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From Dropbox to memes: 12 tech terms every late adopter should know

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Dropbox

Dropbox

Dropbox

Ever feel left behind when your non-tech colleagues start throwing in digital terminology that you really should know? It used be just IT support staff who rambled on about APIs, VPNs and two-factor authentication. But now it seems that everyone is talking about memes, Dropbox and the difference between iOS 7 and iOS 8. For those too embarrassed to ask, here's a cheat sheet to some of the stuff your younger staff are talking about every day.

1. "Share it with me over Dropbox."

What they're talking about: Dropbox is a (mostly free) online service that is used by lots of people to store and share large files, including images, presentations and other bulky documents. It's a very handy resource when an individual file - or collection of files -- are too big to send by email.

If you have a Dropbox account (it's free to sign up) you can send a 'share now' email notification to someone.

This allows the recipient to access and download the file from your Dropbox account (while not allowing them to poke around or see anything in the rest of your account).

How to get it: Log on to Dropbox.com or download the Dropbox app from any app store. Then when you have uploaded a file or a folder of files, click 'Share This Folder' or 'Share' (as appropriate). Enter the person's email address and they'll get a link letting them download whatever file it is.

2. "Do you use two-factor authentication?"

What they're talking about: Because so many popular online services are getting hacked, people are now advised to use 'two factor authentication'. This means using a fingerprint or a pin code or responding to a text message as well as inputting a password. Basically, it is two separate security logins, to cut down on the chance that someone can hack in if they happen to know your password for something else.

How to get it: Everyday services such as Apple iCloud, Facebook and Twitter now offer two-factor authentication. It's usually activated in 'Settings'. For example, in Twitter, you can request that any attempt to log in from another device must require the correct password and a reply to a text message.

3. "Ah. That will depend on whether your iPhone is using iOS7 or iOS8…"

What they're talking about: Your iPhone's main software - its operating system - is called 'iOS'. It is literally what you look at when you turn your phone on. The most recent upgrade is iOS 8. There are some things you can only do in iOS 8, such as send voice messages in iMessage (the texting app) or install an alternative keyboard to the one you're using. Over time, apps will only work with the most recent iOS version.

For example, many new or updated apps will only work with iOS 7 or iOS 8, even though plenty of people still have old iPhones with iOS 6 (or even iOS 5) on them.

How to get it: You can either update your iPhone wirelessly by going into 'Software Update' (in the 'General' section of 'Settings') or do it manually through iTunes (it needs to be the latest version of iTunes, but this is free also). Be warned: it takes up a lot of space (1.9GB).

4. "Does your Samsung Galaxy uses KitKat or Lollipop?"

What they're talking about: While iPhones refer to 'iOS 7' and 'iOS 8' as their most recent operating systems, Android phones (such as Samsung or Sony) use sweets as their operating system descriptors. And each new upgrade means a sweet starting with the next letter in the alphabet.

For example, if you're still using a Samsung S4 phone (from two years ago), you may have Google's 'Ice Cream Sandwich' Android version. The update from that was called 'Jellybean'. Then 'KitKat' last year. Now, it's 'Lollipop'. Unlike Apple iPhones, there aren't too many major disadvantages to using an older version of Android.

How to get it: In your phone's settings, scroll to 'About Phone'. It will then show you a 'software update' or 'software update check' option. Tapping that will let you know whether you can upgrade it.

5. "Can we do a Hangout?"

What they're talking about: A Hangout is Google's free videoconferencing service and also its answer to Skype. Up to 10 people can participate at the same time. It's a handy free alternative to expensive premium videoconferencing services, such as Cisco's WebEx system.

How to get it: To use it you need to have a Google account (which is the same login as a Gmail account). You also need to download the free Hangout app from an app store for your iPhone, iPad or Android phone. You can also use a PC with a microphone and a camera, but it's rare for a PC to have both of these (though some laptops have microphones attached). You can then call someone up by using their Google account name.

6. "Are you set up with a VPN?"

What they're talking about: A virtual private network (VPN) is a way of accessing a service that is normally more secure and more private than over the open internet. It also sometimes hides a user's location, which is why it's occasionally used by people seeking access to content (such as movies over Netflix) that their country's location would normally prohibit them accessing under copyright law.

How to get it: there are a number of VPN services available online that work with your ordinary PC or phone. Some are free, but business-grade services usually cost money.

7. "We can do it if we incorporate their API."

What they're talking about: An 'application program interface' is basically a bit of software that lets lots of services link to your service or use your service within theirs. For example, if you want to include some Irish startup's online directory in your app, you'll need 'their API' to make it all gel smoothly.

How to get it: Some services provide APIs and some don't (because they want to keep their service closed).

8. "Do you have fibre to the cabinet or fibre to the building?"

What they're talking about: Broadband companies may talk about "fibre" broadband, but while some deliver into your office building, others only deliver it to the nearest phone switching box (the "cabinet") which could be one or two kilometres away. If it's the latter, it means you'll have slower internet speeds: the best a 'fibre to the cabinet' service can reach is around 100Mbs.

How to get it: Only UPC does a version of fibre to the building in any mainstream way, while Eircom and Magnet offer it in very limited numbers.

9. "He wants to know whether we have an opinion on Bitcoin."

What they're talking about: Bitcoin is a digital currency that a small (but determined) online community uses as money. In Ireland, only a handful of places accept it but there are thousands of online stores that will take it. One of the problems with Bitcoin is that its value fluctuates significantly: this time last year, one Bitcoin was worth €700 but today it's just €240.

How to get it: You can buy Bitcoin online by getting a Bitcoin wallet and then going to a Bitcoin Exchange to buy Bitcoin. It's a little tricky and technical, though.

10. "Is it a native app or a web app?"

What they're talking about: Apps for your phone or tablet (or now your laptop) come in two formats. A 'native' app is the type you download from an app store and is the most common sort of app. But 'web apps' are now becoming more common. This is when a website you visit looks, feels and acts like a native app. The Financial Times is the best example - when you open that on phone, it has the look and feel of an app but you don't need to download it. Web apps are sometimes used to avoid having to pay an app store a percentage of your revenue (Apple's App Store takes 30pc of whatever revenue you garner through the app).

11. "It's a 70 megabit line so your 500 megabyte file should download in about 60 seconds."

What they're talking about: A 'megabit' here is a measurement term for the speed of your broadband. (The government says 30 megabits per second, or Mbs, is what everyone should have for decent broadband.) A 'megabyte' refers to the size of a file. (A photo would be around one or two megabytes, while a PowerPoint presentation could be 20 megabytes and a movie could be 800 megabytes.)

12. "Did you see that meme?"

What they're talking about: A 'meme' is a rolling joke, a new idea or some other sort of cultural trend that makes its way to the attention of a lot of people. Usually, it's mentioned in the context of an 'internet meme', which often comes in the form of a viral image with a slogan attached. For example, that oft-used picture of the toddler holding his fist defiantly against the camera with large white text (commenting on whatever issue is topical) is one sort of meme.

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