Many people have told me that they have used the ElasticFox extension for Firefox to get started with Amazon EC2. ElasticFox makes it easy to see the list of available AMIs (Amazon Machine Images), to launch any number of instances of those AMIs, and to monitor and manage the running instances:
We just released version 1.4 of this powerful tool. In addition to wiping out some bugs related to security groups and key management, ElasticFox now supports all of the features of the newest version of the EC2 API - Availability Zones, Elastic IPs, and user-selectable kernels. There are new tabs for kernels and ramdisks, Elastic IPs, and Availability Zones:
An IP address can be allocated and then attached to a running EC2 instance with a couple of clicks:
New instances can be launched in any availability zone, with full control of the kernel (AKI) and ramdisk (ARI):
Finally, you can now filter the AMI list using the box at the top right:
I added this feature myself because I had been spending too much time scrolling through the ever-expanding list of available AMIs during my conference and user group demos.
And that brings me to my last point: ElasticFox is an open source project hosted on SourceForge. It was easy to download the code to my desktop machine (I used TortoiseSVN), install FireBug, figure out how the code worked, and to make and test my changes.
We've got ideas for even more features, but there's no reason to wait for us. If you have some ideas of your own, grab the code, do your thing, and send us your code for review and checkin.
PS - We are planning to release a version of this extension which is compatible with version 3 of Firefox. This version is well under way, but we didn't want to hold up release of these great new features in anticipation of the production release of Firefox 3.
Update: If you are brave and somewhat fault-tolerant, you can download and try out the Firefox 3 version here. This version is reportedly faster, and also more responsive -- the UI doesn't freeze when the extension makes background calls to EC2. Please file bugs as you find them (you will need a SourceForge account in order to do so).