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O N T E N T S
Customers Hit Twice
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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.
On Saturday, our DSL (highspeed Internet) connection went down -- and is still down. For this reason, this week's upFront.eZine is shorter than usual.
The service provider (Telus) says their repairman should be coming around within 48 hours, even though their scheduling software shows the earliest available date as early February. We'll see which wins out: infallible computer software, or human commonsense.
[U[date: Telus now says their repairman won't show up until 21 January. Ugh!]
In the meantime, check out our new blog site, "WorldCAD Access: Talking about CAD." There you'll find daily news and discussion about the CAD industry, computing in general, and book reviews. worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog/
One way some CAD vendors boast of their software's popularity is through the number of jobs available. One CEO goes as far as to have an assistant prepare regular reports of the number of jobs available for his CAD package versus competitors.
It's easy to do: just enter the name of a software package into Monster.com's search engine, and then check the number of found items. (Monster.com is the largest job search Web site.) We did a survey last week, entering the names of several CAD software product, and then recording the result. These are the raw numbers:
Examining the Job Stats
We examined the results further, to see what kind of data was being returned. For "SolidWorks," for example, we found:
With those qualifiers, we could see cutting the number reported by Monster.com by 2/3, roughly, to get a more accurate picture of the number of drafting job available.
We found that many variables affected the result returned by Monster.com:
Our View: Job site statistics are good for students determining which CAD packages are in demand, but are less useful for marketing purposes
PTC Customers Hit Twice
Just before Christmas, Parametric Technology Corp issued two warning notices. One: its software will stop operating on January 10, 2004. Two: its free Pro/Desktop Express software will no longer be supported after December 31, 2003.
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Y2K Strikes 95 Million Seconds Late
The first was discovered when a user ran Pro/E on a computer whose date had been set forward -- the software stopped working. He contacted PTC, who traced the problem to a Y2K-like coding decision.
All software programs determine the date and time by counting seconds, a process that involves billions of seconds. Programmers pick (1) a starting date; and (2) the total number of seconds that can be counted -- hoping that the ending date is far enough in the future that the software will no longer be used.
When writing Pro/Engineer Release 20 in 1997, programmers picked 1 Jan 1970 as the starting date, and 2^30 for the number of seconds; that makes the ending date is this Saturday. (Most other software, such as PalmOS and Unix, uses 2^31 seconds, which allows the software to work twice as long, until the year 2038.)
PTC says Pro/E, Pro/Intralink, and Windchill will stop working, unless you download the appropriate patch from www.ptc.com/go/timeout . The patch doubles the number of seconds to 2^32. Additional patches are to become available for PTC's other products.
Our View: Good on PTC for getting out patches quickly. We hope the patching process goes smoothly for users.
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Free Isn't Economically Viable
The second bad news is the end of free software from PTC. A patch was available to extend the time-limited license by five years -- provided you downloaded it by 31 December, 2003.
Pro/Desktop Express was a free 3D MCAD software package that PTC hoped would lure potential customers in paying for Pro/Desktop and Pro/Engineer. The company says that after two years, the software gained 150,000 registered users -- a low figure, in our mind, for software that's free.
(We were among those downloading the software, but never completed its installation, because the process was too cumbersome.)
No reason is given by PTC for the discontinuance; the reason is, of course, the expense. The free software generated expenses for PTC -- the programming, registration, support, and marketing -- something the company can ill-afford these days, having lost US$200 million over the last four years. So, on the one hand, PTC calls Pro/Desktop Express "a tremendous success," but also a program that "has run its course."
Our View: Bad on PTC for announcing the license extension a scant two weeks before the drop-dead deadline. (If you missed downloading before 31 Dec, we suppose you could set your computer's clock back, and then install the license extension.) And why a five-year limit?
Letter to the Editor
"I look forward to your newsletter each Tuesday."
- Glenn Lasher, USA
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- Headline from a recent SAP ad.
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