Part 15 out of 29
for `Packet INternet Groper'). Occasionally used as a phone greeting.
See ACK, also ENQ. 2. vt. To verify the presence of. 3.
vt. To get the attention of. 4. vt. To send a message to all members
of a mailing list requesting an ACK (in order to verify
that everybody's addresses are reachable). "We haven't heard much of
anything from Geoff, but he did respond with an ACK both times I
pinged jargon-friends." 5. n. A quantum packet of happiness. People
who are very happy tend to exude pings; furthermore, one can
intentionally create pings and aim them at a needy party (e.g., a
depressed person). This sense of ping may appear as an exclamation;
"Ping!" (I'm happy; I am emitting a quantum of happiness; I have been
struck by a quantum of happiness). The form "pingfulness", which is
used to describe people who exude pings, also occurs. (In the standard
abuse of language, "pingfulness" can also be used as an exclamation,
in which case it's a much stronger exclamation than just "ping"!).
The funniest use of `ping' to date was described in January 1991 by
Steve Hayman on the Usenet group comp.sys.next. He was trying to
isolate a faulty cable segment on a TCP/IP Ethernet hooked up to a
NeXT machine, and got tired of having to run back to his console after
each cabling tweak to see if the ping packets were getting through. So
he used the sound-recording feature on the NeXT, then wrote a script
that repeatedly invoked ping(8), listened for an echo, and played back
the recording on each returned packet. Result? A program that caused
the machine to repeat, over and over, "Ping ... ping ... ping ..." as
long as the network was up. He turned the volume to maximum, ferreted
through the building with one ear cocked, and found a faulty tee
connector in no time.
Node:Ping O' Death, Next:ping storm, Previous:ping,
Up:= P =
Ping O' Death n.
A notorious exploit that (when first discovered) could be
easily used to crash a wide variety of machines by overunning size
limits in their TCP/IP stacks. First revealed in late 1996. The
open-source Unix community patched its systems to remove the
vulnerability within days or weeks, the closed-source OS vendors
generally took months. While the difference in response times repeated
a pattern familiar from other security incidents, the accompanying
glare of Web-fueled publicity proved unusually embarrassing to the OS
vendors and so passed into history and myth. The term is now used to
refer to any nudge delivered by network wizards over the network that
causes bad things to happen on the system being nudged. For the full
story on the original exploit, see
Compare with 'kamikaze packet,' 'Finger of Death' and 'Chernobyl
Node:ping storm, Next:pink wire, Previous:Ping O' Death,
Up:= P =
ping storm n.
A form of DoS attack consisting of a flood of ping
requests (normally used to check network conditions) designed to
disrupt the normal activity of a system. This act is sometimes called
`ping lashing' or `ping flood'. Compare mail storm,
Node:pink wire, Next:pipe, Previous:ping storm,
Up:= P =
pink wire n.
[from the pink PTFE wire used in military equipment] As blue
wire, but used in military applications. 2. vi. To add a pink wire to
Node:pipe, Next:pistol, Previous:pink wire, Up:=
[common] Idiomatically, one's connection to the Internet; in context,
the expansion "bit pipe" is understood. A "fat pipe" is a line with T1
or higher capacity. A person with a 28.8 modem might be heard to
complain "I need a bigger pipe".
Node:pistol, Next:pixel sort, Previous:pipe, Up:=
[IBM] A tool that makes it all too easy for you to shoot yourself in
the foot. "Unix rm * makes such a nice pistol!"
Node:pixel sort, Next:pizza box, Previous:pistol,
Up:= P =
pixel sort n.
[Commodore users] Any compression routine which irretrievably loses
valuable data in the process of crunching it. Disparagingly
used for `lossy' methods such as JPEG. The theory, of course, is that
these methods are only used on photographic images in which minor
loss-of-data is not visible to the human eye. The term `pixel sort'
implies distrust of this theory. Compare bogo-sort.
Node:pizza box, Next:plaid screen, Previous:pixel sort,
Up:= P =
pizza box n.
[Sun] The largish thin box housing the electronics in (especially Sun)
desktop workstations, so named because of its size and shape and the
dimpled pattern that looks like air holes.
Two meg single-platter removable disk packs used to be called pizzas,
and the huge drive they were stuck into was referred to as a pizza
oven. It's an index of progress that in the old days just the disk was
pizza-sized, while now the entire computer is.
Node:plaid screen, Next:plain-ASCII, Previous:pizza box,
Up:= P =
plaid screen n.
[XEROX PARC] A `special effect' that occurs when certain kinds of
memory smashes overwrite the control blocks or image memory of
a bit-mapped display. The term "salt and pepper" may refer to a
different pattern of similar origin. Though the term as coined at PARC
refers to the result of an error, some of the X demos induce
plaid-screen effects deliberately as a display hack.
Node:plain-ASCII, Next:plan file, Previous:plaid screen,
Up:= P =
Node:plan file, Next:platinum-iridium,
Previous:plain-ASCII, Up:= P =
plan file n.
[Unix] On systems that support finger, the `.plan' file in a
user's home directory is displayed when the user is fingered. This
feature was originally intended to be used to keep potential fingerers
apprised of one's location and near-future plans, but has been turned
almost universally to humorous and self-expressive purposes (like a
sig block). See also Hacking X for Y.
A recent innovation in plan files has been the introduction of
"scrolling plan files" which are one-dimensional animations made using
only the printable ASCII character set, carriage return and line feed,
avoiding terminal specific escape sequences, since the finger
command will (for security reasons; see letterbomb) not pass
the escape character.
Scrolling .plan files have become art forms in miniature, and some
sites have started competitions to find who can create the longest
running, funniest, and most original animations. Various animation
Andalusian Video Snail:
and a compiler (ASP) is available on Usenet for producing them. See
also twirling baton.
Node:platinum-iridium, Next:playpen, Previous:plan file,
Up:= P =
Standard, against which all others of the same category are measured.
Usage: silly. The notion is that one of whatever it is has actually
been cast in platinum-iridium alloy and placed in the vault beside the
Standard Kilogram at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures
near Paris. (From 1889 to 1960, the meter was defined to be the
distance between two scratches in a platinum-iridium bar kept in that
same vault -- this replaced an earlier definition as 10^(-7) times the
distance between the North Pole and the Equator along a meridian
through Paris; unfortunately, this had been based on an inexact value
of the circumference of the Earth. From 1960 to 1984 it was defined to
be 1650763.73 wavelengths of the orange-red line of krypton-86
propagating in a vacuum. It is now defined as the length of the path
traveled by light in a vacuum in the time interval of 1/299,792,458 of
a second. The kilogram is now the only unit of measure officially
defined in terms of a unique artifact.) "This garbage-collection
algorithm has been tested against the platinum-iridium cons cell in
Paris." Compare golden.
Node:playpen, Next:playte, Previous:platinum-iridium,
Up:= P =
[IBM] A room where programmers work. Compare salt mines.
Node:playte, Next:plingnet, Previous:playpen,
Up:= P =
16 bits, by analogy with nybble and byte. Usage: rare
and extremely silly. See also dynner and crumb. General
discussion of such terms is under nybble.
Node:plingnet, Next:plokta, Previous:playte, Up:=
plingnet /pling'net/ n.
Syn. UUCPNET. Also see Commonwealth Hackish, which uses
`pling' for bang (as in bang path).
Node:plokta, Next:plonk, Previous:plingnet, Up:=
plokta /plok't*/ v.
[acronym: Press Lots Of Keys To Abort] To press random keys in an
attempt to get some response from the system. One might plokta when
the abort procedure for a program is not known, or when trying to
figure out if the system is just sluggish or really hung. Plokta can
also be used while trying to figure out any unknown key sequence for a
particular operation. Someone going into `plokta mode' usually places
both hands flat on the keyboard and mashes them down, hoping for some
A slightly more directed form of plokta can often be seen in mail
messages or Usenet articles from new users -- the text might end with
as the user vainly tries to find the right exit sequence, with the
incorrect tries piling up at the end of the message....
Node:plonk, Next:plug-and-pray, Previous:plokta,
Up:= P =
[Usenet: possibly influenced by British slang `plonk' for cheap booze,
or `plonker' for someone behaving stupidly (latter is lit. equivalent
to Yiddish `schmuck')] The sound a newbie makes as he falls to
the bottom of a kill file. While it originated in the
newsgroup talk.bizarre, this term (usually written "*plonk*")
is now (1994) widespread on Usenet as a form of public ridicule.
Node:plug-and-pray, Next:plugh, Previous:plonk,
Up:= P =
Parody of the techspeak term `plug-and-play', describing a PC
peripheral card which is claimed to have no need for hardware
configuration via DIP switches, and which should be work as soon as it
is inserted in the PC. Unfortunately, even the PCI bus is not up to
pulling this off reliably, and people who have to do installation or
troubleshoot PCs soon find themselves longing for the DIP switches.
Node:plugh, Next:plumbing, Previous:plug-and-pray,
Up:= P =
plugh /ploogh/ v.
[from the ADVENT game] See xyzzy.
Node:plumbing, Next:PM, Previous:plugh, Up:= P =
[Unix] Term used for shell code, so called because of the
prevalence of `pipelines' that feed the output of one program to the
input of another. Under Unix, user utilities can often be implemented
or at least prototyped by a suitable collection of pipelines and
temp-file grinding encapsulated in a shell script; this is much less
effort than writing C every time, and the capability is considered one
of Unix's major winning features. A few other OSs such as IBM's VM/CMS
support similar facilities. Esp. used in the construction `hairy
plumbing' (see hairy). "You can kluge together a basic
spell-checker out of sort(1), comm(1), and tr(1) with a little
plumbing." See also tee.
Node:PM, Next:pnambic, Previous:plumbing, Up:= P
1. v. (from `preventive maintenance') To bring down a machine for
inspection or test purposes. See provocative maintenance; see
also scratch monkey. 2. n. Abbrev. for `Presentation Manager',
an elephantine OS/2 graphical user interface.
Node:pnambic, Next:pod, Previous:PM, Up:= P =
[Acronym from the scene in the film version of "The Wizard of Oz" in
which the true nature of the wizard is first discovered: "Pay no
attention to the man behind the curtain."] 1. A stage of development
of a process or function that, owing to incomplete implementation or
to the complexity of the system, requires human interaction to
simulate or replace some or all of the actions, inputs, or outputs of
the process or function. 2. Of or pertaining to a process or function
whose apparent operations are wholly or partially falsified. 3.
The ultimate pnambic product was "Dan Bricklin's Demo", a program
which supported flashy user-interface design prototyping. There is a
related maxim among hackers: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is
indistinguishable from a rigged demo." See magic, sense 1, for
illumination of this point.
Node:pod, Next:point-and-drool interface,
Previous:pnambic, Up:= P =
[allegedly from abbreviation POD for `Prince Of Darkness'] A Diablo
630 (or, latterly, any letter-quality impact printer). From the DEC-10
PODTYPE program used to feed formatted text to it. Not to be confused
Node:point-and-drool interface, Next:pointy hat,
Previous:pod, Up:= P =
point-and-drool interface n.
Parody of the techspeak term `point-and-shoot interface', describing a
windows, icons, and mouse-based interface such as is found on the
Macintosh. The implication, of course, is that such an interface is
only suitable for idiots. See for the rest of us, WIMP
environment, Macintrash, drool-proof paper. Also
Node:pointy hat, Next:pointy-haired,
Previous:point-and-drool interface, Up:= P =
pointy hat n.
See wizard hat. This synonym specifically refers to the wizards
of Unseen University in Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" serious of
humorous fantasies; these books are extremely popular among hackers.
Node:pointy-haired, Next:poke, Previous:pointy hat,
Up:= P =
[after the character in the Dilbert comic strip] Describes the
extreme form of the property that separates suits and
marketroids from hackers. Compare brain-dead;
demented; see PHB. Always applied to people, never to
ideas. The plural form is often used as a noun. "The pointy-haireds
ordered me to use Windows NT, but I set up a Linux server with Samba
Node:poke, Next:poll, Previous:pointy-haired,
Up:= P =
Node:poll, Next:polygon pusher, Previous:poke,
Up:= P =
1. [techspeak] The action of checking the status of an input line,
sensor, or memory location to see if a particular external event has
been registered. 2. To repeatedly call or check with someone: "I keep
polling him, but he's not answering his phone; he must be swapped
out." 3. To ask. "Lunch? I poll for a takeout order daily."
Node:polygon pusher, Next:POM, Previous:poll,
Up:= P =
polygon pusher n.
A chip designer who spends most of his or her time at the physical
layout level (which requires drawing lots of multi-colored polygons).
Also `rectangle slinger'.
Node:POM, Next:pop, Previous:polygon pusher, Up:=
POM /P-O-M/ n.
Common abbreviation for phase of the moon. Usage: usually in
the phrase `POM-dependent', which means flaky.
Node:pop, Next:POPJ, Previous:POM, Up:= P =
[from the operation that removes the top of a stack, and the fact that
procedure return addresses are usually saved on the stack] (also
capitalized `POP') 1. vt. To remove something from a stack or
PDL. If a person says he/she has popped something from his
stack, that means he/she has finally finished working on it and can
now remove it from the list of things hanging overhead. 2. When a
discussion gets to a level of detail so deep that the main point of
the discussion is being lost, someone will shout "Pop!", meaning "Get
back up to a higher level!" The shout is frequently accompanied by an
upthrust arm with a finger pointing to the ceiling. 3. [all-caps, as
`POP'] Point of Presence, a bank of dial-in lines allowing customers
to make (local) calls into an ISP. This is borderline techspeak.
Node:POPJ, Next:poser, Previous:pop, Up:= P =
POPJ /pop'J/ n.,v.
[from a PDP-10 return-from-subroutine instruction] To return
from a digression. By verb doubling, "Popj, popj" means roughly "Now
let's see, where were we?" See RTI.
Node:poser, Next:post, Previous:POPJ, Up:= P =
A wannabee; not hacker slang, but used among crackers, phreaks
and warez d00dz. Not as negative as lamer or
leech. Probably derives from a similar usage among punk-rockers
and metalheads, putting down those who "talk the talk but don't walk
Node:post, Next:postcardware, Previous:poser,
Up:= P =
To send a message to a mailing list or newsgroup.
Distinguished in context from `mail'; one might ask, for example: "Are
you going to post the patch or mail it to known users?"
Node:postcardware, Next:posting, Previous:post,
Up:= P =
A kind of shareware that borders on freeware, in that
the author requests only that satisfied users send a postcard of their
home town or something. (This practice, silly as it might seem, serves
to remind users that they are otherwise getting something for nothing,
and may also be psychologically related to real estate `sales' in
which $1 changes hands just to keep the transaction from being a
Node:posting, Next:postmaster, Previous:postcardware,
Up:= P =
Noun corresp. to v. post (but note that post can be
nouned). Distinguished from a `letter' or ordinary email
message by the fact that it is broadcast rather than point-to-point.
It is not clear whether messages sent to a small mailing list are
postings or email; perhaps the best dividing line is that if you don't
know the names of all the potential recipients, it is a posting.
Node:postmaster, Next:PostScript, Previous:posting,
Up:= P =
The email contact and maintenance person at a site connected to the
Internet or UUCPNET. Often, but not always, the same as the
admin. The Internet standard for electronic mail
(RFC-822) requires each machine to have a `postmaster' address;
usually it is aliased to this person.
Node:PostScript, Next:pound on, Previous:postmaster,
Up:= P =
A Page Description Language (PDL), based on work originally
done by John Gaffney at Evans and Sutherland in 1976, evolving through
`JaM' (`John and Martin', Martin Newell) at XEROX PARC, and
finally implemented in its current form by John Warnock et al. after
he and Chuck Geschke founded Adobe Systems Incorporated in 1982.
PostScript gets its leverage by using a full programming language,
rather than a series of low-level escape sequences, to describe an
image to be printed on a laser printer or other output device (in this
it parallels EMACS, which exploited a similar insight about
editing tasks). It is also noteworthy for implementing on-the fly
rasterization, from Bezier curve descriptions, of high-quality fonts
at low (e.g. 300 dpi) resolution (it was formerly believed that
hand-tuned bitmap fonts were required for this task). Hackers consider
PostScript to be among the most elegant hacks of all time, and the
combination of technical merits and widespread availability has made
PostScript the language of choice for graphical output.
Node:pound on, Next:power cycle, Previous:PostScript,
Up:= P =
pound on vt.
Syn. bang on.
Node:power cycle, Next:power hit, Previous:pound on,
Up:= P =
power cycle vt.
(also, `cycle power' or just `cycle') To power off a machine and then
power it on immediately, with the intention of clearing some kind of
hung or gronked state. Syn. 120 reset; see also
Big Red Switch. Compare Vulcan nerve pinch,
bounce (sense 4), and boot, and see the "Some AI
Koans" (in Appendix A) about Tom Knight and the novice.
Node:power hit, Next:PPN, Previous:power cycle,
Up:= P =
power hit n.
A spike or drop-out in the electricity supplying your machine; a power
glitch. These can cause crashes and even permanent damage to
Node:PPN, Next:pr0n, Previous:power hit, Up:= P =
PPN /P-P-N/, /pip'n/ n. obs.
[from `Project-Programmer Number'] A user-ID under TOPS-10 and
its various mutant progeny at SAIL, BBN, CompuServe, and elsewhere.
Old-time hackers from the PDP-10 era sometimes use this to refer to
user IDs on other systems as well.
Node:pr0n, Next:precedence lossage, Previous:PPN,
Up:= P =
[Usenet, IRC] Pornography. Originally this referred only to Internet
porn but since then it has expanded to refer to just about anything.
The term comes from the warez kiddies tendency to replace
letters with numbers. At some point on IRC someone mistyped, swapped
the middle two letters, and the name stuck, then propagated over into
mainstream hacker usage. Compare filk, grilf,
hing and newsfroup.
Node:precedence lossage, Next:prepend, Previous:pr0n,
Up:= P =
precedence lossage /pre's*-dens los'*j/ n.
[C programmers] Coding error in an expression due to unexpected
grouping of arithmetic or logical operators by the compiler. Used esp.
of certain common coding errors in C due to the nonintuitively low
precedence levels of &, |, ^, <<, and >> (for this reason, experienced
C programmers deliberately forget the language's baroque
precedence hierarchy and parenthesize defensively). Can always be
avoided by suitable use of parentheses. LISP fans enjoy
pointing out that this can't happen in their favorite language, which
eschews precedence entirely, requiring one to use explicit parentheses
everywhere. See aliasing bug, memory leak, memory
smash, smash the stack, fandango on core, overrun
Previous:precedence lossage, Up:= P =
prepend /pree`pend'/ vt.
[by analogy with `append'] To prefix. As with `append' (but not
`prefix' or `suffix' as a verb), the direct object is always the thing
being added and not the original word (or character string, or
whatever). "If you prepend a semicolon to the line, the translation
routine will pass it through unaltered."
Node:prestidigitization, Next:pretty pictures,
Previous:prepend, Up:= P =
prestidigitization /pres`t*-di`j*-ti:-zay'sh*n/ n.
1. The act of putting something into digital notation via sleight of
hand. 2. Data entry through legerdemain.
Node:pretty pictures, Next:prettyprint,
Previous:prestidigitization, Up:= P =
pretty pictures n.
[scientific computation] The next step up from numbers.
Interesting graphical output from a program that may not have any
sensible relationship to the system the program is intended to model.
Good for showing to management.
Node:prettyprint, Next:pretzel key, Previous:pretty
pictures, Up:= P =
prettyprint /prit'ee-print/ v.
(alt. `pretty-print') 1. To generate `pretty' human-readable output
from a hairy internal representation; esp. used for the process
of grinding (sense 1) program code, and most esp. for LISP
code. 2. To format in some particularly slick and nontrivial way.
Node:pretzel key, Next:priesthood, Previous:prettyprint,
Up:= P =
pretzel key n.
[Mac users] See feature key.
Node:priesthood, Next:prime time, Previous:pretzel key,
Up:= P =
priesthood n. obs.
[TMRC] The select group of system managers responsible for the
operation and maintenance of a batch operated computer system. On
these computers, a user never had direct access to a computer, but had
to submit his/her data and programs to a priest for execution. Results
were returned days or even weeks later. See acolyte.
Node:prime time, Next:print, Previous:priesthood,
Up:= P =
prime time n.
[from TV programming] Normal high-usage hours on a system or network.
Back in the days of big timesharing machines `prime time' was when
lots of people were competing for limited cycles, usually the day
shift. Avoidance of prime time was traditionally given as a major
reason for night mode hacking. The term fell into disuse during
the early PC era, but has been revived to refer to times of day or
evening at which the Internet tends to be heavily loaded, making Web
access slow. The hackish tendency to late-night hacking runs
has changed not a bit.
Node:print, Next:printing discussion, Previous:prime
time, Up:= P =
To output, even if to a screen. If a hacker says that a program
"printed a message", he means this; if he refers to printing a file,
he probably means it in the conventional sense of writing to a
hardcopy device (compounds like `print job' and `printout', on the
other hand, always refer to the latter). This very common term is
likely a holdover from the days when printing terminals were the norm,
perpetuated by programming language constructs like C's
printf(3). See senses 1 and 2 of tty.
Node:printing discussion, Next:priority interrupt,
Previous:print, Up:= P =
printing discussion n.
[XEROX PARC] A protracted, low-level, time-consuming, generally
pointless discussion of something only peripherally interesting to
Node:priority interrupt, Next:profile, Previous:printing
discussion, Up:= P =
priority interrupt n.
[from the hardware term] Describes any stimulus compelling enough to
yank one right out of hack mode. Classically used to describe
being dragged away by an SO for immediate sex, but may also
refer to more mundane interruptions such as a fire alarm going off in
the near vicinity. Also called an NMI (non-maskable interrupt),
especially in PC-land.
Node:profile, Next:progasm, Previous:priority interrupt,
Up:= P =
1. A control file for a program, esp. a text file automatically read
from each user's home directory and intended to be easily modified by
the user in order to customize the program's behavior. Used to avoid
hardcoded choices (see also dot file, rc file).
2. [techspeak] A report on the amounts of time spent in each routine
of a program, used to find and tune away the hot spots
in it. This sense is often verbed. Some profiling modes report units
other than time (such as call counts) and/or report at granularities
other than per-routine, but the idea is similar. 3.[techspeak] A
subset of a standard used for a particular purpose. This sense
confuses hackers who wander into the weird world of ISO standards no
Node:progasm, Next:proggy, Previous:profile, Up:=
progasm /proh'gaz-m/ n.
[University of Wisconsin] The euphoria experienced upon the completion
of a program or other computer-related project.
Node:proggy, Next:proglet, Previous:progasm, Up:=
1. Any computer program that is considered a full application. 2. Any
computer program that is made up of or otherwise contains
proglets. 3. Any computer program that is large enough to be
normally distributed as an RPM or tarball.
Node:proglet, Next:program, Previous:proggy, Up:=
proglet /prog'let/ n.
[UK] A short extempore program written to meet an immediate, transient
need. Often written in BASIC, rarely more than a dozen lines long, and
containing no subroutines. The largest amount of code that can be
written off the top of one's head, that does not need any editing, and
that runs correctly the first time (this amount varies significantly
according to one's skill and the language one is using). Compare
toy program, noddy, one-liner wars.
Node:program, Next:Programmer's Cheer, Previous:proglet,
Up:= P =
1. A magic spell cast over a computer allowing it to turn one's input
into error messages. 2. An exercise in experimental epistemology. 3. A
form of art, ostensibly intended for the instruction of computers,
which is nevertheless almost inevitably a failure if other programmers
can't understand it.
Node:Programmer's Cheer, Next:programming,
Previous:program, Up:= P =
"Shift to the left! Shift to the right! Pop up, push down! Byte! Byte!
Byte!" A joke so old it has hair on it.
Node:programming, Next:programming fluid,
Previous:Programmer's Cheer, Up:= P =
1. The art of debugging a blank sheet of paper (or, in these days of
on-line editing, the art of debugging an empty file). "Bloody
instructions which, being taught, return to plague their inventor"
("Macbeth", Act 1, Scene 7) 2. A pastime similar to banging one's head
against a wall, but with fewer opportunities for reward. 3. The most
fun you can have with your clothes on. 4. The least fun you can have
with your clothes off.
Node:programming fluid, Next:propeller head,
Previous:programming, Up:= P =
programming fluid n.
1. Coffee. 2. Cola. 3. Any caffeinacious stimulant. Many hackers
consider these essential for those all-night hacking runs. See
Node:propeller head, Next:propeller key,
Previous:programming fluid, Up:= P =
propeller head n.
Used by hackers, this is syn. with computer geek. Non-hackers
sometimes use it to describe all techies. Prob. derives from SF
fandom's tradition (originally invented by old-time fan Ray Faraday
Nelson) of propeller beanies as fannish insignia (though nobody
actually wears them except as a joke).
Node:propeller key, Next:proprietary, Previous:propeller
head, Up:= P =
propeller key n.
[Mac users] See feature key.
Node:proprietary, Next:protocol, Previous:propeller key,
Up:= P =
1. In marketroid-speak, superior; implies a product imbued with
exclusive magic by the unmatched brilliance of the company's own
hardware or software designers. 2. In the language of hackers and
users, inferior; implies a product not conforming to open-systems
standards, and thus one that puts the customer at the mercy of a
vendor able to gouge freely on service and upgrade charges after the
initial sale has locked the customer in. Often in the phrase
"proprietary crap". 3. Synonym for closed-source, e.g. software issued
in binary without source and under a restructive license.
Since the coining of the term open source, many hackers have
made a conscious effort to distinguish between `proprietary' and
`commercial' software. It is possible for software to be commercial
(that is, intended to make a profit for the producers) without being
proprietary. The reverse is also possible, for example in binary-only
Node:protocol, Next:provocative maintenance,
Previous:proprietary, Up:= P =
As used by hackers, this never refers to niceties about the proper
form for addressing letters to the Papal Nuncio or the order in which
one should use the forks in a Russian-style place setting; hackers
don't care about such things. It is used instead to describe any set
of rules that allow different machines or pieces of software to
coordinate with each other without ambiguity. So, for example, it does
include niceties about the proper form for addressing packets on a
network or the order in which one should use the forks in the Dining
Philosophers Problem. It implies that there is some common message
format and an accepted set of primitives or commands that all parties
involved understand, and that transactions among them follow
predictable logical sequences. See also handshaking, do
Node:provocative maintenance, Next:prowler,
Previous:protocol, Up:= P =
provocative maintenance n.
[common ironic mutation of `preventive maintenance'] Actions performed
upon a machine at regularly scheduled intervals to ensure that the
system remains in a usable state. So called because it is all too
often performed by a field servoid who doesn't know what he is
doing; such `maintenance' often induces problems, or otherwise results
in the machine's remaining in an unusable state for an indeterminate
amount of time. See also scratch monkey.
Node:prowler, Next:pseudo, Previous:provocative
maintenance, Up:= P =
[Unix] A daemon that is run periodically (typically once a
week) to seek out and erase core files, truncate administrative
logfiles, nuke lost+found directories, and otherwise clean up the
cruft that tends to pile up in the corners of a file system.
See also GFR, reaper, skulker.
Node:pseudo, Next:pseudoprime, Previous:prowler,
Up:= P =
pseudo /soo'doh/ n.
[Usenet: truncation of `pseudonym'] 1. An electronic-mail or
Usenet persona adopted by a human for amusement value or as a
means of avoiding negative repercussions of one's net.behavior; a `nom
de Usenet', often associated with forged postings designed to conceal
message origins. Perhaps the best-known and funniest hoax of this type
is B1FF. See also tentacle. 2. Notionally, a
flamage-generating AI program simulating a Usenet user. Many
flamers have been accused of actually being such entities, despite the
fact that no AI program of the required sophistication yet exists.
However, in 1989 there was a famous series of forged postings that
used a phrase-frequency-based travesty generator to simulate the
styles of several well-known flamers; it was based on large samples of
their back postings (compare Dissociated Press). A significant
number of people were fooled by the forgeries, and the debate over
their authenticity was settled only when the perpetrator came forward
to publicly admit the hoax.
Node:pseudoprime, Next:pseudosuit, Previous:pseudo,
Up:= P =
A backgammon prime (six consecutive occupied points) with one point
missing. This term is an esoteric pun derived from number theory: a
number that passes a certain kind of "primality test" may be called a
`pseudoprime' (all primes pass any such test, but so do some composite
numbers), and any number that passes several is, in some sense, almost
certainly prime. The hacker backgammon usage stems from the idea that
a pseudoprime is almost as good as a prime: it will do the same job
unless you are unlucky.
Previous:pseudoprime, Up:= P =
pseudosuit /soo'doh-s[y]oot`/ n.
A suit wannabee; a hacker who has decided that he wants to be
in management or administration and begins wearing ties, sport coats,
and (shudder!) suits voluntarily. It's his funeral. See also
Node:psychedelicware, Next:psyton, Previous:pseudosuit,
Up:= P =
psychedelicware /si:`k*-del'-ik-weir/ n.
[UK] Syn. display hack. See also smoking clover.
Node:psyton, Next:pubic directory,
Previous:psychedelicware, Up:= P =
psyton /si:'ton/ n.
[TMRC] The elementary particle carrying the sinister force. The
probability of a process losing is proportional to the number of
psytons falling on it. Psytons are generated by observers, which is
why demos are more likely to fail when lots of people are watching.
[This term appears to have been largely superseded by bogon;
see also quantum bogodynamics. --ESR]
Node:pubic directory, Next:puff, Previous:psyton,
Up:= P =
pubic directory /pyoob'ik d*-rek't*-ree/) n.
[NYU] (also `pube directory' /pyoob' d*-rek't*-ree/) The `pub'
(public) directory on a machine that allows FTP access. So
called because it is the default location for SEX (sense 1).
"I'll have the source in the pube directory by Friday."
Node:puff, Next:pumpkin holder, Previous:pubic
directory, Up:= P =
To decompress data that has been crunched by Huffman coding. At least
one widely distributed Huffman decoder program was actually named
`PUFF', but these days it is usually packaged with the encoder. Oppose
huff, see inflate.
Node:pumpkin holder, Next:pumpking, Previous:puff,
Up:= P =
pumpkin holder n.
See patch pumpkin.
Node:pumpking, Next:punched card, Previous:pumpkin
holder, Up:= P =
Syn. for pumpkin holder; see patch pumpkin.
Node:punched card, Next:punt, Previous:pumpking,
Up:= P =
punched card n.obs.
[techspeak] (alt. `punch card') The signature medium of computing's
Stone Age, now obsolescent outside of some IBM shops. The
punched card actually predated computers considerably, originating in
1801 as a control device for mechanical looms. The version patented by
Hollerith and used with mechanical tabulating machines in the 1890
U.S. Census was a piece of cardboard about 90 mm by 215 mm. There is a
widespread myth that it was designed to fit in the currency trays used
for that era's larger dollar bills, but recent investigations have
IBM (which originated as a tabulating-machine manufacturer) married
the punched card to computers, encoding binary information as patterns
of small rectangular holes; one character per column, 80 columns per
card. Other coding schemes, sizes of card, and hole shapes were tried
at various times.
The 80-column width of most character terminals is a legacy of the IBM
punched card; so is the size of the quick-reference cards distributed
with many varieties of computers even today. See chad,
chad box, eighty-column mind, green card,
dusty deck, lace card, card walloper.
Node:punt, Next:Purple Book, Previous:punched card,
Up:= P =
[from the punch line of an old joke referring to American football:
"Drop back 15 yards and punt!"] 1. To give up, typically without any
intention of retrying. "Let's punt the movie tonight." "I was going to
hack all night to get this feature in, but I decided to punt" may mean
that you've decided not to stay up all night, and may also mean you're
not ever even going to put in the feature. 2. More specifically, to
give up on figuring out what the Right Thing is and resort to
an inefficient hack. 3. A design decision to defer solving a problem,
typically because one cannot define what is desirable sufficiently
well to frame an algorithmic solution. "No way to know what the right
form to dump the graph in is -- we'll punt that for now." 4. To hand a
tricky implementation problem off to some other section of the design.
"It's too hard to get the compiler to do that; let's punt to the
runtime system." 5. To knock someone off an Internet or chat
connection; a `punter' thus, is a person or program that does this.
Node:Purple Book, Next:purple wire, Previous:punt,
Up:= P =
Purple Book n.
1. The "System V Interface Definition". The covers of the first
editions were an amazingly nauseating shade of off-lavender. 2. Syn.
Wizard Book. Donald Lewine's "POSIX Programmer's Guide"
(O'Reilly, 1991, ISBN 0-937175-73-0). See also book titles.
Node:purple wire, Next:push, Previous:Purple Book,
Up:= P =
purple wire n.
[IBM] Wire installed by Field Engineers to work around problems
discovered during testing or debugging. These are called `purple
wires' even when (as is frequently the case) their actual physical
color is yellow.... Compare blue wire, yellow wire, and
Node:push, Next:Python, Previous:purple wire,
Up:= P =
[from the operation that puts the current information on a stack, and
the fact that procedure return addresses are saved on a stack] (Also
PUSH /push/ or PUSHJ /push'J/, the latter based on the PDP-10
procedure call instruction.) 1. To put something onto a stack
or PDL. If one says that something has been pushed onto one's
stack, it means that the Damoclean list of things hanging over ones's
head has grown longer and heavier yet. This may also imply that one
will deal with it before other pending items; otherwise one might say
that the thing was `added to my queue'. 2. vi. To enter upon a
digression, to save the current discussion for later. Antonym of
pop; see also stack, PDL.
Node:Python, Next:quad, Previous:push, Up:= P =
In the words of its author, "the other scripting language" (other than
Perl, that is). Python's design is notably clean, elegant, and
well thought through; it tends to attract the sort of programmers who
find Perl grubby and exiguous. Python's relationship with Perl is
rather like the BSD community's relationship to Linux -
it's the smaller party in a (usually friendly) rivalry, but the
average quality of its developers is generally conceded to be rather
higher than in the larger community it competes with. There's a Python
resource page at http://www.python.org. See also Guido.
Node:= Q =, Next:= R =, Previous:= P =, Up:The
= Q =
* quadruple bucky:
* quantum bogodynamics:
* quote chapter and verse:
Node:quad, Next:quadruple bucky, Previous:Python,
Up:= Q =
1. Two bits; syn. for quarter, crumb, tayste. 2.
A four-pack of anything (compare hex, sense 2). 3. The
rectangle or box glyph used in the APL language for various arcane
purposes mostly related to I/O. Former Ivy-Leaguers and Oxford types
are said to associate it with nostalgic memories of dear old
Node:quadruple bucky, Next:quantifiers, Previous:quad,
Up:= Q =
quadruple bucky n. obs.
1. On an MIT space-cadet keyboard, use of all four of the
shifting keys (control, meta, hyper, and super) while typing a
character key. 2. On a Stanford or MIT keyboard in raw mode,
use of four shift keys while typing a fifth character, where the four
shift keys are the control and meta keys on both sides of the
keyboard. This was very difficult to do! One accepted technique was to
press the left-control and left-meta keys with your left hand, the
right-control and right-meta keys with your right hand, and the fifth
key with your nose.
Quadruple-bucky combinations were very seldom used in practice,
because when one invented a new command one usually assigned it to
some character that was easier to type. If you want to imply that a
program has ridiculously many commands or features, you can say
something like: "Oh, the command that makes it spin the tapes while
whistling Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is quadruple-bucky-cokebottle."
See double bucky, bucky bits, cokebottle.
Node:quantifiers, Next:quantum bogodynamics,
Previous:quadruple bucky, Up:= Q =
In techspeak and jargon, the standard metric prefixes used in the SI
(Système International) conventions for scientific measurement have
dual uses. With units of time or things that come in powers of 10,
such as money, they retain their usual meanings of multiplication by
powers of 1000 = 10^3. But when used with bytes or other things that
naturally come in powers of 2, they usually denote multiplication by
powers of 1024 = 2^(10).
Here are the SI magnifying prefixes, along with the corresponding
binary interpretations in common use:
prefix decimal binary
kilo- 1000^1 1024^1 = 2^10 = 1,024
mega- 1000^2 1024^2 = 2^20 = 1,048,576
giga- 1000^3 1024^3 = 2^30 = 1,073,741,824
tera- 1000^4 1024^4 = 2^40 = 1,099,511,627,776
peta- 1000^5 1024^5 = 2^50 = 1,125,899,906,842,624
exa- 1000^6 1024^6 = 2^60 = 1,152,921,504,606,846,976
zetta- 1000^7 1024^7 = 2^70 = 1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424
yotta- 1000^8 1024^8 = 2^80 = 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176
Here are the SI fractional prefixes:
prefix decimal jargon usage
milli- 1000^-1 (seldom used in jargon)
micro- 1000^-2 small or human-scale (see micro-)
nano- 1000^-3 even smaller (see nano-)
pico- 1000^-4 even smaller yet (see pico-)
femto- 1000^-5 (not used in jargon---yet)
atto- 1000^-6 (not used in jargon---yet)
zepto- 1000^-7 (not used in jargon---yet)
yocto- 1000^-8 (not used in jargon---yet)
The prefixes zetta-, yotta-, zepto-, and yocto- have been included in
these tables purely for completeness and giggle value; they were
adopted in 1990 by the `19th Conference Generale des Poids et
Mesures'. The binary peta- and exa- loadings, though well established,
are not in jargon use either -- yet. The prefix milli-, denoting
multiplication by 1/1000, has always been rare in jargon (there is,
however, a standard joke about the `millihelen' -- notionally, the
amount of beauty required to launch one ship). See the entries on
micro-, pico-, and nano- for more information on
connotative jargon use of these terms. `Femto' and `atto' (which,
interestingly, derive not from Greek but from Danish) have not yet
acquired jargon loadings, though it is easy to predict what those will
be once computing technology enters the required realms of magnitude
(however, see attoparsec).
There are, of course, some standard unit prefixes for powers of 10. In
the following table, the `prefix' column is the international standard
suffix for the appropriate power of ten; the `binary' column lists
jargon abbreviations and words for the corresponding power of 2. The
B-suffixed forms are commonly used for byte quantities; the words
`meg' and `gig' are nouns that may (but do not always) pluralize with
prefix decimal binary pronunciation
kilo- k K, KB, /kay/
mega- M M, MB, meg /meg/
giga- G G, GB, gig /gig/,/jig/
Confusingly, hackers often use K or M as though they were suffix or
numeric multipliers rather than a prefix; thus "2K dollars", "2M of
disk space". This is also true (though less commonly) of G.
Note that the formal SI metric prefix for 1000 is `k'; some use this
strictly, reserving `K' for multiplication by 1024 (KB is thus
K, M, and G used alone refer to quantities of bytes; thus, 64G is 64
gigabytes and `a K' is a kilobyte (compare mainstream use of `a G' as
short for `a grand', that is, $1000). Whether one pronounces `gig'
with hard or soft `g' depends on what one thinks the proper
pronunciation of `giga-' is.
Confusing 1000 and 1024 (or other powers of 2 and 10 close in
magnitude) -- for example, describing a memory in units of 500K or
524K instead of 512K -- is a sure sign of the marketroid. One
example of this: it is common to refer to the capacity of 3.5"
microfloppies as `1.44 MB' In fact, this is a completely
bogus number. The correct size is 1440 KB, that is, 1440 * 1024
= 1474560 bytes. So the `mega' in `1.44 MB' is compounded of two
`kilos', one of which is 1024 and the other of which is 1000. The
correct number of megabytes would of course be 1440 / 1024 = 1.40625.
Alas, this fine point is probably lost on the world forever.
[1993 update: hacker Morgan Burke has proposed, to general approval on
Usenet, the following additional prefixes:
We observe that this would leave the prefixes zeppo-, gummo-, and
chico- available for future expansion. Sadly, there is little
immediate prospect that Mr. Burke's eminently sensible proposal will
[1999 upate: there is an IEC proposal for binary multipliers,
but no evidence that any of its proposals are in live use.]
Node:quantum bogodynamics, Next:quarter,
Previous:quantifiers, Up:= Q =
quantum bogodynamics /kwon'tm boh`goh-di:-nam'iks/ n.
A theory that characterizes the universe in terms of bogon sources
(such as politicians, used-car salesmen, TV evangelists, and
suits in general), bogon sinks (such as taxpayers and
computers), and bogosity potential fields. Bogon absorption, of
course, causes human beings to behave mindlessly and machines to fail
(and may also cause both to emit secondary bogons); however, the
precise mechanics of the bogon-computron interaction are not yet
understood and remain to be elucidated. Quantum bogodynamics is most
often invoked to explain the sharp increase in hardware and software
failures in the presence of suits; the latter emit bogons, which the
former absorb. See bogon, computron, suit,
Node:quarter, Next:ques, Previous:quantum bogodynamics,
Up:= Q =
Two bits. This in turn comes from the `pieces of eight' famed in
pirate movies -- Spanish silver crowns that could be broken into eight
pie-slice-shaped `bits' to make change. Early in American history the
Spanish coin was considered equal to a dollar, so each of these `bits'
was considered worth 12.5 cents. Syn. tayste, crumb,
quad. Usage: rare. General discussion of such terms is under
Node:ques, Next:quick-and-dirty, Previous:quarter,
Up:= Q =
1. n. The question mark character (?, ASCII 0111111). 2. interj. What?
Also frequently verb-doubled as "Ques ques?" See wall.
Node:quick-and-dirty, Next:quine, Previous:ques,
Up:= Q =
[common] Describes a crock put together under time or user
pressure. Used esp. when you want to convey that you think the fast
way might lead to trouble further down the road. "I can have a
quick-and-dirty fix in place tonight, but I'll have to rewrite the
whole module to solve the underlying design problem." See also
Node:quine, Next:quote chapter and verse,
Previous:quick-and-dirty, Up:= Q =
quine /kwi:n/ n.
[from the name of the logician Willard van Orman Quine, via Douglas
Hofstadter] A program that generates a copy of its own source text as
its complete output. Devising the shortest possible quine in some
given programming language is a common hackish amusement. (We ignore
some variants of BASIC in which a program consisting of a single empty
string literal reproduces itself trivially.) Here is one classic
(list x (list (quote quote) x)))
(list x (list (quote quote) x)))))
This one works in LISP or Scheme. It's relatively easy to write quines
in other languages such as Postscript which readily handle programs as
data; much harder (and thus more challenging!) in languages like C
which do not. Here is a classic C quine for ASCII machines:
For excruciatingly exact quinishness, remove the interior line breaks.
Here is another elegant quine in ANSI C:
Some infamous Obfuscated C Contest entries have been quines
that reproduced in exotic ways. There is an amusing Quine Home
Node:quote chapter and verse, Next:quotient,
Previous:quine, Up:= Q =
quote chapter and verse v.
[by analogy with the mainstream phrase] To cite a relevant excerpt
from an appropriate bible. "I don't care if rn gets it wrong;
`Followup-To: poster' is explicitly permitted by RFC-1036. I'll
quote chapter and verse if you don't believe me." See also
legalese, language lawyer, RTFS (sense 2).
Node:quotient, Next:quux, Previous:quote chapter and
verse, Up:= Q =
See coefficient of X.
Node:quux, Next:qux, Previous:quotient, Up:= Q =
quux /kwuhks/ n.
[Mythically, from the Latin semi-deponent verb quuxo, quuxare,
quuxandum iri; noun form variously `quux' (plural `quuces', anglicized
to `quuxes') and `quuxu' (genitive plural is `quuxuum', for four
u-letters out of seven in all, using up all the `u' letters in
Scrabble).] 1. Originally, a metasyntactic variable like
foo and foobar. Invented by Guy Steele for precisely
this purpose when he was young and naive and not yet interacting with
the real computing community. Many people invent such words; this one
seems simply to have been lucky enough to have spread a little. In an
eloquent display of poetic justice, it has returned to the originator
in the form of a nickname. 2. interj. See foo; however, denotes
very little disgust, and is uttered mostly for the sake of the sound
of it. 3. Guy Steele in his persona as `The Great Quux', which is
somewhat infamous for light verse and for the `Crunchly' cartoons. 4.
In some circles, used as a punning opposite of `crux'. "Ah, that's the
quux of the matter!" implies that the point is not crucial (compare
tip of the ice-cube). 5. quuxy: adj. Of or pertaining to a
Node:qux, Next:QWERTY, Previous:quux, Up:= Q =
The fourth of the standard metasyntactic variable, after
baz and before the quu(u...)x series. See foo,
bar, baz, quux. This appears to be a recent
mutation from quux, and many versions (especially older
versions) of the standard series just run foo, bar,
baz, quux, ....
Node:QWERTY, Next:rabbit job, Previous:qux, Up:=
QWERTY /kwer'tee/ adj.
[from the keycaps at the upper left] Pertaining to a standard
English-language typewriter keyboard (sometimes called the Sholes
keyboard after its inventor), as opposed to Dvorak or non-US-ASCII
layouts or a space-cadet keyboard or APL keyboard.
Historical note: The QWERTY layout is a fine example of a
fossil. It is sometimes said that it was designed to slow down
the typist, but this is wrong; it was designed to allow faster typing
-- under a constraint now long obsolete. In early typewriters, fast
typing using nearby type-bars jammed the mechanism. So Sholes fiddled
the layout to separate the letters of many common digraphs (he did a
far from perfect job, though; `th', `tr', `ed', and `er', for example,
each use two nearby keys). Also, putting the letters of `typewriter'
on one line allowed it to be typed with particular speed and accuracy
for demos. The jamming problem was essentially solved soon
afterward by a suitable use of springs, but the keyboard layout lives
The QWERTY keyboard has also spawned some unhelpful economic myths
about how technical standards get and stay established; see
Node:= R =, Next:= S =, Previous:= Q =, Up:The
= R =
* rabbit job:
* rain dance:
* rainbow series:
* Random Number God:
* random numbers:
* rare mode:
* raster blaster:
* raster burn:
* rat belt:
* rat dance:
* ratio site:
* rave on!:
* raw mode:
* rc file:
* read-only user:
* README file:
* real estate:
* real hack:
* real operating system:
* Real Programmer:
* Real Soon Now:
* real time:
* real user:
* Real World:
* reality check:
* reality-distortion field:
* recompile the world:
* rectangle slinger:
* recursive acronym:
* Red Book:
* red wire:
* register dancing:
* reincarnation cycle of:
* reinvent the wheel:
* relay rape:
* religion of CHI:
* religious issues:
* return from the dead:
* rib site:
* rice box:
* Right Thing:
* room-temperature IQ:
* root mode:
* rotary debugger:
* round tape:
* rusty iron:
* rusty memory:
* rusty wire:
Node:rabbit job, Next:rain dance, Previous:QWERTY,
Up:= R =
rabbit job n.
[Cambridge] A batch job that does little, if any, real work, but
creates one or more copies of itself, breeding like rabbits. Compare
wabbit, fork bomb.
Node:rain dance, Next:rainbow series, Previous:rabbit
job, Up:= R =
rain dance n.
1. Any ceremonial action taken to correct a hardware problem, with the
expectation that nothing will be accomplished. This especially applies
to reseating printed circuit boards, reconnecting cables, etc. "I
can't boot up the machine. We'll have to wait for Greg to do his rain
dance." 2. Any arcane sequence of actions performed with computers or
software in order to achieve some goal; the term is usually restricted
to rituals that include both an incantation or two and physical
activity or motion. Compare magic, voodoo programming,
black art, cargo cult programming, wave a dead
chicken; see also casting the runes.
Node:rainbow series, Next:random, Previous:rain dance,
Up:= R =
rainbow series n.
Any of several series of technical manuals distinguished by cover
color. The original rainbow series was the NCSC security manuals (see
Orange Book, crayola books); the term has also been
commonly applied to the PostScript reference set (see Red Book,
Green Book, Blue Book, White Book). Which books
are meant by "`the' rainbow series" unqualified is thus dependent on
one's local technical culture.
Node:random, Next:Random Number God, Previous:rainbow
series, Up:= R =
1. Unpredictable (closest to mathematical definition); weird. "The
system's been behaving pretty randomly." 2. Assorted; undistinguished.
"Who was at the conference?" "Just a bunch of random business types."
3. (pejorative) Frivolous; unproductive; undirected. "He's just a
random loser." 4. Incoherent or inelegant; poorly chosen; not well
organized. "The program has a random set of misfeatures." "That's a
random name for that function." "Well, all the names were chosen
pretty randomly." 5. In no particular order, though deterministic.
"The I/O channels are in a pool, and when a file is opened one is
chosen randomly." 6. Arbitrary. "It generates a random name for the
scratch file." 7. Gratuitously wrong, i.e., poorly done and for no
good apparent reason. For example, a program that handles file name
defaulting in a particularly useless way, or an assembler routine that
could easily have been coded using only three registers, but
redundantly uses seven for values with non-overlapping lifetimes, so
that no one else can invoke it without first saving four extra
registers. What randomness! 8. n. A random hacker; used
particularly of high-school students who soak up computer time and
generally get in the way. 9. n. Anyone who is not a hacker (or,
sometimes, anyone not known to the hacker speaking); the noun form of
sense 2. "I went to the talk, but the audience was full of randoms
asking bogus questions". 10. n. (occasional MIT usage) One who lives
at Random Hall. See also J. Random, some random X. 11.
[UK] Conversationally, a non sequitur or something similarly
out-of-the-blue. As in: "Stop being so random!" This sense equates to
`hatstand', taken from the Viz comic character "Roger Irrelevant -
He's completely Hatstand."
Node:Random Number God, Next:random numbers,
Previous:random, Up:= R =
Random Number God
[rec.games.roguelike.angband; often abbreviated `RNG'] The malign
force which lurks behind the random number generator in Angband
(and by extension elsewhere). A dark god that demands sacrifices and
toys with its victims. "I just found a really great item; I suppose
the RNG is about to punish me..." Apparently, Angband's random number
generator occasionally gets locked in a repetition, so you get
something with a 3% chance happening 8 times in a row. Improbable, but
far too common to be pure chance. Compare Shub-Internet.
Node:random numbers, Next:randomness, Previous:Random
Number God, Up:= R =
random numbers n.
When one wishes to specify a large but random number of things, and
the context is inappropriate for N, certain numbers are
preferred by hacker tradition (that is, easily recognized as
placeholders). These include the following:
Long described at MIT as `the least random number'; see 23.
Sacred number of Eris, Goddess of Discord (along with 17 and
The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and
Everything. (Note that this answer is completely fortuitous.
From the sexual act. This one was favored in MIT's ITS culture.
69 hex = 105 decimal, and 69 decimal = 105 octal.
The Number of the Beast.
For further enlightenment, study the "Principia Discordia",
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", "The Joy of Sex", and
the Christian Bible (Revelation 13:18). See also Discordianism
or consult your pineal gland. See also for values of.
Node:randomness, Next:rape, Previous:random numbers,
Up:= R =
1. An inexplicable misfeature; gratuitous inelegance. 2. A hack
or crock that depends on a complex combination of coincidences
(or, possibly, the combination upon which the crock depends for its
accidental failure to malfunction). "This hack can output characters
40-57 by putting the character in the four-bit accumulator field of an
XCT and then extracting six bits -- the low 2 bits of the XCT opcode
are the right thing." "What randomness!" 3. Of people, synonymous with
`flakiness'. The connotation is that the person so described is
behaving weirdly, incompetently, or inappropriately for reasons which
are (a) too tiresome to bother inquiring into, (b) are probably as
inscrutable as quantum phenomena anyway, and (c) are likely to pass
with time. "Maybe he has a real complaint, or maybe it's just
randomness. See if he calls back."
Despite the negative connotations jargon uses of this term have, it is
worth noting that randomness can actually be a valuable resource, very
useful for applications in cryptography and elsewhere. Computers are
so thoroughly deterministic that they have a hard time generating
high-quality randomess, so hackers have sometimes felt the need to
built special-purpose contraptions for this purpose alone. One
well-known website offers random bits generated by radioactive
decay. Another derives random bits from images of Lava Lite
lamps. (Hackers invariably find the latter hilarious. If you have to
ask why, you'll never get it.)
Node:rape, Next:rare mode, Previous:randomness,
Up:= R =
1. To screw someone or something, violently; in particular, to
destroy a program or information irrecoverably. Often used in
describing file-system damage. "So-and-so was running a program that
did absolute disk I/O and ended up raping the master directory." 2. To
strip a piece of hardware for parts. 3. [CMU/Pitt] To mass-copy files
from an anonymous ftp site. "Last night I raped Simtel's dskutl
Node:rare mode, Next:raster blaster, Previous:rape,
Up:= R =
rare mode adj.
[Unix] CBREAK mode (character-by-character with interrupts enabled).
Distinguished from raw mode and cooked mode; the phrase
"a sort of half-cooked (rare?) mode" is used in the V7/BSD manuals to
describe the mode. Usage: rare.
Node:raster blaster, Next:raster burn, Previous:rare
mode, Up:= R =
raster blaster n.
[Cambridge] Specialized hardware for bitblt operations (a
blitter). Allegedly inspired by `Rasta Blasta', British slang
for the sort of portable stereo Americans call a `boom box' or `ghetto
Node:raster burn, Next:rasterbation, Previous:raster
blaster, Up:= R =
raster burn n.
Eyestrain brought on by too many hours of looking at low-res, poorly
tuned, or glare-ridden monitors, esp. graphics monitors. See
Node:rasterbation, Next:rat belt, Previous:raster burn,
Up:= R =
[portmanteau: raster + masturbation] The gratuituous use of comuputer
generated images and effects in movies and graphic art which would
have been better without them. Especially employed as a term of abuse
by Photoshop/GIMP users and graphic artists.
Node:rat belt, Next:rat dance, Previous:rasterbation,
Up:= R =
rat belt n.
A cable tie, esp. the sawtoothed, self-locking plastic kind that you
can remove only by cutting (as opposed to a random twist of wire or a
twist tie or one of those humongous metal clip frobs). Small cable
ties are `mouse belts'.
Node:rat dance, Next:ratio site, Previous:rat belt,
Up:= R =
rat dance n.
[From the Dilbert comic strip of November 14, 1995] A
hacking run that produces results which, while superficially
coherent, have little or nothing to do with its original objectives.
There are strong connotations that the coding process and the
objectives themselves were pretty random. (In the original
comic strip, the Ratbert is invited to dance on Dilbert's keyboard in
order to produce bugs for him to fix, and authors a Web browser
instead.) Compare Infinite-Monkey Theorem.
This term seems to have become widely recognized quite rapidly after
the original strip, a fact which testifies to Dilbert's huge
popularity among hackers. All too many find the perverse incentives
and Kafkaesque atmosphere of Dilbert's mythical workplace reflective
of their own experiences.
Node:ratio site, Next:rave, Previous:rat dance,
Up:= R =
[warez d00dz] A FTP site storing pirated files where one must first
upload something before being able to download. There is a ratio,
based on bytes or files count, between the uploads and download. For
instance, on a 2:1 site, to download a 4 Mb file, one must first
upload at least 2 Mb of files. The hotter the contents of the server
are, the smaller the ratio is. More often than not, the server refuses
uploads because its disk is full, making it useless for downloading -
or the connection magically breaks after one has uploaded a large
amount of files, just before the downloading phase begins. See also
banner site, leech mode.
Node:rave, Next:rave on!, Previous:ratio site,
Up:= R =
[WPI] 1. To persist in discussing a specific subject. 2. To speak
authoritatively on a subject about which one knows very little. 3. To
complain to a person who is not in a position to correct the
difficulty. 4. To purposely annoy another person verbally. 5. To
evangelize. See flame. 6. Also used to describe a less negative
form of blather, such as friendly bullshitting. `Rave' differs
slightly from flame in that `rave' implies that it is the
persistence or obliviousness of the person speaking that is annoying,
while flame implies somewhat more strongly that the tone or
content is offensive as well.
Node:rave on!, Next:ravs, Previous:rave, Up:= R =
rave on! imp.
Sarcastic invitation to continue a rave, often by someone who
wishes the raver would get a clue but realizes this is unlikely.
Node:ravs, Next:raw mode, Previous:rave on!, Up:=
ravs /ravz/, also `Chinese ravs' n.
[primarily MIT/Boston usage] Jiao-zi (steamed or boiled) or Guo-tie
(pan-fried). A Chinese appetizer, known variously in the plural as
dumplings, pot stickers (the literal translation of guo-tie), and
(around Boston) `Peking Ravioli'. The term `rav' is short for
`ravioli', and among hackers always means the Chinese kind rather than
the Italian kind. Both consist of a filling in a pasta shell, but the
Chinese kind includes no cheese, uses a thinner pasta, has a
pork-vegetable filling (good ones include Chinese chives), and is
cooked differently, either by steaming or frying. A rav or dumpling
can be cooked any way, but a potsticker is always the pan-fried kind
(so called because it sticks to the frying pot and has to be scraped
off). "Let's get hot-and-sour soup and three orders of ravs." See also
Node:raw mode, Next:RBL, Previous:ravs, Up:= R =
raw mode n.
A mode that allows a program to transfer bits directly to or from an
I/O device (or, under bogus operating systems that make a
distinction, a disk file) without any processing, abstraction, or
interpretation by the operating system. Compare rare mode,
cooked mode. This is techspeak under Unix, jargon elsewhere.
Node:RBL, Next:rc file, Previous:raw mode, Up:= R
Abbreviation: "Realtime Blackhole List". A service that allows people
to blacklist sites for emitting spam, and makes the blacklist
available in real time to electronic-mail transport programs that know
how to use RBL so they can filter out mail from those sites. Drastic
(and controversial) but effective. There is an RBL home page.
Node:rc file, Next:RE, Previous:RBL, Up:= R =
rc file /R-C fi:l/ n.
[Unix: from `runcom files' on the CTSS system 1962-63, via the
startup script /etc/rc] Script file containing startup instructions
for an application program (or an entire operating system), usually a
text file containing commands of the sort that might have been invoked
manually once the system was running but are to be executed
automatically each time the system starts up. See also dot
file, profile (sense 1).
Node:RE, Next:read-only user, Previous:rc file,
Up:= R =
RE /R-E/ n.
Common spoken and written shorthand for regexp.
Node:read-only user, Next:README file, Previous:RE,
Up:= R =
read-only user n.
Describes a luser who uses computers almost exclusively for
reading Usenet, bulletin boards, and/or email, rather than writing
code or purveying useful information. See twink,
terminal junkie, lurker.
Node:README file, Next:real, Previous:read-only user,
Up:= R =
README file n.
Hacker's-eye introduction traditionally included in the top-level
directory of a Unix source distribution, containing a pointer to more
detailed documentation, credits, miscellaneous revision history,
notes, etc. (The file may be named README, or READ.ME, or rarely
ReadMe or readme.txt or some other variant.) In the Mac and PC worlds,
software is not usually distributed in source form, and the README is
more likely to contain user-oriented material like last-minute
documentation changes, error workarounds, and restrictions. When
asked, hackers invariably relate the README convention to the famous
scene in Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland" in which
Alice confronts magic munchies labeled "Eat Me" and "Drink Me".
Node:real, Next:real estate, Previous:README file,
Up:= R =
Not simulated. Often used as a specific antonym to virtual in
any of its jargon senses.
Node:real estate, Next:real hack, Previous:real,
Up:= R =
real estate n.
May be used for any critical resource measured in units of area. Most
frequently used of `chip real estate', the area available for logic on
the surface of an integrated circuit (see also nanoacre). May
also be used of floor space in a dinosaur pen, or even space on
a crowded desktop (whether physical or electronic).
Node:real hack, Next:real operating system,
Previous:real estate, Up:= R =
real hack n.
A crock. This is sometimes used affectionately; see