Word of the Day: Perl

Perl actually stands for “Practical Extraction and Report Language,” but you don’t really need to know that unless you want to impress your nerd friends. Perl is a scripting language which uses a syntax simliar to C/C++. It is commonly used by Web programmers to create scripts for Web servers. Perl is especially good at parsing text, so programmers often use it for reading and searching through text files.

As a regular computer user, you won’t get to see Perl in action, since it does most of its work “behind the scenes.” Perl scripts are run on the server computer before any information is sent to your Web browser. Oh well, the code looks like hieroglyphics to most people anyway.

– definition form TechTerms

Word of the Day: Metafile

A metafile can refer to two different types of computer files. The first is a file that describes the contents of other files. This type of metafile may contain metadata, which defines a group other files and gives a summary of what data they contain.

The second type of metafile is most often used in computer graphics. These files define objects and images using a list of coordinates. They are typically used for vector images, such as Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, and EPS files, but can include raster images as well.

– definition form TechTerms

Word of the Day: Lossy

Lossy file compression results in lost data and quality from the original version. Lossy compression is typically associated with image files, such as JPEGs, but can also be used for audio files, like MP3s or AAC files. The “lossyness” of an image file may show up as jagged edges or pixelated areas. In audio files, the lossyness may produce a watery sound or reduce the dynamic range of the audio.

Because lossy compression removes data from the original file, the resulting file often takes up much less disk space than the original. For example, a JPEG image may reduce an image’s file size by more than 80%, with little noticeable effect. Similarly, a compressed MP3 file may be one tenth the size of the original audio file and may sound almost identical.

The keyword here is “almost.” JPEG and MP3 compression both remove data from the original file, which may be noticeable upon close examination. Both of these compression algorithms allow for various “quality settings,” which determine how compressed the file will be. The quality setting involves a trade-off between quality and file size. A file that uses greater compression will take up less space, but may not look or sound as good as a less compressed file. Some image and audio formats allow lossless compression, which does not reduce the file’s quality at all.

– definition from TechTerms

Word of the Day: Donationware

Donationware is software that is free to use, but encourages users to make a donation to the developer. Some donationware programs request a specific amount, while others allow users to determine what the program is worth and send in an appropriate donation. Unlike shareware, which may provide limited functionality until a registration key is purchased, donationware is fully functional. Therefore, donationware is more similar to freeware, which is free to use, but retains the author’s copyright.

Some donationware programs make subtle requests for donations, such as an option in the menu bar. Others are more blatant, and may prompt you for a donation each time you open the program. This dialog box should disappear once you have made a contribution. Most donationware programs allow you to donate to the developer via a credit card or PayPal account.

If you find a certain donationware application program to be useful, you can be sure the developer will appreciation your donation. Just make sure that the website you use to donate is legitimate and provides a secure (HTTPS) connection.

– definition from TechTerms

Word of the Day: Bug

In the computer world, a bug is an error in a software program. It may cause a program to unexpectedly quit or behave in an unintended manner. For example, a small bug may cause a button within a program’s interface not to respond when you click it. A more serious bug may cause the program to hang or crash due to an infinite calculation or memory leak.

From a developer perspective, bugs can be syntax or logic errors within the source code of a program. These errors can often be fixed using a development tool aptly named a debugger. However, if errors are not caught before the program is compiled into the final application, the bugs will be noticed by the user.

Because bugs can negatively affect the usability of a program, most programs typically go through a lot of testing before they are released to the public. For example, commercial software often goes through a beta phase, where multiple users thoroughly test all aspects of the program to make sure it functions correctly. Once the program is determined to be stable and free from errors, it is released the public.

Of course, as we all know, most programs are not completely error-free, even after they have been thoroughly tested. For this reason, software developers often release “point updates,” (e.g. version 1.0.1), which include bug fixes for errors that were found after the software was released. Programs that are especially “buggy” may require multiple point updates (1.0.2, 1.0.3, etc.) to get rid of all the bugs.

– definition from TechTerms

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