My Experience with Markdown and Why I Love it

I would like to say that markdown is, in my opinion, the best markup and computer language that I have ever encountered. The syntax is easy to learn, easy to read, and can easily be converted to HTML if a user chooses so. I first encountered markdown in my sophomore year in college in my front-end web development course. The only markdown files I faced were automatically generated README.md files made by Cloud9 IDE. I didn’t really cared for the language at the time but I was looking for a open standards digital note-taking system that would replace paper notes and the proprietary OneNote notebook format.

Then came my junior year in college (February of 2017); as part of an assignment for my Back-end web development (with Java Server Pages with Servlets), I had to create a README file in markdown format. Because of this, I had to learn the markdown language. My goodness, when I tried out markdown for the first time, it was the most intimate feeling I had with technology since playing Minecraft in 2012.

“Where has this thing been all of my life?” – Random yet relevant quote

The abstraction layers that once divided my precious text and notes from me were now gone. I can now read my quasi-formatted text in a plain text editor without any fear of vendor lock-in. Writing text in markdown is such a liberating feeling. Writing in markdown is so enjoyable that I would want to teach someone how to write in markdown.

Seriously, I think grade school students should learn how to write in markdown. It is an essential tool in a world that is gradually transitioning from paper to digital forms of information storage. There is no company locking into the format and unlike PDF, you can easily modify markdown documents with ease. I see so much potential in markdown and it is sad that mostly tech nerds, computer scientists, and programmers know markdown. It would be a great feeling to see markdown taught in grade schools.

I am just sharing my love for the wonderful markdown. Also, the fact that Reddit uses markdown instead of BBCode for syntax in comments is a plus. It is (in my opinion) the most underrated markup language out there.

What is VoLTE and Why Does It Matter?

One implementation of VoIP is VoLTE or Voice over Long Term Evolution. LTE refers to one of few technologies that are considered the fourth generation (4G) of wireless network standards. 4G LTE wireless networks are capable to sending and receiving packets of data at much higher speeds and at greater capacities than their 3G CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobile) counterparts through improvements in network architecture and management. While LTE networks do a fantastic job at providing high-speed mobile broadband, it does not support voice calls in the same way that it predecessors do. Unlike 2G and 3G wireless networks that can send and receive texts and calls without using mobile data, LTE networks can only send and receive calls and texts through using mobile data. That means if a wireless subscriber would like to place a phone call or send an SMS text message, their phone would either turn off LTE temporarily in order to place the call over a 3G or 2G network, or would have to utilize VoLTE to place the call directly on a LTE network.

Since an LTE network only deals with mobile data, a VoLTE call would be sent over the LTE network in the form of data packets in a similar fashion of a VoIP call. This can be advantageous for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that calls placed through VoLTE have better sound quality than calls placed over 3G or 2G networks. Since the VoLTE call can take advantage of the higher capacity of a 4G LTE network, it can transmit more data in a shorter period of time. This results in better call clarity and quality for the end user. Another benefit for VoLTE is the ability to simultaneously use online services and place calls. This is especially the case for wireless carriers with legacy CDMA networks. before VoLTE, if a person connected to a legacy CDMA network were to place a phone call, that user would be unable to use mobile data on that CDMA network for the duration of the call, unless if they were also connected to a Wi-Fi network. With VoLTE, a user can easily surf the web and place a phone call simultaneously. VoLTE is one of several applications of VoIP that has been useful to many users with internet connected devices.

How Educational Technology has Impacted Classrooms

Educational technology has come a long way in providing useful resources and tools to students and instructors in primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions. For example, online learning communities and platforms such as Blackboard, Edmodo, Khan Academy, Lynda.com, and Coursera enable students and instructors to engage in the learning process in ways that were not possible in the 1980s and 1990s. Within the past couple of decades, technological advances through improved communication, and online services that facilitate learning programs for non-traditional students ultimately have aided both instructors and students in achieving their academic, professional, and intellectual pursuits.

To begin, educational technology has changed the way people learn by facilitating communication and learning in the classroom through online learning communities. Before the introduction and mass adoption of online learning communities, educators faced two major obstacles in the learning process. First, it was a challenge for an instructor to communicate with his or her students outside of the classroom like meeting deadline extensions. Second, instructors would have to spend time in class receiving assignments, passing out syllabi, or communicating grades that could otherwise be spent lecturing or reviewing class material. This barrier was very problematic in college settings since the professor or teaching assistant had less time to cover material than the average K-12 teacher, so every minute saved in class mattered. Lastly, instructors that wanted to collaborate were limited by barriers such as inefficient methods of communication and proximity. These two barriers hindered student-instructor communication, efficiency in courses, and the advancement of knowledge. During my time at college, I used an online learning community and service called Blackboard Learn that allowed my teachers to communicate effectively with students, automate certain time-consuming tasks that used to be done in the classroom, and facilitate collaboration with other educators through removing barriers that previously impeded collaboration. Fortunately, the advancement of educational technology has resolved these issues, allowing educators and students to focus more time and energy into learning, a process that has proven to improve the quality of life and personal development of others.

Finally, in the realm of higher education, advancements in educational technology allowed non-traditional students to advance in their academic and professional goals through online distance learning programs that are flexible, convenient, and more cost-effective than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. A non-traditional student is a student that is possibly married, financially independent from their parents, often a parent themselves, usually 24 years of age or older, and returning to school after a hiatus. Unlike traditional students who usually attend college promptly after high school, non-traditional students face a unique set of challenges when completing their post-secondary programs. One of those challenges includes maintaining a balance between academics and other priorities. Many non-traditional students have to deal with their marriages, parenting, and work lives along with classes, which can create significant stress. Fortunately, thanks to the introduction of broadband internet, these students can better balance their busy lives through online distance learning programs. Since these courses are completed online, a non-traditional student can progress at their own time and pace. Also, the student would usually not need to commute to campus or buy textbooks, which would save valuable time and money. One example of this would be the Florida State University’s Office of Distance Learning, which provides accepted students with access to online courses that are beneficial to non-traditional students. Personally, while I have not completed a degree program entirely online, I have taken an online course that raised my appreciation for distance learning. The ability to progress at my own pace as well as the convenience of not having to attend to a physical classroom made the course more manageable than an on-campus course.

Based on these examples, one can conclude that advances in educational technology have made significantly positive impacts on how educators and students operate in their day-to-day lives. This can be seen through the new tools that help students and educators communicate, utilize useful learning tools, and complete courses. Many believe that the education sector will continue to develop as technology continues to advance. If America is to remain a leader in today’s globally connected and competitive world, many feel that educational technology will be a crucial and necessary facet to be utilized. Through improving current technology used in education, the country’s students will not only be better prepared for potential careers, but also be informed, enlightened, and instilled with values that will help build a fairer society.

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What Makes a Website Great?

Founder and former Apple CEO Steve Jobs once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Many modern websites utilize various techniques in order to attract users to their websites. While these techniques can impress and entice users through their approaches, ultimately there are two key principles that web designers use when developing websites. Many web designers believe that having an impressive website necessitates “good design”, the creation of a site with a user experience and interface that not only looks appealing but also functions to solve a problem. A “good design” makes a website enticing to its users by fulfilling a designated purpose through improving site functionality and featuring aesthetics that are comprehensible and fascinating to users.

First, a site’s ability to solve problems through its functionality is one aspect of good design. When the general public hears the word “design”, many would often mistake its meaning for solely the visual layout of a website. However, design is more about how a site’s functionality coordinates with its aesthetics. Functionality encompasses the many ways a user interacts with a website and vice versa. This would include absolute and relative hyperlinks, client-side scripts such as JavaScript, and server-side scripts such as ASP.NET and PHP. A website should be error free, and its content should be continuous and seamless across various platforms, browsers, and devices. For instance, if a user were to visit a site with an exceptional visual layout but poorly made navigation features, the user would be confused or frustrated trying to navigate a beautiful yet impractical site.

Along with having complete functionality, a website with good design should also have aesthetics that are appealing to the user. For a web design to be alluring, it must give the impression that it is an active and conveying site. In order to accomplish that, a site not only needs to be dynamic, but it also needs to be pleasing to the user’s eyes. One component to pleasing aesthetics is an attractive layout design. An elegant yet simplistic layout requires basic visual design principles including good contrast between background and text, appropriately sized images, consistency in layout across web pages in a site, and correct margins for text. For example, for a website to utilize “good design” principles, GIF animations and colorful CSS elements should be used in ways that augment the content rather than distract from it. While these eye-catching elements can add appeal to a site, if the designer is not careful where and how they place these elements, it could potentially divert the user’s attention away from the content, the main focus of the site.

To conclude, for a website to be remarkable, it needs to utilize good design principles. These principles include having aesthetics that are comprehensible and fascinating to users. Also the aesthetics must be fulfilling a designated purpose to improve site functionality.


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How the Internet Can Give Businesses an Advantage?

Today, the Internet serves as a powerful and essential tool for millions of people to communicate, share, and partake in work. With the advent and ubiquity of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs, more people than ever before are using the Internet to produce, distribute, buy, and sell content in a relatively short period of time. Given this heavy reliance on the Internet, it can be very advantageous for a business to extend its operations to the web. A presence on the web, through a website, blog, or social media profile, can be a very useful method for a business to improve its competitiveness. Having a presence on the Internet can help improve a businesses’ competitiveness because it allows a business to easily reach international customers and improves accessibility to potential customers.

Having an online presence can be advantageous to a businesses’ competitiveness since the Internet eliminates the barriers of proximity that previously limited a local business’s interaction with potential international clients. One of the aspects of the Internet is that it connects people from various regions of the world together who otherwise would not do commerce. This can increase the opportunities for potential customers to find their business. According to a 2007 study by Nielsen, a resource used by 75% of study participants to find local businesses is search engines. That means if someone is searching for a local coffee shop, there is a 3 in 4 chance that they will do a search online. By having an online presence, a company can extend its reach to more consumers than what face-to-face interactions can accomplish.

Along with removing barriers of proximity, the Internet can also give a business a competitive advantage through improving accessibility to potential customers. Another aspect of the Internet is that unlike a physical store or office that is open for a set amount of hours, a website can be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This allows consumers to learn more about a product or service anytime and anywhere. Accessibility can be very useful if individuals sell products through an online store. An online store, unlike a physical store, allows potential customers to make purchases whenever they are interested, as opposed to having to wait for a brick-and-mortar store to open. By having an online presence, customers will have more opportunities to purchase goods and services, which would not only improve customer satisfaction, but also create new opportunities for a business to generate revenue.

Based on these examples, one can conclude that the Internet can be advantageous for a business to improve its competitiveness. This can be seen through the ways that the Internet removes barriers of proximity that previously limited interaction with international clients and improves overall accessibility to potential customers through the nature of the Internet. As time goes on, more small businesses will use Internet services to expand their reach and raise revenue.

 

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Why I Finally Switched to Linux and What I Noticed

For the past four years, I have been switching between various Linux distributions and Windows frequently. I couldn’t really make up my mind back then. I liked the freedom that Linux gives me (that it is free and open source, the countless choices of distributions available, and the numerous desktop environments out there) but there was a part of me that felt to uncomfortable with giving up some of my Windows applications for alternatives that may not provide all of the features I thought I would need. For instance, in 2014, what stopped me from fully switching to Linux was due to the fact that I had issues installing Microsoft Office 2013 using WINE and at the time, I didn’t feel that LibreOffice would provide me the compatibility I needed for working on my documents.

Around March of 2016 I decided to give Linux another shot. I had an install of Windows 10 on my computer and besides a couple of blue screens of death, I did not encounter any serious issues that prevented me from getting my computing tasks done. That said, I didn’t really like the direction Microsoft was taking with Windows 10. From the controversial Telemetry servicesnagging of Windows 7 and 8.1 users to upgrade to Windows 10, to the modern UI applications that I really don’t care for, my perception of Windows 10 turned from “it’s okay” to “this is something that I do not want to use”. So, I started to think about using Xubuntu, a Linux distribution that is based off of Ubuntu and utilizes the XFCE desktop environment. After a few hours of preparing an install, I install Xubuntu on my computer in a dual-boot setup; so that I can use Windows if I have to use an application that does not have a Linux version, cannot work in WINE, and had no viable open source alternative. As of this post, I have been using Xubuntu for over two weeks now and so far I am really liking it. There were a few fantastic things I noticed when I was using Xubuntu.

First, I noticed that Xubuntu uses roughly a third of the RAM compared to Windows 10. This is not a surprise; while XFCE isn’t the lightest of desktop environments I know of (that crown would go to LXDE), it still used a fraction of the system resources that Windows 10 uses, even with Compiz, a desktop window animator that creates cool special effects. Edit: I forgot to mention how much RAM Xubuntu would use compared to Windows 10. In my tests on my computer, Xubuntu 14.04 used about 520 MB of RAM whereas WIndows 10 would use ≈1.5 GB (about 1,600 MB) of RAM. Since Xubuntu is immune to Windows malware (assuming you do not install WINE), I don’t need to install an antivirus, which saves me even more system resources.

Second, unlike Windows, Xubuntu can easily be customized to my liking. If you are a Linux user, you know well of the countless number of customizations you can make on your desktop to adapt it to your own unique tastes. When I was using Windows, I had to use third party tools like VistaMizer, ViStart, Seven Transformation Pack, and StarDock which can potentially corrupt system files if a user wasn’t careful and even then, these tools would add bloat on my Windows installation which in turn can hog resources and slow down my computer. With Xubuntu, I can customize my desktop into what I want without worrying about corrupting my system files since the desktop environment, a set of programs that compose of the desktop UI for a Linux distribution, is a modular component rather than an integral part of the OS.

So far my switch to Xubuntu was a smooth transition and all of the applications I use on my system work well and LibreOffice handles all of Microsoft Office files I opened without any major compatibility issues so far. If you are considering a switch to Linux, my best advice would be to gather information about how to use Linux, develop a list of pros and cons, and figure out if Linux is right for you. You may encounter issues with your Linux distribution from time to time but if you are good at problem solving and using the forums for assistance, you should be fine getting around Linux. Edit: A great resource on troubleshooting issues pertaining to your particular distribution would be the forums for your distribution (Example: Ubuntu Forums, Linux Mint forums, OpenSUSE Forums, etc.)

Lastly, with a Linux distribution, one can liberate themselves from the digital restrictions and privacy issues that come with Windows 10. This is an obvious no-brainer that comes with switching to a Linux distribution. Since the vast majority of distributions use only free and open source software out of the box, you be assured that there are no hidden backdoors in your distribution since the source code can easily be reviewed. Also, many organizations that create and develop Linux distributions are non-profit organizations that recieve funding in the form of government grants and donations. As such, these organizations are community driven and put the users first over profit. The same cannot be said about Microsoft Windows (or any kind of proprietary/non-free/closed-source software).

So there you have it, my take on why a person should make the switch to a Linux distribution. Before I end this post, I want to give out some more resources for those who are considering Linux.

Edited: If you feel ready to try out a Linux distribution, I highly recommend the following beginner-friendly distributions. You can find their home pages by doing a simple Google search.

  • Ubuntu
  • Kubuntu
  • Xubuntu
  • Lubuntu
  • Ubuntu MATE
  • Ubuntu GNOME
  • Linux Mint Cinnamon
  • OpenSUSE
  • Peppermint OS

Update: As of August 11th, I decided to switch to another Linux distribution called Manjaro Linux. While it is user friendly, I decided to not recommend it for beginners due to its somewhat steeper learning curve.

 

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