Appendices > Glossary
[background][pros and cons][k12 examples][decisions][appendices]


Some relevant vocabulary


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An open source program for hosting Web pages. More: "On the backend"


The servers and other hardware that support a network. A typical backend includes an Internet gateway, Web servers, and email servers. Compared to a desktop computer, backend solutions are usually complicated and challenging, whether proprietary or open source. More: "On the backend"

Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD)
A UNIX-like operating system, comparable to Linux. One of the earliest examples of open source software, and the basis for Darwin. Apple builds its premium OS X on Darwin. See: http://www.bsd.org/

Beta testing
The process of testing and improving unfinished software. Beta testing is most useful when the testers aren't the original programmers and can provide specific, meaningful feedback. The open source model is sometimes considered permanent beta testing, since every program can be perpetually tested and improved.

The 1's and 0's of a compiled computer program. Computers can only understand binary, but programmers can't understand binary and need source code to fix or change a program. More: "More about source code"

An open source program for Domain Name Services. Software like Bind is necessary for computers to translate text Web address (e.g. www.netc.org) into the numeric IP addresses they need to retrieve Web pages. More: "On the backend"

Error in a program that cause problems. See also: Debug

The low moral or hopelessness stakeholders feel because of churn, overwork, unrealistic goals, and/or inadequate support. People stop trying because they feel like they've tried and failed, or their work is meaningless or unappreciated. A good tech plan tries to prevent burnout.

Business model
The plan a company uses to generate revenue. Companies that distribute open source software can't depend on control of the source code for their business model, so they have to thrive on service and other sources of revenue.


A school's ability to create and support solutions. Capacity depends on good tech planning to retain staff, build expertise, deploy modular solutions, maintain some reliable solutions while experimenting for the future, and otherwise take ownership of the options and impact of technology.

An alternative software "licensing" program. The distributor asks the user to pay money for the software; instead, the distributor asks for a postcard, a story, or some other form of gratitude. Thus, the software transmits a philosophy as well as functionality. See also: shareware. More: http://www.arachnoid.com/careware/index.html

The unpleasant feeling of unpredictability and instability created by frequent or erratic change. Churn is a real danger for schools, which should strive to maintain some predictability and stability for the good of all stakeholders. A good tech plan tries to prevent churn. See also: Burnout

A computer accessing a server. If you're reading this page online your computer is accessing one or more servers, so it's currently a client. In computer science lingo, computers are clients while people are users.

Closed source
A program without accessible source code. See also: Proprietary software

Command line
Perhaps the simplest user interface, a command line only allows the user to enter text. Perhaps the most widely-known command line is the MS-DOS prompt (C:\>). Command lines are widely considered to not be user friendly. Many programs include an accessible command line for debugging or other advanced uses.

How well a program works with a different program, especially sharing files. See also: Interoperability

Cookie crumbs
A short visual map of where you are in a Web site. The cookie crumbs for this page are:
Appendices > Glossary

Curriculum in an electronic form. This includes software specifically designed to support learning. More: "Principles & rights"

The opposite of copyright, as explained by Richard Stallman. Where copyright protects a creator's right to control copies and changes to a work, copyleft protects a user's right to copy and change a work. See also: GPL. More: "Brief history of open source"

Illegally accessing source code. Cracking also refers to other illegal activities, like copying video or music. Among computer programmers, hacking is skillful programming, while cracking is malicious. Open source software can't be "cracked" because it's already open. Also called "black hat hacking." More: "More about source code"

Customer Relations Management (CRM)
The technology solutions for large companies or other organizations to manage their contact with customers, including sales (and Sales Force Automation, SFA), shipping, service, and other "front office" activities. See also: ERP


Troubleshooting software, to find and fix mistakes ("bugs"). Requires access to the source code; otherwise, a programmer can only find mistakes.

Desktop computer
A complete, autonomous computer with its own operating system and hard drive. The greatest strength and weakness of a desktop is isolation; the computer continues to work even if a network fails. But compared to a thin client, a desktop computer is harder to repair or upgrade. Sometimes called a microcomputer.

A specific distribution of Linux. Each distro (e.g. Red Hat, SuSE) is built from the common Linux operating system, with added programs and functionality. Some people are very loyal to specific distros, creating a friendly rivalry not unlike the rivalry between Apple and Microsoft Windows users.

Special software for controlling hardware. Without the right driver, hardware (like a CD-ROM drive) won't work.


Embrace and extend ("extensions")
Including new technology in an existing program or family of programs, then adding new formats and protocols. As a result, other or older programs using the technology are incompatible with the new formats and protocols. See also: Lock in. See also: Embrace, extend, and extinguish

Embrace, extend, and extinguish
Using the incompatibility of "extended" software to force the death of competing products. See also: Lock in, Embrace and extend

Using special software to create an artificial operating system on top of a different operating system. For example, Wine creates a virtual Microsoft Windows operating system on top of Linux. This means critical, Windows-only programs can still run under Linux. However, emulation is imperfect and technically challenging.

Complicated software or other methods to protect user privacy and prevent strangers from reading personal content (e.g. email). Many open source proponents also advocate for encryption, and open source software is better for encryption because it reduces the possibility of spyware.

End User
The person who uses a program after it's been compiled and distributed. More: "More about source code"

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
The technology solutions for large companies or other organizations to manage their resources, including customers, supplies, accounting, and other "back office" activities. Similar to Materials Resource Management (MRP) but broader in scope. See also: CRM


Formats & protocols
The standards and rules a program uses to store and process information. More: "More about source code"

Free software
Like open source software, any computer program with accessible source code. Anyone is legally and technically able to change and/or redistribute the software. Unlike open source software, the source code can't be included in future closed source software. See also: FSF, Open source software. More: "Brief history of open source". See: http://www.fsf.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

Free Software Foundation (FSF), The
Founded by Richard Stallman to promote the idea and practice of free software. See also: Open Source Initiative. More: "Brief history of open source". See: http://www.gnu.org

Software distributed at no or neglible cost. May be free software, but not necessarily. Same as: No-fee software. See also: Shareware

A desktop computer and the programs that run on it. See also: Backend. More: "As a new desktop"


The connection between a computer or network, and the larger Internet. Internet service providers offer gateways, to navigate, translate, and filter the Internet. If you're reading this page online, your gateway had to find our server, access this file, and send it to your computer. The majority of gateways use at least some open source software.

GNU Graphical Manipulation Program (GIMP)
An open source image editor. Very similiar to Adobe Photoshop. See also: GNU. More: "On a current desktop"

One of the leading projects to create a GUI for Linux. The eventual success of GNOME and other GUIs is widely considered essential to mainstream success of open source software. See also: KDE

An open source operating system still in development. Richard Stallman founded the GNU project, as well as the Free Software Foundation. GNU stands for "GNU's Not UNIX" and is designed to be UNIX-compatible. Linus Torvalds used the free tools from the FSF to make his own open source operating system: Linux. More: "Brief history of open source"

The GNU Public License. The GPL was created by Richard Stallman to enforce the principles of free software. Where most software licenses restrict the rights of the user (e.g. to make copies), the GPL protects the rights of the user. Stallman calls this idea copyleft. More: "Brief history of open source"

Software to communicate and collaborate in a group. Scheduling software is groupware. Same as: workgroup productivity software

Graphical User Interface (GUI; "gooey")
The visual symbols and choices to control a program. Most GUI's use windows, menus, and toolbars. Most operating systems use GUI's because most users are uncomfortable with a less user friendly interface like a command line.



Internet Access Provider (IAP)
Same as: ISP

(1) Internet Commerce Provider; a company or organization that provides hosting or technical assistance to do business over the Internet
(2) Internet Connection Point; the junction between a local computer or network, and the larger Internet. See also: ISP
(3) Internet Cache Provider; a company or organization that stores frequently-accessed Internet content for faster service to its users; such stored content is called a cache

Initial Public Offering (IPO)
The initial sale of stock in a public corporation. The dot-com boom of the late 1990's coincided with the mainstreaming of open source software, leading to some over-rated IPO's for open source companies. More: "Brief history of open source"

The global network of computers, including the World Wide Web. Beside Web pages, information like email and instant messages are transmitted over the Internet. The Internet and open source software are interdependent. The growth and stability of the Internet has depended on open source, and the open source movement thrives in a connected international community of programmers. More: "The Internet & open source"

Internet Service Provider (ISP)
A company or organization that provides the connection between a local computer or network, and the larger Internet. Same as: IAP

How well a program works with another program, especially different operating systems. For, OpenOffice.org has strong interoperability because versions exist for Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, Linux, and Sun Solaris. See also: Compatibility



The K-12 Linux Terminal Server Project is a specialized distribution of Linux. This distro uses a server and thin clients, rather than stand-alone desktop computers. More: "As a new desktop". See: http://K12LTSP.org

One of the leading projects to create a GUI for Linux. The eventual success of KDE and other GUIs is widely considered essential to mainstream success of open source software. See also: GNOME

The beating heart of an operating system. All major software instructions pass through the kernel. The software equivalent of the central processing unit (CPU) hardware.


The official terms of use for a specific program. A software license is a legal document since it formally restricts the rights of the user. Some open source licenses (e.g. GPL) are radical reactions to restrictive licenses, under the idea of copyleft.

The leading project to create an open source operating system. The most successful example of open source software. Linux has two leading GUIs: GNOME and KDE. More: "As a new desktop"

Linux Users Group (LUG)
A grassroots organization of mutual support and community, especially for Linux hobbyists. Schools may find significant help from local LUGs.

Lock in
When users can't choose a new company's software because they have invested too much time or have too much data in their current software, and the change is too costly or otherwise impossible. More: "Free markets & choice"

Loss leader
A company willing to lose money to attract an enduring customer base. The company sells a product or service below cost to attract customers.

Low threshold opportunity
A new solution that's easy to deploy for experimentation with limited risk. Open source offers many low threshold solutions, since the price is usually low or zero. Low threshold opportunities should be considered in a tech plan. (Some people refer to low threshold opportunities as "low hanging fruit.")


Microsoft Corporation (MS)
The largest software company in the world. The MS Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP series is the most-used operating system in the world. MS is also an ISP. MS is widely considered to be aggressively opposed to open source software. More: "What do vendors say?"

How many people are aware of a product or idea. Mindshare is marketing term; companies want to build mindshare for their products and services. In software, proprietary software (e.g. Microsoft) enjoys far more mindshare than open source (e.g. Linux). More: "Users & migration"

A solution made of several discrete pieces, so that any piece can be replaced without rebuilding the whole solution. More: "Deployment & maintenance"

A society that only offers one choice. For example, Microsoft is accused of seeking a software monoculture for its Windows and Office software. A monoculture is similar to a monopoly but has larger impacts. For example, if users can only choose a single operating system then they are limited by that software's design and features. A more diverse culture allows different groups, companies, and users to create and experiment with different designs and features, promoting innovation and competition. More: "Free markets & choice"

An open source Web browser. More: "On a current desktop"

Mozilla Public License (MPL)
An unusual license that illustrate the difference between free software and open source software. Under this license the software company (i.e. Netscape) can add community modifications to Mozilla to a new proprietary program (e.g. the next Netscape browser). More: "Software is like a car"

See: ERM


No-fee software
Same as: Freeware

Non-disclosure agreement
A binding legal agreement that prevents the user from sharing software or knowledge about software. Part of many software licenses. See also: Shared source


This term once meant "original equipment manufacturer" or the company that created and assembled the components of a computer. However, most components are now commodities, so OEMs like Dell don't actually manufacture components. In the real economic model they are middle marketers, assembling components and selling complete computers to customers or vendors. But since few people assemble their own computers, the label is still used.

Open source software (OSS)
Any computer program with accessible source code. Anyone is legally and technically able to change and/or redistribute the software. Unlike free software, the source code can be included in future closed source software. Open source is a controversial term that is still being defined. See also: Free software. More: "Open source: What & why?" See: http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php

An open source office productivity suite, including word processing, spreadsheets, and slideshows. Very similiar to Microsoft Office. More: "On a current desktop"

Operating System (OS)
The essential software to control both the hardware and other software of a computer. An operating system's most obvious features are managing files and applications. An OS also manages a computer's connection to a network, if one exists. Microsoft Windows, Macintosh OS, and Linux are operating systems.

Open Source Initiative (OSI)
The nonprofit organization behind the open source movement. Key leaders are Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens. The OSI's Open Source Definition and Open Source Certification Mark were created to distinguish open source from free software. As a result, open source is considered more business-friendly than free software. See also: Free Software Foundation. See: http://www.opensource.org

Opportunity cost
The cost in dollars or stress when old choices prevent new choices. For example, by migrating to Linux a school might foreclose on using future software developed for Microsoft Windows. See: "Total cost of ownership"


Pile of PCs (PoPC or "popsie")
A supercomputer composed of networked microcomputers. Linux is famous for enabling low-budget, high-performance PoPCs.

Proprietary software
Software without accessible source code. Most users only buy or receive the binary. Sometimes called "closed source." More: "Implications of closed source"



Return on investment (ROI)
The total value gained after a solution has been deployed. This is usually a figurative term, like total cost of ownership, since the true cost of deployment or migration is hard to quantify. A positive return on investment is desirable, since that means the solution has solved more problems than it creates. More: "Total cost of ownership"


An open source program for routing email messages. More: "On the backend"

Computers are usually networked to share files and communicate. A network of computers is usually controlled by a master computer, or server. There are many kinds of servers. A network server governs access to the computers. A file server offers a common hard drive for many people to use. A Web server stores Web pages and sends them over the Internet as users surf that Web site. More: "On the backend"

Shared source
A Microsoft plan to make some of its software transparent to some users. This is not open source because only some people have access to the source code and they can't make changes or copies.

Software you can use without paying for upfront. If you regularly use the software or want all the features you pay for it. Not necessarily open source. Not the same as freeware. See also: Careware

Shifting Standards
Regularly changing the format or other parts of a program. This accidentally or deliberately interferes with other programs' compatibility. For example, the Microsoft Word format has shifted several times, making it difficult or impossible for people to use older versions or competing word processors. More: "Features & quality"

Source code
The special language a program is written in. A programmer needs to source code to fix or change a program. More: "More about source code"

Secret code hidden in an otherwise harmless program. Spyware permits unauthorized access to a computer, allowing someone else to observe the user, read data, or even control the computer. Open source is transparent, so it's nearly impossible to hide spyware.

Stakeholders may include administrators, instructors, other staff, students, parents/guardians, community members, and technology experts. A good tech plan can only be created and implemented with stakeholder involvement. Stakeholders should be included in the tech planning process. More: "People & change"


Thin Client
A minimalist workstation connected to a server. More: "As a new desktop"

Third-party program
Typically, a program developed for another company's operating system. (The first party is the customer. The second party is the operating system company.) Third-party programs depend on the success of the operating system for their own sales.

TMTOWTDI, "Tim Toady"
There's More Than One Way To Do It. An alleged principle of good programming and good software. In programming, TMTOWTDI means respecting and exploring multiple solutions to a problem. In software, TMTOWTDI means offering the user multiple ways to use the software. For example, in most word processing programs the user can use a menu or use a key combination (File: Save or CTRL-S).

Total cost of ownership (TCO)
The total price in money, time, and resources of owning and using software. TCO is widely considered to include the purchase price, and the cost of hardware and software upgrades, maintenance and technical support, and training (or re-training). TCO is an essential part of technology decisionmaking since a product may be cheap or free to get, but involve excessive maintenance or training. TCO is not unique to computers. For example, the TCO for commercial jets is measured in cost per mile. This calculation includes the sale price of the plane, the cost of fuel and other expendables, maintenance and repairs, etc. See also: Return on investment. More: "Total cost of ownership"

Anyone can see how a program works. Transparency doesn't necessarily mean open source. For example, some proprietary software companies let special customers see how a program works, but the customers can't make changes. Open source software is transparent and anyone can make changes. More: "Principles & rights"

A solution that works automatically with little or no troubleshooting. Much like a new car, a turnkey solution just works without demanding additional expertise or work. This is a critical issue for TCO, and many current users desire/expect more turnkey solutions in open source software.


A person who uses a computer, including a programmer or end user.

User friendly
A program is widely considered user friendly if the user interface is clear and intuitive, if the program offers useful help and tutorial features, and if the user can start and finish a task without learning or using more features than necessary. Apple Macintosh is widely considered a leading user friendly operating system, so many operating systems have copied it features.

User Interface (UI)
How the user controls a program. Perhaps the simplest UI is a keyboard and command line, to enter text commands. Sometimes called a "console." See: GUI



Emulation software designed to allow programs that usually run on Microsoft Windows to run on Linux instead.





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