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Ignite Portland 3

19 Jun 2008

We were fortunate to be able to sponsor Ignite Portland 3, which was held at the Baghdad theatre in Portland, Oregon.

What is Ignite? Let’s let them answer that (from Ignite Portland site)

“If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds? Around the world geeks have been putting together Ignite nights to show their answers.”1

Several of us from Planet Argon came down to enjoy the evening. Here are a few videos that I (Robby) took on my Flip.

  • “Fracking robots, dude!”:, by Sharon Greenfield

A Short Course On How to Ride Freight Trains – Gerry Van Zand

Don’t get mad, make a video! – Phillip Kerman

(coming soon)

As sponsors, we had an opportunity to go up in front of the audience for 15 seconds. Allison got up to introduce everybody to Planet Argon.

Additionally, it was fun to watch just how active Twitter was during this event.

Thanks to everyone who came up to introduce themselves and to all the speakers for making it an fun and educational evening!

1 http://www.igniteportland.com/about/

2 As sponsors, we had an opportunity to go up in front of the audience for 15 seconds to pitch our company.

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Monthly Pricing Plan for Rails Boxcar!

10 Apr 2008

By popular demand.. we’re happy to announce that we’ve just rolled out monthly subscription plans for Boxcar, our professional VPS hosting solution for Ruby on Rails applications. That’s right! You can now order a new Boxcar on a month-to-month basis for just $99/month.

Our team has been building a completely new account management and billing system for the past few months and just launched the initial version. Our aim was to get the essentials out to our customers and work with them to learn more about their goals for managing their Boxcars. Over the next few months, we’ll be building automation tools to simplify the process for deploying Ruby on Rails applications to your Boxcar. Be sure to stay tuned and follow Boxcar on twitter as we’ll be posting information there as we launch these changes.

For more information, visit railsboxcar.com or contact us.

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Article

Moving to Campfire for Hosting Support

2 Apr 2008

If you’ve been a hosting customer of ours over the past few years, you’re likely familiar with our IRC channel for live hosting support. We’ve recently decided to move more of our efforts online and moving to Campfire, which is where we spend a good portion of our day collaborating together anyway.

Ways to Get Hosting Support

There are a number of ways that you can get your hosting questions answered.

PLANET ARGON Documentation Project

If you have any questions or problems, first take a moment to check out the PLANET ARGON Documentation Project. We teamed with several of our friendly hosting customers to create numerous tutorials related to managing hosting accounts on our servers:

  • http://docs.planetargon.com/

You can find a lot of tutorials that have been written by other great customers like you. Don’t hesitate to correct any typos, mistakes or stale information in the Documentation Project.

PLANET ARGON Community Forums

Perhaps you have a question that wasn’t answered by the tutorials; post a message or read previous posts on our community forums.

Before you ask a question or respond to another question, please read our our posting guidelines.

PLANET ARGON Live Chat Help

If you didn’t find what you need in any of the tutorials or forums, the next place that you should go is our live chat room.

Stop by our Campfire web-based chat room. We’re typically there during our standard hours of support.

  • http://www.planetargon.com/chat

Drop by and introduce yourself; ask a question, answer a question.

PLANET ARGON Technical Support

If none of the resources above have helped you solve your problem, you should submit a support ticket to our technical staff or call us at +1 503 445 2457, +1 877 55 ARGON.

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Planet Argon winter dinner party 2008

20 Mar 2008

We’ve been so busy the past few months that we almost forgot to post photos from our team dinner party in January.

The dinner party was hosted at Noble Rot, a wine-bar and restaurant in Portland, Oregon. We had the whole upstairs to ourselves with personal chefs and excellent food.

It was a great opportunity to have everyone bring their loved-ones for a intimate evening out together. :-)

Here are a few photos from the event.


Melissa, Allison, and Daniel


Pinot Noir


Robby and Paige


Personal chefs prepare our dessert!


View from above


The Planet Argon team

Thank you to the Noble Rot and Melissa for organizing this excellent evening out.

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Meteorites: Thanks for the extra hour Daylight Savings Time

20 Mar 2008

The Autumn of the Multitaskers

“Neuroscience is confirming what we all suspect: Multitasking is dumbing us down and driving us crazy. One man’s odyssey through the nightmare of infinite connectivity”

Jeff Raskin on ‘Intuitive Interfaces’

“Many claims of intuitiveness, when examined, fail. It has been claimed that the use of a computer’s mouse is intuitive. Yet it is far from that. In one of the Star Trek series of science fiction movies, the space ship’s engineer has been brought back into our time, where (when) he walks up to a Macintosh. He picks up the mouse, bringing it to his mouth as if it were a microphone, and says: “Computer, …” The audience laughs at his mistake."

Edge Cases are the Root of all Evil

“Most Edge Cases are presented in the conference room. You get a cross-functional team together to come up with some solutions to The Problem (insert meeting title here). You have people from all the departments that The Problem touches (plus a few more hangers-on who weren’t invited to the party, but personally felt that The Problem could not be solved without them). You brainstorm ideas, go on tangents and then finally inspiration strikes you.”

Easy, Intuitive and Metaphor, and other meaningless words

“Many tasks, that were once hard, can become easy. Learning to ride a bicycle as a child is precarious, often involving falling off, scuffing knees, and occasional tears. But as experienced cyclists riding a bike is easy. The process of transition from hard to easy is one of learning. All the time we spend in education is aimed at turning the hard into the easy. Not by changing the tasks at all – but instead by changing us.”

Where the Heck is My Focus?

“There’s nothing wrong with the point-and-click navigation model of the mouse, although it can degenerate into mystery meat navigation if you’re not careful. I don’t expect web designers to create keyboard-centric websites; the mouse is a natural and intuitive enough way to navigate web sites. But so is the keyboard, in certain circumstances. What frustrates me is when web developers fail to pay attention to the most rudimentary of keyboard support in their designs.”

Blissfully Ignorant Shoppers Happier with Choices

“The researchers used three experiments to arrive at their conclusion. Two of them were consumer test-style experiments in which subjects were asked for their opinion of chocolate in one and hand lotion in the other. In each experiment, one group of subjects was given lots of information about the product, the other group much less. In each instance, the subjects who had little information were more optimistic about the chocolate or hand lotion than those who had more information.”

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Daniel versus Potholes

20 Feb 2008

Daniel was recently mentioned on OregonLive for helping the city improve the road conditions in Portland. This was aimed at helping bicyclists from spotting pot holes on their commutes to work.


Photo from wildsheepchase on flickr

Kudos to Daniel for helping improve the quality of Portland’s streets for bicyclists and cars.

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Planet Argon visits London!

13 Feb 2008

It’s been over a week since we got back from London and I am starting to get to sleep at a decent hour again. Three of us; Robby, Andy, and myself were invited to London for a week to visit one of our larger clients in London and Bromley, which is a suburb of London. We stayed at the Thistle Marble Arch just off of Oxford Street well know for its shopping. Oxford Street is a broad bustling street packed with shoppers night and day, one morning I even woke up to hordes of people queuing up to get into Primark from my window. Which then meant I had to go shop at to see what all the fuss was about.


We spent a lot of time on the London Underground

We had three full days of client meetings and three full days to ourselves to run around and sight-see. The weather was spectacular, sunny almost every day.

The business part of the trip was very informative. We met with our client in Bromley, visited their operations office and their print distribution office, commandeered a small room and rearranged the furniture, talked for three days straight about improvements on the administrative and public interfaces of the application, and met over ten new people from the company. It was great to finally meet some of the people that we’ve been working with for the past nine months and elicit Interaction feedback from our client so that we can continue to design and develop a solution that compliments their workflow and future marketing campaigns.


Andy Delcambe commuting on the train from London to Bromley

We also did a fair amount “getting to know you” type socializing. Something we were all happy to do since we had been working together for half a year with few if not all of us having ever met in person.

We also visited one of their vendors, who are responsible for the development of a 8+ year .NET project that we’ve been interfacing with via Ruby on Rails. Andy has been having weekly conference calls with developers there and he got to have a few pints and work side-by-side on some lingering tickets. Their offices were directly across the street from Buckingham Palace, which meant that we got to walk around and see where the Queen lives.


Walking past Buckingham Palace

Once we finished working for the week we had a few days to be tourists. The touristy part of the trip was mellow and, well touristy. We did a lot of walking, visiting various neighborhoods. Since our client is in the travel industry, they were kind enough to supply us with some free tickets for a guided bus and river tour. We went all around London on the river Thames and saw many sights. We saw Big Ben, Parliament, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the London Eye. I could never have seen so much by foot. We went to the British Museum, The British History Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The Tate, Buckingham Palace and many more places. We drank flat, “bitter” beer at pubs with names like “Three Tuns” that had carpets, dark wood paneling and “jacket potatoes.” We took the tube with our “oyster cards” everywhere and our fearless transportation leader Andy kept us headed in the right direction at all times.
Our trip was heavily documented by Andy and Robby who have graciously posted torrential amounts of photos Andy Delcambre’s photos and Robby Russell’s photos.

Oh yeah! And it was great meeting those of you who came out to join us for drinks on our nights off!

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Article

Google Street View for Portland, Oregon

10 Oct 2007

Last night, while working late in the office, Andy noticed that Google now had Street View for Portland, Oregon.

Here is our current office location (for the next three weeks).

In a few weeks, we’ll no longer be facing this side of the block as we’re moving around the corner.

…and a closer view of the exterior of our new studio.

Thank you, Google, for putting Portland (streets) on the map!

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Article

Let there be light!

4 Oct 2007

We moved to downtown Portland, Oregon in February of 2006 and while the space has had it’s perks, it also lacked a lot of natural light. So, we had decided that our next location would have much more natural light.

Construction in our new studio!

The new office space lacks private offices, but over time we have all migrated to a shared workspace anyway.

Planet Argon Rearranges the Furniture

It’s just our luck that within the same building, a new studio space opened up. We have people working this month on improvements to the space, such as a finished (wood) floor, installing a sink/kitchen area, amongst other fun stuff. We’re hoping to be in our new space, which is just down the hall around November 1st.

New Studio == Lot's of Natural Light!

The team is excited that we’ll be in a space that has way more natural light than our current space. :-)

Ground Kontrol
Small perk… Ground Kontrol is across the street!

Stay tuned for more photos as the construction team makes progress…

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Meteorites: Goodbye Summer!

25 Sep 2007

Even Simple Multi-tasking Can Make a Project 30% Late

“Instead of doing many things at once (thinly-veiled in the name of Productivity), focus your attention on one task at a time, which in the long run will allow you to do more.”

Collaboration with development is a handshake, not a handoff

“As designers, we have the opportunity to provide an immense amount of value as the design moves through the development process. This process is best when it’s less of a handoff and more of a handshake; it’s a commitment between the designers and developers. Trust is a key component of this relationship, and once developers learned to trust our design decisions—and realized that we were really listening to their feedback about technical feasibility—it allowed them to focus on writing code and not second-guessing our design choices.”

If you aren’t embarrassed by v1.0 you didn’t release it early enough

“It is well known that the sooner you catch a mistake in development, the cheaper it is to fix. I believe this is just as true in marketing. A sure way to find these marketing mistakes is to release. You wouldn’t write a thousand lines of code before you tried to compile it. Why would you spend a year or more on development before testing it in the market? Creating software should be an incremental process.”

How well do you know prototype

“Here, I’ve collected most common use cases that do NOT use all of prototype’s capabilities and their simple solutions. I hope this will be a basic checklist to go through when developing for your next project.”

Simple Ways to Help Your Design Suck Less

“I often deal with people that have programming and website creation experience but lack any design experience or even common sense in design. Creating things visually pleasing comes naturally to me (I think), I also study the area at a tertiary level. Following some published theories as well as my own aesthetic sense there’s some simple things you can do to create better design.”

Getting Creative With Specs: Usable Software Specifications

“Usability applies to our deliverables as much as to our designs. Creating a usable spec is an excellent way for us as designers to make things easier for the rest of the team.”

Foundations of Interaction Design

“…Interaction Design is distinct from the other design disciplines. It’s not Information Architecture, Industrial Design, or even User Experience Design. It also isn’t user interface design. Interaction design is not about form or even structure, but is more ephemeral–about why and when rather than about what and how.”

Hat Heads vs. Bed Heads

“Every project and every office has multiple personality types. How you work with them and how you manage the rationale of decisions and feedback is crucial to your success.”

Typenuts, The Funny Side of Typography

see for yourself… ;-)

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Rails Boxcar is here!

22 Aug 2007

A week ago, we quietly opened up the process for accepting new orders for our brand new hosting solution for Ruby on Rails. Here is what we sent out to all those who signed up on the Rails Boxcar mailing list.

Rails Boxcar is here!

We’ve been busy getting everything setup and tested for our newest hosting solution for Ruby on Rails. Boxcar, a pre-configured virtual server for hosting your business-level Rails applications, was developed out of our observations of how our Rails hosting customers are deploying their applications. Boxcar was designed to support the best-practices for Rails deployment.

How, you ask?

Unlike a typical VPS, we’ve pre-configured Boxcar to allow you to follow just a few steps to get your Rails application up and running as quickly as possible. We’ve also given you more control over your environment to install additional packages, gems, and programs.

We don’t want your Boxcar to box you in… except when you want it to.

Boxcar will provide you with more privacy. Your application will be completely separate from other customers’ applications. You will also get excellent performance as you will not be competing for memory usage or disk space with other customers, which leads to more stability for your application.

Don’t feel lonely!

All Boxcar customers will have access to a community-driven documentation project, aimed at helping everyone share tips
and tricks for configuring and maintaining your Boxcar.

Ready to hop on our train?

For the initial launch, we’re offering 6 and 12 month plans, both of which have a 30 day money back guarantee. Prices start at $85/month for the twelve month plan and $90/month for the six month plan.

Go ahead and place an order

Questions?

If you have any questions about our new Boxcar service, don’t hesitate to send an email to contact@planetargon.com or give us a call at +1 877 55 ARGON.

We’re excited about the launch of Boxcar and would like to thank all of our existing customers who have helped us design it.

Cheers,

The PLANET ARGON Team

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Meteorites: Hot August Nights

2 Aug 2007

26 Reasons What You Think is Right is Wrong

“A cognitive bias is something that our minds commonly do to distort our own view of reality. Here are the 26 most studied and widely accepted cognitive biases.”

The Five Biggest Web Site Mistakes

“Mistake No. 2 Don’t organize your site based on what’s familiar or convenient for your organization or its departments. You want a site that’s convenient for its end users—they come first. Put yourself in their shoes. Use language that makes sense to your intended audience; translate terminology (and any other jargon) into plain English.”

Multi-Tasking: Why projects take so long and still go late

“In most project environments multi-tasking is a way of life. This seemingly harmless activity, often celebrated as a desirable skill, is one of the biggest culprits in late projects, long project durations, and low project output. At the same time it is one of the least understood factors in managing projects.”

IT Conversations – Several podcasts of conversations with Interaction Design experts, from Irene Au to Jesse James Garrett.

Survey: Internet Explorer ‘most influential’ tech product in past 25 years

“Interesting word “influential.”" .. ""Best" certainly would have been a different story."

Microformats in Google Maps

“Today we’re happy to announce that we are adding support for the hCard microformat to Google Maps results. Why should you care about some invisible changes to our HTML? By marking up our results with the hCard microformat, your browser can easily recognize the address and contact information in the page, and help you transfer it to an addressbook or phone more easily.”

Proving the Value of Design

“We know that design is an expense—just look at any company’s balance sheet. And we know intuitively that for many companies, design is a profit center. But few organizations can actually prove that great design drives profits.”

Open – Code – New York Times Blog – The New York Times launches a new “blog about open source technology at The New York Times, written by and primarily for developers. This includes our own projects, our work with open-source technologies at nytimes.com, and other interesting topics in the open source and Web 2.0 worlds.”

Why usability is a path to failure

…"why oh why do people in this day age still hold up “usability” as something laudable in product and service design? Praising usability is like giving me a gold star for remembering that I have to put each leg in a different place in my pants to put them on. "

Never Use a Warning When you Mean Undo

“Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you realize—just a split second too late—that you shouldn’t have clicked “Okay” in the “Are you sure you want to quit?” dialog?”

What Puts the Design in Interaction Design

“Designed behavior is not invisible. Sometimes it is obfuscated; at other times, it is apparent or even obvious. Most importantly, designed behavior dictates the flow between action and reaction, which is the basis of an interaction.”

Using Omnigraffle to visualise Rails model associations

“a quick script to scan the associations between models and output it in the Graphviz DOT format.”

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We're hiring!

27 Jun 2007

If you’re in the Portland area (or would consider relocating) and are interested in a contract or potential full-time job working with Ruby on Rails, continue reading!

PLANET ARGON is currently seeking Interaction Designers and Ruby on Rails Developers.

We’re looking for passionate people that are enthusiastic about working in a diverse and collaborative environment. Developers on-site in Portland are preferred, but we will consider top-notch people that can demonstrate their ability to collaborate as quickly as our team does in our company offices.

If you’d like to apply, please introduce yourself with a thoughtful cover letter and resume. We’re looking forward to meeting you!

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Article

Scientific American Mind discusses The Science of Team Success

14 Jun 2007

In the June/July 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind, there is an article titled, The Science of Team Success, which discussed some findings from a recent review of research literature on teams.

“We recently reviewed the past 50 years of research literature on teams and identified factors that characterize the best collaborations. It turns out that what team members think, feel and do provide strong predictors of team success—and these factors also suggest ways to design, train and lead teams to help them work even better.”

Our team recently refactored our ways of collectively sharing what we learn with each other. This comes after a brief period, where our individual knowledge of new information was increasing, but shared knowledge amongst the team wasn’t. As a team, we were making wrong assumptions that everyone was spending enough individual time, learning about new techniques for doing the work that we do.

Assumptions are bad.

Once we realized that there wasn’t enough shared understanding of a few steps of our Design and Development process, we had to quickly evaluate how information was being distributed to all team members. Through this discovery, we’re now encouraging all members of our teams to have more open discussions about new ways of solving problems. While it’s up to the individual to ask questions when they don’t understand things, it’s also up to the team to approach individuals when they see something that isn’t consistent.

Everyone is a mentor. Everyone is a student. Everyone is a team member.

“A 1995 experiment by psychologist Diane Wei Liang, then at the University of Minnesota, psychologist Richard L. Moreland of the University of Pittsburgh and Linda Argote, professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University, nicely demonstrated how team members benefit from their collective knowledge when they learn together.”

While our team is far from perfect, we’re finding that our productivity levels have increased as we’ve become better at learning together. As we continue to evolve and grow our team, we’re seeking those that will add more value to our team, not just those who might consider themselves the next Ruby on Rails Rockstar.

Rely on the team, not the individual.

So, if you’re in the process of designing (or redesigning) a team, you should definitely “read this article”:":http://www.sciammind.com/article.cfm?articleID=D9058A4E-E7F2-99DF-36023504D1E43BD6.

Building Better Teams
Scanned from Scientific American Mind June/July 2007

Also, if you’re an excellent team player and feel like you flourish as an Interaction Designer or Rails Developer in a team-focued environment, introduce yourself.

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Article

High time for Highrise

13 Jun 2007

Earlier today, 37signals, posted an article, which referenced an in-depth review of Highrise by Robby. This review has various tips for getting started with Highrise, and how our team has integrated it into our internal workflow. We’ve been able to use a little GTD along with the Mail.app Act-On plugin to painlessly keep track of our new inquiries.

After trying many other products, none of which ever met our needs, Highrise has become a major fixture in our process for sales, contact management and networking. Also, Basecamp recently received a little spit and polish to give both products a common look and feel, which has made the integration all the more seamless.

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Meteorites: Wheel in the Sky Keeps on Turning

11 Jun 2007

Watch this Wine Evangelist

“Gary has been sharing his passion for wine with daily online videos where he sniffs, slurps, and spits wine all the while imparting wit and wisdom about wine (and about the New York Jets).”

E-mail is not a platform for design

“E-mail is not a platform for design. Unlike the web, which also started as an exchange medium for text messages but which benefited from the inclusion of images and other media, e-mail works best when used for its original purpose, as the most basic of content exchange systems.”

How to hire the best people you’ve ever worked with

“…I like hiring people who haven’t done the specific job before, but are determined to ace it regardless.”

How Bad Design Increases Business

“The web is a marketplace. When people stopped respecting the rules of the market it crashed. They put priority on getting users with no revenue stream. They put priority on fancy trinkets of websites that didn’t produce income or even have a business model. That was Web 1.0 bubble.”

Hacking Firefox: The secrets of about:config

“…many of Firefox’s settings aren’t exposed through the Tools > Options menu; the only way to change them is to edit them manually. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most useful Firefox settings that you can change on your own and that aren’t normally available through the program’s graphical interface.”

Hot for Features

“Instead of the engineering specs, design and marketing have to work together to figure out what the story of the product is, how all the features fit together into a unified product that can be sold and enjoyed. We don’t need to sell simplicity any more than we should sell complexity. We need to sell — and design — products that are useful, usable, and desirable.”

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Article  |  Misc

Portland Revealed: Episode 5: Places to Work

16 May 2007

Let’s face it, there is always work to be done… and if you find yourself in need of a table, a chair, and some free wifi, be sure to check out some of our favorite spots.

Cafés and coffee shops

  • Urban Grind – There are two in town, and while we prefer the one in NE, the location in the Pearl is easier to get to and not crawling with kids. The NE spot, however, is bigger and they have extension cords running throughout. The coffee is decent, and they do have some food options. The NE location is open until 4pm, and in the Pearl you can stay until 9pm through Saturday, and 7pm on Sunday.
  • Costello’s Travel Caffe – Costello’s may be small, but it is one of my favorite places in town to do a bit of work. The coffee is good, the food is tasty, and the music is almost always excellent. Plus, they have these wonderful flat screen tvs showing scenes from the day’s chosen cities. They are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 10pm and Sunday from 9-5.
  • World Cup – Be sure to check out the World Cup at the Ecotrust building in the Pearl (also home to Hot Lips Pizza, yum) for good coffee and free wifi. There is outdoor seating as well. I haven’t been there, but I have heard that the NW 18th location has more outlets.

Late night hacking?

  • Nob Hill Pharmacy Cafe – Located on NW 21st, Pharmacy is probably Portland’s favorite 24 hour coffee shop. There is lots of seating to be found, but it does fill up quick. When you are done working, there are bars aplenty, in nearly every direction. I recommend the Zesty Cucumber martini at Bartini just next door.
  • Backspace – Backspace is one of my favorite places is Portland, and not because it’s right around the corner from the office. Backspace is open until 2am, for you night owls. If you read our last installment of Portland Revealed, you will know that this is one spot to grab a Viso Vigor. Easy to get to by bus, but be warned, our neighborhood is currently a construction site. Don’t let that stop you from checking out Backspace, though. Hey, and if you need a break from work, head over to Ground Kontrol for some old (and some new) school arcade games. Want a glass of wine while you work, two doors down is Someday Lounge, a great new bar brought to you by the Backspace brothers and then some. It is easily one of my favorite bars in Portland.
  • Fireside Lodge – The Fireside may not be ideal, but they are open 24 hours and it is usually a little less crowded than Pharmacy. The service is usually friendly, and the coffee is okay (but not great).

Your office away from the office

  • Cubespace – Site of Portland’s first Barcamp, I had the chance to check out Cubespace last weekend. In fact, it was my first experience working in a cube, and while it may not be ideal for an everyday sort of thing, the space was pretty great for what I needed. Rent a cube for $10/hour or $40/day. They even have a soda fountain serving RC Cola and a cheerio/m&m dispenser.
  • Souk – I haven’t been to Souk, which is right down the street from our office, but I know they are similar to Cubespace. I believe the desks are not cubed in, which means a little less privacy, but certainly less distractions than a coffee shop. Souk’s hotdesks are available for $10/hour.

Coding in the sunshine

  • Pioneer Courthouse Square – Want to sit in the sun and work? Head down to Pioneer Courthouse Square (right on the MAX line), where you can enjoy being surrounded by downtown Portland and get free wifi.
  • Couch Park – One of several Portland parks that has free wifi, though I can’t say I have tested it. Couch Park is in the lovely NW neighborhood with coffee, tea, and bars all nearby. Couch Park is also near a bus line, so it is easy to get to.

Not enough?

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Portland Revealed: Episode 4: Stay Awake During RailsConf

16 May 2007

It was just two years ago that I discovered local beverage company, Viso (Visoda at the time), makers of the popular Vigor energy drink. It has since become a staple in the PLANET ARGON offices.

“Its cheaper than a mocha, has more caffeine, and has vitamins so I don’t end up in catatonic state after coding for 20 hours straight.” — Alain Bloch, Rails Developer, PLANET ARGON

Organically sweet, available at our neighborhood coffee shop (and most nearby markets and grocers), and chocked full of caffeine. 300mg, to be precise. You read that right, 300! According to the bottle sitting on my desk, that is the equivalent of 3 cups of coffee. But don’t worry, it’s all organic, so it’s good for you… right? ;-)

Great Wall of Viso

Viso beverages taste great and are nothing like regular energy drinks. They’re sweet (but not too sweet), non-carbonated, and full of vitamins. You can also get a sugar free version, called Will. Non-caffeinated varieties available too. You’ll likely see me wandering the conference floors with one in my hand.

Where to get Viso?

  • Order online (website designed by Portland locals, Needmore Designs)
  • Backspace (where we often buy it.. 1/2 block away from our office)
  • Several smaller markets (think that 7-11 is carrying it now too)
  • Bars (some bars now make Vigor-based hard drinks!)
    As you can see, we take our Viso drinking… very seriously.

Alain gets desperate

Consider this a friendly tip from the locals, if you need a little pick me up that you can carry around in your bag, grab yourself a Vigor and join the ranks of the Portland caffeinated.

“Viso makes me feel alive again!” — Chris Griffin, User Interface Design, PLANET ARGON

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Portland Revealed: Episode 3: Get outdoors

11 May 2007

In Portland Revealed: Episode 1, Gary gave a quick overview of some of Portland’s finer points. In this episode, we’ll go into more detail about some of the things to do outside while at the conference. We know at least a few of you are planning on spending a few days before and/or after the conference soaking up the city and surrounding areas that wanted to explore the lovely outdoor parts of Portland.

It’s springtime in Portland and the weather has been great the past few weeks for lacing up your boots, running or walking shoes up and hitting the paths. We’ve kept this list to places within the city limits and easy to get to for conference goers.

Hit the (dirt) trails at Forest Park

It would a crime to not begin this list with Forest Park, Portland’s pride and joy. As Gary mentioned in Episode 1, Forest Park is the largest, forested natural area within city limits in the United States. Since many of you will be taking advantage of our excellent public transportation system, you can actually get to several trails via Tri-Met, both the MAX and by bus.

You could spend days wandering around all of the trails here. A few of us at PLANET ARGON have been known to go hiking and running around Forest Park in the afternoons/early evenings after a nice, long day of working with Ruby on Rails.

Gary running through Forest Park
Gary Blessington, Director of Design and Development at PLANET ARGON, seen running through Forest Park earlier this week with his dogs

For more information about Forest Park, visit Friends of Forest Park.

Pound the pavement at Waterfront Park

Just a quick jaunt from the conference center and you’ll find yourself at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, on the Willamette River (pronounced wil-LAM-met). If you are a runner, try the waterfront run for an breezy 2.5 miles, which takes you down waterfront park, across the Hawthorne Bridge, up the Eastbank Esplanade, and back across the steel bridge. For more information and directions, visit here.

Waterfront Park
Waterfront Park

If it’s sunny out, Waterfront Park also makes for a great place to lounge on the grass with a good book.

Climb your way up to Mt. Tabor Park

If you make it farther into SE Portland, you might head over to Mt. Tabor Park, which sits atop an extinct volcano cinder cone. Don’t worry, we’re not expecting it to come back to life anytime soon, but be sure to check out the cinders “near the peak, where a basketball court and outdoor amphitheater are now situated, part of the cinder cone has been cut away, and is visible to park visitors. The remaining cinders were used to pave the nearby parking lot” (via wikipedia). Mt. Tabor is great for picnics, going for a jog, walking the dog, and getting a nice view of Downtown Portland (but you’ll have to make it to the top for this one). You can take the buses directly there, which makes it very accessible and a favorite among the locals.

Mt. Tabor
View of Downtown Portland from Mt. Tabor

Take a stroll through Washington Park

Lastly, for those of you looking for a more leisurely walk though a park packed with extra amenities, make your way to Washington Park in SW Portland. You can get there by bus, or MAX, with the Washington Park MAX station being the deepest transit station in North America, at 260 feet below ground!

Peaceful day
Trails at Washington Park

If the trails aren’t enough to keep you busy, you will not be short of things to do. Washington Park is home to the Oregon Zoo, the World Forestry Center, the Portland Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and the International Rose Test Garden, with more than 700 varieties of roses. It’s just about to hit its peak of the season, so all you flower lovers, this is the perfect time! Best of all, the view of downtown from the Rose Garden is stunning, and on a clear day you can get a great view of Mt. Hood.

Feeling brazen?

If you have a lot of free time, check out the 40-Mile Loop and let us know how it is. ;-)

We hope that you all enjoy Portland as much we do!

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Portland Revealed: Episode 2: Beertown

10 May 2007

RailsConf 2007 is just over a week away, and we have been asking ourselves “what should any new visitor to Portland know when they arrive?” Our answer? Where to get a pint (or three) of good Portland beer. In this second episode of Portland Revealed, we’re going to help you find some of the best beer in town.

Many of you might not know that Portland has more local breweries than any other city in the world. In fact, just a few months ago, Tom Potter, Mayor of Portland, dubbed Portland (also known as the City of Roses) Beertown. “According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, no matter where you are in Portland, you’re never more than 15 minutes from a craft brewery.” Oregon consumes more local craft beer than any other state in the country. 11% of the beer guzzled in Oregon is local, where the national average is only 3.5%! There is no doubt that we Oregonians (natives and transplants alike), love us some good local beer, and we think you’ll love our beer too!

Full sail

While in Portland, we suggest you take some time to get acquainted with our city’s beer options. We thought we’d help you get started by sharing some of our favorite spots (and most offer free wifi).

McMenamin’s – A Portland staple, McMenamin’s can’t be overlooked. Our favorites spots for just a beer are The White Eagle and Ringler’s Annex. For beer, pizza and movies, check out Kennedy School in NE (the theater has sofas!) and the Bagdad theater on Hawthorne. Be sure to try their Ruby ale… and if you are feeling particularly Portlandish… ask for a Rubinator.

Laurelhurst – Another great beer, pizza, and movies spot on 28th and E Burnside.

Tugboat – Just around the corner from PAHQ, jvoorhis was the first to recommend this spot and it’s Alain’s favorite. Feeling brave? Try the Chernobyl Stout.

New Old Lompoc – great outside patio in NW Portland, though this place gets packed pretty quickly on a sunny day. I am all about the Centennial IPA, "a classic Northwest IPA. Nicely balanced and easy drinking with all the hop flavors that Portlanders insist on.

Rogue – Wouldn’t be a list of Portland beer without Rogue.

Bridgeport – They claim to be the oldest craft brew in Oregon, and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.

Widmer Brothers – Want to drink Robby style? Order a Hefeweizen with lemon!

Moon and Sixpence – If you’re just looking for a good English Pub to get a pint, Gary suggests the Moon and Sixpence in NE Portland, which is where he meets his fellow ex-pats meet to discuss the latest in the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United.

Laurelwood – Two locations, though we recommend the one in NW (unless you like a more family style atmosphere). They also have good food. Yum!

A Roadside Attraction – You might not guess it from driving by, but Daniel swears by this spot for a pint and a patio. Plus, it’s non-smoking.

Lucky Lab – this is where PDX.rb meets after monthly meetings. There are several locations, but our favorite is the original on Hawthorne. If you’re feeling in the mood for a pint of beer and a cookie, this is the spot!

Beer and Cookie

A Pint at PDX?

Want to start your visit to Portland off right? Grab a pint at PDX at one of three spots. And remember, free wifi at the airport. Portland knows it’s priorities. ;-)

Other Beer Resources (Beersources?)

If you are interested in grabbing a beer with some of us during the conference, stop by our IRC channel or contact us on our site (select “RailsConf Meetup” for the inquiry reason).

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The Business of Rails

8 May 2007

As Portland prepares for an influx of Rails enthusiasts, Robby is getting warmed up for the Business of Rails panel, where he will be joined by other Rails business leaders to talk about what it takes to be a successful Rails consultant.

For those of you in the Czech Republic, be sure to catch up with Robby at Ostrava on Rails in June, where he will be making a Business Case for Rails.

Not going to make it to Portland or Ostrava? No need to feel left out, Robby has promised a series of blog posts, also titled a Business Case for Rails.

Last, but not least, check out Robby’s comment in Sun sets its sights on Web 2.0 start-ups
.

Ruby on Rails has been considered a major threat to the Java community for quite awhile,” said Robby Russell, executive director of Planet Argon, a developer of community and social networking Web sites in Portland. Sun has now developed J Ruby, which lets Ruby applications run on top of Java. And the theme of JavaOne this year is “Open Possibilities.”

It’s a beautiful day in Portland, let’s hope the sun stays around for all of you heading our way.

Spring is here!

We look forward to talking with you about the Business of Rails.

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Coming Soon: Boxcar for Rails business hosting

8 May 2007

It’s been year since I announced our Rails Business Hosting, and it has been a popular hosting choice for many of our customers. We’ve been hard at work designing a new hosting service, which aims to provide you with even more privacy, more guaranteed resources, and better options for scaling your Rails application as your business grows.

In the coming weeks, the PLANET ARGON team will introduce Boxcar, an exciting new hosting service that has been designed, developed, and fine-tuned over the past several months.

In the meantime, check out the new Boxcar site, launched this morning by our designer in residence, Chris Griffin. Sign up on our mailing list to be one of the first to find out when this new service is available for public consumption. You can also stay tuned to our blog, as we’ll be posting more updates over the coming days and weeks as we prepare for our launch!

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Rails the #1 technology to know in 2007?

19 Mar 2007

Earlier today, ComputerWorld published an article that lists what they believe are The Top Five Technologies You Need to Know About in ’07. In this article they list the following.

Five Hot Technologies for 2007

  1. Ruby on Rails – Faster, easier Web development
  2. NAND drives -Bye-bye, HDD?
  3. Ultra-Wideband – 200x personal-area networking
  4. Hosted hardware – Supercomputing for the masses
  5. Advanced CPU architectures – Penryn, Fusion and more

That’s right! You might have noticed that ComputerWorld has named Ruby on Rails, our development framework of choice, as the top technology to know about in 2007!

“Equal parts design philosophy and development environment, Rails offers developers a few key code-level advantages when constructing database-backed Web applications. One of the central tenets emphasizes using less code for application development by avoiding redundancy and following Rails conventions. This means increased performance and, ideally, decreased development times.”

It’s great to see that the technology that we decided to adopt over two years ago is still making big headlines!

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