Last fortnight, the guys and girls at Mayfly got together again for Tech Brek, our fortnightly foray into the world of tech and local sandwich delivery. After filling our cheeks with food from Philpotts we gave some light presentations on a tool or service that caught our eyes.

Vagrant

Virtualisation isn't exactly a new concept to developers. Many of us have worked in agencies or offices that create virtualised environments, either for development or for project-specific test environments. For those not in the know, virtualisation gives you the ability to spin up a virtual environment to a specific specification. This may be an environment with a specific set of software already installed, or an environment that will automatically install prerequisite tools to run a website for test use.

Vagrant is a tool that has gathered a lot of attention over the past couple of years, as Vagrant makes it very easy to work with virtual machines. Vagrant allows a command line runner and configuration to automatically set up anything that you require in a virtualised environment.

While there is a steep learning curve with getting Vagrant set up, the promise of being able to pull down your code and with a single command set up an environment to access a working environment is an easy one to sell to your bosses.

commits.io

Ever wanted to see your terrible programming choices immortalised on a wall for everyone to see? Well, now you can with commits.io.

This tool allows you to create a poster from your open-sourced code on GitHub or BitBucket. It also allows you to print out private repositories, so the next time you want to give your client a gift on a successfully delivered project, why not print it out and give it to them as a poster?

Screen to GIF

Sometimes, the simplest apps are the best ones, and Screen to Gif is definitely up there. It does exactly what it claims to do. It allows a user to share all or a part of their screen and record a gif or video of their interactions.

It also allows you to add text, subtitles, watermarks, and other media as a part of your recording. A final touch that is quite useful is providing the option for the system cursor to persist if it is useful to the recording.

Oh, and it records from your webcam!

Mayfly wackiness

It is free software, but accepts donations, so if you find this tool useful donate away!

XMind

XMind is a popular mind mapping tool that I have seen used by a range of different digital agencies for prototyping the structure of a content-driven website.

A free open-source option is provided, allowing you to use it free forever. Additionally, if you require additional tailored features these are available as a paid-for professional addition, with features being constantly ported into the free version.

It offers far more than just mind mapping. It allows for different types of chart, matrix, timeline and other views for complex information. Finally, it works across multiple operating systems, so your developers can use the same tool as your designers and managers.

smtp4dev

One of the most annoying things about local development is testing to see if emails are sending correctly. The second you introduce another system to your website you have two systems that need to be checked for faults.

SMTP4Dev is a small utility that runs as a dummy SMTP server. You run it on your machine in the background, and it will pick up any outgoing emails from your code and display them in an application. This way, you don't need to hook up to an internal or external SMTP server, and you can test your code without the worry that you're checking and changing already working code.

What the status code?

Over the years, developers learn of the many different types of HTTP status codes, but ultimately we always tend to throw the same old codes, probably because we don't find a specific reason to throw a given error.

What the status code is a useful tool that gives you a set of questions about your error, with the eventual outcome of providing the most relevant status code for your problem. Instead of throwing a 500 (internal server error), why not throw a 503 (service unavailable) if you expect the user to try again after a set period?

It's a very simple tool, but one that will undoubtedly help developers build a mental model of what status code to throw and when.

RouteNote

Mayfly has a habit of attracting musicians to its flock, and in true form Jon has provided a music tool that could prove quite useful to musicians that are looking to get their music distributed across the most popular distributors.

RouteNote allows a musician to upload a track (or set of tracks) to its service and choose any number of the most popular distributors to upload to.

They offer two options for artists; a free model that allows artists to take a high percentage of their revenue, or a paid model that offers 100% of revenue, but requires an up-front payment.