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Home  arrow Chapter 4: Software Basics: The Ghost in the Machine  arrow Glossary


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agent p. 136 Software program that can ask questions, respond to commands, pay attention to users’ work patterns, serve as a guide and a coach, take on owners’ goals, and use reasoning to fabricate its own goals.

algorithm p. 108 A set of step-by-step instructions that, when completed, solves a problem.

autosave p. 124 A feature of many software applications that automatically saves your work every few minutes, so you don’t lose more than a few minutes of work in a freeze or crash.

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booting p. 119 Loading the non-ROM part of the operating system into memory.

bug p. 108 An error in programming.

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character-based interface p. 122 A user interface based on text characters rather than graphics.

command-line interface p. 122 User interface that requires the user to type text commands on a command line to communicate with the operating system.

compatible (compatibility) p. 113 The ability of a software program to run on a specific computer system. Also, the ability of a hardware device to function with a particular type of computer.

compiler p. 112 A translator program that translates an entire program from a high-level computer language before the program is run for the first time.

context-sensitive menus p. 123 Menus offering choices that depend on the context.

contract p. 133 A type of law that covers trade secrets.

copyright p. 133 A type of law that traditionally protects forms of literary expression.

copyrighted software p. 114 Software that prevents a disk from being copied.

custom application p. 117 An application programmed for a specific purpose, typically for a specific client.

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debugging p. 109 Finding and correcting errors—bugs—in computer software.

defragmentation utility p. 133 A program that eliminates fragmented files by changing the assignment of clusters to files.

device drivers p. 119 Small programs that allow input/output devices to communicate with the computer.

digital rights management (DRM) p. 114 Technology now being used in many audio files to protect musicians’ and other artists’ intellectual property.

documentation p. 113 Instructions for installing the software on a computer’s hard disc.

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end-user license agreement (EULA) p. 114 An agreement typically including specifications for how a program may be used, warranty disclaimers, and rules concerning the copying of the software.

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file-management utility (file manager) p. 129 A program that allows you to view, rename, copy, move, and delete files and folders.

force quit p. 124 A way to shut down your computer if it freezes. In Windows, press the Ctrl + Alt + Del keys at the same time, and then click Task Manager; then select the frozen program and click End Task. On a Mac, press Command-Option-Esc or choose Force Quit from the Apple menu; then select the frozen app from the list and click Force Quit.

formatting p. 132 The function of software, such as word processing software, that enables users to change the appearance of a document by specifying the font, point size, and style of any character in the document, as well as the overall layout of text and graphical elements in the document.

fragmented file p. 132 A file allocated to noncontiguous clusters on a disk, thus degrading the disk’s performance.

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graphical user interface (GUI) p. 122 A user interface based on graphical displays. Typically the user points to icons that represent files, folders, and disks. Documents are displayed in windows. The user selects commands from menus.

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hierarchical menus p. 122 Menus that organize commands into compact, efficient submenus.

high-level language p. 112 A programming language that falls somewhere between natural human languages and precise machine languages, developed to streamline and simplify the programming process.

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intellectual property p. 133 The results of intellectual activities in the arts, science, and industry.

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Java p. 128 A platform-neutral, object-oriented programming language developed by Sun Microsystems for use on multiplatform networks.

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Linux p. 105 An operating system based on UNIX, maintained by volunteers, and distributed for free. Linux is used mostly in servers and embedded computers, but it is growing in popularity as a PC operating system.

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Mac OS p. 122 The operating system for the Apple Macintosh computer.

machine language p. 109 The language that computers use to process instructions. Machine language uses numeric codes to represent basic computer operations.

menu p. 122 An onscreen list of command choices.

menu-driven interface p. 122 A user interface that enables users to choose commands from on-screen lists called menus.

Microsoft Windows p. 122 The most popular PC operating system.

multitasking p. 118 Concurrent processing for personal computers. The user can issue a command that initiates a process and then continue working with other applications while the computer follows through on the command.

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natural language p. 112 Language that people speak and write every day.

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open-source software p. 106 Software that can be distributed and modified freely by users; Linux is the best-known example.

operating system (OS) p. 117 A system of programs that performs a variety of technical operations, providing an additional layer of insulation between the user and the bits-and-bytes world of computer hardware.

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patent p. 133 A type of law that protects mechanical inventions.

pathname p. 129 The unique location specification for every computer file and folder, describing the nesting of folders containing it.

platform p. 127 The combination of hardware and operating system software upon which application software is built.

pop-up menus p. 123 Menus that can appear anywhere on the screen.

public-domain software p. 115 Free software that is not copyrighted and that is offered through World Wide Web sites, electronic bulletin boards, user groups, and other sources.

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root directory p. 129 The main folder on a computer’s primary hard disk, containing all the other files and folders kept on the disk.

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safe mode p. 124 A way to start your machine when it’s not working properly because files have been corrupted or applications are clashing with each other. Safe mode disables most startup applications temporarily. On a Windows machine, press and hold the F8 key on the keyboard as the machine is booting, then use the arrow keys to select Safe Mode in the Windows Advanced Options Menu that appears. On a Mac, hold down the Shift key while restarting until the Apple logo appears.

shareware p. 115 Software that is free for the trying, with a send-payment-if-you-keep-it honor system.

shell p. 123 A program layer that stands between the user and the operating system.

software license p. 114 An agreement allowing the use of a software program on a single machine.

software piracy p. 114 The illegal duplication of copyrighted software.

system software p. 117 Software that handles the details of computing. Includes the operating system and utility programs.

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taskbar p. 122 A button bar that provides one-click access to open applications and tools, making it easy to switch back and forth between different tasks.

trademark p. 133 Legal ownership protection for symbols, pictures, sounds, colors, and smells used by a business to identify goods.

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UNIX p. 123 An operating system that allows a timesharing computer to communicate with several other computers or terminals at once. UNIX is the most widely available multiuser operating system in use. It is also widely used on Internet hosts.

updates p. 113 Improvements that software companies make to their programs. They usually contain bug fixes, new features, and/or minor enhancements.

upgrade p. 113 A new and improved version of a software program.

user interface p. 122 The look and feel of the computing experience from a human point of view.

utility program p. 118 Software that serves as tools for doing system maintenance and some repairs that are not automatically handled by the operating system.

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vertical-market application p. 117 A computer application designed specifically for a particular business or industry.

virtual memory p. 118 Use of part of a computer hard disk as a substitute for RAM.

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Web application p. 115 An application that is stored on a Web server and typically accessed via a Web browser.

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