#Listography – Top 5 Websites

An interesting challenge from Kate Takes 5 this week.  My top 5 websites.

Working in IT I spend a huge amount of time on the web trying to solve problems, learning new stuff, writing/coding sites of my own.  If I picked the sites that appeared at the top of my bookmarks list I don’t think you’d be inspired!

  1. – Home of my content-management-system of choice. An excellent piece of infinitely extendible software but kind of like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut for some of the uses I’ve put it to!
  2. – Documentation for my favourite programming language.
  3. – Reference for all the fun stuff you can do with the new style sheet specification (if you don’t know what that means, you probably don’t need to know.
  4. – Making websites look good no matter what browser you’re using.
  5. My test server.  I’ll omit the IP address as it wouldn’t work anyway. It’s where projects go to before being released out into the wild so I can tear them apart with development tools.

Not an inspiring list, not unless you’re doing Drupal development or hand-coding stuff.

So.  The other websites.  The ones I really go to…

  • Google Reader – – I’m a fan of Google’s products and the Reader is one of my favourites.  It’s an online newsfeed reader.  You know those little “RSS” icons you see on blogs and websites?  There’s a couple up at the top of this page.  They link to the reader and every time a site is updated you get a new item in your news feed.  The reader also syncs with an excellent mobile app so I get the same feeds at the same points on my phone as I do online.  This is one of the 6 tabs I keep pinned open at all times.
  • Toodledo – – Online task manager.  Syncs to a mobile app (Pocket Informant on Android).  Similar to “Remember the Milk” but different.  I’m a fan of these “Getting Things Done” sites and I’ll try a different one every year or so.  Toodledo was my site for 2011 and it’s carried over into 2012.
  • If This, Then That – – A new discovery for me, If This, Then That connects things together.  “If I create a new post on my blog, post it to Facebook” is the sort of thing it does – only with hundreds of possible combinations of things.  Excellent discovery, excellent site.  Best thing is, no plugins needed for your blog. It just knows.
    If This, Then That
  • Twitter –!/dogbombs – I know Kate’s mentioned Twitter herself, but it’s such a superb site that I couldn’t let it pass.  It’s also one of the tabs I have pinned open, in the form of Tweetdeck.
  • – Just because.  I have this site as a newsfeed in Google Reader, as a site I visit usually 2 or 3 times a day and as an email digest sent through a couple of times a week.  It’s excellent and I urge you to go there.  If you don’t find anything useful, at the bottom of the page there are the partner sites and I guarantee you’ll find something there.
Now head over to Kate Takes 5, which by rights should’ve been the 5th site on this list as there’s always something new and interesting there, and see where everyone else goes.
Application of the Week

#ApplicationoftheWeek – XAMPP

Sometimes you need to get a web coding job done.  Maybe you’re on a laptop with no WiFi or network access.  Maybe you’re on a Windows machine and don’t want the hassle of installing Apache, MySQL and PHP separately.  Whatever the situation, you need a web server, database server and server-side scripting language now.  That’s where XAMPP comes in.

Downloaded from those lovely people at, XAMPP is an easy-to-install, easy-to-use package that will give you a local web server with very little fuss.  You can even unzip the entire thing onto a pen drive and run it as a portable app (although it’s a shade slow, especially if you then run Portable Komodo Edit alongside it!).

When you run the exe for the control panel, you get this friendly little dialog box and a new, shiny, icon in your notification area:

The Svc tick boxes down the left hand side are for getting Windows to run the whole thing automatically.  This isn’t necessary for the casual use I put XAMPP to.  When you need a web server, you click “Start” for Apache.  When you need a database, click “Start” for MySQL.  Not a clue what Mercury is, in this context, and FileZilla is there for FTP transfer of files – never needed it on the local machine.  Also, I’ve always seen the “Directory mismatch” warning and it’s never affected what I’m working on.

It is nothing short of a gem of an application.  It has saved my development bacon a few times when I’ve needed a server at short notice.  Running it doesn’t slow your machine down noticably.

More complex options are available, of course.  You could have a Linux server sat on your network for these occasions, or a virtual machine of some sort on your own computer.  But the Linux box relies on a network connection and the VM can eat into your system resources.  XAMPP goes in and does the job it needs to do.

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