Appendix A: The Lingo
Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet

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     Like any community, the Net has developed its own language. 
What follows is a glossary of some of the more common phrases you'll
likely run into.  But it's only a small subset of net.speak.  You an find
a more complete listing in "The New Hacker's Dictionary," compiled by
Eric Raymond (MIT Press).  Raymond's work is based on an online reference
known as "The Jargon File," which you can get through anonymous ftp from as jarg300.txt.gz in the pub/gnu directory (see
chapter 7 for information on how to un-compress a .gz file).
ASCII           Has two meanings.  ASCII is a universal computer code
                for English letters and characters.  Computers store
                all information as binary numbers. In ASCII, the
                letter "A" is stored as 01000001, whether the computer
                is made by IBM, Apple or Commodore.  ASCII also refers
                to a method, or protocol, for copying files from one
                computer to another over a network, in which neither
                computer checks for any errors that might have been
                caused by static or other problems.
ANSI            Computers use several different methods for deciding
                how to put information on your screen and how your
                keyboard interacts with the screen.  ANSI is one of
                these "terminal emulation" methods.  Although most
                popular on PC-based bulletin-board systems, it can also
                be found on some Net sites.  To use it properly, you
                will first have to turn it on, or enable it, in your
                communications software.
ARPANet         A predecessor of the Internet.  Started in 1969 with
                funds from the Defense Department's Advanced Projects
                Research Agency.
backbone        A high-speed network that connects several powerful
                computers.  In the U.S., the backbone of the Internet is
                often considered the NSFNet, a government funded link
                between a handful of supercomputer sites across the
Baud            The speed at which modems transfer data.  One baud is
                roughly equal to one bit per second.  It takes eight
                bits to make up one letter or character.  Modems rarely
                transfer data at exactly the same speed as their listed
                baud rate because of static or computer problems. More
                expensive modems use systems, such as Microcom Network
                Protocol (MNP), which can correct for these errors or
                which "compress" data to speed up transmission.
BITNet          Another, academically oriented, international computer
                network, which uses a different set of computer
                instructions to move data.  It is easily accessible to
                Internet users through e-mail, and provides a large
                number of conferences and databases.  Its name comes from
                "Because It's Time." "
Bounce          What your e-mail does when it cannot get to its
                recipient -- it bounces back to you -- unless it goes
                off into the ether, never to be found again.
Command line    On Unix host systems, this is where you tell the
                machine what you want it to do, by entering commands.
Communications  A program that tells a modem how to work.
Daemon          An otherwise harmless Unix program that normally works
                out of sight of the user. On the Internet, you'll most
                likely encounter it only when your e-mail is not
                delivered to your recipient -- you'll get back your
                original message plus an ugly message from a "mailer
Distribution    A way to limit where your Usenet postings go.  Handy for
                such things as "for sale" messages or discussions of
                regional politics.
Domain          The last part of an Internet address, such as ""
Dot             When you want to impress the net veterans you meet at
                parties, say "dot" instead of "period," for example: "My
                address is john at site dot domain dot com."
Dot file        A file on a Unix public-access system
                that alters the way you or your messages interact with
                that system.  For example, your .login file contains
                various parameters for such things as the text editor you
                get when you send a message.   When you do an ls command,
                these files do not appear in the directory listing; do ls
                -a to list them.
Down            When a public-access site runs into technical trouble,
                and you can no longer gain access to it, it's down.
Download        Copy a file from a host system to your computer.  There
                are several different methods, or protocols, for
                downloading files, most of which periodically check the
                file as it is being copied to ensure no information is
                inadvertently destroyed or damaged during the process.
                Some, such as XMODEM, only let you download one file at
                a time.  Others, such as batch-YMODEM and ZMODEM, let
                you type in the names of several files at once, which
                are then automatically downloaded.
EMACS           A standard Unix text editor preferred by Unix types
                that beginners tend to hate.               
E-mail          Electronic mail -- a way to send a private message to
                somebody else on the Net. Used as both noun and verb.
Emoticon        See smiley.
F2F             Face to Face.  When you actually meet those people you
                been corresponding with/flaming.
FAQ             Frequently Asked Questions.  A compilation of answers to
                these.  Many Usenet newsgroups have these files, which
                are posted once a month or so for beginners.
Film at 11      One reaction to an overwrought argument: "Imminent death
                of the Net predicted. Film at 11."
Finger          An Internet program that lets you get some bit of
                information about another user, provided they have first
                created a .plan file.
Flame           Online yelling and/or ranting directed at somebody else. 
                Often results in flame wars, which occasionally turn into
                holy wars (see).
Followup        A Usenet posting that is a response to an earlier
Foo/foobar      A sort of online algebraic place holder, for example: "If
                you want to know when another site is run by a for-
                profit company, look for an address in the form of
Fortune cookie  An inane/witty/profund comment that can be found around
                the net. 
Freeware        Software that doesn't cost anything.
FTP             File-transfer Protocol.  A system for transferring files
                across the Net.
Get a life      What to say to somebody who has, perhaps, been spending a
                wee bit too much time in front of a computer.
GIF             Graphic Interchange Format.  A format developed in the
                mid-1980s by CompuServe for use in photo-quality graphics
                images.  Now commonly used everywhere online.
GNU             Gnu's Not Unix.  A project of the Free Software
                Foundation to write a free version of the Unix operating

Hacker          On the Net, unlike among the general public, this is not
                a bad person; it is simply somebody who enjoys stretching
                hardware and software to their limits, seeing just what
                they can get their computers to do.  What many people
                call hackers, net.denizens refer to as crackers.

Handshake       Two modems trying to connect first do this to agree on
                how to transfer data.
Hang            When a modem fails to hang up.
Holy war        Arguments that involve certain basic tenets of faith,
                about which one cannot disagree without setting one of
                these off.  For example: IBM PCs are inherently superior to
Host system     A public-access site; provides Net access to people
                outside the research and government community.
IMHO            In My Humble Opinion.
Internet        A worldwide system for linking smaller computer
                networks together.  Networks connected through the
                Internet use a particular set of communications
                standards to communicate, known as TCP/IP.
Killfile        A file that lets you filter Usenet postings to some
                extent, by excluding messages on certain topics or from
                certain people.
Log on/log in   Connect to a host system or public-access site.
Log off         Disconnect from a host system.
Lurk            Read messages in a Usenet newsgroup without ever saying
Mailing list    Essentially a conference in which messages are delivered
                right to your mailbox, instead of to a Usenet newsgroup. 
                You get on these by sending a message to a specific e-
                mail address, which is often that of a computer that
                automates the process.
MOTSS           Members of the Same Sex.  Gays and Lesbians online. 
                Originally an acronym used in the 1980 federal census.
Net.god         One who has been online since the beginning, who knows
                all and who has done it all.
Net.personality Somebody sufficiently opinionated/flaky/with plenty of
                time on his hands to regularly post in dozens of
                different Usenet newsgroups, whose presence is known to
                thousands of people.
Net.police      Derogatory term for those who would impose their
                standards on other users of the Net.  Often used in
                vigorous flame wars (in which it occasionally mutates to
Netiquette      A set of common-sense guidelines for not annoying others.
Network         A communications system that links two or more
                computers. It can be as simple as a cable strung
                between two computers a few feet apart or as complex
                as hundreds of thousands of computers around the world
                linked through fiber optic cables, phone lines and
Newbie          Somebody new to the Net.  Sometimes used derogatorily by
                net.veterans who have forgotten that, they, too, were
                once newbies who did not innately know the answer to
                everything. "Clueless newbie" is always derogatory.
Newsgroup       A Usenet conference.
NIC             Network Information Center.  As close as an Internet-
                style network gets to a hub; it's usually where you'll
                find information about that particular network.
NSA line eater  The more aware/paranoid Net users believe that the
                National Security Agency has a super-powerful computer
                assigned to reading everything posted on the Net.   They
                will jokingly (?) refer to this line eater in their
                postings. Goes back to the early days of the Net when
                the bottom lines of messages would sometimes disappear
                for no apparent reason.
NSF             National Science Foundation.  Funds the NSFNet, a
                high-speed network that once formed the backbone of the
                Internet in the U.S.
Offline         When your computer is not connected to a host system
                or the Net, you are offline.
Online          When your computer is connected to an online service,
                bulletin-board system or public-access site.
Ping            A program that can trace the route a message takes from
                your site to another site.
.plan file      A file that lists anything you want others on the Net to
                know about you.  You place it in your home directory on
                your public-access site.  Then, anybody who fingers (see)
                you, will get to see this file.
Post            To compose a message for a Usenet newsgroup and then send
                it out for others to see.
Postmaster      The person to contact at a particular site to ask for
                information about the site or complain about one of
                his/her user's behavior.
Protocol        The method used to transfer a file between a host
                system and your computer. There are several types,
                such as Kermit,  YMODEM and ZMODEM.                            
Prompt          When the host system asks you to do something and
                waits for you to respond.  For example, if you see
                "login:" it means type your user name.
README files    Files found on FTP sites that explain what is in a given
                FTP directory or which provide other useful information
                (such as how to use FTP).
Real Soon Now   A vague term used to describe when something will
                actually happen.
RFC             Request for Comments.  A series of documents that
                describe various technical aspects of the Internet.
ROTFL           Rolling on the Floor Laughing.  How to respond to a
                particularly funny comment.
ROT13           A simple way to encode bad jokes, movie reviews that give
                away the ending, pornography, etc.  Essentially, each
                letter in a message is replace by the letter 13 spaces
                away from it in the alphabet.  There are online decoders
                to read these; nn and rn have them built in.
RTFM            Read the, uh, you know, Manual.  Often used in flames
                against people who ask computer-related questions that
                could be easily answered with a few minutes with a
                manual. More politely: RTM.
Screen capture  A part of your communications software that
                opens a file on your computer and saves to it whatever
                scrolls past on the screen while connected to a host
Server          A computer that can distribute information or files
                automatically in response to specifically worded e-mail
Shareware       Software that is freely available on the Net.  If you
                like and use the software, you should send in the fee
                requested by the author, whose name and address will be
                found in a file distributed with the software.
.sig file       Sometimes, .signature file.  A file that, when placed in
                your home directory on your public-access site, will
                automatically be appended to every Usenet posting you
.sig quote      A profound/witty/quizzical/whatever quote that you
                include in your .sig file.
Signal-to-noise The amount of useful information to be found in a given
ratio           Usenet newsgroup.  Often used derogatorily, for example:
                "the signal-to-noise ratio in this newsgroup is pretty low."
SIMTEL20        The White Sands Missile Range used to maintain a giant
                collection of free and low-cost software of all kinds,
                which was "mirrored" to numerous other ftp sites on the
                Net.  In the fall of 1993, the Air Force decided it had
                better things to do than maintain a free software library
                and shut it down.  But you'll still see references to
                the collection, known as SIMTEL20, around the Net.

Smiley          A way to describe emotion online.  Look at this with
                your head tilted to the left :-).  There are scores
                of these smileys, from grumpy to quizzical.

Snail mail      Mail that comes through a slot in your front door or a
                box mounted outside your house.
Sysadmin        The system administrator; the person who runs a host
                system or public-access site.

Sysop           A system operator.  Somebody who runs a bulletin-board

TANSTAAFL       There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. 
TCP/IP          Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. The
                particular system for transferring information over a
                computer network that is at the heart of the Internet.
Telnet          A program that lets you connect to other computers on
                the Internet.
Terminal        There are several methods for determining how your
emulation       keystrokes and screen interact with a public-access
                site's operating system.  Most communications programs
                offer a  choice of "emulations" that let you mimic the
                keyboard that would normally be attached directly to
                the host-system computer.
UUCP            Unix-to-Unix CoPy.  A method for transferring Usenet
                postings and e-mail that requires far fewer net resources
                than TCP/IP, but which can result in considerably slower
                transfer times.
Upload          Copy a file from your computer to a host system.
User name       On most host systems, the first time you connect you
                are asked to supply a one-word user name.  This can be
                any combination of letters and numbers.
VT100           Another terminal-emulation system.  Supported by many
                communications program, it is the most common one in
                use on the Net.  VT102 is a newer version.