Bigblu’s A to Z Guide to Broadband Jargon: Part II

13th July 2018

Last week, Part I of our A to Z Guide helped you get to grips with the difference between JavaScript and Gobbledegook with the first 13 letters of the alphabet. Now it’s time to tell your Yobibytes from your Gooey as we take you all the way from N to Z.

N is for Network Address Translation (NAT)
If you are reading this article, you are most likely connected to the Internet and on the bigblu website, and there’s also a very good chance that you are using NAT right now. NAT exists because the Internet is expanding faster than the universe itself and soon there won’t be enough IP addresses (see Part I of our A to Z) to go around. So, think of existing IP addresses as the loaves and fishes of Biblical bent, think of Jesus as a router, NAT as the Holy Spirit powering the miracle and the hungry 5,000 as new Internet users hungry to surf. In short, thanks to NAT only a single IP address is needed to represent an entire group of computers.

O is for Operating system
Those pesky requests to update our phones and PCs that we all too often dismiss like we would an insolent child. Well, most of the time we’re being asked to update our device’s operating system (OS). That OS controls the general operation of your computer and provides an easy way for us to interact with computers and run applications. Common OS include Mac OS X, Linux, Windows, Android and iOS.

We all got tech greedy and began accumulating devices like Imelda Marcos collected shoes

P is for Peer-to-Peer network (P2P)
Computers are connected to each other via a network. The computers that request information are called ‘clients’ and the computers that provide information are ‘servers’. The client-server relationship comes in different packages and P2P is one of them. P2P is ideal for sharing files as no single computer is responsible for being the server. Each computer in the network stores files and acts as a server. Each computer can then send sections of the file, sharing the workload. While P2P networking makes file sharing easy and convenient, is also has led to a lot of software piracy and illegal music downloads. It can also act as a drain on a network’s bandwidth and will fall foul of an ISP’s Fair Use Policy (see Part I for more details).

Q is for Query (search engine)
Every time you put a bunch of letters into a search engine and hit “Enter”, a search engine query is made. Every query adds to the mass of analytical data on the Internet. The more data search engines collect, the more accurate the search results become – and that’s a good thing for Internet users, particularly if you have a penchant for green goo as last year Google revealed that the biggest ‘How to…’ query in the UK was ‘How to make slime?’

R is for Router
Your router is that little black box that hums quietly in the corner, flashing its little green and red eyes at you. Its job is to join multiple computer networks together through either wired or wireless connections. You used to only be able to find them in large-scale offices and then they were prohibitively expensive. Then we all got tech greedy and began accumulating devices like Imelda Marcos collected shoes and we needed all of those devices to connect to our home broadband.

Isn’t it beautiful when the world of tech and classical literature collide?

S is for Server
How do I serve thee, let me count the ways. A server is a computer designed to process requests and deliver data to another computer over the internet or a local network. If you ever think of servers at all (and with lives to lead why would you?) you’re probably normally thinking about a web server but there are a handful of other types worth flagging up: email, FTP and identity. The server your browser is connected to right now is a web server that’s delivering this page and any images you see on it.

T is for Trojan horse
Isn’t it beautiful when the world of tech and classical literature collide? In name, yes. In reality, no, no, no. Trojan horses are software programs that masquerade as regular programs, such as games, disk utilities, and even antivirus programs. But if they are run, these programs can do malicious things to your computer. Probably the best-known Trojan horse was the Storm Worm that spread through over 200 million email accounts. It was a 2006 email with a subject line of ‘230 dead as storm batters Europe’. Intrigued, people would open the email, click on a link to the news story and Storm Worm would infected their computers sometimes turning them into zombies or bots to continue the spread of the virus and to send a huge amount of spam mail.

U is for User interface
This is how you control a software program or hardware device. If you’re reading this on your computer, all those icons at the bottom of your screen (Microsoft Word perhaps, your web browser, Settings), they all form part of your User Interface or, more precisely, your GUI (Graphical User Interface), pronounced “gooey” by tech types. Gooeys were first introduced to the public by Apple with the Macintosh in 1984.

V is for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
The alternative way of making phone calls and arguably the most successful technology of the last decade. Think Skype and you’re thinking VoIP. All you need is a device with a microphone (and a camera if you want to make video calls), good Internet connection and a decent amount of data. The disrupting quality of VoIP is that it uses already existing infrastructure without additional costs to provide you with essentially free phone calls.

W is for Wi-Fi
Contrary to popular belief, WiFi doesn’t stand for Wireless Fidelity. This misconception comes from an early advertising slogan that was used, “The Standard for Wireless Fidelity”. WiFi doesn’t actually stand for anything, it was a name created by agency Interbrand to replace IEEE 802.11. The Wi-Fi Alliance was formed in 1999 as a trade association to hold the Wi-Fi trademark. Wi-Fi itself creates a network in your home or office – a little slice of geographic connectivity that uses radio waves so your devices can get on the Internet. Tech bods may call this a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). Something called a wireless transmitter receives information from the Internet through your broadband connection and converts it into a radio signal and sends it to your device, which receives the signal through a wireless adaptor.

One day our part-robot part-human successors will surely plug a Yobibyte USB into the port where our appendix used to be

X is for XML
To be honest, there wasn’t much to choose from so bear with me on this one. XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language and it was designed to store and transport data. It’s really just information wrapped in tags, for it to be displayed or sent or stored someone has to write some software. It looks a little bit like this:

<note>
<to>You</to>
<from>Me</from>
<heading>A to Z Guide</heading>
<body>Read me, please!</body>
</note>

Y is for Yobibyte (YiB)
A yobibyte is a unit of digital information storage used to denote the size of data. It is equivalent to 2 to the 80th power, or 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176, bytes and equal to 1,024 zebibytes. It is the largest unit of digital measurement. You can currently buy a 2 Terabyte USB for £1,250, which in itself is pretty spectacular (especially given that according to futurist Ray Kurzweil in The Singularity is Near, the capacity of a human being’s functional memory is estimated to be 1.25 TB). However, under Moore’s law, one day our part-robot part-human successors will surely plug a Yobibyte USB into the port where our appendix used to be.

Z is for Zip file
Think of a zip file as the very clever carry-on luggage that stores your entire wardrobe in a case small enough to slip into an overhead locker and defy those fun-snatching budget airlines. A zip file takes up less hard drive space and takes less time to transfer to another computer.