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By Jim Gerland and Mark Winer

Check out our bi-weekly Net perspective. Our goal is to make these columns useful for our readers whether they be novice or pro, while still offering a fun to read column. Feel free to let us know what Internet resources you find useful in your personal, educational, or business life - it might just end up in one of our columns!

Making Sense of Internet Alphabet Soup
July 28, 1998

Have you updated your LDAP entry? Is your mail  client configured to use IMAP or POP? Where did you FTP that file from? Is that a GIF or a JPG file? Did you read the FAQ? Want to meet on IRC? Does your ISP support the V.90 standard? How fast is an ISDN connection? What's the URL for that site? What are all these TLAs? These are all good and common questions, but just what do they mean?

The computing world is not much different from any other profession when it comes to creating new words. We generally refer to these new "words" as TLAs - Three Letter Acronyms. There are many places on the Internet where you can find glossaries and dictionaries to help you understand these terms. We thought we'd see  if we could use the Internet to find each of those terms  from the paragraph above.
A good place to start is over at the Jargon File, , which not only provides definitions of TLAs but also a good explanation of how jargon works and a pronunciation guide. The Basic  Internet Terms web site, , is  another good starting point where you can find out that  FAQ is an acronym for Frequently Asked Questions (with  the answers, of course). This site also gives good  definitions for FTP (File Transfer Protocol), IRC  (Internet Relay Chat), and ISP (Internet Service  Provider).

According to the U-Geek Glossary Search, , LDAP stands for Lightweight Directory Access Protocol and  is a client/server protocol for accessing a directory  service. It is a lightweight version of the X.500   protocol. Both LDAP and X.500 are used to store and retrieve information from online phone books. The U-Geek site is loaded with good definitions of  thousands of terms.

Dr. T's Internet Glossary, , has simple, one or two line, explanations. For example, it reports that ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) "probably means as little to you as it does this lexicographer! but basically, it's a special (and faster) phone connection. If you really want to know more, buy 'ISDN for Dummies' or some similar work!". Jim just had an ISDN line installed at home. We'll write a future column about his experiences. For now we'll just tell you it was painless and works great! In fact, he connects to the University at Buffalo in less than 5 seconds and always get transfer rates of 115Kbs or better - almost twice as fast a a 56K modem. Speaking of 56K modems, the 3Com Networking Glossary, , is a good place to find out that V.90 is a 56K modem standard adopted by major modem manufacturers designed to provide a single protocol for both the x2 Technology from 3Com and the K56Flex technology developed by Rockwell, , and Lucent Technologies, .

There are two good glossaries at the Gateway Support Center, , site. The first one is a General Glossary where you can find out that GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) is a computer programming principle that incorrect input produces invalid output. Their File Type Glossary was a good place for us to find out that GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) and JPG (Joint Photographic experts Group) were image formats that are very popular and widely used on the Internet.

We had a little difficulty finding a glossary or dictionary on the net that defined IMAP (Internet Mail Access Protocol) but the Glossary of Internet Terms at the Internet Literacy Consultants site, , told us that POP (Post Office Protocol) "refers to the way e-mail software such as Eudora gets mail from a mail server". Actually, the newest version of Eudora also supports the IMAP mail protocol. You may want to check out "Comparing Two Approaches to Remote Mailbox Access: IMAP vs. POP" from The IMAP Connection, , for a good comparison of these two mail protocols.

The McGraw-Hill book publishers have excerpts from their "Internet Training Manual" online at , including the table of contents, glossary, and updates. The problem with most Internet-related books is that they are out of date before they even go to the printer, so this is a great site if you bought that book because it provides updated information.

The netlingo online dictionary,, not only contains definitions for hundreds of technology terms but also has a page devoted to "smilies" those text symbols used in email to express emotion. We're probably all seen the "basic smiley" :-) which looks like a smiling face if you turn your head and look at it sideways, but did you know that $-) is used to denote a "yuppie smiley"?. This site is always adding new words and phrases and even allows you to suggest a word for their dictionary or if you feel you're an advanced Internet user you can add a word or phrase yourself.

There are hundreds of additional web sites we could mention but we thought we'd end with the "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Web (But Were afraid to Ask)" site at . This is an OK site if you're
just beginning your Internet journey. It is updated frequently and the definitions are easy to understand.However, it is not as robust as most of the other sites we visited.

Finally, we want to continue to help you utilize the Internet in your life. Let us know what you're interested in and we'll check it out. You can email us, , or fax us, (716) 853-1350 and let us know what's happening on the Internet in WNY or any computing related activities you're involved with.