iPhone 6Plus

I finally was able to pick up a brand new 64GB iPhone 6 Plus off contract and wow it’s pricey. I don’t like contracts, so I have to pay the price. This time I opted to go with a larger 64GB capacity. I filled up my 16GB iPhone 5S quickly with media and apps. I started to hate the experience after that. It’s good that Apple got rid of the 32GB model and replaced it with the 64GB. Overall, the experience on iOS 8.1.2 hasn’t been to bad, nor has the transition from Android 4.4.2 (for a few months) wasn’t difficult either.

What about that size?

I could have gone with the regular iPhone 6 with a larger screen size than my old iPhone 5S but there were features I was after that the 6 Plus had.

  • I wanted 5.5” display size versus 4.7”. I didn’t want a smaller screen coming from the LG G3.
  • I wanted a 1080 (401 ppi vs 326 ppi) display.
  • I wanted the optical image stabilization.
  • Larger battery – 2915 mAh vs 1810 mAh.
  • Landscape mode!

landscape mode

Landscape mode

The size itself isn’t that bad. I’ve always preferred larger phones, as long as it fits my pocket. I didn’t mind. Except for the iPhone 5S, the last few phones I’ve had have been generally big during its release.

  • HTC Sensation 4G – 4.3”
  • Samsung Nexus – 4.65”
  • Samsung Note 2 – 5.5”
  • Apple 5S – 4”
  • LG G3 – 5.5”

For the a over 3 years now, I’ve been using smart phones that have larger than 4” display. So it’s nothing new. I enjoy the larger screen. I spend more time digesting content on my phone, than actually making phone calls. If I do make phone calls, I usually use a bluetooth headset. Also, this phone is thin. I did buy a case that bulked it up again but I’m more concerned about protecting the phone and keeping it in good, functioning conditions. I’ve seen too many iPhones with cracked screens.

iphone 6 plus without case

iPhone 6 Plus before I installed the case.

iphone 6 plus with case

iPhone 6 Plus after I installed the case.

Same old camera?

Many may think it’s the same 8MP camera. Many also believe that the higher the megapixel, the better. It’s true to an extent. Even though the 5S, 6, and 6 Plus have 8MP camera, the 6 Plus is the only one with optical image stabilization (OIS). This enables the phone for faster focusing and less chances to have blurry photos. On top of that, it’s hardware, not software. With OIS, low lit photos come out better. We were in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. I had my LG G3 (13MP) and Abby had her iPhone 6 Plus (8MP). We took some photos at night and the experience and results were far better with the 6 Plus over the G3. This was one huge reason why I left Android once again. Her iPhone 6 Plus focused a lot quicker and the noise (ISO level) weren’t as apparent as the G3 photos. I’ve always been impressed with the iPhone’s photo taking capability and now this solidifies it even more. Unless you plan on printing poster size photos, 8MP is plenty specially on an iPhone. Besides, you’d want to use a camera not a camera phone for that.

Video recording

The iPhone, from my experience, has always given me great results with taking video. It’s amazing that a phone can do such good quality. What I’m excited about is the addition of slow motion video capture. It can capture up to 240fps. I’ve had such a great time with it and I find myself shooting videos I don’t normally do in slow motion.

iOS 8.1.2

At the time of writing this, I’m currently using iOS 8.1.2. It’s been stable compared to the horror stories I’ve read online with iOS 8. I guess they worked out a lot of the major bugs now. I did notice a little lag when waking it up after not using it for awhile. The Reachability (one-handed mode) is a nice touch, though I haven’t used it yet. You access it by double-pressing the home button. It moves the screen to the bottom half of the phone so that you can navigate around the phone with one hand.

reachability

Reachability helps with the bigger iPhone.

Siri

I have noticed Siri being more sensitive. I find myself repeating commands less. The text also appears as you are giving it commands. Another new feature found in iOS 8 is the ability to access Siri by saying “Hey Siri” while it’s plugged in. It doesn’t matter if the screen is off or on. Neat feature that Google has had but now is on iPhones. So far I’ve had mixed experiences. It’s a very quick way to set alarms and reminders accross the room. I just can’t seem to get it to work after successfully doing the first command.

Conclusion

I’ve had the iPhone 6 Plus for a few months now and have been happy with it. Going for the larger capacity is a great decision but cost a lot. The investment is worth it I may have to consider purchasing iCloud. I have been taking more photos and videos and the free 5GB is nearing capacity. Starting at $.99 per month, it seems like a good deal. I could also use Google+ app and store it in my Google account or use Amazon (free storage for Prime members). But for the price, the integration is cleaner.

I have noticed some lag when turning on my phone from standby. Also, with the Verizon network, you still can’t be on a call and browse the internet.

no talk and surf

No talk and surf…

You can enable VoLTE (Voice over LTE) which supposedly allows talk and surf. You can enable it in your settings.

enable VoLTE

Enable VoLTE in your settings.

I have found it to not be available in many areas yet. I hope the coverage improves. It really limits the smart phone’s capability. This didn’t happen when I was using an Android powered phone on the Verizon network. I have also heard from iPhone users with AT&T and T-Mobile that they don’t experience as of late.

If you’re curious about the case, I got it from Amazon. It’s by Cineyo. It protects well and has a kickstand. It’s a nice case but it does make the phone bigger than it already is. You can get it fromhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00QH2D0J8. It comes with a cheap screen protector that does what it’s supposed to do (I’ve had better – has bubbles) and a stylus (I don’t use it).

case with kickstand

My case with a kickstand. It makes the phone bigger than it already is.

Podcast Plans

I’ve been using Youtube to post various video content for several years now. Although I enjoy doing it, I just can’t find enough time to produce content. In the past, I have attempted numerous times to create audio podcast content. I do one or two and never go back to it for a while. I’m planning to try again with the hopes of sticking to the platform.

The plan is to have the podcast be supplementary to this blog. I’d like to do a weekly episode. If content and time allows it, I may do more than once a week. Many of the content I follow on the internet unfortunately uses platform that is not compatible with the iOS environment. For instance, I subscribe to many Youtube shows. I wish there was a way to download episodes for offline viewing just like how podcasts in iTunes have that capability. The reason for offline viewing is to conserve my bandwidth because of the bandwidth caps that service providers place on their customers.

The podcast will primarily be in audio format. I may have some video as well. I will try to integrate it with iTunes so that fellow iOS users won’t be left out. I will also create RSS feeds so that other platforms will be able to get automation enabled.

Like this blog, it exist for fun and it’s a way for me to share. If you have ideas or would like to join me, that would be great. I’d like to build a community of liked interests. Please stay tuned for future episodes. I’d love to get some feedback as well. I hope to get some episodes done during the next few weeks.

podcast

Let’s podcast!

Going back to iOS

In just three months of using Android from iOS, I couldn’t wait to go back to iOS. I’ve been getting a lot of “I told you so” from friends because I went back to Android a few months ago and now I’m back to iOS. Like I said, I am a curious person and from time to time I bounce between the two to see what I’m missing. But my Android experience this time was a bit different. You can read about my LG G3 review here.

First of I’d like to address the limitations that iOS had that made me switch to Android and the solutions I came up with.

  • The bandwidth caps that most cell phone providers give their customers are horrible and doesn’t promote the use of the internet – unless you pay additional cost. I came up with a way to download content locally on to my device before leaving home so that I can access them when away without impacting my bandwidth limitation. In iOS, you are restricted to only using iTunes. It’s a pain and it will only work on one computer – and I use at least two on a daily basis. Solution: Currently we are using 4GB shared between two phones. We easily hit that every month. For $10 more per month, we can increase it to 6GB. Rather than add to an already expensive bill, we chose to watch our use. Recently, Verizon had updated their bandwidth tiers. Instead of increasing our cap by 2GB for an additional $10 per month, they increased it to a total of 10GB. For the situation, I guess this is a reasonable solution and we'll be considering it. I'd rather have unlimited bandwidth but that's another story.
  • For a user like myself, 16GB is no longer ideal. It is very expensive to purchase a larger capacity iPhone.Solution: Starting with the iPhone 6, Apple no longer has a 32GB model. It is now 16GB then it jumps to 64GB. I STFU, ate the additional cost, and got a device that fits my storage needs, haha. If it's truly an important, you have to shell out money.
  • Google Now actually bothered me more than I thought it would. I got mixed feelings using it. Sometimes it was helpful, other times it was creepy.
  • Verizon network still won’t allow data consumption while on the phone, unless you use VoLTE.
  • Multitasking is still limited in iOS, if not nonexistent.
  • Transferring files between devices is still limited. Although with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, you can useContinuity and Air Drop. Unfortunately, it’s only compatible with devices that have bluetooth 4.0 (2012 or newer – my Macbook Pro is late 2011). I can swap out the bluetooth card out of my MBP. The part cost around $70 but I’ll see if it’s worth doing. Some of the capabilities are still there like Messages integration, answering phone calls – those kinds of things.

I’m going to miss having a smart watch. It’s not perfect but it had the “cool” factor for me. Plus I still catch myself checking my regular watch whenever I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I gotten used to it. At this time, I don’t think I’ll be in line or pre-ordering the Apple Watch. Smart watches are great but for the price, it doesn’t do enough. I’ve already sold my Moto 360 so that’s a good thing. I returned the Nexus 9. All that’s left is to sell myLG G3 and I won’t have any Android powered device. I’ll still have a Chromebook though.

Stay tuned. I will have a review of the iPhone 6 Plus that I just picked up.

iPhone 6 Plus VS LG G3

The iPhone 6 Plus will be replacing my LG G3 as my daily driver.

Amazon FireTV Stick

So I recently got an Amazon FireTV Stick. Actually, I got a few of them. Amazon had a really good deal for Prime members, 50% off for preordering it. My whole goal is to find the most flexible, compatible, and inexpensive solution to use throughout every television in the house. This might be it.

Upon opening the box, you will find the device, a micro USB cable, and AC adapter. If the USB port on your TV is powerful enough to provide power to the FireTV Stick, you don’t need to use the AC adapter. If you go this route, you will see a warning that it is recommended to use the AC adapter so that it’s always on and receive updates.

The first time I started up the device (USB powered), I ran into a few problems. It wanted me to log in using my Amazon account but it kept rejecting my credentials. I contacted Amazon support for FireTV Stick. I was only on hold for under five minutes. It turns out, the device needed to be updated. There are some bugs associated with my issue but since it wasn’t using the AC adapter, it didn’t install any updates, even though it checked for updates prior to me entering my Amazon account credentials. So I unplugged everything for a minute and used the AC adapter. This time, it found updates and installed it. After it restarted, I was able to log in with my account.

When you first log in and turn on your Amazon FireTV Stick, it will play an introduction video. You cannot skip the video. It’s kind of annoying and I hope there’s an update that will allow you to skip it in the future.

With kids in the house and having them “accidentally” purchasing apps on our smart phones, I decided to use the parental controls feature. Enabling this, you will need to enter the five digit code set in your Amazon instant video account. If you forgot the pin, you can visit http://amazon.com/PIN and reset it. This pin will be used throughout the environment from viewing content to installing apps – even if it’s free. One of the surprising apps it wanted me to enter a pin is the NBA Gamete app. I guess it’s because of the app rating system.

The only thing you’re able to do is watch off Amazon’s streaming service. For Amazon Prime members, you will be able to access the library included with the service. You can also rent and purchase digital content off Amazon. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, the FireTV Stick comes with 30 days trial. You can also use other providers like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Youtube, Showtime Anytime, and others. I was surprised and disappointed to not find HBO Go. Unsurprisingly, you will not find any Google Play services. For local network content there isPlex support as well. I haven’t tried this yet since I haven’t fully moved to Plex. Many of my media is still usingXBMC (now Kodi). I’ve had issues with Plex transcoding many of my files. These services come in a form of apps. Just install from the list. They should be free. Hopefully, they will add support for HBO Go in the future. I won’t hold my breath on Google Play services – it would be great though.

One thing I noticed is the keyboard layout. When you first turn on the device and enter your Amazon credentials, it is using a keyboard where the keys are in alphabetical order. But when entering account credentials within apps, it will use QWERTY. It’s a minor thing that many may not even notice, but I wanted to bring it up. It may change in future updates if Amazon cared about consistency.

Also, I would review the default settings. Here’s a couple of things to check out.

  • By default “Collect App Usage Data” is on. You can change it under Settings > Applications.
  • In-App purchases are on. You can change it under Settings > Applications > Appstore.
  • The software version during this post is 54.1.0.1.

Here is a list of why the Amazon FireTV Stick has an advatage over Google Chromecast.

  • No need to look for a device to stream from. This is great considering it supports HBO Go. It’s even more flexible with the Chrome browser on your computer since it can stream anything that can be played within the browser. I just didn’t like how unnatural it is. I prefer to have a device that’s a bit more capable without being dependent on another device.
  • The remote control for the FireTV Stick gives it a more natural feeling.
  • It is slightly more expensive but hardware is slightly better (wifi antenna, cpu, and ram). Which is why it is not a streaming device and can work on its own.

CNET has a quick comparison between the Google Chromecast, Amazon FireTV Stick, and Roku Streaming Stick. It also has a nice chart outlining the available service support.

For streaming content at home, I have an Apple TV2, a couple of Google Chromecast devices, a few Amazon FireTV Stick devices, an Amazon FireTV, and a Roku2 XD. I also have a media server running via DLNA. I have yet to find the perfect platform where it has all the services. I also haven’t figure out if I were to go pure digital, which service provider should I buy digital content from. For instance, if I wanted to purchase a license for a movie, should I buy from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play? It’s unfortunate that consumers have to play this game – which is why I haven’t moved toward purchasing digital copies of media yet. I still go the store and buy discs. I am glad that Ultraviolet digital copies come with many movies and hopefully that content is accessible outside of a computer.

With the smaller form factor like we see with the FireTV Stick and its lower price tag, I don’t see why you shouldn’t have at least 1 of the 3 (Google, Amazon, Roku) devices to increase accessibility at home. It is somewhat inconvenient but it increases assurance of compatibility.

DSC08120

FireTV Stick Box
DSC08121

FireTV Stick and remote control
DSC08122

Box contents
DSC08123

Chromecast next FireTV Stick

Spotify VS Google Play Music

I’ve been using Spotify for quite some time now. Checking my receipts, it looks like October 2011. So I’ve been a subscriber for over 3 years now. Overall it’s been a great service. For a monthly fee $9.99, I’m able to stream music on my computers and mobile devices. I can even use the service while overseas without using a VPN service. This was one of the reasons I didn’t try Google Music Play when it was released. I could’ve tried it out and qualify for the lower monthly rate of $7.99 and save $2 per month. Doesn’t sound that much but that would be $24 per year, and for the 3 years I’ve used online music subscription, I would’ve saved $72. I don’t see going back to buying CDs. I think being able to stream music online is a great service. Even with the stupid bandwidth caps ISP hits their customers and inconsistent coverage, you can always download a local copy of playlists and albums.

Spotify is not a perfect service. I don’t think such a thing exist. I’ve noticed songs I wanted to listen are not available. Some songs are available but it’s the clean version. It’s understandable. But here are some things that they could fix.

  1. The mobile app used to allow users the ability to store local/downloaded copies of playlists and albums in a location they prefer. This is beneficial for non-iOS users (because Apple devices do not have external storage options) to be able to use external storage devices for storage. Imaging you have an 8GB or 16GB device and it’s filling up. You would be able to store Spotify media onto larger external storage. Unfortunately, as of November 2014, this is no longer an option.
  2. The radio station is a nice feature. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change. What I mean is, if the station contains 20 tracks, that’s all you get. It doesn’t try to find more music that match the station genre. I guess it is designed that way, because that’s how radio works, same songs over and over.
  3. Spotify continues to ask if I want to follow friends. I don’t really care what they’re listening to. I want to listen to my stuff. Enough already!
  4. On Android, the song details are not displayed in my car’s display. I’m not sure if Google is not allowing 3rd party apps this feature or Spotify devs got lazy on the Android version. When using iOS, the song details display just fine.
spotify vs google

Spotify VS Google

Recently, Google is giving out 90 day trial for their Google Play Music service. On top of that, you get theYouTube Music Key beta. Perfect time to check out the service. For almost a week I’ve been using it and have been impressed. Just like Spotify, the library isn’t complete but I understood that going in. But here are the things that stood out so far.

  1. When you first use the app, it will ask you to select from a list of artists that you like listening to. I believe this is how they can match you with songs for random play or suggestions. I feel this is much better than Spotify.
  2. The I’m feeling lucky radio is great. Unlike Spotify, it truly does play random songs based on your history and the answers from the questions I metioned above. On top of that, it’s always different songs.
  3. The app has a smarter AI. This morning, it greeted me with suggestions for just waking up. Selecting it will take you to another menu that’s based on genre and other things. I pick one and was amazed at how less I used the skip button. As a matter of fact, it’s been over 30 minutes (I’m listening to it now while typing this post) and I’ve yet to hit the skip button. If this was Spotify, I would already hit the skip button a few times. Either it was a song I didn’t want to listen to at this time or I’ve already heard the song recently. You can refresh the station and it’ll load music in a different order. It does display how many times you’ve listened to the music. So I noticed some songs I’ve already played. But it just feels that it’s doing a better job with random selections than Spotify.
  4. According to this list https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/2843119, I’m still not able to use Google Play Music in Philippines… without a VPN – as of November 2014. Hopefully, they update this list and include it.
  5. Youtube Music Key is a great service and you get it at no additional cost. Not only do you get ad-free browsing but there is offline playback capability. But it’s only for the music side of Youtube. I was hoping that it was applied throughout Youtube. I’ve notice a huge increase in the frequency of ads when watching videos.
  6. It has a labs section where you can play with different plugins. Spotify has plugins as well. It’s neither an advantage or disadvantage but I wanted to mention it here. I haven’t played with it much to determine which is better or which fits my listening style better.

In conclusion, I’m probably going to cancel my Spotify service and replace it with Google Play Music. It’s for the same price, but for me it has a smarter AI, better search, and Youtube Music Key service. Being on Android, using Google service could have advantages as well, like getting new features earllier.

HTC Nexus 9

Best Buy had a promotion where they buy back old tablets and give an additional discount if you bought the new Nexus 9. I had the 1st gen Nexus 7 from 2012. It was a great tablet. It ran the latest version of Android and it supported multiple users. Sadly, it started to run slower and slower. So I took advantage of the promotion and parted ways with my old Nexus 7.

nexus 7

Google Nexus 7 1st Gen 2012

The details of the promotion are as follows. I traded in my 16GB Nexus 7 and was able to get $50 for it. If I were to sell it on eBay, the average value is around $80. If you factor in shipping and fees from eBay and PayPal, I’m floating around $50 anyway. So I chose to go the Best Buy route and not have any headaches. With purchasing a Nexus 9, I would get an additional $50 for the trade-in totalling $100. Not a bad deal.

So The 16GB version of the Nexus 9 retails for $299, with the trade-in I would only have to add $200 plus tax. Not bad but the Best Buy I went to sold out. They spent over an hour trying to get one for me but they couldn’t and I’ve already done the trade. The manager was very accomodating and was willing to extend the deal beyond the expiration just in case they didn’t get one in time. I was also given an additional $50 off if I chose to get the 32GB ($479).

After a few days, Best Buy’s website finally had some in stock. I ended up getting the 32GB White model and paid full price. I then went back to the store and the manager applied all the discounts. I pretty much paid $30 more than the 16GB version – well that’s including the trade-in of my old Nexus. Enough back story, how is it so far?

Before we get into that, here’s a pic of the box. It’s white and it definitely stands out if you’re in the store checking out boxes of tables. It has a large 9 in the front.

nexus 9

White box with a large 9

Inside you’ll find the usual, device, charger, and documents that no one really pays attention to. Powering it on, I had 53% battery life so I was able to play with it before charging it up. That micro USB plug is just a great, standard port for non-iOS devices.

nexus 9 contents

Google Nexus 9 contents inside the box

Hardware

First off, this tablet is powered by nVidia’s Tegra K1 processor. Not only is it 64bit, but it’s a dual-core running at 2.3 GHz. Accompanying the processor is 2GB of ram with 192-core Keppler GPU.

Software

One of the biggest benefit buying a Nexus is being able to have access to the latest Android version. Out of the box, you will have Android 5.0 aka Lollipop. Upon opening the tablet, I was met with an update.

software update

Update already

I guess it’s a good sign of support. Lollipop is a great OS and it runs smooth. I did run into some weird lag after my device was off for about a day. After minute, everything seemed normal again.

Material design is nice. All of the Google apps are running it. It takes some getting used to but I can feel a bit more responsiveness from navigating around the app – it could be the processor, Android runtime, or a combination of all. One of my favorites is the recent app display.

recent app

Recent apps

I can flick up and down and the response is great, it’s buttery smooth. What I’ve noticed in many different reviews for the Nexus 6 and 9 is that they first start talking about the hardware but for the most part, they end up talking about Lollipop. And that’s what I end up doing.

Basically, the hardware is all the same improvements. It’s usually faster and lighter. But the Lollipop experience has been a breath of fresh air. Everything just feels right. It reminds me of being on my iPad Air and running iOS 7.1.2 (I haven’t played much with iOS 8). I think Google did a great job with Android Lollipop. I hope my LG G3 will get the update.

One last thing to mention. I added my Motorola 360 watch as a trusted bluetooth device so that it won’t ask me to unlock, but it keeps disconnecting. It’s primarily connected to my phone and/or it can only connect to one device at a time. I will try connecting the Nexus with my G3 and see if I can get that to work.

LG Tone HBS 730

For many years, I’ve been using Apple’s earpods regardless of the phone I’m using. Why? Because they are the best that I’ve used when I just need a plain headset for music and phone functionality. One of the key features it can do is it’s tangle-free, at least the newer ones are. They even survived a trip to the washing machine.

Recently AT&T had a promotion that enabled me to get a pair of LG Tone+ HBS-730 bluetooth stereo headset for the cost of a pair of Apple earpods – $30. I’ve seen many people use these, great reviews online, so I figured it’s worth taking a look at. I’ve never been a fan of bluetooth headsets for three reasons:

  1. It was another device that I had to charge.
  2. Previous devices I looked into suffered intermittent connections.
  3. Price.
hbs-730

front
hbs-730

back
hbs-730

The front flap is held with a magnet and shows the functionality of the buttons.

So what’s in the box?

  • The HBS-730 headset.
  • Micro USB cable for charging. I just love how most non-Apple devices use micro USB cables.
  • USB to AC wall adapter.
  • 3 different sized earbuds. 2 are in the bag and 1 on the headset.
  • The usual paperwork.
hbs-730

contents

The headset is worn around your neck. The earbuds are held in place by magnets. Just pull them out and pop them in your ear. They are pretty comfortable.

The headset can be easily paired to multiple devices. I currently have them paired to my Macbook Pro, Mac Pro, and LG G3. When you turn on the device, you will hear an audible notification power on and it will tell you the current battery level. Battery life is good. I’d say I use it about 3 hours each day on average and don’t need to recharge for about 3 days – with battery still left over.

The sound quality is great for my taste both music and phone conversation. My way of adjusting noise cancellation is by shoving the ear buds in and out of my ear. When fully inserted in my ear, it’s nearly impossible to hear anything else.

What I have noticed though is there some interference that occurs during music playback. At first I thought it was because my phone is in my pocket and the interference is caused by a line of sight issue with the bluetooth connection. I tried the playback with the phone on the table, but I still experience the interference. To somewhat describe it, it sounds like lowering the volume 3-5 levels then coming back up – but it happens in under a second. It happens frequent but not enough to where it’s bothersome. It is noticeable.

I really like the headset but I feel it’s not worth its regular price for the interference I’ve been experience. Other than that, it’s a great device. If you can get a good deal, I’d recommend getting one.

Markdown Here

Ever since I discovered Markdown, I’ve been finding ways to use it aside from Jekyll. It’s made writing faster and simpler for me. I recently discover a browser extension (available in most browsers) called Markdown Here. With the extension installed, you can use Markdown syntax to write your emails in Gmail (using your browser) and it will apply formats to your text.

I found out about the extension while looking for an alternative to OSX’s native Mail app. It’s been preventing my Macbook Pro from shutting down. I found out about Postbox and Markdown Here was one of the plugins available for it. I followed the link and read more.

If you’re curious about Markdown, you can visit http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/syntax. It’s not for everyone and it does take some time getting used to. But for me, I save a considerable amount of time when using it.

Switched From WordPress to Jekyll

We’ve been using WordPress since this blog was started back in 2006. There have been many great features that were implemented. But as more features were added, I started to notice that it took longer and longer for me to create a post. Pages started to take longer and longer to load as well. Blogging began to become more work than something I did on the side and enjoyed. There were great themes out there but to have it work that way I want it to took longer than expected and I ended up just staying with the previous theme. I could create my own but I just couldn’t work inside WordPress. The code is just a mess to me. These are just some of the reasons why I wanted to look elsewhere for a blogging platform.

Welcome Jekyll and the Markdown syntax. Jekyll is a static site generator written in Ruby. It is cross-platform compatible and for me, it makes blogging fun again. Markdown is the syntax used to create content. If you’re familiar with Wikis and their syntax, it’s fairly similar. Liquid handles the layout/template engine. You can check out a great cheat sheet at https://github.com/Shopify/liquid/wiki/Liquid-for-Designers.

So what does Jekyll give me that WordPress doesn’t?

  • Increase is speed loading. Jekyll compiles the content to HTML. No need to query a database and parse content. I also started to use a CDN for assets and images. I could have used CDN for images with WordPress but to do a bit more work to implement CDN for assets. I could use plugins but that adds more overhead. I could easily update the template file but every time there’s an update, don’t forget to add it again or it will be overwritten.
  • I can easily change the layout of the blog with a lower learning curve for Jekyll and Liquid. Aside from that, it’s just regular HTML and CSS.
  • No database means not having to manage or worry about a database. This also means I can host the blog on any platform and with low requirements. You can get it hosted for free at GitHub or even Amazon S3.
  • Less distractions while creating content. The WYSIWYG for WordPress is nice and helpful but there aren’t any shortcuts. For instance, if I had to bold, insert hyperlink, create a list, etc. I have to stop typing, use my mouse and click on some menus, and pick what I want it to do. With Markdown, there is no need to take your hands off the keyboard and use a mouse for the menus, you can use the Markdown syntax and continue typing. It does take some time getting used to but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature like shortcuts within Microsoft Word. Some examples are using an asterisk (*) with two spaces after it creates a list; surrounding textext with one asterisk will italicize; surrounding text with two asterisks willbold; the number of pound signs wrapped around a text will determine its heading value. There’s many more and for me that’s very convenient.

It sounds all good, but is there a down side? Yes there are a few I ran into but it outweighs the advantages.

  • It’s not a fit for everyone. You will lose the WYSIWYG feature. I’m fairly comfortable with the platform because I have a good amount of experience with technology and can have an easier time learning it. My wife on the other hand is not technical and loves how she can just log in and post. To help her, I have created a template on Google Drive that asks for title, date, category, tag(s). She can then freely write her content and with all the formatting she wants. I can easily translate that to Markdown. Any images she wants can be attached to the document in Drive and I’ll upload them to our CDN. Seems like more work but it’s a small price to pay.
  • There is no app so I can’t post from a mobile device. I had the capability but never used it so no big deal.

Other than spending time converting posts from WordPress to Markdown – I know there’s a converter but I wanted to do it manually to fix broken links and do some housecleaning, I had to figure out how to replicate features I was using with WordPress and plugins.

  • Comments: WordPress has a built-in commenting system. It does this easily since there is a database. To achieve this, you can look at third party services such as Disqus, Livefyre, and Facebook comments. You can even set it up and make it a part of Jekyll. Some people have comments emailed to them to moderate. Once approved, it is added to the content and pushed up with the site. I chose to go with Disqus.
  • Search: There are many ways to implement a search functionality with Jekyll. A common way is to generate a JSON file and use JavaScript to search through it. You can also use Google Custom Search Engine.
  • At one point on another, I may have implemented some sort of email subscription feature where you provide your email and it will send a notification when new article is published. You can use RSS for that without providing your email address. Just look for the symbol and click it. You can use your browser to subscribe or other RSS client. It will notify you of new articles similar to how you get emails.

That’s pretty much it with Jekyll. I’m excited to use it and we’ll continue to provide more content.

We will be moving to a new platform

I am currently migrating posts over to a new platform and testing out how to integrate it with existing content. One of the difficult tasks, aside from copying posts over, is handling the comments in the new system. I will be trying out Disqus and importing the existing comments to that system. I’ve tried it once before, a few years ago but quickly removed it. I guess I wasn’t ready for such a move. But now I will be spending more time with testing. I feel this is a much better way of handling comments, specially posts that have many comments.

Please be patient during the testing and migration. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.