Ware, oh Ware

Posted By BrokenClaw on February 9, 2008

Also read about Hardware and Software.

Firmware

Once the ware terminology was established in computer science, other forms of the word have come into usage. Between hardware and software comes firmware. Firmware is the term used to describe the software which is embedded onto the circuits of hardware. Unlike normal software, users have no control over, or access to, the firmware. On a personal computer, the BIOS is part of the firmware. However, firmware gets the most attention as a component of other digital devices, such as game consoles, portable media players, and cell phones. The firmware determines what the device can and cannot do.

From the user’s standpoint, the firmware becomes an issue when the hardware manufacturer adds features to a device. In order for the old equipment to have the same functionality as the new equipment, the manufacturer will issue a firmware update. The update is a piece of software which the user downloads from the Internet and runs as instructed. On cell phones, firmware updates come directly over the cell phone network.

Middleware

Middleware is a descriptive term to describe a certain class of software which is designed to bridge the gap, sometimes called an interface, between two distinct applications. For example, middleware may be needed to connect a database to a web server. Or a manufacturer may need middleware to connect its production machinery’s software to its accounting software. Obviously, it is used exclusively in enterprise software and has little meaning to the home user.

Other ware

Other forms of ware evolve as tongue-in-cheek derivatives.

Bloatware is the term used to describe software packages that contain lots of features and applications that you would never use, especially those which constantly run in the background where you don’t even know they’re turned on, but they slow your computer down with no apparent advantage to your computing experience. In other words, they are bloated for the sake of sounding comprehensive with no real added value. The term is often applied to software packages for Internet security, or media players, or document readers.

Crapware is the term used to describe software which is either poorly written, or is difficult to use, or has little value, or has competitors’ software which is vastly superior for the same price. The origin of the word is self-explanatory. It is sometimes used to describe the software that comes pre-installed on new computers, which are often trial versions, or the software that comes free with peripheral devices such as printers.

Lieware is just as it name implies. It is the term used to describe software which doesn’t do what it claims to do. It may be just poorly written software, which doesn’t live up to expectation. Or it may be nefarious software which is purposely designed to mislead you, for example, as a way to get you to install spyware or malware.

Sneakerware is really an un-ware. It is a term used to describe a method of data transfer that is not done electronically. In other words, you have to walk the data (in sneakers) from one place to another. In the early days of personal computers, it was the floppy disk, carried from one computer to another. Today the preferred method is the thumb drive.

A hot topic of technology today is the concept of receiving video from the Internet and playing it on your television. There are a variety of operations which can do this, but none of them are ready for prime time and the public at large. They all involve some rather techie manipulations of hardware and software. One company came out with a new product, which allows you to move the video from your computer onto their box, and then you connect their box to the TV. I heard a reviewer on a podcast describing the system. Because the box is never connected simultaneously to both the computer and the TV, the reviewer said it was an example of sneakerware.

Vaporware is the term used to describe a product which has been described but doesn’t exist. For example, a company may have a press release, or have a mock-up at a conference, of a product they intend to bring to market in the future. Technology aficionados have become skeptics with such things, and generally take a wait-and-see attitude, so until the product actually works and is produced for sale, it remains in the vapor.

Warez

Warez is an underground term used to describe the illegal distribution of pirated software. It is pronounced as the plural of ware, as in, show me your warez. You don’t need to know anything else about it except that it is illegal.

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