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How To Appear Techno-Savvy at a Party
“Feel more comfortable talking to geeks.”
by Jack Dunning
While I’m sure that most ComputorEdge readers are familiar with the language of the Web and computers, it’s something worthwhile to review. Maybe you have friends who want to feel a little more comfortable with the jargon that is commonly being tossed around by people in the biz. There is nothing worse than listening in on a conversation between technical people (or people pretending to be technical) with nothing more to offer than a blank stare.
What follows is a helpful guide to some of the more used (or overused) terms and concepts currently making the rounds. Some of them are virtually meaningless, while others have not yet come into their own. In any case, an understanding of the words and how they are used will make you more comfortable talking to almost any geek. Or, if you want to appear pretentious (and particularly geeky), you can throw these terms around in front of your non-technical friends, although they are likely to stop inviting you over.
On a more positive note, understanding what these words actually mean will help to separate honest opinion from commercial blather. It’s useful to be able to see through the nonsensical verbiage that extrudes from our television sets.
I invite anyone to add to this partial glossary of current terms. Merely insert your comment by clicking the comment link at the top or bottom of this article.
3G and 4G in Cell Phones
All of the cell phone companies tout their 3G service. One of the reasons 3G is such a powerful term is because the “G” is easily confused with gigabyte (or gigabit). Currently the best in everything in computers and the Internet comes in gigabytes (or gigabits). That includes computer memory, hard drive capacity, and the one-gigabit network speed. G is great—and the more G the better. Therefore, when we see 3G, we think power and speed.
However, the G in 3G stands for third generation. It is slightly better than the second generation (2G) (which I’m not sure ever existed), but not as good as 4G, which is coming—maybe. The obvious next steps will be 5G and 6G, but by that time, computers will be onto T for terabytes (or terabits).
Everyone has 3G. Only Sprint has 4G—I think in Baltimore. 4G will be a faster digital cellular network than 3G—once it gets here. However, it takes tremendous capital investments to build an acceptable 4G network. Therefore, when someone asks you why you don’t have an iPhone, you can say, “I’m waiting for a comprehensive 4G network. I can’t deal with the slow speeds on 3G.”
Chrome Is Anything Google
Remember the old days when the chrome on your car wasn’t made out of plastic? Me either. Now that no one else needs the term “chrome,” Google has claimed it for itself. If the discussion turns to the Internet, the mere mention of Chrome will solicit knowing nods. Of course, it’s helpful to know what Chrome is.
Chrome is two things, both of them from Google (and free). The first is its Chrome Web browser. Competing with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Opera, at first it appears that Chrome is a redundant entry into an already crowded browser market. This is not the case.
Google doesn’t need to compete with Internet Explorer because Microsoft is doing a pretty good job of killing IE off itself. Google gives a ton of money to Firefox, which doesn’t make sense if it wants Chrome to be the new Web browser. Google isn’t building a new browser, but actually building a Web operating system. The Chrome browser is designed to be the platform that will run Web applications. Once this is understood, it becomes obvious why Google also named its new Linux-based computer operating system Chrome. For Google, everything that will be running applications, whether on the Web or on a computer, is Chrome.
To show you’re with it, when someone mentions Google’s Chrome, you can knowingly ask, “The browser or operating system?”
Note: Google also has a free cell phone operating system called Android. If someone ask you if you’re going to get an Android cell phone, you can say, “No, I’m waiting for a nationwide 4G network.”
Also, look for Google Wave (coming soon to conversations everywhere) to vie for the latest position as a combination social network, instant messenger and e-mail program. “I’ll send you a Wave!”
OLED—the Television of the Future
Forget plasma and LCD. Anyone talking about buying one of those is talking old technology (although they are pretty much the only thing you can buy right now). Forget the fact that the only OLED television you can buy today costs about $2,000 and only has an 11-inch screen. If you’re still watching a tube or rear-projection television and don’t want to spring for a new high-definition model, then you can use the coming OLED technology as your excuse for not buying right now.
OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. OLED screens are brighter, use less energy, look good from any angle, and ultimately (three to five years) should be cheaper to produce than the current LCD and plasma displays. The downside includes the difficulties in making big displays and the relatively short screen lifetime. These problems will be worked out. (For more information on OLED, see the July 10 Edgeword.)
OLED screens are produced with a process similar to that of inkjet printing. They can be made extremely thin and draw very little power compared to other technologies. That makes the technology suitable for everything from cell phones to T-shirts.
The truth is that if you want a high-definition television screen today, you will be buying the current technology. It will be a few years before OLED will take over, but in the meantime, it makes for good conversation.
Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, and the Cloud
There is something terminally boring about naming generations of Internet development as if each is a new version of a computer application. Apparently, everything up until Facebook and MySpace was Web 1.0. (Who knew?) Web 2.0 was next—and, I guess, a financial disappointment. Web 3.0 is either on the way or already here. It doesn’t really matter because nobody, except for the techno geeks who want to get their names in Wikipedia, can remember any of the definitions. If you hear anyone using one of these Web X.0 terms, quietly retreat while mumbling something about cloud computing, or the “cloud.”
The “cloud” is the latest analogy for the Internet. It refers to using applications and storing your files at a remote location somewhere in the cloud—the Internet. If you want to sound informed, whenever you hear “cloud computing,” mention Google Apps, Windows Live, or any form of remote backup. The cloud has had legs (good visualization) as a marketing term, because it is easier for us to understand clouds than Web 4.0. All we need to do is look up into the sky. Up next, fog computing and all of its implications.
Bing is easy to remember. It’s short, to the point, and named after a type of cherry. Microsoft has put out plenty of commercials, so we know that Bing has something to do with making decisions. However, I should point out that Bing is actually just another Web search engine. I couldn’t find any decision making. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough. I can’t decide.
If my mother-in-law, God rest her soul, ever heard anyone mention Bing, she usually said, “Ah, good ol’ Bing.” Then she would break out into song.
Watch for the Leopard
If you overhear people talking about Leopard (or lately Snow Leopard), they are talking about Macintosh computers that come from Apple. Leopard refers to the Apple operating system. To drop your two cents into an Apple conversation, memorize the statement, “The Mac OS is run by FreeBSD (pronounced free-bee-ess-dee), which is very similar to Linux, only different.” Be sure to display a disapproving look if anyone mentions Microsoft—or Windows.
Windows XP Good, Windows Vista Bad, Windows 7 Good Again
With different Windows versions, you need to maintain a proper approval level, rather than understand the differences. Soon Windows 7 will be released, which in a couple of years will relegate most of the other versions to oblivion, as is the case with Windows 98. If anyone mentions XP, nod approvingly. If Vista comes up, show sympathy. If it’s Windows 7, give a thumbs up.
The problem with Windows 7 is the name. It’s perfectly respectable to abbreviate it verbally, as in XP, Vista, or “seven.” However, when writing, proper decorum requires us to use the full Windows 7 name, rather than just 7. The digit 7 by itself on the Web or a printed page just looks wrong.
If you master these concepts and the associated terminology, you will be comfortable mingling with the digerati anywhere. If you hear a term that’s not familiar, there is no shame in saying, “Excuse me. I’m not familiar with that expression.” They probably just made it up.