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 #687 | April 19, 2011
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In This Issue
1. Intel's New Xeon E3 Gets Built-in Graphics
2. Programming Languages and AutoCAD, Part 4
by Patrick Emin
3. Out of the Inbox and other regular columns
Intel's New Xeon E3 Gets Built-in Graphics
John Hendgerveld is workstation marketing director at Intel, and more than a month ago he gave me an overview their new "low-end" CPU for CAD workstations. The embargo is ended and I can now relate our conversation. (Recall that workstations differ from regular desktop computers in that they are optimized for running CAD software, which is heavy on vector calculations, large data sets, and realtime rendering.) Intel considers its Xeon line of CPUs to be for workstations, and its Core line for regular desktops and laptops.
Intel is calling the Xeon E3 its "second generation architecture," because the CPU contains its first micro-architecture that consists of these parts:
1. E3 integrates Intel's HD P3000 graphics chip inside the Xenon E3 line of CPUs. The "P" that prefixes 3000 is short for "professional, practical, and performance," he told me. (The 1000 and 2000 graphics chips are oriented towards regular media, like playing back movies.)
2. E3 ends the war between IT and CAD, where IT wants all computers to be the same (for ease of management), but CAD wants different one, computers that give them extra productivity.This chip ends the war by including vPro, technology that allows IT to manage security, which until now was left out of Xeons.
3. E3 adds performance optimization for applications, like CAD, through AVX [Advanced Vector Extensions], which can be used by ISVs (independent software vendors, i.e., CAD vendors) for better performance in vector math and simulations.
It seems to me that the purpose of Xeon E3 is so that you can have an effective CAD workstation without needing to spend extra on a specialized graphics board from Intel competitors nVidia and AMD/ATi.
upFront.eZine: Why do you call this your first "micro-architecture" processor?
John Hendgerveld: "Architecture" refers to the interaction between processor, instruction set, and elements around the processor, like I/O [input/output] and memory. This is the first major reinvention how the CPU and GPU interact, with 3D graphics and the workstation microprocessor on a single chip. There are two benefits for integrating them: (a) you get workstation-level graphics at no extra cost, and (b) the computer uses less power than when a discrete graphics board is added.
upFront.eZine: Is AVX competition for OpenCL or CUDA?
Mr Hendgerveld: Not at all. It optimizes vector calculations. We worked with CAD vendors for several years to enable this. [Intel had announced AVX already back in 2009, saying it was built on SSE and 64-bit instructions. Programs like AutoCAD now require SSE-capable CPUs. See http://www.intel.com/software/avx .]
upFront.eZine: Which CAD programs take advantage of AVX?
Mr Hendgerveld: I cannot say who, yet. Some CAD vendors will be implementing it this year.
upFront.eZine: How does AVX optimize calculations?
Mr Hendgerveld: It does so by being the best way to manage vector graphics and data through efficient coding of vector and scalar data sets.
upFront.eZine: Computers using this new chip: will some be available right-away?
Mr Hendgerveld: Yes.
upFront.eZine: What range of price do you anticipate?
Mr Hendgerveld: The cost of the workstation is not the issue. Intel is looking at how to pack more power into the system at each price point. So this is more power for entry-level workstations, and not necessarily cheaper prices. It is up to the computer vendor to decide whether the price can be reduced. [HP subsequently announced that its cheapest E3-based desktop -- er, workstation -- is $569.]
GStarCAD won the 'Utilization Award' for active use and protection of IP by WIPO.
Let's all push for intellectual property protection, and apply it worldwide!
Learn more from GStarCAD
Programming Languages and AutoCAD, Part 4
by Patrick Emin
[Part 3 was presented in upFront.eZine #686.]
So, everything has to be invented. (I almost said, "reinvented," but we must take the problem at its root.) We have to start from the beginning, that is with the end user, and invent a programming language that is at a level far higher than VBA or LISP, for computers are quite capable of understanding sentence expressed logically like this:
Draw a polyline from point 0,0, then go to 5,5, and then go to 10,10.
I'm sorry, but Visual Basic, C#, and F# have no resemblance at all to this very high level language.
There is absolutely no problem for computer to understand sentences such as as this one. The advantage is that other humans also understand what it means. It has a decided advantage, because we no longer need a Rosetta stone to spend hundreds of hours transcribing spoken language into language understood by the machine.
All the efforts being put into the .NET development environment should be turned into writing independent libraries capable of manipulating objects in a way that AutoCAD drafters already know. Instead of leaving AutoCAD programming to corporate IT guys, let them do better things, such as understanding the inner workings of machines. Let them describe an algorithmic procedure that would be transcribed in a transparent language understandable by the machine.
While the .NET development environment is supposed to meet every need, it does not, unfortunately, meet the particular needs of AutoCAD drafters. What I am thinking about here is not something for a particular domain. If you are under the impression everyone is on the 3D bandwagon and is manipulating clever objects, you forget that most people still draw 2D objects that are entirely symbolic. I have a feeling that these people are being left behind by genius nerds who believe they have done a great deal in finding out that the essence of existence is in saving two milliseconds.
I end on a hopeful note. According to rumors I have heard, it seems that a new language is coming out for CAD, although, as I understand it, it would be a sort of macro language, rather than one designed for the fields of construction and architecture.
[Patrick Emin is an AutoCAD and Android programmer, and runs numerous helps sites, such as www.acadnetwork.com and autocad.shapado.com. This article was reprinted by permission from http://www.acadnetwork.com/topic-80.0.html]
This concludes the four-part series. Be sure to read responses from readers in Letters to the Editor, below.
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Out of the Inbox
martynday tweets: "Sneak peak [Autodesk] 2013 functionality - cloud-based analysis included. You have to be on subs to get the benefit. Products become more pay-to-play"
GfxSpeakRSN (Randall Newton) agrees: "ADSK will deeply integrate Web Services into workflow, connect deeper to products, deeper to subscriptions."
SmartCAMcnc updates SmartCAM V18.0 with new rest-mill roughing, feature-based holemaking, and improved toolpath editing. http://www.SmartCAMcnc.com
Cadalyst launches a sponsored blog, CADspeed, where Dell, AMD, and others tell you how to optimize workstations for CAD. http://cadspeed.wordpress.com
I've never found 3D PDF compelling, because I found it complicated to use and slow to interact -- at least, in my opinion. Adobe dropping it, however, was a nightmare for manufacturing companies that had adopted it for their workflows. Prostep has now stepped up to the plate and formed the 3D PDF Consortium with Adobe's blessing. The initial membership list is a long one: Actify, Anark, Cartona3D, Discus, Eos, I-cubed, ITI TranscenData, Lattice Technology, TechSoft3D, and Tetra4, as well as Prostep and Adobe.
The purpose of 3D PDF Consortium is to ensure that 3D PDF, PRC data format, and APIs continue to be developed as an open ISO standard, as well as ensuring long-term retrieval of data -- and ensuring that the free Adobe Reader will continue to handle 3D PDFs. http://www.3dpdfconsortium.org
Actify goes next-gen with its new publishing platform its calling "Centro" for accessing 2D and 3D part data through SpinFire across networks. Centro is better, because it handles high volumes of data and processes native data. You get it at no charge when you have a current maintenance agreement.. Video here:
Eagle Point Software releases Designers' Companion ($795) add-on for AutoCAD Civil 3D software. It rapidly lays out streets, lots, highways, parking lots, detention ponds, and subsurface terrain. http://www.eaglepoint.com/designerscompanion
What with the brouha over Java, I think most of us have probably forgotten that Oracle bought Canada's Cimmetry Systems some years ago, and still updates the AutoVue software. Version 20.1 is out, and here is how the PR firm describes it: "The new release of Oracle's portfolio of Enterprise Visualization solutions includes an enhanced architecture and new capabilities for both individual desktop requirements and also enterprise wide visualization and collaboration needs." Dive in at http://www.oracle.com/us/products/applications/autoVue/index.html
And finally, Jimmy Bergmark reminds me that he's updated SSMPropEditor, software that does that which AutoCAD cannot: edit sheet and custom properties on many sheets at the same time. Get your fill at http://blog.jtbworld.com/2011/04/ssmpropeditor-43-released.html
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These were some of the news items that were posted during the last week at our WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:
- Transmagic, ITCA, LTI hauled to court for "blackmailing" architect
- AutoCAD: Meet Rhino + RhinoWorks
- There are some who would say that there is no Web 2.0 bubble
- Owen Wengerd is programming Bricscad on Linux
Letters to the Editor
Re: The Future in Graphics Board for CAD Users
Mr. Peddie stated "...there is no drawback to using them [64-bit systems]." If you have older programs, there certainly is. I ran 64-bit Vista on my last laptop, and it would not run any of my older programs, including a pipe sizing program and Cardfile. I guess if you use all new programs, 64-bit is fine. If you still have older programs you rely on, beware of 64-bit.
- Len Rafuse
The editor wonders, "Do you know if 32-bit Vista would run those programs?"
Mr Rafuse replies, "When I checked online, I read this was issues with 64-bit operating systems, rather than Vista Vista 64-bit slowed us down, so we chose to use the stable and capable 32-bit XP for all of our computers."
- - -
"With all due respect to Dr Peddie, he's making the same fundamental mistake with regards to implementing multiple-core support for CAD that the vendors are. From a computer science perspective, he is, of course, correct: throwing more cores at a linear problem will not improve performance.
"But the kicker is that that aspect of CAD is increasingly becoming a less relevant portion of the operator's experience. Speaking of AutoCAD in particular, a great deal of the user's time is spent interacting with an ever increasing load of ribbon tabs, palettes, gizmos, cubes, and widgets -- all of which are dynamically interacting with the user and the drawing database, as they report and change the display and object properties.
"These graphical bits of eyecandy chew up so many resources available to the CAD application that the most common suggestion to improving performance is to turn them all off! The Layer and Xref palettes in particular are often noted as major culprits in the performance-reduction race.
"There's benchmarkable performance, and then there's perceived performance. The latter is something the BeOS operating system got right. They accomplished this by forcing pervasive multi-threading on developers. The computations did not run faster, but the perception of better performance was there, because the user had near-instant feedback to any click, pick, or drag. Each window and child window ran on its own thread and user interactions were always given the highest priority.
"If Autodesk could take this approach, then the perception of performance will be greatly improved. They should:
- Assign the user the highest priority
- Eliminate cursor stickiness
- Reduce the maximum amount of time that a user does not have control of the cursor or interface.
- Let the layer, properties, xref, and other palettes update using other threads.
"Operator productivity can take the long-awaited step forward. Maintaining the status quo will, unfortunately, only lead to more bling, requiring more speed to stay in the same place.
"Not that I'd complain about faster disks, though."
- J G Gerth
Re: Programming Languages and AutoCAD
I've had it. Patrick Emin's incessant denigrating comments about .NET is not making eZine any friends in my world. He is obviously a biased fool with nothing useful to contribute.
Those of us who are professional software developers know each language and platform has pros and cons and the real professionals have long ago matured past the my language and my platform is better than yours unless there is real merit for the basis of comparison and then genuine professionals put the issue into terms that are actually productive and useful.
Let's get something straight. I thrive on critical commentary as it and it alone is one of the most useful means to improve and do one's best work. Having read Ralph's work since the late 80s' early 90's (or thereabouts) I think I know and understand how challenging it can be to stay fresh and relevant.
Quite frankly however, neither eZine nor I for one need any more of Emin's deceptive, incorrect, false, denigrating, and useless comments as they are exactly what they are: denigrating and useless and lacking any productive results as such. In three parts the fool has written absolutely nothing useful regarding programming with or for AutoCAD except put forth his biased and in several cases totally deceptive and false statements based on his clearly biased opinions.
The editor(s) of eZine must know what they say about opinions because they are promoting one. Stop it.
- Clinton Gallagher
The editor replies: "Yer right: I agree with his opinion, which is why I am running his article. I don't see how .Net helps the casual user customizing AutoCAD."
Mr Gallagher responds: "First of all and most importantly the blame is not the .NET Framework. It's taken me more than five years to learn C# and Java and use these modern OOP languages -- productively -- as neither was created for casual use even though either can be used casually once a person has acquired the skills to know the difference.
"However, in the context of AutoCAD casual use is not possible as AutoCAD has been crippled by Autodesk whose policies are to blame. It is Autodesk and Autodesk alone that determines how .NET or any other programming language can or cannot be integrated for use with its products.
"Maybe you've confused me with one of the naive kids all too many of whom were literally still in diapers when we first started using AutoCAD. I was there day one and I know what happened. I know how it happened. I know why it happened and I know you do too."
- - -
"Patrick Emin is a pleasure to read. He kept it real, and is 'mouthing' the same words I've mouthed for years (but who listens at Adsk??). Everyone needs to take learn to KISS and KIR (keep it simple stupid, and keep it real). If we continue on this path to irrelevant frivolity, we'll soon be ruined in complexity of bureaucracy plunder-ment."
- Chris H
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"My need for CAD has gradually declined year by year. First my health declined (spinal muscular atrophy), and I started using a wheelchair. I couldn't get onto building sites, and ceased practicing as architect. No need for CAD, except to access drawings of my own home. Last edition of AutoCAD used: AutoCAD 2000. I will be 65 later this year. Now time to hang up my T-square!"
- Name withheld
"Your efforts are great! I really enjoyed reading the latest news in CAD while I was a student at Clackamas Community College in Oregon. However, my career took an unexpected turn back into electronics engineering a few years ago. So, I don't get a chance to read your e-zine any more."
- J. B.
Spin Doctor of the Moment
"shhh... let's not leak our hard work"
- Wording on wallpaper of leaked Windows 8
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Entire contents copyright 2011 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $250 and up. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "On your desktop every Tuesday morning" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.