Distracted Much?

May 23, 2006

The Wife is leaving her job to start a career in consulting, and my projects are heating up, which means The Office will be a little too crowded.

Thankfully, the kind folks at lessDistracted have offered me some space to set up shop. There should be good times ahead, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Tables Turned, Urban Honking, and a fine selection of creative developers.

In the meantime, my thoughts on e-commerce and supply chains are coalescing into something interesting; I’ve fallen in love with FreeBSD again; and I’ve ordered more RAM for Ghidorah.

Good times ahead.

Welcome, Ghidorah

May 19, 2006

All of my Macs since 2000 have been named after Godzilla monsters:

  • Godzilla, the 400MHz G4 PowerMac
  • Mothra, the 600MHz G3 iBook
  • Ebirah, the 800MHz G4 iBook

.. and now Ghidorah, the 1.83GHz MacBook.

My first impressions are quite favorable. The keyboard has exellent action, it’s quite fast, it’s very quiet, and the screen is superb. I was a little worried about the “glossy” finish at first, but it’s a non-issue.

I’ve named it Ghidorah, because it’s the first iBook to offically support multi-head displays. And it kicks ass and apparently breathes fire if you’re running CPU intensive programs.

The Road Ahead

May 18, 2006

I have officially resigned from my position as the Project Director at PLANET ARGON. It’s an amicable split—we had a really good time in the five months we worked together, but our paths are diverging and it’s time for me to move on.

To what? Well, I have a few things in mind. There’s a point where my interests in business, the Internet, and manufacturing collide, so I’m doing a little exploration. I’ve also picked up contracts with past clients, and uncovered some promising leads to keep me happy in the meantime.

That said, I’m available on a part time basis as an analyst or consultant for your web projects. I have quite a bit of experience helping people turn good ideas into great applications, and I’m particularly interested in helping businesses make the most of the web.

Send me an e-mail, and lets see what we can cook up.

The future looks good, and the weather’s nice. I’m off to play some frisbee.

Last night I attended a great presentation by Pop Art at the DevGroup NW monthly meeting. They have a very challenging project—building 30 custom sites in 30 weeks for SelecTrucks, the used truck arm of Freightliner.

They patterned their approach around the CSS Zen Garden concept:

  • Build a common XHTML template that gets syndicated to all of the different dealer sites. No tables in the markup!
  • Provide a completely customized design for each site, based entirely on CSS.

Here’s a couple examples that demonstrate how flexible this can be:

Pretty darned wow.

Justin Garrity, Kelly White, Ryan Parr, and Dave Selden of Pop Art were on hand to talk about how the sites came together. Although Ben Fogarty wasn’t present, his designs certainly were.

Here’s a brief summary of the highlights ..

Design

Because of the extremely tight deadlines, the designers could only spend about 25 hours per site. They had to drop all of their heavy processes for sussing information out of clients, and instead depended entirely on an initial interview and a “half way” comp.

The initial interview had a process that really impressed me. They called it “word verses word.” Basically speaking, it was presenting the client with two contrasting words and having them pick one:

  • Modern v. Traditional
  • Bold v. Classic
  • Block v. Curvy

You get the idea. This is something I’ll definitely be incorporating into my client discussions in the future.

Tech

The sites are all served from a DotNetNuke backend. The front end templating system was modified to produce clean XHTML templates, and they use browser sniffing to send stylesheets tailored specifically to the major platforms (IE 5.5/6, FireFox/Mozilla, Safari).

All of the graphics are alpha PNGs, and the designs make heavy use of layering to achieve the desired effects. They saved a huge amount of work by using CSS based layouts with “unsliced” graphics instead of tables and cut up image nightmares.

Much of the typography is done through the Scalable Inman Flash Replacement, or sIFR. sIFR replaces custom graphics as a way to display fonts outside the standard (and rather boring) core of web friendly fonts.

The mechanism is quite interesting: it examines an element in a page, loads a Flash file and scales it to fit inside of that element, and then inserts and scales the original text inside the element to fit the new Flash area. Simply put, you can maintain clean XHTML markup and a single Flash template, and sIFR does the rest.

Pretty darned awesome.

Pop Art has done an incredible job with such a complex project. They have some amazingly talented people on staff, and a good set of tools. Kudos!

As a side note, my cousin works at Freightliner and was able to give me a tour of the manufacturing floor at their Portland facility. It’s straight-up amazing to see these 100% custom trucks get assembled, painted, and accessorized ..

Update: Ryan’s posted a link to PopArt’s official page for the SelecTrucks project.

Cork Sniffin’ Good

May 17, 2006

Hot off the presses: corkd.com .. yet another wine review site, but with an eye for tasteful design, and (thus far) well written reviews.

On a related note, I’d like to plug the Hollywood Wine and Espresso Bar in the Hollywood neighborhood in Portland. To enumerate upon it’s excellence:

  1. Good prices (the tastings are a particularly good deal!)
  2. Delicious paninis, salads, and other small plates
  3. Friendly, non-snooty, geek friendly service
  4. Free wifi

Domain Appraisal

May 17, 2006

For kicks I wanted to see what LeapFish has to say about the value of peat.org:

It has been determined based on search results that this name may be extensively valuable beyond the scope of the LeapFish.com domain analysis tool. It is recommended that you seek the services of a complete domain appraisal company rather than rely on this estimate. Thank You.

Estimated Base Value: $630.00

Estimated Actual Value: $66,150.00

Shoot. And I thought the best part about this domain was getting to read a lot of PETA e-mail.

Pert?

May 12, 2006

Here’s something I keep seeing when digging around on the ‘net and in books, and would like some perspective on:

PERT. The Program Evaluation and Review Technique.

Some people say it’s a relic of the Cold War; some people say it’s a good way to quantify how quickly individual milestones in a project can be completed.

What say you?