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Your Guide To Computer Terms

Dual-Core Processor

Dual-core processor is a chip that has two processor cores on it - think of it as a head with two brains. Each core on the processor chip executes a series of instructions that tells the PC what to do. With both cores executing these instructions simultaneously, the PC is better equipped to multi-task.

This means you will be able to do more tasks at the same time. But as both cores are on the same chip, they also share certain components like the processor bus and memory controller. So although dual-core processors are faster than single-core processors, they will not function at the same speed as two single-core processors combined.

RPM On Hard Drives

It means revolutions per minute (rpm) is used to indicate the speed at which a hard drive's spindle spins. A hard drive uses rotating disks, or platters, with magnetic surfaces to store digital data. Armatures, with an attached head on opposite sides, read from or write data to the disk by moving across the entire platter as it spins.

The faster the platter spins, the faster information can be written or accessed. So the higher the RPM, the faster you can expect your computer to call up or save files on your hard disk. The typical drive today ranges from 5,400rpms to 10,000rpm for consumer PCs and up to 15,000rpm for workstations and server hard drives.

Saata And IDE Hard Disks

Consumer hard disks today come in two versions - Sata (serial advanced technology attachment) and IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics). The newer Sata standard uses a thinner and easier-to-connect cable to hook it to the motherboard, and a slightly faster data transfer speed. The physical disk itself though, is usually identical to IDE disks.

Dual Channel

Often seen on motherboards and memory modules, "dual channel" refers to technology used to boost the performance in PC components. More specifically, the term refers to the architecture used by motherboards to double transfer speeds between the system memory and the CPU. 

This is so that the motherboard's memory controller, which handles the transfer, does not become the bottleneck as CPU speeds increase over the years. To enjoy dual-channel speed, you will need a motherboard manufactured no earlier than 2003 (check your manual for this), as well as matching DDR-SDRAM memory modules. These "dual-channel" modules are usually sold in a matching pair - you get two sticks of 512MB RAM if you want to add 1 GB to your PC.

You can also stick two identical modules in your PC, but you must make sure they are similar in the way they are made, the number of memory chips used, and in their internal organisation, for example. How do you know if your PC has turned on the speed boost? You will usually see "dual channel" on screen when the PC boots up.

Real-world performance boosts can be anything from 10 per cent upwards, depending on your CPU or the kind of benchmarks used. With prices for a pair of 512MB dual-channel modules close to that for a single 1GB module, dual-channel memory is often preferred by PC enthusiasts provided they have spare slots on their motherboards.

Flash ROM

You see Flash ROM (read-only memory) often listed as one of the specs on digital organisers. Also known as flash memory, it is used by devices like personal digital assistants (PDA) to store operating systems like Microsoft's Windows Mobile, for example. Like a hard disk, flash memory can retain data even when the power is turned off.

For example, the 02 Xda Atom PDA has 128MB of Flash ROM. On top of this, the device has another 64MB of RAM (random access memory) used by the handheld to fire up and switch between several applications. The device, like most PDAs today, also has a slot for people to insert "external" memory cards that store photos and songs.

T-Flash

This is a type of portable memory card that is finding its way more and more into new handheld devices. You often see it on the specification list for cellphones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). The size of a finger nail, memory cards like the T-Flash are one of the smallest around. What makes T-Flash attractive its capacity of 1 GB. And this is expected to be ramped up even more in future.

What makes it "confusing" is the different names it has gone by. The format was called T-Flash when it was introduced by memory card vendor SanDisk. Then it became known as TransFlash before finally settling as the microSD now. The other problem for users is finding a T-Flash card itself. It does not enjoy the same large-sale production that SD or miniSD cards do just yet. The first T-flash card you will probably get now is the one that comes with your phone.

 

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