IN THE NETPLEX
P> The Doctor received many responses to the last column's references to his gout condition, including this one from Wayne Grindle: "I began suffering from the Gout in 1983/84 and had several episodes a year until about 1989. After several tests and an analysis of my medical history, the good doctor put me on a preventative program of Allopurinal. I now take one tablet daily on a very religious schedule and believe me that is so much easier than just one case of the gout." The Good Doctor Acronym followed Mr. Grindle's example, securing nearly instant relief from that nasty condition. He's much obliged. BTW, the Doctor made inquiries into the topic and discovered that gout occurs most frequently in men with above average intelligence. No kidding.
The Doctor has recently noticed a surge of interest in all things related to data security.
So it seems an appropriate time for "A Brief Guide to Information Security Jargon: The Terms Most Likely to be Encountered in Infosec Marketing."
Electronic commerce: The use of the Internet to sell and purchase goods and services. Not yet known as "EC," which used to stand for the European Community. That body now is known as the EU due to a recent change of name to the apparently more politically correct "European Union." Note: The Doctor was unable to identify the reason for this change and would appreciate an explanation from a reader.
Secure hypertext transport protocol (SHTTP): This refers to approaches to securing data as it travels across the Internet.
Secure sockets layer (SSL): This acronym comes to us via Netscape Communications Corp. It refers to a protocol for encrypting data within an application.
Firewall: One of the few colorful images in the security lexicon. The firewall is a barrier in the form of a networking device that prevents the passage of messages into an internal network. So-called "intranets" -- parcels of Internet cyberspace used for internal corporate networks -- are bounded on either side by such firewalls.
Encryption: This refers to the translation of data into a format readable only with a code for decryption. Trivia note: Edgar Allen Poe was one of the more prominent, pre-digital era cryptologists.
Electronic data interchange (EDI): A blanket term for standard formats used to transmit particular types of data electronically, including purchase orders, invoices and the like.
Digital signatures: The electronic equivalent of a signature on a document. It verifies the author of a document.
Authentication: Any procedure for verifying a computer user's log-in information.
For those of you keeping count: Only the three of these terms, strictly speaking, are acronyms.
The Doctor received a number of partial answers to two questions in last week's column regarding the word cybernetics. Dave Gurtner correctly writes: "The term "cybernetics" is derived from the Greek word for "steersman" (kybernetes) and was first introduced by [the mathematician Norbert] Wiener as the "..science of communication and control in the animal and the machine" to which now might be added "...in society and in individual human beings."
An excellent addition, but not good enough for the cigar without an answer to the second question, "Who did Wiener say was the patron saint of cybernetics and why?"
No one was able to get that one, so here's Wiener's answer, culled from his classic, "Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine": "If I were to choose a patron saint for cybernetics out of the history of science, I should have to choose Leibniz. The philosophy of Leibniz centers about two closely related concepts -- that of a universal symbolism and that of a calculus of reasoning. From these are descended the mathematical notation and the symbolic logic of the present day. Now, just as the calculus of arithmetic lends itself to a mechanization progressing through the abacus and the desk computing machine to the ultra-rapid computing machines of the present day, so the calculus ratiocinator of Leibniz contains the germs of the machina ratiocinatrix, the reasoning machine."
Befuddled by a lack of logic? Send in your acronymial questions and answers to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Dear Dr. Acronym" in the subject line.