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

the business of cad


Issue #709 |  October 25, 2011 

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In This Issue

1. The Cloud is Dead

     - That's What Steve Said

     - Appropriate Uses of Technology, Please


2. Out of the Inbox and some of our other regular columns


The Cloud is Dead

There. Let me be the first to say it: "The cloud is dead."


Sure, there are a (very few) CAD vendors who are all gung-ho about it, like Dassault, Autodesk, and a few minor vendors who host their software on some kind of cloud service. And there are the service firms who look forward to selling shovels to the Dassaults and Autodesks, such as Amazon and VmWare.


The cloud is no utility to head's-down drafters, the kind who work hard to push out drawings, the bulk of which are still 2D. (If that were not the case, then AutoCAD LT would not be Autodesk's non-stop best-selling CAD package, year in and year out.)


I mean, have you actually used cloud-based software? It's slow. Or a kludge. Or both.


In some cases, it's a marketing disaster. Next January, it will have been five years since the coding for SolidWorks-on-the-cloud apparently began. Other than a vague demonstration two years ago, DS SolidWorks has been loath to talk about it; at last month's SolidWorks Media Day, I asked upper management specific questions, and got cheerful but vague answers. My prediction: SolidWorks V6 will be stillborn, because it will prove to be slow, or kludgey, or both.


In this light, I find it fascinating to read Autodesk's big technology push for services on the cloud -- and now the marketing push ramps up: "Everything Changes...from PLM to BIM" on November 29. This is the day at Autodesk University when they (again) introduce cloud-based apps: "we unveil a modern, zero deployment solution that makes collaboration, data, and lifecycle management accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere." (Off-topic, but it seems Autodesk does "do PLM" after all.)


The holy trinity of "Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere" irks me, for what the phrase gains through alliteration, it loses in accuracy:

Anyone -- Autodesk limits most of its cloud services to subscription customers, and even there some subscribers are more equal than others.

Anytime -- although the most true of the three Anys, the spectacular cloud uptime failures in 2011 have put a damper on believing this one anymore with much fervor.

Anywhere -- access is limited to where you can get a sufficiently fast Internet connection; try travelling a few days through a variety of city- and landscapes with a WiFi-only netbook to appreciate the futility of "accessible anywhere."

In a twist of logic that might seem bizarre to the cloud-awed, it is the software that runs locally on that netbook that's accessible to anyone, at anytime, and anywhere.


That's What Steve Said


Over at blog nauseam, Steve Johnson is asking for feedback on aspects of the cloud. His series asks the following questions:

Appropriate Uses of Technology, Please


Sure, there are places where the cloud is useful, such as letting Gmail access my four email accounts, three of which are POP accounts; reading RSS feeds and twittering; transmitting files between clients (email, anyone?); and acting as a secondary backup system. Stuff that's not particularly crucial Other than that, only a crazy boss would bet the future of his design firm by putting everything on the cloud.


Which lets me get to my point: use technology appropriately. When a technology is new, humans interact with it immaturely; with time, we learn what works, and what doesn't. Which is why we learned to buy songs and books online, and found that buying pet food or clothes the same way was not brilliant.


It also works well for consumption on portable devices. I like accessing CAD data from the cloud on my Android and iOS devices. This is an appropriate application of the cloud. On the desktop, however, not particularly.


Furthermore, cloud technology is not so new. Those of us who started in computing more than 20 years ago are likely familiar with client-server computing (also known as "mainframe-terminal" or "time-sharing" computing) and so are well-acquainted with its failings. Cloud computing is the new clothes for the old emperor, who today struts again naked.


For the head's-down drafter, CAD-on-the-cloud is as important as object-oriented programming.




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Out of the Inbox

Autodesk last week invested a secret amount in Otoy, the company best known in the CAD world for powering the multi-OS "SolidWorks on the Cloud" demo at SolidWorks World 2010. The investment allows Otoy to spend more $$$ on developing its software, and for Autodesk to use some of the technology in its own software. It looks to me like most of it would be used on the entertainment side of Autodesk, but some might be useful on the CAD side, such as cloud-based mesh streaming, GPU-powered compression, and an SDK. http://www.otoy.com


Loved the phrase that writer Tood Woody used in a recent issue of Forbes magazine (Sept 12 '11): "Fancy software automates design, manufacturing, and purchasing." I wondered if the fancy software might be CAD, and sure enough later in the article, "Bold Construction," it turns out to be Catia. We learn about Blu Construction that manufactures nice looking portable 18'x48' houses that fold up for transport on 8.5'-wide trailers, but then we learn they've sold all of 70 in three years.


One of the painful things we in the CAD reporting business must endure is the transition during which a CAD vendor hires a new external pr team. We end up training the newcomers in the ways of the CAD community. One major CAD vendor has an unfortunate habit of kicking out by-now-well-trained external pr team every five years, and then instituting a new one. Sigh.
      If you are new, here's some bits of advice: when hosting a Webcast, ensure the VoIP is turned on (the Q&A is more effective when we can hear it); when inviting out-of-country journalists to a media event, don't ask them to cover the airfare (your profits are much larger than ours); when launching a software update, don't pre-market it as the Second Coming of Christ (after 25 years in the biz, we're pretty much cynical about any claim); when querying journalists by email, don't ignore us after we respond (we're busy, too); and, we really, really, really appreciate it when you understand that different CAD publications have different emphases (e.g., I don't do user stories). K thx bye.


Siemens PLM had a user conference recently, I believe, and so in a short time shot out just about a year's worth of news. Its D-Cubed division release v44 of 3D Dimensional Constraint Manager, Collision Detection Manager, Hidden Line Manager (HLM), and Assembly Engineering Manager. http://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us/products/open/d-cubed/product_news/index.shtml
      Which makes me wonder: what in the world could still be done to make hidden-line removal better? Better use of multi-cores, for one: the computation of none-silhouette curves is now 40% faster on quad-core desktops. [There's that non-linearity of multi-cores that haunts programmers.] And, transparent faces are better at not hiding edges that outline faces.
      Also updated is V24 of Parasolid, which now does a better job of handling complex sequences, such as removing all blends from an engine block. http://www.siemens.com/plm/parasolid/v24
      Need parts? Solid Edge now gets access to 300 no-charge online catalogs representing millions of commercial parts, powered by CADENAS and parametrically generated. "The web portal contains no actual solid models because each native 3D Solid Edge model is built to order in real time" and then can be downloaded directly into drawings. http://solidedge.partcommunity.com
      Also updated is Tecnomatix 10, whose enhancements "address a wide variety of manufacturing engineering disciplines across the comprehensive software portfolio and power manufacturing productivity for companies of all sizes." [Sorry, once the news gets into PLM, my mind glazes over.] http://www.siemens.com/plm/tecnomatix10
      Back to CAD! NX 8 is Siemens's top-end CAD system, and in version 8 it gets improvements to multi-discipline simulation, especially in FEA management and high-performance CFD. Also, HD3D (high definition 3D) lets you tie results back to requirements -- a feedback loop. http://www.siemens.com/plm/nx8


FM:Systems launches FM:Mobile, a browser-based app that accesses FM:Interact Workplace Management Suite on iPhones and iPads. [If it is browser-based, then I don't know why it is limited to iOS devices.] http://www.fmsystems.com


It was about a year ago that HP unveiled new ePrint printers, ones that could print files sent to them over the Internet. (You email the document to an HP server, which rasterizes it and sends it to the Internet-connected printer.) Last week, HP released its ePrint & Share mobile application for the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch -- what, no WebOS devices? http://www.hp.com/go/eprintandshare


Speaking of Android, I dunno if this is any good, but apparently "anyone" can "easily create" apps for any Android phone platform at no cost at http://www.andromo.com. I haven't had time to check it out, so take appropriate caution. Please.


Ya, so politics in CAD. Gehry Technologies used to make a big fuss about using Catia for architecture, using it to design spectacular buildings that sometimes leaked. But not so much anymore. Now it's about how to "enhance best practices for each new building project," and so the company made a deal with Autodesk to provides consulting services to firms interested in using Autodesk's BIM software. Also, Autodesk put a secret amount of money into Gehry.
      Now, the press release doesn't so much say "software" as "solutions." Whenever "solution" is used, I substitute "software," as in "Autodesk's BIM solutions." Saying that solutions find solutions is like saying 4=4. For software is not a solution; is it not the answer; it is a tool. Architects use software tools to find architectural solutions to answer the unreasonable wishes of impatient clients. Clear?


Tim Alexander is to become the new ceo of Nemetschek as of 1 Nov. Current ceo Ernst Homolka switches to cfo.


Lightworks releases Lightworks Artisan rendering software for the Mac, which can be integrated with CAD applications through a bridge. First one to use it is Renditioner/SketchUp for Mac from IMSI/Design. http://www.lightworkdesign.com


Autodesk acquires Micro Application Packages Limited of England, a company that has CAD, CAM, and estimating software for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing industry. Purchase amount was kept a secret from shareholders, but the tech will find its way into Autodesk's MEP software. http://www.map-software.com


GfxSpeakRSN (Randall Newton): Local Motors CEO Jay Rogers likes CAD PR: Aug'10: Dassault is a "natural partner"; Oct'11, Siemens Solid Edge is "an excellent fit."
      ralphg (Ralph Grabowski): "Natural partner," "Excellent fit." Which superlative will be employed when they partner with Autodesk?
      GfxSpeakRSN: I was thinking the same thing, except PTC may try to cut in line to dance next.


carlbass (Carl Bass): Thomas Friedman does a much better job talking about politics and government than technology http://autode.sk/qOLUxd


alistardean (Al Dean): Brutalist Architecture 101. http://instagr.am/p/RJYJ0/


martynday (Martyn Day): Vocoder. Every real man has a vocoder. I have a vocoder.



Letters to the Editor

"Saw the question re email subscription. Not sure if you are aware FeedBurner can do this from your existing FeedBurner feed. See http://www.google.com/support/feedburner/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=78978 "

     - Robin Capper

"Thanks for the interesting newsletter! Please keep us posted on the Mobile Phone CAD Apps trends. Actually, I am personally frustrated with the current environment of competing mobile and cell phones, which try to be everything and end up being a few things. It seems to be the age of miscommunication in business.My Android is fun, but not an all-in-1 practical solution to my business at this point."
    - Dale Kopp

"Keep up the great blogging and reporting."
     - Claus Brod


Spin Doctor of the Moment

"In recent weeks, we've found ourselves outraged at the FBI's willingness to arrest and threaten those who are involved in ethical, modern cyber operations."
      - AnonymousIRC


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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