Month: December 2015

Tech Terms: Standalone

A standalone device is able to function independently of other hardware. This means it is not integrated into another device. For example, a TiVo box that can record television programs is a standalone device, while a DVR that is integrated into a digital cable box is not standalone. Integrated devices are typically less expensive than multiple standalone products that perform the same functions. However, using standalone hardware typically allows the user greater customization, whether it be a home theater or computer system.

Standalone can also refer to a software program that does not require any software other than the operating system to run. This means that most software programs are standalone programs. Software such as plug-ins and expansion packs for video games are not standalone programs since they will not run unless a certain program is already installed.


Tech Terms: Spider

A spider is a software program that travels the Web (hence the name “spider”), locating and indexing websites for search engines. All the major search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, use spiders to build and update their indexes. These programs constantly browse the Web, traveling from one hyperlink to another.

For example, when a spider visits a website’s home page, there may be 30 links on the page. The spider will follow each of the links, adding all the pages it finds to the search engine’s index. Of course, the new pages that the spider finds may also have links, which the spider continues to follow. Some of these links may point to pages within the same website (internal links), while others may lead to different sites (external links). The external links will cause the spider to jump to new sites, indexing even more pages.

Because of the interwoven nature of website links, spiders often return to websites that have already been indexed. This allows search engines to keep track of how many external pages link to each page. Usually, the more incoming links a page has, the higher it will be ranked in search engine results. Spiders not only find new pages and keep track of links, they also track changes to each page, helping search engine indexes stay up to date.

Spiders are also called robots and crawlers, which may be preferable for those who are not fond of arachnids. The word “spider” can also be used as verb, such as, “That search engine finally spidered my website last week.”


Tech Terms: Backside Bus

There are two types of buses that carry data to and from a computer’s CPU. They are the frontside bus and backside bus. Surprisingly, there is no correlation between these and the backside and frontside airs that snowboarders talk about.

While the frontside bus carries data between the CPU and memory, the backside bus transfers data to and from the computer’s secondary cache. The secondary, or L2 cache stores frequently used functions and other data close to the processor. This allows the computer’s CPU to work more efficiently since it can repeat processes faster.

When the processor needs information from the L2 cache, it is sent over the backside bus. Because this process needs to be extremely fast, the clock speed of the backside bus cannot afford to lag behind. For this reason, the backside bus is often as fast as the processor. The frontside bus, on the other hand, is typically half the speed of the processor or slower.


Tech Terms: InterNIC

Stands for “Internet Network Information Center.” The InterNIC is an organization created by the National Science Foundation to provide Internet information and domain name registration services. While the InterNIC was started as a joint effort between Network Solutions and AT&T, it is now run by the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

While the InterNIC still monitors domain names and provides WHOIS data, the domain name registration process has been relinquished to commercial domain registrars. Public information regarding domain names, registrars, and other Internet-related data can be accessed at the InterNIC website.


Tech Terms: Direct3D

Direct3D is an application program interface (API) developed by Microsoft that provides a set of commands and functions for manipulating 3D objects. By using Direct3D commands, software developers can take advantage of many prewritten functions. This allows programmers to write significantly less code than if they had to write all the functions from scratch. Direct3D makes it relatively easy to manage three-dimensional objects, including lighting and shadows as well.

In order for a software program to use Direct3D commands, the computer’s video card or graphics accelerator device must support Direct3D. Fortunately, just about all video cards made for PCs offer Direct3D support. While many video games and other programs use Direct3D, OpenGL is a more widely used standard.


Tech Terms: Thyristor

A thyristor is a four-layer semiconductor that is often used for handling large amounts of power. While a thyristor can be turned on or off, it can also regulate power using something called phase angle control. This allows the amount of power output to be controlled by adjusting the angle of the current input. An example of this is the a dimmer switch for a light.

While thyristors have the advantage of using phase angle control and handling large amounts of power, they are not as suitable for low power applications. This is because they can only be turned off by switching the direction of the current. For this reason, a thyristor may take longer to turn on or off that other semiconductors. Also, thyristors can only conduct in one direction, making them impractical for applications that require current to be conducted to and from each device.


Tech Terms: Leaderboard

As the average computer screen size has grown larger, the size of online advertisements as grown as well. The leaderboard ad, which was introduced in 2003, has a standard size of 728 pixels wide by 90 pixels tall (728×90). Compare that to its predecessor, the banner ad, which is 468 pixels wide by 60 pixels tall (468×60).

Leaderboards can contain text, images, or even animations. When a visitor clicks on a leaderboard, he or she is directed to the advertiser’s website. While leaderboards are larger than the original banner ads, most Web developers have found ways to incorporate the ads in ways that are not too distracting to the user.


Tech Terms: Skyscraper

While not as common as the banner ad, the skyscraper is another prevalent form of Web advertising. Skyscraper ads, which are tall and narrow, get their name from the tall buildings you often see in big cities. They are typically placed to the left or right of the main content on the page, which allows all or part of the ad to be visible even as the user scrolls down the window.

Skyscraper ads come in two standard sizes — 120 pixels wide by 600 pixels high (120×600) and 160 pixels wide by 600 pixels high (160×600). They can contain text advertisements, images, or animations. When users click on a skyscraper ad, they are redirected to the advertiser’s website.


Tech Term: Banner Ad

Whether you like it or not, much of the Web is run by advertising. Just like television or radio, websites can offer free content by generating revenue from advertising. While you may get tired of Web ads from time to time, most people would agree that seeing a few advertisements here and there is better than paying a usage fee for each website.

Perhaps the most prolific form of Web advertising is the banner ad. It is a long, rectangular image that can be placed just about anywhere on a Web page. Most banner ads are 468 pixels wide by 60 pixels high (468×60). They may contain text, images, or sometimes those annoying animations that make it hard to focus on the page’s content. Regardless of the type of banner ad, when a user clicks the advertisement, he or she is redirected to the advertiser’s website.