Glossary of common terms
This source is the MEPIS Documentation
backend: Also back-end. The backend includes the various components of a program that process the user input entered through the frontend. See also frontend.
backport: Backports are new packages that have been recompiled to run on a released distribution in order to keep it up-to-date.
BASH: The default shell on most Linux systems as well as on Mac OS X, BASH is an acronym for Bourne-again shell.
BitTorrent: Also bit torrent or torrent. A method invented by Bram Cohen to distribute large files without the need for a single individual to provide the hardware, hosting and bandwidth resources required.
Bootloader: Program that initially chooses an operating system to load after the BIOS has finished intializing the hardware. Extremely small in size. the bootloader's only job is to hand contol of the computer over to the Operating System's kernel. Advanced bootloaders offer a menu to choose between several installed operating systems.
Boot options: Also cheat codes. Additional boot and kernel commands available to modify the boot and installation procedures. An example is ?vga=normal? which tells the system to disable the default resolution, often used for older monitors.
chainloading: Also chain loading. Instead of directly loading an operating system, a boot manager like GRUB can use chain loading to pass control from itself to a boot sector on a hard disk partition. The target boot sector is loaded in from disk (replacing the boot sector from which the boot manager itself was loaded) and the new boot program is executed. In addition to when it is necessary, as in booting Windows from GRUB, the advantage to chainloading is that each operating system on the hard disk drive ?and there could be dozens? can be responsible for having the correct data in it's own boot sector. So GRUB residing in the MBR need not be rewritten every time there are any changes. GRUB can simply chainload the relevant information from the boot sector of a given partition whether it has changed or remained the same since the last boot time.
cloop error: A failure to read a block of compressed data. CLOOP is shorthand for compressed loopback device, a linux kernel module that allows a compressed filesystem to be read, such as is used on a MEPIS LiveCD.
command line interface (CLI): Also known as console, Konsole, terminal, command prompt, shell, or bash. This is a UNIX-style text interface, which MS-DOS was also designed to resemble. A root console is one where administrative privileges have been acquired after entering the root password.
CUPS: Common Unix Printing System provides a portable printing layer for UNIX and linux based operating systems.
Daemon: is a program that runs continuously and exists for the purpose of handling periodic service requests that a computer system expects to receive.
desktop environment: The software which provides a graphical desktop (windows, icons, desktop, task bar, etc) for an operating system user. MEPIS integrates the KDE desktop and configures it to feel familiar to both Windows® and Mac OS X® users.
disk image: A file containing the complete contents and structure of a data storage medium or device such as a hard drive or DVD. See also ISO.
distribution: A Linux Distribution, or "distro", is a particular packaging of the Linux kernel with various GNU software packages, and different desktops or window managers. Since unlike the proprietary code used in the Microsoft and Apple OS's, GNU/Linux is Free, Open-Source Software, literally anyone in the world who has the ability can freely build on what has been done and innovate a new vision of a GNU/Linux operating system. MEPIS Linux is a distro based on the Debian Linux family.
file system: Also filesystem. This refers to the way that files and folders are logically arranged on a computer's storage devices so they may be found by the operating system. It can also refer to the type of formatting on a storage device, such as the common Windows formats NTFS and FAT32, or the Linux formats ext3, ext4 or ReiserFS, and in this sense refers to the method actually used to encode binary data on the Hard Disk Drive, floppy, flash drive, etc.
firewall: is a is a piece of software or hardware, located at a network server or router, that protects the information of your network from users from other networks (Internet).
free-as-in-speech: The English word "free" has two possible meanings: 1) without cost, and 2) without restrictions. In part of the open-source software community, an analogy used to explain the difference is 1) "free" as in beer vs. 2) "free" as in speech. The word freeware is used universally to refer to software that is simply without cost, whereas the phrase free software loosely refers to software that is more properly called open-source software, licensed under some type of open source license such as the GPL.
frontend: Also front-end. The front-end is the part of a software system that interacts directly with the user. See also backend.
FTP : File Transfer Protocal a standard protocol, is a simple way to exchange files between computers on a between two local computers or the Internet. FTP transmits information in clear text.
Gimp: Linux graphics or picture editor and creator.
Gnome: (GNU Network Object Model Environment, pronounced gah-NOHM) is a graphical desktop for users Unix and Linux machines.
Grub: A linux bootloader is the first software program that runs when a computer starts. It is responsible for loading and transferring control to the operating system kernel software. The kern
GCC: this is the name of the gnu C++ compiler. This free compiler is frequently used on machines running the UNIX and Linux operating systems.
GPL: The GNU General Public License. This is a license under which many open-source applications are released. It specifies that you may view, modify, and redistribute the source code of applications released under it, within certain limits; but that you may not distribute the executable code unless you also distribute the source code to anyone who asks for it.
Graphical User Interface (GUI): This refers to a program or operating system interface that uses pictures (icons, windows, etc), as opposed to text (command-line) interfaces.
home directory: One of the 17 top-level directories branching from the root directory in MEPIS Linux, /home contains a subdirectory for every registered user of the system. Within each user's home directory s/he has full read-write privileges. Further, most of the user-specific configuration files for various installed programs are stored in hidden subdirectories within the /home/username directory as is downloaded email. Other downloaded files usually go by default into the home/username/Documents or /home/username/Desktop subdirectories.
ISO: A disc image following an international standard that contains data files and filesystem metadata, including boot code, structures, and attributes. This is the normal method for delivering Linux versions such as MEPIS over the Internet. See also disk image.
kernel: The layer of software in an operating system that interacts directly with the hardware.
Kicker: The panel in KDE that appears by default at the bottom of the screen and contains navigation icons, open (minimized) programs and system notifications. It is highly configurable, and can include a utility to switch between any of several desktops you can run simultaneously, if your primary desktop surface tends to get cluttered with open programs.
LiveCD: A bootable compact disc from which one can run an operating system, usually with a complete desktop environment, applications, and essential hardware functionality. In 2003, MEPIS was the first distribution of Linux to include a GUI-based Installer application on the desktop of a fully functional LiveCD, so a separate Installation CD was no longer needed. Simultaneously, MEPIS was also the first Linux to include GUI-based tools, now called Assistants, on the LiveCD to help a user repair a broken system.
MAN Page or Manual Pages: are linux manual pages that are available only directly from the command line. So if you wanted help on the "ls" command you type "man ls" and press enter.
MBR: Master Boot Record: the first 512-byte sector of a bootable hard disk drive. Special data written to the MBR enables the computer's BIOS to pass the boot process off to a partition with an installed operating system.
md5sum: A program that calculates and verifies a file's data integrity. The MD5 hash (or checksum) functions as a compact digital fingerprint of a file. It is extremely unlikely that any two non-identical files will have the same MD5 hash. Because almost any change to a file will cause its MD5 hash to also change, the MD5 hash is commonly used to verify the integrity of files.
mirror: Also mirror site. An exact copy of another Internet site, commonly used to provide multiple sources of the same information to supply reliable access to large downloads.
module: Modules are pieces of code that can be loaded and unloaded into the kernel upon demand. They extend the functionality of the kernel without the need to reboot the system.
mountpoint: The place on the root filesystem where a fixed or removable device is attached (mounted) and accessible as a subdirectory. All computer hardware needs to have a mountpoint in the filesystem to be usable. Most standard devices such as keyboard, monitor and your primary hard disk drive are mounted automatically at boot.
NTFS®: Microsoft's New Technology File System debuted in 1993 on the Windows NT Operating System, geared to business networks, and with revisions entered the mainstream Windows users' desktop computers in later versions of Windows 2000. It has been the standard file system since Windows XP was introduced in late 2001.
open-source: Software whose source code has been made available to the public under a license that allows individuals to modify and redistribute the source code. In some cases, open-source licenses restrict the distribution of binary executable code.
package: A package is a discrete, non-executable bundle of data that includes instructions for your package manager about installation. A package doesn't always contain a single application; it might contain only part of a large application, several small utilities, font data, graphics, or help files.
package manager: A package manager such as (Synaptic or Gdebi) is a collection of tools to automate the process of installing, upgrading, configuring, and removing software packages.
port: A virtual data connection that can be used by programs to exchange data directly, instead of going through a file or other temporary storage location. Ports have numbers assigned for specific protocols and applications, such as 80 for HTTP, 5190 for AIM, etc.
repo: See repository.
repository: A software repository is an internet storage location from which software packages may be retrieved and installed via a package manager. In MEPIS Linux, the repository list file (/etc/apt.sources.list) is typically modified through the default package manager Synaptic.
root : Root has two common meanings in Unix/Linux OSs, and they are intimately connected, but the distinction is important to understand. The root filesystem is the basic logical structure of all the files the operating system can access, whether programs, processes, pipes or data. It should follow the Unix Filesystem Hierarchy Standard, which specifies where in the hierarchy to locate all types of files.
The second meaning of root is the computer user who owns the root filesystem ?and so has all permissions necessary to do anything to any file. While it is sometimes necessary to temporarily assume the powers of the root user to install or configure programs, it is dangerous and violates the basic security structure of Unix/Linux to log in and operate as root unless absolutlely necessary. In a command line interface, a regular user can temporarily become root by issuing the command su then entering the root password.
runlevel: A runlevel is a preset operating state on a Unix-like operating system. A system can be booted into any of several runlevels, each of which is represented by a single digit integer. Each runlevel designates a different system configuration and allows access to a different combination of processes (i.e., instances of executing programs).
Samba :A sharing service for linux that allows both Linux and Windows machines to share files with each other.
script: An executable text file, containing commands in an interpreted language. Usually refers to BASH scripts which are used extensively "under the hood" of the Linux operating system, but other languages may be used as well.
source code: The human-readable code in which software is written prior to being assembled or compiled into machine-language code.
SSH: Secure Shell also known as Secure Socket Shell, is a Unix/Linux cmd line interface and protocol for securely getting access to a remote computer. It is widely used by network administrators to control Web and other kinds of servers remotely.
Swap: or swap file is a space on a hard disk used as the virtual memory extension of a computer's real memory (RAM). Having a swap file allows your computer's operating system to pretend that you have more RAM than you actually do.
switch: A switch (also flag, option or parameter) is a modifier appended to a command to change its behavior. A common example is -R (recursive), which tells the computer to carry out the command through all subdirectories.
symlink: Also symbolic link and soft link. A special type of file that points to another file or directory and not to data. It allows the same file to have different names and/or locations.
tarball: An archiving format, like zip, popular on the Linux platform. Unlike zip files, though, tarballs may use one of a number of different compression formats, such as gzip or bzip2. They usually end in file extensions like .tgz, .tar.gz, or .tar.bz2. Many archive formats are supported in MEPIS with a graphical application called Ark. Usually an archive can be extracted simply by right-clicking on it in KDE.
window manager: A component of a desktop environment that provides the basic maximize/minimize/close/move functions for windows in the GUI environment. Sometimes it can be used as an alternative to a full desktop environment. In MEPIS, the default window manager is called KWin, and is an integral part of the K Desktop Environment (KDE). In antiX, the default is Fluxbox, a very light windows manager that requires very little graphics and system RAM.
Unix: Also UNIX. The operating system which Linux is modeled after, developed in the late 1960's at Bell Labs and used primarily for servers and mainframes. Like Linux, Unix has many variations.
Wine: is a Windows compatibility layer. Wine does not require Microsoft Windows, as it is a completely alternative implementation consisting of 100% Microsoft-free code, but it can optionally use native system DLLs if they are available. This is what you would use if you wanted to run a windows program on a linux machine.
X: Also X11, xorg. The X Window System is a networking and display protocol which provides windowing on bitmap displays. It provides the standard toolkit and protocol to build graphical user interfaces (GUIs) on Unix-like operating systems and OpenVMS, and is supported by almost all other modern operating systems. In Mepis Linux, the X server operates on runlevel 5. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X_display_manager
Links and Guides:
* MEPIS Wiki: http://www.mepis.org/docs/en/index.php?title=Main_Page
* MEPIS Docs: Prepared by the MEPIS Documentation Team http://www.mepis.org/manual
* SuperLinux Encyclopedia: Jargon http://slencyclopedia.berlios.de/jargon.html
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