ArcStone To Donate Website To Minneapolis-Based Domestic Abuse Project

October 26th, 2010 : Daniel Sundquist

Last week, David and I attended the annual luncheon for our friendly neighbors, Domestic Abuse Project (DAP). For over 30 years, DAP has worked with women and men to curb domestic violence. Their ability to combine immediate crisis response with long-term care and behavioral therapy made them the first of their kind in Minnesota.

With over 500 in attendance, speakers told heartfelt stories of DAP’s success as healers and teachers.

Earlier in the summer, ArcStone began working to donate a newly designed, SEO-friendly website that will provide resources for domestic abuse victims and raise awareness about their organization. Our designers and developers have gone to great lengths to create something special for DAP. WordPress 3.x has been incorporated into the site so that DAP staff can economically (and oh-so-easily) keep content up-to-date. Laying the groundwork for DAP’s first ever SEO campaign will ensure higher visibility on the search engines. Direction over rich media placement will result in the site’s audience being better engaged.

Needless to say, I am very proud of my colleagues for taking the time to give back to the local community.

Site launch is a scheduled for just a few weeks from now. In the meantime, we wait in eager anticipation.

To learn more about Minneapolis-based Domestic Abuse Project, visit www.domesticabuseproject.com. If you would make a donation, please visit this website.

Homage to Nik

October 11th, 2010 : David Carnes

It’s sad to see a trusted and talented employee leave your business.

I received notice last week that Nik Rowell, TechTranslated contributor, friend and fellow ArcStonian will be leaving us to work for the social e-commerce start-up Alvenda (which I have to say seems to be a pretty cool business).

Thank you Nik for all the fantastic work you have done here at ArcStone.  Time and again you have made us proud – you’ll always have friends here.

Nature Enhanced gets a full “HANDCRAFTED” package

July 12th, 2010 : Nik Rowell

For the last few years, John Rowell has carried around a business card that reads “John Rowell, retired. No phone. No Fax. No email. No Worries” … No joke, he really printed a handful of those out.

In no way does this mean he’s been spending retirement fishing and playing the StarTribune’s daily Sudoku. Well – those are both pretty accurate – but much of John’s retired days are spent sawing, varnishing and wood-burning away at his lake home in Outing, MN. This has become the studio of Nature Enhanced, John’s creative outlet for all wood products. Handmade.

Just over 5 years ago, when I was writing my first lines of html, I told my Dad that someday I’d make him a website for Nature Enhanced. And just recently, I decided it was time to make up for the long wait. In the end, Nature Enhanced received an entire handcrafted package, including …

Full Re-Branding and Logo Design

It was time to replace the old clip-art logo with a fresh, logo that played off of the wood theme and the fact that all products are branded, literally, with “HANDCRAFTED BY JOHN E. ROWELL“.

Handcrafted Business Cards

The cards were printed on 13pt, Uncoated 2″ x 2″ cards, using UPrinting. They were designed to double as a product hang tag, and each was given a hole punch and a string. I decided that the cards also needed to embody the ‘Handcrafted’ theme of company. To accomplish this, I first gathered sticks during a late night stroll along Nicollet Island. The sticks were then broken into approximately 2″ pieces and laboriously super glued to the bottom of the cards. I prepared about 100 of these to get my Dad started, and gave him a hole-punch, string and super glue to finish the remaining 400 on days that Sudoku only takes him a few minutes.

Website Design, Development and Admin Area

The site was also designed closely around the wood and handcrafted themes – using wood background textures and brown tones. The navigation was kept simple: –
HOME – a very brief intro to the company.
PRODUCTS – sample products and descriptions, with a ‘lightbox’ javascript effect for viewing product photos.
OUTLETS – locations where Nature Enhanced products can be found, using embedded google maps
CONTACT – Office and studio info and a simple contact form.

I also set up a basic admin area that walks through accessing the new nature-enhanced.com email accounts, working with the online store, and cut-and-paste code to allow using the Nature Enhanced logo on Craigslist ads and other websites.

Product Photography

Using white foam board, masking tape and some flood lights, I created a makeshift photo lightbox to allow for isolated product photography.

E-Commerce Solution

I set up a Free account at Big Cartel to get John started with an online store. The free account allows for 5 products, 1 photo per product and basic stats. The Big Cartel admin area is very well designed and easy to work with – and, because they allow for custom CSS on all accounts, I was able to fully style the store to match the look of the Nature Enhanced website.

Hopefully all of this was worth the 5 year wait… In fact, I hope it’s so good that John has to fire up that phone, fax and email a bit more often.

 

Season’s Greetings from ArcStone Technologies

December 22nd, 2009 : Nik Rowell

Thank you, thank you, thank you … your business and support enable us to do what we love. We’re looking forward to another great year of Service, Craftsmanship, Evolution and Happiness.

Season’s Greetings from all of us at ArcStone!

View our Holiday Card >

Season's Greetings from ArcStone Technologies

Happy Birthday, Firefox!

November 9th, 2009 : Daniel Sundquist

Any web developer will tell you that they love Firefox and we are no different. Firefox is an open-sourced web browser, that has promoted innovation and creativity in the web development community for the last five years. As we invent better ways of doing things, Firefox molds and evolves to keep up with us. Today, Firefox officially celebrates its 5th birthday.

Delicious Friefox cake
Mmmmm, Firefox cake…

We would like to wish the folks of Mozilla a happy Firefox birthday because it has been a favorite platform for us to make our award-winning websites. Here is to the next 5 years and beyond… Cheers!

Firefox, currently at version 3.5, is a free web browser that can be downloaded at http://www.firefox.com.

Announcing Our Latest Launch (With The Magic Touch Included)

November 3rd, 2009 : Daniel Sundquist

Picture this: It is just another day at ArcStone. We grab our morning coffee, chat about this and that, and check our email. Then it is time to get to work. Time to delve into the world of never-been-done-before.

That’s our world.

We Love A Good Challenge

Our latest project coincided with the kick-off of Minnesota hockey season. Atomic School came to us with a unique challenge: They needed an e-commerce website that would allow the parents of Minnetonka, MN hockey players to easily order clothing and accessories. But there was a catch.

There were over 730 youth hockey players in Minnetonka. Each player’s team needed to have its own “store,” meaning its own personalized URL, as well as a simple checkout that ensured their orders were sent to the right places. Timing was tight. Hockey season was only weeks out.

But Minnetonka loves its hockey and we will always love working on web apps, so it was the perfect storm.

Unique Problem? No Problem.

Using Magento, a popular open-source e-commerce platform, we did some intensive customization to to allow the Atomic School staff to setup multiple “stores” with the click of a button.

We were able to improve upon the base Magento functionality, in this case to speed up the setup process. A member of the Atomic School staff uploads the entire inventory to Magento exactly once. They then enter the URLs and shipping details for each team.

Now it takes a customer less than three minutes from start to finish to order a Bauer Team Jacket. That’s the magic touch.

ArcStone development and design work on Magento product page for Atomic School

What’s Your Idea?

We love new and fresh ideas and Magento is just one of the many tools that we have at our disposal. And yes, we still offer one of the best guppy consulting services in the Western Hemisphere. What’s your idea? It would be great to hear from you.

Valentine’s Day renderings – programming shadows in ActionScript 3

February 15th, 2009 : Nik Rowell

I’ve been putting some thought lately into the best way to render shadows in AS3. The built-in DropShadowFilter is perfect for most situations – particularly headlines and simple movie clips – but it lacked perspective control, at least for what I was envisioning…

arcstonevalentine.jpg

Read the rest of this entry »

What -40F Looks Like

January 17th, 2009 : Nik Rowell

For those that weren’t aware of my latest adventure, here’s a recap ;)
Not technology related – but interesting nonetheless….

colde.jpg

With the recent arctic air passing through, my buddy and I had a brilliant (well, crazy) idea…. We wanted to experience what 45 degrees below zero felt like. After a regular day at work, we somewhat spontaneously made the 4 hour drive up towards Embarrass, MN, where the lowest temperatures in Minnesota are typically recorded.

The conditions were just right for extreme low temps in that area – high pressure a little bit North West (pushing cold air from the North down), and very clear, calm nights.

We rose at about 6 am, bundled up, and walked around with a wired thermometer for a little over an hour…

Cold like that feels quite a bit different than 10 below and windy in the cities. That windchill feels like its ripping your skin off. The extreme but calm cold isn’t as sharp, but it’s unrelenting — loose a little bit of heat with a glove off or exposed skin, and its pretty difficult to warm things back up.

After our chilly morning walk, we got some pancakes and I spent the rest of the day telecommuting from our hotel.

Ridiculous, I know.

Enough with single Particles, try an entire Particle System

November 14th, 2008 : Nik Rowell

More experiments with Processing and Particles. This one uses the wonderful Traer Physics library.

Rather than writing a custom Particle class and applying forces to them individually (as in my previous particle post), all I need to do is create a ParticleSystem instance, add forces as desired (none in this case), and Traer does the rest.

In this example, I continuously add particles in the center with random velocities, and continuously remove them when they’ve grown old. The particle.age() property also controls the size and transparency of each particle, which is simply an ellipse with a teal-ish fill. The moon is a PNG placed in the center. For a final touch, I use the built-in camera() function to zoom in an out, controlled by a Sine wave.

1,000 Particles in Action. Part 2.

November 9th, 2008 : Nik Rowell

Actually, this one uses 10,000 particles, and the equation:

float force = planet.mass * particle.mass / distanceSquared;

(Thanks Keith Peters!)

Particles are regenerated if they begin shooting off into space. Near the end of the animation, I decrease the center planet’s mass until it becomes negative, changing gravity into repulsion…