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20 computer terms every Mac user should know

Christopher Breen | July 5, 2013
Puzzled by tech terms thrown around by acronym acolytes? Professor Breen sets you straight.

A Mini DisplayPort connector.

DVI (Digital Visual Interface): The DVI connector can act as both an analog connector and a digital one. It supports three kinds of connectors—DVI, Mini-DVI, and Micro-DVI—and offers resolutions of up to 2560 by 1600. You can identify these rectangular connectors by their two blocks of straight round pins next to a larger thin rectangular pin. DVI connectors were found on Macs in the 2000s until 2008, when Apple replaced them with Mini DisplayPort connectors.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface): Found on today's HDTVs and AV receivers, HDMI connectors are also part of today's Mac mini models and will be available on the Mac Pro that Apple intends to release in fall 2013. HDMI supports resolutions of up to 2560 by 1600 at 75Hz and up to 4096 by 2160 at 24Hz. An HDMI connection includes both audio and video.

VGA (Video Graphics Array): This is a large, 15-pin trapezoidal connector found on older computers and inexpensive video cards. Such connectors can still be found on some modern TVs and computer monitors. VGA is another analog standard and supports resolutions of up to 2048 by 1536. Macs haven't had VGA connectors for quite some time, but you can attach a Mac to a VGA monitor, TV, or projector by using an adapter compatible with your Mac's video connector.

Wired and wireless networking
Magic is the word some people use to describe the ability to connect your computer and mobile devices wirelessly to the Internet. But other—and more specific—means and protocols include the following.

Ethernet: This wired standard is used in local computer networking (that is, in networked devices that are located in the same physical space and share a common router address). An ethernet connector looks like a large telephone plug; and like a telephone plug, it snaps into its host receptacle. The most common forms of ethernet are 10Base-T, 100Base-T, and 1000Base-T (also known as gigabit ethernet). These forms differ considerably in speed. 10Base-T operates at a limit of 10 megabits per second (mbps), 100Base-T bumps that limit up to 100 mbps, and 1000Base-T offers a limit of 1000 mbps (or one gigabit per second).

Ethernet can be faster than a Wi-Fi connection, depending on the devices you're using. If, for example, your Mac supports gigabit ethernet but a device it's connected to supports only 100Base-T, your Mac must move data between it and that device at the slower speed. The other advantage ethernet offers is range. You can string a very long ethernet cable that allows you access to a network where a Wi-Fi signal would have long since petered out.


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