The Good Bits – September 8

A few interesting articles/posts I have come across recently and wanted to share…

Two Months with a Tesla – This is an awesome write-up from Andrew Connell about his experience with his new Tesla S 85D.  Like him, I have always been interested in Tesla and the cars they are producing.  They are poised to radically change the automobile industry, in a good and lasting way.  For years though, that change has felt like it is a long way off, as the appetite for electric cars has languished and the infrastructure was sorely lacking.  Now, however, based on Andrew’s account, the future is here and it is exciting!

Code Watch: The first four habits of highly employable developers – One of the key goals in my professional life is to stay in tune with new technologies and new methods of software development.  That doesn’t always mean using the latest and greatest, but it does mean knowing about them and letting them influence my current projects in the right ways.  This article helps me appreciate that not only is this a balanced way of looking at things, but it will help me be employable if and when I am looking for another opportunity.

API Testing with Telerik Fiddler – I’ve been using Fiddler for years to debug websites and external APIs.  But this post opened my eyes to a feature I didn’t know existed: the ability to test my own APIs from within Fiddler itself.  You can load a Test List containing all the pertinent details of each request, and then setup Validators to compare the actual results against expected results.  I look forward to utilizing this feature with my own APIs to improve their reliability and performance.

Open in IE Version 1.5

Today marks the release of an updated version of my Open in IE add-on for Firefox.  This add-on is utilized by over 10,000 people on a daily basis to open certain sites in Internet Explorer that don’t work correctly in Firefox.  I originally developed this to address my own frustrations, but I am thrilled to see that so many other people have benefited from my work.

Looking Back

This update fixes a couple nagging bugs which I had received feedback about.  But it also marks a major change in the architecture of the add-on.  Prior versions were XUL-based, meaning they contained a mix of XML and JavaScript to modify the browser chrome—adding menu items, a toolbar button, and an options window—and handle click events.  With that architecture, the functionality was spread over several different files and folders, some XML, some JavaScript.  Even for me as the lone developer, it was a confusing mess every time I revisited it to make updates.  From the user perspective, the main drawback of this approach was that each install or update required you to restart the browser in order to see the new functionality.

Today

The new version is what Mozilla calls a “bootstrapped” extension.  With the new add-on architecture, the user does not need to restart the browser after installing or updating the add-on.  It is immediately incorporated into the browser’s UI and functionality.  But behind the scenes, in the code, the changes are radical.  Radical, but definitely better!  All the same functionality was accomplished with just two JavaScript files and a handful of icons.  An SDK provided by Mozilla made the transition as painless as possible, with command-line tools for creating the files, loading the add-on for testing in the browser, and packaging everything up for deploying to the add-on site.  A future blog post will detail the steps involved in this transition.

Also, I’m happy to announce that the add-on is officially open source!  While you have always been able to download the xpi file and open it up to see what’s inside, I have now posted the source code to GitHub.  That means you can browse the code yourself and see how it works.  Also, if there is a specific feature that you would like to see in this add-on, you can code it yourself and create a pull request to get it incorporated in the released version.  Enjoy!

Looking Ahead

With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft is retiring Internet Explorer and replacing it with a new browser named ‘Edge’.  The Open in IE add-on can be made to target Edge by changing the path to IE in the options window.  But to make life easier, and to keep the statistics separate, I will be publishing a new add-on that targets Edge by default.  Look for this new release around the time of the Windows 10 release.