Your Own Test Lab, Minus the Lab and the PCs

Ever need to see if your web site or application works properly under Firefox on Linux? IE on Macintosh? Wide-screen resolution on Windows XP?

If you're a small development shop, you probably can't afford to buy all of the hardware and software configurations you'd need. While there are virtualization solutions like VirtualPC or VMWare, you'd also need to buy and install each OS platform before you can even start. Oh, and you'll need 2GB of RAM to run these at better than a crawl.

Enter BrowserCam, a web-based service that offers several ways to test your web apps or site with a minimum of fuss.

The basic service lets you automatically take snapshots of your website on a variety of platforms (from Windows 98 to Mac OSX to Linux), and a variety of browsers (Firefox, Netscape, IE, Safari, Konqueror, etc.). Just enter a URL, and the service does the rest.

If you need more hands-on testing, a Remote Access service is available to play with your application on all of these platforms. This requires a VNC client or you can use their built-in Java VNC client from your Web browser.

The bad news is that you have one less excuse for not doing thorough testing of your web applications on all platforms your customers might be using. With the increasing popularity of AJAX, cross-platform testing has become more important than ever.

I'm a bit lazy when it comes to operating system installations, so I've never been drawn to VMWare solutions. The thought of installing Windows XP, creating another image for SP2, and maybe Win 2000 for good measure gives me uncontrollable shivers. Throwing a Red Hat distribution on top and mucking around with package installations is like poking myself in the eye with a sharp stick. No thanks.

BrowserCam is priced monthly starting at $59 for Remote Access and the Screen Capture service. There is also a one-shot 24 hour access plan for $20, which might be good for the occasional update that needs a good shaking out.

The one thing the service doesn't provide is the ability to save snapshots of your remote access sessions. However, from some converstations I've had with them, this may be something that's coming soon.

What tools have you found that let you spend more time on your core business?

For Cell Phones Too

For one of my customers, I do all kinds of cell phone development. As a result, there are companies that provide similar services for phone-based browsers.

If you just need

If you just need screenshots, browsershots.org is free.