such as external hard drives, provide both input and output for the computer.


Perl actually stands for "Practical Extraction and Report Language," but you don't really need to know that unless you want to impress your nerd friends. Perl is a scripting language which uses a syntax simliar to C/C++. It is commonly used by Web programmers to create scripts for Web servers. Perl is especially good at parsing text, so programmers often use it for reading and searching through text files.

As a regular computer user, you won't get to see Perl in action, since it does most of its work "behind the scenes." Perl scripts are run on the server computer before any information is sent to your Web browser. Oh well, the code looks like hieroglyphics to most people anyway.


Short for "permanent link." A permalink is a URL that links to a specific news story or Web posting. Permalinks are most commonly used for blogs, which are frequently changed and updated. They give a specific Web address to each posting, allowing blog entries to be bookmarked by visitors or linked to from other websites.

Because most blogs are published using dynamic, database-driven Web sites, they do not automatically have Web addresses associated with them. For example, a blog entry may exist on a user's home page, but the entry may not have its own Web page, ending in ".html," ".asp," ".php," etc. Therefore, once the posting is outdated and no longer present on the home page, there may be no way to access it. Using a permalink to define the location of each posting prevents blog entries from fading off into oblivion.


A petabyte is 2 to the 50th power, or 1,125,899,906,842,624 bytes. However, petabytes are often estimated as 10 to the 15th power, or 1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. To avoid ambiguity, the exact calculation is often referred to as a pebibyte instead of a petabyte, though both definitions are commonly accepted.

A petabyte is 1,024 terabytes and precedes the exabyte unit of measurement. Since even the largest hard drives are measured in terabytes, petabytes are only used to measure the storage space of multiple hard drives or other collections of data. And no, "petabyte" is not what you do to make a byte purr.


Petaflops (also PFLOPS) is used to measure the performance of a computer's floating point unit (FPU). One petaflops equals 1,000 teraflops, or 1,000,000,000,000,000 FLOPS. Like gigaflops and teraflops, the term "petaflops" may be singular or plural since FLOPS is short for "Floating Point Operations Per Second." Only a few of the worlds fastest supercomputers are measured in petaflops, since most computers run at less than one petaflops.


Pharming is yet another way hackers attempt to manipulate users on the Internet. While phishing attempts to capture personal information by getting users to visit a fake website, pharming redirects users to false websites without them even knowing it.

While a typical website uses a domain name for its address, its actual location is determined by an IP address. When a user types a domain name into his or her Web browser's address field and hits enter, the domain name is translated into an IP address via a DNS server. The Web browser then connects to the server at this IP address and loads the Web page data. After a user visits a certain website, the DNS entry for that site is often stored on the user's computer in a DNS cache. This way, the computer does not have to keep accessing a DNS server whenever the user visits the website.

One way that pharming takes place is via an e-mail virus that "poisons" a user's local DNS cache. It does this by modifying the DNS entries, or host files. For example, instead of having the IP address direct to, it may direct to another website determined by the hacker. Pharmers can also poison entire DNS servers, which means any user that uses the affected DNS server will be redirected to the wrong website. Fortunately, most DNS servers have security features to protect them against such attacks. Still, they are not necessarily immune, since hackers continue to find ways to gain access to them.

While pharming is not as common as phishing scams are, it can affect many more people at once. This is especially true if a large DNS server is modified. So, if you visit a certain website and it appears to be significantly different than what you expected, you may be the victim of pharming. Restart your computer to reset your DNS entries, run an antivirus program, then try connecting to the website again. If the website still looks strange, contact your ISP and let them know their DNS server may have been pharmed.


Phishing is similar to fishing in a lake, but instead of trying to capture fish, phishers attempt to steal your personal information. They send out e-mails that appear to come from legitimate websites such as eBay, PayPal, or other banking institutions. The e-mails state that your information needs to be updated or validated and ask that you enter your username and password, after clicking a link included in the e-mail. Some e-mails will ask that you enter even more information, such as your full name, address, phone number, social security number, and credit card number. However, even if you visit the false website and just enter your username and password, the phisher may be able to gain access to more information by just logging in to you account.

Phishing is a con game that scammers use to collect personal information from unsuspecting users. The false e-mails often look surprisingly legitimate, and even the Web pages where you are asked to enter your information may look real. However, the URL in the address field can tell you if the page you have been directed to is valid or not. For example, if you are visiting an Web page on eBay, the last part of the domain name should end with "" Therefore, "" and "" are valid Web addresses, but "" and "" are false addresses, which may be used by phishers. If URL contains an IP address, such as, instead of a domain name, you can almost be sure someone is trying to phish for your personal information.

If you receive an e-mail that asks that you update your information and you think it might be valid, go to the website by typing the URL in your browser's address field instead of clicking the link in the e-mail. For example, go to "" instead of clicking the link in an e-mail that appears to come from PayPal. If you are prompted to update your information after you have manually typed in the Web address and logged in, then the e-mail was probably legitimate. However, if you are not asked to update any information, then the e-mail was most likely a spoof sent by a phisher.

Most legitimate e-mails will address you by your full name at the beginning of the message. If there is any doubt that the e-mail is legitimate, be smart and don't enter your information. Even if you believe the message is valid, following the guidelines above will prevent you from giving phishers your personal information.


Stands for "Hypertext Preprocessor." (It is a recursive acronym, if you can understand what that means.) PHP is an HTML-embedded Web scripting language. This means PHP code can be inserted into the HTML of a Web page. When a PHP page is accessed, the PHP code is read or "parsed" by the server the page resides on. The output from the PHP functions on the page are typically returned as HTML code, which can be read by the browser. Because the PHP code is transformed into HTML before the page is loaded, users cannot view the PHP code on a page. This make PHP pages secure enough to access databases and other secure information.

A lot of the syntax of PHP is borrowed from other languages such as C, Java and Perl. However, PHP has a number of unique features and specific functions as well. The goal of the language is to allow Web developers to write dynamically generated pages quickly and easily. PHP is also great for creating database-driven Web sites.


Phreaking refers to experimenting with or exploiting a telephone system and is often considered to be the predecessor of computer hacking. Early phreaking techniques allowed users to bypass telephone company switches and make free long distance calls. This activity later evolved into using modems to gain unauthorized access to computer systems. Phreaking is much less common today than in past decades since cell phone companies offer free long distance service and digital telephone systems are more secure.


A piconet is a network that is created using a wireless Bluetooth connection. Some examples of piconets include 1) a cell phone and a computer, 2) a laptop and a Bluetooth-enabled digital camera, or 3) several PDAs that are connected to each other.

Piconets can include anywhere from two to eight devices. One device serves as the master device, while the rest of the devices within the network are slave devices. The master device acts as the hub, meaning the slave devices must communicate through the master device in order to communicate with each other. In most piconets, the computer serves as the master device.

The term "piconet" is derived from the words "pico," which means "very small" (technically, one trillionth), and "net," which is short for "network." Therefore, the word "piconet" literally means "very small network."


Stands for "Personal Information Manager." A PIM is a software application that serves as a planner, notebook, and address book all in one. It can also include things like a calculator, clock , and photo album. PIMs are especially popular for PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), since this is why most people have them. However, for those of us who don't have all the latest portable gadgets, PIM programs are also developed for desktop computers.


This term refers to a golf equipment brand, as well as the sound made by striking your glass with a spoon at the dinner table. However, it also has a computer-related meaning. A ping is a test to see if a system on the Internet is working. "Pinging" a server tests and records the response time of the server. Pinging multiple computers can be helpful in finding Internet bottlenecks, so that data transfer paths can be rerouted a more efficient way. A good way to make sure you do not get disconnected from your dial-up ISP for being idle is to send a ping every 5 minutes or so. There are a number of shareware Ping programs that will do this for you.


Computer processors can handle millions of instructions each second. Once one instruction is processed, the next one in line is processed, and so on. A pipeline allows multiple instructions to be processed at the same time. While one stage of an instruction is being processed, other instructions may be undergoing processing at a different stage. Without a pipeline, each instruction would have to wait for the previous one to finish before it could even be accessed.

To understand the benefit of a pipeline, imagine that a car manufacturing plant had to wait for each car to be fully completed before starting on the next one. That would be horribly inefficient, right? It makes much more sense to work on many cars at once, completing them one stage at a time. This is what a pipeline in a computer allows. Pipelining, as it is called, often keeps around six instructions at once in the processor at different stages of processing. Pipelines can be used for the CPU as well as for accessing memory (DRAM).


When someone installs and uses commercial software without paying for the program, it is called "pirating" the software. This name comes from the traditional meaning of the word "pirate," which is a sea-faring criminal that steals and loots belongings from others. But far from the stereotypical sea pirate, a software pirate can be anyone who owns a computer. Software piracy is committed by simply downloading or copying a program that a user has not paid for.

Since computer programs are stored in a digital format, they are easy to copy and reproduce. For example, a game may be burned to a CD and transferred to the computer of an individual who has not paid for the program. Software programs can also be illegally downloaded from the Internet from unauthorized sources. Since pirating software does not require many resources, it has grown into a major problem for the computer industry.

While it may seem like an innocuous act, pirating software is the same as stealing. Software companies often invest thousands or even millions of dollars into creating the programs they sell. The income from selling these programs is what allows companies to produce the software and to continue improving the programs we use. Just because it is possible to copy a software program does not mean it is OK. Installing a commercial program from an illegal copy is the same thing as walking out of a store with the program and not paying for it.

While there are some programs that are free to use (such as shareware and freeware programs), it is important to pay for commercial software. You can avoid software piracy by only downloading software from authorized sources and making sure that you have valid software licenses for all the programs you use.


The term "pixel" is actually short for "Picture Element." These small little dots are what make up the images on computer displays, whether they are flat-screen (LCD) or tube (CRT) monitors. The screen is divided up into a matrix of thousands or even millions of pixels. Typically, you cannot see the individual pixels, because they are so small. This is a good thing, because most people prefer to look at smooth, clear images rather than blocky, "pixelated" ones. However, if you set your monitor to a low resolution, such as 640x480 and look closely at your screen, you will may be able to see the individual pixels. As you may have guessed, a resolution of 640x480 is comprised of a matrix of 640 by 480 pixels, or 307,200 in all. That's a lot of little dots.

Each pixel can only be one color at a time. However, since they are so small, pixels often blend together to form various shades and blends of colors. The number of colors each pixel can be is determined by the number of bits used to represent it. For example, 8-bit color allows for 2 to the 8th, or 256 colors to be displayed. At this color depth, you may be able to see "graininess," or spotted colors when one color blends to another. However, at 16, 24, and 32-bit color depths, the color blending is smooth and, unless you have some kind of extra-sensory vision capability, you should not see any graininess.

Plain Text

Plain text is another name for unformatted text. Unlike rich text, plain text does not support italics, underlining, bold characters, fonts, or font sizes. Since plain text documents do not contain any text formatting information, they take up less disk space than rich text documents. Therefore, plain text is commonly used for log files and other types of text documents that don't require formatted text.


In the computer world, a "platform" typically refers to a computer's operating system. For example, a Dell computer running Windows XP would be considered to be running on a Windows platform. An iMac, on the other hand, runs on the Macintosh platform. It is a more generic way of referring to a computer's operating system than having to specify, for example, Windows XP Professional SP 2, or Mac OS X 10.3.5. The term platform is often used when referring to what kind of computer systems a certain software program will run on.

Plug and Play

Plug and Play, sometimes, abbreviated PnP, is a catchy phrase used to describe devices that work with a computer system as soon as they are connected. The user does not have to manually install drivers for the device or even tell the computer that a new device has been added. Instead the computer automatically recognizes the device, loads new drivers for the hardware if needed, and begins to work with the newly connected device.

For example, if you connect a Plug-and-Play mouse to the USB port on your computer, it will begin to work within a few seconds of being plugged in. A non plug-and-play device would require you to go through several steps of installing drivers and setting up the device before it would work.

While Plug and Play usually refers to computer peripheral devices, such as keyboards and mice, it can also be used to describe internal hardware. For example, a video card or hard drive may be a Plug and Play device, meaning the computer will recognize it as soon as it is installed. The only difference is that internal components usually require the computer to be turned off when they are installed, while external devices can typically be installed while the computer is running.


A plug-in (also "plugin") is software add-on that adds extra features and capabilities to an application. Typically, plug-ins are stored within a subdirectory of the application folder. When the application is opened, the plug-ins are loaded into the program.

Plug-ins are available for a wide variety of programs, including Web browsers, graphic editors, and audio and video applications. Web browser plug-ins often enable specific types of media to be viewed directly in the browser. Plug-ins for graphics, audio, and video applications may add extra editing tools or filters to the program. While some programs include preinstalled plug-ins created by the developer, many plug-ins are developed by third-party companies.


Stands for "Power Management Unit." The PMU is a microcontroller, or integrated circuit, that controls the power functions of Macintosh computers. Though it is not a large component, the PMU contains several parts, including memory, software, firmware, and its own CPU. Some responsibilities of the PMU include:

  • Telling the computer when to turn on, turn off, go to sleep, and wake up.
  • Maintaining the system's PRAM (Parameter Random Access Memory).
  • Managing system resets from various types of commands.
  • Managing the real-time clock (date and time).

Because every function the computer performs requires electrical power, the power management unit is an essential part of every Macintosh computer. Therefore, it is important that the PMU functions correctly. In the rare case that the PMU stops functioning or behaves erratically, it can be reset, which should fix any problems caused by the PMU.

The method for resetting the PMU depends on the type of Macintosh computer. Some Macs have a small reset button on the logic board that can be pressed when the computer is off. Other models include a reset button on the outside of the computer. These buttons typically have an icon of a triangle pointing to the left, indicating it is a reset button. The PMU on some PowerBook G4 models can be reset by turning off the computer, removing the battery and power supply, and pressing Shift-Control-Option-Power. Since different machines require different methods for resetting the PMU, it is best to check your manual or Apple's Support website to find out the proper way to reset your Mac's PMU.

In newer Macs, such as the MacBook and MacBook Pro, the PMU is referred to as the System Management Controller, or SMC.


PNG (usually pronounced "ping") Stands for "Portable Network Graphic" This format was designed as an alternative to the GIF format (which has been plagued by copyright issues). Like GIFs, PNG files are lossless, meaning they don't lose any detail when they are compressed. They support up to 48-bit color or 16-bit grayscale and typically compress about 5% to 25% better than GIF files. However, they do not support animations like GIFs do. A format similar to PNG, called MNG, is currently under development, and will support animations.


The name "podcast" combines the terms iPod and broadcast into a single catchy word. As the name suggests, podcasts are audio and video broadcasts that can be played on an iPod. However, because podcasts are downloaded using Apple iTunes and can be played directly within the program, you don't actually need an iPod to listen to a podcast.

Podcasts are distributed by both professional organizations as well as amateur audio producers who want to share their content with others. News organizations such as NPR and CNN offer podcasts of their news stories, while other types of podcasts can be downloaded from Comedy Central, G4 TV, VH1, and many other broadcasting companies. Podcasts can be browsed within the iTunes Music Store or found directly on an organization's website, which often provides links to current podcasts.

Amateur podcasts can be created by anyone who has a microphone or digital video camera and a computer with recording software. In fact, recent versions of Apple's GarageBand include special options for creating and exporting podcasts. Amateur podcasts are not always available through the iTunes store, but can be distributed on the Web. A simple link to the podcast will open the file in iTunes, making it possible for anyone with a website to publish podcasts.

Podcasts are often distributed in "episodes," meaning new podcasts are made available on a regular basis. Users can subscribe to these podcasts, which iTunes can automatically download as they become available. Once podcasts are downloaded, the files are saved in the iTunes Library and can be viewed within the Podcasts section. They can be played within iTunes or transferred to an iPod, so users can watch or listen to podcasts while they are on the go.


The term "pop-up" has two computer-related meanings. One refers to a window and the other is a type of menu.

1. Pop-Up Window A pop-up window is a type of window that opens without the user selecting "New Window" from a program's File menu. Pop-up windows are often generated by websites that include pop-up advertisements. These ads are produced with JavaScript code that is inserted into the HTML of a Web page. They typically appear when a user visits a page or closes a window. Some pop-up ads show up in front of the main window, while others show up behind the main browser window. Ads that appear behind open windows are also called "pop-under" ads.

Regardless of where pop-up advertisements appear on your screen, they can be pretty annoying. Fortunately, browser developers have realized this and most Web browsers now include an option to block pop-up windows. If you are noticing pop-up windows appear on your computer when your browser is not open, you may have an adware program running on your computer. The best solution to this problem is to run an anti-spyware program that will locate and remove the malware from your system.

2. Pop-Up Menu A pop-up menu is a type of menu that pops up on the screen when the user right-clicks a certain object or area. It can be also called a contextual menu since the menu options are relevant to where the user right-clicked on the screen. Pop-up menus provide quick access to common program functions and are used by most operating systems and applications.


Stands for "Post Office Protocol." POP3, sometimes referred to as just "POP," is a simple, standardized method of delivering e-mail messages. A POP3 mail server receives e-mails and filters them into the appropriate user folders. When a user connects to the mail server to retrieve his mail, the messages are downloaded from mail server to the user's hard disk.

When you configure your e-mail client, such as Outlook (Windows) or Mail (Mac OS X), you will need to enter the type of mail server your e-mail account uses. This will typically be either a POP3 or IMAP server. IMAP mail servers are a bit more complex than POP3 servers and allow e-mail messages to be read and stored on the server. Many "webmail" interfaces use IMAP mail servers so that users can manage all their mail online.

Still, most mail servers use the POP3 mail protocol because it is simple and well-supported. You may have to check with your ISP or whoever manages your mail account to find out what settings to use for configuring your mail program. If your e-mail account is on a POP3 mail server, you will need to enter the correct POP3 server address in your e-mail program settings. Typically, this is something like "" or "" Of course, to successfully retrieve your mail, you will have to enter a valid username and password too.


As if computer terms weren't hard enough to understand, there are three different meanings of the word "port."

1. An Internet port. This is a number that indicates what kind of protocol a server on the Internet is using. For example, Web servers typically are listed on port 80. Web browsers use this port by default when accessing Web pages, but you can also specify what port you would like to use in the URL like this: FTP uses port 21, e-mail uses port 25, and game servers, like a Quake server or use various other ports. It is good to know what a port is, but you seldom have to specify it manually, so don't worry if this is new to you.

2. A hardware port. This refers to any one of the ports that are on the back of a computer where devices can be hooked up (like a keyboard, mouse, printer, digital camera, etc). Some common ports found on today's computers are USB, Firewire, and Ethernet.

3. The verb, "port." This refers to the editing of a software program's code so that it can run on another platform. For example, to get Final Fantasy VII to run on a PC, programmers needed to port it to the PC from the Playstation. Popular Windows games are often ported to the Macintosh as well.


An Internet portal is a Web site that acts as a starting point for browsing the Web. Portals typically include search engines and large directories of websites. Examples of portals are Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, Netscape, AltaVista, MSN, and There are also many smaller portals, known as "niche portals," for specific interests. These sites include C|net (for computers and technology), (for investors), and (for gardeners).

Most large portals have millions of Web pages indexed for visitors to search though. They also have large directories of Web sites, which are categorized by topic. Though the primary purpose of a portal is to find other sites for you, many now include a lot of information within their own sites.


PostScript is a page description language (PDL) that describes a page's text and graphical content. It can be used to define the appearance of graphics and text for both screen and print. The language was developed by Adobe in 1984 and has since gone through may revisions and updates.

Before PostScript was introduced, publishing systems relied on proprietary typesetting systems, which often caused incompatibilities between computers and printing systems. In fact, before the days of PostScript, pages that incorporated text, images, and line art had to be manually assembled on a paste-up board and then photographed. The resulting picture was sent to a printing plate, which was used to make copies of the document -- pretty archaic compared to the simple printing options available today.

Adobe PostScript makes it possible to produce high quality page content that can include text, images, and line art in a standard format compatible with multiple devices. For example, PostScript (.PS) files will print the exact same way from different PostScript compatible printers. They can also be opened using Adobe Acrobat and will look the same on Macintosh and Windows platforms. In fact, the evolution of PostScript led to the development of Adobe Acrobat, which creates PDF documents.

File extensions: .PS, .EPS

Power Cycle

While the phrase "power cycle" appears to be a noun, it is actually more commonly used as a verb. In simple terms, to power cycle a device means to turn it off and turn it back on again. For example, the user manual of a router may ask you to power cycle the router if it stops responding. This may mean switching the power to OFF and then ON again or may require physically unplugging the device and then plugging it back in again. Power cycling is often synonymous with resetting a device.

As we all know, computer equipment can be rather finicky at times. A device that was working fine ten minutes ago may begin acting strangely or may not be responding at all. Often the low-tech solution of simply turning off the device and turning it back on again will fix the problem. This is because information stored in the device's RAM may have gotten corrupted and caused the device to hang up or stall on a certain instruction. Power cycling the device erases the RAM and allows it to boot up with fresh information. Typically it is a good idea to wait 5 to 10 seconds before turning the device back on to make sure it has chance to fully reset. Of course, if you need to power cycle your computer, you should save any work you currently have open, since it will be erased from the RAM once the system is restarted.

Power Supply

A power supply is a component that regulates and provides power to an electrical device. It receives power from a wall outlet, battery pack, or other electrical source and converts the current and voltage to the correct amount required by the connected device. Most computers have internal power supplies, while other devices may use external power supplies that are attached directly to the power cable.

Power User

When it comes to computers, there are regular users and there are power users. Most people fall into the regular computer user category. These types of people use their computers for basic functions like Web browsing, sending e-mails, typing papers, working with spreadsheets, doing finances, and playing games. Regular computer users can typically get by with a middle-of-the-line computer that is fast enough to do their everyday work.

Power users, however, require top-of-the-line machines that are optimized for their work purposes. Power users include video-editing professionals, high-end graphic designers, audio producers, and those who use their computers for scientific research. Professional gamers (yes, there is such a thing) also fall under this category. These users seek the latest and greatest systems because no computer is really "fast enough" to suit their needs. Even the fastest computers can take substantial time to render large amounts of video and audio or to manipulate large images. Gamers want machines that will play their games in as many frames per second (FPS) as possible. So, to be a power user means to never be really satisfied with your system, but to always want something faster and better. Then again, that sounds like most of us, but power users usally have justifiable reasons.


PowerPoint is a presentation program developed by Microsoft. It is included in the standard Office suite along with Microsoft Word and Excel. The software allows users to create anything from basic slide shows to complex presentations.

PowerPoint is often used to create business presentations, but can also be used for educational or informal purposes. The presentations are comprised of slides, which may contain text, images, and other media, such as audio clips and movies. Sound effects and animated transitions can also be included to add extra appeal to the presentation. Most PowerPoint presentations are created from a template, which includes a background color or image, a standard font, and a choice of several slide layouts.


Stands for "Pay Per Click," and is used in online advertising. PPC advertisements generate revenue for Web publishers each time a visitor clicks on an ad. Banner ads, Flash ads, and textual ads can all be used to generate pay per click revenue for publishers. Many search engines also use the pay per click model, showing sponsored results along with other relevant results for searches. PPC is an attractive model for advertisers because they only have to pay for actual traffic generated by their ads.


Stands for "Plastic Pin Grid Array" (not the Pretty People Golfer's Association). PPGA is a type of processor design or "form factor" used by the Intel Celeron processor. The design allows the heat generated by the chip to dissipate more quickly. This enables the processor to use more transistors and run at higher speeds without burning a hole in the side of your computer.


Stands for "Pixels Per Inch." The resolution of a printed photo is often measured in DPI, or "dots per inch." The DPI describes how many dots of ink the printer prints per line per inch. Therefore, the higher the DPI, the greater the detail of the printed image. However, even if a photo is printed with a high DPI, the detail represented in the photo can only be as high as the PPI.

PPI measures the number of pixels per line per inch in a digital photo. This number is directly related to the number of megapixels a digital camera can capture. For example, the original Canon Digital Rebel is a 6.3 megapixel camera and captures 2048 vertical by 3072 horizontal pixels. Therefore, when printing a 4x6 image, the PPI would be 3072 px. / 6 in. = 512 PPI. That is high enough to print a very detailed 4x6 photo. However, if you were to print a large 20x30 poster image from a 6.3 megapixel image, the PPI would be 3072 px. / 30 in. = 102.4 PPI.

Most modern printers print images with a minimum resolution of 300 DPI. Therefore, if you print a photo with a PPI of less than 300, you may notice the image is not as sharp as you would like. Of course, the detail in a 20x30 image may not need to be as clear as a 4x6 photo. But a good rule of thumb is to keep your PPI above 300 so your prints will look nice and clear.


Stands for "Pay Per Lead." PPL is similar to CPL, but measures the cost per lead from the advertiser's perspective. For example, if an advertiser pays $500 for 1,000 leads, the advertiser's average PPL is $0.50 ($500 ? 1000). Leads can be anything from basic page views to product purchases or new service signups. Leads that generate more revenue generally have a higher PPL.

Advertisers often monitor PPL to measure the effectiveness of certain ads. By comparing the average revenue per lead to the PPL cost, the advertiser can determine if the ads are increasing or decreasing profit. For example, if a the average return on a lead is $0.80 and the PPL is $0.50, there is an average profit of $0.30 per ad. However, if the average return is less than $0.50, the ads should be modified or stopped since the leads cost more than the revenue they are generating.

"PPL" is also used in online chat as an abbreviation for "people."


Stands for "Pages Per Minute." PPM is used to measure the printing speed of both inkjet and laser printers. Most printers include a PPM rating for both black and color documents. These speed measurements are typically listed in the printer's technical specifications.

While a higher pages per minute rating does indicate a faster printing speed, this measurement can be misleading. This is because manufacturers measure the maximum PPM in the fastest printing mode, a.k.a. "economy mode," which is also the lowest quality. When printing in regular mode, the speed may be twice as slow. When printing in fine or high-quality mode, the speed will likely be reduced even further.

Important: PPM can also be used to measure a scanner's scanning speed. This measurement is particularly important for scanners that use an automatic document feeder ADF, which allows multiple documents to be scanned consecutively.


Stands for "Point to Point Protocol." It is the Internet standard for dial-up modem connections. PPP is a set of rules that defines how your modem exchanges packets of data with other systems on the Internet. If you connect to your ISP with a dial-up modem, you are most likely using PPP.


PPPoE is short for "Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet" and is pronounced "P-P-P-oh-E." It is a protocol commonly used by DSL providers for establishing a PPP connection over an Ethernet network. PPPoE is often seen as an alternative to DHCP, which is the standard network configuration used by cable Internet providers.

Since most DSL modems connect to a computer or router via an Ethernet cable, computers cannot connect to an ISP directly via PPP (like a traditional dial-up modem). Therefore, the network configuration must be set to PPPoE, which allows both the Ethernet and PPP protocols to work in tandem. This option is available in the Network control panel in Windows and the Network system preference in Mac OS X. In order to configure a PPPoE connection, you typically need to enter username and password, as well as a service name, which is provided by your ISP.


Stands for "Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol." PPTP is a networking standard for connecting to virtual private networks, or VPNs. VPNs are secure networks that can be accessed over the Internet, allowing users to access a network from a remote location. This is useful for people who need to connect to an office network from home or access their home computer from another location.

The "point-to-point" part of the term refers the connection created by PPTP. It allows one point (the user's computer) to access another specific point (a remote network) over the Internet. The "tunneling" part of the term refers to the way one protocol is encapsulated within another protocol. In PPTP, the point-to-point protocol (PPP) is wrapped inside the TCP/IP protocol, which provides the Internet connection. Therefore, even though the connection is created over the Internet, the PPTP connection mimics a direct link between the two locations, allowing for a secure connection.

Primary Key

A primary key is a unique identifier for a database record. When a table is created, one of the fields is typically assigned as the primary key. While the primary key is often a number, it may also be a text field or other data type. For example, if a database contains definitions of computer terms, it would make sense that each term is only listed once in the database. By defining the "Term" field as the primary key, it would ensure that no term is listed more than once in the database.

While a table's primary key is usually assigned to a specific field, it can also be comprised of multiple values. For example, a database of news articles might use both the title and date fields to uniquely identify each entry. By combining the "Title" and "Date" fields as the primary key, it would ensure no entries have the same title on the same day.


A printer is an output device that prints documents from a computer. Common printers include inkjet and laser printers. Most inkjet printers can produce color prints, while laser printers are available in both monochrome and color versions. To print a document, select "Print" from the File menu within an application.


A process is a program that is running on your computer. This can be anything from a small background task, such as a spell-checker or system events handler to a full-blown application like Internet Explorer or Microsoft Word. All processes are composed of one or more threads.

Since most operating systems have many background tasks running, your computer is likely to have many more processes running than actual programs. For example, you may only have three programs running, but there may be twenty active processes. You can view active processes in Windows by opening the Task Manager (press Ctrl-Alt-Delete and click Task Manager). On a Mac, you can see active processes by opening Activity Monitor (in the Applications→Utilities folder).

The term "process" can also be used as a verb, which means to perform a series of operations on a set of data. For example, your computer's CPU processes information sent to it by various programs.


This little chip is the heart of a computer. Also referred to as the "microprocessor," the processor does all the computations such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. In PCs, the most popular microprocessor used is the Intel Pentium chip, whereas Macintosh computers use the PowerPC chip (developed by Motorola, IBM, and Apple).

The speed of a computer's processor is measured in megahertz, or cycles per second. But higher megahertz doesn't always mean better performance. Though a 600-MHz chip has a clock speed that is twice as fast as a 300-Mhz chip, it doesn't mean that the computer with the 600-Mhz chip will run twice as fast. This is because the speed of a computer is also influenced by other factors, such as the efficiency of the processor, the bus architecture, the amount of memory available, and the software that is running on the computer. Some processors can complete more operations per clock cycle than other processors, making them more efficient than other processors with higher clock speeds. This is why the PowerPC chip is typically faster than Pentium chips at that are clocked at higher megahertz.


Program is a common computer term that can be used as both a noun and a verb. A program (noun) is executable software that runs on a computer. It is similar to a script, but is often much larger in size and does not require a scripting engine to run. Instead, a program consists of compiled code that can run directly from the computer's operating system.

Examples of programs include Web browsers, word processors, e-mail clients, video games, and system utilities. These programs are often called applications, which can be used synonymously with "software programs." On Windows, programs typically have an .EXE file extension, while Macintosh programs have an .APP extension.

When "program" is used as verb, it means to create a software program. For example, programmers create programs by writing code that instructs the computer what to do. The functions and commands written by the programmer are collectively referred to as source code. When the code is finished, the source code file or files are compiled into an executable program.

Progressive Scan

Video signals are generated using horizontal lines. An interlaced picture draws every other line and alternates between drawing odd lines and even lines. A progressive scan picture draws every line in sequence. Therefore, a progressive scan video signal sends twice as much data than an interlaced signal each time it draws an image on the screen.

Before DVDs and HDTV became popular, interlaced video was the norm for television. Standard definition broadcasts were interlaced, since it was a more efficient way to send video data. Since the human eye has a hard time detecting video interlacing, an interlaced signal that refreshes at 60 Hz (times per second) is easier on the eyes and produces less flicker than a progressive scan signal that refreshes at 30 Hz.

Still, if a progressive scan and interlaced image are both projected at 60 Hz, the progressive scan image will usually appear slightly smoother. Video that contains fast motion makes this difference more noticeable. For this reason, the DVD and HDTV standards were developed to support progressive scan video signals.

When you see video formats described as 480p or 720p, the number indicates how many horizontal lines of resolution the video signal uses, while the "p" indicates it is a progressive scan signal. Similarly, the 1080i format contains 1080 lines of resolution, but is interlaced. Both 720p and 1080i are used by HDTV.


PROM stands for "Programmable Read-Only Memory" and is pronounced "P-ROM." It is a type of ROM used in small electronic devices, such as a mobile phones and RFID tags. PROM is programmed by burning fuses within the memory, meaning it can only be programmed once. Therefore, whatever is initially programmed into PROM will be stored permanently in the memory.

Two other types of PROM can be erased and reprogrammed, including EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) and EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory). EPROM can be erased using strong ultraviolet light, while EEPROM can be erased using an electrical charge.


When computers communicate with each other, there needs to be a common set of rules and instructions that each computer follows. A specific set of communication rules is called a protocol. Because of the many ways computers can communicate with each other, there are many different protocols -- too many for the average person to remember. Some examples of these different protocols include PPP, TCP/IP, SLIP, HTTP, and FTP. Can you guess what the last "P" in each acronym stands for? If you guessed "protocol," send yourself a congratulations e-mail.

Proxy Server

Most large businesses, organizations, and universities these days use a proxy server. This is a server that all computers on the local network have to go through before accessing information on the Internet. By using a proxy server, an organization can improve the network performance and filter what users connected to the network can access.

A proxy server improves Internet access speeds from a network primarily by using a caching system. Caching saves recently viewed Web sites, images, and files on a local hard drive so that they don't have to be downloaded from the Web again. While your Web browser might save recently viewed items on your computer, a proxy server caches everything accessed from the network.

The other main purpose a proxy server is to filter what is allowed into the network. The proxy server can limit what Web sites users on the network can access.


PS/2 is a type of port used by older computers for connecting input devices such as keyboards and mice. The port was introduced with IBM's Personal System/2 computer in 1987 (which was abbreviated "PS/2"). In the following years, the PS/2 port became the standard connection for keyboards and mice in all IBM compatible computers.

The PS/2 port has six pins and is roughly circular in shape. Since each PS/2 port is designed to accept a specific input, the keyboard and mouse connections are typically color-coded. For example, the keyboard port on the back of the computer is often purple, while the mouse port is usually green. Similarly, the connector on the end of the keyboard cord is purple and the mouse cord connector is green. This makes it easy for all users to know where to plug the cables into the computer. The concept is similar to the color-coded composite audio/video connections on the back of a TV, which use red, white, and yellow connectors.

While the PS/2 port enjoyed a good run for almost two decades, now most keyboards and mice use USB connectors. Unlike PS/2 ports, USB devices can be plugged into any USB port or even a USB hub and the computer will automatically determine what the device is. USB is also "hot swappable," meaning the connections can be removed while the computer is running. If you remove a PS/2 device while the computer is on, it may potentially cause damage to the hardware. Therefore, if you are using a PS/2 device, it is best to turn off the computer before connecting or unplugging a keyboard or mouse.


Push refers to a system in which data is "pushed" to a user's device rather than "pulled" by the user. In other words, the data transfer is initiated by the server rather than the client.

Push technology, which is also called "server push," can be used to send news data, stock updates, and other information from the Internet to a user's computer. It is also used to send text messages via SMS to people's cell phones. Push e-mail allows users to receive e-mail messages without having to check their e-mail manually. This means new messages appear on the client's device as soon as they are received by the server. However, in order to receive pushed messages, both the mail server and the user's e-mail client must support push technology.

While most information is still "pulled" from the Internet, more kinds of data can now be pushed to users' systems. With push technology, people no longer need to constantly check news sites, e-mail, or other data sources to see if they have been updated. The result is a more efficient means of receiving information.


Python is a programming language commonly used for creating Web applications and software plug-ins. It is designed to be highly readable with an uncluttered visual appearance. Python is similar to other scripting languages like Perl and PHP, but uses English words more frequently and has less punctuation. Programs written in Python can be saved as basic scripts (with a .PY file extension) or compiled programs (with a .PYC extension).

Python is installed on nearly all Unix-based systems, including Mac OS X, and can be run from the terminal. Therefore, if you find out Python is on your computer, don't be scared. It's not a snake, just a programming language.

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