u p F r o n t . e Z i n e
happy new year!
Issue #673 | January 11, 2010
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In This Issue
1. Universalism Not So Universal
- What's a CAD Vendor to Do?
1. IronCAD 2011 Collaboration Suite
3. And in Other News
Universalism Not So Universal
A large CAD vendor by the name of Dassault Systemes liked to use the tagline "3D Everywhere" to promote its vision of its 3D software being used everywhere. It's been a few years now since I first saw its ceo wave around a PDA device, and rotating a 3D model on its screen.
Like I said, it's been a few years now, and I'm still not seeing 3D everywhere from Dassault. The reason is simple, because the task is too difficult. The difficulty of the "everywhere" task is amplified by the headline I read at at 9 to 5 Mac some weeks ago:
Desktop version of Google Docs now works on iPad
The headline makes me wonder, "Why doesn't Docs just work?" Or, to ask the question more broadly:
Q: Where is the universalism promised by modern Web browsers?
A: It doesn't exist.
I'm someone who faithfully employed the Opera browser ever since v4, and so I know all about browser incompatibility. I chose Opera, because Netscape Navigator was dying, Mozilla was unstable, FireFox and others did not exist, and there was no way I would use Internet Explorer. My religious-like anti-Microsoft fervor allowed me to put up with the pages that Opera would not render correctly.
The "Aha!" moment came a few years ago after I commented on a blog that a Google Docs feature finally worked in Opera. I soon received a message from an Opera staffer that they had worked hard with Google to make the feature work correctly.
Then I realized that the utopian dream of write-once, display-in-all-browsers barely works. Web pages must be adapted for specific browsers. This explained why all of Dassault's "3D Everywhere" Web pages failed to render on my Opera.
The dream changes into a nightmare when trying to get things working on Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome OS, Meego -- and then on the many form factors available today: different screen sizes, CPUs, GPUs, storage memory, hardware/software buttons, and so on.
With 2011's planned explosion of Android-based tablets we saw at last week's CES show, the task becomes harder, not easier. I wonder if software programmers will ever reach their utopian goal.
What's a CAD Vendor to Do?
During their otherwise pastoral lifetimes, CAD vendors faced four big disruptions that came from sources external to our industry. (There also were internal disruptions, such as direct DWG access in the 1990s and direct modeling now.) The four big ones were the following:
With each one, CAD vendors are initially unsure how to embrace the disruption. In some cases, they fail to recognize a disruption is occurring. (Case study: PTC and the Web.) In other cases, CAD vendors try to leap-frog the disruption. (Case study: SolidWorks on the cloud.)
Notice that I left out the cloud from my list of disruptors. This is because disruptions are driven by users. The cloud is not, because it is an invisible backend system that users do not care about. Instead, they care about data portability. This means accessing information where and when they need it -- something provided by today's powerful Android and iOS cell phones and tablets.
So, where does that leave 3D Everywhere? Hanging, because one software company cannot keep up with the overwhelming hardware and OS choices splitting the computing world into fragments.
The new release of Solid Edge is out and we want to show you what's new.
Experience in person how Solid Edge has fulfilled the vision of synchronous technology with the release of ST3. Current and future Solid Edge users are welcome.
IronCAD 2011 Collaboration Suite
Cary O'Connor figures that his company's suit of software can't be matched by any other 3D MCAD vendor. One reason is because a common set of DLLs service three EXEs: one each for IronCAD, Inovate, and Draft. But the main reason is that a single product (IronCAD) integrates direct editing, innovative design [more on this later], structured design, and full featured 2D. This cuts costs and improves efficiency, because then you're working with different kinds of data in a single package. Nevertheless, the company offers three software packages:
In addition, IronCAD offers Trans for each package, a $300-$500 translation add-on that reads 3D models from Catia, Pro/E, SolidWorks, Inventor, and NX. (It writes to Catia and Pro/E.)
Figure 1: IronCAD Draft
Innovative and Structured Design
I was interested to hear from Mr. O'Connor how IronCAD had solved the problem of doing both direct and parametric modeling in one design environment. Notice that I haven't used the terms "history-free" and "history" with the two systems, because IronCAD makes use of history (loosely) in its direct modeling, which it calls "innovative" modeling.
As he did a live demo over WebEx (no prerecorded videos!), he showed how both kinds of models could exist in a single drawing. He modeled one part directly, and then a second one parametrically. The difference between the two is determined before you start to draw, by selecting a toggle on the status bar.
Start in Innovate mode, and every part you draw, or add to the original part, is modeled directly. Switch to Structured mode, and the new part is drawn in parametric mode. What happens, though, when you want to add a "floating" feature, one that is not attached to an existing part: how does IronCAD know with which part it should associate -- innovated or structured? The solution is to make one of them the active part.
But parts don't have to stay in their original forms. You can switch them back and forth between innovated and structured, like this: (1) start a new part in the other mode, (2) copy the body, and then (3) work with the copy. (The original remains in place.)
So, which mode do customers use? Mr. O'Connor finds that most use the innovate form for parts design, but that's not surprise, given that customers had been buying IronCAD for its direct modeling. Structured (parametric) modeling is popular is for part variations (configurations), as well as for users who like to work with datums (reference planes) in their sketches. Innovative design is not so good for parts that have lofted surfaces (profiles that go along guide curves) with ribbing attached; here structured design is better.
On the other hand, innovative modeling is what you need when importing 3D models from other CAD systems. Some parametrics is possible with innovative modeling. For example, Mr O'Connor showed how he could position of one part to drive the feature position and size of another, something not allowed in other direct modeling systems, he said. While automatic associations found in true parametric systems are missing, it does have loose associations that, for instance, attach to faces, yet can be easily overridden.
IronCAD 2011 represents the second release of this mixed-mode modeling, and IronCAD plans to adding improvements. In the future, IronCAD will be able to maintain individual features when moving from structured to innovative part and back again.
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And In Other News
Mr Ray gets promoted upstairs. Or, as the press release modestly put it, "Organizational Changes at SolidWorks." Jeff Ray is being replaced as SolidWorks ceo by Bertrand Sicot, Dassault's former vp of sales. Mr Ray becomes executive vp of geographic operations.
Citrix is working with Google to run Windows apps on Chrome OS operatingt on netbook computers. It works like this: Citrix hosts Windows apps on a remote data center; you buy them through a Citrix app store, which delivers them as virtual desktop apps. Google showed Citrix Receiver running in a Chrome window running Excel and Solidworks eDrawings x64 Edition. These will be available thr it sounds like, in the first half of 2011. http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/07/live-from-googles-chrome-event
The Open Design Alliance's new Teigha Viewer displays DWG and DGN files on Linux, Mac OS, and Windows. For you, it's no cost; for ODA members, they get the source code, too. http://www.opendesign.com/guestfiles
In related news, the ODA rebrands its C++-based DRX software development kit with a new name, "Teigha Xtension" SDK, or "TX" for short. Whatever the name, its purpose is to create applications that work with DWG files. "TX modules can create custom commands that can be registered on the global command stack, create full-featured custom objects, and access and manipulate data loaded from a .dwg file." The above-mentioned Teigha Viewer can be used to test TX modules. The SDK and docs available no-charge from http://www.opendesign.com/tx_sdk
Dassault Systemes is making Geometric Limited its preferred services provider to support DS' products and technologies. http://www.geometricglobal.com
JETCAM turns 25 in 2011. Founded in Australia, the company relocated to Germany in 1990. Head office is now in Monaco. http://www.jetcam.com
Rasterex is still in Norway, and is still shipping RxView and RxHighlight. The latest release brings its DGN support up to the level of DWG. http://www.rasterex.com
And Docupoint's DrawingSearcher now works with DWG files created by AutoCAD 2011. http://www.docupoint.com
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These were some of the news items that were posted during the Christmas break at our WorldCAD Access blog:
Letters to the Editor
Re: Autodesk University 2010
[In my report, I quoted AMD saying "its OpenCL is better than Nvidia's CUDA, because OpenCL runs on everything, while CUDA is not portable and runs only on Nvidia boards -- which you might not have in your computer."]
On that point, I wanted to make you aware that Nvidia enthusiastically supports all languages and APIs that enable developers to access the parallel processing power of the GPU. Nvidia has a long history of embracing and supporting standards since a wider choice of languages improve the number and scope of applications that can exploit parallel computing on the GPU. With C/C++ and Fortran language support along with APIs, such as OpenCL and Microsoft DirectCompute available today, GPU computing is now mainstream. Nvidia is the only processor company to offer this breadth of open and standard language solutions for the GPU.
In fact, the Khronos OpenCL working group is chaired by Nvidia , with several active participants from Nvidia. Nvidia was the first to show OpenCL running our on GPUs at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference, and Nvidia has dedicated software engineering resources to ensure OpenCL performance on the CUDA compute architecture.
Nvidia is far ahead in supporting industry standards for GPU computing. Nvidia engaged early and closely with developers, understanding where the minimum OpenCL specification fell short, and has added extensions that allow developers to specify compilation flags (e.g. optimization settings) and query the compute capabilities of our GPUs so they can develop production-quality applications.
If fact, Nvidia designed and implemented the OpenCL Installable Client Driver (ICD) and donated the complete implementation to the Khronos OpenCL Working Group. We did this so that application developers only have to worry about loading a single, standard OpenCL driver to get access to all OpenCL devices in the system via vendor-specific OpenCL device drivers.
Nvidia also aligned with developers' priorities and delivered support for OpenCL Images (e.g. buffer formats) and OpenGL Sharing (compute/graphics interoperability) long before AMD.
- Mark Priscaro, Senior Public Relations Manager
"Autodesk believes in global warming." Doesn't surprise me. Whatever!
- Chris H
It was a little discouraging to see the dearth of anything related to GIS/Geospatial at AU. I heard several folks in that field saying they felt like the red haired step child at Autodesk. It is hard to understand what they are thinking when they put resources into products Map and MapGuide (very good products) then do nothing about promoting them.
They have the software, especially MapGuide, to compete with ESRI. When you consider how many civil firms use Autodesk, and how many engineering departments in towns and cities use AutoCAD verticals and get DWGs for consulting firms, the number is huge. It is not a stretch to think a good PR firm could create an ad campaign that stresses this fact.
I'm a contractor for a town in Massachusetts and we use Map and MapGuide (see mapguide.beld.com), because the engineers at both the light department and the engineering department wanted the accuracy of Map, and didn't want to deal with the issue of converting to [ESRI] Shape files.
- Rod Haywood, constractor
Braintree Electric Light Department
I read with interest "DesignScript is a new programming language for AutoCAD, easy enough 'for architects to use'." It makes me smile. I am a former architect who, years ago, "got distracted." My company makes and distributes a declarative diagrammatic DSL (domain specific language) that is part of Genus Designer, an engineering design automation addin for SolidWorks (not just a configurator) that is easy enough "for engineers to use."
- Tim Glavin, president
Genus Software, Inc.
Re: Nvidia Quadro 2000 Graphics Board
FYI: HDMI is just a different connector than DVI: the wires carry the same signals (except HDMI adds digital audio that DVI cannot carry). So a $1 DVI-HDMI adapter would allow you to drive your DVI monitor. Vendors are switching to HDMI on graphics boards because they take up less space than DVI, but are completely equivalent.
- Joshua Smith, cto
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I found this very funny "Top 50 Programming Quotes of All Time" list at http://www.junauza.com/2010/12/top-50-programming-quotes-of-all-time.html. Credit to http://www.howtogeek.com.
- Don Beaton
"Many companies compete in ways that actually destroy value, such as using patent lawsuits to slow down or kill competitors. Google's weapon of choice is more often open source and open standards."
- Paul Buchheit
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