Tuesday 21 November 2017

Beginner's cheat sheet: 7 phrases that boost your office cred

IT jargon explained
IT jargon explained
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Falling further and further behind in mainstream tech talk? Being the only one in the office who doesn't know exactly how Uber works or how to get Flash for your computer can be a frustrating place. In the second of a series of explainers for late adopters, here are seven everyday IT jargon concepts explained.

1. "It's the Uber of…"

What they're talking about: The taxi service Uber works via an app on your phone: you order a taxi and the app shows you a map of where they are. Payment is all done through the app (you give your credit card details to the app). It is the biggest service to use this type of 'casual' app model for ordering and payment. For this reason, it is often now used to help describe other online services that apply to traditionally offline activities. In this way, people use the phrase "it's like Uber for" as a way of explaining how an online service works.

How to get it: Simply download the app to your smartphone. (In Ireland, the service is only available in the Dublin region.)

2. "They're replacing the PCs with dumb terminals."

What they're talking about: Big companies' IT support departments like to have as much control over your office desktop PC as possible. One way is to centralise the computers. In other words, the IT department has one big computer (server) in the IT room, while your PC is neutered into little more than a screen and keyboard. This is often called a 'dumb' client (or terminal). As the PC user, you can't configure or download things - instead, you're allowed to use a few programs (including a web browser and an email system) in a supervised way. It's infuriating for the user when a problem occurs but it's also a way of clamping down on errant PC use.

How to get it: There are several dumb terminal systems. Citrix is a popular option.

3. "You can watch the keynote on the livestream - do you have Flash?"

What they're talking about: Livestreams are live video broadcasts on a web page. Organisations like the Oireachtas use them almost every day to show what's going on inside committees, while some big companies use them to show a chief executive's speech. But whether or not you can view them might depend on the technology they use. Some still rely on Flash, the video format owned by Adobe and which has been a standard web video system for a decade (although not on iPhones or iPads). If it does use Flash, your might get denial messages on your PC saying that 'your Flash is out of date' or that you need 'to download Flash'. This is a pain. Big video services such as YouTube are starting to move away from Flash, relying instead on more universally accessible web video formats such as HTML5. This plays on almost machine or device without needing to download anything.

How to get it: To get or update Flash for a PC, go to Flash.com and download it for free.

4. "That needs to be on an Exchange Server to work."

What they're talking about: Some features in the popular Microsoft Office software system are only possible if the business is using the underlying Microsoft Exchange server platform. For example, if two office computers use Outlook (email) that is based on the same Exchange server, they can delete 'sent' emails before the recipient sees them.

How to get it: You can get Exchange as a hosted online service a €40 per-user, per year licensing service contract from Microsoft.com. Otherwise, it can be installed by an IT pro.

5. "DM me."

What they're talking about: A 'DM' is a direct message on an online service. Twitter and Facebook are the most common 'DM' carriers (although Facebook now forces you to use a separate 'Messenger' app). Direct messages are very handy when you don't have someone's mobile number but you know they use Twitter or Facebook.

How to get it: On Twitter, you can only send direct messages to someone who follows you. On Facebook, you need to download its 'Messenger' app for use on a phone.

6. "It's like Serial."

What they're talking about: The breakout podcast, called 'Serial' is about a murder that happened 15 years ago in the US city of Baltimore. In parts documentary and whodunnit, it wraps a year-long investigation by radio journalist Sarah Koenig into 12 episodes of about 45 minutes.

It has become an online sensation, garnering over 40m downloads. It has also reawakened interests in podcasts, with smartphone owners realising that it's easy to get instantaneous access to thousands of interesting shows online without needing a PC or an iPod.

How to get it: iPhone owners can use their 'Podcasts' app (if it's not on your phone, download it free from the App Store). Once opened, just search for 'Serial'. You can then download episodes (which take about five seconds each over wifi) or play (stream) it immediately.

Android users have lots of podcast player options, including Stitcher (free from the Android Play store). To get Serial itself without using a podcast portal, just visit serialpodcast.org from any web browser (including those on your phone), hit play and it will start streaming immediately. But note that if you do it this way outside a wifi area, it will use up mobile data.

7. "We need to get a hashtag going."

What they're talking about: Many social media services use hashtags (the '#' symbol) as a way of indexing things. For example, on Twitter, using a hashtag before a word makes it clickable. Clicking on it returns a stream of tweets featuring everyone who has typed in that hashtagged word. It's a way to search for, create or follow a conversation about a particular item or trend.

Marketers try to capitalise on this by creating hashtags out of services they want to promote.

But it's almost always a failure: by definition, hashtags are things people want to genuinely talk about, not pushed-out commercial services. Hashtags are used to a lesser extent in Facebook.

How to get it: Open Twitter and search for a term you're interested in, preceded by a hashtag (the '#' symbol). Or just type a word with a hashtag before it.

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