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O N T E N T S
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Updated and Expanded for AutoCAD 2004!
Tailoring AutoCAD 2004 is the first book for AutoCAD 2004. Download as a 204-page e-book in PDF format (US$24.95) or on CD ($29.95). Covers all areas of customization, from changing the user interface to writing toolbar macros and LISP routines.
David Millar asks, "One book I wish would be published would be about the value and methodology of re-engineering a building from 2D to 3D." Any takers? Or leads?
We figure much more work is done in solving the 2D-to-3D problem in the field of mechanical CAD, perhaps because the models tend to be smaller and less complex than buildings.
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On another topic, an executive at a CAD software company laments that customers "don't get BIM." The lament is for the lack of sales, 'natch. But here's the answer: users donít have time to learn new techniques. And, being more efficient has its downside: fewer billable hours.
We have noted before that most/many/some people no longer upgrade, because software has become good enough. Here's proof: a reader writes, "I have AutoCAD Release 11 on floppy drives, which I run on my old 486. I put it to use in various projects."
In related news, I picked up parts for a 2.7HGz Athalon-based computer -- to replace the 400Mhz Pentium that my son complains about (games run too slow). While at my favorite geek-run computer store, Clearbrook Technical Products, I asked how business is going. It turns out I was a statistic: the store is experiencing a run of customers throwing out their 400MHz Pentiums for faster machines. It's that three-year cycle. (Once end-of-semester exams are over, my son gets to build the new computer.)
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Finally, we implemented the Comments links at our Weblog, worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog , so comment away!
Informative Graphics (IGC) last week released Net-It CAD (US$99 until Feb 1), a plug-in for AutoCAD. [Interesting: the press release calls AutoCAD "publishing software." Is there a competitive crossgrade available for our copy of PageMaker?]
AutoCAD drawings are "published" as CSF files -- content sealed format. [We recall when "publish" was called "export."] IGC says CSF files are smaller than equivalent Adobe PDF files. [No mention of DWF or eDrawings.] Blocks, attributes, and layers are supported, but not 3D.
The files use IGCís "Visual Rights" technology, which means you can apply password protection, drawing expiration dates, and allow/disallow printing, copying, and measurement (no mention of redlinning). CSF files are viewed with the free Brava Reader.
Competition is a good thing, but would you use Net-it CAD instead of one of the CAD vendor's products (such as Autodesk's DWF and SolidWorks's eDrawings)? Or the one "everyone" has, PDF?
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In related news, Trix Systems is shipping Version 5 of its RasterServer (US$2,450.00). The software automatically batch converts DWG, DXF, HPGL, and Office files to PDF and raster formats. A single license running on one CPU serves all users on a local network. /www.trixsystems.com
An Autodesk press release heralds its winning of awards from a couple of magazines for the excellence of its products. "Autodesk ... announced that it has received awards for its Electrical 2004, Mechanical 2004, and Discreet 3ds max 6 software solutions. Autodesk solutions continue to be recognized for their industry-leading innovation, superior quality, and value."
There is nothing wrong with the company expressing its pride at being selected for excellence. The problem, we suggest, is at the other end. Why do magazines and other organizaions hand out awards? For two or three reasons, we figure:
1. To place _themselves_ in the limelight; award announcements get easy billing in the news media, from which magazines get free advertising for themselves. Which is why upFront.eZine never covers magazine awards in our reporting.
2. To make major advertisers think happy thoughts toward magazines. The hope is that spending on advertising is maintained or increased, in reciprocity. To ward off charges of syncretism, some awards are handed out to truly innovative and small firms.
3. And then there is the psychology. The editors (or readers, depending) "know" the products, don't they? Surely they have the ability to sort the wheat from the chaff. Editors (or readers) never have ulterior motives, nope. Which is why upFront.eZine never hands out awards: we don't pretend to know everything.
It's discouraging knowing that potential customers base some/all of their buying decisions on the presence of award stickers.
One year, during the opening minutes of the AEC Systems show, staff of a CAD magazine scurried about the exhibit area, handing out "Best of Show" awards to ten booths. When we challenged the editor on the validity of the awards ("How could you know, without first visiting every booth?"), he retorted that the show held no surprises for him. The awards had been decided on weeks prior.
At another show, we were asked to mediate a debate between a CAD magazine editor and his advertising sales director. The editor wanted to give a Best of Show award to a small innovative CAD software company; the advertising director wanted the award to go to the largest vendor at the show. She was worried the large CAD vendor might reduce its advertising with the magazine, if its ego were not massaged by awards. In the end, mammon won.
That debate cemented the realization that awards are puffery. Sole exception: awards to the efforts by users to create excellent designs and images.
We don't blame Autodesk and others for accepting and publicizing awards; we do the same. It's the magazines and other organizations that need to think about why they do it. We suspect, however, that nothing will change, because for them award-handing-out is just another tool in the marketing backpack.
Below the Radar
A summary of CAD industry news you may not have read elsewhere, or that we find interesting.
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March is the month Graphisoft says it will release new software aimed at the construction industry. The company currently has software for architects and facilities managers -- the beginning and ending phases of a building; the construction software is for the middle phase. I am guessing the software will be based on ArchiCAD.
eMachineShop.com is offering a free CAD package at www.emachineshop.com/download/index.htm . With my high-speed Internet link still not repaired by Telus (17 days, and still waiting...), I haven't had a chance to check out the freebee. Anyone know the source of the package?
DotSoft's second release of their Excel-to-CAD software works inside AutoCAD 2000 (and higher), and adds smart links. XL2CAD v2.0 updates automatically spreadsheets that change. www.dotsoft.com
The Process, Power & Offshore division of Intergraph is shipping SmartPlant 3D -- early adopter edition. ppo.intergraph.com/smartplant/sp_3d.asp\
Green Building Studio is a Web service for energy analysis of 3D CAD building designs. Sign an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] to beta test at www.greenbuildingstudio.com
Here's a twist on charging for software: consult-to-own. 3D Shapes is crediting up to US$500 per consulting project toward the eventual purchase of MPA and/or Mold Adviser. www.3DShapes.com
Plug-ins, plug-ins: everything's plug-ins! Now it's LightWork Design and auto.des.sys that have a LightWorks Sketch plug-in for form.Z. Sketch changes nice, clean, sterile computer-generated designs into images that look like freehand sketches. www.lightworkdesign.com/lw_products_sketch.htm
And Cyco Software has upgraded its AutoManager Meridian 2004 to support SolidWorks 2004 and Inventor 8. www.cyco.com
Seminars & Conferences
4th annual GeoSpatial World is May 12-14 in Miami Beach FL USA. secure.geospatialworld.com/register
People/Companies on the Move
AVEVA Group appoints Robert Keith as vp of global alliances. Mr Keith was vp at REBIS prior to its acquisition by Bentley Systems.
IronCAD launched its IronCAD v6 in India last month, together with HOPE Technologies. [I still use the IronCAD mouse pad, back from when it was owned by Visionary Design Systems.] www.hopeindia.com
Gartner figures Microsoft extended the life of Windows 98 to ward off defections to Linux. Competition works! You can read the summary here: www3.gartner.com/DisplayDocument?doc_cd=119336
Haestad Methods is excited that it's 25 years old, and that its revenue had double-digit gains in 2003. Being privately owned, it's not gonna reveal further financial details. The company says it has 130,000 customers in 170 countries. [The list of countries it's NOT in would be interesting to read.]
RAND Worldwide changed its auditors to Mintz & Partners LLP.
Graphisoft intends to announce more restructuring news in March. In the meantime, the company's finances are benefiting from the weakening of the Forint currency.
The upFront.eZine stock index is at www.cadwire.net/to?upfrontezine/stocks
Brand New CAD Books
ProSoft is shipping new exercise modules for its e-courseware, "MicroStation Fundamentals Online Edition": Architecture & Facilities, and Multiple Disciplines. Also available is the Civil Engineering module. www.rowseco.com/courseware
Shaan Hurley's Blog
- Suggested by Steve Johnson\
Letters to the Editor
Re: Do Large Software Vendors Understand Small Business?
"My vote is a resounding 'No' to your question.
"I tried to get my modem working with the distinctive ring feature on my phone line, and found that Microsoft dropped support for this feature in Windows XP. Microsoft has a work-around: install Win 98 or ME! I'm not kidding; see: support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=KB;en-us;q272943
"To see how customers feel about this
level of 'service', check out the following thread: www.modemhelp.net/vblite/showthread.php3?threadid=588
The editor notes: "Allan and I have never met. But we've kept in contact since November, 1994, when we both were trying to figure out the Internet, converting from CompuServe -- how to configure Windows 95 to work with dial-up software, Eudora, and pre-release versions of Netscape Navigator."
"I agree with your hunch that 'Perhaps there will be a split in the software world', but see it somewhat differently. The day that open-source software gets to the point of 'adequate' functionality for all applications necessary to the small business (including CAD), they will make the transition. Open-source applications might lack some unnecessary gee-whiz features, but typically provide current data read/write capability. This is not a dead-end approach.\
"My experience has been that if you let
proprietary software get too far behind, it can result in undesirable
side-affects, one such being data incompatibility. This is a dead-end
The editor replies: "I am astounded that Microsoft, Autodesk, et al don't force upgrades by making newer file formats incompatible with older software; all it would take is a changed bit."
"Your comment: '...we upgrade software until it works for us, then we leave it be' is significant incentive for software vendors to deliver imperfect, incomplete software -- as you said, once they've got it right, you won't spend anymore money on it."
- Name withheld by request
The editor replies: "Emphasis on the word 'works.' Doesn't mean the software couldn't be better, but there tends to be a divergence between the software developer and me over what defines 'better.'"
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Re: No More Free Pro/Desktop Express
"O. H. Ystanes said, '...crippled! Worthless software...' I suggest Mr. Ystanes might like to revisit Pro/Desktop Express, particularly if he obtained the 5-year license for his PC.
"The functionality in Pro/D Express is not at all crippled; it is fully functional -- including configurations, animations with AVI output, associative Booleans, and the ability to define parts with data from an Excel spreadsheet.
"I consider the that the free price tag actually put most professionals off using it. But it works, if you can put up with a crash per day or so.
"It was certainly a very good way to see the benefits of using 3D parametric software compared to AutoCAD, but it has not led to many extra sales of Pro/E (which is the problem!). Using Pro/D Express was a very good way of getting up to speed for assessing the other solid modeling systems on the market without being blinded by the sales talk!
"My local (UK) SolidWorks vendor just
flatly refused to allow us any sort of time-limited demo version
to asses the software, so I wonder where are the vendors who offer
potential customers a 5-year license of fully functioning software?"
The editor replies: "The freeware and shareware concepts have a lot going for them."
"The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades."
- Timbuk 3
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