u p F r o n t . e Z i n e

t h e   b u s I n e s s   o f   c a d

Issue #640 |  April 6, 2010  |  English Edition

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In This Issue

1. Open is Relative

    - Looking Out from Inside the Corporation

    - April Fool's Day Web Pages


2. 4M IDEA and FINE


3. Out of the Inbox, and our other regular columns


Open is Relative

April Fool's Day hit Siemens PLM Systems like a brick when a rather clever stunt was abruptly switched off. A Siemens employee had worked with independent bloggers to "unveil" the CAD vendor's new cloud initiative named "CADville." (For the history, see http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog/2010/04/best-april-fools-day-joke-wiped-from-interweb.html.) Within hours, the offending page was taken from Siemens' Web site, as well as from those of the cooperating bloggers.


Siemens PLM Systems became the April Fool in short order, as Twitter and Weblogs spread the news about the German company's grumpy response. Other bloggers swiftly dug up cached copies of the banned works, and posted them online.


In contrast, April Fool's Day Web pages at Kubotek USA ("so easy a monkey can use it") and Autodesk ("design your love life") were kept up. SpaceClaim went a step further by implementing the Twitter-driven CADville within hours of the Siemens "announcement."


The apparent censorship imposed by Siemens on its own blog (and felt implicitly by some non-employee industry bloggers) became the topic of a debate that raged among editors and marketing people for the next days.


Some 36 hours later, however, @SiemensPLM tweeted, "In case u missed @burhop's April Fool's blog post and the interesting discussion around it - it is reposted: http://bit.ly/ckdFyg" -- as did @DeelipMenezes: "'Siemens PLM offers CAD on the Cloud ­ Part 1' http://bit.ly/d0BZpK (For whatever it's worth, this is the post that I took down)."


As blogger Deelip Menezes put it, "Control and social don't get along well." Corporations are paranoid by nature; they tend to fire employees who are open. The April Fool's Day jokes by Kubotek and Autodesk were alright, for they had been as carefully approved as any press release; the fatal flaw of the Siemens PLM's joke was that it had been created an employee who showed initiative and independence.


The Internet was designed to route around obstructions; social networking applications make it all the more open. (Indeed, this is why major media companies are wetting themselves over the iPad: they love Steve Jobs for putting the brakes on the spread of free information, which that awful Internet was allowing.)


The events of last Thursday, then, were no surprise, when social networking collided with corporate paranoia -- generated by the fear of a negative image, fear of shareholder law suits, fear of...


"One thing I learned from my time on the inside [of CAD vendor] is that executives obsess over every word. Every word in a press release, and every word written about them," writes a former employee.


The openness of social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, and anonymous blogs, is one more threat.


Looking Out from Inside the Corporation

A marketing person writes, "Many a time has a CAD executive said to me, 'Why can't they [the media] just be positive? Why do they have to  give a negative slant to everything?'"


The answer is simple: Our positive is their neutral; our neutral is their negative.


Having worked for a few companies, I understand the paranoia within them, even as management and workers prefer to use other words: loyalty, giving to the company, team, colleagues -- positive ways of stating a negative, "It's all about us, against them." I recall one engineering boss refusing to share data with a competitor, as requested by our common client. Even as a freshly graduated engineer, the refusal puzzled me.


Of all employees, marketing people are under the greatest pressure, for they represent the outward smiling face of otherwise inward looking corporations. Another marketing person explained to me the viewpoint of upper management in greater detail. He wrote:

- - -

It is a control issue. While a few companies might publicly espouse social networking, Seimens PLM being one, all companies are at heart anti-social with a driving need to control the conversation. In the past, they had some weapons to control [publications], such as removing advertising and uninviting them from annual user events.


Control can also be positively applied. Autodesk and SolidWorks spend much time "welcoming" their independent bloggers, because they realize that they need to control them -- and bribe them with expenses-paid trips to SolidWorks World and the like.


As the world of true independence grows, however, these weapons become more and more outdated.


It is not the marketing folks that are defining these inane rules of engagement. It is outdated thinking and belief systems from upper management of many companies who do not get that humanizing a company -- talking about other things that affect us all -- makes a difference. (Before they were bought by Google, SketchUp were masters of doing this well.)


So why can we marketing folks not produce interesting blog articles that "start a conversation?" Because the blog has to be inward-looking. Rather than mentioning the competition in wide-reaching topics, we have to pretend they do not exist.


Heaven forbid that a conversation veer towards a discussion of the competition! I would be out of a job if (i.e., when) that happens, because the conversation was not controlled. I cannot acknowledge that the subject, the market, the user base is far bigger than just one company. And I cannot crack a joke, because the topic of engineering is serious!


I am not commenting just on my own situation; it is throughout the entire corporate mentality. This rant has to be anonymous, because I would lose my job. But the conflict is part of the argument, debate, and discussion that revolves through my mind almost every day.


Social networking represents a great threat to the tired and trusted tenets of PR and marketing (as they existed in the 1990s and before). Upper management is familiar with controlling the conversation through bullying and bribes. But when online discussions veer off into other areas, there is no bringing them back to the "talking points". At the end of the day, a vendor needs to maintain integrity, provide great customer service, and ship great technology to be able to survive it.

- - -

When I launched WorldCAD Access, the official blogger of a CAD vendor ask me what I would write about. Since then, the answer has become  clear: I write about everything that he can't.


April Fools Day Web pages

Siemens PLM Systems









Kubotek USA





We hear a lot about Revit, because it is in the USA, Vectorworks (also of the USA but owned by a German firm) and ArchiCAD (launched from Hungary), but IDEA is completely new -- I was going to say completely foreign -- to most of us, even though they are not.


IDEA is 3D and 2D architectural BIM software from 4M, a software company formed back in 1986 in Greece by four partners (four engineers is translated as "4 Michaniki" in Greek), hence the name. The IDEA name is no acronym; it just came up as a good "idea" one evening back in 1993. The company's other software is FINE ("fully integrated environment"); more on this later.


In short, 4M offers a "fully integrated suite powered by BIM for building design," Cedric Desbordes told me during an interview over Skype from his office in France. He's the business development officer for 4M and previous chairman of the IntelliCAD Technical Consortium.


IDEA and FINE work by running a single spatial database to define intelligent objects for all disciplines, whether architecture, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, elevators, and so on; the CAD engine is IntelliCAD. Because it is based on IntelliCAD, it uses DWG as its native file format + the BLD building file that contains the database. This means that AutoCAD and other IntelliCAD users can view the drawings, add details, and to perform some types of editing.

(Click for larger image.)


Compared to Revit or ArchiCAD, IDEA is quicker and easier to use, because it has fewer options for walls, doors, and so on. It understands local regulations, such as the minimum distance from street. It generates Photorealistic renderings, and walkthrough videos. When 2D views are extracted from the 3D model, the views are update automatically.


Mr Desbordes emphasized that the 4M product line presents quite a value proposition: (a) AutoCAD-like user interface, (b) same file format for all components, (c) and affordable. IDEA is e1,500, deliberately set at the same price as AutoCAD LT in most countries, so that for the price of LT you get IntelliCAD and a full architectural software package that uses intelligent objects. FINE is e2,500 for all modules, but you can purchase each one separately, such as e1,220 for the HVAC module and e900 for the electrical one.


The company also offers STRAD and Steel for structural design, FINE Green for environmental calculations, and FINE Fire for firefighting installations.


The 4M software is sold in 25 countries, and has now nearly 20,000 customers. In particular, they are market leader in southeastern Europe.





Out of the Inbox

Several CAD-related software applications are already available for Apple's new iPad:

    - NaviCAD for iPad views models in Google's Warehouse. http://www.navicad.com

    - SitePAD fir iPhone works on the iPad, with the iPad version due soon. http://www.sitepad.co.uk

    - SketchBook Pro from Autodesk is rewritten for the iPad. http://www.autodesk.com/sketchbook


FreeDesign ($995 bundle) creates organic 3D models using N-sided surfacing. 15-day demo from http://www.freedesign3d.com/downloads_purchasing.cfm


Zuken anounces that its E3 series of software for designing wiring, harnesses, cable, fluid, hydraulics, and panels becomes available in early May. http://www.zuken.com/e3series-2010  


INUS Technology updates Inspectworks 2.0 verification tool for SolidWorks working with 3D scanners to verify that parts are manufactured to specification from SolidWorks.  http://www.rapidform.com

- - -

These were some of the news items that were posted during the last week at the WorldCAD Access blog <http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:

And at the Gizmos Grabowski weblog <http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/gizmos>:

         - How to run two wireless routers

         - Finding Eneloop batteries in Canada


Hardware News

Microsoft is ending its support for Intel's Itanium processor with the current version of its Windows Server OS. - http://www.pcworld.com/article/193426



Seminars & Conferences

International Aras Community Event is May 10-11 in Schaumburg IL USA.  http://www.aras.com/ACE2010


6th International revit Technology Conference is May 20-22 in Sydney, Australia. http://www.revitconference.com.au


25th annual International Forum on Design for Manufacture and Assembly is Jun 14-16 in Providence-Warwick RI USA. http://www.dfma.com/forum



People/Companies on the Move

Dassault Systemes appoints Al Bunshaft as managing director of Dassault Systemes Americas. Mr Bunshaft is the former global vice president of IBM PLM.


In related news, Dassault Systemes completed the purchase of IBM PLM’s sales and client support operations for $600 million, following the approval of the European Union. The two will continue working together, developing, deploying and supporting client PLM environments.


Open Design Alliance changes the brand name of its software development program to Teigha.


Autodesk appoints Mary McDowell to its board of directors. Ms McDowell is Nokia executive vp and chief development officer at Nokia.


CCE celebrates 20 years in the CAD interoperability business. http://www.cadcam-e.com  



Market News

IGE+XAO reports that "Turnover" (revenues) fell 5.4% to e10.4 million in the first half of its fiscal year.



WorthWhile Web


The Collapse of Complex Business Models

by Clay Shirky



What's Google planning for Chrome 5?

by Stephen Shankland



Why I won't buy an iPad (and think you shouldn't, either)

by Cory Doctorow



Letters to the Editor

Re: Wierd Characters

    If you manually tell Outlook that your character encoding is Unicode (UTF-8), the encoding glitches [found sometimes in upFront.eZine] disappear.

    - Blake Courter



Re: AutoCAD Alternative

    I'm wondering if you know of a 2D CAD program that works like Inventor's drawing module, but is under $1000, has a very short learning curve, can create huge drawings, and is AutoCAD-compatibl' (e.g., dwg or dxf export)?

    Reason I ask is b/c I'm tired of the 'upgrades' that Autodesk makes us pay for, when they have everything they need right there in Inventor's drawing module. Reason I'm on this path, is b/c I've had to use AutoCAD for the past two weeks, and it isn't much better than when I left around Release 2002 (been in 3D since around 2001). While trying out the annotative dims, text, and mleaders, I was appalled at how incomplete, shallow and difficult to use, its functionality is.

    - Chris Huminski


The editor replies: From your need for an Inventor-like 2D drawing program, I am assuming you want its parametric drafting. There is just one software company with an under-$1000 parametric, DWG-compatible drafting package, and that is IMSI/design: TurboCAD and DoubleCAD XT Pro.  The alternative is unavailable on its own: AutoCAD Mechanical (you have to buy all of Inventor to get it).



Re: What's Inside? AutoCAD 2011

    I just ordered What's Inside? AutoCAD 2011 on general principles, plus I know it will be good.  

    We are just now implementing AutoCAD 2009 due to the people at Bentley being two years behind the rest of the world with their AutoCAD applications.  I have tried multiple times to get my company to dump Bentley but they won’t. As the AutoCAD guru, a large amount of my time is spent fixing Bentley problems or writing programs to work around them.

    - Jack Foster



Keep up the great work of publishing thinking CAD commentary.

    - John S. Brunt



Notable Quotable

For all we knew, it's a technology designed in the back stall of a unicorn barn, and the final name will somehow involve diphthongs from both "lasers" and "Robot Apocalypse.

    - Darren Murph, Engaget





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