Saturday, 14 January 2012

Definitions Part I

It never ceases to amaze me that certain people either don't understand how to use certain words in the English language or more typically are not interested in using the proper word for something. Now if this mystery person was brand new to Canada then this is understandable, but unfortunately the vast majority of the people I'm referring to are not. In fact the majority of them have English as their first (and sometimes only) language - like yours truly. As an aside I've tried to learn other languages but haven't been overly successful - I took German twice, then switched to Plains Cree. I did pretty good in Cree, but without anyone to speak to you tend to lose the ability to speak quite quickly. In addition the majority of the people I'm whining about are professional writers / journalists / broadcasters, etc.

In any case the point I was trying to make was that certain people either intentionally or inadvertently tend to misuse words. As an example take the word "Computer Hacker" or simply "Hacker" now when the term was first coined it was referring to a person with fantastically good programming skills that was able to get into programs and alter the code to enhance their capabilities.

When Microsoft Corporation and the Windows operating systems came to be, they were followed a few years later by viruses. Now by definition (according to the dictionary built into the Apple operating system) a computer virus is: "a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data." Because of this the term "Cracker" was coined to describe someone who writes viruses, with the link being made to "Safe Cracker" who is a person not known for getting into safes to make them more efficient, but one who gets into them by breaking them (with the added incentive that s/he also likely will steal whatever is inside.

Now granted that while a person who writes viruses does need good programming skills this does not make them a Hacker, this makes them a Cracker. I realize it is likely too late to change things now, but I would be nice to see one author somewhere write a column that explains the difference, and shows that journalist today are capable of doing research rather than living within the world of five second sound bites.

More on this from a non-computer perspective tomorrow ...


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