Keeping up with technology

It can sometimes be frightening how quickly the IT world changes. Almost every week something is released that promises to be the “next big thing” that will “revolutionise the way we develop applications”. A lot of my colleagues populate their “learn next” list by reading Twitter, but personally this approach doesn’t work for me as I don’t scroll through my feed very often, and when I do I’m not usually in a good place to start reading more about a new technology and delving into a “Hello World”.

Instead, a colleague recommended the ThoughtWorks Technology Radar. It’s updated about twice and year and suggests Techniques, Tools, Platforms and Languages & Frameworks to look into.

For me it was quite intimidating at first when I realised I didn’t recognise most of the things on the list, but even just finding out what each thing is can be extremely helpful when solving everyday IT problems. Not only that, but it solves the difficult problem of knowing which horses to back. There simply isn’t time to learn about every new bell and whistle on the market, but the Technology Radar helps by suggesting which tools to trial.

Thanks ThoughtWorks!

Essential FireFox add-ons for web-developers

Although Chrome seems to be winning the browser wars these days, I still like to develop against Firefox first and then tweak/hack CSS for compatibility with other browsers afterwards. I do this because I believe that Firefox most closely adheres to the HTML and CSS standards when it renders sites. I’m pretty sure that this belief used to be true, but I’m not certain if it’s technically correct today. However, as an approach it still seems to work pretty well. I’d be interested to hear your views on this.

I thus know more about Firefox add-ons than add-ons for other browsers. Here is my list of essential Firefox add-ons, which I’ll keep up-to-date:


Totally essential for web-developers. Does pretty much everything you’ll ever need, from on-the-fly HTML and CSS tweaks, to JavaScript debugging, to monitoring network calls and cookies, and much, much more.

Web Developer by Chris Pederick

If you do find something that Firebug doesn’t do, there’s a fair chance that Chris Pederick has thought of it and included it in his web-developer toolbar. Worth getting alone because it makes it ridiculously easy to enable/disable JavaScript and CSS without having to remember where the options are hiding in the standard Firefox options. It does some other neat things too though, like highlighting elements of certain kind and showing outlines, which are invaluable if you want to get everything to line up nicely.


Not really a developer tool, but a great tool for recording and replaying macros in Firefox. I tend to use it to log in to sites that have laborious access procedures or have auto-complete disabled.

User Agent Switcher

Another one from Chris Pederick, and very useful for testing out different user agents with your code. When used in conjunction with the re-size feature in the Web Developer toolbar mentioned above, you can get your sites in a pretty good state to work on mobile devices, before testing on the devices themselves.

SAML Tracer

Useful when working with SAML based single-sign on solutions, which I’ve been doing lately with ADFS.

That’s all for now folks!