For many of us, December is a natural time to reflect on the year, and 2016 has provided plenty to ponder. While there are arguably more important things I should be writing about, I’d rather provide a brief respite from the serious issues facing the world.
In that spirit, here are a few of my favorite things.
1. Copy as cURL
Regardless of how complex a web app is, it’s still just HTTP requests and responses underneath it all. I used to use
telnet to debug stuff, but for things like SSL or edge cases that require a particular cookie to trigger, I find
curl to be much more useful, particularly with the “Copy as cURL” option in Firefox and Chrome.
The nice thing about this is that it’s the exact request your browser sent, and it helps you test one change at a time to pinpoint a problem. It can also help you make a bug reproducible, which might be important if you discovered it, but someone else needs to fix it.
I’ve used several of their products, and while all are useful, WonderVPN is my favorite. You don’t have access to the entire network, but you do get a few choices of locations, including the US, UK, and Canada.
I still believe in RSS! In fact, I still read my own personal aggregator, Planet Chris, almost every day. In 2017, I hope to finally get back on the horse and start blogging regularly again. To those of you who never stopped, thank you.
4. Video Calls
I collaborate with a lot of people remotely, including colleagues, friends, clients, and business partners. For calls, nothing beats video. Here are the ones I use most:
- Google Hangouts
- As long as you’re signed into a Google account, you can start a hangout whenever you want. Share the link with anyone you want to join. You can also add someone via phone, which is nice.
- If you have a lot of participants, or you just want to be kinder to your processor and battery, Zoom is a great option.
- Join.me admittedly strays into the enterprise realm, but for good reason. There are dial-in numbers for almost every country, and the app is pretty good for those of us who prefer computers.
5. Using the Clipboard from the Command Line
I had never used
pbpaste until I read about them on Sean’s blog, and he takes things one step further by showing you how to use them on remote servers.
Even locally, using the clipboard from the command line is incredibly useful. As the names imply,
pbcopy copies to your clipboard, and
pbpaste pastes from your clipboard.
Until I made the switch, I thought of AWS as something to consider for large-scale needs, not a simple blog. Now, I expect I’ll never run my own server again (or beg my way onto a friend’s), much like I’d never consider hosting my own email. Let someone else do it; you’ll find plenty of other things to fill your time with.
Google Cloud Platform looks like an interesting alternative, too.
7. Google Docs and Google Sheets
I’ve done everything from collaborate on an email to manage a company’s finances with Google Docs and Google Sheets. I even organize my my backpacking gear in Google Sheets. Being able to easily collaborate and share is a big plus.
8. Amazon Echo
I’ve had the Echo since the pilot in early 2015, and I only bought it because it was cheap. I didn’t expect to be impressed, but I was.
It sits on my kitchen counter, and although we only use it for simple things, we use it every day. Having someone (Alexa is a real person, right?) always available to tell you the time or the weather, set a timer, play music, or turn the lights on is really handy. The voice recognition is better than you’d expect if you’re only familiar with Siri.
Ever need to let a site send you an email, but dread the long-term relationship (and spam) you’re signing up for by giving away your email address? That’s exactly where Mailinator thrives. It’s free, public email that lets you check any inbox. Just use something like firstname.lastname@example.org as your email address, then check it anytime.
Recordit is a nifty little tool that lets you record a quick screencast and share it as an animated GIF. It’s a really convenient way to demonstrate something to someone, whether it’s how to reproduce a bug or how to navigate a poorly-designed UI.