VMware Lab Manager
James Phillips, Senior Director, Software Lifecycle Solutions
When it comes to virtualization, what's old is new and hot again. Tools for simulating multiple computers on a single device are more popular that ever. And why not? So long as performance is good, virtual machines can be far easier to manage and consume a lot less power. But managing multiple VMs isnÕt easy unless you have the right tools. For us, one of the best choices is VMware Lab Manager, this year's Jolt Award winner in the Utilities category.
VMware Lab Manager is targeted at development and testing operations that want to be able to quickly build, manage, and then break down virtual labs. Using a web-based interface, we found that setting up a single virtual machine from premade custom configurations was a snap. But real value comes with configuring the more complicated multicomputer networks of database servers, web servers, client machines with different OSs, and the like. The ability to do this with drag-and-drop ease saves bundles of time and VLM's self-service model means that developers and testers can handle most of this in just minutes and with little need for IT intervention.
Useful as all that is, VLM goes a step further with a powerful ability to take a snapshot of a running configuration. In this way, testers can capture exact and current conditions at the time a defect is detected. Suspended test sessions can be reopened and used directly by developers, thereby managing the difficult issues of bug reproducibility.
We liked VLM's use of delta images to store only the changes to a configuration, thereby conserving disk space when creating configurations that build upon others (such as Windows 2000, Windows 2000 with SP1, with SP2, and so on).
Tools for virtual machine management will likely continue to be a hot topic into the future. For us, VMware Lab Manager's powerful feature set makes it Jolting for 2006.
--Robert A. DelRossi
Adobe Captivate 2
For a how-to, a screenshot is worth a thousand words, an annotated screenshot maybe a couple, and an animation probably 10K or better.
But an automatically annotated, animated screen video with voice commentary and branching that's stone-simple to capture? That's a whole n'other ball game.
Adobe Captivate solved an old developer problem in a smooth, streamlined way. The common use case, delightfully, is the simplest to run. You fire it up, pick a screen resolution, tell it to start capturing a window or the whole desktop, and you're off and running. Add a microphone and you can narrate; render to Flash, publish, done.
Version 2 of Captivate adds new features that make a useful utility a great one. If you want to build interactive training software, not just movies, Captivate 2 handles user input and branching, and allows you to collect reusable content into drag-and-drop libraries.
At its core, ElectricCommander is a web-based scalable software build tool. While that may sound simple, the details of distributing and synchronizing such a task via an easy-to-use interface are considerably complex. And yet Electric Cloud, a company who is no stranger to Jolting recognition, has embodied their expertise in distributed application management into a powerful, manageable, and tremendously scalable enterprise tool that dramatically reduces build times while providing painstakingly detailed insight into build statistics for problem and efficiency analysis.
One of the most important benefits that ElectricCloud provides companies is its centralized, standardized role in the build process. Because the system can scale from small-department to large-enterprise application builds, it can be used to enforce build standards and metrics for company-wide compliance. Considering the number of variable islands created in large organizations on account of the simultaneous projects running through a business, corralling builds into a standardized, repeatable process is a huge win for efficiencyÑthe faster build times as a result of pooling distributed computing resources is just the icing on the cake.
Yes, the Mac world does in fact need another text editor, even though the Mac now boasts a good range of IDEs. But what if you don't want to drag a full IDE around? There's always Visual SlickEdit, but it's an X app, and just doesn't have that OS X look and feel. BBEdit is nice. But for writing code, TextMate is nicer.
TextMate is that wonderful, rare gem, a tool that does what I need without always shouting "Look at me! I can do this! And THIS!" at me, and furthermore doesn't have a big cliff at the start of its learning curve. Drag a folder onto its Dock icon, bam, that's a project and a drawer shows you the files. Click on one and a tab opens to edit it. It's little things like those that sum to a painless developer experience. TextMate is syntax-aware with text folding in a couple of dozen languages out of the box, with more plugins available all the time. It has particularly nice support for Ruby on Rails; for just one example, a single keystroke runs the unit test in which the cursor currently dwells. I have several competing IDEs and editors on my Mac; since installing TextMate, they have gathered digital dust.