Part 18 out of 29
stack puke n.
Some processor architectures are said to `puke their guts onto the
stack' to save their internal state during exception processing. The
Motorola 68020, for example, regurgitates up to 92 bytes on a bus
fault. On a pipelined machine, this can take a while.
Node:stale pointer bug, Next:star out, Previous:stack
puke, Up:= S =
stale pointer bug n.
Synonym for aliasing bug used esp. among microcomputer hackers.
Node:star out, Next:state, Previous:stale pointer bug,
Up:= S =
star out v.
[University of York, England] To replace a user's encrypted password
in /etc/passwd with a single asterisk. Under Unix this is not a legal
encryption of any password; hence the user is not permitted to log in.
In general, accounts like adm, news, and daemon are permanently
"starred out"; occasionally a real user might have the this inflicted
upon him/her as a punishment, e.g. "Graham was starred out for playing
Omega in working hours". Also occasionally known as The Order Of The
Gold Star in this context. "Don't do that, or you'll be awarded the
Order of the Gold Star..." Compare disusered.
Node:state, Next:stealth manager, Previous:star out,
Up:= S =
1. Condition, situation. "What's the state of your latest hack?" "It's
winning away." "The system tried to read and write the disk
simultaneously and got into a totally wedged state." The
standard question "What's your state?" means "What are you doing?" or
"What are you about to do?" Typical answers are "about to gronk out",
or "hungry". Another standard question is "What's the state of the
world?", meaning "What's new?" or "What's going on?". The more terse
and humorous way of asking these questions would be "State-p?".
Another way of phrasing the first question under sense 1 would be
"state-p latest hack?". 2. Information being maintained in
non-permanent memory (electronic or human).
Node:stealth manager, Next:steam-powered,
Previous:state, Up:= S =
stealth manager n.
[Corporate DP] A manager that appears out of nowhere, promises
undeliverable software to unknown end users, and vanishes before the
programming staff realizes what has happened. See smoke and
Node:steam-powered, Next:STFW, Previous:stealth manager,
Up:= S =
Old-fashioned or underpowered; archaic. This term does not have a
strong negative loading and may even be used semi-affectionately for
something that clanks and wheezes a lot but hangs in there doing the
Node:STFW, Next:stiffy, Previous:steam-powered,
Up:= S =
STFW imp. /S-T-F-W/
[Usenet] Commmon abbreviation for "Search The Fucking Web", a
suggestion that what you're asking for is a query better handled by a
search engine than a human being. Usage is common and exactly parallel
to both senses of RTFM.
Node:stiffy, Next:stir-fried random, Previous:STFW,
Up:= S =
3.5-inch microfloppies, so called because their jackets are
more rigid than those of the 5.25-inch and the (now totally obsolete)
8-inch floppy. Elsewhere this might be called a `firmy'. For some odd
reason, several sources have taken the trouble to inform us that this
term is widespread in South Africa.
Node:stir-fried random, Next:stomp on, Previous:stiffy,
Up:= S =
stir-fried random n.
(alt. `stir-fried mumble') Term used for the best dish of many of
those hackers who can cook. Consists of random fresh veggies and meat
wokked with random spices. Tasty and economical. See random,
great-wall, ravs, laser chicken, oriental
food; see also mumble.
Node:stomp on, Next:Stone Age, Previous:stir-fried
random, Up:= S =
stomp on vt.
To inadvertently overwrite something important, usually automatically.
"All the work I did this weekend got stomped on last night by the
nightly server script." Compare scribble, mangle,
trash, scrog, roach.
Node:Stone Age, Next:stone knives and bearskins,
Previous:stomp on, Up:= S =
Stone Age n.,adj.
1. In computer folklore, an ill-defined period from ENIAC (ca. 1943)
to the mid-1950s; the great age of electromechanical dinosaurs.
Sometimes used for the entire period up to 1960-61 (see Iron
Age); however, it is funnier and more descriptive to characterize the
latter period in terms of a `Bronze Age' era of transistor-logic,
pre-ferrite-core machines with drum or CRT mass storage (as
opposed to just mercury delay lines and/or relays). See also
Iron Age. 2. More generally, a pejorative for any crufty,
ancient piece of hardware or software technology. Note that this is
used even by people who were there for the Stone Age (sense 1).
Node:stone knives and bearskins, Next:stoppage,
Previous:Stone Age, Up:= S =
stone knives and bearskins n.
[from the Star Trek Classic episode "The City on the Edge of Forever"]
A term traditionally used to describe (and deprecate) computing
environments that are grotesquely primitive in light of what is known
about good ways to design things. As in "Don't get too used to the
facilities here. Once you leave SAIL it's stone knives and bearskins
as far as the eye can see". Compare steam-powered.
Node:stoppage, Next:store, Previous:stone knives and
bearskins, Up:= S =
stoppage /sto'p*j/ n.
Extreme lossage that renders something (usually something
vital) completely unusable. "The recent system stoppage was caused by
a fried transformer."
Node:store, Next:strided, Previous:stoppage, Up:=
[prob. from techspeak `main store'] In some varieties of Commonwealth
hackish, the preferred synonym for core. Thus, `bringing a
program into store' means not that one is returning shrink-wrapped
software but that a program is being swapped in.
Node:strided, Next:stroke, Previous:store, Up:= S
strided /stri:'d*d/ adj.
[scientific computing] Said of a sequence of memory reads and writes
to addresses, each of which is separated from the last by a constant
interval called the `stride length'. These can be a worst-case access
pattern for the standard memory-caching schemes when the stride length
is a multiple of the cache line size. Strided references are often
generated by loops through an array, and (if your data is large enough
that access-time is significant) it can be worthwhile to tune for
better locality by inverting double loops or by partially unrolling
the outer loop of a loop nest. This usage is borderline techspeak; the
related term `memory stride' is definitely techspeak.
Node:stroke, Next:strudel, Previous:strided, Up:=
Common name for the slant (`/', ASCII 0101111) character. See
ASCII for other synonyms.
Node:strudel, Next:stubroutine, Previous:stroke,
Up:= S =
Common (spoken) name for the at-sign (`@', ASCII 1000000) character.
See ASCII for other synonyms.
Node:stubroutine, Next:studly, Previous:strudel,
Up:= S =
stubroutine /stuhb'roo-teen/ n.
[contraction of `stub subroutine'] Tiny, often vacuous placeholder for
a subroutine that is to be written or fleshed out later.
Node:studly, Next:studlycaps, Previous:stubroutine,
Up:= S =
Impressive; powerful. Said of code and designs which exhibit both
complexity and a virtuoso flair. Has connotations similar to
hairy but is more positive in tone. Often in the emphatic `most
studly' or as noun-form `studliness'. "Smail 3.0's configuration
parser is most studly."
Node:studlycaps, Next:stunning, Previous:studly,
Up:= S =
studlycaps /stuhd'lee-kaps/ n.
A hackish form of silliness similar to BiCapitalization for
trademarks, but applied randomly and to arbitrary text rather than to
trademarks. ThE oRigiN and SigNificaNce of thIs pRacTicE iS oBscuRe.
Node:stunning, Next:stupid-sort, Previous:studlycaps,
Up:= S =
Mind-bogglingly stupid. Usually used in sarcasm. "You want to code
what in ADA? That's a ... stunning idea!"
Node:stupid-sort, Next:Stupids, Previous:stunning,
Up:= S =
Node:Stupids, Next:Sturgeon's Law, Previous:stupid-sort,
Up:= S =
Term used by samurai for the suits who employ them;
succinctly expresses an attitude at least as common, though usually
better disguised, among other subcultures of hackers. There may be
intended reference here to an SF story originally published in 1952
but much anthologized since, Mark Clifton's "Star, Bright". In it, a
super-genius child classifies humans into a very few `Brights' like
herself, a huge majority of `Stupids', and a minority of `Tweens', the
merely ordinary geniuses.
Node:Sturgeon's Law, Next:sucking mud, Previous:Stupids,
Up:= S =
Sturgeon's Law prov.
"Ninety percent of everything is crap". Derived from a quote by
science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, who once said, "Sure, 90% of
science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud."
Oddly, when Sturgeon's Law is cited, the final word is almost
invariably changed to `crap'. Compare Hanlon's Razor,
Ninety-Ninety Rule. Though this maxim originated in SF fandom,
most hackers recognize it and are all too aware of its truth.
Node:sucking mud, Next:sufficiently small,
Previous:Sturgeon's Law, Up:= S =
sucking mud adj.
[Applied Data Research] (also `pumping mud') Crashed or wedged.
Usually said of a machine that provides some service to a network,
such as a file server. This Dallas regionalism derives from the East
Texas oilfield lament, "Shut 'er down, Ma, she's a-suckin' mud". Often
used as a query. "We are going to reconfigure the network, are you
ready to suck mud?"
Node:sufficiently small, Next:suit, Previous:sucking
mud, Up:= S =
sufficiently small adj.
Syn. suitably small.
Node:suit, Next:suitable win, Previous:sufficiently
small, Up:= S =
1. Ugly and uncomfortable `business clothing' often worn by
non-hackers. Invariably worn with a `tie', a strangulation device that
partially cuts off the blood supply to the brain. It is thought that
this explains much about the behavior of suit-wearers. Compare
droid. 2. A person who habitually wears suits, as distinct from
a techie or hacker. See pointy-haired, burble,
management, Stupids, SNAFU principle, PHB,
Node:suitable win, Next:suitably small, Previous:suit,
Up:= S =
suitable win n.
Node:suitably small, Next:Sun, Previous:suitable win,
Up:= S =
suitably small adj.
[perverted from mathematical jargon]
An expression used ironically to characterize unquantifiable behavior
that differs from expected or required behavior. For example, suppose
a newly created program came up with a correct full-screen display,
and one publicly exclaimed: "It works!" Then, if the program dumped
core on the first mouse click, one might add: "Well, for suitably
small values of `works'." Compare the characterization of pi under
Node:Sun, Next:sun lounge, Previous:suitably small,
Up:= S =
Sun Microsystems. Hackers remember that the name was originally an
acronym, Stanford University Network. Sun started out around 1980 with
some hardware hackers (mainly) from Stanford talking to some software
hackers (mainly) from UC Berkeley; Sun's original technology concept
married a clever board design based on the Motorola 68000 to
BSD Unix. Sun went on to lead the worstation industry through
the 1980s, and for years afterwards remained an engineering-driven
company and a good place for hackers to work. Though Sun drifted away
from its techie origins after 1990 and has since made some strategic
moves that disappointed and annoyed many hackers (especially by
maintaining proprietary control of Java and rejecting Linux), it's
still considered within the family in much the same way DEC was
in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Node:sun lounge, Next:sun-stools, Previous:Sun,
Up:= S =
sun lounge n.
[UK] The room where all the Sun workstations live. The humor in this
term comes from the fact that it's also in mainstream use to describe
a solarium, and all those Sun workstations clustered together give off
an amazing amount of heat.
Node:sun-stools, Next:sunspots, Previous:sun lounge,
Up:= S =
Unflattering hackerism for SunTools, a pre-X windowing environment
notorious in its day for size, slowness, and misfeatures. X,
however, is larger and (some claim) slower; see second-system
Node:sunspots, Next:super source quench,
Previous:sun-stools, Up:= S =
1. Notional cause of an odd error. "Why did the program suddenly turn
the screen blue?" "Sunspots, I guess." 2. Also the cause of bit
rot -- from the myth that sunspots will increase cosmic rays,
which can flip single bits in memory. See also phase of the
Node:super source quench, Next:superloser,
Previous:sunspots, Up:= S =
super source quench n.
A special packet designed to shut up an Internet host. The Internet
Protocol (IP) has a control message called Source Quench that asks a
host to transmit more slowly on a particular connection to avoid
congestion. It also has a Redirect control message intended to
instruct a host to send certain packets to a different local router. A
"super source quench" is actually a redirect control packet, forged to
look like it came from a local router, that instructs a host to send
all packets to its own local loopback address. This will effectively
tie many Internet hosts up in knots. Compare Godzillagram,
Node:superloser, Next:superprogrammer, Previous:super
source quench, Up:= S =
[Unix] A superuser with no clue - someone with root privileges on a
Unix system and no idea what he/she is doing, the moral equivalent of
a three-year-old with an unsafetied Uzi. Anyone who thinks this is an
uncommon situation reckons without the territorial urges of
Previous:superloser, Up:= S =
A prolific programmer; one who can code exceedingly well and quickly.
Not all hackers are superprogrammers, but many are. (Productivity can
vary from one programmer to another by three orders of magnitude. For
example, one programmer might be able to write an average of 3 lines
of working code in one day, while another, with the proper tools,
might be able to write 3,000. This range is astonishing; it is matched
in very few other areas of human endeavor.) The term `superprogrammer'
is more commonly used within such places as IBM than in the hacker
community. It tends to stress naive measures of productivity and to
underweight creativity, ingenuity, and getting the job done -- and to
sidestep the question of whether the 3,000 lines of code do more or
less useful work than three lines that do the Right Thing.
Hackers tend to prefer the terms hacker and wizard.
Node:superuser, Next:support, Previous:superprogrammer,
Up:= S =
[Unix] Syn. root, avatar. This usage has spread to
non-Unix environments; the superuser is any account with all
wheel bits on. A more specific term than wheel.
Node:support, Next:surf, Previous:superuser, Up:=
After-sale handholding; something many software vendors promise but
few deliver. To hackers, most support people are useless -- because by
the time a hacker calls support he or she will usually know the
software and the relevant manuals better than the support people
(sadly, this is not a joke or exaggeration). A hacker's idea of
`support' is a tête-à-tête with the software's designer.
Node:surf, Next:Suzie COBOL, Previous:support,
Up:= S =
[from the `surf' idiom for rapidly flipping TV channels] To traverse
the Internet in search of interesting stuff, used esp. if one is doing
so with a World Wide Web browser. It is also common to speak of
`surfing in' to a particular resource.
Hackers adopted this term early, but many have stopped using it since
it went completely mainstream around 1995. The passive, couch-potato
connotations that go with TV channel surfing were never pleasant, and
hearing non-hackers wax enthusiastic about "surfing the net" tends to
make hackers feel a bit as though their home is being overrun by
Node:Suzie COBOL, Next:swab, Previous:surf, Up:=
Suzie COBOL /soo'zee koh'bol/
1. [IBM: prob. from Frank Zappa's `Suzy Creamcheese'] n. A coder
straight out of training school who knows everything except the value
of comments in plain English. Also (fashionable among personkind
wishing to avoid accusations of sexism) `Sammy Cobol' or (in some
non-IBM circles) `Cobol Charlie'. 2. [proposed] Meta-name for any
code grinder, analogous to J. Random Hacker.
Node:swab, Next:swap, Previous:Suzie COBOL, Up:=
[From the mnemonic for the PDP-11 `SWAp Byte' instruction, as
immortalized in the dd(1) option conv=swab (see dd)] 1. vt. To
solve the NUXI problem by swapping bytes in a file. 2. n. The
program in V7 Unix used to perform this action, or anything
functionally equivalent to it. See also big-endian,
little-endian, middle-endian, bytesexual.
Node:swap, Next:swap space, Previous:swab, Up:= S
1. [techspeak] To move information from a fast-access memory to a
slow-access memory (`swap out'), or vice versa (`swap in'). Often
refers specifically to the use of disks as `virtual memory'. As pieces
of data or program are needed, they are swapped into core for
processing; when they are no longer needed they may be swapped out
again. 2. The jargon use of these terms analogizes people's short-term
memories with core. Cramming for an exam might be spoken of as
swapping in. If you temporarily forget someone's name, but then
remember it, your excuse is that it was swapped out. To `keep
something swapped in' means to keep it fresh in your memory: "I reread
the TECO manual every few months to keep it swapped in." If someone
interrupts you just as you got a good idea, you might say "Wait a
moment while I swap this out", implying that a piece of paper is your
extra-somatic memory and that if you don't swap the idea out by
writing it down it will get overwritten and lost as you talk. Compare
page in, page out.
Node:swap space, Next:swapped in, Previous:swap,
Up:= S =
swap space n.
Storage space, especially temporary storage space used during a move
or reconfiguration. "I'm just using that corner of the machine room
for swap space."
Node:swapped in, Next:swapped out, Previous:swap space,
Up:= S =
swapped in n.
See swap. See also page in.
Node:swapped out, Next:swizzle, Previous:swapped in,
Up:= S =
swapped out n.
See swap. See also page out.
Node:swizzle, Next:sync, Previous:swapped out,
Up:= S =
To convert external names, array indices, or references within a data
structure into address pointers when the data structure is brought
into main memory from external storage (also called `pointer
swizzling'); this may be done for speed in chasing references or to
simplify code (e.g., by turning lots of name lookups into pointer
dereferences). The converse operation is sometimes termed
`unswizzling'. See also snap.
Node:sync, Next:syntactic salt, Previous:swizzle,
Up:= S =
sync /sink/ n., vi.
(var. `synch') 1. To synchronize, to bring into synchronization. 2.
[techspeak] To force all pending I/O to the disk; see flush,
sense 2. 3. More generally, to force a number of competing processes
or agents to a state that would be `safe' if the system were to crash;
thus, to checkpoint (in the database-theory sense).
Node:syntactic salt, Next:syntactic sugar,
Previous:sync, Up:= S =
syntactic salt n.
The opposite of syntactic sugar, a feature designed to make it
harder to write bad code. Specifically, syntactic salt is a hoop the
programmer must jump through just to prove that he knows what's going
on, rather than to express a program action. Some programmers consider
required type declarations to be syntactic salt. A requirement to
write end if, end while, end do, etc. to terminate the last block
controlled by a control construct (as opposed to just end) would
definitely be syntactic salt. Syntactic salt is like the real thing in
that it tends to raise hackers' blood pressures in an unhealthy way.
Node:syntactic sugar, Next:sys-frog, Previous:syntactic
salt, Up:= S =
syntactic sugar n.
[coined by Peter Landin] Features added to a language or other
formalism to make it `sweeter' for humans, features which do not
affect the expressiveness of the formalism (compare chrome).
Used esp. when there is an obvious and trivial translation of the
`sugar' feature into other constructs already present in the notation.
C's a[i] notation is syntactic sugar for *(a + i). "Syntactic sugar
causes cancer of the semicolon." -- Alan Perlis.
The variants `syntactic saccharin' and `syntactic syrup' are also
recorded. These denote something even more gratuitous, in that
syntactic sugar serves a purpose (making something more acceptable to
humans), but syntactic saccharin or syrup serve no purpose at all.
Compare candygrammar, syntactic salt.
Node:sys-frog, Next:sysadmin, Previous:syntactic sugar,
Up:= S =
sys-frog /sis'frog/ n.
[the PLATO system] Playful variant of `sysprog', which is in turn
short for `systems programmer'.
Node:sysadmin, Next:sysape, Previous:sys-frog,
Up:= S =
sysadmin /sis'ad-min/ n.
Common contraction of `system admin'; see admin.
Node:sysape, Next:sysop, Previous:sysadmin, Up:=
sysape /sys'ayp/ n.
A rather derogatory term for a computer operator; a play on
sysop common at sites that use the banana hierarchy of problem
complexity (see one-banana problem).
Node:sysop, Next:system, Previous:sysape, Up:= S
sysop /sis'op/ n.
[esp. in the BBS world] The operator (and usually the owner) of a
bulletin-board system. A common neophyte mistake on FidoNet is
to address a message to `sysop' in an international echo, thus
sending it to hundreds of sysops around the world.
Node:system, Next:systems jock, Previous:sysop,
Up:= S =
1. The supervisor program or OS on a computer. 2. The entire computer
system, including input/output devices, the supervisor program or OS,
and possibly other software. 3. Any large-scale program. 4. Any method
or algorithm. 5. `System hacker': one who hacks the system (in senses
1 and 2 only; for sense 3 one mentions the particular program: e.g.,
Node:systems jock, Next:system mangler, Previous:system,
Up:= S =
systems jock n.
See jock, sense 2.
Node:system mangler, Next:SysVile, Previous:systems
jock, Up:= S =
system mangler n.
Humorous synonym for `system manager', poss. from the fact that one
major IBM OS had a root account called SYSMANGR. Refers
specifically to a systems programmer in charge of administration,
software maintenance, and updates at some site. Unlike admin,
this term emphasizes the technical end of the skills involved.
Node:SysVile, Next:T, Previous:system mangler,
Up:= S =
SysVile /sis-vi:l'/ n.
Node:= T =, Next:= U =, Previous:= S =, Up:The
= T =
* tail recursion:
* talk mode:
* talker system:
* tall card:
* tape monkey:
* tar and feather:
* ten-finger interface:
* tenured graduate student:
* teraflop club:
* terminal brain death:
* terminal illness:
* terminal junkie:
* thanks in advance:
* That's not a bug that's a feature!:
* the literature:
* the network:
* the X that can be Y is not the true X:
* This can't happen:
* This time for sure!:
* three-finger salute:
* throwaway account:
* thundering herd problem:
* tick-list features:
* tickle a bug:
* tiger team:
* time bomb:
* time sink:
* time T:
* Tinkerbell program:
* tip of the ice-cube:
* tired iron:
* tits on a keyboard:
* to a first approximation:
* to a zeroth approximation:
* topic drift:
* topic group:
* tourist information:
* toy language:
* toy problem:
* toy program:
* trap door:
* troglodyte mode:
* Trojan horse:
* tube time:
* turbo nerd:
* Turing tar-pit:
* twilight zone:
* twirling baton:
* two pi:
Node:T, Next:tail recursion, Previous:SysVile,
Up:= T =
1. [from LISP terminology for `true'] Yes. Used in reply to a question
(particularly one asked using The -P convention). In LISP, the
constant T means `true', among other things. Some Lisp hackers use `T'
and `NIL' instead of `Yes' and `No' almost reflexively. This sometimes
causes misunderstandings. When a waiter or flight attendant asks
whether a hacker wants coffee, he may absently respond `T', meaning
that he wants coffee; but of course he will be brought a cup of tea
instead. Fortunately, most hackers (particularly those who frequent
Chinese restaurants) like tea at least as well as coffee -- so it is
not that big a problem. 2. See time T (also since time T
equals minus infinity). 3. [techspeak] In transaction-processing
circles, an abbreviation for the noun `transaction'. 4. [Purdue]
Alternate spelling of tee. 5. A dialect of LISP
developed at Yale. (There is an intended allusion to NIL, "New
Implementation of Lisp", another dialect of Lisp developed for the
Node:tail recursion, Next:talk mode, Previous:T,
Up:= T =
tail recursion n.
If you aren't sick of it already, see tail recursion.
Node:talk mode, Next:talker system, Previous:tail
recursion, Up:= T =
talk mode n.
A feature supported by Unix, ITS, and some other OSes that allows two
or more logged-in users to set up a real-time on-line conversation. It
combines the immediacy of talking with all the precision (and
verbosity) that written language entails. It is difficult to
communicate inflection, though conventions have arisen for some of
these (see the section on writing style in the Prependices for
Talk mode has a special set of jargon words, used to save typing,
which are not used orally. Some of these are identical to (and
probably derived from) Morse-code jargon used by ham-radio amateurs
since the 1920s.
as far as I am concerned
as far as I know
be seeing you
by the way
are you ready to unlink? (this is the standard way to end a
talk-mode conversation; the other person types BYE to confirm,
or else continues the conversation)
see you later
are you busy? (expects ACK or NAK in return)
are you there? (often used on unexpected links, meaning also
"Sorry if I butted in ..." (linker) or "What's up?" (linkee))
for what it's worth
for your information
for your amusement
go ahead (used when two people have tried to type
simultaneously; this cedes the right to type to the other)
grumble (expresses disquiet or disagreement)
hello? (an instance of the `-P' convention)
if I recall correctly
just a minute (equivalent to SEC....)
same as JAM
no (see NIL)
over to you
over and out
another form of "over to you" (from x/y as "x over y")
lambda (used in discussing LISPy things)
oh, by the way
on the other hand
R U THERE?
are you there?
wait a second (sometimes written SEC...)
Are you busy? (expects ACK, SYN|ACK, or RST in return; this is
modeled on the TCP/IP handshake sequence)
yes (see the main entry for T)
thanks a million (humorous)
another form of "thanks a million"
with regard to, or with respect to.
the universal interrogative particle; WTF knows what it means?
what the hell?
When the typing party has finished, he/she types two newlines
to signal that he/she is done; this leaves a blank line between
`speeches' in the conversation, making it easier to reread the
When three or more terminals are linked, it is conventional for
each typist to prepend his/her login name or handle and
a colon (or a hyphen) to each line to indicate who is typing
(some conferencing facilities do this automatically). The login
name is often shortened to a unique prefix (possibly a single
letter) during a very long conversation.
A giggle or chuckle. On a MUD, this usually means `earthquake
Most of the above sub-jargon is used at both Stanford and MIT. Several
of these expressions are also common in email, esp. FYI, FYA,
BTW, BCNU, WTF, and CUL. A few other abbreviations have been reported
from commercial networks, such as GEnie and CompuServe, where on-line
`live' chat including more than two people is common and usually
involves a more `social' context, notably the following:
grinning, ducking, and running
be back later
be right back
ha ha only joking
ha ha only kidding
ha ha only serious
in my humble opinion (see IMHO)
laughing out loud
Never Heard of Him/Her (often used in initgame)
rolling on the floor
rolling on the floor laughing
away from keyboard
see you later
male or female?
ta-ta for now
talk to you later
oh, I see
Most of these are not used at universities or in the Unix world,
though ROTF and TTFN have gained some currency there and IMHO is
common; conversely, most of the people who know these are unfamiliar
with FOO?, BCNU, HELLOP, NIL, and T.
The MUD community uses a mixture of Usenet/Internet emoticons,
a few of the more natural of the old-style talk-mode abbrevs, and some
of the `social' list above; specifically, MUD respondents report use
of BBL, BRB, LOL, b4, BTW, WTF, TTFN, and WTH. The use of `rehi' is
also common; in fact, mudders are fond of re- compounds and will
frequently `rehug' or `rebonk' (see bonk/oif) people. The word
`re' by itself is taken as `regreet'. In general, though, MUDders
express a preference for typing things out in full rather than using
abbreviations; this may be due to the relative youth of the MUD
cultures, which tend to include many touch typists and to assume
high-speed links. The following uses specific to MUDs are reported:
see you later (mutant of CU l8tr)
fuck off and die (use of this is generally OTT)
over the top (excessive, uncalled for)
abbrev for "people"
thanks (mutant of TNX; clearly this comes in batches of 1138
(the Lucasian K)).
are you OK?
Some B1FFisms (notably the variant spelling d00d) appear to be
passing into wider use among some subgroups of MUDders.
One final note on talk mode style: neophytes, when in talk mode, often
seem to think they must produce letter-perfect prose because they are
typing rather than speaking. This is not the best approach. It can be
very frustrating to wait while your partner pauses to think of a word,
or repeatedly makes the same spelling error and backs up to fix it. It
is usually best just to leave typographical errors behind and plunge
forward, unless severe confusion may result; in that case it is often
fastest just to type "xxx" and start over from before the mistake.
See also hakspek, emoticon.
Node:talker system, Next:tall card, Previous:talk mode,
Up:= T =
talker system n.
British hackerism for software that enables real-time chat or
Node:tall card, Next:tanked, Previous:talker system,
Up:= T =
tall card n.
A PC/AT-size expansion card (these can be larger than IBM PC or XT
cards because the AT case is bigger). See also short card. When
IBM introduced the PS/2 model 30 (its last gasp at supporting the ISA)
they made the case lower and many industry-standard tall cards
wouldn't fit; this was felt to be a reincarnation of the
connector conspiracy, done with less style.
Node:tanked, Next:TANSTAAFL, Previous:tall card,
Up:= T =
Same as down, used primarily by Unix hackers. See also
hosed. Popularized as a synonym for `drunk' by Steve Dallas in
the late lamented "Bloom County" comic strip.
Node:TANSTAAFL, Next:tape monkey, Previous:tanked,
Up:= T =
[acronym, from Robert Heinlein's classic "The Moon is a Harsh
Mistress".] "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch", often invoked
when someone is balking at the prospect of using an unpleasantly
heavyweight technique, or at the poor quality of some piece of
software, or at the signal-to-noise ratio of unmoderated Usenet
newsgroups. "What? Don't tell me I have to implement a database back
end to get my address book program to work!" "Well, TANSTAAFL you
know." This phrase owes some of its popularity to the high
concentration of science-fiction fans and political libertarians in
hackerdom (see Appendix B for discussion).
Node:tape monkey, Next:tar and feather,
Previous:TANSTAAFL, Up:= T =
tape monkey n.
A junior system administrator, one who might plausibly be assigned to
do physical swapping of tapes and subsequent storage. When a backup
needs to be restored, one might holler "Tape monkey!" (Compare
one-banana problem) Also used to dismiss jobs not worthy of a
highly trained sysadmin's ineffable talents: "Cable up her PC? You
must be joking - I'm no tape monkey."
Node:tar and feather, Next:tarball, Previous:tape
monkey, Up:= T =
tar and feather vi.
[from Unix tar(1)] To create a transportable archive from a group of
files by first sticking them together with tar(1) (the Tape ARchiver)
and then compressing the result (see compress). The latter
action is dubbed `feathering' partly for euphony and (if only for
contrived effect) by analogy to what you do with an airplane propeller
to decrease wind resistance, or with an oar to reduce water
resistance; smaller files, after all, slip through comm links more
easily. Compare the more common tarball.
Node:tarball, Next:tardegy, Previous:tar and feather,
Up:= T =
[very common; prob. based on the "tar baby" in the Uncle Remus folk
tales] An archive, created with the Unix tar(1) utility, containing
myriad related files. "Here, I'll just ftp you a tarball of the whole
project." Tarballs have been the standard way to ship around
source-code distributions since the mid-1980s; in retrospect it seems
odd that this term did not enter common usage until the late 1990s.
Node:tardegy, Next:taste, Previous:tarball, Up:=
n. [deliberate mangling of `tragedy'] An incident in which someone who
clearly deserves to be selected out of the gene pool on grounds of
extreme stupidity meets with a messy end. Coined on the Darwin list,
which is dedicated to chronicling such incidents; but almost all
hackers would instantly recognize the intention of the term and laugh.
Node:taste, Next:tayste, Previous:tardegy, Up:= T
taste [primarily MIT] n.
1. The quality in a program that tends to be inversely proportional to
the number of features, hacks, and kluges programmed into it. Also
`tasty', `tasteful', `tastefulness'. "This feature comes in N tasty
flavors." Although `tasty' and `flavorful' are essentially synonyms,
`taste' and flavor are not. Taste refers to sound judgment on
the part of the creator; a program or feature can exhibit taste but
cannot have taste. On the other hand, a feature can have
flavor. Also, flavor has the additional meaning of
`kind' or `variety' not shared by `taste'. The marked sense of
flavor is more popular than `taste', though both are widely
used. See also elegant. 2. Alt. sp. of tayste.
Node:tayste, Next:TCB, Previous:taste, Up:= T =
n. Two bits; also as taste. Syn. crumb, quarter.
Node:TCB, Next:TCP/IP, Previous:tayste, Up:= T =
TCB /T-C-B/ n.
[IBM] 1. Trouble Came Back. An intermittent or difficult-to-reproduce
problem that has failed to respond to neglect or shotgun
debugging. Compare heisenbug. Not to be confused with: 2.
Trusted Computing Base, an `official' jargon term from the
Node:TCP/IP, Next:TechRef, Previous:TCB, Up:= T =
TCP/IP /T'C-P I'P/ n.
1. [Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol] The
wide-area-networking protocol that makes the Internet work, and the
only one most hackers can speak the name of without laughing or
retching. Unlike such allegedly `standard' competitors such as X.25,
DECnet, and the ISO 7-layer stack, TCP/IP evolved primarily by
actually being used, rather than being handed down from on high by a
vendor or a heavily-politicized standards committee. Consequently, it
(a) works, (b) actually promotes cheap cross-platform connectivity,
and (c) annoys the hell out of corporate and governmental
empire-builders everywhere. Hackers value all three of these
properties. See creationism. 2. [Amateur Packet Radio] Formerly
expanded as "The Crap Phil Is Pushing". The reference is to Phil Karn,
KA9Q, and the context was an ongoing technical/political war between
the majority of sites still running AX.25 and the TCP/IP relays.
Node:TechRef, Next:TECO, Previous:TCP/IP, Up:= T
TechRef /tek'ref/ n.
[MS-DOS] The original "IBM PC Technical Reference Manual", including
the BIOS listing and complete schematics for the PC. The only PC
documentation in the original-issue package that was considered
serious by real hackers.
Node:TECO, Next:tee, Previous:TechRef, Up:= T =
TECO /tee'koh/ n.,v. obs.
1. [originally an acronym for `[paper] Tape Editor and COrrector';
later, `Text Editor and COrrector'] n. A text editor developed at MIT
and modified by just about everybody. With all the dialects included,
TECO may have been the most prolific editor in use before
EMACS, to which it was directly ancestral. Noted for its
powerful programming-language-like features and its unspeakably hairy
syntax. It is literally the case that every string of characters is a
valid TECO program (though probably not a useful one); one common game
used to be mentally working out what the TECO commands corresponding
to human names did. 2. vt. Originally, to edit using the TECO editor
in one of its infinite variations (see below). 3. vt.,obs. To edit
even when TECO is not the editor being used! This usage is rare and
now primarily historical.
As an example of TECO's obscurity, here is a TECO program that takes a
list of names such as:
Loser, J. Random
Quux, The Great
sorts them alphabetically according to surname, and then puts the
surname last, removing the comma, to produce the following:
J. Random Loser
The Great Quux
The program is
(where ^B means `Control-B' (ASCII 0000010) and $ is actually an
alt or escape (ASCII 0011011) character).
In fact, this very program was used to produce the second, sorted list
from the first list. The first hack at it had a bug: GLS (the
author) had accidentally omitted the @ in front of F^B, which as
anyone can see is clearly the Wrong Thing. It worked fine the
second time. There is no space to describe all the features of TECO,
but it may be of interest that ^P means `sort' and J<.-Z; ... L> is an
idiomatic series of commands for `do once for every line'.
In mid-1991, TECO is pretty much one with the dust of history, having
been replaced in the affections of hackerdom by EMACS.
Descendants of an early (and somewhat lobotomized) version adopted by
DEC can still be found lurking on VMS and a couple of crufty PDP-11
operating systems, however, and ports of the more advanced MIT
versions remain the focus of some antiquarian interest. See also
retrocomputing, write-only language.
Node:tee, Next:teergrube, Previous:TECO, Up:= T =
[Purdue] A carbon copy of an electronic transmission. "Oh, you're
sending him the bits to that? Slap on a tee for me." From the
Unix command tee(1), itself named after a pipe fitting (see
plumbing). Can also mean `save one for me', as in "Tee a slice
for me!" Also spelled `T'.
Node:teergrube, Next:teledildonics, Previous:tee,
Up:= T =
teergrube /teer'groob/ n.
[German for `tar pit'] A trap set to punish spammers who use an
address harvester; a mail server deliberately set up to be
really, really slow. To activate it, scatter addresses that look like
users on the teergrube's host in places where the address harvester
will be trolling (one popular way is to embed the fake address in a
Usenet sig block next to a human-readable warning not to send mail to
it). The address harvester will dutifully collect the address. When
the spammer tries to mailbomb it, his mailer will get stuck.
Node:teledildonics, Next:Telerat, Previous:teergrube,
Up:= T =
teledildonics /tel`*-dil-do'-niks/ n.
Sex in a computer simulated virtual reality, esp. computer-mediated
sexual interaction between the VR presences of two humans. This
practice is not yet possible except in the rather limited form of
erotic conversation on MUDs and the like. The term, however, is
widely recognized in the VR community as a ha ha only serious
projection of things to come. "When we can sustain a multi-sensory
surround good enough for teledildonics, then we'll know we're getting
somewhere." See also hot chat.
Node:Telerat, Next:TELNET, Previous:teledildonics,
Up:= T =
Telerat /tel'*-rat/ n. obs.
Unflattering hackerism for `Teleray', a now-extinct line of extremely
losing terminals. Compare AIDX, Macintrash
Nominal Semidestructor, ScumOS, sun-stools,
Node:TELNET, Next:ten-finger interface,
Previous:Telerat, Up:= T =
TELNET /tel'net/ vt.
(also commonly lowercased as `telnet') To communicate with another
Internet host using the TELNET (RFC 854) protocol (usually
using a program of the same name). TOPS-10 people used the word
IMPCOM, since that was the program name for them. Sometimes
abbreviated to TN /T-N/. "I usually TN over to SAIL just to read the
Node:ten-finger interface, Next:tense, Previous:TELNET,
Up:= T =
ten-finger interface n.
The interface between two networks that cannot be directly connected
for security reasons; refers to the practice of placing two terminals
side by side and having an operator read from one and type into the
Node:tense, Next:tentacle, Previous:ten-finger
interface, Up:= T =
Of programs, very clever and efficient. A tense piece of code often
got that way because it was highly bummed, but sometimes it was
just based on a great idea. A comment in a clever routine by Mike
Kazar, once a grad-student hacker at CMU: "This routine is so tense it
will bring tears to your eyes." A tense programmer is one who produces
Node:tentacle, Next:tenured graduate student,
Previous:tense, Up:= T =
A covert pseudo, sense 1. An artificial identity created in
cyberspace for nefarious and deceptive purposes. The implication is
that a single person may have multiple tentacles. This term was
originally floated in some paranoid ravings on the cypherpunks list
(see cypherpunk), and adopted in a spirit of irony by other,
saner members. It has since shown up, used seriously, in the
documentation for some remailer software, and is now (1994) widely
recognized on the net.
Node:tenured graduate student, Next:tera-,
Previous:tentacle, Up:= T =
tenured graduate student n.
One who has been in graduate school for 10 years (the usual maximum is
5 or 6): a `ten-yeared' student (get it?). Actually, this term may be
used of any grad student beginning in his seventh year. Students don't
really get tenure, of course, the way professors do, but a tenth-year
graduate student has probably been around the university longer than
any untenured professor.
Node:tera-, Next:teraflop club, Previous:tenured
graduate student, Up:= T =
tera- /te'r*/ pref.
[SI] See quantifiers.
Node:teraflop club, Next:terminak, Previous:tera-,
Up:= T =
teraflop club /te'r*-flop kluhb/ n.
[FLOP = Floating Point Operation] A mythical association of people who
consume outrageous amounts of computer time in order to produce a few
simple pictures of glass balls with intricate ray-tracing techniques.
Caltech professor James Kajiya is said to have been the founder.
Compare Knights of the Lambda Calculus.
Node:terminak, Next:terminal brain death,
Previous:teraflop club, Up:= T =
terminak /ter'mi-nak`/ n.
[Caltech, ca. 1979] Any malfunctioning computer terminal. A common
failure mode of Lear-Siegler ADM 3a terminals caused the `L' key to
produce the `K' code instead; complaints about this tended to look
like "Terminak #3 has a bad keyboard. Pkease fix." Compare
dread high-bit disease, frogging; see also AIDX,
Nominal Semidestructor, ScumOS, sun-stools,
Telerat, HP-SUX, Slowlaris.
Node:terminal brain death, Next:terminal illness,
Previous:terminak, Up:= T =
terminal brain death n.
The extreme form of terminal illness (sense 1). What someone
who has obviously been hacking continuously for far too long is said
to be suffering from.
Node:terminal illness, Next:terminal junkie,
Previous:terminal brain death, Up:= T =
terminal illness n.
1. Syn. raster burn. 2. The `burn-in' condition your CRT tends
to get if you don't have a screen saver.
Node:terminal junkie, Next:terpri, Previous:terminal
illness, Up:= T =
terminal junkie n.
[UK] A wannabee or early larval stage hacker who spends
most of his or her time wandering the directory tree and writing
noddy programs just to get a fix of computer time. Variants
include `terminal jockey', `console junkie', and console
jockey. The term `console jockey' seems to imply more expertise than
the other three (possibly because of the exalted status of the
console relative to an ordinary terminal). See also
twink, read-only user. Appropriately, this term was used
in the works of William S. Burroughs to describe a heroin addict with
an unlimited supply.
Node:terpri, Next:test, Previous:terminal junkie,
Up:= T =
terpri /ter'pree/ vi.
[from LISP 1.5 (and later, MacLISP)] To output a newline. Now
rare as jargon, though still used as techspeak in Common LISP. It is a
contraction of `TERminate PRInt line', named for the fact that, on
some early OSes and hardware, no characters would be printed until a
complete line was formed, so this operation terminated the line and
emitted the output.
Node:test, Next:TeX, Previous:terpri, Up:= T =
1. Real users bashing on a prototype long enough to get thoroughly
acquainted with it, with careful monitoring and followup of the
results. 2. Some bored random user trying a couple of the simpler
features with a developer looking over his or her shoulder, ready to
pounce on mistakes. Judging by the quality of most software, the
second definition is far more prevalent. See also demo.
Node:TeX, Next:text, Previous:test, Up:= T =
TeX /tekh/ n.
An extremely powerful macro-based text formatter written by
Donald E. Knuth, very popular in the computer-science community
(it is good enough to have displaced Unix troff, the other
favored formatter, even at many Unix installations). TeX fans insist
on the correct (guttural) pronunciation, and the correct spelling (all
caps, squished together, with the E depressed below the baseline; the
mixed-case `TeX' is considered an acceptable kluge on ASCII-only
devices). Fans like to proliferate names from the word `TeX' -- such
as TeXnician (TeX user), TeXhacker (TeX programmer), TeXmaster
(competent TeX programmer), TeXhax, and TeXnique. See also
Knuth began TeX because he had become annoyed at the declining quality
of the typesetting in volumes I-III of his monumental "Art of Computer
Programming" (see Knuth, also bible). In a manifestation
of the typical hackish urge to solve the problem at hand once and for
all, he began to design his own typesetting language. He thought he
would finish it on his sabbatical in 1978; he was wrong by only about
8 years. The language was finally frozen around 1985, but volume IV of
"The Art of Computer Programming" is not expected to appear until
2002. The impact and influence of TeX's design has been such that
nobody minds this very much. Many grand hackish projects have started
as a bit of toolsmithing on the way to something else; Knuth's
diversion was simply on a grander scale than most.
TeX has also been a noteworthy example of free, shared, but
high-quality software. Knuth offers a monetary awards to anyone who
found and reported bugs dating from before the 1989 code freeze; as
the years wore on and the few remaining bugs were fixed (and new ones
even harder to find), the bribe went up. Though well-written, TeX is
so large (and so full of cutting edge technique) that it is said to
have unearthed at least one bug in every Pascal system it has been
Node:text, Next:thanks in advance, Previous:TeX,
Up:= T =
1. [techspeak] Executable code, esp. a `pure code' portion shared
between multiple instances of a program running in a multitasking OS.
Compare English. 2. Textual material in the mainstream sense;
data in ordinary ASCII or EBCDIC representation (see
flat-ASCII). "Those are text files; you can review them using
the editor." These two contradictory senses confuse hackers, too.
Node:thanks in advance, Next:That's not a bug that's a
feature!, Previous:text, Up:= T =
thanks in advance
[Usenet] Conventional net.politeness ending a posted request for
information or assistance. Sometimes written `advTHANKSance' or
`aTdHvAaNnKcSe' or abbreviated `TIA'. See net.-,
Node:That's not a bug that's a feature!, Next:the literature,
Previous:thanks in advance, Up:= T =
That's not a bug, that's a feature!
The canonical first parry in a debate about a purported bug.
The complainant, if unconvinced, is likely to retort that the bug is
then at best a misfeature. See also feature.
Node:the literature, Next:the network, Previous:That's
not a bug that's a feature!, Up:= T =
the literature n.
Computer-science journals and other publications, vaguely gestured at
to answer a question that the speaker believes is trivial.
Thus, one might answer an annoying question by saying "It's in the
literature." Oppose Knuth, which has no connotation of
Node:the network, Next:the X that can be Y is not the true X,
Previous:the literature, Up:= T =
the network n.
1. Historicaslly, the union of all the major noncommercial, academic,
and hacker-oriented networks, such as Internet, the pre-1990 ARPANET,
NSFnet, BITNET, and the virtual UUCP and Usenet
`networks', plus the corporate in-house networks and commercial
time-sharing services (such as CompuServe, GEnie and AOL) that gateway
to them. A site is generally considered `on the network' if it can be
reached through some combination of Internet-style (@-sign) and UUCP
(bang-path) addresses. See Internet, bang path,
Internet address, network address. 2. Following the
mass-culture discovery of the Internet in 1994 and subsequent
proliferation of cheap TCP/IP connections, "the network" is
increasingly synonymous with the Internet itself (as it was before the
second wave of wide-area computer networking began around 1980). 3. A
fictional conspiracy of libertarian hacker-subversives and
anti-authoritarian monkeywrenchers described in Robert Anton Wilson's
novel "Schrödinger's Cat", to which many hackers have subsequently
decided they belong (this is an example of ha ha only serious).
In sense 1, `the network' is often abbreviated to `the net'. "Are you
on the net?" is a frequent question when hackers first meet face to
face, and "See you on the net!" is a frequent goodbye.
Node:the X that can be Y is not the true X, Next:theology,
Previous:the network, Up:= T =
the X that can be Y is not the true X
Yet another instance of hackerdom's peculiar attraction to mystical
references -- a common humorous way of making exclusive statements
about a class of things. The template is from the "Tao te Ching": "The
Tao which can be spoken of is not the true Tao." The implication is
often that the X is a mystery accessible only to the enlightened. See
the trampoline entry for an example, and compare has the
Node:theology, Next:theory, Previous:the X that can be Y
is not the true X, Up:= T =
1. Ironically or humorously used to refer to religious issues.
2. Technical fine points of an abstruse nature, esp. those where the
resolution is of theoretical interest but is relatively
marginal with respect to actual use of a design or system. Used
esp. around software issues with a heavy AI or language-design
component, such as the smart-data vs. smart-programs dispute in AI.
Node:theory, Next:thinko, Previous:theology, Up:=
The consensus, idea, plan, story, or set of rules that is currently
being used to inform a behavior. This usage is a generalization and
(deliberate) abuse of the technical meaning. "What's the theory on
fixing this TECO loss?" "What's the theory on dinner tonight?"
("Chinatown, I guess.") "What's the current theory on letting lusers
on during the day?" "The theory behind this change is to fix the
following well-known screw...."
Node:thinko, Next:This can't happen, Previous:theory,
Up:= T =
thinko /thing'koh/ n.
[by analogy with `typo'] A momentary, correctable glitch in mental
processing, especially one involving recall of information learned by
rote; a bubble in the stream of consciousness. Syn. braino; see
also brain fart. Compare mouso.
Node:This can't happen, Next:This time for sure!,
Previous:thinko, Up:= T =
This can't happen
Less clipped variant of can't happen.
Node:This time for sure!, Next:thrash, Previous:This
can't happen, Up:= T =
This time, for sure! excl.
Ritual affirmation frequently uttered during protracted debugging
sessions involving numerous small obstacles (e.g., attempts to bring
up a UUCP connection). For the proper effect, this must be uttered in
a fruity imitation of Bullwinkle J. Moose. Also heard: "Hey, Rocky!
Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!" The canonical response
is, of course, "But that trick never works!" See hacker humor.
Node:thrash, Next:thread, Previous:This time for sure!,
Up:= T =
To move wildly or violently, without accomplishing anything useful.
Paging or swapping systems that are overloaded waste most of their
time moving data into and out of core (rather than performing useful
computation) and are therefore said to thrash. Someone who keeps
changing his mind (esp. about what to work on next) is said to be
thrashing. A person frantically trying to execute too many tasks at
once (and not spending enough time on any single task) may also be
described as thrashing. Compare multitask.
Node:thread, Next:three-finger salute, Previous:thrash,
Up:= T =
[Usenet, GEnie, CompuServe] Common abbreviation of `topic thread', a
more or less continuous chain of postings on a single topic. To
`follow a thread' is to read a series of Usenet postings sharing a
common subject or (more correctly) which are connected by Reference
headers. The better newsreaders can present news in thread order
automatically. Not to be confused with the techspeak sense of
`thread', e.g. a lightweight process.
Interestingly, this is far from a neologism. The OED says: "That which
connects the successive points in anything, esp. a narrative, train of
thought, or the like; the sequence of events or ideas continuing
throughout the whole course of anything;" Citations are given going
back to 1642!
Node:three-finger salute, Next:throwaway account,
Previous:thread, Up:= T =
three-finger salute n.
Syn. Vulcan nerve pinch.
Node:throwaway account, Next:thud, Previous:three-finger
salute, Up:= T =
throwaway account n.
1. An inexpensive Internet account purchased on a legitimate
ISP for the the sole purpose of spewing spam. 2. An
inexpensive Internet account obtained for the sole purpose of doing
something which requires a valid email address but being able to
ignore spam since the user will not look at the account again.
Node:thud, Next:thumb, Previous:throwaway account,
Up:= T =
1. Yet another metasyntactic variable (see foo). It is
reported that at CMU from the mid-1970s the canonical series of these
was `foo', `bar', `thud', `blat'. 2. Rare term for the hash character,
`#' (ASCII 0100011). See ASCII for other synonyms.
Node:thumb, Next:thundering herd problem, Previous:thud,
Up:= T =
The slider on a window-system scrollbar. So called because moving it
allows you to browse through the contents of a text window in a way
analogous to thumbing through a book.
Node:thundering herd problem, Next:thunk,
Previous:thumb, Up:= T =
thundering herd problem
Scheduler thrashing. This can happen under Unix when you have a number
of processes that are waiting on a single event. When that event (a
connection to the web server, say) happens, every process which could
possibly handle the event is awakened. In the end, only one of those
processes will actually be able to do the work, but, in the meantime,
all the others wake up and contend for CPU time before being put back
to sleep. Thus the system thrashes briefly while a herd of processes
thunders through. If this starts to happen many times per second, the
performance impact can be significant.
Node:thunk, Next:tick, Previous:thundering herd problem,
Up:= T =
thunk /thuhnk/ n.
1. [obs.]"A piece of coding which provides an address", according to
P. Z. Ingerman, who invented thunks in 1961 as a way of binding actual
parameters to their formal definitions in Algol-60 procedure calls. If
a procedure is called with an expression in the place of a formal
parameter, the compiler generates a thunk which computes the
expression and leaves the address of the result in some standard
location. 2. Later generalized into: an expression, frozen together
with its environment, for later evaluation if and when needed (similar
to what in techspeak is called a `closure'). The process of unfreezing
these thunks is called `forcing'. 3. A stubroutine, in an
overlay programming environment, that loads and jumps to the correct
overlay. Compare trampoline. 4. People and activities scheduled
in a thunklike manner. "It occurred to me the other day that I am
rather accurately modeled by a thunk -- I frequently need to be forced
to completion." -- paraphrased from a plan file.
Historical note: There are a couple of onomatopoeic myths circulating
about the origin of this term. The most common is that it is the sound
made by data hitting the stack; another holds that the sound is that
of the data hitting an accumulator. Yet another suggests that it is
the sound of the expression being unfrozen at argument-evaluation
time. In fact, according to the inventors, it was coined after they
realized (in the wee hours after hours of discussion) that the type of
an argument in Algol-60 could be figured out in advance with a little
compile-time thought, simplifying the evaluation machinery. In other
words, it had `already been thought of'; thus it was christened a
`thunk', which is "the past tense of `think' at two in the morning".
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1. A jiffy (sense 1). 2. In simulations, the discrete unit of
time that passes between iterations of the simulation mechanism. In AI
applications, this amount of time is often left unspecified, since the
only constraint of interest is the ordering of events. This sort of AI
simulation is often pejoratively referred to as `tick-tick-tick'
simulation, especially when the issue of simultaneity of events with
long, independent chains of causes is handwaved. 3. In the
FORTH language, a single quote character.
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tick-list features n.
[Acorn Computers] Features in software or hardware that customers
insist on but never use (calculators in desktop TSRs and that sort of
thing). The American equivalent would be `checklist features', but
this jargon sense of the phrase has not been reported.
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tickle a bug vt.
To cause a normally hidden bug to manifest itself through some known
series of inputs or operations. "You can tickle the bug in the
Paradise VGA card's highlight handling by trying to set bright yellow
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tiger team n.
[U.S. military jargon] 1. Originally, a team (of sneakers)
whose purpose is to penetrate security, and thus test security
measures. These people are paid professionals who do hacker-type
tricks, e.g., leave cardboard signs saying "bomb" in critical defense
installations, hand-lettered notes saying "Your codebooks have been
stolen" (they usually haven't been) inside safes, etc. After a
successful penetration, some high-ranking security type shows up the
next morning for a `security review' and finds the sign, note, etc.,
and all hell breaks loose. Serious successes of tiger teams sometimes
lead to early retirement for base commanders and security officers
(see the patch entry for an example). 2. Recently, and more
generally, any official inspection team or special firefighting
group called in to look at a problem.
A subset of tiger teams are professional crackers, testing the
security of military computer installations by attempting remote
attacks via networks or supposedly `secure' comm channels. Some of
their escapades, if declassified, would probably rank among the
greatest hacks of all times. The term has been adopted in commercial
computer-security circles in this more specific sense.
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time bomb n.
A subspecies of logic bomb that is triggered by reaching some
preset time, either once or periodically. There are numerous legends
about time bombs set up by programmers in their employers' machines,
to go off if the programmer is fired or laid off and is not present to
perform the appropriate suppressing action periodically.
Interestingly, the only such incident for which we have been pointed
to documentary evidence took place in the Soviet Union in 1986! A
disgruntled programmer at the Volga Automobile Plant (where the Fiat
clones called Ladas were manufactured) planted a time bomb which, a
week after he'd left on vacation, stopped the entire main assembly
line for a day. The case attracted lots of attention in the Soviet
Union because it was the first cracking case to make it to court
there. The perpetrator got a suspended sentence of 3 years in jail and
was barred from future work as a programmer.
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time sink n.
[poss. by analogy with `heat sink' or `current sink'] A project that
consumes unbounded amounts of time.
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time T /ti:m T/ n.
1. An unspecified but usually well-understood time, often used in
conjunction with a later time T+1. "We'll meet on campus at time T or
at Louie's at time T+1" means, in the context of going out for dinner:
"We can meet on campus and go to Louie's, or we can meet at Louie's
itself a bit later." (Louie's was a Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto
that was a favorite with hackers.) Had the number 30 been used instead
of the number 1, it would have implied that the travel time from
campus to Louie's is 30 minutes; whatever time T is (and that hasn't
been decided on yet), you can meet half an hour later at Louie's than
you could on campus and end up eating at the same time. See also
since time T equals minus infinity.
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