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On Our Radar This Week: Sass and the State of JavaScript

By James Hibbard

Welcome to On Our Radar, a weekly round-up of news, trends and other cool stuff from the world of web development.

In the news this week, chatter (I couldn’t bring myself to write excitement) around Spartan, Microsoft’s new browser, continued with what seem to be the first photos of it appearing online.

Elon Musk conducted an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session on Reddit. Here’s the potted version of what he said (plus a rather strange AI cat video), and here are three business takeaways from his answers.

And we got a glimpse of what Amazon.com could soon look like, as the company opened up a redesigned homepage to a broader group of users in the US.

Predicting the Future

It’s the nature of the fast-paced industry we work in, that bold technological predictions abound.
Sometimes they are spectacularly wrong:

Spam will be a thing of the past in two years’ time.
– Bill Gates, 2004

And sometimes they are spectacularly right:

It will soon be possible to transmit wireless messages all over the world so simply that any individual can own and operate his own apparatus
– Nikola Tesla, 1909

SitePoint’s Craig Buckler recently tried his hand at crystal ball gazing – let’s hope his forecasts fall into the second category rather than the first.

Also getting in on the act, Glenn Goodrich took a peek at what’s in store for Ruby in 2015

Looking ahead to 2015, experts at the BBC predict cyber attacks, ubiquitous drones, spooky smartphones and the continuing rise of wearable technology (although hopefully not all in one day).

Combining a gorgeous website with predictions and some smart guessing, this is how one animation agency sees the world of tech shaping up in 2015.

Here are three essential navigation trends you need to be aware of in 2015, as well as the most important trends in social media for the year ahead.

Finally, this is what the biggest company in the world has planned for 2015.

Buzzword of the Week – Sass

sass-logo

Sass (Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets) is a CSS preprocessor written in Ruby, and distributed via RubyGems, the Ruby package manager. Sass is to CSS what CoffeeScript is to JavaScript, extending the style sheet language with such features as nested rules, variables, mixins, selector inheritance, and more.

Sass writing machine Hugo Giraudel recently released a “very opinionated” set of Sass guidelines in which he attempts to tackle almost all aspects of the Sass language. You can find the guidelines here, or check out his introductory blog post here.

Foundation is a responsive front-end framework. This video demonstrates how to get started with Sass and Compass in a new Foundation web project.

Sass allows you to write nested media queries, which is wonderful in itself, but it’s possible to abstract things a bit further. This post on CSS-tricks shows you how. The comments also make for good reading.

Separating the Sass that renders CSS from the Sass that doesn’t yields subtle, but far-reaching benefits.

Still not convinced that Sass is for you? New to Sass and not sure where to start? Then you might like to read this simple and easy guide to understanding Sass, which does a good job highlighting Sass’ feature set, with easy to follow examples.

The State of JavaScript

This year JavaScript will turn 20 and it has come a long way from humble beginnings to become the world’s most ubiquitous computing runtime. Darren Jones recently took a look at where JavaScript has been and where it’s heading as it leaves its teenage years behind.

Generation JavaScript is an opinion piece that examines the rapid nature of change in the JavaScript world and how this affects those working with the language.

In the last few days of 2014, Melbourne-based web developer Glenn Maddern resurrected his long-neglected GIF-beatmatching project DJGif to throw a New Year’s party on his rooftop. In the process he discovered some new things about JavaScript that really surprised him.

This is one of the coolest JavaScript effects I have seen in a long time (be sure to close the modal).

6to5 turns ES6+ code into readable vanilla ES5 with source maps and more. It includes a good overview of ES6 features as well as its own REPL.

Mozilla Sr. Web Developer David Walsh appeared on the JavaScript Jabber podcast recently to discuss the Mozilla Developer Network. Amusingly, it took about 30 seconds for W3Schools to be mentioned.

Ruby – Shiny New Things

ruby_orient_sun_logo

Continuing a long-standing tradition, Ruby 2.2 was released on Christmas Day. Two of the main features of the latest release are incremental garbage collection and the garbage collection of symbols.

Rails 4.2 also arrived bearing Christmas gifts. Notable additions included Active Job (for queuing tasks to run separately from the user request-response cycle) and some serious speed increases in ActiveRecord thanks to Aaron Patterson’s Adequate Record project.

As the Ruby ecosystem has become more sophisticated, setting up Ruby and Rails on your system has garnered a reputation as being somewhat of a pain, especially for new developers. Dhaivat Pandya took a look at the results of a Kickstarter campaign, aimed at addressing this complexity.

One video that keeps cropping up on various “best Ruby videos of 2014” lists is refactoring Ruby with monads. If you’re confused as to what monads are, or why they’re good, this might be worth a watch.

Refile is a new Ruby gem aimed at simplifying file uploads in Rails. It is also the subject of the latest
GoRails screencast
, which walks you through installation, configuration and use with plenty of easy to follow examples.


So that’s everything for this week. Thanks for joining us.

I’ll leave you with this wonderful line of JavaScript code I came across: '#'+(~~(Math.random()*(1<<24))).toString(16) (see if you can work out what it does without running it in your browser), the most popular code pens of 2014 and news that they’ve found a way to turn poop into drinking water (seriously).

So which links caught your attention? Do you have any predictions for 2015? Are you excited by Microsoft’s new browser? What do you think about the state of JavaScript? Let us know, we would love to hear your thoughts.

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