December 7, 2004
Issue 410

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T H E   B U S I N E S S   O F   C A D

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Alibre Patents Multi-Server Modeling [one or many servers, its choice]
  - Interview with Alibre CEO Greg Milliken


Autodesk University 2004
[next year in Orlando, thank goodness]
- Keynote Address
- Las Vegas Water Works
- Images from Las Vegas


From the Editor
[blatant Christmas gift self-promotion]


Under The Radar
and our other regular columns.

an email to the Editor

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Donate $25
to upFront.eZine
right now with Paypal

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Look for additional, nearly-daily CAD commentary at our Weblog:
WorldCAD Access.


Visit our new digital photography Weblog at The Canon S1iS Fan  



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Alibre Patents Multi-Server Modeling

Back in June, Alibre was granted US patent 6,748,419 for technology that might become important in the future. The patent envisions a method of doing 3D solid modeling using multiple computers connected to each other via any sort of network. The invention has five layers of computing:

1. The user interface - what the user sees on the computer screen.

2. The design application - generates visual representations of models and formulates requests to the design server; runs on the user's computer.

3. The design server - stores the session management program, the model data (for one or more concurrent design apps), the 3D solids modeler, and 2D/3D constraints manager.

4. The repository server - stores and serves model files.

5. The administrative server - coordinates network activities (and is not unique to this patent).

The patent envisions the five layers existing on a single computer, or on multiple computers:

  • Single user accesses a combined design and repository server.
  • Multiple users access one design server and one repository server.
  • Multiple users access multiple design and repository servers.
  • The design app, design server, and repository server all accessing each other directly, especially when processing needs to be off-loaded.

When several users access the same model file, the additional users receive data proxies; the repository server ensures that only one user can edit the model at a time.

You can read the patent in full at

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Interview with Alibre CEO Greg Milliken

upFront.eZine: "Distributed computing isn't a new concept. So, then how does your patent differ from other software that seems to do the same thing?"

Greg Milliken: "Key areas of the invention's differentiation relate to its specific application to CAD and 3D modeling, and that being distributed across various client applications, design servers, and repository servers.

"In addition, also important to the invention are how various inputs, such as change requests, are managed across a distributed network. Configurations of the invention can vary greatly when you consider the number of ways one could manage various servers and data storage related to an in-process engineering design."


upFront.eZine: "Do you feel your patent may be infringed by others?"

Greg Milliken: "It is possible other software products are infringing on the patent, but for now we are not making any specific claims in that regard. We are just taking stock of the market and various products, and if we find any that do, you can be sure we will pursue it."


upFront.eZine: "The way Alibre Design operates has changed from when it was first launched, and from when your firm first applied for this patent [in 1999]. Alibre Disign now runs primarily on local computers, not over the Internet."

Greg Milliken: "Initially, when the company was launched, Alibre was all about collaboration. Over time we shored up our 3D modeling capabilities and built a sound and growing business in the mainstream 3D CAD space. I firmly believe that the collaborative aspects of our technology are visionary and strategic to the company's future.

"Collaboration via the Internet and intranets will bring the next big advancement in mechanical design, engineering, and manufacturing. It will likely take time to become mainstream, but when it does it will have a huge impact on the way products are developed, we believe -- more so than any modeling advance, like parametrics did or could.

"In the meantime, we'll just continue the good fight of growing our business and making 3D parametric CAD available to everyone. And in the process, each new sale is akin to wiring the 'last mile' of the manufacturing industry."


Autodesk University 2004

Autodesk University was last week, and Autodesk flew in many of the CAD media (80, by our count) from around the world (USA, Canada, England, Romania, and Korea were source countries we noticed). Herewith some of our notes and photos from the event.

Keynote Address

The CEO of Autodesk, Carol Bartz, presented the keynote address in person this year. She pleaded for 4,400+ attendees to "embrace change," and remarked on the democratization of design by Autodesk software.

Scott Borduin, chief technology officer, showed off features that users might find in future releases of AutoCAD and Inventor -- features similar to those found in the now-discontinued Autodesk Actrix and in the still available IronCAD (and father to both, Tri-Spectives from 3D/eye).

You'll be hearing much more of AutoCAD 2006 in the months to come (due in March), but here is a brief overview of the features illustrated by Mr Borduin:

  • Dynamic blocks [symbols] have shape-coded handles to indicate whether they can be rotated in increments, stretched, aligned, and so on.  
  • Attributed tables take data stored in attributes, and generate tables with addition and multiplication to produce totals.
  • Dynamic input moves the "command line" to the object being edited. Command prompts and coordinate input are displayed in small yellow editable boxes next to the object.
  • 3D grips and drag'n drop parts for Inventor.

Dean Kamen was the feature guest speaker, who during his entire talk moved about on a Segway, which he invented. He spoke of the problems in developing inventions that are innovative. He described a cart invented by the Chinese hundreds of year ago: outfitted with gears, it pointed precise, straight paths through the Gobi Desert ['gobi' means 'desert' in Ural-Altaic languages]. Inventive? Yes; innovative? No. Hundreds of years earlier, the Chinese had discovered the lodestone, but didn't figure out the compass.

Las Vegas Water Works

The media attending Adesk U were invited to the Las Vegas water works facility. They build and maintain 36,000 miles (I think) of pipes in the fastest growing city of the USA. To keep track of it all, they implemented several CAD-GIS programs to automate the addition and recovery of field data.

As-built and repair data is collected by GPS systems accurate to 2 cm (1"). Even all service trucks are outfitted with a GPS; we saw a real-time map that showed the location of the trucks: green icons for those that moved in the last 30 seconds; red for those that were stopped. The administrator said he used the GPS data to prove an employee deserved his speeding ticket.

The GPS data is transmitted back to the central office, and integrated into the GIS database through routines written in AutoCAD. Software automatically adjusts plans with the as-built data. As much as possible is done with AutoCAD, because CAD operators are cheaper to employ than GIS operators.

Images from Las Vegas
A wireless cloud meant people could check their email anywhere. How many do you count in this picture? (This is a 1x4 stitched photograph. Ans: 15.)
The Autodesk CEO gives an impassioned speech, asking attendees to embrace change. (A composite of 6 photos.)
Featured speaker Dean Kamen reflects off the back wall mirror.
Korean journalists listen to the translator.
A restaurant's isoline wall at the MGM Grand.  
Las Vegas airport now boasts show business personalities making standard security announcements. A security guard told me Tuesdays are the slowest day there. (This is a 2x2 stitched photograph.)

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Next year, Autodesk University moves to Orlando FL USA.

Adena Schutzberg has additional Adesk U coverage at

From the Editor

Give you and your loved ones and neighbours a brilliant Christmas present: on their computers, install AVF Anti-Virus and LavaSoft Ad-Aware. Both are free:

        AVF Anti-Virus:


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Buying one or more books makes a terrific Christmas present for us at upFront.eZine Publishing! We still have some copies of paper-based books that you can pick up in exchange for a donation of US$25 or more to upFront.eZine. Currently on hand we have:

  • Using AutoCAD 2005: Basics (3 copies)
  • Using AutoCAD 2005: Advanced (3 copies)
  • Accessing Architectural Desktop 2005 (5 copies)

Request yours through PayPal:

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And then there is unlimited numbers of our e-books, which start at $19.95. Titles include:

  • 'Tailoring AutoCAD' series
  • 'Tailoring IntelliCAD' series
  • 'What's Inside? AutoCAD 2005'
  • 'Inside Visio 2002' and 'Tailoring Visio 2002'
  • 'Inside General CAD Pro 1' and 'Inside Generic CADD 6'

More information at our eBooks.onLine Web site:

Below the Radar

A summary of CAD industry news you may not have read elsewhere, or that we found interesting:

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ACS Software releases AutoEDMS v6.5 SR2 -- the twelfth major release of its document management and workflow software. The company launched in 1981, and began providing document management systems in 1986. Exclaims pr gal Debbie Simpson, "My-o-my how time flies when you're having fun!"  has a DWG Viewer for Mac OS X.

Cadro releases HatchKit v2.4 for visually creating and editing hatch pattern files for AutoCAD/LT, Chief Architect, DataCAD 11, DesignCAD, FelixCAD, General CADD, IntelliCAD, MegaCAD, MicroStation V8, PowerCAD, Revit, SolidWorks, TurboCAD, Vdraft, VersaCAD, Visual CADD, and Rhino/LINO. Open one filetype, save in another. "All the best for the forthcoming festive season," adds owner Hugh Adamson.  announces Piranesi 4 for Mac OS X.

Bentley announces its MicroStation V8 crossgrade pricing for disaffected (or any other kind of) AutoCAD 2000/i user <>: the same cost as upgrading to AutoCAD 2005 -- US$1,495. Bentley says it offers these advantages over Autodesk:

  • Native support of DWG and DGN.
  • Read and write DWG back to AutoCAD R11.
  • Export drawings in Acrobat PDF format.
  • Free DWG (and DGN) file viewer.
  • AutoCAD paradigms in MicroStation products.
  • Special classroom and online training.
  • Direct support from Bentley.
  • Savings on group purchases and vertical products.

[We note, however, a few drawbacks:

  • Free home-use license only when you sign up for Bentley's annual subscription program; Autodesk includes the home-use license to all 2005 users, whether on subscription or not.
  • Autodesk provides upgrade pricing going back to Release 14.]  has a free stair calculator for AutoCAD .

@Last Software says that ESRI ArcGIS users can now use SketchUp to create 3D models, incorporate models into GIS databases, and visually explore the model in 3D.  has a 45-day eval of its Design Data Manager data manager software.

Stheno/pro software, from CAD Schroer, is the 2D companion to PTC's Pro/Engineer Wildfire 2.0. Release 1.3.1 now directly connects with Pro/INTRALINK and inclues an bi-directional IGES translator.  batch converts AutoCAD drawings to PDF -- without AutoCAD.

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Additional news and commentary at our WorldCAD Access blog:

  • No More Extensions - Autodesk
  • Windows 2000 Update in 2005           
  • What's New in Upcoming Autodesk Software              
  • The False Consensus Effect            
  • Microsoft Wants to Serve Your Software

Magazine/eZine/Weblog Updates

Cyon Research relaunches its 'A-E-C Automation' print newsletter as a Web-based news service called . It's edited by Randall Newton. The print publication had been founded by Ed Forrest in 1977.

A few weeks ago, it was BlobCAD. Now there's BlogCAD, a Web site run by ProgeSOFT of Italy, and calling itself "the first blog dedicated to CAD news, where stories are directly submitted by readers." The editors want to publish ten stories a day, but so far, no news is the news at

People/Companies on the Move

Doug Reid, former NovAtel CEO and Leica Geosystems vp joins GiveMePower's business advisory council.

DRCauto software appoints Bymar Enterprises as the exclusive United States distributor for drcauto's Smart Architect software, which runs on AutoCAD and LT.

Proficiency appoints Marc Dulude as chairman of its board. Mr Dulude is a general partner with Ampersand Ventures.

Hüggenberg GbR is a pr firm in Germany now offering architecture and construction public relations through Mandy Ahlendorf. "It is one of our strengths to word this complexity comprehensible for the according target audience and thus giving potential customers an understanding of the subject," writes managing director Joachim Hüggenberg.

Spicer Corporation joins the JT Open program.

Brand New CAD Books/eBooks

ArchonCAD has a 200-page 'VectorWorks Kitchen Tutorial Manual' that contains notes and exercises, and uses video clips to show tools and techniques to draw kitchens. In VectorWorks.

WorthWhile Web
Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness
Only view this site when you have time on your hands.
       - Thanks to

Letters to the Editor

"I've yet to encounter a single user that runs AutoCAD without an application. Then again, I'm a software developer, so most users that I meet at least use something that I wrote. Compared to AutoCAD, most platforms only provide second class APIs. Leaving AutoCAD means leaving their productivity tools.

"Getting LT users should be an easier task, since there's no official API. The price in Europe is higher than in the US; it's about US$1,700 here in Sweden, the price is about US$1,480."
      - Henrik Vallgren

The editor replies, "Autodesk says 70-80% of customers customize AutoCAD in some way."

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"Keep up the good writing (and digging)!"
  - David Prawel

"Thanks for all the EXCELLENT info and insights over the years."
  - Rob Melnyk

"Fantastic reporting."
- Don Dalrymple

Spin Doctor of the Moment

"There's a lot of rules and regulations out there. You're trying to be respectful of everyone."
   - Gary Holbrook, principal of Freedom Elementary School explaining why even snowflake cutouts are banned from his school during Christmas time.

Notable Quotable

"Microsoft denies that Google has been the impetus for improvements in its products."
 - Allison Linn, AP business writer

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