News Roundup: Zepto, Zaphod & Narcissus, TLS in Javascript

Zepto

Thomas Fuchs is at it again. His new project, Zepto, is a lightweight framework for developing applications for mobile WebKit. It’s super-minimal (~2k), which is critically important in mobile browsers, given spotty connectivity and unpredictable caching behavior. The syntax cribs pretty heavily from jQuery (which is a little funny given its author’s resumé), so it should be dead simple for most Javascripters to just pick it up and run with it right away. As for functionality, it provides just a basic wrapper around DOM and Ajax methods, as well as some sugar on top of WebKit’s native animations. This is perfect, since most of what Fuchs has built is stuff you were probably going to have to write for yourself anyway, so this has the virtue of freeing you up to get started on actually building your real functionality, but without incurring a massive cost in terms of page weight. This is exactly the kind of thing the mobile Javascript world needs more of. WebKit browsers are some of the best out there, so you shouldn’t need a jQuery-sized library to handle the cross-browser stuff for you. All you need is something that keeps you from having to repeat yourself and lets you leverage the stuff that the browser already has built-in.

Forge

Forge is a project that allows you to use TLS encryption in Javascript to communicate over HTTPS. I’m not even going to pretend to understand all of the cryptographic nuts and bolts of this project, but I wanted to point it out because it’s extremely awesome. Unfortunately it has to use Flash to do cross-domain communication in a reliable, cross-browser way, but there are some tools on the horizon that could obviate this in the future. Giant congratulations to he folks who got this working. It’s a truly great hack.

Zaphod & Narcissus

Narcissus is a new Mozilla Javascript engine that is itself written in Javascript that includes the most cutting edge and experimental features of Javascript. It was created to give Javascript developers a playground in which to explore new and emerging features of the language without having to wait for those features to land in a released browser. Narcissus code can be included in a page by using the script type application/narcissus and executed via a Firefox add-on called Zaphod. This is a huge boon since it allows Javascript developers to play around with bleeding-edge Javascript in a real browser environment.

Auto-generating Javascript Unit Tests

writing a critical essay

Auto-generating Javascript unit tests – Angus Croll from the excellent Javascript, Javascript blog has written a tool to generate some very basic unit tests from existing Javascript code. I’m not going to go into a ton of detail about how it works since I’m not sure this is something you should even want to do (if you automatically create tests based on code you’ve already written, how do know you’re testing something that works correctly?). But even if it’s not something I could really see myself using, it’s an extremely impressive piece of Javascript metaprogramming, and it is well worth your time to go through the code and see what it’s doing.

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