Approved LPI Glossary

Generated: 2000/01/26 11:25 ; Modified 2000/11/10 00:00   Version: 2.7

This list contains the complete list of terms assumed by LPI tests. Knowledge of these terms will be important in preparing for LPI exams but no exam question should depend on knowledge gleaned soley from this list.

Note that the list will be updated periodically (so it is not yet exhaustive). If you have any additions or comments, please email

The idea of this list is to delineate the terms (jargon and acronyms) that will be used in the LPI Linux certification exams. Before writing or reviewing items, please review this list (and check it out periodically afterward as updates occur).

Any jargon term or acronym which

  1. does not appear on this list, or
  2. which is in the "deprecated alternatives" column
should NOT be used in an LPI test.

In the first case, the term should be expanded or simplified while in the second, the preferred term should be used. If this is not perfectly clear or if you need help deciding whether something is jargon or an acronym, please contact an appropriate LPI coordinator or the list maintainer,

The links below jump right to the first term starting with that letter (case insensitive). Each term is also anchored with a name equal to the term itself with any spaces replaced by underscores. This would allow you to reference the document as, say, foo.html/#bar where foo.html is the name of this page and bar is the term you wish to highlight.

0-9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Term Deprecated Alternatives Comment

*NIX   A term for any operating system resembling UNIX(R)(TM), including Linux and a large number of free and commercial systems; also UN*X.
100BaseT   Ethernet over UTP cables, using hubs to produce a star topology; supports a maximum (theoretical) transmission of 100 Mbit/s.
10Base2   So-called Thin Ethernet, using RG-58 coax cables and BNC connectors to construct a chain of cables; supports a maximum (theoretical) transmission of 10 Mbit/s.
10Base5   The older Thick Ethernet, which used vampire taps into a single cable; supports a maximum (theoretical) transmission of 10 Mbit/s.
10BaseT   Ethernet over UTP cables, using hubs to produce a star topology; supports a maximum (theoretical) transmission of 10 Mbit/s.
access   To connect to and utilize a device (computer, printer) or file.
account   The symbol or number that refers to a user for accounting purposes.
address [1]   A location in memory; specifically, the I/O-port used by a device to communicate with the processor.
address [2]   A unique identifier assigned to an interface on a network-attached device such as a network interface card. Notice: a host can have multiple interfaces, hence multiple addresses.
address [3]   The name|number|both given to a computer, device or resource so it can be identified, found and accessed on a network.
administer   (to make it work. ;-) To control the operation and use of a computer or other device; the task of a system administrator.
algorithm   A formal description of a procedure that, when suitable input is entered, will generate output as a result that satisfies specific requirements.
alias [1]   Within a shell, a substitute word for a command string (e.g.: alias dir = "ls --color").
alias [2]   An additional IP address on an interface.
alias [3]   Refers to another name given to an e-mail account, in order to accept mail for one e-mail address and forward it to another.
ALT   the Alternative key on a keyboard
analog   Refers to a physical measure that can take any value within a continuous range; e.g., the voltage used to encode loudness when transmitting a signal over a conventional copper telephone line. cf. digital.
ANSI American National Standards Institute A standards body responsible for many protocols.
API Application Programming Interface A specification which allows simple access to functionality of a library or other system resources when writing a program; operating system functionality is made available through an API.
application   A program that runs on top of an operating system.
application layer   The name of the top layer of both the seven-layer ISO/OSI> model, and the four-layer TCP/IP protocol stack; although some of the functionality of the session and presentation layers of the former may be assigned to the latter. It includes protocols such as telnet, FTP, HTTP, SMTP, etc.
archive [1]   A backup of data to be preserved.
archive [2] tarball A file that contains one or more components and an index (e.g. in tar, cpio, rpm or deb format).
argument   A piece of information passed to a command or function (usually typed in behind it), that modifies its behaviour, or that is operated upon by the command or function. e.g. in `cat motd`, "motd" is the argument. cf. parameter.
ARP Address Resolution Protocol, arp RFC826. A low-level protocol which, given an IP address on the local network, returns the Ethernet MAC address of the corresponding interface. cf. RARP.
ASCII American national Standard Code for Information Interchange A specification of characters widely used in the UNIX world and beyond.
aspect ratio   The ratio between the width and the height of a pixel on a computer display.
assembler   A program that compiles programs written in assembly language into object code.
assembly language assembler A low-level computer language that can be translated directly to the object code of the computer processor.
Authors Super heroes, men and women of gold This list was compiled by (in alpha order): Les Bell, David DeLano, Alan Mead, Tom Peters, Richard Rager.
background [1]   A state of process execution which does not produce output to the terminal (execution may stop if the process tries to write to the terminal); it is common to run system processes and long running user applications in the background; cf. foreground [1].
backup [1] (noun)   A copy of essential data stored on- or off-site as insurance against failures of system hardware, software or user.
backup [2] (verb)   To make a backup.
binary [1] (adj)   taking two discrete values (e.g. bits), as opposed to decimal (= taking ten discrete values).
binary [2] (noun)   A file that is not intended to be read by humans but by applications or the operating system; especially in plural ("binaries") for compiled sources; cf. text.
BIOS Basic Input/Output Operating System A simple, low-level operating system which supplies a uniform API to higher-level operating systems; BIOS is generally implemented in ROM of some sort.
bit   The smallest entity of information: can have one of two states (0-1, on-off, open-closed, etc.).
bitplanes bit planes, bit-planes The number of bits available for each display pixel to code for visual appearence (color, proximity, etc.).
block device   A device that exchanges data with the operating system in sizeable blocks (e.g., 512 bytes) at a time.
boot loader   Software, usually installed on the MBR of Intel machines, which exists to load the operating system kernel and begin its functioning.
boot   To cause the operating system to begin to function. Takes its name from "pulling oneself up by the bootstraps", a whimsical analogy applied to the BIOS loading itself and then running the "boot loader". (Also reboot).
BOOTP   See RFC 951; cf. DHCP.
broadcast (noun)   A frame or datagram addressed to all interfaces on a network.
BSD Berkeley Systems Distribution A variant of UNIX originally developed at the University of California, Berkeley. The BSD TCP/IP stack is the model for most subsequent TCP/IP implementations.
buffer   temporary storage; cf. cache
BUGTRAQ   A mailing list for discussions regarding network security (daemons, programs, operating systems, routers).
build   To run a sequence of compile and link steps to produce a new version of an executable program.
bus   A cable for transmitting signals between various components within one computer system.
byte   A data type of 8 bits.
C   A compiled computer language closely associated with UNIX.
C++   An object-oriented computer language derived from C, that needs a compiler.
cache   Any readily accessable storage area used to keep data handy which is (somehow) indicated to be needed again shortly; the purpose being to speed up the access of that data and improve system performance.

Specifically: the fast computer memory that is used as a buffer for data and program instructions between the CPU and the slower main memory (cf. RAM).

caching-only DNS   A domain name server that does not have any domains files.
Caldera OpenLinux Caldera, OpenLinux, CSOL A commercial Linux distribution.
card   Any device that can be plugged into a computer expansion slot.
CD-ROM Compact Disc Read Only Memory A removable medium of considerable popularity which comes in several variations, the most popular being ISO9660.
CERT Computer Emergency Response Team A team of people that study Internet security, and provide incident response services; see
cf.   "confer", which means "consult" in the meaning of "also see" or "compare". N.B.: Avoid this. Use only in parenthetical examples (cf. e.g., i.e.) but avoid "cf." by putting examples in text like this. Also see "e.g.", "i.e.".
CGI Common Gateway Interface A standard for allowing server applications to be executed as part of a HTTP request.
CHAP Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol  
char character C data type (usually one byte) used to store letters (cf. character).
character char A letter or sign usually represented by 1 byte in ASCII code.
character device   A device which exchanges data with the operating system in one character (or byte or even word) at a time.
child process   Any process created by another, so-called parent process; usually used in reference to a particular parent process.
CIDR Classless Inter-Domain Routing cf. variable length subnet mask
CIFS Common Internet File System Microsoft's successor to SMB, a suite of protocols for sharing file and print services (among Windows machines or UN*X machines running CIFS servers like Samba).
clean   In reference to a drive being mounted, clean means that the drive was unmounted properly and thus (theoretically) does not need to be checked; otherwise a drive is dirty
client   A computer or process which connects to and receives a service from a server computer or process.
coax co-axial cable Cable with inner and outer conductors used for TV cables and for Ethernet LANs, where the computers usually have T-joints to attach to a single chain of cables which needs to be terminated by resistors.
colormap color map, color-map, color table A table used to encode a palet of colors for images.
command line interface CLI An interactive user interface which allows commands to be given to a computer program or shell through a text-based terminal (or terminal emulator in a window within a graphical user interface).
compiler   A program which examines program source code and translates it into an equivalent object code file; cf. interpreter.
compression   Removal of redundant information from a file or data stream, to reduce its size, the storage space it needs, or the time needed for transmission. Lossy compression actually discards information that is considered not essential, and is only appropriate for data like images or sound.
computer   A digital, electronic, general-purpose, programmable, information processing automate.
console   The primary, directly attached, user interface of a computer. Some system administration functions may only be performed at a console.
control panel   A collection of buttons, switches, lights or display used to configure and control a router, printer, computer or other device.
core dump coredump The content of memory written to a file on disk (usually called "core") when a program crashes.
corrupted   damaged (said of a file or disk contents)
CPU Central Processing Unit The main component that makes a computer work; these days usually a "micro-processor" on a single silicon chip (cf. processor).
crack   To gain access to a computer system without proper authorization (e.g. by guessing a legitimate user's password), and possibly interfere with its normal operation or integrity.
cracker [1]   Someone who tries to crack; cf. hacker.
cracker [2] crack A software program used to crack, for instance by guessing passwords.
crash   A sudden stop of normal operation. Supposedly, the original hard drives would sometimes experience a catastrophic failure in which the read/write heads would crash into the media, possibly sending the media flying; hence a crash is a unintentional termination of software or hardware due to some failure or error - especially a termination in a final, catastrophic, or unpleasant way.
CSLIP Compressed Serial Line IP SLIP with added VJ compression of IP headers. See RFC 1144.
CTRL   the Control key on a keyboard
current working directory cwd  
cylinder   A number of tracks located at the same radius on the several surfaces of a hard disk. A hard disk with four platters has eight surfaces, so that at each position of the read-write heads, eight tracks can be read without head movement and these eight tracks form a cylinder.
daemon   A program that runs in the background to offer system services.
data   "that which is given", for instance as input to a computer; cf. information.
data link layer   Layer two of the ISO/OSI seven-layer model. Responsible for establishing an error-free communication path between network nodes over the physical link layer, it frames messages for transmission, checks the integrity of received messages, manages access to and use of the media, and ensures proper sequencing of transmitted data. These functions are generally provided by a network card driver.
database [1]   A ususally large collection of ordered and readily accessible data.
database [2]   A program to manage a database and extract information from it.
datagram   packet, especially as used in UDP (Note: not IP-specific - other protocols use the term datagram in their documentation).
Debian DEBorah & IAN (Murdock) A GNU/Linux distribution built by a volunteer organization.
default   The value of a parameter that a program uses if it is not explicitly given a value.
DEL   the Delete key on a keyboard
delete   remove or erase a file|character|directory .
dependency   A state in which other libraries|programs|packages are required to make a program work.
DES Data Encryption Standard A USA government-sanctioned standard for the encryption of data now considered insecure to high-end brute force attacks.
desktop   The screen from which all programs are started and run on X.
device [1]   A "peripheral" piece of hardware that is an optional part or can be attached to a computer (even one that is actually housed within the computer's casing): interface cards, drives, printers etc.
device [2]   The software interface used within Unix (Linux) to represent a computer peripheral: interface cards, drives, printers, etc.; see the /dev/ directory .
DHCP Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol Provides for automatic downloading of IP address and other configuration data from a server to a client. Allows for reuse of IP addresses so that the number of hosts can exceed the number of available IP addresses. See RFC 2131, cf. BOOTP.
dial-in, dial-up, dial-out (adj)   Refers to a connection made over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), as opposed to a permanent, or leased-line, connection.
die   To cease execution, especially in a final or complete manner.
digital   Refers to an entity that can assume only a limited number of discrete states and not any value; e.g. binary cf. analog.
directory   A special type of file which contains information about other files, such as file name, location, permissions, size etc.
dirty   not clean
disk   Rotating magnetic media which supports direct or random access; cf. floppy disk, hard disk.
display screen A human readable device to display text, graphics or other data.
distribution   A (usually) complete collection of software needed to operate a computer including the Linux kernel and various utilities and applications.
DMA Direct Memory Access A hardware protocol which allows a special controller circuit (DMA controller) to transfer a block of data from a peripheral device's buffer memory directly to main memory without CPU involvement; cf. PIO.
DNS Domain Name System A hierarchically-structured distributed directory service which translates human-intelligible names like into the corresponding IP addresses. See RFC's 1032 - 1035.
domain name server DNS, nameserver  
domain [1]   One or more computer networks that serve an organizational group.
domain [2]   The name assigned to a network domain.
drive   Any device that can store and retrieve data in a relatively permanent fashion on media (which may be removable or built into the device).
e.g.   "for example" (Latin: "exemplum gratii"). N.B.: Avoid this. Use only in parenthetical examples (e.g., like this) but avoid "e.g." by putting examples in text like this. Do not confuse with "i.e.". Also see "cf.".
EIDE Enhanced IDE An improved version of the IDE interface, used to connect hard drives and CD-ROMS to a PC.
e-mail email, electronic mail  
emulate   To simulate the actions of a device or program so that the simulation can actually perform the same functions as the original.
emulator   A program that emulates the functions of some device or other program.
environment   A collection of variables associated with a process so that it knows about the user preferences and configuration of the system; they are inherited by a child process.
environment variables envars, environmental variables The variables that define an environment.
ergonomic   easy to use by humans
ESC   the Escape key on a keyboard
Ethernet   A type of LAN computer interface using coax (10Base2 or 10Base5) or UTP cables ( 10BaseT or 100BaseT ).
execute   To set to work (a program); cf. run.
execute permission   Permission set on a file on a Unix filesystem so that it may be run as a program by the "operating system.
executable   A file that is a binary or a script that can be run as a program (may assume execute permission).
FAT File Allocation Table A simple filesystem using a table to index files on a block device (floppy or hard disk). It comes in the varieties of FAT-12 (MS-DOS), FAT-16 (MS-DOS, MS-Windows 3.x) and "FAT-32" (MS-Windows 9x).
FHS Filesystem Hierarchy Standard A proposed standard for the location of files on a Unix system. See
file   A named sequence or stream of bytes at a known location in storage.
filesystem file system The data structures placed on a logical disk or partition (by mkfs) which allow the operating system to record information about files stored there.
filter   To remove unwanted data.
floating-point (adj)   used with numbers that may represent a fraction; cf. integer
floppy disk floppy, diskette A magnetic storage medium with a flexible disk inside; cf. hard disk.
floppy drive floppy A device that can read and write floppy disks.
font   The shape of each of the letters in a character set.
foreground [1]   The context in which a process is having access to a terminal for output, i.e. is not running in the background.
foreground [2]   The color of text on a computer display (as opposed to the text's background).
foreground [3]   Refers to the window 'in front of' all others and with which the user is interacting.
fork (verb)   When an executing process creates an exact executing duplicate (except for the different PID) of itself; see child process, spawn.
format [1] (noun)   Specification regarding how data are stored.
format [2] (verb)   To apply the requisite format to storage media in preparation to making a filesystem.
forwarding   The act of receiving an e-mail and then resending it to another destination.
frame   A packet as assembled and transmitted over the physical layer of a network (e.g. Ethernet, Token Ring, etc.).
free [1]   Not costing anything.
free [2]   Not inhibited. As applied to source code it allows modification, study and adaptation, not inhibited by excessively restrictive commercial license terms. cf. GPL, Free Software Foundation.
FSF   Free Software Foundation: a tax-exempt charity that raises funds for work on the GNU project; see
FSSTND FileSystem StaNdarD A standard for the location of files on a Linux system; replaced by the FHS.
FTP File Transfer Protocol A protocol for transferring files over the Internet and the software to accomplish the transfer. See RFC ?
gateway   A device which routes IP datagrams between networks in an internet; a router. (In common usage today, and certainly as I use the term, a gateway is a general-purpose computer with a general-purpose operating system [e.g. Linux] which *may* be performing other functions [although security considerations may render this inadvisable]; while a router is a special-purpose computer with a special purpose operating system [e.g. IOS], generally from a specialist supplier [e.g. Cisco]). N.B.: gateways do NOT perform protocol translation.
GB giga-byte, gigabyte, Giga-Byte, GigaByte, Gb 1000 (or rarely 1024) MB (1,000,000,000 or 1,048,576,000 or 1,073,741,824 bytes)
GID   Group ID
global   A variable, configuration section, procedure etc. having a scope which is unlimited (i.e., applies everywhere unless contradicted locally)
GNU GNU's Not Unix a Free Software Foundation project to build Unix(R)(TM)-compatible utilities and programs exclusively based on free program source code.
GPL General Public License A license for distribution of free software which permits copying, modification and redistribution. It was created by the Free Software Foundation for its projects like GNU, and has been applied to Linux as well. See
graphics   images, pictures; in contrast to text
graphical user interface GUI An interactive interface using a graphics display. N.B.: refer to a "graphical user interface" only if there actually is a graphical interface (like X), and do not use it for interactive programs on text terminals (based on ncurses or slang). Use "interactive interface" as a catch-all. cf. command line interface.
group   Refers to a list of one or more users having the same access rights; see /etc/groups .
hack   To accomplish a result in an unorthodox way.
hacker   Someone who hacks: a title assigned to people with remarkable computing skills; cf. cracker.
hang   cf. crash
hard disk   A computer device that uses solid disks as magnetic medium to store data. cf. floppy disk.
hard link   In Unix filesystems, an entry in a directory that points to a file in another directory on the same disk or partition, and shares the inode of that file; cf. symbolic link.
hardware   All physical parts making up the computer ("the parts that can be kicked" ;-)
high-level (adj)   Refers to a computer language with a higher level of abstraction from the computer architecture than a low-level language.
host   Any computer attached to an IP-based internet, especially computers that can act as a server to a client program or computer.
HOWTO   A series of documents, each on a particular topic, which form a significant portion of the documentation for Linux. HOWTO's originated with, and are generally published by, the Linux Documentation Project.
HTML HyperText Markup Language A standard for specifying the structure of a document indicated by tags in the document text; used on the World Wide Web with HTTP.
HTTP HyperText Transfer Protocol The succession of application layer protocols used for communication between a WWW browser and a WWW server. See RFC 2068.
i.e.   "that is" (Latin: "id est"). N.B.: Avoid this. Use it only in parenthetical asides (i.e., asides like this one) and then only to clarify a point. Do not confuse with "e.g.". Also see "cf.".
I/O Input/Output  
ICMP Internet Control Message Protocol A required protocol (RFC 792) for the notification of errors between gateways and hosts on IP-based internets. It operates at the level of the IP protocol in the internet layer. Interestingly, although ICMP is required (*must* be implemented), hosts and gateways are not required to generate ICMP messages, and hosts are not required to respond or react to incoming ICMP messages (in fact, mostly, they don't, relying on higher-level protocols like TCP to simply time-out and retransmit, so you can't say that ICMP _handles_ errors). Also, because IP is a packet-oriented connectionless protocol, there's no concept of duration of transmissions.
ID   IDentifier
IDE Integrated Drive Electronics A popular interface on PC's to attach hard drives; also see EIDE.
idle   inactive; waiting for a task or a wake up call
IMAP [1] Interactive Mail Access Protocol See RFC 1203
IMAP [2] Internet Message Access Protocol See RFC 2060 (beats me why there's two names for the same thing, with the same acronym yet).
implement   To create an actual object (program, device) that conforms to abstract specifications.
include file   A file which contains constants and parameters, possibly shared between two or more programs, and included into the source code when these programs are compiled.
information info Something worth knowing, in contrast to just plain data.
inode   In Unix filesystems, a block of administrative data for a file on the disk partition.
input   Any data that are entered into a running program, or into a file.
install   Transferring a new program to a computer's permanent storage (e.g., hard disk) and performing any necessary configuration or administration.
integer   A data type used to represent a whole (integer, non-fraction) number within a limited range.
integrity   correctness
interactive   Adjective, meaning: having the property to be able to interact, i.e. respond to stimulation from the outside. Used in the context of programs or interfaces.
interactive interface CLI and|or GUI An interface between a computer and a user which allows them to interact and exchange input and output (commands and data).
interface   A connection (through a hardware device or through a software program) between different components of a computer system (usually performing some kind of translation between protocols internal to the components); used especially in the contexts of network communication, or communication between computer systems and their users.
Internet internet, (the) net The worldwide distributed network of computers linked by the Internet Protocol.
internet layer   The network layer in the TCP/IP protocol stack: this alternative name may be used to distinguish it from the underlying network access (physical) layer. cf. Internet Protocol.
Internet service provider ISP, IAP, Internet Access Provider A company which provides connections to the Internet.
interpreter   A program which examines a script or program source code and executes it, line by line; cf. compiler.
intranet   A network (usually a LAN) based on IP but, unlike the Internet, allows only restricted access.
invoke   induce execution of; call
ioport address The memory address peripheral devices use to communicate with the CPU; see /proc/ioports .
IP Internet Protocol The network layer protocol used on IP-based internets. See RFC 791 .
IRQ Interrupt ReQuest  
ISA Industry Standard Architecture An increasingly obsolete PC bus standard.
ISDN Integrated Services Digital Network A baseband protocol used by telephone companies to offer one, two or more B-channel (Bearer channel) lines of 64 Kbit/s each on a single copper pair of up to 5.5 km length. Each B-channel can be used to provide a high-quality voice line, or fax or data services.
ISO International Standards Organization One of several bodies which exist to promote standards, including computer standards.
job   A task which has been sent to the background or has been submitted for later execution.
k K, kilo a factor of 1000, but with computers usually 1024 (2^10)
KB kilo-byte, kilobyte, kb, kB 1024 bytes
kbit/s kilobit per second, kbps, Kbps, Kbit/s Data transfer rate in units of 1000 bits per second.
Kbyte/s kilobyte per second, kbps, Kbps, KBps, KB/s, kbyte/s Data transfer rate in units of 1024 bytes per second.
kernel   The core of an operating system, which provides multitasking (process creation, interprocess protection, interprocess communication), memory management, and basic I/O management.
key [1]   A token which is used to encrypt plain text or decrypt cipher text in an encryption system.
key [2]   A database field which may be used as the basis of a query.
key [3]   A marked switch on a keyboard which used to be a common computer input device before they were eaten by mice ;-).
keyboard   An input device having many keys marked with letters and other symbols.
LAN Local Area Network A small network, usually with one or a few segments, which supports broadcasting and direct connections between hosts; e.g. Ethernet, Token Ring, Appletalk and ARCNet; cf. WAN.
LDP Linux Documentation Project  
library   A collection of (often related) subroutines to be linked to a program.
LILO LInux LOader A boot loader: a program that loads the kernel so Linux can boot; can also boot other operating systems.
link   To bind a program to the subroutines it references (calls). These are typically located in object modules or libraries.
Linux Linux Is Not UniX? A Unix-like operating system first developed, still maintained by, and named after Linus Torvalds. It is freely available under the General Public License. But if you didn't know all that already, what are you doing here?
load   To transfer from disk into memory.
local   within easy reach, on the local area network, not remote.
logfile log record of activities
low-level (adj)   Refers to a computer language in which statements are similar to instructions for the processor (or: in which statements are more like object code than in a high-level language).
LPI Linux Professional Institute Non-profit organization founded to create a widely supported certification program for Linux; see
Mail User Agent message user agent, MUA, UA, user agent An end-user program used to access, process, read, archive, compose and send e-mail messages. See RFC 1711. Such e-mail programs often include some MTA functionality, in particular the ability to use SMTP to send e-mail to an outgoing mail server, and POP3 or IMAP protocol to download mail from an inbound mail server. cf. Message Transfer Agent.
manual [1] (noun)   A document, often of book-length, discussing the design or operation of a software package or device.
manual [2] (adj)   by hand (as opposed to some more automated means)
man page manual page Standard Unix manual page (usually available on the computer system in nroff format, called with the command `man`).
masquerade   To pretend to be another host for the purposes of sharing one IP address among several local hosts hidden to the outside world for reasons of resource shortages or security. cf. NAT
MB mega-byte, megabyte, meg, Mb 1000 (or sometimes 1024) KB (1,000,000 or 1,024,000 or 1,048,576 bytes).
Mbit/s Megabit per second, Mbps Data transfer rate in units of 1,000,000 bits per second.
MBR Master Boot Record An area of the outermost cylinder of a PC hard disk which contains the partition table. This contains four entries identifying the types, starting cylinder and sizes of up to four partitions on the hard disk. One of the entries is flagged as 'active'; this marks the partition from which the machine will boot. (Floppy disks don't have an MBR, since they don't have a partition table. Instead, they just have a boot sector (same as a logical disk), which contains a Media Descriptor Table (MDT) and bootstrap loader. The MDT describes the format of a floppy disk or logical disk).
media   The physical device by which data are transmitted or (more commonly) stored.
memory   The place where a computer stores data and|or programs for direct access by the CPU: RAM or ROM (and also cache memory), not disks.
Message Transfer Agent mail transfer agent, mail transport agent, message transport agent, MTA, MDA, mail delivery agent, message delivery agent A program which routes e-mail based on the RFC 822 header and invokes the correct delivery agent, especially SMTP (RFC 821) in order to route the mail towards its ultimate destination. For example: exim, qmail, sendmail, smail. Also see RFC 1711 and Mail User Agent.

The term "Mail Transport Agent" is used in the online "Network Administrator's Guide" to refer to rmail, which, of course, is used to process incoming mail from UUCP before passing it onto sendmail. This usage is at least confusing, if not incorrect.

On MDA (Message Delivery Agent):
This one really has me going. I'm not sure whether it is:
"A protocol, or its implementing program, responsible for transferring messages from one host to another. For example, SMTP.";
"A program responsible for delivering mail to the correct user mailbox on a host. For example, sendmail."

I've been researching this in my paper library and on the net for the last half hour, and have not come up with any consistent or reasonably definitive examples. Personally, but based on what evidence I can't remember, I lean to the first definition, but Aileen Frisch uses the second in her "Essential System Administration" book. Hold on - after a search at, I've discovered RFC 1711, which defines MTA and UA, but has no mention of (M)DA. I think this one is what we in Australia would call "a furphy". - Hence the use of "MDA" is to be AVOIDED.

mini-HOWTO   A slimmer, more focused document otherwise like a HOWTO.
modem MOdulator/DEModulator A device that converts between digital signals from the computer and analog signals for communication over a telephone line.
mouse   An input device which allows pointing to, selecting and activating objects, usually displayed in a graphical user interface.
MS-Windows NT NT, Windows NT A 32-bit operating system from Microsoft(C)(R)(TM).
MTU Maximum Transfer Unit Maximum size of an IP packet that will be accepted for transmission without fragmenting it into smaller datagrams. Usually an optimal size is determined automatically; typical sizes are 296 bytes (40 header + 256 data for phone lines), and 1500 bytes (the maximum for ethernet connections).
NAT Network Address Translation A generic description of the process whereby the IP address of a host on a private internet is translated into an IANA-assigned unique address on the wider Public Internet. This can be accomplished by several techniques: masquerading, circuit-level gateways such as SOCKS, transparent proxying or application-level gateways.
N.B.   "take good notice" (Latin: "nota bene").
NetBEUI NetBIOS Extended User Interface The current implementation of the NetBIOS protocol used in MS-DOS, MS-Windows and OS/2.
NetBIOS over TCP/IP   A layer of code which implements the NetBIOS API, but utilizing TCP and UDP datagrams, which are of course encapsulated in IP datagrams. Since IP is routable, this overcomes the most significant limitation of NetBIOS. See RFC's 1001,1002.
NetBIOS Network BIOS A lightweight transport protocol developed by Sytek, IBM and Microsoft for use on personal computers. NetBIOS defines three things: the protocol on the wire (datagram formats); the code which implements the protocol; the API used to employ the protocol. The major example of an application which uses the NetBIOS API is Microsoft Networks, the workstation and server code implemented in MS-DOS 3.0 and later, OS/2 and various Windows incarnations - though other applications do exist. NetBIOS employs name registration and broadcast discovery, rather than addressing, and is consequently a non-routable protocol. cf. SMB, NetBIOS over TCP/IP.
netmask   network mask: the network part of an IP address; cf. variable length subnet mask
network   An interconnected set of hosts and other network devices which share a common physical layer such as Ethernet, X.25, etc.; cf. LAN, WAN.
network access layer   The lowest layer of the TCP/IP protocol stack, also known as the "physical" or "hardware" layer. Consists of the cables, connectors and associated hardware such as driver chips to implement a network such as Ethernet or Token Ring, as well as the drivers for the hardware. It approximately spans the lowest two layers of the theoretical ISO/OSI network protocol stack: the physical and data link layers.
network interface card NIC, Ethernet card, LAN adapter An expansion board allowing a computer to access a network.
network layer   The layer of a network protocol stack that is concerned with addressing and delivery of datagrams across a network or internet. It is layer three in the IS O/OSI seven-layer model. In the TCP/IP protocol stack, the main network layer protocol is the Internet Protocol (IP); therefore this layer is also known as internet layer.
NFS Network File System A protocol (developed by Sun Microsystems) enabling a UN*X machine to mount a remote disk area as part of its local filesystem; widely considered of questionable security.
NIS Network Information System Protocols to provide network services (such as authentication) for NFS.
object code machine code Instructions that can be executed by the computer processor.
offline off-line not connected to a computer system or network; cf. online
online [1] on-line connected to a computer system or network; cf. offline
online [2] on-line stored on and accessible through a computer system or network
operating system OS Central set of programs that manage the various components and devices of the computer, and its interaction with users; e.g. MS-DOS, MS-Windows NT, MacOS, Unix, Linux.
OSI Open Systems Interconnection The concept of a "stack" of protocols (hence "TCP/IP stack" as in "This damn Microsoft TCP/IP stack is so broken...") is due to the OSI seven-layer model, even though TCP/IP has only about four distinct layers (certain layers are combined). See physical, data link, network, transport, session, presentation, and application layers (OSI model); network access, internet, transport, and application layers (TCP/IP stack).
output   Any data that are generated by a process.
owner   The account that has its UID number associated with a file.
package   A set of related files and programs; especially a single archive file (tar, rpm) that contains them.
packet   A quantum of data transmitted over a network; specifically: a unit of TCP traffic carrying the information necessary to deliver itself, especially using the UDP protocol (datagram).
PAP Password Authentication Protocol  
parallel   Several bits at the same time, over time (over multiple wires).
parameter   A variable with a specific value that has a meaning or function, which belongs to a program function or command; cf. argument.
parent process   A process that started one or more other, so-called child processes.
partition [1] (noun)   An arbitrary region of a storage device (almost always a hard drive) created by partitioning software before data were stored. Specifically on IBM PC-compatibles: one of up to four distinct areas on a hard drive which can be dedicated to different operating systems. One of the partition types, "extended", supports further "partitioning" into a maximum of four logical disks.
partition [2] (verb)   To make a partition.
password   A token which authenticates a user at login time.
patch level    
PC Personal Computer A computer designed to be used by one individual at a time; specifically, one compatible with the architecture of the original IBM microcomputer.
PCI Peripheral Components Interface A PC bus to connect cards to the processor, replacing the original ISA bus.
peripheral   A device that is an optional attachment to the core components of a computer (CPU and memory).
physical layer   The lowest layer of the seven-layer ISO/OSI network protocol stack. Consists of the cables, connectors and associated hardware such as driver chips to implement a network such as Ethernet or Token Ring. The corresponding layer of the TCP/IP protocol stack is also known as "hardware" or network access layer and has a wider scope.
PID process ID A numerical identifier used to track processes by the kernel.
PIO Programmed I/O A technique whereby the CPU executes a tightly coded loop in which it copies data from a peripheral device's buffer memory and writes it back out to main memory; cf. DMA.
pipe   A data structure which connects a file handle in one process to a file handle in another; by convention stdout of one process to stdin of the next. Established on the shell command line by the '|' symbol.
pixel   picture element: a dot, a grid point on a computer display, the smallest entity that can be drawn on a computer display
PLIP Parallel Line IP IP protocol over a parallel cable (between two machines physically connected and not too distant).
PnP Plug and Play  
POMS Program Objective Management System Set of Python scripts to offer a web-interface to manage the LPI test objectives. See
POP Post Office Protocol Protocol to retrieve mail from a mail server. See RFC ? Various software servers typically have names derived from 'pop' like ipop3d, ipop2d, and popper.
port [1] (noun)   The name given to an individual, numbered "slot" which is available to Internetworking software. For example, HTTP servers generally listen to port 80. See /etc/services ; also see ioport.
port [2] (verb)   To adapt a computer program to operate in a new computing environment and|or in a new programming language.
POSIX compliant    
Postscript   A page description language developed and marketed by Adobe Inc. Widely implemented in laser printers, especially where high-quality output is required (e.g. phototypesetters) and, under Linux, widely emulated in software for non-Postcript printers.
PPID Parent Process ID The PID of a process' parent process (cf. PID, parent , child process).
PPP Point-to-Point Protocol A physical layer protocol which can be used to encapsulate IP and other network protocols, making it an excellent way of extending LAN protocols to dial-in users. PPP comprises an HDLC-like framing protocol, a link control protocol, and a family of network control protocols, each of which corresponds to a network protocol which PPP can encapsulate. PPP can also use PAP or CHAP for authentication.
presentation layer   The sixth layer of the ISO/OSI seven-layer model, which specifies character representation (e.g. ASCII) and graphics formats, such as NAPLPS (North American Presentation Layer Protocols). In TCP/IP, the presentation layer is subsumed into the application layer, but perhaps the closest equivalent standards are ASN.1, ANSI and HTML/XML.
process   A running program; an instance of program execution.
processor   The main component that makes a computer work; these days usually a "micro-processor" on a single silicon chip (cf. CPU)
program   A sequence of instructions for the computer that implements an algorithm, especially when stored in a file in the form of either directly-executable object code, or source code for an interpreter or compiler. When loaded into memory and executed, the object-code program typically becomes a process.
prompt   An indication produced by a shell or application program that it is ready for further user commands or input.
protocol   A definition of data structures and formats to be exchanged by two programs over a network.
queue   A data structure which implements a first-in, first-out list; e.g. print queue, which contains a list of jobs to be printed in order.
RAM Random Access Memory Volatile, writable memory that a computer uses as its main memory. Comes in flavors like EDO, ECC, SDRAM, etc. which are not equivalent but from the perspective of a sysadmin are very similar under normal use. cf. ROM.
RARP Reverse Address Resolution Protocol, rarp A low-level protocol which, given a hardware (Ethernet MAC) address on the local network, returns the corrsponding IP address. cf. ARP.
read permission    
README readme An important document that usually comes with a software package to call attention to important issues; usually has its name in capitals, so that it appears at the top of a directory listing.
Red Hat RedHat, RH A commercial Linux distribution.
redundant   superfluous; said of information in the contexts of compression, or the preservation of data integrity.
regular expression   A formal expression of a string pattern which can be searched for and processed by a pattern-matching program such as vi, grep, awk or perl.
RFC Request For Comments Despite the name, a de facto official specification of Internet protocols and standards. See
ROM Read Only Memory Computer memory, usually involving some enduring medium like a silicon chip or a burnt laser disc which can be read but not altered; this is inconvenient when the data can change and, just to be confusing, some special ROMs can be modified under certain circumstances. cf. RAM.
root [1]   The administrative account (UID 0) on a *nix system that has all priviliges; cf. superuser.
root [2]   The top-most or first or originating node or object (e.g.: root directory, "/").
route [1] (noun)   The path across one or more networks from one host to another.
route [2] (verb)   To examine the destination network IP address in a datagram, and by consulting a table, direct the datagram to the next router along the path to the destination, or to the destination itself.
router   A device which routes IP datagrams between networks in an internet; a gateway. (In common usage today, and certainly as I use the term, a gateway is a general-purpose computer with a general-purpose operating system [e.g. Linux] which *may* be performing other functions [although security considerations may render this inadvisable]; while a router is a special-purpose computer with a special purpose operating system [e.g. IOS], generally from a specialist supplier [e.g. Cisco]). N.B.: gateways do NOT perform protocol translation.
RPC Remote Procedure Call  
RPM Red Hat Package Management A system which eases installation, verification, upgrading, and uninstalling Linux packages. See the HOWTO for more information.
run   To let it work (a program); cf. execute.
runlevel run-level Mode of operation of a Unix system, offering different services on each level; see /etc/inittab .
script   A computer program that is written in an interpreted programming language, and therefore stays in human-readable text format; cf. executable, binary.
SCSI Small Computer Systems Interface A multi-drop bus cable architecture particularly suitable for both internal and external attachment of mass storage devices such as hard drives, tape drives and CD-ROMS.
segment   A (limited) length of cable - segments can be joined by repeaters (rare), bridges (common), routers or switches (which are hardware logic bridges and routers).
serial   One bit after another, over time (over a single wire).
server   A process, or a host computer, which provides a particular service to client processes; e.g. web server, print server.
service   A process which accepts requests and returns responses in an almost endless loop; a daemon.
session layer   The fifth ISO/OSI layer is the session control layer. It establishes and controls system-dependent aspects of communications sessions between specific nodes in the network. It bridges the gap between the services provided by the transport layer and the logical functions running on the operating system in a participating node. In the TCP/IP network stack, there is no session control layer, and its functions are partially implemented in the transport layer and partially in the application layer.
SGID Set Group ID, sgid  
shell   A program which mediates between the user and the operating system, typically accepting commands and invoking the corresponding programs. In the UNIX world, the term shell is conventionally applied to command-line driven interfaces with scripting capabilities, such as bash, csh and zsh; however, graphical shells exist, such as Windowmaker, KDE and GNOME.
signal   A logical interrupt to a process, which the process must generally deal with synchronously. A form of interprocess communications.
single mode   single user mode, runlevel 1
SLIP Serial Line IP A way of encapsulating IP datagrams for transmission over asynchronous modem connections. See RFC 1055, "A Non-Standard for Transmission of IP Datagrams over Serial Lines"; cf. PPP
SMB Server Message Block A Microsoft protocol developed to transport originally MS-DOS, later OS/2 and MS-Windows, API calls and their arguments across a NetBIOS LAN; primarily used under Linux as a protocol for file and print sharing with Windows machines
SMTP Simple Mail Transfer Protocol A conversational protocol used by mail servers for delivery of e-mail over the Internet. See RFC 821.
SNR Signal-to-Noise-Ratio The relative amount of useful information in a signal, as compared to the noise it carries.
socket   A TCP application layer connection.
software SW computer programs
source code   The plain text (usually typed in by a human) specifying the detailed operation of a program, written in a programming language. It needs to be processed by a compiler to produce a program that can be run (executed) by the computer.
sources   The files containing the source code for a program or program system, from which the executable program or library can be built or ported to another computer platform.
spawn   To create a child process by means of a fork() and an exec().
stderr   The standard Unix error output device (by default to the terminal display).
stdin   The standard Unix input device (by default the terminal keyboard).
stdout   The standard Unix output device (by default the terminal display).
sticky bit   A permission bit on an executable file which causes the kernel to keep the memory image of the process after it has terminated, in order to avoid the overhead of reloading it when it is re-invoked.
stream   A sequence of data bytes with sequencing and flow control. The TCP/IP stream protocol is TCP. (Isn't there a System V stream concept as well as the network protocol? Does Linux implement it?)
subnet mask mask A value used in configuring the TCP/IP stack which specifies which part of a 32-bit IP address is the network address and which part the host address.
SUID Set User ID, suid a permission bit for files in Unix-compatible filesystems which causes the resultant process (i.e., assuming the file is executable) to enjoy access rights to other resources based on the UID of the user who owns the file, rather than the user who created the process.
superuser super user, su, wheel The user of the root account.
SuSE S.u.S.E. A commercial Linux distribution.
swap space swap virtual memory; called swap space because processess swap location between fast RAM and slow virtual memory if their priority changes.
symlink soft link Symbolic link: in Unix filesystems, an entry in a directory that points to another file name in the filesystem; cf. hard link.
synchronize [1]   To make the events in two separate sequences happen at the same time (used in communications).
synchronize [2]   To make the content and state of data stored in two separate locations identical (e.g. cache, FTP sites).
syntax   The formal rules which determine how keywords or commands and their components need to be combined when writing the source code of a computer program or forming shell commands.
sysadmin sysadm system administrator: a person who administers a computer system and keeps it working.
system box A computer system; a term loosely used to refer to hardware and | or software: cf. operating system.
TCP Transmission Control Protocol A session-oriented streaming transport protocol which provides sequencing, error detection and correction, flow control, congestion control and multiplexing; cf. UDP. See RFC 793 .
TCP/IP Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol A suite of protocols basic to Internet transmissions.
terminal tty The outlet of a computer, usually consisting of a display for output of text (or possibly graphics), and a keybord (and possibly a mouse) for input, used as a device for interaction between the computer and a user. cf. workstation.
terminate   to disconnect, end, finish, quit, stop, etc.
terminator   A resistive load to indicate the end a chain of devices, usually a SCSI chain or a coax network chain.
text   A series of characters that can be displayed on a terminal display or printed on paper for human reading.
TIPS Test Item Processing System Set of Python scripts to offer a web-interface to manage the LPI test items. See
TFTP Trivial FTP A protocol like FTP but much simpler and even less secure; used mainly for cracking computers and booting diskless network clients. See RFC ?
transport layer   The transport layer is the central layer (#4) in the ISO/OSI seven-layer model. It provides end-to-end control of a communication session once the path has been established, allowing processes to exchange data reliably and sequentially, independent of which systems are communicating and their locations in the network. The transport layer in the TCP/IP stack is not defined in the same way; although TCP provides sequencing and error correction, UDP - which is also a transport layer protocol - does not have a session concept and is unreliable. The TCP/IP transport layer primarily provides multiplexing through the use of ports.
troubleshoot   The process of finding the reason(s) of the problem(s) with networking|programming|hardware.
tune   To make small changes to configuration in order to produce more efficient operation.
TurboLinux Pacific HighTech Linux, PHT A commercial Linux distribution.
UDP User Datagram Protocol A connection-less, unreliable, transport protocol which provides multiplexing and error detection for applications which require a low-cost protocol for one-shot transactions; cf. datagram, packet, TCP. See RFC 768 .
UID   User ID
UN*X   A term for any variant of the UNIX(R)(TM) operating system, including Linux and a large number of free and commercial systems; also *NIX.
uninstall   Remove hardware or software from a computer system.
unload   Remove services or software from a server so that more resources (CPU time, disk space, etc.) become available.
unreliable   In the TCP/IP sense of the term, a protocol which does not perform error correction (relying on "upper" layers to detect and correct errors, usually through retransmission).
upgrade   To update hardware or software to a better state.
URL Universal Resource Locator An identifier for an address on the Internet, preceded by the name of the protocol that must be used to reach that address (e.g.: ).
USB Universal Serial Bus A recently developed bus standard for connecting peripheral devices in a chain.
user [1]   The person that is using the resources of a computer.
user [2]   A person's account or process; identification listed in /etc/passwd .
user interface UI, GUI see interactive interface
user mask umask  
UTC Coordinated Universal Time, GMT, Greenwich Mean Time Official world time.
utility   A program to help you to do a task easier.
UTP Unshielded Twisted Pair Type of network cables with several parallel wires used for Ethernet. The network usually has a star topology with hubs and does not need terminators.
variable length subnet mask VLSM cf. CIDR
vendor   A company that provides a service or a product.
virtual   Functionality provided without additional hardware|software, often without the user needing to realize this economy; e.g.: virtual memory, virtual console or virtual web server.
virtual console virtual terminal, VT, VC  
virtual memory VM Extra memory available on a system that is stored on a hard disk and is therefore essentially unlimited, although much slower than genuine RAM. Usually it is called swap space.
WAN Wide Area Network A network which links geographically widespread facilities (and often LANs at those locations) using point-to-point (leased line, SLIP, PPP) or packet-switched network (X.25, frame relay) links and which does not support the broadcast and direct connection capabilities of LANs.
wildcard   An placeholder used to represent any character or group of characters.
window   A region on a graphical desktop, the user interface for I/O with a child process of the desktop.
win-modem   A modem that only has a Digital Signal Processor and uses MS-Windows-specific software running on the CPU of the host computer to encode and decode data.
WINS Windows Internet Name Service An automatic NetBIOS name database to resolve NetBIOS names to IP addresses.
word   A data type consisting of two or four (or a different number - you cannot tell) of bytes; on i386 architectures, a word is four bytes (32 bits) in size.
workspace   Computer resources that are assigned to a computer user.
workstation   A computer, usually with a graphical display, for interactive use by an individual; cf. server.
write permission    
WWW World Wide Web, (the) web Global distributed archive of HTML documents linked through HTTP.
X X-Windows The X Window System: a graphical user interface originating at MIT and having several variations.
XML eXtensible Markup Language  
X-terminal X-station cf. workstation
Yellow Pages YP See NIS

The contents of this page are copyrighted © by the Linux Professional Institute but are freely copyable according to our Open Content License
Generated: 2000/01/26 11:25 ; Modified: 2000/11/10 00:00 ; HTML page $Date: 2000/11/10 00:01:02 $.
Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the USA and other countries.