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The New Hacker's Dictionary

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Node:despew, Next:[3927]Devil Book, Previous:[3928]desk check, Up:[3929]= D =

despew /d*-spyoo'/ v.

[Usenet] To automatically generate a large amount of garbage to the net, esp. from an automated posting program gone wild. See [3930]ARMM.


Node:Devil Book, Next:[3931]/dev/null, Previous:[3932]despew,

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Devil Book n.

See [3934]daemon book, the term preferred by its authors.


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/dev/null /dev-nuhl/ n.

[from the Unix null device, used as a data sink] A notional `black hole' in any information space being discussed, used, or referred to. A controversial posting, for example, might end "Kudos to rasputin@kremlin.org, flames to /dev/null". See [3938]bit bucket.


Node:dickless workstation, Next:[3939]dictionary flame, Previous:[3940]/dev/null, Up:[3941]= D =

dickless workstation n.


Extremely pejorative hackerism for `diskless workstation', a class of botches including the Sun 3/50 and other machines designed exclusively to network with an expensive central disk server. These combine all the disadvantages of time-sharing with all the disadvantages of distributed personal computers; typically, they cannot even [3942]boot themselves without help (in the form of some kind of [3943]breath-of-life packet) from the server.


Node:dictionary flame, Next:[3944]diddle, Previous:[3945]dickless workstation, Up:[3946]= D =

dictionary flame n.

[Usenet] An attempt to sidetrack a debate away from issues by insisting on meanings for key terms that presuppose a desired conclusion or smuggle in an implicit premise. A common tactic of people who prefer argument over definitions to disputes about reality. Compare [3947]spelling flame.


Node:diddle, Next:[3948]die, Previous:[3949]dictionary flame, Up:[3950]= D =


1. vt. To work with or modify in a not particularly serious manner. "I diddled a copy of [3951]ADVENT so it didn't double-space all the time." "Let's diddle this piece of code and see if the problem goes away." See [3952]tweak and [3953]twiddle. 2. n. The action or result of diddling. See also [3954]tweak, [3955]twiddle, [3956]frob.


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die v.

Syn. [3960]crash. Unlike [3961]crash, which is used primarily of hardware, this verb is used of both hardware and software. See also [3962]go flatline, [3963]casters-up mode.


Node:die horribly, Next:[3964]diff, Previous:[3965]die, Up:[3966]= D =

die horribly v.

The software equivalent of [3967]crash and burn, and the preferred emphatic form of [3968]die. "The converter choked on an FF in its input and died horribly".


Node:diff, Next:[3969]digit, Previous:[3970]die horribly, Up:[3971]= D =

diff /dif/ n.

1. A change listing, especially giving differences between (and additions to) source code or documents (the term is often used in the plural `diffs'). "Send me your diffs for the Jargon File!" Compare [3972]vdiff. 2.

Specifically, such a listing produced by the diff(1) command, esp. when used as specification input to the patch(1) utility (which can actually perform the modifications; see [3973]patch). This is a common method of distributing patches and source updates in the Unix/C world. 3. v. To compare (whether or not by use of automated tools on machine-readable files); see also [3974]vdiff, [3975]mod.


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digit n.,obs.

An employee of Digital Equipment Corporation. See also [3979]VAX, [3980]VMS, [3981]PDP-10, [3982]TOPS-10, [3983]field circus.


Node:dike, Next:[3984]Dilbert, Previous:[3985]digit, Up:[3986]= D =

dike vt.

To remove or disable a portion of something, as a wire from a computer or a subroutine from a program. A standard slogan is "When in doubt, dike it out". (The implication is that it is usually more effective to attack software problems by reducing complexity than by increasing it.) The word `dikes' is widely used among mechanics and engineers to mean `diagonal cutters', esp. the heavy-duty metal-cutting version, but may also refer to a kind of wire-cutters used by electronics techs. To `dike something out' means to use such cutters to remove something. Indeed, the TMRC Dictionary defined dike as "to attack with dikes". Among hackers this term has been metaphorically extended to informational objects such as sections of code.


Node:Dilbert, Next:[3987]ding, Previous:[3988]dike, Up:[3989]= D =


n. Name and title character of a comic strip nationally syndicated in the U.S. and enormously popular among hackers. Dilbert is an archetypical engineer-nerd who works at an anonymous high-technology company; the strips present a lacerating satire of insane working conditions and idiotic [3990]management practices all too readily recognized by hackers. Adams, who spent nine years in [3991]cube 4S700R at Pacific Bell (not [3992]DEC as often reported), often remarks that he has never been able to come up with a fictional management blunder that his correspondents didn't quickly


either report to have actually happened or top with a similar but even more bizarre incident. In 1996 Adams distilled his insights into the collective psychology of businesses into an even funnier book, "The Dilbert Principle" (HarperCollins, ISBN 0-887-30787-6). See also [3993]pointy-haired, [3994]rat dance.


Node:ding, Next:[3995]dink, Previous:[3996]Dilbert, Up:[3997]= D =

ding n.,vi.

1. Synonym for [3998]feep. Usage: rare among hackers, but more common in the [3999]Real World. 2. `dinged': What happens when someone in authority gives you a minor bitching about something, esp. something trivial. "I was dinged for having a messy desk."


Node:dink, Next:[4000]dinosaur, Previous:[4001]ding, Up:[4002]= D =

dink /dink/ adj.

Said of a machine that has the [4003]bitty box nature; a machine too small to be worth bothering with -- sometimes the system you're currently forced to work on. First heard from an MIT hacker working on a CP/M system with 64K, in reference to any 6502 system, then from fans of 32-bit architectures about 16-bit machines. "GNUMACS will never work on that dink machine." Probably derived from mainstream `dinky', which isn't sufficiently pejorative. See [4004]macdink.


Node:dinosaur, Next:[4005]dinosaur pen, Previous:[4006]dink, Up:[4007]= D =


dinosaur n.

1. Any hardware requiring raised flooring and special power. Used especially of old minis and mainframes, in contrast with newer microprocessor-based machines. In a famous quote from the 1988 Unix EXPO, Bill Joy compared the liquid-cooled mainframe in the massive IBM display with a grazing dinosaur "with a truck outside pumping its bodily fluids through it". IBM was not amused. Compare [4008]big iron; see also [4009]mainframe. 2. [IBM] A very conservative user; a [4010]zipperhead.


Node:dinosaur pen, Next:[4011]dinosaurs mating,

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dinosaur pen n.

A traditional [4014]mainframe computer room complete with raised flooring, special power, its own ultra-heavy-duty air conditioning, and a side order of Halon fire extinguishers. See [4015]boa.


Node:dinosaurs mating, Next:[4016]dirtball, Previous:[4017]dinosaur pen, Up:[4018]= D =

dinosaurs mating n.

Said to occur when yet another [4019]big iron merger or buyout occurs; reflects a perception by hackers that these signal another stage in the long, slow dying of the [4020]mainframe industry. In its glory days of the 1960s, it was `IBM and the Seven Dwarves': Burroughs, Control Data, General Electric, Honeywell, NCR, RCA, and Univac. RCA and GE sold out early, and it was `IBM and the Bunch' (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data, and Honeywell) for a while. Honeywell was bought out by Bull; Burroughs merged with Univac to form Unisys (in 1984 -- this was when the phrase


`dinosaurs mating' was coined); and in 1991 AT&T absorbed NCR (but spat it back out a few years later). Control Data still exists but is no longer in the mainframe business. More such earth-shaking unions of doomed giants seem inevitable.


Node:dirtball, Next:[4021]dirty power, Previous:[4022]dinosaurs mating, Up:[4023]= D =

dirtball n.

[XEROX PARC] A small, perhaps struggling outsider; not in the major or even the minor leagues. For example, "Xerox is not a dirtball company".

[Outsiders often observe in the PARC culture an institutional arrogance which usage of this term exemplifies. The brilliance and scope of PARC's contributions to computer science have been such that this superior attitude is not much resented. --ESR]


Node:dirty power, Next:[4024]disclaimer, Previous:[4025]dirtball, Up:[4026]= D =

dirty power n.

Electrical mains voltage that is unfriendly to the delicate innards of computers. Spikes, [4027]drop-outs, average voltage significantly higher or lower than nominal, or just plain noise can all cause problems of varying subtlety and severity (these are collectively known as [4028]power hits).


Node:disclaimer, Next:[4029]Discordianism, Previous:[4030]dirty power, Up:[4031]= D =


disclaimer n.

[Usenet] Statement ritually appended to many Usenet postings (sometimes automatically, by the posting software) reiterating the fact (which should be obvious, but is easily forgotten) that the article reflects its author's opinions and not necessarily those of the organization running the machine through which the article entered the network.


Node:Discordianism, Next:[4032]disk farm, Previous:[4033]disclaimer, Up:[4034]= D =

Discordianism /dis-kor'di-*n-ism/ n.

The veneration of [4035]Eris, a.k.a. Discordia; widely popular among hackers. Discordianism was popularized by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's novel "Illuminatus!" as a sort of self-subverting Dada-Zen for Westerners -- it should on no account be taken seriously but is far more serious than most jokes. Consider, for example, the Fifth Commandment of the Pentabarf, from "Principia Discordia": "A Discordian is Prohibited of Believing What he Reads." Discordianism is usually connected with an elaborate conspiracy theory/joke involving millennia-long warfare between the anarcho-surrealist partisans of Eris and a malevolent, authoritarian secret society called the Illuminati. See [4036]Religion in Appendix B, [4037]Church of the SubGenius, and [4038]ha ha only serious.


Node:disk farm, Next:[4039]display hack, Previous:[4040]Discordianism, Up:[4041]= D =

disk farm n.

(also [4042]laundromat) A large room or rooms filled with disk drives (esp. [4043]washing machines).



Node:display hack, Next:[4044]dispress, Previous:[4045]disk farm, Up:[4046]= D =

display hack n.

A program with the same approximate purpose as a kaleidoscope: to make pretty pictures. Famous display hacks include [4047]munching squares, [4048]smoking clover, the BSD Unix rain(6) program, worms(6) on miscellaneous Unixes, and the [4049]X kaleid(1) program. Display hacks can also be implemented by creating text files containing numerous escape sequences for interpretation by a video terminal; one notable example displayed, on any VT100, a Christmas tree with twinkling lights and a toy train circling its base. The [4050]hack value of a display hack is proportional to the esthetic value of the images times the cleverness of the algorithm divided by the size of the code. Syn. [4051]psychedelicware.


Node:dispress, Next:[4052]Dissociated Press, Previous:[4053]display hack, Up:[4054]= D =

dispress vt.

[contraction of `Dissociated Press' due to eight-character MS-DOS filenames] To apply the [4055]Dissociated Press algorithm to a block of text. The resultant output is also referred to as a 'dispression'.


Node:Dissociated Press, Next:[4056]distribution, Previous:[4057]dispress,

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Dissociated Press n.


[play on `Associated Press'; perhaps inspired by a reference in the 1950 Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Up, Doc?"] An algorithm for transforming any text into potentially humorous garbage even more efficiently than by passing it through a [4059]marketroid. The algorithm starts by printing any N consecutive words (or letters) in the text. Then at every step it searches for any random occurrence in the original text of the last N words (or letters) already printed and then prints the next word or letter. [4060]EMACS has a handy command for this. Here is a short example of word-based Dissociated Press applied to an earlier version of this Jargon File:

wart: n. A small, crocky [4061]feature that sticks out of an array (C has no checks for this). This is relatively benign and easy to spot if the phrase is bent so as to be not worth paying attention to the medium in question.

Here is a short example of letter-based Dissociated Press applied to the same source:

window sysIWYG: n. A bit was named aften /bee't*/ prefer to use the other guy's re, especially in every cast a chuckle on neithout getting into useful informash speech makes removing a featuring a move or usage actual abstractionsidered interj. Indeed spectace logic or problem!

A hackish idle pastime is to apply letter-based Dissociated Press to a random body of text and [4062]vgrep the output in hopes of finding an interesting new word. (In the preceding example, `window sysIWYG' and `informash' show some promise.) Iterated applications of Dissociated Press usually yield better results. Similar techniques called `travesty generators' have been employed with considerable satirical effect to the utterances of Usenet flamers; see [4063]pseudo.


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