While most magazines spend (waste?) their January issue on looking back at the events their editors best remember of the year gone by, upFont.eZine prefers to look forward to the coming year. Here's is what to look for (or avoid) in 1997:
Microsoft's idea for ActiveX Desktop is that the software you use is automatically updated over the Internet or intranet. Bug patches and enhancements would be delivered by the software vendor to all registered users at roughly the same time. Sounds nice but the idea has a fundamental flaw, which we already see in DLLs (dynamic link libraries) which allow programming code to be shared by Windows programs.
For example, the look of all dialog boxes is determined by CommDlg.Dll. These DLLs are currently "automatically" updated anytime you install a new piece of software. The newer (or older) version of a DLL is written over the existing version. Problems occur when existing software relies on features and bugs no longer found in the updated DLL. In fact, a recent study shows that the majority of crashes in Windows are caused by version changes in DLLs. Here is a recent, actual example from TipsWorld: "Internet Explorer v3.0 for Windows 95 might overwrite a file that allows Corel Font Master v6 to display a right- button context menu. This occurs because IE installs a new version of COMCTL32.DLL to replace one installed by Windows 95." The problem is partially solved by setup software that stores the existing DLLs in a backup subdirectory. The solution is only partial because most users have no idea how to make use of those files stored in that backup subdir. An example occurred in the CAD world when Autodesk delivered an update to AutoCAD Release 13 that prevented some third-party apps from working due to changes in the ARx environment. Imagine the disaster if that update had been delivered automatically, invisibly, unknowingly -- rather than on a CD-ROM with warning labels. Can you imagine the chaos when ActiveX Desktop starts delivering unwanted updates that cause existing software to crash even more than they do now?
Netscape Navigator now offers a preview of their latest suite of Internet software, Netscape Communicator v4.0b1, which includes:
Netscape Communicator v4.0b1 comes in two versions -- 5,390KB for minimum install or 9,192KB with additional plugins. The current beta version expires March 15, 1997, and requires Windows 95 or NT. It is available from http://home.netscape.com
According to Martyn Day <email@example.com> of CADdesk Magazine, Autodesk will move some of its software products to from hardware to software locking. Reports Martyn: "I went to visit a UK encryption company recently and met Mike Tabatabi, vice president of Autodesk Operations. It looks like the dongle [hardware lock] has not long to live now. Autodesk has been experimenting with C-Dilla's CD- Secure2 product for the last year and will be starting to go live in 1997.
"The software allows Autodesk a lot more control than it's ever had -- electronic distribution (if the Internet gets the bandwidth) and Eric Herr's ultimate goal: a subscription-based software company." Martyn says AutoCAD Release 14 will not get the software lock but that LT and other lower-volume products might. For the full details, check out the January, 1997, issue of the CAD++VRML newsletter.
Other moves for Autodesk in 1997 include current CEO Carol Bartz coming to the end of her five-year contract in the Spring. Is it in anticipation of this that the Marin Independent Journal reports that SBT, a maker of high-end accounting software located in San Rafael CA USA, has hired three execs away from Autodesk? The three are:
AriTek (formerly part of Softdesk) continues to innovate in making CAD easier to use. Heck, nine-year-olds can use Planix 3D Home CAD system with no instruction! Now AriTek is close to releasing Builder's Sketchpad: the idea is that you create a building by snapping rooms together, then using the rooms to generate the exterior walls.
AriTek is trying to make the software really user- friendly, while still accounting for the fact that walls do take up space. The end result is either a sketch of the house or a DXF/DWG output to take to another CAD system. The first version is very basic: it only handles one floor at a time and is intended as shareware. AriTek wants to get feedback and interest in the higher-end versions, which will allow multiple floors, and draw on existing DXF/DWG or raster backgrounds.
James Padgett <firstname.lastname@example.org> of Straight Forward Software, a Hawaii based company, announces the release of Plan Master LT, a complete architectural program that runs under AutoCAD LT. For more information, see their Web site at http://www.maui.net/~ajp/
Matthew Hon <email@example.com> has a CAD/CAM add-on for NURBS-based surface modeling and three-axis machining. Some interesting features, such as multiple surface filleting and trimming, are available for advanced users. A full-function demo can be download at his home page: http://www.hkstar.com/~spline
Vdraft, from SoftSource, is currently in beta and will begin shipping late January or mid-February. This US$495 Windows 95/NT CAD program is the first (other than from Autodesk) to use AutoCAD's DWG file format as its native file format. On the downside, the user interface is radically different from AutoCAD or LT, and there is no compatibility in APIs. On the plus side, most AutoCAD keyboard commands are mimicked and every aspect of DWG files from version 2.5 through Release 12 is preserved 100%. Vdraft makes an excellent alternative for: (1) AutoCAD R12 users looking for additional stations at a low price; or (2) a Windows 95/NT-native version of AutoCAD R12. More info at http://www.softsource.com/
While putting Autodesk's PartSpec on the Internet is a great idea, we were puzzled about the link between the Web site (where you get to preview the parts in DWF format) and the CD-ROM (where you get to access the actual part in DWG format). Explains Chris Hock, product manager of Autodesk Data Publishing <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
"Currently, there is no link between the DWFs on the Internet and the DWGs on the CD-ROM. This first online implementation of PartSpec doesn't have drag & drop functionality (technically, this means there is no DWG files behind the DWF's on the server). "Future versions of PartSpec Online will give PartSpec subscribers drag & drop functionality and a more robust searching engine. We anticipate working out some of the security issues surrounding the drag & drop in 1997."
More info at http://data.autodesk.com
From SoftDesk's pr Barbara Goode <email@example.com>, here is what to expect of SoftDesk's non-Autodesk products in 1997:
"Our consumer (Drafix and Planix) and pro-trades (Pro Landscape, et al) products will continue to be developed and sold from the Kansas City location; I believe that Autodesk is happy to have those products in the broader market. And since Softdesk divested its MicroStation line some time back, that's no longer an issue."
From Aritek's prez, Al Hart <firstname.lastname@example.org>, we hear that: "AriTek is no longer a part of Softdesk. In a separate transaction, unrelated to the one announced last night, AriTek has been spun off as a separate company. This company, AriTek Systems, Inc, is privately held and Softdesk has no ownership or control in it. "AriTek has retained ownership of the cornerStone [CAD] engine and will be developing and marketing products based on this engine. Although Softdesk will still be one of AriTek's customers, we are free to work with anyone else we choose."
DEC announced that its Alpha series of CPUs will cost 40% - 50% less immediately. The new prices range from US$395 for the 300MHz model to US$1,450 for the 500MHz model, in quantities of 1,000. More info at http://www.digital.com/info/semiconductor Of course, price has nothing to do with deciding on a brand of CPU: compatibility is. The fastest CPU in the world is useless if it don't run my existing apps.
Earlier in 1996, upFront.eZine challenged Autodesk's assertion that it has 2,000 third-party developers. We had counted the names of third-party developers on the Autodesk Web site and found 1,275. However, that number included many duplicates, such as Seiko appearing three times and Vibrant Graphics appearing four times. At the time, Autodesk told us the list was incomplete (since most developers outside of North America were not on the list) but would be complete by December.
At the end of December, we went back to count developers, which are contained in four categories: Software, Hardware, Learning Resources, and Consultants. The total has fallen to 678, a number that includes the names of several developers appearing more than once and Autodesk including itself. Did Autodesk ever have 2,000 developers or was the number plucked out of the air? We suspect the number has fallen because third-party developers last year had to begin paying $495 per year (or much more, depending on the size of the developer; less for authors and publishers) to remain a third-party developer. We recently heard from one third-party developer who reports that the developer CD-ROMs arrive six weeks later than the dealer copies of the same Autodesk software.
According to TipsWorld, "Final issues about international copyright and the Internet were resolved in Geneva. The treaties provide for payments to artists whose work is used on the Net. More information is available at http://www5.zdnet.com/zdnn/reuters/1220cyb.html "
Use the URL to find out more information about (or make a purchase of) these newly-released CAD books:
"AutoCAD in 3 Dimensions" by Stephen and Christine Ethier List Price: unknown (paperback); published by Prentice Hall
"AutoCAD: A Visual Approach Series -- Facilities Management and Planning" by S. Foster List Price: US$15.00 (spiral bound); published by Delmar Publishers
"AutoCAD: A Visual Approach Series -- Computer-Aided Manufacturing" by S. Foster List price: US$15.00 (spriral bound); published by Delmar Publishers
"AutoCAD: A Visual Approach Series -- Architectural Applications" by A. Jefferis List price: US$15.00 (spiral bound); published by Delmar Publishers
"AutoCAD 13 Secrets" by Robert Knight, William Valaski, David Walsh, Michael Todd Peterson List price: US$49.99 (paperback; incl. CD-ROM); published by IDG Books Worldwide
"Computer-Aided Design of Communication Networks (Advanced Series in Circuits and Systems)" by Y.S. Zhu, W.K. Chen List: US$58.00 (hardcover); published by World Scientific Publishing Company
Qualcomm announces Eudora Light v3.0.1. The freeware program offers filters, drag and drop for attachments, and hot URL links in email messages. Mac version available now; Windows 95 version will be a couple months later (time-limited beta available now).
Thanks to Brad Holtz <74777.3073@CompuServe.COM>, who got this info with a HOT-BOT web search: "T-FLEX is distributed by Western Technical Products, Inc., Eugene, Oregon, USA. Telephone: 1-800-TFLEX-97 or 541-344-1154"
Is the media printing bad news about your firm? Simply fill in the blanks to generate a positive counter-response:
"The spokesperson denied __[insert name of incident here]__ and __[insert name of employee here]'s departure are a sign of __[insert your company name here]'s waning interest in __[insert name of your product here]__.
"__[insert name of CEO/COO/CFO here]__ is quoted saying, 'Customer love it. The volume has tripled since it came out of beta. It's doing great. We're selling product like crazy. We're thrilled with it. It's been a big success.'"
"E-Bonding" - using the Internet to stay in touch with loved ones (from Don Crabb's 'Computer Industry Gossip of the Day').
"TB" - terabyte: one trillion bytes or 1,000,000 megabytes or 1,000 gigabytes; roughly the size of hard drive your computer will have next decade.
"Anyone can put terabytes in a box. The trick is getting them out."
-- Recent Amdahl advertisement.