Is Deleted Content on Your Smartphone Gone for Good?

phonecourt

Mobile phone innovation is as intense as it’s ever been, and there are no signs of it slowing down. Their continued evolution has transformed them into mini-computers that have completely changed user habits – be it for work, shopping, entertainment or other aspects of our lives. The ever-increasing use of these smartphones means they’ll handle nearly as much data as our normal desktop and laptop computers do. And it’s in that – data – where the real value lies for the consumer.

Importance of Smartphone Data

Sure, the actual handset itself with up-to-date camera functionalities and internal processors make it an expensive piece of kit. But when it comes to damaging or losing a phone, most users will tell you it’s the content stored within the device which causes the most concern. Be it for emotional, convenience or privacy reasons, they dread the idea of losing that data.

So with that in consideration, have you ever wondered how data is treated when it’s deleted? With no visible recycling bin, is it even possible to retrieve messages, photos, calendar entries and call history? Or does deleted content get permanently deleted? Well, to serve your curiosity – especially if you’re thinking of recovering content – read on to see just how smartphones handle the data they store.

How is data saved?

Smartphones store information using flash memory – a storage medium that allows data to be retained without the need for a power supply. It’s a non-volatile method of storing data that can be electronically erased and reprogrammed. This makes flash memory ideal for digital cameras, portable storage devices and smartphones.

Depending on the make and manufacturer, a smartphone will store data in different ways. iPhones, for example, are known to provide only built-in internal memories for their handsets. Android phones are more flexible and, in addition to the internal memory of the device, will give users the option of expandable memory through micro SD cards. Both, however, offer the convenience of cloud storage – the ability to save and back up data to an online source.

How is data deleted?

Although there are many ways to break a smartphone, here are the three most commont:

  • Physical damage – be it an accidental drop or some water damage, the memory chip within the handset can stop functioning properly if the circuit board has failed or various components have worn out.
  • System errors – corrupt / incorrect file formats or malicious apps can break links in file structures, making some data inaccessible or not displaying correctly. Although these broken files may not appear to be recorded or recognised by your phone’s system, they do still exist in the memory.
  • Manual deletion – when you choose to delete a file, the operating system simply marks that location as being available for something else to save in its place. The actual file itself is not permanently wiped. Instead, the path to the file is removed and the data (all of the ones and zeros that make up the file) is shredded into an unreadable format.

Is Smartphone Data Recoverable?

Normally on a computer or any other storage device, the ghost of the deleted file will remain there until the computer has no option but to overwrite it. So if you already have 500mb of spare space, your computer will opt to save new files in those previously unused locations. The space where your deleted file is sitting remains reasonably safe, and it’s for this reason that recently deleted files are easier to recover than old ones.

How data recovery software works

Smartphone recovery works much in the same way. Their NAND flash memory disks are designed so that re-writes are minimized. And as mentioned above, NAND simply treats deleted data as a spare spot for future data to be put in its place. This swift method of deletion takes up less resources and allows users to recover files they otherwise thought were entirely deleted.

A specialist data recovery software attempts to rediscover the path to the previously saved file, and then re-constructs the fragments of the broken data into a readable format once again. These programs have enhanced in recent years and are able to recover files of almost any type and size – messages, photos, videos, contacts, etc.

So despite what you may have thought previously, smartphone data is very much recoverable and not always deleted for good. There are many solutions on the market in helping you retrieve lost content, and none of them require you to seek the help of a professional. Trial any available free software to see what’s possible.

As NY Tech Booms, Millennials Turn to Coding for a Career Change

Bored with your cushy job in corporate America? You’re not alone. Over the past eight years more and more people are growing tired of their jobs working at large corporations, Wall Street banks, and consulting firms and are moving into more creative and technical careers. These careers like graphic design, content creation, web development and software development have become some of the most popular post 2008 recession careers in New York. Economists have attributed New York’s impressive rebound, 14% increase in wage growth, after the 2008 financial collapse to the job growth in these more diverse technical and creative careers. Those same economists feel that New York has a stronger economy because of the diversity of its occupations.

While the United States has recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, the tech industry has been building a job machine that many believe can help solve the high unemployment issue facing the youth of today. This job machine is called the coding boot camp industry and the emergence of the coding boot camp has resulted in 1000’s of ex-accountants, bankers, architects, doctors, and even students fresh out of school, becoming qualified, and highly desired, developers.

(Via Course Report)

According to a 2016 study by CourseReport, almost 18,000 students will graduate from coding boot camps in 2016; that’s up from just over 10,000 in 2015. What’s more impressive than how many students these boot camps graduate is what these students have done post graduation. Success is not guaranteed from just attending a camp. However, top schools like Flatiron, Bloc.io, and Dev Bootcamp boast a nearly perfect placement rate after just 120 days. Nationally, reputable schools place 89% of their graduates within 120 days of graduation.

We should note that these graduates don’t come out of boot camp in the poor house. Graduates increase their salary by an average of 40% post camp. Not too bad for a 12-week course.

Why Coding School?

So why on earth have coding boot camps become so popular you ask? It’s simple supply and demand. Corporations and startups alike find themselves searching for more and more web development talent as their operations continue to shift into the digital landscape. Demand for web developers across the United States will grow by an average of 27% by 2024.

Along with the high demand for talent comes some of the most attractive compensation packages available for entry level positions today. Six figure salaries, the ability to work from home or work completely remote, and accelerated career paths are just some of the perks that companies are offering graduates to entice them to bring their talents to their businesses.

On the supply side, Coding schools have become increasingly popular with aspiring developers because of the inexpensive total cost of attendance, quality of teachings, fast pace, and the vast network these schools provide for graduates.

Unlike self-study, coding boot camps give students a support system, structured environment, and a network to lean on when they are searching for their dream jobs.

Along with these positives comes a few negatives. If you have your heart set on becoming a developer, these courses can be a great investment, but also a costly one. Most boot camps require a full-time commitment. That means no more day job while you pay off the tuition of as much as $25,000 to attend camp.

So… Where do I apply?

If you hope to continue working (or having a life in general) while you learn development, coding boot camp might not be the perfect option. However, if you are bold enough to take the plunge, you’ll have some homework to do to ensure you’re attending the right boot camp for you. To start your search, begin by asking these questions:

  1. Which Language Do I Want to Learn?

There are different coding schools for various types of development. Want to learn iOS? Check out Turntotech. More interested in Ruby? App Academy is probably going to be a better choice for you. Be sure to think thoroughly through your goals and what type of developer you’d like to be before deciding on a school.

  1. What are My Professional Goals?

Students join coding boot camps for a variety of reasons. Some are looking for jobs in development while others are hoping to launch their own startups. Schools like Starter School tend to be more for the perspective founder, while schools like Dev Bootcamp, are more intended for those looking to grab a job post graduation. Your career objectives should also be a consideration when deciding what coding boot camp to attend.

  1. How much can I afford to spend on tuition

This one is a biggie because many of these boot camps are far from cheap. Bootcamps can range from $0 (with stipulations) to more than $25,000. Be mindful of your price range and ensure you choose the best school within your price range.

  1. Where Should I Attend a Coding Boot Camp?

There are tons of great camps right here in New York! However, there are more and more camps popping up across the United States.

  1. What is My Own Coding Background?

To gain admission to many top schools, you must prove that you have some degree of a coding background. It’s becoming increasingly important, to be honest with yourself, and admissions, about your coding experience.

If you don’t have experience with development at all, you can quickly gain a baseline understanding of HTML, CSS, Ruby, and other programming languages with online platforms like Tree Leaf.

**Now where’s my 6-figure job?**

So you’ve attended boot camp, and now you’re a rockstar developer. So what’s next?

The job hunt begins before you graduate as schools prep you for interviews, and many have career fairs for every cohort. The boot camps will set you up well for interviews and will get you in front of companies, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to put in some hustle.

According to Jake Hadden, co-founder of Digital Crafts, students should:

“Perfect your GitHub Profile – Revisit all your repos to ensure you’ve implemented best practices in your code. Commenting, indenting, and including a Readme File are three easy ways to set yourself apart (refer to Shawn’s post from HR on more specifics regarding your GitHub activity). In my opinion, GitHub is most helpful in helping a student secure an interview. That said, make sure you can walk an employer through each repo/project just in case!

Build your Portfolio (as early as possible!) – Students should challenge themselves to build a portfolio showcasing their skills, personalities, and writing ability as soon as they can while in class. Don’t wait until the last week of class or after graduation to build your portfolio! Take advantage of the network you have in class as well as your teacher to perfect your portfolio. Your portfolio should include at least 3 to 5 projects you’ve contributed to as well as 1 to 2 projects you’ve built on your own as your final project in school or as a freelance project you’ve been hired to complete.

Master the Interview – At DigitalCrafts, we include a few activities within our curriculum to help our students prepare for the interview process, and I would encourage any student to include these items in their preparation process.

Deciding to go to coding boot camp isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. It’s a huge commitment of both your finances and your time, so be sure to consider all options carefully. If you do choose to join a camp, check out the list of NY-based camps below.

Fullstack Academy

The Flatiron School

Startup Institute

App Academy

Dev Bootcamp

General Assembly

Anyone Can Learn to Code

Brainstation

Byte Academy

Grace Hopper Academy

Make School

The New York Code + Design Academy

Turn to Tech

The History, Importance and Benefits of Help Desk Solutions

In today’s extremely fast-paced business environment, even seemingly straightforward tasks like maintaining customer relations needs to be optimized for speed. In some companies, its customer support center may consist of just one or two people who answer the phones and handle all incoming problems. Of course, call volumes and customer expectations often exceed what the staff is able to deal with – ergo, the advent of automation of customer support through help desk software.

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Technically speaking, a help desk software is a resource designed for consumers to contact a company when they are having problems with the product or services provided by that company. Help desks institute a multi-tiered troubleshooting approach by having personnel with extensive technical knowledge available. In layman’s terms, help desk software is a system that automates the management of customer support.

In the typical scenario of the past, a customer sends a support inquiry via email, never knowing what to expect or if they will receive any acknowledgment response at all. Perhaps, they try to get help by phone, only to end up being put on hold and shuffled through different agents. This wastes the time of both the company and the customer.

In some cases, when this process is disrupted, customers are left frustrated while the image of the business suffers a crucial blow. Problems like these are why help desk software was invented.

History of Help Desk Software

Before the era of telephone or computers, businesses mostly relied on face-to-face interaction to resolve customer issues. This meant that the customer had to visit a company’s store or office with the product to get their problem solved. With the invention of the telephone in 1876, and the telephone switchboard in the 1890s, customers began to have the option of calling the company about their problem.

The advent of the telephone increased customer support productivity, but it still had a long way to go. In the 20th century, companies started making use of equipment like dictation machines, typewriters, and dumb terminals with access to a mainframe computer to address customer issues.

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Companies then started to set up call centers and train designated staff to receive and handle customer inquiries in an organized and efficient manner. When the technology of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) came, it was a huge boost to the nature of telephone customer service – which helped customers to perform basic transactions and receive assistance without even talking to an agent.

Still, this required companies to dedicate many employees and much more infrastructure to execute their customer service efficiently.

The 1990s saw the advent of the internet, email, and live chat. This development enabled US companies to outsource their help desk to low labor-cost countries like India and the Philippines.

woman-at-computer

The improvements in technology and infrastructure and the presence of an educated workforce in these countries who could articulately speak with international customers over the phone were the main reasons for the boom in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry which started in the late 1990s.

The next thing that happened when BPOs blossomed simultaneously with both communications technologies and software development was the grand entrance of help desk software. In the 2000s, companies started to use help desk software widely. Help desk software providers also started to pop up – like the early Manageengine.com, www.VisionHelpdesk.com, http://www.Jitbit.com/helpdesk. As the years went by, advancements and other offered features began to grow.

This decade also witnessed the growing popularity of social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. The meteoric rise of social media platforms in 2008 onwards resulted in a new level of engagement and interaction between companies and customers.

Customers are now using tools such as Facebook and Twitter to provide feedback on products and services, with customer support staff quickly responding to their inquiries or questions. Recently, companies have also started using remote desktop software to access customers’ computers to find out details about the issue before suggesting a correct resolution.

Why Help Desk Software is Important for Companies

Companies always compete with each other – and when their product or service features are deadlocked with their competitors, customers tend to favor the company that has the better customer support system.

In the current competitive era, earning customer satisfaction is the primary goal of any business enterprise and organization. It is a well-known fact that happy and satisfied customers can help business organizations unlock greater revenue opportunities, and make them stand far above their competitors. Quality customer satisfaction can also help in strengthening the brand image, which further influences customer loyalty.

man-working

Having a quality help desk software helps companies deal with customer support in the most efficient manner. Help desk software automates much of the customer support system.

As a start, the software pulls customer support emails from an email ID and lists them in a single place. This is part of the process is called Ticket Management, where a customer can file a “ticket” that will be received and read by a tech professional – or even just a program that’s carefully designed to manage tickets. It allows a help desk executive to answer calls from customers and log them easily.

The next step is now for a help desk coordinator to ensure that questions from customers are redirected to employees who’re capable of answering them satisfactorily. The automation program that the help desk software developer coded can iron out various company issues. It enables the coordinator to get notifications when a support executive hasn’t responded to a ticket, or when a ticket has been left unresolved for a significant (and professionally unacceptable) length of time

Finally, information about the ticket and the customer can now be read by managers, tech support, customer support, or other personnel. The thing is, all tickets are already sorted, organized, or even fixed even before they reach this end of the Customer Support system. As such, companies can deal with customer support concerns faster, more efficiently, and more effectively.

The Perks and Benefits of Help Desk Software

A help desk management solution functions as a one-stop solution for all customer support, queries, requests, complaints and assistance needs. It empowers a customer support team to handle all customer complaints and requests from one place without any hassle.

happy-man

Help desk software also helps to create more efficient monitoring & tracking. Companies can efficiently monitor and track the current status of any complaint or service request raised by a customer using an advanced help desk management solution. As such, it allows companies to have a constant watchful eye on the complete problem resolution cycle, starting from the time of its registration to the final resolution.

Improved customer relationships come with the effective use of help desk software; by providing top-quality customer support and assistance, (due to improved efficiency and quickness) your business can earn quality customer satisfaction without any complications. It also further allows companies to maintain healthy and profitable relationships with new and existing customers.

Any advanced help desk management solution also simplifies various complex and time-consuming day-to-day processes. This allows for better problem resolution and timing as it enables customer support teams to save crucial time and effort spent on handling customer complaints and requests. Minimizing total time spent on resolving a problem is always a result of a simplified system – one that can be provided by help desk software.

Finally, an advanced help desk management solution allows businesses to improve the quality of assistance and support provided to the customers. With various tools and features, companies can assure their customers will be able to get complete and accurate assistance with all their problems and questions in mind.

How Help Desk Software Directly Helps Companies

Help Desk Software has ushered in an era where companies have a chance to be more efficient and effective with their customer support systems. It is exactly as its name implies: software that acts as a virtual help desk.

Help Desk Software: The Basics

Technically, a Help Desk, in the context of Information Technology (IT), is a department inside an organization that is responsible for answering the technical questions of its users. Most major companies have set up help desk software to respond to questions from their customers.

help-desk-agents-working

The company’s response to their clients’ concerns is usually transferred using email, telephone, website, or online chat. This is done through a “ticketing” system – customers submit a ticket, whether it’s a simple inquiry or an actual satisfaction report, and the software ”decides” where the ticket should be submitted to. Then, the appropriate team members try to solve the problem, and eventually respond to the ticket with their recommended solutions.

Additionally, there are internal Help Desks aimed at offering the same form of help, but only for the employees within the organization.

office

Furthermore, a  helpdesk ticketing system has the ability to assist customers with technical problems, such as installing and using computer systems, troubleshooting network connections, installing entertainment systems and resetting passwords.

For example, Help Desks at financial institutions may assist customers with online banking and trading, while those at cable companies may troubleshoot audio and video problems. A small business usually has a single centralized help desk, while a large company may have several interconnected.

Then again, if you own a company or a business enterprise, why would you bother to implement a Help Desk solution? Why not just hire additional employees for tech-support or set up a deal with a call center agency?

There are many different reasons, making help desk software’s far and above the best solution for scaling your customer support.

Customer Satisfaction

The main advantage of help desk software – and its primary goal as a part of a customer support system – is to improve customer satisfaction. Companies provide products or services to customers, by either offering the lowest price or the best product or service. However, when the competition between companies comes to a point of near deadlock, customers begin to seek other invaluable features or bonuses to aid them in their decision of what service or product to choose. Customer support is definitely an invaluable feature that customers pay attention to; and if your company’s customer support service is good, customers will surely favor your company over others.

lady-working

Furthermore, customers know exactly where to go for information because the contact information is clearly visible on product brochures and company websites. Some companies outsource their help desk services to offshore companies. However, studies suggest that this strategy may not work if customers begin to experience poor service, such as long wait times and poorly trained staff. Since Help Desk solutions are generally automated and process customer questions much faster, they have the upper hand.

Customizability

Help desk software is always flexible. Different types of companies have their own needs, and different types of customers always have their own unique requirements. A customer for a telecommunication company may prefer a fully-digitized customer support area while a customer for a food box delivery subscription might just want to be talking to a human at some point. When it comes to ensuring both customer satisfaction and a company’s ease of use, help desk software can easily adjust.

Help Desk Software is also extremely customizable on the micro-level. For example, ticketing systems can be modified in such a manner that it requires a lot of details. A company can choose to have its help desk software include custom fields such as department, building location, floor number, and customer preference – virtually anything is possible! This creates more ways to serve customers or easier ways for employees to narrow down ticket solutions.

Quality Improvement

Help desks can contribute to the improvement of the quality of a company’s products or services. When customers call a help desk, specialists typically fill out problem reports describing the call. Companies can use software to tabulate and track these reports from initiation to resolution. Since these reports can be tracked and recorded, the information you can get from trends and data can obviously help immensely in your company’s quality improvement procedures.

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Developers and project managers can review these problem reports and begin to implement improvements to their product or service. If several customers call with the same problem, the help desk might alert quality control and possibly senior management so that the company can fix the problem quickly.

Improved Process Efficiency

A help desk is typically a one-stop-shop for the whole of a company’s customer support system. Most help desk systems include a holistic platform that provides a single place for users – be it the customer or the tech professional – to create tickets, view the status of open issues, and close out tickets once they’re resolved. A portal can also be used to relay important information to users, such as announcements or press releases. All this can aid a lot in making processes much faster and more productive.

A central help desk department also means customer support calls or tickets come to the same people. This enables staff members to build on their skills and become experts in several technical areas, which in turn leads to faster problem resolution in the future.

Since Help Desks are often part of corporate information technology departments, they have a direct effect on the enhancement of process efficiency. For example, if a customer needs help using a particular software function, the help desk specialist could ask his software designer colleague for clarification. As a result, the customer’s concerns are addressed promptly, the specialist adds to his knowledge base and the software designer finds out how customers are using their product. Help desk employees can share technical information, which enables them to learn from one another and resolve problems faster.

Convenience

Customers have different preferences as it relates to how they interact with customer support representatives – some customers would prefer email while younger generations may be more inclined to use social media.

Using a help desk software solution that can accommodate these preferences demonstrates to your customers that you truly care about them and want to make the support process as easy and painless as possible. This helps foster good customer relationships, which in turn can boost company growth.

chat-agent

Satisfactory response from consumers can lead to better customer interaction, which ultimately leads to the increased satisfaction of customers. Customers tend to invest more in organization that values customer satisfaction. In turn, this can greatly and dramatically improve the rate of income for your business.

Time Saver

Help desk software which has a simplified and quick implementation equates to your IT team spending less time and effort in making the tool work or answering a complaint. IT professionals, in turn, waste less time on unnecessary manual processes, freeing up valuable time for more important work.

Your help desk acts as your primary tool for customer requests. Keeping this system up and running and ready to respond rapidly to customer issues is critical to establish confidence in your IT department’s capabilities. As such, maximizing the contribution of the IT department can help make a successful business.

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One final note: downtime or bugs within the customer support system can also hurt productivity rates and ultimately reduce system effectiveness. Thus, it is vital to ensure you use only a high-quality help desk solution since they have reduced downtime, a huge factor in quality management when client-related engagements are on the line.

Help Desk Software 101: What it is And How it Can Help Your Business

Since its inception, help desk software has made huge strides in improving customer support for both companies and their consumers. Now, with the addition of recent advancements, help desks have become far better and more efficient to use.

Help desk software is a resource designed for the users of virtually any product to contact companies when they are having problems with their service. Typically, help desks aim to institute a multi-tiered troubleshooting approach – this can be mainly done by having personnel with extensive technical knowledge available to answer consumer questions.

tech-support

Generally, helpdesk software consists of at least three main parts: Ticket Management,  an Automation Suite, and Reporting & Optimization. In order to actually consider software a quality Help Desk software, it should be masterful in all these aspects. Together, these three functions essentially form the crux of a helpdesk operation.

Implementation of this multi-tiered support varies widely within companies. In one company, it may be one person with a wealth of knowledge carrying a cell phone. It may also be several people who perform some of the support in house and several people from another company that are contracted for additional support. In still another company, it may be a multitude of people within their own company performing all levels of support. The approach might be different, but the idea is always pretty much the same.

How It Basically Works

Help Desk software’s work starts and is hinged on how it is able to pull customer emails from their initial email and organize them in a single place. This is how “Ticket Management” basically works. It allows a help desk executive to answer calls and emails from customers and log them easily as individual “tickets”. It also allows customer support executives to listen and respond to customer feedback on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

help-desk-dashboard

The Automation Suite, meanwhile, allows a help desk coordinator to ensure that questions from customers are redirected to employees who are capable of answering them satisfactorily. This is the next step that most help desk software follows. It enables the coordinator to get notifications when a support executive hasn’t responded to a ticket, or when a ticket is taking too long to get resolved, among other several possible cases.

Lastly, the Reporting and Optimization section constitutes the most important function of customer service: it pulls and assembles pertinent information about all the critical aspects of the helpdesk. Managers and leaders can then understand service elements such as load on the helpdesk team, turnaround time & resolution rate of each executive, etc. Metrics like these give managers a quick perspective on how things are faring and allows them to make changes for the better.

The Standards Help Desk Software Should Implement

The most strategic method of implementing Help Desk is to follow the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practices. A Help Desk must include the following if it wants to be credited for best practices:

  • Single point of contact (SPOC) for IT interruptions
  • Computer or Software consultations
  • Tracking capabilities of all incoming problems
  • Problem escalation procedures
  • Problem resolution

The following are listed as best practices for Help Desk. These are all outlined in the Service Management best practices section of ITIL version 3:

  • Knowledge Management – A Help Desk should have a system that improves operational efficiency by reducing the time spent to rediscover previous incidents or problems.
  • Problem Management – A Help Desk should have a system that gathers information during incident management to help spot problems.  This system identifies the root cause of frequent recurring incidents by capturing information in a knowledge base.
  • Access Management – A Help Desk should act as the keepers of the user accounts along with password resets.  Single ownership by the Help Desk ensures quicker response time for end users with user or password problems.
  • Service Catalog – A Help Desk should have a published service catalog, ideally with pricing information included and with detailed service descriptions.

The Benefits of Implementing Help Desk Software

A Help Desk system is all about ease of use. At its best, a Help Desk software automates an issue resolution workflow, centralizes information, and keeps everyone in-the-know with email alerts.

Instead of having to track down or phone-call someone from tech support to get help, consumers can simply submit a ticket to the helpdesk team through email or a website-based form. The help desk software can then receive, log, and assign issues to the appropriate help desk technicians automatically, making the process more convenient for all parties involved.

support-agent

Not only do help desks streamline communication, they also keep detailed records of all submitted issues, making it easier to track updates and report on what work has been done.

Aside from its main function, there are other ways on how Help Desk software can help a company, even in the littlest of ways:

  •         Efficiency in working: Because employees can easily submit issues and get their tech issues fixed faster, everyone can spend more time being productive because of the time Help Desk software saves. IT professionals also waste less time on unnecessary manual processes, freeing up valuable time for more important work.
  •         Customize to meet needs: At the entry-level tier, a Help Desk ticket should include a title and description of each issue. For more detailed information and better categorization, a company can opt its Help Desk software to include custom fields such as department, building location, floor number, and customer preference – virtually any customization requirement is possible. This creates more ways to serve customers and easier ways for employees to narrow down ticket solutions.
  •         Help Desk, a One-stop Shop: Most help desk systems include a user portal that provides a single place for users to create tickets, view the status of open issues, and close out tickets once they’re resolved. A portal can also be used to relay important information to users (such as planned downtime), which can reduce unnecessary tickets.
  •         More control and more accuracy in due date management: Setting, tracking, and communicating changes to issue due dates are easy with a help desk. This would be extremely useful – and unfathomably more efficient – for both the IT professional addressing the issue and the employee who submitted it. Due dates can be automatically or manually assigned, and help desk technicians can sort tickets based on date projects need to be completed.
  •         Multitasking anywhere, anytime: Help Desk systems allow IT professionals to be able to quickly and more easily categorize and prioritize issues. As a result, IT professionals can schedule and sequence much better as they consider which issues to prioritize. As such, a tech might want to handle multiple similar issues in a single trip from the server room, making better use of their time.
  •         Improving Workflow by Trend Analysis: Because help desks can help track metrics such as average time spent resolving tickets, IT managers can run detailed reports to discover trends. For example, if a certain tech is very good at a specific task, management might want to give all related tickets to them for maximum efficiency.
  • Help Desk assignment Automation: The advanced and top-notch help desk software can analyze tickets and automatically assign issues based on specific criteria. For instance, department leads can send all hardware issues to Employee A (who happens to be the superior hardware expert) and all software issues to Employee B (who specializes in software solutions).

5 Top-rated CMS’s to Power Your Online Hub

When you’re on the internet, do you ever wonder how site administrators maintain their web pages and keep those sites all pretty, responsive and updated with the latest content? Thanks to the rising popularity of content management systems (CMS’s), a lot of the upkeep has been simplified and made much easier.

A CMS is a type of software that enables the site administrators to create and modify digital content using a user-friendly interface to publish online content and data. With a wide array of features, most of the content management systems usually include web-based publishing, format management, history editing, indexing, and automatic data retrieval.

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If you are planning to establish your own website that is focused on content, the best way for you to achieve this is to opt for a content management system. To have a unique website developed without a definite budget for maintenance can jeopardize your business operations sooner or later. The good news is that CMSs nowadays are open-sourced, easily managed, and even offered for free.

A report from the W3Techs content system management website reveals that the top three leading CMS of today are responsible for at least 70% of all the CMS usage on websites from across the World Wide Web.

Start-up entrepreneurs, multimedia artists, creative writers, food and video bloggers are among those who have discovered the ease of having and maintaining a wonderful website. It is all about the readily available CMS that is used with practically every website. Plus, these CMS’s do not require you to pull out a big amount of money from your pocket just to have a customizable and reliable content platform of your own.

In the world of e-commerce, e-business owners can face the challenge of looking for a good shopping cart platform that matches your familiarity with programming languages and your business model. If you are trying to have a start-up online store, you most likely have faced this dilemma.

To help you in your quest in building a better website, below are five of the most popular content management systems and how they fare in expanding the virtual network of today.

WordPress

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Considered one of the most popular among all the content management systems of today, WordPress has become a household name in the cyber universe and to website developers. In fact, most of the websites you see online are powered by WordPress to help content managers and site administrators to publish, manage and organize a wide variety of content – from articles and tutorials, to photos, videos, stories, and much more.

Aside from WordPress being a user-friendly and easy-to-learn platform, it also is highly flexible for beginners and experienced users alike. The public plugin repository has an estimated 40,000+ free plugins available for download, while the public WordPress theme database has over 2,100+ styles to choose from.

It operates using the PHP programming language and supports MySQL and MariaDB database platforms which make it a standard for a website that has both function and aesthetics. Also, this is why the content system management market ranging from start-up businesses to mobile applications have relied on WordPress for their websites.

Furthermore, aside from having a wide array of themes to choose from and design flexibility, WordPress is also secure, reliable and easy to work with. If you want a site for e-commerce, business, portfolio, community, or an organization that can be easily managed, WordPress might be the way to go.

Joomla!

joomla

Joomla! is another hot content management system in the market today. However, it is for those who are more knowledgeable in programming languages and are up for a bit of a challenge. It uses PHP programming language and supports MySQL, PostgreSQL, MSSQL, and SQLite databases.

Although the code base of Joomla! is rather sophisticated and complex compared to that of WordPress, it has also built medium to large scale websites that are live today. On the brighter side, Joomla! offers more scalability and more back-end integration than other current content management systems.

It is the second most used content management system platform after WordPress. Joomla! is in the middle ground in terms of ease of management as it allows non-technology savvy administrators to still manage the site effectively without that much technical assistance.

Users of Joomla! love the platform because of its native front-end content editing, content management flexibility, and a native integration of multiple languages which makes the Joomla!-powered sites more user-friendly to site visitors of different races.

Shopify

shopify

When it comes to e-commerce websites, Shopify is one of the most popular CMS’s. For an online shopping platform, it provides everything with an easy access setup and a handy dashboard area for quickly adding products, customizing the look of your site, and more.

Also, if you plan to move in from another platform, Shopify provides you a hassle-free process to import your products and content from your store powered by a different platform. More advanced web developers can also gain access to the CSS and HTML files so that they can personalize their websites more.

According to a review of Shopify, the platform also offers easy scalability. This allows e-commerce businessmen to list a huge portfolio of products that could offer top end packages and offers. Also, it is also capable of adding apps to the e-commerce store itself like customer reviews, live chat, and many more.

In addition, the platform’s backend is just as impressive as it offers a feature-rich interface that helps the administrator to manage the site effectively. All the items in stock can be tracked, and offline and online inventories are well taken care of.

Bigcommerce

bigcommerce

If you want a beautiful and highly intuitive e-commerce website, Bigcommerce is the platform to choose. It allows the developers to create and maintain a gorgeous website that gets results using unique themes and advanced customization framework to help business owners to establish their brand and entice online customers.

Bigcommerce’s intuitive front end editor allows you to customize the appearance of the website without the need to do any coding. However, developers also have the option to experiment with the platform’s theme framework to build a totally personalized online store using HTML, CSS, and other coding languages. However, if you are not that well-versed with coding, BigCommerce offers more than 100 responsive templates to choose from.

The platform has a network of more than 2,000 web designers and developers worldwide who can help businessmen build their dream online store. Their team has undergone rigorous training to be certified experts. Partners like Groove, Indaba and IntuitSolutions have built ecommerce sites for some of the world’s most successful brands.

Volusion

volusion

Volusion is also an effective platform for you to establish an online shopping market. The thing is that that unlike Shopify, it provides you with a clean dashboard with minimal elements.

The problem is that when you want to change the layout and design of the pages, coding is a requirement. This is why when deciding to go for Volusion, you must be comfortable with coding in HTML and CSS in order to personalize the templates according to your preference.

As far as its interface is concerned, they offer 28 free and readily-available themes while there are 88 templates that can be purchased. The designs are clean and organized for the modern entrepreneur.

The front end of Volusion is easy to navigate since all the themes are responsive. Mobile commerce is already included for selling on an app. Also, social media tools and automatic tax rates generate interaction and easy checkouts. On the other hand, its backend now offers a primary dashboard menu that includes tabs to easily access orders, marketing, customer profiles, inventory, design, and reports.

The Modern Language: What You Need To Know About Software

Man has advanced with its technology far enough to a point where it has reinvented himself beyond what was thought as impossible.

The 21st century is a witness to how people live and breathe in a world that is practically run by automated, efficiently multitasking and highly adaptable machines. These computing machines, more aptly termed computers, have evolved together with mankind as to how it “thinks and acts” in solving man’s problems.

As such, computer programmers and engineers need to create the most versatile and most reliable software to match the growing requirements of the society. This gives rise to the question – how does software make a computer the staple machine in every home, school, and office?

An illustration of new technologies.

The Rise of Software

In simple terms, software refers to a computer program or set of data that are stored electronically and is used to perform virtually any task on a computer machine. Its applications range from the development of popular mobile games and basic office encoding purposes, to highly sophisticated cloud security protocol and launching of exploration teams into space.

With the unlimited potential of become anything a programmer chooses it to accomplish, software development has become one of the fastest growing and the biggest industries of the last few decades.

According to Forrester, a technology and market research company, in 2014, as the economy improved, the software industry grew at a rate of 7.1%. This was the fastest growth rate in the world of information technology for that year. This is due to the fact that business models around the world have adapted to fit Information and Communication Technology (ICT) practices in its framework.

A developer, developing.

Evidently, the core of this profession is software development precisely because computers are simply scrap metal and wires without programs running these parts. As such, the concept of software development might seem too daunting for an average person. However, proper knowledge and understanding of the science can bring a different light to anyone who ventures into this vast world of the computer age.

Overview

A variety of approaches have been defined and designed based on the different phases of software development considered. Specific life cycles, better known as “Software Development Process Models”, are closely followed in order to ensure that the software development process can yield a success on the project’s objective.

These software life cycle models define the software development phases to be considered, and the order in which the phases should be carried out. There are six phases in every software development life cycle model:

1) Identification of Requirements/Analysis:  The main focus of this phase is to gather requirements such as who will use the system and how will it be used. It should answer what data need to be inputted in the system and what corresponding output should the system provide. These requirements are then analyzed for their validity and viability in the overall deliverables of the project. All these are compiled into a Requirement Specification document to guide the succeeding phases of the models.

2)  Design/Specification:  The system and software design is then prepared based on the requirements. System design indicates the hardware and system requirements, as well as the outline for the overall system framework. This is also the phase where the engineers and developers create a test strategy including what to test conduct, and how the test should be conducted.

3)  Programming/Coding:  Upon validation, system design documents are divided into modules or unit. After the validation, the actual coding is then implemented. This is the most crucial part for the developer, and it happens to be the lengthiest stage of the software development life cycle.

4)  Testing:  After the code has been developed, the software is subjected to testing to see if the product can actually address the needs identified during the first phase. All forms of functional testing such as unit testing, integration testing, system testing and acceptance testing are done, as well as other non-functional types of testing.

5)  Deployment: Once testing has been successful, the product is sent to the customer for trial use and beta testing. If there are any identified bugs or other necessary changes, the engineering team can apply relevant modifications, and then release the final version software for client use.

Tech icons.

6) Maintenance: Actual problems with the software may surface once it is already being used by the customer. Providing customer support and product service is the last phase.

Whichever model is chosen for a specific project, the main objective is still to resolve the initial concern of a client. Specific models yield specific results. Some of the more common models are:  Waterfall model, Joint application development (JAD), Rapid application development (RAD) model, synchronize-and-stabilize, Spiral model and Prototyping model.

Evolution and Application

This complex industry has been on a constant evolution towards redefining and improving its processes. Thanks to its functionality growth and expansion, software applications has expanded to operating systems, software applications, network management tools, and customized enterprise software systems.

While commercial software is created in response to a demand in the market, enterprise software is a solution to a company’s internal hurdle or as a means of accelerating and improving efficiency of current business processes.

Similarly, as software development evolves to cater more intricate and complex calculations, upgrades to the hardware are also deemed necessary. For instance, just a few years back, messaging has seemed to reach its pinnacle; landline telephones and fax machines are the greatest tool any office could get.

Nowadays, internet has broken the communication barrier with its powerful connectivity. Chat service (FB messaging, Viber and Slack, to name a few) and online fax service (Find out more here: http://www.gmailfaxhelp.com/tutorials/google-fax-number/) have raised the level of connectivity to a higher level. Thus, an office computer and a printer (which is already common set-up in the first place) are more than enough to  get the job done.

In this light, the development of more advanced hardware is inevitable. Hardware that are more capable in processing more complex information is bound to evolve with the growing human needs.

Software Creates Opportunities for Everyone

To the casually curious or the intensely interested, James Burt is an experienced software developer of 16 years without any formal qualifications. In an article by The Guardian, he highlights valuable tips on how to become a professional software developer despite not having the degree.

He says a positive attitude will get you far in your career. He then emphasizes the importance of showing enthusiasm in programming.  “You need to enjoy programming to do it well.” When an aspiring developer is happy what he or she is doing, taking actions on how to improve the craft naturally follows.

Fortunately, self-studying is easier than ever since the internet is abundant with free online tutorials and countless educational YouTube videos on current relevant practices. There are also plenty of free-to-download e-books on programming languages from the very basic to the advanced.

Technological universities like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have online courses for fee that can be taken by anyone at any convenient time. Burt highly encourages participation in virtual communities where one can be exposed to professionals in the field. Having peers in the industry both online and offline is a huge boost not only in acquiring up-to-date knowledge but also gaining significant experience.

In addition, joining open source projects is an excellent example of increased self-learning and meeting a diverse group of professionals in one project. It is important to always look for opportunities where one can enhance and further hone his or her IT skills. Burt emphasized that aspirants should consider doing freelance work. This is a great way to get traction in the industry. There are many organizations online such as Freelance Adviser, Guerrilla Freelancing and Freelancers Union, who offer invaluable resources in freelancing in general and there are online communities where you can venture into as a beginner.

What you need to know about software.

Whether software development sparks interest as a degree, profession, hobby, or investment, this industry is definitely worth looking into. It is a challenging and worthwhile discipline that also happens to be lucrative. It is an exciting time for programmers since a lot of other industries from all around the globe are constantly searching for talented people, and it is not showing signs of stopping anytime soon.

In fact, the need only increases as the technology becomes more advanced (which is always the plan).

In a society where everything seems to have already been invented, software development shatters that mindset and paves way to the creation of things no one even knew could be possible.

Technologies That Changed How We Communicate

Communication has immensely changed in the past few years. From using craggy, ringing telephone lines to multitasking through the latest smart phones, mankind has witnessed how connecting with people has evolved to whole new level. Thanks to technological geniuses like Steve Jobs, the market of using communication devices (like his brainchild – the iPhone) is projected to grow in astounding numbers.

Behind these marvelous devices come even more spectacular applications which make these communication advancements progressively powerful.

An old telephone.

Through computer technology and software incorporation, communication tools have become integral elements in every industry in every corner of the planet. The use of software in being connected with other people has become a huge support in bringing efficiency and comfort to what previously was a hard and complicated task. With the continuously increasing demand for unending connectivity (through social media), mobile application downloads are similarly on the rise.

Fax Machines

Basic communication tools (like telephones and fax machines) have evolved so much that its technology has become a cultural aspect of today’s generation. Before, a telephone system with caller ID was an exciting advancement. Now, fax machines are given a more reinforcing makeover with its integration with software development. Fax messaging has gone far beyond than what it was expected to be as it now enters the internet. Gmail has come up with a way to provide a more efficient and less expensive way of sending fax messages. Check out Gmail Fax Help (http://www.gmailfaxhelp.com/tutorials/google-fax-number/) for more information.

An old fax machine.

Technological evolution has definitely shown how much more mankind can make lives much easier and convenient. Since the advantages of software engineering and design have been much more evident nowadays, it is only apt that one should take a look at what applications and technologies sparked the masterful evolution of communication.

Up High with Skype

Since its establishment in August 2003, Skype Technologies has been making tidal waves in the video chatting and voice call services across the globe. The company leads world-wide communication by fronting video calls in an excellently integrated application which can be used to view the person on the other side.

A guy waving through Skype.

This idea has held a huge potential back when the internet was still starting to snowball. The concept of the application is to make long-distance communication with another person more personal using video. As everyone knows by now, a webcam is needed from both parties in order for the system to work. With a press of a button (or dialing of numbers) in the application, the unique experience of video conversation can begin.

From this simple idea, world communication has improved by leaps and bounds.

Skype has been a major player in the video communications market and is continuing their operations up to this day. More people are still using Skype, from conducting online interviews to simply chatting with friends from the farthest regions of the planet.  Even with big competitors like Facebook Video Call and Facetime, Skype is still a thriving application that needs much appreciation for their innovative ways.

Mail Time in No Time

The earlier method of communication started from writing letters and mailing them to local places and even across the globe. Obviously, the process took a very long time to complete because of the travel time for each trip of the mailer.

Fast forward a couple of years (or decades, even), snail mail improved when local post offices took a step forwards and started to send letters with a faster, more systematic approach on the delivery. The travel time of each letter became a bit more efficient, but it is still considerably slow.

Today, sending messages has not only become paper-less, it also has become an instant message.

Yahoo Messenger.

Leading company Yahoo! has provided services that allow each user to communicate through online chatting. Who could ever forget the notorious smile of the Yahoo Messenger application when it is signed in? Yahoo messenger has become an instant brand for quick and exciting messaging that everyone in the world would know. It is at the forefront of what is called Instant Messaging or IM in the dial up internet era.

What Yahoo! Messenger (or YM) did is to revolutionize the way chatting works. Since most people would rather look at a certain application than checking their emails from time to time, the company made extreme efforts in providing a service that’s free and easy to use. One would only need to have a Yahoo! Account to build his YM and his messenger’s list. The application also boasted of using emoticons, now more popularly known as Emojis. These emoticons have established them as a brand that promotes communication in a fun and easy manner.

MySpace.com

Social networking sites are not necessarily new in the business. Truly, it is more apparent now than ever with the recent advances of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Nonetheless, social networking actually began way back, when MySpace.com dominated the internet.

Myspace is a social media site which incorporates internet sharing, commenting and posting in a more old-fashioned way. Photos and videos can be linked in one’s profile to the other to show off what he or she has been up to lately. This has been a brilliant way for people to share their lives and build up an online personality.

Myspace music.

Though not in the levels of Facebook today, MySpace was once the perennial favorite. It did so by tempting the key young adult demographic with music, videos, and a funky, feature-filled environment. It looked and felt more hip and trendy than major competitor Friendster right from the start. True enough, it conducted a campaign in the early days to show alienated Friendster users just what they were missing.

The company behind Myspace recognized the innovative approach they needed to do and mapped social media as a true stamp in the internet. Though it was not necessarily an application, it was a platform in which SNS sites made their foundation.

As such, Myspace.com is considered as one of the most successful technologies ever produced, linking communication and technology in an engaging and interactive set-up during its time.

***

People now reside in a world where connecting with each other is as easy as 1, 2 and 3. Communication has grown so much over the years, almost at an instant, that every company is swinging left and right to provide that one right recipe to be something new and something that stands out. This attitude can be traced back by looking at the things that previous software designers and software engineers did in the past. Modern communication machinery is founded on the efforts of enthusiasts that established the beneficial link of communication and technology.

Applications and technologies in the past paved the way for an extreme communications evolution.

 

Simply put, there are many technologies that set as a foundation for the current technologies people has right now. Thanks to them, peoples around the world can link together harmoniously, knowing that everything, especially communication, can be made fast and easy.

How Agile Software Development Can Fix Technical Debt

Traditionally, programmers are taught that software programs have a phase-based approach to development which is simply feature development, alpha, beta, and golden master (GM). This has been the staple for a very long time now.

The thing is, software nowadays is sold to users against their competitors because of their features. For example, you would choose an organizer software that has a bonus feature of having bookmark widgets than those that only have calendars. Features are now the selling point of most software and have introduced many challenges to be addressed by programmers.

Code.

Feature Development

Feature development includes the phase where the new features are built, and (ideally) residual issues from the most recent release are addressed when possible. The development cycle reaches “alpha” when each feature is implemented and ready for testing. Consequently, “beta” hits when enough bugs have been fixed to enable customer feedback.

In unfortunate cases, when programmers or a team of programmers are busy trying to fix enough bugs to reach beta, new bugs appear. This is one of the most common, and most annoying phenomena in programming, especially when the designs are revolutionary and complex.

It’s a classic case of whack-a-mole: fix one bug, and two more pop up. Frustrating for most, but this is where the bottleneck of programming productivity comes.

Technical debt.

Finally, after a long game of whack-a-mole with the bugs, the program release phase reaches the golden master milestone when there are zero open bugs. Then again, this is usually achieved by programmers by fixing just the issues that could deter the program from leaving the beta phase. Simply put, programmers only remove the bugs that are outright apparent, and leave the unnoticeable bugs for the next releases when users have reported them.

Technical Debt: The Ultimate Programmer’s Challenge

Constantly procrastinating on bugs that need to be fixed is a dangerous way to make software. As the bug count grows, tackling it becomes increasingly daunting–resulting in a vicious death-spiral of technical debt.

Technical debt is a concept in programming that reflects the extra development work that arises when code that is easy to implement in the short run is used instead of applying the best overall solution. Technical debt is usually associated with ultra-complex programming, especially in the context of refactoring.

To make matters worse, schedules get derailed because coding around the bugs slows down development. Meanwhile, customers are experiencing death by a thousand cuts caused by unfixed defects. As such, many experts in programming has begun addressing the growing problems on technical debt, and introduced Agile Software Development.

Agile Software Development: The Main Answer to Technical Debt

In software application development, Agile Software Development (ASD) is technically defined as “a methodology for the creative process that anticipates the need for flexibility and applies a level of pragmatism into the delivery of the finished product.”

The Agile Development process.

Agile software development focuses on keeping code simple, testing often, and delivering functional bits of the application as soon as they’re ready. The goal of ASD is to build upon small client-approved parts as the project progresses, as opposed to delivering one large application at the end of the project.

Agile puts the “quality factor” into the iterative development approach in order for the programming team to maintain a consistent level of quality release every time. If a feature is half-baked, it is essentially thrown into the trash bin. Good programmers now have a simple trick: defining or redefining the definition of “done.”

For traditional teams, “done” means “good enough” for Quality Assurance (QA) to begin with. The problem with this definition is that only the obvious bugs are apparent in early in the release cycle. As a result, by the time QA gets their hands on it, the product is saddled with layers upon layers of defects that weren’t easily noticed.

Agile teams, however, define “done” as ready to release; this does not only mean that it could be tendered to the users. It also means developers don’t move on to the next story or feature until their current item is practically in the customer’s’ hands. To speed things along, they use techniques like feature branching workflows, automated testing, and continuous integration throughout the development cycle.

The Agile Manifesto

Agile development is not a methodology in itself. It is the collective term that describes several agile methodologies. It is basically a by-product of a collaboration between many software developers that value the quality and sought a good way to help the up and coming surge of software programmers.

SCRUM process.

At the signing of Agile Manifesto in 2001, these methodologies include Scrum, XP, Crystal, FDD, and DSDM. Since then, lean practices have also emerged as a valuable agile methodology and so are included under the agile development umbrella. The Agile Manifesto includes:

  1.   Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2.   Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3.   Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4.   Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5.   Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6.   The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7.   Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8.   Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9.   Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Ultimately, Agile Software Development is an approach to programming that is lean in nature, like how manufacturers practice Lean Manufacturing: Reduce waste, include the clients every step of the way, and address problems as soon as possible.

Other Benefits of Agile Software Development

Agile provides multiple opportunities for the stakeholder (the client or the target user) and to the team engagement before, during, and after each phase. The flexibility, versatility, and efficiency of ASD allows the stakeholders to be involved every step of the way.

It’s like getting a Gmail account – an all-around email service, fax messaging capability (http://www.gmailfaxhelp.com/tutorials/google-fax-number/) and access to practically all essential media communication tool in the web.

By involving the client in every step of the project, there is a high degree of collaboration between the client and project team, providing more opportunities for the team to truly understand the client’s vision. Rendering quality software frequently increases stakeholders’ trust in the team’s ability to deliver high-quality working software, and encourages them to be more deeply engaged in the project.

A tech team meeting.

While the team needs to stay focused on delivering the agreed subset of the product’s features during each iteration, there is an opportunity to constantly refine and re-prioritize the overall product backlog. New or changed backlog items can be planned for the next iteration, providing the opportunity to introduce changes within a few weeks.

Also, an Agile approach provides a unique opportunity for clients to be involved throughout the project – from prioritizing of features and iterations planning, to review sessions and frequent software builds containing new features. However, this approach also requires clients to understand that they are seeing a work in progress in exchange for this added benefit of transparency.

By breaking down the project into manageable units, the project team can focus on high-quality development, testing, and collaboration. Also, by producing frequent builds and conducting testing and reviews in every iteration, quality is improved by finding and fixing defects quickly and identifying expectation mismatches early.

3 Steps to Effective Software Design

It is quite an astonishing experience to see that the world is thriving together in using the computer as a major mean to run its daily course. People are continually pushing forward with expanding their knowledge with regard to computer technology. However, what is more astonishing to know is the fact that from a world that started from sharpened rocks and two-stone fires, we are now living in a generation renovated by sharpened minds, illuminated by the knowledge we have acquired over the trial and errors of time. Thanks to the power of computing, this world is living in transcendence and will likely to be so much more.

a computer graphic

Computers have crept in practically every crevice of our daily lives. In fact, we can go as far as to say that our lifestyle is now based on what our computers can offer. In our social structure, we are witnesses to the rising number of people who are utilizing the wonders of social networking sites or SNS. It has become so in demand that almost everyone has their hands full on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other social networking platforms.

Even the field of business has taken notice of computers’ powerful appeal. In fact, websites are now primary requirement for businesses to provide content for these people dubbed as ‘netizens’. A prevailing tool in the internet called WordPress has become widely used, in fact according to this WordPress hosting test, this platform is on the rise and will continue to rise given the consistency of the sites. Looking at the bigger picture, we can see that businesses utilizing the power of computing produce jobs for people who are learned in the discipline of computer engineering and computer science, as well as information technology.

We can see it wide open that computer technology provides a link to different and varying fields. From social to economic to the academic field, there is a linear pattern which computer technology offers. This is the same reason why people nowadays are leaning towards understanding its processes, the very fundamentals of the broad subject.

One of the most important aspects of computer technology is software design. What is software design really? Software design refers to the process of applying software solutions to one or more set of problems. Frankly speaking, we cannot utilize any of our computers without its software. This is why it is important for us, especially the ones interested in the field, to take a look on the process of designing software.

Here are three guidelines to understand the software design process.

Planning is Key

Good planning is THE phase which all successful projects share. For software design, the right planning makes all the difference. Thus, the first step towards successful software design planning is critical analysis.

keys displaying "needs" and "wants"

Software designers must interact, extract, recognize and analyse. Software design is an intricate process that starts with having a good grasp on what objectives to meet. Designers should have good interaction skills with the client, so that he may extract the essential purpose and preferences they have.

Recognizing and distinguishing which requirements need to be checked and rechecked is also an important part of the planning phase. In addition, the developers should have to perform a high level analysis on what steps to do and how to do it.

The second phase of planning focuses more on specification. The backbone of software design is the mathematical description which will be utilized rigorously in the specification task. Specification is the task of accurately defining the software to be written.

a venn diagram of specification

Most effective specifications are actually prepared to interpret and fine-tune applications that were already well-built, albeit safety-critical software systems are often carefully specified prior to application development. In addition to that, specifications play a more significant role for external interfaces that must stay stable.

In the last stage of planning comes the architecture of the software. Software Architecture is defined as an abstract representation of that system. Basically, it is the software construction which makes sure that the requirements and specifications are addressed properly. It’s the blueprint of the software to be implemented.

Make it Happen

After all the elements are made clear during the planning stage, Execution phase comes next. In software design, the execution stages are implementation and testing.

Implementation comes as an antecedent to all development to execute the plan. In this case, it is the coding part. Programming of the design proves to be the most obvious job of the software engineer. Various programming languages can be utilized in this stage of execution, thus different approaches can be made in designing software.

keep calm and continue testing

After the code has been written, it is important that the project be tested and reviewed in search for any glitches. This opens the door to find out which workaround solve any underlying problem. Testing is a demanding and laborious task for the software engineer, but it proves to be vital in the development of the actual software. Without testing, software design cannot be proofed or verified.

Maintain it, Sustain It

Software design maintenance is the cherry on top of planning and execution. The truth of the matter is that issues in the software are inevitable. That is why sustaining it with exquisite maintenance model is just as important as the development itself. Documentation, training and support, and primary maintenance are the key factors in software sustenance.

One of the most significant things most people in the software design field forget is consumer training and support. We know that even when the software is out, and there is nobody who knows how to operate it, the whole thing is pointless. With ample training, support and fast feedback, everything can run smoothly. However, how do companies in software design conduct training and support?

software repair

Software designers and involved parties give out seminars and training to customers and clients before they start using the application. In this way, the client can freely ask questions while learning how to handle the product.

In addition, documentation comes as a very integral part in maintenance. Documentation in the field of software design is an important task that deals with filing the internal design of the software to create references for future maintenance and enhancement. In the literal context, it’s a diary of what worked and what did not in the implementation process. It goes hand in hand with testing. In a nutshell, documentation is the recording and citation part of the whole development process.

Having documented all the problems and the technicalities, the primary maintenance now comes in to play. All the mentioned processes come down to the maintenance. It’s a vigorous process that needs to ample time be. Almost always, there will be problems in the software. That is the reason why there is more work in maintenance than the planning and coding combined. It is all about continuous growth and continuous learning for the full-fledged software designers.

Software design is definitely a complicated process that includes various phases. It requires a lot of work and a whole lot more dedication. With the right planning, designers can learn which demands to meet and how they can provide specific solutions. The implementation comes afterwards where the programming and testing phase brings out the beauty of the technology. Lastly, the maintenance of this software is to be watched out for since problems will certainly arise.

Our relentless reliance on technology attests that we are a race that is still evolving. To evolve is to accept that change inevitable, especially in meeting the changing needs of our technologically demanding times. With right conviction, we are continually expanding our knowledge in the field of computer technology for the advancement of our lives.

Software design is a key ingredient in this endeavour, and having the right knowledge to go about its process is a significant factor for both professionals and aspirants alike.

The Role Of Design In Software Development Process

Anytime we want to build or create something, we simply have to imagine how it will look like. Of course, “function” is important as well, perhaps even more than “form” in some cases, but when it comes to software development and modern methods of coding – design is equally important and valuable. Some software developers even say that you should always design first and code later, but this old geek “joke” cannot be applied to all cases and there are many ways in which good software can be developed if you code first.

 

The reason why this old concept is being forgotten and even obsolete lies in the fact that modern programming tools allow faster construction of code and this also enables developers to find the problems and fix them easily, without the need to perform numerous tests and spend a lot of time verifying the stability and performances of the algorithm.

Software design focuses on both main elements of the code – algorithm and architecture, and this makes it so important. Since design affects the end user in a lot of ways, sometimes even more than the back-end part of the project, it is vital that all elements of a software solution are placed in the right position and that the final design suits the needs of the customers.

Designers have to be in constant communication with the rest of the team, simply because software development is not a “one man’s job” anymore. Several people, at least, are involved in this process, and large companies often deploy dozens of experts to work on a single piece of software. Therefore, communication is key, and being able to understand what the rest of the team needs is imperative for a good designer.

Project managers, consultants, developers, content writers, testers, users, etc. are all a good source information, and a good designer will find the perfect balance between all of these parties.

The process of design is basically about problem-solving and planning, but it can be divided into three main stages. In the first stage, you brainstorm ideas, creating concepts and making plans about the project and the ways in which your end-product should look like. Once you find a suitable idea, you move on to the second stage, which has one goal – to create a wire-frame of the main elements that make the architecture of the software. It is important to accommodate everything in a way that will be simple but functional, and we all know how simplicity is hard to achieve. After this step comes the third stage, which can be called the “actual design”, and this part of the process is concerned with the shapes, colors, textures and all similar features of those elements that are a part of the design. According to client’s wishes and preferences, the product receives its final form, and aesthetic purposes are important in this final stage as well. Designers who make everything look “nice” will have a lot of satisfied customers, and they will justify the importance of good design when it comes to the process of software development.

Learn Vim Fast: Moving In and Getting Around

If you started learning Vim with my last post, and you’ve been practicing the handful of commands we covered, then you’re probably pretty tired of how you have to move around and edit things with only those rudimentary commands. It’s time to expand our command set and crank up our efficiency in getting things done with Vim, but before we do that, let’s take a look at how to make Vim a bit more comfortable to look at.

Moving In

Normally I use gvim, the variant of Vim with a GUI window. Out of the box, gvim looks like this:

 

New gvim window

It looks somewhat uninviting to my eyes. Personally, I prefer editing code on a dark background, so I’d like to change the color scheme. Also, the bar of icons at the top of the window only encourages you to use the mouse for those common tasks, but we don’t need them. The extra space would be better, so we’ll get rid of them. To change these settings and more, we need to create a Vim configuration file. Putting this file in your home directory will cause Vim to load the configuration whenever it launches. With Vim open, type :e ~/.vimrc to create this file for editing, and enter the following lines:

 

Listing of .vimrc

Don’t be overwhelmed. We’ll go through each one of these settings, but I wanted to lay them all out as one listing first.

Starting at the top, set nocompatible disables compatibility mode so that some new features of Vim work correctly. This setting is likely already set this way, but we’ll be extra sure.

Next, set history=100 allows you to use the up and down arrows at the command line (by typing ‘:’) to search back and forth through your history of commands, and you can execute any previous command by going back to it, editing it if needed, and hitting <Enter>. The history is set to some number I don’t remember by default, but 100 is a good large number. You can set it to whatever you want.

The next two settings, incsearch and hlsearch, cause the cursor to advance to the first matching search term and highlight all matching search terms when you’re searching, respectively. These will come into play later when we cover searching, but just know that they are nice to have on and feel quite natural with the search command.

The set backspace=indent,eol,start setting makes it so the <Backspace> key will delete indents, end-of-line characters, and characters not added in the current Insert Mode session when you’re in Insert Mode. It basically makes the <Backspace> key work as you’d expect, and in recent experience, it seems that backspace is set this way by default. It doesn’t hurt to be explicit, though.

The set go-=T setting is short for guioption-=T, and this gets rid of the toolbar because you aren’t gonna need it. Besides, it just wastes vertical space, which is at a premium with today’s wide screen monitors.

The next set of options set up how Vim handles tabs. The tab stop is set to 2 spaces, tabs are expanded into spaces, and shifting tabs back and forth will shift them by 2 spaces. This is somewhat of a personal preference. Some people prefer other tab sizes, but this setup has generally worked for me to make tabs behave in a reasonable way. If you want a different tab size, just change the 2s to something else.

The line and column settings force the GUI window to open with that number of lines and columns. You can still resize the window, but these values are a good fit for most of the monitors I use. I might tweak them for larger monitors. I also turn on line numbers with set number, and make Vim automatically update a buffer when the file in the buffer was changed outside of Vim with set autoread.

The section with the set guifont settings changes the font depending on which operating system Vim is running on. Each of the fonts is one that is available by default on the corresponding system and a nice font to look at for coding.

The set wildignore option forces Vim to ignore certain file extensions that I really don’t want it to ever open.

The next command is pretty cool. The autocmd BufWritePre command attaches a task to a hook that executes just prior to writing a buffer to a file. This particular one trims all whitespace from the end of every line. It’s a nice little add-on, and there are a number of other hooks that you can attach commands to. I haven’t found anything else that I want to execute automatically on other actions, but the option is there and the sky’s the limit.

The last two settings turn syntax highlighting on (even though it’s most likely already on) and set the color scheme to my preferred one. You can see the comment before the last line that reminds me where to put the Vim color scheme file. I always forget when setting up a new Vim. That’s where you should put it, too. My favorite is vividchalk, gleaned from this list of color schemes.

Now that you have all of these settings entered, you can save the file and then execute :source ~/.vimrc to actually load the Vim configuration for the currently running Vim session. Some of the changes are immediately visible, while the rest will become apparent as you work in Vim.

 

Listing of .vimrc with new settings sourced

Ahh, that looks much better. Now we can start exploring some ways to get around more easily in Vim than what we’ve been doing with just the arrow, page up, and page down keys.

 

Getting Around

For the rest of the commands we are going to cover, we’ll use a snippet of code as our canvas to experiment with what these commands do. It’s a Ruby module that implements a few basic statistics functions, but what it does isn’t very important. We’ll simply use it as something to look at in the context of learning new Vim commands. Here’s what it looks like:

 

Ruby code listing in gvim

And here’s the code, so you can copy and paste it into a text file.

module Statistics def self.sum(data) data.inject(0.0) { |s, val| s + val } end def self.mean(data) sum(data) / data.size end def self.variance(data) mu = mean data squared_diff = data.map { |val| (mu - val) ** 2 } mean squared_diff end def self.stdev(data) Math.sqrt variance(data) end
end data = [1,2,2,3,3,3,3.5,3.5,3.5,4,4,4,5,5,6]
p Statistics.mean(data)
p Statistics.stdev(data)

Now, let’s say we want to go down to the variance method so we can change the name to var. The cursor is currently at the start of the buffer. Up until now, we’d have to use the arrow keys to get there, but it’s 10 lines down and 12 characters over. It’s so tedious to use the arrow keys, so we want a faster way.

One marginally faster way to move is to use the h, j, k, and l keys. The h and l keys move left and right, respectively, and the j and k keys move down and up, respectively. You can keep these commands straight by remembering that the h key is on the left, the l key is on the right, the j key has a hook down, and the k key has a line going up. If you can get used to using these keys, great. I never have, and I continue to use the arrow keys for small movements. For larger movements like this, we have better options.

Type 10G to move the cursor directly to the beginning of line 10. This is why it’s nice to have the line numbers listed. It makes it really easy to jump to exactly the line you want to go to. The G command can be thought of as Goto, and it will make the cursor go to the line number corresponding to whatever number was typed immediately before it. Most Vim commands are like this, where you can specify a number before the command. In this case, it denotes the line number, but in most other cases it will specify how many times to repeat the command.

Another way to get to the tenth line is to type 10gg. It essentially has the same effect, but G and gg have a subtle difference. If you type G without specifying a number, it will move the cursor to the last line of the buffer, while if you do the same with gg, it will take you to the first line of the buffer. It’s pretty handy if you don’t know how long the buffer is, but you want to get to the end as fast as possible. A 1G would suffice for getting to the beginning of the buffer, but gg is a bit faster to type. Anyway, here’s where we are now:

 

Goto line 10 in gvim

To go the rest of the way, we want to move quickly across this line without having to tap the l key 12 times. We can do better with the w command. This command moves the cursor to the beginning of the next word, which is the first alphanumeric character after a non-alphanumeric character. (An underscore is considered an alphanumeric character.) The lowercase w will also stop at punctuation marks, like the ‘.’, ‘(‘, and ‘)’ in the code. A capital W will only stop at characters following a whitespace character. I’m sure I’m missing some subtleties here, but after experimenting with it for a while, you’ll get a sense for what characters w and W will stop on.

For this case, we want to type www to get to the ‘v’. Finally, we type lll to move over to the ‘i’, and we’re ready to change the name. For now, that means typing i to get into Insert Mode, and hitting the <Delete> key five times to delete ‘iance’.

 

Rename variance in gvim

Most Vim commands have opposite commands, and since w will only move the cursor forward, we need the opposite command for moving backward one word at a time. That command is b, for backward (or maybe backword, so we’ve got word and backword), and W has the corresponding B as its opposite command. All of these commands accept a repeat number before them, so we could have just as easily gotten to the ‘v’ by typing 3w instead of www.

Vim also has quick commands for moving to the beginning or end of a line. If you know regular expressions, these will look familiar. A ^ will move the cursor to the beginning of the line the cursor is on, and a $ will move it to the end of the line.

One more way to get where we want to go even faster, is to use the search function. So far we’ve gotten to the desired position in 8 characters (10gg3w3l), but search does it in less, and we don’t have to do any mental counting. Starting back at the beginning of the file, we could type /ia, and we’re already there. The / starts the search, and with every character typed after that, the cursor moves to the first matching string of characters that were typed so far. We only need ‘ia’ to get to ‘iance’, and we can hit <Enter> to end the search. We’re now ready to go into Insert Mode and make the change.

 

Search for 'ia' in gvim

Notice how two instances of ‘ia’ have been highlighted. To get to the second one and make the same change, we can type n to move to the next matching instance of the most recent search string. Now we’re starting to pick up some speed. If the last change you made was deleting ‘iance’ from the first ‘variance’, then you can type . to make the same change to the next ‘variance’ once the cursor is in the right place.

The search and next match functions also have opposites. To search backwards, use ?, and to move to the previous match, use N. If you combine the two by searching with ? and moving to the previous match with N, then the cursor will actually move forward in the buffer when moving to the previous match. Most of the time, I use / and n, but the variants can come in handy sometimes.

For the last set of movement commands, we’ll combine moving and entering Insert Mode. Notice that the last couple lines print out calculations of the mean and standard deviation of some data, but we haven’t tried the variance method directly. Let’s quickly add a line to do that. First, type 22gg to get to line 22. Then type o to open a line below line 22 with the insertion point at the beginning of the new line.

 

Open a new line in gvim

Finally, you can type p Statistics.var(data), remember to hit <Esc>, and you’re done. The open new line command has an opposite as well. The O command opens a new line above the line with the cursor. At this point you may be asking yourself if i also has a capital I version, and of course, the answer is yes. The I command is not the opposite of i, though. It enters Insert Mode with the insertion point before the first non-whitespace character on the line that the cursor is on instead of immediately before the character that the cursor is on. The opposite command of i is actually a, for append, and a puts the insertion point just after the character that the cursor is on. To round things out, a capital A puts the insertion point at the end of the current line. So there are plenty of ways to enter Insert Mode, with each one coming in handy in certain situations.

It may seem a bit overwhelming at this point, but with a little practice, these keystrokes become second nature. Many of them make sense from the letters that were picked to be associated with commands, and making commands orthogonal allows for some great flexibility. To sum up, in this post we’ve covered the following new commands:

  • h, j, k, l – Move left, down, up, and right
  • gg, G, <n>gg – Move to first, last, or specified line
  • w, W, b, B – Move forward or backward a word
  • ^, $ – Move to beginning or end of the line
  • /, ? – Search forward or backward
  • n, N – Move to next or previous match
  • . – Repeat last edit
  • o, O – Open a line in Insert Mode after or before the current line
  • a, A – Append to current character or end of the current line
  • I – Insert at beginning of the current line

After practicing these movements, you’ll be able to fly around your code files with ease. Keep practicing, and next time we’ll cover many of the fast ways we can modify text in Vim.

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