iHub By Joseph / December 5, 2012
Tech Terms for Dummmies
By Joseph Mathai
Every community has its own “lingo” – a way of communicating with terms and phrases unique to it. So does the tech community and if you’re new to this fraternity of thinkers there are a few buzz words you might want to learn.
This is not a long list just a couple of words to get you started mingling and schmoozing during those techy conferences or over coffee with friends.
Hackathon: Now I know what you are thinking and it’s not a group of hackers seated in a room trying to break into a secure computer to pull off the perfect heist, well it is perhaps depends on the group of hackers. A hackathon is an event in which different designers, software developers and generally people with different skill sets come together to collaborate intensively on a particular project. As the name it is almost like a marathon and usually takes place between 24-48 hours.
So you were partially correct people do gather together. The idea of hackathons is to turn ideas into practical applications and usually they are a great way to network and connect with people who share similar interests. It is also a great way to share ideas as the whole spirit of a hackathon is team work.
Open Source: Don’t we all long for a world where everything is freely and readily available to us, I certainly do and this is the spirit of open source. Open source in general refers to an idea that promotes the free access and distribution of information about a product, whether it is how the product was designed or how it is implemented. From a technological standpoint open source refers to a programme whose source code is freely available to users and programmers for upgrade. Open source can be applied in general to several areas ranging from information, media, government and education.
Business Incubation: This is not the point when poultry farmers sit up to pay attention though you may if you are starting up a new chicken rearing business. In similar fashion to which chickens sit on their eggs until they are ready to hatch, business incubators are programmes built to help nurture the up and coming entrepreneurs develop their businesses.
Building a small business from the idea stage all the way to commercialization can be a daunting task and business incubators provide a safe home where entrepreneurs can learn the ABC’s of running a business. They provide services such as financing, office space, mentoring and valuable networking all geared towards helping a small business to survive in this cut throat world outside the nest. Examples of business incubators within the country Nailab and m:lab.
Cloud Computing: Who remembers the good old days when we used to walk around with walkmans or had to use landlines and call boxes to talk to each other and computers that used to occupy a dining room table? These days everything is miniaturized from music to phones. It is all small. This is the same note on which cloud computing works; it is simple think of yourself as the proud owner of a business. Now I am assuming in this day and age you use computers in your business.
Computers unfortunately have been known to have their own problems data loss or perhaps a theft and this is where cloud computing comes in. How about instead you have one remote machine that operates offsite that handles all the data and records pertinent to your business? You no longer need several computers each with their own CPU to operate, the work load shifts to a cloud computing system. Accessing the system is done through a light weight desktop, the internet or a mobile application.
Super Computer: If you watched the latest James Bond movie Skyfall then you probably saw that the villain’s lair had a super computer, which he used for nefarious plans of world domination. A super computer is exactly as the it sounds, it is an extremely fast and expensive computer used for specialized applications. These behemoths are at the frontline of computing conducting tasks such as weather forecasting, nuclear energy research, intense graphics and petroleum exploration. A super computer basically channels all its computing power to executing a few programmes at the fastest speed possible.
So why can’t we all have super computers in our homes and all our offices? Well, apart from the fact that that would be too expensive and a waste of computing power, these machines generally take up entire rooms with several processors all linked together to solve problems. Currently the fastest super computer as of September this year is the Titan in the US. But the iHub also is in the process of building its own supercomputer. Despite the fact that super computers are always evolving it is perhaps interesting to note that your current laptop or desktop has faster processing speeds than most super computers of the past.
App: Perhaps one of the most popular terms in the Kenyan tech scene currently. Mention an app and there seems to be one for just about everything. So what exactly is an app or application? Short answer: it is a programme built to improve the existing functions of a device. Usually the word app is associated with smart phones or mobile devices such as the iPhone (iOS) or Android. But at the same time apps can also refer to an online or web application that you access through the web. Currently there are apps ranging from everything like sending money (MPESA) to Mprep an app that helps primary school children with revision.
So… that’s it for now if you can think of any other terms feel free to comment and add your own.
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