Jargon File

Activities Overview: Part of Gnome Shell. It's an overlay that appears over the desktop, allowing you to see all your open applications, launch new ones and access notifications.

Bandwidth: Bandwidth describes the amount of data that can be transferred in a set amount of time. The more bandwidth you have, the faster you can transfer files.

Bandwidth, when referring to broadband internet, is often measured in Mb/s. This is Megabits per second, and 1 Mb/s is equal to the transfer of 1 million bits per second, or roughly, 125 kilobytes per second. That's roughly 1/8th of a Megabyte.

Bash: The Bourne Again Shell. See: Shell.

Boot/shutdown/reboot: Boot means to start a computer. Shutdown means to turn off a computer. Reboot means to shutdown a computer, only to turn it back on again immediately after – effectively, a complete 'power cycle'.

Cloud: A technology industry buzzword. It's often used to refer to the idea of keeping your files and applications on internet servers, as opposed to your personal computer.

The idea is that your files will be safer, being looked after by professionals, and more convenient to access, as they'll be with you anywhere you have an internet connection. Another aspect of this concept is that your interaction with computer systems is abstracted from the physical hardware: if the hardware changes or breaks, the user no longer needs to know about it.

Also, a collection of water droplets in the sky. Fluffy in appearance. Causes rain to fall.

Crack/Hack: In the mainstream media, hack or hacker is a term used to describe a computer criminal: someone who breaks in to systems without permission with the intent of stealing or corrupting data.

In free/open source software circles, however, it retains its original meaning: 'an expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example.' Also: 'One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations.'

These definitions are from Eric Raymond's The Jargon File.

Because of these conflicting meanings, it is better to refer to a computer criminal as a cracker, someone who cracks open systems, than a hacker.

Dash (Gnome Shell): The dash is a part of the Activities Overview in Gnome Shell. It's a bar that sits on the left-hand side, containing shortcut icons to launch your favourite applications, and to access running programs too.

Dash is also the name for several other applications, including a Bash shell replacement.

Desktop: A popular metaphor that's used when designing user interfaces. The idea is that the computer interface resembles a physical desktop, with a space to store current files.

Directory: A collection of files and folders on a filesystem.

Distribution: A Linux distribution is the Linux kernel, packaged with the GNU tools and all the other software necessary for it to be a complete operating system. They often come with other software packages that are necessary to run a computer, including graphical user interfaces, office suites, web browsers and media players.

Different distributions configure the software differently, and many target different audiences. These can include home users, small or large companies, computer programmers and systems administrators.

Examples of distributions include Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint, Debian, Arch and openSUSE. There are many others.

Encryption: Encryption refers to a set of mathematical techniques for transforming data to make it unreadable by anyone except those who possess a predefined secret, often a passphrase.

Modern, and freely available, encryption techniques are very strong and impractical to break by lots and lots of guesses. As a result, it's often used to protect online banking transactions or other kinds of sensitive data.

Filesystem: The system used for organising files on the hard disk. Usually, filesystems are hierarchical, resembling an upside-down tree. On Linux systems, there's a single folder that sits at the root of the filesystem, and is unsurprisingly known as the root folder.

All other files and folders on the system exist as a sub-directory or file contained within this root folder.

Freenode: Freenode is an IRC network, popular with Linux users and developers. It hosts the #ubuntu channel, among many others.

Free Software: Free Software is not software that's available without cost (what's known as freeware), but software whose users have been given four freedoms:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour.
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified version to others. By doing this, you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Taken from www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html - you can find out more about why free software is important on this page.

Gnome: Gnome stands for GNU Network Object Model Environment. It is a user interface and complete desktop environment that is made of entirely free software.

As well as the user interface, it includes its own software suite as well as tools to make it easier to manage your computer.

Gnome Shell: Gnome 3.0 included a new interface, which has come to be known as the Shell. Many of the other tools were merely upgraded, and remain very similar to how they were in Gnome 2.

GNU: GNU is also an operating system, but unlike Linux, it is largely constituted of the other software packages necessary to make a computer work, including the GCC compiler and other libraries.

There is a GNU kernel, called the Hurd, but it is not yet ready for daily use.

Some have questioned whether GNU really qualifies as an operating system. If you're interested in definitions and nuance, then take a look at The Daemon, The Gnu and The Penguin by Dr. Peter Salus.

Hard Drive: The device that a computer uses to store permanent data on.

Hardware: The physical components that constitute a computer. This includes hard drives, Random Access Memory (RAM), Central Processing Units (CPU) and much more.

IRC: Internet Relay Chat. A distributed chat system, with rooms divided in to networks. Rooms are known as channels, and are identified by a name preceded by a #, eg #ubuntu is the official Ubuntu support channel.

KDE: Originally the Kool Desktop Environment, now just KDE. It’s a user interface and complete desktop environment that is made of entirely free software.

As well as the user interface, it also includes tools to make managing your computer easier and its own software suite.

Kernel: The part of an operating system which controls the interaction between software and hardware.

Linux: Linux is most often thought of as an operating system. It is free/open source software, often available free of charge. It is not developed by any single company or organisation, but rather a distributed community of developers.

In actual fact, Linux is the kernel of the operating system. It is often used in conjunction with the GNU tools and other software packages to make a complete operating system. This is sometimes called GNU/Linux.

Live CD: A live CD is a CD that has a complete Linux distribution on it. The entire computer can then run off this CD, without needing to access anything on the hard drive. They give the use a very convenient way of trying different Linux distributions, testing hardware and recovering damaged systems and files.

One notable problem with Live CDs is that the operating system will run slower than if it were installed on the hard drive. This is a result of the speed at which data can be read from the different devices.

Live USB: Like a Live CD, but installed on a USB thumb drive. These can be quicker, and they also allow you to store data between live sessions.

Open Source: Open source software is much the same as free software, although a slightly different set of criteria must be met for something to be called open source.

You can find out more about these criteria on www.opensource.org/docs/osd.

Some prefer this term, as the word open is not ambiguous in the same way free is. Others prefer free software, since they think open doesn't do justice to the ideas of freedom that lie behind free software.

Operating System: A collection of software that is responsible for making your hardware work and controlling the interaction between all other pieces of software, the hardware, and each other. Windows, OS X, Android and iOS are all examples of operating systems.

Partitions: A single physical hard drive can be sub-divided into distinct sections, known as partitions, that the operating system treats as though they were on separate physical devices. This is useful for a variety of reasons, including allowing user files to be stored separately from operating system files – if you do this, when you come to change operating system, your user files don't need to be modified at all.

Shell: Refers to a computer interface, as in Gnome Shell or Bourne Again Shell (BASH). It more commonly refers to a text-based computer interface, that reads, interprets and executes typed commands.

Software: The instructions that are executed by the hardware. Operating systems are software, as is Microsoft Word, the Firefox web browser, and every other program and application you've ever encountered.

Source Code: The human readable instructions that programmers write, and computers turn into software that they can run (through the use of a software application known as a 'compiler').

Ubuntu: Ubuntu is a general purpose Linux distribution. It primarily targets home users and aims to be as easy to use as possible.

Ubuntu is also an African word (from the Bantu languages) meaning, roughly, 'humanity to others'.

User: A person using a computer. More specifically, a user refers to an individual or piece of software that has a set of credentials on the computer. These usually include a username and password.

On Linux, all files have a user as their owner, and that owner can dictate which other users have permission to edit or read that file.

User Interface: The collection of elements that appear on the computer display. Usually, these are manipulated through a mouse, keyboard or touchscreen.

Some interfaces are graphical (a Graphical User Interface, or GUI), others are text-based.

Virtual Desktop: Rather than restricting you to a single desktop workspace on which to organise your files and windows, many interfaces provide a virtual desktop facility. This enables you to have multiple desktops, one of which is displayed while the others are accessible through keyboard shortcuts or on-screen buttons.

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