Falling Leaves: the Ardes blog

Separated at Birth?

August 29th, 2013

Ray Drainville

Wait, wait, that looks familiar…

That explains a lot of the jokes I’ve seen on Tumblr recently.

Not an Awesome Dad

June 7th, 2013

Ray Drainville

Seriously, in the morning I need two cups of coffee and a cup of tea before I have working vocal chords, let alone creativity.

Separated at Birth?

June 6th, 2013

Ray Drainville

They both just might eat you.

Ray Drainville

Like a lot of other designers & developers, I run Mac OS X & Rails—with all the dependencies that implies. In the past, I’ve been burned by OS X upgrade incompatibilities (upgrading to 10.7 was particularly painful in fact), so now I’m not as keen to upgrade to the latest & greatest as soon as it comes out.

Which brings me to 10.8, or “Mountain Lion”. I installed this on my laptop & it throughly munged the system. What’s worse, with the move & redesign, I had little time to fix it: so it remained seriously broken until about a month or two ago. This article helped the situation greatly.

However, when I finally got around to installing Mountain Lion on the laptop, using the notes above, of course the damned thing failed, but in a new and interesting(?) way. I had upgraded the system, reinstalled XCode & its command-line tools, and went to install rvm:

rvm reinstall 1.8.7 --without-tcl --without-tk

But I received the error:

ERROR: The autodetected CC(/usr/bin/gcc-4.2) is LLVM based, it is not yet fully supported by ruby and gems, please read `rvm requirements`, and set CC=/path/to/gcc .

So I looked at “rvm requirements”. It suggested I run rvm install 1.8.7, but this caused the same error message. Rooting around, I saw mention of “rvm notes”, which suggested that I run rvm get head && rvm reinstall 1.8.7. That did it!

After that I went into every local copy of Rails apps to trigger acknowledgement of the new rvm setup, and to re-trigger bundling in order to sort out all local gems. All sorted!

I also deal with a few PHP apps. It turns out that the httpd.conf files no longer enable PHP, and that you need to do so. Find the httpd.conf file in /etc/apache2/ & uncomment LoadModule php5_module libexec/apache2/libphp5.so (line 116 in my version of the conf). In addition, scroll down to configure the features for /Library/WebServer/Documents & edit for the following (line 209):

  
  <Directory />
      Options FollowSymLinks
      AllowOverride None
      Order deny,allow
      Deny from all
  </Directory>
  

Finally, under DirectoryIndex, ensure you add index.php (line 231), so that php files will be served. Restart Apache (sudo apachectl restart) Sorted! Many thanks to this article which helped with the PHP side of things.

Name Change

May 1st, 2013

Ray Drainville

As of today, we’re changing the name of our company from Argument from Design to Ardes.

Why are we doing this?

There are many reasons for the change. Let’s go through them:

  • The URL for the company’s website has been ardes.com for virtually its entire history;
  • Ardes has always been our shorthand name for the company;
  • You’d be surprised how few people know how to spell “argument”;
  • The connection between the philosophical concept of the “argument from design” & religious people has only grown stronger over the years, and I didn’t want to be associated with that.

That last point deserves a little more explanation. My rather wilful interpretation of the argument from design was that it needn’t be a religious argument, but rather merely evidence of a conscious decision process: that something clearly & beautifully presented was evidence of a conscious hand & not the product of chance. Many people use it in an attempt to prove the existence of god, and that’s become something of an issue for me, because I’m not religious.

Anyway, I’m getting over my head, and the point is that that isn’t what we’re about. We’re all about making beautiful & easily-usable things.

Soon the blog will reflect not only the Ardes.com redesign, but its name change as well.

Sure is quiet

April 18th, 2013

Ray Drainville

Is this blog dead? No, it’s not, but other things have taken priority. For one thing, we bought a house & moved in December—with all the disruption that entails. There has been lots of painting, lots of builders, lots of time spent, and a few injuries to boot.

In the meantime, I’ve been in the lengthy process of redesigning the ardes website (the blog will come shortly after). It’s well past time for this redesign. I’ve made a list of criticisms of the old site.

  • The logo is far too busy. I like the idea behind using a bonsai tree as the company’s emblem—it looks natural but it’s very much the product of human intervention, which reinforces the meaning of the company’s name.
  • The site looks seriously dated. What a surprise! It’s really common that a designer’s site will be the most out-of-date site out of his/her entire portfolio. I’m no exception here.
  • It’s a fixed-width design. I’ve been a strong advocate of responsive design for some time now, and I’ve certainly pursued this goal for several clients. Why not for my own site?
  • It’s far too text-heavy. By definition, this reduces the graphic impact, but I think it’s because at the time of its design, I was influenced by what I saw: I read a lot of blogs. It all makes sense, but the text is overkill for the audience.
  • I’ve come away thinking that the case studies organisation was no longer working. For one thing, the three sections weren’t well-balanced, because we don’t do that much work for the enterprise sector. In addition, some of the sites were created a long time ago—and they look it. Finally, some of the site no longer exist! In these days of perpetual recession, even websites will disappear.

This gave me a series of goals:

  • Create a simplified logo, and perhaps get away from the idea of nature. The problem of using natural imagery with the company’’s name is that there are plenty of people out there who use the actual argument from design to “prove” the existence of God. Since I’m in no way religious, I want to move away from any accidental associations. This also frees me up to think of very new logos. I’ve got one I’m pretty pleased with now (you’ll see it soon.)
  • Modernise the site’s look (a no-brainer of a point here).
  • Pursue a responsive design, so it’ll look good on everything from gigantic screens to an iPhone.
  • Significantly reduce the amount of text & let the images tell stories on their own.
  • Remove the case studies’ subdivisions & prune.

So I think I’m close to putting out the new version of the website—there’s just the final bit of testing in various versions of Internet Explorer to do.

How long has this been going on? I’m embarrassed to say. I started thinking about a redesign about two years ago! But I started in earnest in October. I wish it had been shorter, but frankly I was uninspired for a long time. Add to this the fact that some things I really wanted to maintain for a responsive site—multi-column support, for example—had to be removed because of seriously weird layout problems.

What were those problems? Using elastic imagery & multi-column support on a responsive design would make lines of text jump around seemingly at random. Furthermore, the images would sometimes not honour the multicolumn support. It’s made me conclude that full responsive design is still a way off, which I’d define as a fully elastic site with very few layout breakpoints. Instead, you have to create some breakpoints based upon likely viewport sizes & design to them.

Now that it’s finally coming together, though, I’m genuinely excited.

Election 2012

November 7th, 2012

Ray Drainville

Obama has won a second term pretty decisively. I cannot tell you how happy I am.

Soon there will be time for bipartisanship. But that time is not now.

And…

Election 2012

October 12th, 2012

Ray Drainville

I’m a political junkie, particularly for US politics, since that’s where I was born.

I’ve refrained from writing about the election this time around because, well, I was too busy reading about it, and chuckling over the hapless Mitt Romney, with all of his gaffes. His basic contempt for nearly half of the American public can’t be called a “gaffe”, however. It was too serious:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it… And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

This isn’t a mere “gaffe”: he believes these people are feckless, essentially to be considered throwaways. I would encourage anyone who’s voting in this election to not forget those words.

So Mittens chooses Paul Ryan as his running mate, one of the House Republicans’ leaders for budget negotiations. Mysteriously to me, he had become known as a guy who knew his numbers. He was a Serious Politician.

So the Serious Politician sat down with Time for a photo-shoot about his awesome workout.

So Mittens has a plutocrat problem (his wife entered a horse in the Olympics for dressage, fer chrissakes!); Ryan doesn’t look so serious a guy any more; the Republican convention was a disaster, with someone who thinks he’s a tough guy because he played them in movies talking to an empty chair he called “Obama”.

Why the fuck is this election even close? Obama got rid of Bin Laden, the stock market is back to 2007 levels, and those plutocrats are doing very well, thankyouverymuch (not that you’d hear them admit it). Well, there’s Obama’s miserable first debate, which wiped out six months’ worth of gains against a hapless opponent. And, while he got a lot of his legislative agenda through Congress, he’s been stopped short since the Republicans took the House in 2010. Mark my words, though: Obama will be remembered as one of the most effective presidents the US has ever seen, based upon those two years alone. The country’s not fully recovered from the Great Recession yet. But who honestly thought it would have, four years on?

I just don’t get it: Romney is proposing nothing less than a re-hashed Bush-Cheney presidency. Mmm. That worked out so well before. But, since it was only four years ago, you’d think people would remember that.

Quiet

October 12th, 2012

Ray Drainville

Oy, this place has gotten really quiet. I apologise for that. The real world has encroached upon posting silly pictures & half-baked thoughts about design. My son’s started a new school, with all the upheaval that entails; I’ve been finishing up several bits of work (both web & print), which have unavoidably dragged on a bit; we tried to buy a house, it fell through when the vendor became skittish about minor things such as, oh, infestation, rot & flooding; and we found another house & are in the process of purchasing it. A nice note about this: the house we’re actually going to purchase is really lovely, as opposed to the one we almost purchased, which was going to be an exercise in spending too much money too quickly.

Yo Dawg

June 15th, 2012

Ray Drainville

Yo, dawg, I heard you like crocs…

Separated at Birth?

May 10th, 2012

Ray Drainville

How, how, how did I not notice this earlier?

In Praise of Tumblr

May 4th, 2012

Ray Drainville

You’d have to be living under a rock somewhere (or have a life outside of the Internet) if you haven’t heard about the “micro-blogging” platform Tumblr.

I think people call it a “micro-blogging” because posts on most people’s tumblelogs are pretty small: a picture or two, and a handful of words. But it doesn’t have to be: I could easily replace this blog with Tumblr & there would be little difference. It’s fully capable of handling short essays.

Apart from its ease of use, what sets Tumblr apart, really, is the community. There’s a fascinating, obsessive energy containing some wonderfully weird things, like “Selleck, Waterfall, Sandwich”, a tumblelog that shows picture combinations of those three things; that, and that only. They can make you see something in a radically different light, like the previously-praised Big Caption or “Space Trek”:

One of my favourites was “Three Frames”, which took (you guessed it) three frames of various movies, turned them into looped, animated GIFs and presented them to the viewer. Doubtless due to some misguided DMCA takedown, it was briefly offline, but is back! Again, it made you see something in a different way: how much, or little, a movie scene changes in three frames. The same author created Aloha Friday, from someone’s snapshot collection. An interesting chronicle of youth, it feels (to me) like some parallel world of my own early university years in Florida & as such evokes a curious pang of nostalgia, all the more peculiar because these pictures are not from my life.

I’ve seen them dismissively called “single-serving sites”, but I’m not aware of any rule stating that any given website has to be all things to all people. What I am aware of, however, is that browsing tumblelogs has taken up an increasing amount of my viewing. That’s rewarding.

Separated at Birth?

April 27th, 2012

Ray Drainville

Yes, I’m apparently obsessed.

What is it with Father Dougal & musicians? I kid: Django Django is fantastic. Go watch the video for “Default” and then buy their great album.

But I wouldn’t mind if they did a cover of “My Lovely Horse”.

Separated at Birth?

April 15th, 2012

Ray Drainville

I certainly hope those famously prickly French secret services have a sense of humour & don’t kill me. I joke! He’s not silly-looking or bug-eyed at all, your President!

No really, I mean it. I think they’re the same person:

Really:

Separated at Birth?

March 23rd, 2012

Ray Drainville

I’ve thought this for years, but am only reminded of it when I hear that “Simply Being Loved” song:

I think I prefer “My Lovely Horse”…