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Archive for the 'Web Development' Category

Web developer tools included with Internet Explorer 8

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

I downloaded the latest version of Internet Explorer the other day and although at this stage I can’t comment too much on the browser as a whole I was pleasantly surprised by the developer tools included with Microsoft’s latest release. I’ve used the developer toolbars for IE 6/7 & for Firefox but it’s good to see something like this included in the core IE program.

Common developer tasks such as viewing pages in different resolutions, quickly viewing outlines of pages (CSS classes, DIVs, tables, image containers etc.), validating pages and measuring elements are all included. In fact pretty much everything needed to decompose & desect webpages is available including a nice Javascript debugger which means you won’t have to switch to Firefox to see meaningful JS related messages anymore. I’m also liking the CSS profiler which enables a developer to turn CSS element definitions ON/OFF and have the page update to reflect changes without a page refresh, this is quite powerful as it allows developers to quickly see what works best in their pages.

Although not part of the developer tools as such, IE 8 also includes a compatibility mode which will allow surfers view pages in IE7 mode. This is important as IE 8 is now a standards based browser where previous versions where not and thus pages designed with IE 7 in mind mightn’t look correct in IE 8, if this happens a user can emulate IE 7 with a simple click of a button. This is going to create a small pain for developers as they might have to change their CSS to make pages look the same on IE 7 & 8, however in the long term it is the best thing Microsoft could have done as going forward cross browser compatibilty should become less of an issue for developers/designers.

There’s some good content about IE 8 itself and its developer tools around the web including the below: 

Why are standards based browser ‘better’?

Review of developer tools

Extensive review of developer tools

Top 25 dangerous coding errors ‘revealed’

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I usually spend a lot of time on BBC.co.uk (so rescuetime tells me anyhow) each day and while on it today I came across an interesting piece in the technology section relating to the publication of a near universially agreed document which lists the top 25 programming errors that us so called professional developers occasionally let creep into our systems & applications.

According to the The SANS Institute (a leading contributor to the document) who issued a press release yesterday (12th Jan 09):

the impact of these errors is far reaching with just two of them leading to more than 1.5 million web site security breaches during 2008.

Contributors to the document who include SANS, MITRE, Microsoft, the US National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and Symantec believe it will have four major impacts:

  1. Software buyers will be able to buy much safer software.
  2. Programmers will have tools that consistently measure the security of the software they are writing.
  3. Colleges will be able to teach secure coding more confidently.
  4. Employers will be able to ensure they have programmers who can write more secure code.

In regards to the 3rd point above I know that with the exception of a passing remark or two about the need to validate input I was not taught a lot about writing secure code during my computer science degree in college. I think in this day and age (Web based/Cloud Computing), teaching secure coding is the way to go so I think this list will definitely help.

Reading through the list, I notice a lot of the usual suspects are listed such as input validation, cross site scripting, SQL injection and that old chestnut hard-coded passwords which I must admit gave me a chuckle just by its very inclusion in such a list, but I guess if developers are still doing this then it must be included.

The fairly detailed press release from SANS is available at http://www.sans.org/top25errors/ while the document itself is located at http://cwe.mitre.org/top25/. There’s a printable PDF version available too which I suggest every software development manager or team leader makes compulsory reading for his or her programmers.

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