Photoshop, Radiant, and threads

May 28, 2009 at 6:59 pm (Graphic Design, Week 10) (, , , )

I polished off the old Photoshop skills today to put together a design for an upcoming event web site. Things came back to me relatively quickly, but it’s still an amazing program that I’ll probably never master. The CS 3 version of Photoshop, incidentally, gives you the ability to select multiple layers in the Layers palette. I’m pretty pleased with the way the design is coming together so far; it’s almost done; I’m just waiting on a logo to finalize the look for the header. I ended up using a lot of shapes and the Direct Selection tool to modify them when the shapes needed to change. It seems like the Agile way to design: change becomes very easy, compared to just painting and filling selections.

Caleb and I are going to be working on the site together, and we’re pretty sure we’re going to use Radiant for the site. Radiant is a CMS (content management system), using Rails. It’s installed as a gem, which makes things very easy and makes our work mostly configuration rather than re-inventing the wheel by coding up an admin section. We don’t need anything too complicated, just some image uploads and static information. We took some time this morning checking out Radiant’s extension system to make sure it’s going to be customizable enough, and I was really pleased to see how easy it was. I’m looking at Keith Bingman’s paperclipped extension, which is based on Thoughtbot’s excellent Rails plugin: Paperclip.

I’m also working through Uncle Bob’s The Craftsman articles (click “Craftsmen” on the link to get to the articles), which I’d started a month or two ago, but fizzled out on. Justin Martin’s apprenticeship blog reminded me to get going on them again, and I’m thinking a lot more about concurrency. Threads have seemed fairly magical when I’ve used them (and seen Micah use them) so far, so I definitely need to do more reading and practice with them.

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Getting more comfortable with Limelight

April 29, 2009 at 6:45 pm (Graphic Design, Limelight, Ruby, Week 6) (, , , )

OK, Limelight is starting to get fun. I’m finding my bearings in the framework, and I’m learning how to test different types of tasks. It’s really easy to do functional and view testing by adding a macro-style uses_scene :board call in RSpec (it’s built into Limelight as part of its spec_helper.rb). This gives you access to props on the scene that you specify. I’m also seeing some really awesome features of IntelliJ, which I’m learning to use better and am even starting to prefer over TextMate for the refactoring tools: Rename and Extract Method are two of my best friends at this point. Watching over Micah’s shoulder yesterday as he tracked down some Limelight source code, I learned the beautiful Command-Shift-N command to find files by name and autocomplete (like TextMate’s Command-T, which I’d missed very much).

The fact that all of Limelight’s code is in Ruby means there are lots of opportunities to cut down on repetition, which is especially welcome when it comes to Styles and Props (Limelight’s analog of the stylesheets and HTML elements we’d see in Rails). There are some tricks you have to be aware of to share data across files. There’s nothing like Rails’ passing of instance variables from controller to view, as far as I know. But luckily there’s an object called the production that everybody has access to, and we can add attributes to that object to hold data that needs to be available across files (in my case, references to the object that communicates with my Java code and some styling concepts).

And speaking of styling, I’m now armed with a handful of design-oriented links from my designer friends. Most are website gallery sites, but there’s a blog or two in there as well. Now, I’m not under any false impression that I’m suddenly going to be a designer by looking at some websites, but I’m sure I’ll improve. I have two Scenes (like views) in my application, and I’m relatively happy with the styling I did today on the first scene (the game type choices, like “Computer (X) vs. Human (O)”), but the second scene (with the board) definitely needs some work. I got a nice, simple color scheme from kuler.adobe.com, and I even did a little fade animation (you can easily change the transparency of props) as the scene begins.

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