the business of cad


Issue #768 |  March 12, 2013
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In This Issue


1. TurboCAD (for Windows) Turns 20

   - LTE Workspace

   - What Else is New


2. Nvidia's Got Three New Kepler Boards for CAD.

   - What Ralph Grabowski Thinks


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



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TurboCAD (for Windows) Turns 20
It's the twentieth anniversary of TurboCAD for Windows, and so it is time for TurboCAD Release 20. IMSI/Design is one of the rare companies from the 1980s that survived the explosion and subsequent winnowing of PC-based CAD software. Other than AutoCAD and MicroStation (maybe DataCAD?), I don't know that any other software package to (a) survive and (b) remain independent for 30 years. As IMSI/Design's chief technology officer Bob Mayer put it to me, "Twenty means we have staying power."


LTE Workspace

One thing that characterizes IMSI/design is cross-pollination. They'll try something as a separate package, then integrate the functions into TurboCAD. And so with Pro and Pro Platinum Release 20, they have begun to bring in functions from TurboCAD LTE (TSPKA DoubleCAD) -- their AutoCAD workalike.


IMSI/design's CEO Royal Farros told me that he sees two types of users, "TurboCAD and everyone else, and 'everyone else' means AutoCAD. We made an accommodation to AutoCAD users by taking the interface from TurboCAD LTE, but making it optional for users, so that longtime TurboCAD uses won't have to bother with it."


The new LTE workspace makes TurboCAD 20 look and work like AutoCAD in the following areas:

Other AutoCAD-like functions will be migrated from LTE in future releases.


What Else is New

UV mapping is made interactive. This is where you attach bitmap images to the surfaces of 3D objects. In TurboCAD 20, you can associate parts of a bitmap to the various faces of the model, such as a milk carton. You can change the associations easily, and when you select a face, the associated image is highlighted. "This feature is not in AutoCAD," product manager Dave Taylor was proud to announce.


Also not in AutoCAD is exporting models to 3D PDF, in both (older) U3D format and direct 3D PDF, with layers. This is another example of cross-pollination, for 3D PDF export was first implemented in IMSI/design's mobile apps.


It took me a few minutes to catch on to "Multiview Entity Marks", but it turns out that they are field-capable attributes (to use the AutoCAD jargon) that display in 2D and in 3D (not in AutoCAD). You can make them look different in 2D and 3D, such as the text they display (less text in 3D) and their orientation (upright in 3D).


The function I found the most powerful is the new associative array for any 2D, 3D solid, or surface object, including blocks. It's especially powerful when it applies Boolean operations to 3D solid models automatically. For instance, change the number of (arrayed) holes from four to seven, and the 3D model updates with seven holes.


Other mech-oriented functions include the Gear Tool that generates 2D parametric gears; you can select a pinion to properly insert it in relation to another gear. The new Stellated Polygon tool makes parametric star-shaped polygons; they can have gear-like waves or sharp ends.


Speaking of mech, since release 19, Pro Platinum includes all mechanical and architectural functions, and so the verticals no longer exist. IMSI/design did this to reduce the number of SKUs, and because most upgraders got Platinum anyhow.


On the technical side (isn't all CAD technical?), TurboCAD handles DWG 2013, can now run network admin software on Windows Server 2008 (or higher) to any user on the network, and updates Ruby scripting. Expect to see 'Save to Dropbox' added to the desktop software in release 21.


The shipping date is now. Available for 32- and 64-bit computers and for Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8. A separate version runs on OS X.


The company wants to make its software the price-performance leader, and so I asked about DraftSight and its three million downloads. Mr Farros doesn't see it as a direct competitor; after all, it lacks 3D and programming. The good news about DraftSight, however, is that it shows that the traditional CAD market is still alive and kicking. "Even in this mobile world, it's clear that the desktop computer is still the primary way to do the nuts & bolts of everyday CAD," he concluded.





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Nvidia's Got Three New Kepler Boards for CAD

NVIDIA would have the graphics market pretty much sewn up, if pesky competitors weren't nibbling around the edges. The company boasts products for the full range of hardware and industry applications, from mobile devices, like Androids; to laptops and gamer desktops, professional applications; and through to cloud computing and Tesla/Kepler for GPU programming.


The nibbling from which it suffers comes from companies like Qualcomm for Androids; Intel for laptops and desktops; and AMD for professional applications and GPU programming. And so we can thank capitalism for imposing the competition that forces graphics technology to advance.


In presenting another group of Kepler-based boards last week to the media, Nvidia showed a handy graphic that illustrated all the parameters that concern GPU designers today.

The new graphics boards use the new Kepler engine, and hence have K in the product number. They are as follows:

The Kepler technology makes the K4000 model twice as fast as the previous one, when running the 3DMark 11 benchmark test. Not new is the most powerful board in the stable, the K5000 ($2,250) with 4GB ECC memory, four ports, and 122W power consumption.


Also of interest is Nvidia Mosaic, software that allows computers to handle 16 monitors displaying a total of 61 million pixels; the catch is that your computer has to have four slots to host the graphics boards (each board outputs to four monitors), plus the cost of all that kit. Still, if your computer and your budget can pull it off, then Mosaic allows a single app to cover all 16 displays.




What Ralph Grabowski Thinks

These are tough times for makers of discrete graphics boards. As reported by Jon Peddie Associates, sales fell 17% from the previous quarter, something the market research company describes as a "crash."


The drop is from (a) declining sales of desktop and notebook computers due to the increasing preference by customers for smartphones and tablets; and (b) graphics integrated into CPUs getting good enough.


To compete, companies like Nvidia and AMD (ex ATi) predictably increase the spec count on new models annually, as we see in today's report. While the numbers look impressive (millions! billions!), the result for most CAD users is not significant. Adding $2000 graphics boards to your desktop computer isn't going to increase your CAD efficiency by an amount that by the end of the day is significantly measurable. (I'm not discounting that Quadros and FirePros might help some ultra-high-end users.)


When two years ago I extensively benchmarked AutoCAD with a Quadro 2000 board (given to me by Nvidia) against the Intel graphics integrated in my desktop computer, I found the results a draw. In all tests using 2D and 3D wireframe, rendered, and shaded displays, the Quadro had no advantage over the Intel -- except in one area.  The Quadro was about six times faster at displaying 3D models with hidden lines removed. So, when you see that sign in Nvidia's booth at Autodesk U or Solidworks W referring to 6x faster speeds, I'm betting it's referring to hidden-line removal only. http://www.upfrontezine.com/2010/upf-672.htm#b


To be sure, benchmark the software with which you plan to deploy a discrete graphics board, to determine the areas in which it would possibly benefit.


Last month, however, I pulled the Quadro out of my computer. It was free but it gave me much grief. Every week or month, the nVidia driver would crash, recover, crash once or twice more, and then take down the entire computer, along with all my pending work. The 6x gain in hidden-line removal could not compensate for the time lost to crashing hardware. For the kind of work I do, Intel's integrated GPU works better.


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Out of the Inbox

IronCAD Design Collaboration Suite 2013 Product Update 1 is released with dynamic ellipsoid shape; 30% smaller file sizes for 2D drawings; partial cut shapes ion sheetmetal; custom hole callout tool; hidden line controls for specified part details; and tree browser for hidden parts. http://www.ironcad.com


Autodesk ceo Carl Bass muses in an interview with Wired magazine about the company making hardware. http://www.wired.com/design/2013/03/autodesk-makerbot-partnership/. The comments come as Makerbot ceo Bre Pettis demonstrates a 3D camera whose purpose is to eliminate the need for CAD software as a go-between for 3D printing. http://www.engadget.com/2013/03/08/makerbot-3d-scanner/


Jimmy Bergmark has the prestige of having the most popular independent CAD blog in the world, JTB World, (my own WorldCAD Access is #2, ahem) and has a new release of of SSMPropEditor. Version 5.0 adds localization for Italian, offers direct export and import to and from Excel, and more. Check the deets at http://blog.jtbworld.com/2013/03/ssmpropeditor-50-released.html


Jure Spiler writes to us from Slovenia about his new LIC-REPORT utility that optimizes Autodek network license usage. It updates available and in-use licenses as HTML pages every minute. Fully operational trial version can be downloaded from Autodesk app store at http://apps.exchange.autodesk.com/ACD/Detail/Index?id=appstore.exchange.autodesk.com%3alic-report%3aen



Letters to the Editor

Re: Accurate Software License Sales Figures
"The answer is 'no'. The reason is because vendors typically report OEM/VAR channel sales as endpoint sales, which they are obviously not.


"Also, it's a mixed bag with floating/network licenses with regards to actual utilization. Then there's the dilemma of 'gold disk' and 'multi-seat' licenses. And people wonder why they need specialists to help them understand licensing terms and costs. CDW has a staff devoted to nothing but that. Ultimately, vendor claims of 'real' sales figures should be taken with a grain of salt."
      - Dave Stein


The editor replies: "And now CAD companies want to throw rentals into the mix."


Mr Stein responds: "I'm starting to wonder if they're being influenced by the folks who stand to gain from increased complexity. Like the resellers."


"Over the last more-years-than-I'd-care-to-count I have enjoyed your writings and insights on CAD in upFront.eZine, WorldCAD Access, and Gizmos as well. Well, I was a bit taken aback when checking out the latest post ('Tech Support part 1, part 2') with a sidebar ad for an [inappropriate for spam filters] service. It makes one wonder what words on your post made the ad software figure that your readers might be interested in such 'contacts'."
      - Jim Longley


The editor replies: "I am disappointed that Google would serve up such ads."


"AutoCAD 2014 release date leaked? Or is this already been made public? I see in the 'File formats and versions' section of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AutoCAD, it lists March 28th as the release date for the 2014 DWG format. "
      - Darren Young


The editor replies: "It wasn't public yet, but now it is."


Mr Young responds: "Looks like it was edited by someone from the UK early January."


"We go back a long way. I remember when you would tell me about the trouble busing kids from Point Roberts, up into Canada, and down into the mainland for school. Quite a story. You've certainly been my hero for all matters relating to CAD. However, I now deal in all matters relating to GIS. And while the office here at Virginia Tech does have some modeling done in SketchUp -- it's just not in my job description, and I wonder just how much of a true CAD it really is.


"Your newsletter would always remind me of the heady days of the Architectural CADD Competition and of Trees3D and Piranesi and backward engineering the .DWG format. Great issues for discussion. But now I program in Python for ArcGIS every day. Well, my own field has its own heady issues. But they are more peaceful, and .shp is open source."
      - Ben Logan

Notable Quotable

Randall S. Newton (@RSNatWork): "AARRG!! Twitter to shut down Android, iOS version of TweetDeck. http://venturebeat.com/2013/03/04/twitter-to-shut-down-android-ios-versions-of-tweetdeck/"


upFront.eZine (@upFronteZine): "@RSNatWork Welcome to the cloud, where we can shut down the software you love, just because we can."



upFront.eZine is published every Tuesday, except during summer and Christmas vacation. Editor: Ralph Grabowski. This newsletter is read by nearly 11,000 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 2013 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $840. 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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