Thursday, January 24, 2013

Three Ring Circus

Some exhibitors at Autodesk University are similar to small elementary school fairs, such as Quux Software. Other exhibitors have a three ring circus such as Hewlett Packard, also known as HP.  It’s not surprising that HP would have a large presence at Autodesk University with the wide range of products they provide. They sell printers, plotters, laptops, and workstations! Oh my!

Being a super small business, I found the HP Designjet T120 intriguing. A small footprint to not clutter up a small office too much with the ability to print out full size plans. While I’m not a fan of full size plans, I have printed out quite a number of sheets this year at the local blue print location. There is also the T520 ePrinter series. There’s lots of great features in these printers. Click the links to find out more.

I was also interested in the HP Z1 Workstation. If I had a small office I’d probably look into the Z1 workstation. It’s got a small footprint since the computer is included in the monitor. So it would remove some of the cables. It would also make moving the computer easier. Plus opening it up shows that most of the innards are easy to access.

I’m too lazy this evening to add pictures to this post. Feel free to mosey on over the HP’s website to get some fancy pictures of the products.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

App Store Structure Report

There’s a new App in the Autodesk App Store for Civil 3D 2013. This gem of a program creates a visual representation of structures and I’ve dubbed it Create Structure Report. I know you are all jealous of my creative skills as demonstrated by this glorious name. It’s also a steal at $25 for the download.

The sample output of the report may be found at this link. The user selects the structures they wish to have a report created for. The incoming and outgoing pipes are then shown in the report. You can tell the direction of the pipe by the words IN and OUT as well as the fancy colored arrows. The width of the pipe is also shown so you can visually see how far apart the pipes are going to be. The enormous white space at the top gives you plenty of room to draw doodles, or if you are more practical have your companies logo. There’s even a place to put some job information on the form. If you have numerous structures the report sheets may be put into an open Sheet Set. Plus if you ask really nicely you can get the source code of the project. This app is open source project, so feel free to contribute any bug fixes or additional features.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Put a Wrapper on It!

I’ve been using Google Docs for the past 10 months and with cloud services becoming a major focus, all I can ask of software developers is to put a Wrapper on the dang browser. The UI elements of a browser really suck for word processing, spreadsheets, and CAD programs. The ease of use just isn’t there like there is in a Windows or Mac based program. I quick and snappy right click menus. I miss the ability to use keyboard shortcuts to add and remove rows in a spreadsheet. If I wanted to back in time, in a UI perspective, I’d buy a 386 and get a version of CADKEY to put on it.

Maybe it’s time for the browser to be acknowledge as a poor delivery of a UI interface for programs and have UI wrapper put on top of it to provide a 21st Century experience. I’m all for change, but I prefer change for the better, not going back in time to a 1.0 version of Excel. A UI wrapper for a web delivered program would go a long way in upgrading the cloud experience. That’s just my 2 cents.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Civil 3D Implementation

In my last post I was a bit negative about Civil 3D. How about an upbeat marketing type post? Well if you are looking for a feel good story then this post is for you.

As many of you know, Implementing and Using AutoCAD Civil 3D is difficult, even almost impossible for some. Everyone that moves to the Civil 3D platform, needs a full time CAD Manager and Trainer on staff! Now this is not only an expensive need, depending on the number of staff, it can be simply out of the question! So what does a company do? They need to stay up to date with the leading design software for the Civil and Civil related industries, including the Survey side of the designs and construction. The software is not cheap. All users need hours and hours of training, they really need a 2 year program in order to truly use this software. Users also need, someone to help them on the spot when C3D is just not acting as expected. It can be overwhelming, but I have found an amazing service to help all of the Civil 3D users and companies that have or will be purchasing Civil 3D.

It is this, TSC365, a service that provides all of the Training, Support and Consulting a AutoCAD, Map 3D and Civil 3D user needs to be, not only successful, and productive much sooner, but it should ease the entire process of implementing and using Civil 3D. This service available through a leading Civil 3D Implementation, Training & Support Consulting firm CADTECHS, that is growing at an amazing rate. They must be onto something! They have very recently partnered with another very successful and well known Civil Implementation, Training & Support Consulting firm APW-CTS. APW-CTS is very well known for their Civil 3D training videos, rGuides. The rGuides or a online recorded training program that is very similar to the standard 3 Day class most users attend when they first start “trying” to use C3D. Plus they have many more titles, beyond the standard classes. It is obvious that both firms focus on the services side of Autodesk software, as my own Company does.

The rGuide training comes from another partnership with Retrieve Technology. They not only have over 200 Autodesk product titles available, but other software. Microsoft Office & Windows, Adobe, Microstation, Siteops, Engineering practices, and lots of titles that are not related to CAD at all. The ability to attend training anytime and anywhere, including from smart-phones, is a great concept. Knowing that at the moment I need to create and alignment for the first time, is just a login away is nice. Being able to watch it more than once, is great. The videos are keyword searchable, this is amazing! You can run a search for “how to import points”  and get a list of where in that video the answer may be found. Add to that the closed caption in multiple languages and even voice overs. Could leave you wondering if what is being said is correct, but opens up the same training to a large portion of the World!

Retrieve Technologies is also behind the technology of TSC365’s communications and training system. What this new technology does is, give users the ability to have video and screen capture communications with support and consulting staff at Cadtechs and APW-CTS. No need to go out and buy Camtasia or other screen and video recording applications, as this are built into the system. Simply start a message and choose what to add to the message, if anything other than text. Upload files, Upload video, Create Webcam and Screen capture videos, Embed other messages and training content, directly into the message.

Here is a short list of some of key points of the TSC365 Program:

  1. Support, including “how-to questions” and available 24/7/365
  2. Training, including for no extra cost is AutoCAD, Map 3D and Civil 3D training. If purchased separately this adds up to $529. Not sure of the total time of training, must be well over 50 hours, and available 24/7/365
  3. Consulting services, content creation and help and available 24/7/365

I know what you're thinking, “this must cost a lot”! Get ready, because you’re about to say “ok, what’s the catch”. It is only $600 a year per user! And right now, until the end of the month, it is only $500!

For full disclosure I have a business relationship with CADTECHS, which may explain the upbeat tone of the article. Hopefully that satisfies the FTC on disclosure rules for bloggers. Now if I can only get Retrieve Technologies to release number of units purchased for the Civil 3D 2009 VBA vBook I wrote.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Data Management or Object Management Problem

I have been using Civil 3D for the past 6 years. At first it was a great, although buggy, improvement over Land Desktop, unfortunately the product has stopped evolving. The program has seen improvements in speed, but it still dreadfully slow at regenerating viewports. The hype over BIM started three or four years ago, unfortunately all it has been is sizzle and with no meat.

Some have blamed Civil 3D’s slowness on it being built on top of AutoCAD. Unfortunately I don’t think this is the case. The issue is the Civil 3D framework itself. Civil 3D Objects go through numerous checks to make sure it’s up to date when an object is asked to present it’s information. For instance clicking on a pipe object causes it to be opened and closed programmatically up to seven times. Now think about what happens when you print with a viewport with a drawing containing pipe networks. Each pipe object is opened and closed numerous times, even if it isn’t located within the viewport. Each and every object that is visible in model space is accessed. You’d think by now the programmers of Civil 3D would recognize this slowness and fixed it. 

I was working on a programming project that created viewports for corresponding profile views. There were 30 profile views in the drawing. Attempting to create layouts and viewports for the profile views took up to 45 minutes, if it even got there before causing Civil 3D to crash. The horrendous performance of Civil 3D was evident in this project when the all of the layers where turned off and the layout and viewport creation took about 45 seconds. Any time savings Civil 3D provides in labeling is quickly consumed by plotting out a set. Heaven forbid a last minute sheet gets added to a project after you plot the set. Do we really deserve to take an hour or two to plot out a large set of drawings?

Now it looks like Autodesk is going to release and/or market to us about point cloud features in Civil 3D, or at least I’m guessing due to some Twitter activity. So Autodesk has spent the last three or four years marketing to us about BIM, failing to deliver any new complete features to make it a reality. Evidently they have been working on point cloud features instead of BIM features. I don’t quite get this push into point clouds. What’s the point if we only get a surface object? A surface object, if history is any indication, where we’ll have to winnow out a majority of the point cloud points to get a workable surface. If we can’t turn the point clouds into pavement, curbs, gutters, trees, retaining walls, pipes, signs, striping, curb ramps, sidewalks, and all of the other objects we design what’s the point?

I personally don’t see myself interacting with point clouds, and I suspect a vast majority of engineers are in the same boat. I do know a majority of engineers design pavement, curbs, gutters, trees, retaining walls, pipes, signs, striping, curb ramps, sidewalks, spillways, detention basins, and all of the other objects. I think I’m at the point where I don’t renew my subscription in a few months when it comes due. Maybe it’s time I’m as tight with my software budget as Autodesk is for BIM features in Civil 3D. I guess you could say I’m a disgruntled customer.

Some might indicate my rants are ill advised. But really this blog isn’t about pleasing Autodesk, or any other vendors. This blog is about reminders to myself. This one just memorializes my feelings on the state of the Civil 3D product and possibly a reminder on why I ended my Civil 3D subscription. Ultimately I’m just a consumer of a product and get to choose whether or not I purchase a product or not. The blog doesn’t make massive amounts of money for myself, and due to the small potential audience I doubt it ever will. Unless of course someone offers to to pay pre dot com crash money for the blog.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


MVC Web API is used by some companies to provide APIs to let users access data. Most APIs are generally a REST type which have calls with names of GET (gets information), POST (sends data), PUT (update data), and Delete (removes data).

It sometimes can be difficult to figure out to create the calls if you are doing it for the first time. For instance passing complex objects for the GET and POST calls can be confusing. To pass complex objects you use an identifier for the object being passed. For example for a GET call the method would look like this:

public Product GetCrappyCivilBIMProduct([FromUri]Manufacturer autodesk)

The [FromUri] indicates MVC should look for the manufacturer object from the Uri.

For POST calls you would send the data within the request rather from the Uri. To do so you’d use something similar to this:

public Product PostCivilBIMProduct([FromBody]Manufacturer)

MVC will then look for the object within the request. If you try to use the [FromBody] for a GET it won’t work. If it you don’t set up the identifiers correctly the data will tend to not come through and show up as NULL.

I thought this post needed a picture.


Thursday, January 03, 2013

Epson Printers

For some reason writing over 725 blog posts and getting a mild following of readership lets you get invited to personalized marketing sessions with exhibitors at Autodesk University. Now I’m not quite sure how many people actually read this blog, or if it all comes from random Google searches. Regardless I feel compelled to continue on this grand life experience of mine that has gone on for the last seven years. In order to do so coming up with blog posts and inspiration sometimes becomes  hard. Luckily for me Epson has given me a blog post topic. 

The topic is Epson’s new line of printers. With the economy starting to pick up it might be time to upgrade your plotter. Now you might be thinking that you don’t need a new plotter, your older one still prints out the plots. But are you missing out on the new technological advances available in today’s printers? For one there are cost savings in the amount of ink a plotter uses. I have no idea if the ink costs less, but as we’ve seen with the so called renewable energy price is no object when it comes to using less resources. Even if we have to throw out our currently working equipment. Plus the line of plotters are Energy STAR Compliant, so you’ll save energy when plotting. Epson printers also plots up to 110 plots per hour. Unfortunately if you use Civil 3D that feature won’t be much use for you, since Civil 3D only plots out at horrendously slowly due to poor object management during viewport regeneration. Do we really need every single Civil 3D object regenerated when we are plotting a viewport?

Since you’ll have some time on your hands while you wait for civil 3D plots to finish, you can always choose to use the smallest ink refill sizes for the three options of ink cartridges Epson offers. This will provide you something to do while you wait for Civil 3D to finish plotting. If you take the time to explode the Civil 3D objects, making sure the rotation is correct in all viewports, then you might want to utilize the larger 700 ml cartridge. Don’t worry about choosing the size when you purchase the plotter, because Epson has made the cartridges interchangeable, so you can use any size cartridge that is offered.

The plotters print both in black and white and color. I’m not one to get overly excited about print quality, but the prints at Autodesk University Epson had on hand were quite nice.

The whole line of plotters may be found here: Click on the link, because I think it was the main point of the article, except for my going off the rails for a small portion of the blog post.



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