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FINGERPRINT BASICS

Fingerprints are one of those bizarre twists of nature. Human beings happen to have built-in, easily accessible identity cards. You have a unique design, which represents you alone, literally at your fingertips. How did this happen?

People have tiny ridges of skin on their fingers because this particular adaptation was extremely advantageous to the ancestors of the human species. The pattern of ridges and "valleys" on fingers make it easier for the hands to grip things, in the same way a rubber tread pattern helps a tire grip the road.


The other function of fingerprints is a total coincidence. Like everything in the human body, these ridges form through a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The genetic code in DNA gives general orders on the way skin should form in a developing fetus, but the specific way it forms is a result of random events. The exact position of the fetus in the womb at a particular moment and the exact composition and density of surrounding amniotic fluid decides how every individual ridge will form.

So, in addition to the countless things that go into deciding your genetic make-up in the first place, there are innumerable environmental factors influencing the formation of the fingers. Just like the weather conditions that form clouds or the coastline of a beach, the entire development process is so chaotic that, in the entire course of human history, there is virtually no chance of the same exact pattern forming twice.

Consequently, fingerprints are a unique marker for a person, even an identical twin. And while two prints may look basically the same at a glance, a trained investigator or an advanced piece of software can pick out clear, defined differences.

This is the basic idea of fingerprint analysis, in both crime investigation and security. A fingerprint scanner's job is to take the place of a human analyst by collecting a print sample and comparing it to other samples on record. In the next few sections, we'll find out how scanners do this.

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Server A server is a computer that provides data to other computers. It may serve data to systems on a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN) over the Internet.

Many types of servers exist, including web servers, mail servers, and file servers. Each type runs software specific to the purpose of the server. For example, a Web server may run Apache HTTP Server or Microsoft IIS, which both provide access to websites over the Internet. A mail server may run a program like Exim or iMail, which provides SMTP services for sending and receiving email. A file server might use Samba or the operating system's built-in file sharing services to share files over a network.

While server software is specific to the type of server, the hardware is not as important. In fact, a regular desktop computers can be turned into a server by adding the appropriate software. For example, a computer connected to a home network can be designated as a file server, print server, or …