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

celebrating the 16th birthday of upFront.eZine


Issue #691 |  May 16, 2011 

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In This Issue

1. AutoCAD for Mac Facecast

2. Reviewing Cloud Services, a new series

    Episode 1: Dropbox and Microsoft Mesh


3. Out of the Inbox and other regular columns


AutoCAD for Mac Facecast
Autodesk held a Webcast on Facebook, in which viewers could submit questions for answering. Here is a paraphrased Q&A [with my comments in square brackets.]


Q: What can you say about Lion [the next release of Mac OS X]?

A: There is a long list of new features in Lion, many of which AutoCAD will be able to take advantage of. Take a look at the list, and you can probably figure out some on your own.


[http://developer.apple.com/technologies/mac/whats-new.html lists the following new features: Mac App Store, AV Foundation, sandboxing and privilege separation, fullscreen apps, autosave and versions. file coordination, Aqua (popovers, overlay scrollbars, multitouch gestures and animations), and resume.]


Q: Plans for bringing Inventor and Revit to the Mac?

A: We have gotten a lot of feedback around Revit. These porting endeavors are not cheap.


[Expect Autodesk to port Revit to the Mac, because there are many other Mac-based BIM packages; but not Inventor, as there isn't much MCAD on Mac.]


Q: What are the system requirements?

A: AutoCAD works with Leopard and Snow Leopard [two most recent releases of OS X]. A high-performance graphics board is key. There are issues with the drivers Nvidia and ATI [AMD] released to Apple. AutoCAD is 100% hardware acceleration-based, so its performance is dependent on the graphics board. We are trying to support all Apple hardware going forward.


[From the context, I think that the last statement refers to OS X hardware, but not iOS hardware.]


Q: Are you bringing xref binding to Mac?

A: We are trying to prioritize what missing features we will add. There is no real reason why that [xref binding] is not on the radar going forward.


[I was surprised at their priorities for the first release, but I guess the emphasis was on the Mac UI and not on CAD.]


Q: What about solving the AutoLISP integration issue?

A: DCL [dialog control language] is not in there, and VBA extensions are not going to work. All LISP should work cleanly, if there are not too many system-specific calls.


[This is why Bricsys is emulating Windows system calls in its Linux version of Bricscad.]


Q: Are there plans for greater integration of WS with Acad Mac?

A: Yes, in the future there will be tighter integration, as in AutoCAD 2012 for Windows.


[Odd, given that WS first appeared in the Mac version!]


Q: What about third-party add-ons?

A: We have a few. There is OFCdesk for space planning. C++ apps port with just a simple recompile, but the UI needs to be changed to look like Mac. LISP routines come across directly.


[This is the benefit to the Bricsys and Graebert approach, where the CAD UI is the same across all OSes, and so there is no need to spend time reworking the UI.]


Q: Will there be network licensing?

A: There are a lot of people asking for it.


[I.e, yes.]


Q: Will AutoCAD be available on the Mac App Store?

A: AutoCAD is $3995, a little hefty compared to 99-cent downloads. I think the install system of the App Store is really slick, but is best for small apps; AutoCAD is 500MB at its slimmest. The App Store is linked to your AppleID and your credit card, so do people really want to buy AutoCAD with the same account as they buy music? Some people yes, some no.


[App stores are like flea markets, in that they drive down prices due to the huge number of neaby competitors. This why Autodesk is looking at how best to maintain the $4,000-price point of its Mac software.]


Q: Can we get Adobe Illustrator import/export?

A: AutoCAD for Mac is still AutoCAD, so if we go for Illustrator support, we would try to add it across Windows and Mac. Mac gets features specific to the Mac OS, or something we want to try on the Mac first.


Tip: Use Mac's Spotlight to search for options in the Options dialog box.


Q: Is there a resource for third-party developers?

A: Go to autodesk.com/developautocad, and then search for "objectarx." You also need to be an Apple Developer to get their XCode environment.





Reviewing Cloud Services

A New Series


With the potential of the cloud being the current hype cycle from a few CAD vendors, I figured I should test some of the services with real-world scenarios. If you have a cloud-based system suitable for CAD users, let me know. I'll try it out, and then write about my experience -- pro and con.


My preferred Web browser is the latest release of Opera v11 running on a 64-bit Windows 7 desktop. If your cloud products are platform-specific, I also work with any other browser brand on devices that operate Android, Chrome OS, iOS, variants of Linux (Mint Linux, JoliCloud, etc), OS X, and dialects of Windows.


Episode 1: Dropbox and Microsoft Mesh

I'm not particularly convinced of the utility of cloud-based storage services. In the past, I've stored files on Google Docs that I thought I might need to access some day from "anywhere." I never had the need.


Nevertheless, I worked with two of them over the last couple of weeks: Mesh from Microsoft and DropBox from DropBox. I had a real-world scenario to test: next month, one of my daughters begins work refreshing some of my ebooks, and so I need a central file repository for the InDesign and support files that each of us access. I don't want us suffering from fileversionitis.


Microsoft Mesh

I stumbled upon Mesh while window-shopping at Apple's online Mac App Store, and I was intrigued that Microsoft had such a utility for Macs. Thus it was that I installed it first on a Mac mini computer, followed by installation on a Windows 7 desktop computer. I found the Mac install to be smoother than the Windows one, surprisingly enough. (I use my wife's Live account for sign-in, since I don't care to have one.)


I made a mistake in thinking that I needed a uniquely-named folder on each computer. I named the shared folder "Mesh Mac" on the mini, and "Mesh Acer7" on the PC. But that's wrong, because Mesh automatically replicates shared folders. I realized this after the "Mesh Mac" folder appeared on my Acer7's desktop automagically. The contents of the folder are also stored in Microsoft's cloud-bases storage location. It has to be, since that's where it gets sourced for other computers permitted access to the files.


I spent the weekend playing with Mesh. It did a good job coordinating files between my desktop PC running Windows, my Mac mini running OS X, and Microsoft's cloud-based storage location. But the coordination was slow, due to the (distance-based) limitations of my ISP's ADSL speed -- slow speed due to the emphasis on the A [asynchonous].


On other platforms, Microsoft limits Mesh to sending text messages to your cell phone, but my phone's carrier is not supported, and so I could not test this. Microsoft provides 5GB storage free, and that's all. You cannot purchase more space, and Microsoft blocks files from exceeding the limit. http://connect.microsoft.com/LiveMesh


I uninstalled Mesh, and signed up for DropBox after coming across it in JoliCloud, a cloud-based operating system that target low-power netbooks, and which predates Chrome OS.


DropBox has an advantage in that it works with more platforms than does Mesh: it is also available for Android, Linux (including JoliCloud, 'natch), and iOS devices. Its install was not as smooth as Mesh. For example, I would expect the DropBox sharing folder to be placed on the desktop, but the default is deep inside the /user folder. This is expected behavior for a Windows app, but not for a cloud app.


I dragged some files into the folder, and was surprised to find that the files were moved, not copied. (Mesh copies files to shared folders.) I suppose either way makes sense:

- Copy leaves a spare set of source files on the source computer, but you have to be careful with version tracking.
- Move places the source files on the cloud, which eliminates version tracking, but abandons my carefully constructed folder structure that tracks my 140+ book and ebook documents.

I could not find DropBox on Apple's Mac Store, but did find it on Google's Chrome Web Store. It was a true cloud-install experience: (a) click on the link to DropBox, (b0 provide my login details to DropBox, and (c) one second later, the files from my desktop computer were listed in the Chrome Web browser running on the Mac mini. The operative word is "listed." Before I could open an InDesign file, I had to download it to the Mac, and locate a folder in which to place it. The extra step is acceptable in some cases, but not for mine.


I installed the native Mac client, and it worked identically to the Windows version. Within a few seconds, DropBox noticed that there were files to synchronize. I double-clicked an .INDD (InDesign) file, and it opened in InDesign on the Mac. Over on the Windows computer, DropBox displayed an alert balloon that an InDeisgn lock file had been added to the folder.


DropBox provides 2GB of storage free; more than that, and it's a minimum of $10 a month. I installed DropBox on the following devices:


Android (on smartphone) has limited functionality:

- can see file names in folders, but not both on its small screen
- can view supported formats, such as PDF and images, but not unsupported ones, like RTF.
- can edit a very limited number of formats, such as RTF with ThinkFree.

Chrome Web browser has limited functionality:

- can see folder structure and file details.
- can view supported formats, such as PDF and images, but not unsupported ones, like RTF.
- must download files before editing them, or viewing unsupported formats.

JoliCloud (inside Chrome) has limited functionality:

- can see folder structure and file details.
- can view only images
- must download PDF and RTF files before viewing them.

Mac OS X has full functionality:

- view files and folders in Finder.
- view and/or edit all file formats.
- badges indicate which files are being synched, which are synched.

Windows 7 has full functionality:

- view files and folders in Explorer.
- view and/or edit all file formats.
- badges indicate which files are being synched, which are synched.




I can see services like Mesh and DropBox useful for projects that are worked on by different offices, but pointless within a single office and its gigabit network speed. While Mesh is slicker, DropBox supports more platforms. Subjectively, DropBox felt faster at synchronizing files than did Mesh.


These cloud storage services are a good way of getting around all that "security" Microsoft places on Windows, in which it is difficult to access files on computers networked within one office or at home. Even network hard drives have an annoying number of access hiccoughs, I find. I want unrestricted access to MY files! Other alternatives I have used include a USB data transfer cable, for copying large files and entire folders between my Mac and Windows computers; and GMail, for sharing smaller files.


I junked Mesh, and kept DropBox for now.


Next episode: Autodesk Homestyler, cloud-based room design software.


PS: Last week DropBox was accused of allowing employees to access customer files. The problem stems from this: to save space on its hard drives, DropBox inspects each incoming file. If one is identical to another already stored by others, then the customer get a pointer, rather than an upload. (Competitor services encrypt uploaded files so that no one can access them, no even employees.) DropBox encrypts the files after reading them.



DraftSight is a no-cost*, easy-to-use 2D CAD product that generally takes a few minutes to download and runs on multiple operating systems, including Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, the Mac, and Linux.

*Standalone license.  Activation required.

== Professional 3D File Conversion/Viewing/Rendering Software ==

For over 2 decades Okino (Toronto) has provided mission-critical 3D conversion software used extensively by tens of thousands of professionals. We develop, support and convert between all major CAD, DCC & VisSim formats. Robert Lansdale (CTO, lansd@okino.com) tailors each package to the specific conversion requirements of each customer.


Popular formats include 3ds Max, Maya, C4D, LW, ProE, SolidWorks, Inventor, SketchUp, DWF/DWG, DGN, CATIA, IGES/STEP/Parasolid, 3D PDF/U3D, JT, FBX, Collada & more.

We know data translation, and provide immaculate developer-to-customer relations. http://www.okino.com


"If you get the chance, could you credit Juan Santocono and Travis Serio for the skull image in your screenshot in the online version of the article?"
     - Matt Sederberg
     T-Splines, Inc.


The editor replies, "Consider it done!"


Out of the Inbox

Our very own WorldCAD Access was the very first CAD publication to report on the European Commission looking into anti-trust violations by CAD vendors. martynday on Twitter added: "[EU investigating] Autodesk EMEA [Europe, Middle East, Asia] for about a year and this is about competitiveness and pricing." Three times I scheduled an interview with Autodesk on this matter, and three times the interview was cancelled. Further new trickling out seems to say that it is the MCAD side of CAD that's being investigated.


HP gives Intel and Microsoft another bye-bye wave. New large-format printers from HP (Designjet T1300 ePrinter for large offices, T790 for small ones) lets you plug in USB drives and laptops for driverless printing; print from and scan directly to the Web without a computer; view drawings on the color touchscreen; print remotely from a computer or smartphone; and get automatic updates through a Web-connected server. Pricing starts at $6,190; available June 1. http://www.hp.com/go/simplify


CIMdata says that Dassault and Siemens PLM hold just 51% of the PLM marketshare in China, but its press release is coy about the names of local firms, which it describes as, "While at an early stage, the potential of these firms should not be underestimated." Learning those names will cost you $4,000 from http://www.cimdata.com/publications/reports_purchase.html


ZWSOFT licenses CNC simulation software from MachineWorks for its ZW3D software (nee VX). VX Corporation is now known as "ZWCAD Software America." http://www.machineworks.com


The 3D printing industry is consolidating. 3D Systems is making acquisition after acquisition at the low end, and now we hear of Stratasys acquiring Solidscape for $38 million, they making 3D printers specialized in investment casting, such as for jewelry, medical parts, dental implants, and other castings that have to be precise. http://www.stratasys.com


Lattice Technology joins the JT Open Program. [I'd've thot they'd've joined long ago.] http://www.jtopen.com


Is there anything left to add to mature BIM software? Graphisoft adds new shell structures, 3D guidelines and editing planes, BIM support for renovation, and full 64-bit support for OS X to ArchiCAD 15. Due to ship next week, and I have an interview lined up to learn more from the new release, direct from Budapest. http://www.graphisoft.com/archicad


SolidCAD and CAD MicroSolutions merge, forming one of Autodesk's largest dealer chains in Canada. [I don't think it is possible to be a small Autodesk dealer anymore -- or even medium-sized.]


I've mentioned CADMAI before, a framework for standalone CAD apps or foundations for third-party app. It's now up to v4.2 with new UI objects linked to geometry and properties; multi-touch gestures; browser plug-in; and new actions. Get a copy to look at from http://www.cadmai.com\cadmai.zip


Creaform is chuffed to announce $8.2 million in Q2 sales, and a YOY growth of 56%.


Nemetschek AG reports that Q1 revenue grew 10% to e39 million [$56 million]. All the growth came from outside Germany, for German revenues were flat. The company launched a pilot of an online version of its Allplan BIM software.


TurboCAD Pro Mech has six different parametric pattern tools, objects along paths, multi-select tool for Boolean operations, and assemlby by axes. http://www.turbocad.com


Siemens PLM updates Parasolid to v23.1 with improved neutral sheets, Booleanization of wire and sheet bodies, better handling of imported data, and more. http://www.siemens.com/plm/open


DS SolidWorks switches its external public relations firm from Beaupre to SHIFT Communications.


For 15 years in a row now, Okino Computer Graphics had updated its PolyTrans translation software for 3dsMax and Maya 2012. The translator handles date from CAD, DCC, skinning, animation, and architectural file formats. The company has an RSS feed at http://www.okino.com/press/okino_rss_feed.xml


LEDAS of Russia says they've dramatically improved the performance of its LGS 3D constraint solver, with v5 showing improvements in speed of 30-100%. It also offers a number of new geomtric evaluators. Get sample apps and more info from http://www.ledas.com/products/lgs3d


I wonder why CAD vendors sometimes give small version numbers to big upgrades. Take Bricsys, for instance, whose v11.3 of Bricscad adds .Net API, text fields, tables, 3D-solids-to-2D-drawings flattening, and spline-to-polyline conversion. Try it out from http://www.bricsys.com
      In related news, the company launched a new features poll on their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/bricsys . Ask for and vote on new features.

- - -


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

     - Autodesk joins the Maker movement with 123D (part 1)
     - Will we have to get used to "BIM Washing"?
     - Notes about think3 from an OpenMind meeting
     - Live blogging: PTC intros Windchill (PLM) 10 Webinar

Letters to the Editor

Re: ClearEdge3D
"No word on whether or not they're using any form of GPU computation; do we know if they are programming in OpenCL or CUDA? It would seem that point cloud conversion would be an excellent candidate for massively parallel processing.


"Recently, I had an extended discussion with another laser scanner vendor, and the gist of my position is that I've been watching the miracle of laser scanning for almost 20 years now (since Cyrax was young), and it's STILL not competitive with manual on-site measurement. My anticipation is that the technology will be cost-competitive just about the time I'm retiring my ladder and tape measure.


"As far as many people are concerned, any programmer who is not frantically searching for ANY opportunity to leverage the GPU is wasting his time, and our money."
      - Peter Lawton

ClearEdge3D ceo Kevin Williams replies: "Our point cloud processing algorithms could certainly be sped up significantly with parallel processing technology (or GPU processing technology, in particular), and we plan to implement this in later versions.


"However, it's important to keep in mind that the most significant workflow speedup we offer comes from transforming a tedious, manual process into an automated one. Whether that automated process takes a couple of minutes with a single processor or a split-second with a GPU is secondary to the fact that the software can shave hours off an otherwise extremely manual process."

- - -


Re: PTC Returns to the CAD Bandwagon
"Your recent upFront eZine contained a report on yet another session with CAD company executives, and I have just returned from a major software vendor's user conference in Las Vegas. Two general questions:

     "1. Since the CAD market seems to be pretty much saturated, how can every company be claiming 20-30-50% gains?

     "2. With everyone claiming 20-30-50% productivity increases with each new release, how long will it be before a project is finished before it starts?"
     - Bill Fane


The editor replies: "Both PTC and Autodesk say that a lot of their gains are by stealing marketshare. Also, big gains come from placing copies in educational outlets. As for your second question, we may have to go back in time to determine the answer when it occurs some years from now."


"So, after spending a considerable number of years and vast amounts of money to create 'brand,' (and an unusually good name for a CAD company), now it seems smart to ditch the Pro/Engineer name-brand, and make up a new one that sounds like an obscure pidgin language in Louisiana.


"Am I the only one that instantly assumes that if software has the word 'Elements' in it, that it's NOT the Pro version, but the lobotomized, throw-it-in-with-the-new-computer-for-free version? Where did that come from? Was it only Photoshop that embedded that in my mind?"
      - Jess Davis
      Davis Precision Design



"Man, I hate to keep picking on PTC, but didn't you mean for this to go under 'Spin Doctor'? So the one new Creo product REPLACES those three old products, right? So wait, they're still selling the same three products, just with different names? But they said Creo is the successor to them, but then they are all still there, just renamed?

"The marketing departments in most companies would be more accurately named the 'Making Up New Names for Old Stuff' department."
      - Jess Davis


The editor replies: "That's why in my introduction I pointed out that the old products are called 'Creo' and the new ones are called 'Creo,' and that the new ones are the old ones, split apart. I think 'Elements' name comes from chemstry, in that elements make up molecules (larger structures)."


"Take me off your marketing list."
      - Jonathan E. Jarvis, I*Center Principal Applications Specialist
      Creo Business Unit, PTC


- - -


Re: Wedding
I received many messages of good wishes; thank you for sending them! Here are just a few of them:


"Nice touch adding the photos of your son's wedding! You must be a proud and happy father -- congratulations!! Mit freundlichen Gruessen."
      - Thomas Schwaiger
      Autodesk GmbH, Germany





"Not a pro CAD person by any means (only two AutoCAD licenses over the past 20 years), but I have enjoyed reading your eZine for a long time. I interact with architects, contractors, and other design professionals, and your articles help me to at least understand the basics of where the industry is and where you think it's going. But basically, I just wanted to say congratulations on your son's wedding!"
      - Jeff Sharp


- - -

"upFront emails often have odd characters in them. What are we missing in content?"
     - John S. Brunt


The editor replies: "It is a Unicode font matching problem -- where you, me, or the Internet does not have the correct character; I usually catch them, but not every time."

Notable Quotable

"A couple of the major [music] labels were less focused on the innovative vision that we put forward, and more interested in an unreasonable and unsustainable set of business terms."
     - Jamie Rosenberg, Director of Android Product Management, Google


Thank You to Our Subscribers & Donators

These great people support upFront.eZine through their contributions of $25 (or more). Thank you, guys!

     - David Robison, Design Master Software
     - John MacFall (2 subscriptions): "The extra money is a token of my appreciation for the work you're doing. Thank you."
     - T-Splines


upFront.eZine is published every Tuesday, except during summer and Christmas vacation. Editor: Ralph Grabowski. This newsletter is read by 12,000 subscribers in 70 countries. Your comments are welcome at editor@upfrontezine.com! Deadline for submissions is every Monday noon.


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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 "WorldCAD Access" 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.

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