Glossary

Background operation A process that occurs while a program is running. For example, a word processor program can send data to a printer while the program is used for editing.
Backside cache Backside cache is an amount of cache closely attached to the processor but is not inside the processor.
Backup The act of copying data from one location to another for the purpose of having a copy of the file/s in case the original should be lost / corrupted.
Backup media The material in which data is stored on or written to during a backup (eg. tape, diskettes, Zip disks, CDs).
Bad sector An area on a disk drive that cannot store information reliably. The may be due to dust, scratches, manufacturing defects, etc. Operating systems can ignore such bad sectors on disks automatically. Hard disks usually have a few bad sectors at manufacture, but more modern drives hide these from the user, substituting spare good sectors on the fly.
Bandwidth Bandwidth is a term used to describe how much information your computer can receive in a predetermined amount of time by whatever means it connects to a network, including the Internet. The most common measure is Bps (bits per second). Other measures for bandwidth are Kbps for Kilo (thousand) bits per second and Mbps for Mega (Million) bits per second. The larger the bps number, the more information you can receive per second, therefore, the higher the bandwidth. This does not always mean that you will get faster download time as download time also depends upon how fast the computer on the other end is sending information.
Baseband The transmission of a signal along a cable to the exclusion of all other signals on the cable without any form of modulation being applied.  Most local computer communications is baseband, as are local phone lines (ie. the portion between the phone and the nearest exchange).
BASIC Acronym for Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. A programming language widely used on computers.
Batch File A file that contains a list of commands to be executed in a "batch", rather than by being entered one at a time from the keyboard. Typically used to automate commonly run commands.
Baud Way back when modems were slow--so slow they made today's typical modem look like some Star Trek fantasy--their speed was typically measured in Baud. This referred to the number of voltage or frequency changes made per second on a communications line. Mostly the changes were of either voltage or frequency. Coincidentally, these modems mostly moved one bit of information for each change, so the bps--bits per second--were the same as the baud. A 300 baud modem was a 300 bps modem. As new generations of modems came along, bps didn't equal baud. New technology managed to convey more than one bit of information for each comm line change. For example, a 1200bps modem might only run at 600 baud. Because most computer owners care entirely about bps--and only electronic engineers crave voltage and frequency details--the term "baud" has fallen out of general use.
BCNU Say the letters out loud, and you know what it means: "BCNU" means "Be seeing you!" It's one of those cute little acronyms that people use in chat rooms when they're leaving the discussion.
Benchmark A benchmark is a point of reference that other things can be measured against. When a new product (hardware or software) is released it is normally benchmarked against other computers to compare items such as their speed, accuracy, ease of use, etc.
Beowulf Beowulf is a way of connecting many Linux computers together to multiply their power. Beowulf is useful for supercomputing-style work, such as numeric analysis and engineering design.
Beta Testing Once a programmer or software company has finished creating a new or updated program, they will release it for "beta testing". Beta testing is normally conducted by customers who would usually use the program. They will in turn report any problems or suggestions to the programmers. In return, the company doing the beta testing will usually receive reimbursement in the form of discount should they purchase the final release.
Binary A numbering system based on two digits, 0 and 1. All computer systems function on a binary system.
BIOS Acronym for Basic Input/Output System. A program that is embedded in the system's hardware that tells the system what to do when it is powered on. The BIOS is used to initialise the internal devices and carry pre-determined tests before Windows runs.
Bit A bit is the smallest unit of binary data; it can either have the value of 0 (usually meaning "off" or "no") or 1 (usually meaning "on" or "yes"). The word "bit" comes from taking the words "binary digit" and squishing them together until the "nary digi" pops out of the middle.
Bit depth The number of colours allowable in a single pixel. The greater the bit depth, the more realistic images are. Also, a greater bit depth results in the need for more memory and a faster processor to be installed in the computer.
Bitmap A file containing a picture, stored as a set of coloured dots called pixels, or picture elements.
Bitrate Determines the nominal quality of the 'samples' of sound taken from the sound waveform. The higher the frequency of samples taken the more bits played per second, the more bits played per second the more accurate the resulting sound reproduction is to the original waveform. A bitrate of 128kbp is considered to be 'CD-quality'.
Bluetooth A new global specification for short-range wireless connectivity, the Bluetooth agreement lets portable and stationary communication devices connect to each other without cables. Support for Bluetooth is being built into a range of mobile phones, portable computers, desktop computers, handheld organizers, fax machines, keyboards, and other devices. Ideally this will mean you'll be able to share information easily among all those many mobile devices, such as synchronizing your address book from one to the next.
Body Refers to the part of your e-mail message that contains the message. In other words, it's the part that comes after your headings (To, From, cc, and so on).
Boot Record A sector at the beginning of each disk that identifies the disk's characteristics (eg. sector size, cluster size, etc). For bootable disks, it also contains the boot program.
Bottleneck A bottleneck is what happens when there's a delay in a system or network due to there being an item which is not responding as quickly as it should. For example, if you're running a 56kb modem and trying to download a heavy graphic file, you'll most likely encounter a bottleneck due to the slow speed of the modem.
Broadband Telecommunication method that provides multiple channels of data over a single, high-speed communication link.
Buffer A buffer is a data area that is shared by hardware devices and programs, all of which run at different speeds and have different priorities. The buffer doesn't necessarily speed things up, instead, it lets everything do its job without being held up by other processes.
Bug An error or malfunction in a program that prevents it from working properly.
Bus A physical path in a computer (usually on a circuit board or in a cable) that carries a group of signals to and from devices.
Business Intelligence Refers to the type of information that business managers seek and use to analyse sales trends, customer habits and other key business criteria of an organistion. This concept has spawned a BI software industry to cater for these needs.
Byte A byte is a single data character--a letter or number. It's also the amount of disk space or memory required to store a single data character. There are eight bits to make a byte. As fundamental as bytes are, we don't often talk about them individually; most often we hear of bytes packaged together in kilobytes, megabytes, and so on.

 


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This page was last updated on Sunday, 14 December 2008