This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Develop in the Cloud, sponsored by AT&T. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Develop in the Cloud site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

Friday Four for 19 October

Four hand-curated items developers will find compelling.

In this edition of Friday Four, I hand-select four topics from around the Net that developers must know about this week.


Google's data centers
The search leader took the wraps off of its data centers, everything about which had been treated as a deep black secret until this week. The company made public a sprawling photo gallery and a Street View tour of a data center in Lenoir, NC. (The Twisted Sifter ran a tasteful selection of Google's data-center porn.) Wired reporter Steven Levy got a close look at Google's North Carolina facility.

Levy notes that until this week "only critical employees have been permitted even a peek inside" any Google data center. Providing a contrast to this secretiveness, Face­book has been open to the point of open-sourcing its data-center designs, from the building right down to the servers' transformers. Glenn Fleishman, one of The Economist's "Babbage" writers, described a visit to Facebook's Prineville, OR facility more than a year ago.

A developer's ultimate Mac OS X tool list
Justin Williams, a high-profile independent developer, has released the fourth annual iteration of his ultimate tool list for developers and power users whose environment is based on Mac OS X. (Williams credits as his inspiration the equivalent tool list for Windows, pioneered by Scott Hanselman.) The basics for Williams: a 15" Retina MacBook Pro with a 512GB SSD and 8GB of RAM; a Das Keyboard; and Sublime Text 2 as his editor of choice. I learned here about a number of utilities and tools I will be checking out, including Cloak (quick VPN), Charles (traffic sniffing), and Hues (color picking).

Progressive enhancement
This is an approach to Web and interaction design that is the philosophical antithesis of the idea of "graceful degradation." Progressive enhancement emphasizes using Web technologies in a layered fashion to allow everyone to access the basic content and functionality of a Webpage, while also providing an enhanced version of the page to those with access to a more advanced browser or greater bandwidth. Tech Republic has an overview of PE that includes the term's provenance -- it was coined in 2003 by Steve Champeon, and explored in 2008 by Aaron Gustafson. Coming up to the present, .NET Magazine chose progressive enhancement as #1 on its list of Top Web Design Trends for 2012 (responsive design was #2).

Google Ngram Viewer 2.0
An offshoot of Google's book digitization program, the Ngram Viewer has had a 2.0 release. This tool lets you compare the frequency of word use across time based on millions of scanned books. Its developers assumed at first that it would be of interest primarily to linguists and other sociologically oriented researchers; they were surprised when the Ngram Viewer became a low-level hit. The viewer's use in our world is somewhat circumscribed by the 2008 cutoff date for the corpus; but it can still turn up items of interest. For example, here are mentions of Microsoft, Apple, and Google from 1995 through the end date. And here is a visual indication that the correct spelling "JavaScript" dominates the incorrect "Javascript." (Note the search notation: it indicates taking a ratio of the two frequencies over time.) That factoid would be hard to tease out of a standard Google search; the Ngram Viewer is case-sensitive. It also knows about parts of speech. Check it out.

The Friday Four gives a hat tip each week to Ron Miller, whose collection of five links for developers and IT pros runs weekly on