Read my latest article: 8 things I look for in a Ruby on Rails app (posted Thu, 06 Jul 2017 17:59:00 GMT)

Planet Argon Podcast, Episode 2: The Letter Scotch

Posted by Fri, 30 Oct 2009 13:27:00 GMT

Earlier this week our new podcast was approved and is now available in the Apple iTunes Store. We’re also soliciting topic ideas for future episodes on brainstormr.

We posted Episode 2, The Letter Scotch, yesterday for your enjoyment. In this episode, we covered a handful of web browser tools that we use (and detest) to debug HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This included Web Inspector, Firebug, DebugBar, and a handful of other tools. We all have slightly different preferences, depending on the tasks that we’re working on and the team had an open dialogue about the pros/cons of each of these tools.

You can learn more about and listen to our podcast at http://planetargon.com/podcast.

Thanks in advance for listening!

Planet Argon Podcast, Episode 1: Shin Splints

Posted by Thu, 22 Oct 2009 23:50:00 GMT

We’re currently waiting to get our new podcast approved by Apple, but have uploaded episode 1 to tumblr in the meantime.

In this short episode, we cover the following topics:

We’re planning to keep this short and focused to a few topics. Once it’s posted on iTunes, we’ll let you know.

Please consider subscribing to the podcast. Enjoy!

The 8-Hour Rails Code Audit

Posted by Tue, 20 Oct 2009 12:13:00 GMT

While our team is typically focused on larger client and internal projects, we do get an opportunity to assist businesses on a much smaller scale. Whether this be through retainer-based consulting or through code audits, we have seen a lot of Ruby on Rails code over what has nearly been… five years!? We’ve been able to compile a fairly extensive checklist that we use in our code audit process that we’ve decided to streamline it into a smaller product.

Historically, this service has ranged anywhere from $2000-6000, depending the size and scope of the projects, but we want to help smaller startups1 and projects outline a roadmap for how they can begin to refactor and optimize their existing code base so that they can be more efficient at the start of 2010. So, we’ve scaled things down into an extremely affordable flat-rate package where we work off of a pre-defined number of hours.[2]

Through the end of 2009, we’re now offering the 8-Hour Rails Code Audit package for just $1000 USD (details).

We’re currently limiting this service to just two projects per week, so reserve your spot now.

1 Larger projects are welcome to benefit from this service and custom quotes are available upon request.

2 As always, we’re happy to discuss longer engagements.

Related Posts

Flash Message Conductor now a Gem

Posted by Tue, 13 Oct 2009 15:30:00 GMT

We’ve been doing some early (or late… if you’re a half-full kind of person) spring cleaning on some of our projects. One of the small projects, flash_message_conductor, which we released last year as a plugin is now a gem. We’ve been moving away from using plugins in favor of gems as we like locking in specific released versions and being able to specify them in our environment.rb file is quite convenient.

To install, just run the following:


  sudo gem install flash-message-conductor --source=http://gemcutter.org
  Successfully installed flash-message-conductor-1.0.0
  1 gem installed
  Installing ri documentation for flash-message-conductor-1.0.0...
  Installing RDoc documentation for flash-message-conductor-1.0.0...

You’ll then just need to include the following in your config/environment.rb file.

Rails::Initializer.run do |config|
  # ...
  config.gem 'flash-message-conductor', :lib => 'flash_message_conductor', :source => "http://gemcutter.org"
end

You can take a peak at the README for usage examples.

We’ll be packaging up a handful of our various plugins that we reuse on projects and moving them to gems. Stay tuned… :-)

Planting the seeds

Posted by Sat, 05 Sep 2009 13:00:00 GMT

Yesterday, the Rails team released 2.3.4, which includes standardized way for loading seed data into your application so that you didn’t have to clutter your database migrations.

I noticed a few comments on some blogs where people were asking how to use this new feature, so here is a quick runthrough a few ways that you can use it.

Populating Seed Data Approaches

The db/seeds.rb file is your playground. We’ve been evolving our seed file on a new project and it’s been great at allowing us to populate a really large data. Here are a few approaches that we’ve taken to diversify our data so that when we’re working on UI, we can have some diversified content.

Basic example

Any code that add to db/seeds.rb is going to executed when you run rake db:seed. You can do something as simple as:

# db/seeds.rb

Article.create(:title => 'My article title', :body => 'Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit')

Just create database records like you would in your Rails application or in script/console. Simple enough, right? Let’s play with a few other approaches that we’ve begun to use.

Use the names of real people

We’re using the Octopi gem to connect to github, collect all the names of people that follow me there, and using their names to seed our development database.

@robby_on_github = Octopi::User.find('robbyrussell')

# add a bunch of semi-real users
@robby_on_github.followers.each do |follower|
  github_person = Octopi::User.find(follower)
  next if github_person.name.nil?

  # split their name in half... good enough (like the goonies)
  first_name = github_person.name.split(' ')[0]
  last_name = github_person.name.split(' ')[1]
  new_person = Person.create(:first_name => first_name, :last_name => last_name, :email => Faker::Internet.email,
                             :password => 'secret', :password_confirmation => 'secret',
                             :github_username => follower, :website_url => github_person.blog)
  # ...
end

We do this with a few sources (twitter, github, etc..) to pull in the names of real people. If you want to be part of my seed data, you might consider following me on Github. ;-)

Use Faker for Fake data

You may have noticed in the previous code sample, that I used Faker in that code. We are using this a bunch in our seed data file. With Faker, you can generate a ton of fake data really easy.

person.links.create(:title => Faker::Lorem.words(rand(7)+1).join(' ').capitalize,
                    :url => "http://#{Faker::Internet.domain_name}/",
                    :description => Faker::Lorem.sentences(rand(4)+1).join(' '))

We might toss something like that into a method so that we can do the following:

@people = Person.find(:all)

500.times do
  generate_link_for(@people.sort_by{rand}[0])
end

...and we’ll get 500 links added randomly across all of the people we added to our system. You can get fairly creative here.

For example, we might even wanted random amounts of comments added to our links.

def generate_link_for(person)
  link = person.links.create(:title => Faker::Lorem.words(rand(7)+1).join(' ').capitalize,
                             :url => "http://#{Faker::Internet.domain_name}/",
                             :description => Faker::Lorem.sentences(rand(4)+1).join(' '))

  # let's randomly add some comments...
  if link.valid?
    rand(5).times do
      link.comments.create(:person_id => @people.sort_by{rand}[0].id,
                           :body => Faker::Lorem.paragraph(rand(3)+1))
    end
  end
end

It’s not beautiful, but it gets the job done. It makes navigating around the application really easy so that we aren’t having to constantly input new data all the time. As mentioned, it really helps when we’re working on the UI.

Your ideas?

We’re trying a handful of various approaches to seed our database. If you have some fun ways of populating your development database with data, we’d love to hear about it.

Ch-ch-ch-changes at Planet Argon

Posted by Wed, 12 Aug 2009 23:31:00 GMT

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I can share some recent news with you. Earlier today, we announced that Blue Box Group had acquired Rails Boxcar, our kickass deployment solution for Ruby on Rails applications.

Our team has been offering hosting services for over six years. When I made the decision to start providing Rails hosting over four years ago, it was something that I thought the community needed to validate that Ruby on Rails was a viable solution for building web applications. At the time, there was only one or two companies offering pre-configured solutions. The good ole days. :-)

Over the course of the past 4+ years, we’ve helped deploy and host well over a thousand web applications built with Ruby on Rails. Perhaps we even hosted your site at one point or another. We definitely had a lot of fun and learned a lot from our experience.

Fast-forward four years, the community now has several great solutions and options for hosting their Ruby on Rails applications. Knowing this, we began to look over the plethora of services that we offer and felt that we had been spreading ourselves too thinly. We were faced with the big question of: Should we focus our energy on trying to innovate in this competitive space or should we find a community-respected vendor to pass the torch to?

Rails Boxcar is a product that we are extremely proud of and believe the acquisition by Blue Box Group will be great for our existing customers. The acquisition is going to benefit our customers as they’ll be able to interface with a team with more resources. A team that also aims to innovate in this space and believes that Rails Boxcar will help them do that.

As a byproduct of this deal, our team has an opportunity to focus our collective energy on designing and developing web applications, which has also been a central part of what we do for as long as we’ve been in business. We plan to speed up our efforts on a handful web-based products that we’ve been internally developing and hope to release in the near future.

I had the pleasure of getting to talk thoroughly with the team at Blue Box Group and really feel like they’ll be able to focus their energy on maintaining and innovating within the Ruby on Rails hosting world.. definitely more than we could over the coming years. In the end, the acquisition is going to benefit our customers the most as they’ll be able to interface with a larger team that is innovating in this space.

If you’re interested in learning more about the acquisition, please read the press release.

From our perspective, this is a win-win-win situation for everyone involved. Expect to see some more news from us in the near future… and if you’re looking for a design and development team, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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