Inside this Issue
The company when public in 1979. More recently, it switched to developing software for electronic publishing, configuration management, and physical network management. Says Hoover's Online, "Auto-trol Technology's software can't help you locate any trolls, but it can bridge communication gaps." http://www.auto-trol.com
In a significant reversal of its original licensing scheme, Revit is now offering a perpetual license to its AEC modeling software. Since its launch nearly two years ago, the Revit software had been available only as a monthly rental. Intially, the price was US$199/month, but had fallen to US$149 with Revit v4, and was sometimmes available for as little as US$99/month.
With last week's release of Revit v4.1, the news that the subscription model had changed was "burried" near the bottom a recent press release:
I asked Chris Rogers of Revit's pr firm just what the heck "paid-up" means. Said he: "It is a right to use a specific release of Revit in perpetuity. If the user chooses not to renew the subscription service in the second and subsequent years, they may still use the version of Revit that was current on the last day of their subscription service for as long as they like."
The benefit to Revit from the new annual and "paid-up" subscriptions is an upfront boost in revenue. http://www.revit.com
PTC unloaded its MEDUSA 2D CAD software to Germany's CAD Schroer, PTC's largest MEDUSA reseller with 1,500 customers. Price was not revealed.
CAD Schroer assumes responsibility for future product development, and sales and maintenance support for existing customers. In exchange, PTC will resell and distribute PEGASUS, a stand-alone MEDUSA-based drafting system still under development as a non-associative complement to Pro/ENGINEER. http://www.cad-schroer.com
According to <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/classes/finALp.html>, Medusa has historically been seen as the archetype of the nasty mother. The original meaning is "sovereign female wisdom," which was worshipped by Libyan Amazons as their serpent-goddess, and later imported by the Greeks.
In addition to Medusa the CAD software, there is Medusa the architecture for "building long-running, high-performance network servers in Python" <http://www.nightmare.com/medusa/>, the Medusa DS9 tool for "implementing the ZP security framework" <http://medusa.fornax.sk/>, and Medusa the Madison EDUcational Small Aspect-ratio tokamak <http://elvis.neep.wisc.edu/~medusa/MEDUSA.html> (experimental nuclear reactor).
Does CAD Degrade Drawing Quality?
Leo Schlosberg's guest editorial (asking whether CAD software is worsening the quality of construction drawings) generated the most response ever to upFront.eZine. I continue to receive email on the subject. You may stop writing. Now. Please.
The answer to the question is a qualified "Yes." The reason is that students are taught how to use the CAD software, and not how to draft. Nearly every book on CAD places its emphasis on teaching how to: (1) use the computer; and (2) use the software. Very few place the emphasis on teaching drafting standards.
I plead guilty in having written books that failed to emphasize drafting standards. My only excuse is that I write what publishers want. I was struck by the gross deficiency when I received a copy of "Fundamentals of Drafting with AutoCAD LT" by Paul Ross Wallach (Autodesk Press). [Conflict of interest notice: I've been asked to prepare an accompanying workbook.] This book is religious in its adherence to teaching how to draft with CAD using ANSI standards.
I wonder if the problem emerged when CAD vendors took over providing educational resources for teaching CAD? I've never taken a course there, so I don't know (I learned manual drafting in the 1970s) but it's easy to imagine that the emphasis would be on how to use OUR software.
Anyhow, back to the letters from you:
"I AM SO SICK OF THIS QUESTION!!!
"It's like asking, 'Does a pencil degrade drawing quality?' CAD is a tool, just like the pencil. Quality does not come from these inanimate objects; it comes from the person using them, who has training in DRAFTING AND DESIGN. I am a drafting technologist who works with AutoCAD and MicroStation. I've done manual drafting, and I thank God every day for my computer.
"Let's face it: CAD is faster, cleaner, and a whole lot funner. I see drawings that were done twenty, forty years ago that didn't follow good convention. Was that because of the pencils and rulers they were using way back when? Of course not! It was because drafters broke cardinal sins of drafting practice."
- Cam Bilodeau, AScT
"I think management is to blame. It's a hate triangle: management-sales versus design versus production:
- Design is under pressure from management-sales to perform work in less time for less money.
- Production pressures design to perform more quickly and provide more data.
To them, CAD is only a means to these ends. We drafters are a slowdown in the process to turn sales into production.
"When we first recommended the switch to CAD, we had to sell it on the basis of less time and money because management wasn't interested in the real benefits. Now we are expected to live up to the expectations. [I am no longer with that firm.]
"Perhaps the solution is separating design from production and management by using independent designers. With competition, the result could be better design."
- Richard C. MacCrea
Mountain House Plans
"I find it almost amusing how the responders are so dismal in their opinions. We have a much brighter outlook for our future, and hope to see THIS trend continue, rather than the current abyss that has befallen your usually upbeat newsletter.
"Competitiveness does not necessitate quality reduction, but innovation in design automation. Client satisfaction is paramount for repeat work! A userbase worth retaining is one that understands quality, embraces standards adherence, and is dedicated to a quality product."
- Gary Mansager
CAD Coordinator, HDR Engineering
"I don't believe that it is CAD but the user. While my assistants can wow me with their ability in drawing 3D and performing tricks with AutoCAD, they can't figure out a simple design without a lot of hand-holding. The design aspect eludes them. I am left with designing it myself, and having the assistantd put it on a drawing.
"Do I blame the 'new generation?' No. I just think they need to get their hands dirty and actually look at parts, look at construction, study them, and understand how the parts all work -- instead of looking how it could be drawn in 3D. Understand first. Draw second."
- Tom Anema
"The crux of the biscuit is that ANY CAD designer MUST have a solid background in the engineering discipline -- structural, piping, whatever. Otherwise it's just lines and circles on the screen, and not pipelines, beams, and tanks.
"One drawback to CAD is that it's so easy to make changes, so that hundreds are made just because 'it's so easy.' In the days of vellum, changes were discussed seriously and sketched before being committed to paper. There was just ONE original and it could only be erased so many times.
"With CAD, you can have a new original every hour, if need be. When one of our engineers talks about how our hours per drawing has not dropped in the last ten years we've been using CAD, I ask him about the number of changes made to a typical drawing.
"At one time, it was thought that using CAD would make us more productive (fewer man-hours); today I would suggest that it results in better designs. Productivity gains are not thought about anymore; we never did achieve them (except in some rare cases)."
"You cannot trust CAD drawings because users are not careful enough in their application of these great tools."
- Darren Litherland
"For years I have strongly maintained -- and tried to teach co-workers and drafters under my supervision -- that a drawing IS an art form and should be created with that understanding and mindset. There is no reason in the world why a CAD drawing cannot be well-designed and laid out using clarity of thought to simply -- and artistically! -- convey someone's idea to another person. Even today's automatically-generated layouts can be modified to a higher caliber.
"I do agree that people with hand drafting experience produce MUCH better CAD drawings, and I always look for that when hiring drafters.
"I don't agree that all CAD drawings look alike. When a person does, in fact, create a drawing from an artistic perspective, then any one can tell the difference and the layout, look, and "feel" of that drawing becomes the respected signature of that person, group, or even company (depending on how well company standards are bought into and adhered to)."
- Mike Douthit
CAD Manager, Gensler
"Let's quit blame shifting. CAD doesn't make bad drawings; people make bad drawings!"
- Dennis Helmick
Data Handling Co.
"As a practicing architect, I was fascinated with the idea of automating drafting and design even before AutoCAD made its first appearance. So when it came on the market, I became one of its early enthusiastic users. Since there were no architectural applications available, I began to create my own.
"The library of symbols and the AutoLISP routines created in our office were constantly tested by experienced drafters and architects in actual production. We kept all the good ones and trashed the ones that were too cumbersome and complicated. GEOCAD subsequently became a commercial product. I believe it succeeded because:
- We accepted the premise that traditional orthographic projection (plans and elevations) is the simplest way to convey information from the designer to the contractor, and is the way architects are trained.
- We never aspired for the CAD system to more than we would otherwise do manually. Thus, we did not attempt to integrate specifications into the drawings, or, when 3D became available, did we try to create 3D models of the buildings.
- We never hired CADD operators. It was easier to train a detailer to use our software, than to train a CADD operator to detail."
- Rudy Horowitz
"Consider xrefs and paperspace: what percentage of the user population use those features correctly? For years, it wasn't even possible. Even on MicroStation, where those features actually worked from Day One, users typically botched it. And I'd argue xrefs are much less difficult to use correctly than, say, layers, associative dimensions, filenames, and blocks (cells).
"The interesting part of Bhavnani's research is that human cognitive ability and poor user interfaces do not explain the productivity gap. Rather, Bhavnani's observation is that many users continue to use the tools suboptimimally, despite extensive training and experience."
- Jason Osgood
"It seems that some people draw with CAD first, then think about what is to be shown. Some major decisions are now being made in the latter part of the design process, and then there is often not enough time to incorporate this information into the drawings.
"Similar problems are seen in computer software. Years ago programs were tested and packaged for distribution. Now the Internet has allowed software patches (addendums and change orders) to be issued after release dates. Nothing is ever finished.
"Another problem is the lack of dimensions shown on the drawings. 'Just scale the CAD file' is commonly heard, but often there are errors in the drawings. Placing some basic dimensions would have brought the errors to someone's attention before the CAD files were distributed to the remaining design team members.
"The lack of hardcopy is a hindrance. Incompatible software and missing fonts prevent proper plotting. A set of bluelines with comments hand-written in colored markers is more helpful than electronic files that have to be closely scrutinized for changes.
"Not everything is the fault of CAD. Lawyers and liability insurance companies drive how items (specifications, shop drawing stamps, etc.) are to be worded and displayed.
"Describing a technique on the documents may add a premium to the project costs because it is not the way the selected contractor would prefer to do it. This is a methods-and-means issue that could open the company to liability issues outside its normal scope of services.
"Some of the problems with CAD applied, however, to the manual drafting days too. The problem is balancing the salary differences between engineers and drafters with the cost savings of having something drawn correctly the first time."
- Wilbur C. Bragg
"I strongly believed in careful checking of drawings. We were a two-principal shop, and one of us reviewed the other's drawing and specs before they went to press. The rule was: if the reviewer can't understand it, it's not clear enough.
"As a result, we had reputation in the building industry for good drawings that persists today 12 years after we closed the office. We got tight bids, and our jobs got built with a minimum of on-site problems.
"But we lost work right and left to people who did flashy presentations, who cut their work effort and their fees, and who had all sorts of problems, most of which they dumped on the contractor. This resulted in the owner paying a higher price, but they never knew it.
"We tried hard to make the point that our higher fees resulted in saving money overall on the project cost and operation -- but there was NO convincing. And this was before CAD was in use here in the Midwestern United States.
"In my teaching of architectural drafting classes, I try very hard to get across the idea of responsibility for what you draw, and for accuracy, but I don't know whether it sticks or not."
- Walt Cheever
"The university I attended for mechanical engineering required a semester in descriptive geometry, which I found very helpful in solving certain types of problems when I starting using CAD in 1974 (Lockheed's 2-1/2D CADAM).
"When I started work for Lockheed and using CAD, all drawings created on CAD had to go through a drafting/design checking and sign off process. This checking/sign off was all part of the drawing release process. This eliminated manufacturing and assembly problems.
"From what others are saying, it sounds like in today's cost-cutting business, checking is not part of the drawing release process? How do they figure they're saving money if parts are not right and/or can not be assembled correctly?"
- Ken Dellenbach
Community College Tech Drawing Instructor
"The problem with CAD drawing quality is in the training. I had classes in mechanical drawing, architectural, structural, and civil design. All of this training was before I thought of learning CAD.
"Today students sketch a few simple plates, then go right to learning CAD, then they look for work. Employers advertise for CAD operators, not drafters. CAD operators still need to know the technical aspects of what they are drawing in order to increase quality. Most CAD operators can not learn the technical aspects while they are still trying to meet deadlines."
- Rocco Lanzetti
108th CES/ Drafting Dept., NJ Air National Guard
Accuracy Advisor helps to analyze and fix inaccuracies in DXF, DWG, IGES, and MI files, and then confirms a drawing's quality in a few seconds. http://www.nethut.net/me10
Autodesk is shipping three new extensions for subscribers: the Productivity Enhancement Extension for Architectural Desktop v3.3; and the Reference Manager and Associative QDIM Extensions for AutoCAD 2002-based products. Get a subscription at http://www.autodesk.com/subscription, then get the add-ons free.
Conceptual Product Development is shipping "Doctor Walt's CADKEY 20+ Primer" book (US$54.95) that describes the new features and interface of the new generation of CADKEY software. http://www.docwalt.com
Oracle last fall acquired the Envision-i CAD viewing tool from Vuent (which, in turn acquired Envision3D from Adaptive Media in 1999), and is now shipping Oracle CADView-3D to let Oracle solutions display 3D CAD models, such as those produced by CATIA. [Searching the Oracle.com Web site produces no result for "CADView 3D."] https://www.assentive.com/legacy/vuent/products/
Automation Gateway v3 lets users of Pro/E to integrate other apps, such as Office, to create custom interfaces using Visual Basic. Accesses 150 Pro/E functions. http://www.engineering.com
Bentley Systems last week released InRoads v8.3 for MicroStation V8.
Revit v4.1 features schedule and tag improvements, externally-named parameter import, and support for Italian and Dutch. http://www.revit.com
SolidWorks released SolidWorks 3D PartStream.NET version 3.0 [can the name get much longer?], which adds a template for publishing online catalogs. http://www.3dpartstream.net
Moldflow announced the new date for its first international user group conference: March 17-19, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Boston, MA USA. http://www.moldflow.com/Events/MUG/index.htm
Fourth International Symposium on Tools and Methods of Competitive Engineering, Wuhan, China, April 22-26. http://www.io.tudelft.nl/research/ica/tmce2002/
COFES2002 (Congress on the Future of Engineering Software) May 2-5 in Scottsdale AZ USA. http://www.cofes.com
CFX user conference for computational fluid dynamics software, May 6-9 at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel in Pittsburgh PA USA. [Another one of those secret societies -- meaning of CFX, anyone?] http://www.software.aeat.com/cfx/local/na/nausers.htm
Infrasoft appointed Brian Taylor as the new Chief Operating Officer. Mr Taylor was formerly the vp at Exterprise Group.
AOL Time Warner is in negotiations to purchase Red Hat and its Linux operating system. In years past, AOL has purchased other Microsoft-alternatives, such as Netscape, Winamp and ICQ. - betaNews
At its February developers conference, Palm will debut its BeOS-based multitasking multithreading PalmOS v5.
At <http://www.theinquirer.net/17010208.htm> The Inquirer describes how graphics chip designer Nvidia is becoming too powerful for the liking of Intel and Microsoft.
Cable Television Laboratories (CableLabs) is a consortium of North and South American cable operators that have a new DOCSIS 2.0 (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) which boosts the capacity of cable modems to 30 megabits per second in both directions. - PC World
Intel will try again to take on the graphics board market when it releases the 845G integrated chipset in April for low-end machines. Digitimes says the chipset is equivalent to the Nvidia Geforce 2 MMX400.
CIO: The Meter is Running
"Microsoft was telling CIOs to gamble: pay a little more now, or risk paying a lot more later. Or take a deep discount in exchange for prohibiting yourself from looking at alternative products. Startlingly, most CIOs are taking the risk and putting off Software Assurance for as long as possible."
Dr. Dobb's: 8086 and All That
(Parody) History of computing, as remembered by Verity Stob.
CAD Report: The Decline of Parametric Technology
Includes a chart that shows how WindChill license revenues have not been able to replaced declining Pro/E license revenues.
The relationship between the Finnish and the Hungarian languages.
Hint: It changed to "Product Data Exchange using STEP"
- Scott Taylor
Look for the answer at http://www.upfrontezine.com/trivia.htm
"Can't help but to ask. In all your 'Who Sucks' research, did you check for upfrontezinesucks.com???"
- Jim Longley
The editor replies: "No need to, since unlike software vendors, I don't lock readers into using my product."
- HP trying to save the Compaq deal. Quoted by http://www.ditherati.com/archive/ from http://news.com.com/2100-1001-818687.html
- John Leyden