Dassault Systemes says that its V6 platform -- CATIA, DELMIA, SIMULIA, and ENOVIA -- is scheduled for be available in May 2008.
Inventor 2009 arrived last week. Opening the plastic case, I found four DVDs. Four! See illustration.
I showed off the package to my son. At first, he was not clear as to why he should be impressed. After all, some of his computer games came on six CDs, he told me. I casually remarked that these were DVDs, not CDs. He was impressed.
For all the talk from Autodesk about unified user interfaces, imagine my surprise when I found that the AutoCAD 2009-based Mechanical software doesn't gain the Microsoft-inspired ribbon. The Ribbon command instead brings up the old Dashboard.
Hardy Heron -- I upgraded my dad's old Compaq Presario 3000 from Ubuntu v7.1 to v8.x. The upgrade was largely automatic, but took more than five hours -- probably from the first-day rush of "everyone" else doing the same. Upon rebooting, 'Hardy Heron' did not recognize the wireless networking card. After spending an hour trying different things, I finally gave up and did what Canonical said I wouldn't: "You Won't Go Back."
After reinstalling v7.1, I began to check out what Ubuntu would -- and wouldn't -- work with:
Multi-button Mouse -- the basic mouse driver works, but I haven't found support for my extra needs: assigning double-click to the middle button (roller wheel) and horizontal scrolling for my Logitech wireless mouse, whose roller wheel also moves side to side. (This is like Vista, where I found it really tough to get double-click assigned to the middle button.)
MP3 Music -- Ubuntu comes with an impressive music application that readily found song files on networked computers, including Windows computers. It also plays back Internet radio stations, although you have to copy and paste the actual URL to do that -- a bit clunky. The negative is that Ubuntu does not include MP3 decoders, not even the freeware (I think) one called LAME. I spent several fruitless hours trying to get the MP3 codecs installed, but suffered from a lack of dependencies.
Digital Cameras -- in an earlier post, I noted that Picasa downloads effortlessly, and that it immediately recognized my Canon S1is camera. I plan to try my Samsung cameras later.
Palm TX -- once the "wizard" got things configured correctly, Ubuntu recognized my Palm TX and was able to synch with it. Sync'ed data is stored in the Evolution Email software, such as contacts, schedule, memos, and so on.
Maxtor Portable Drive -- this USB-connected and USB-powered portable hard drive was immediately recognized by Ubuntu. This was handy, for I had backed up all of my dad's documents and photographs from this Compaq before wiping out Windows XP with Ubuntu. In ten minutes, the gigabytes of his files were back on "his" computer. This is more impressive than Windows 2000, where the mouse stops working when I plug in this drive.
Sony Walkman -- I checked out my dad's new Sony Walkman MP3 player, and it worked just as well as the Maxtor drive. For in fact it presents itself to the computer as an external drive -- whether on Windows or Linux. The USB port also recharged it, as well as the Palm TX's battery.
In all the years I've been experimenting with Linux, I've never been able to install software or drivers or browser plug-ins. If I was going to be going on the road withe HP's Mini-Note running Linux, I'd first have to learn how to do that.
Once I got Ubuntu Linux running on my dad's old Compaq 3000 notebook computer, I began to test the software I would need on the road.
Ubuntu comes with OpenOffice, so a word processor is "built-in." I tried running Google Docs in FireFox, and it worked just fine -- the documents and spreadsheets I'd created in the Windows version of FireFox looked identical. So, that was good.
I also checked GMail, and that worked for my email. Praise be OS-independent software.
However, Google Docs warned that I need to installed Flash 9 for collaboration activities. I don't collaborate, but I thought it would force to me learn to install software under Linux. After some frustrations, it finally worked: the Flash 9 plug-in worked with FireFox. I'd like to tell you how, but I tried so many things and finally something worked.
The part that puzzled me was that Ubuntu didn't want to work with RPM files. (This is a file format in which Linux programs are distributed, kind of like Windows MSI install file.) FireFox and Ubuntu recognized the downloaded RPM file and opened the appropriate software for installing it, but then the software refused to install it. After a bunch of clicking and right-clicking, it got installed. I just don't know how.
A piece of software I'd need on the road is Adobe Reader, in case someone sends a PDF file. I found that Adobe has three versions of install files for Linux users to install:
-- .gz, which is the Linux equivalent of a Windows ZIP file.
-- .rpm, which the aforementioned install file.
-- .deb, an install file specific to Debian Linux, upon which Ubuntu is based.
I found that choosing the DEB download for Reader is painless. FireFox downloads the file, and Ubuntu automatically installs. All I had to do was agree to the license (no choice there) and give permission to Linux to install it.
Another crucial piece of software for me is Google's Picassa. It's available for Linux, but I was a bit worried: (1) it runs under WINE, the WINdows Emulator -- how hard was that to install? (2) Would it recognize my Canon S1iS camera?
But I didn't need to worry. Google as a DEB version of Picassa for Linux, which made for hassle free installation. Ubuntu recognized my digital camera, and Picassa downloaded its photos. Because this is the Windows version of Picassa running in the emmulator, all of Picassa's functions are available.
Where things got rough was in media. My wife and I like watching Deutsche Welle tv over the Internet; DW uses the Octoshape P2P software to transmit its broadcast at 600kpbs -- 4x faster than what my DSL line is normally capable of. Octoshape has a plug-in for Linux but it is a nightmare to install. I haven't got that done yet.
The other thing I tried was to watch a DVD on Linux. One of the great scandals of our time is that DVD anti-theft system (CSS) is not freely available for Linux as it is for Windows. Installing the CSS decoder is even more complex than Octoshape, and after an hour of trying I gave up -- even though I was following instructions on Ubuntu's help site.
Well, HP's Mini-Note doesn't have a CD or DVD player, so this last item is meaningless.
I still have other things to test: how well it works with my Palm TX, my MP3 player, etc.
Autodesk is upping the amount it guestimates it'll make in the coming quarters:
$590 - $595 million revenue, up from the previous guess of $575 - $585 million.
$600 - $610 million, up from $590 million.
$2.45 - $2.5 billion, up from $2.43 - $2.48 billion.
Hopefully Not Bad News for Employees:
"Autodesk said during the first quarter, it will spend about $8 million on cost reduction initiatives." Oops, I forgot: the company already laid off a bunch.
The share price jumped $2 on the news, but still has a ways to go to attain its 52-week-high price of over $50. Details here.
Graphisoft invented GDL as a way to define intelligent objects and parameterize symbols. Geometric Description Language works with ArchiCAD and even AutoCAD, but never got much further than ArchiCAD.
Yesterday the Hungarian CAD company (now owned by Germany's Nemetschek) made noises about GDL for the first time in a long time.
FormFonts, the leading provider of high quality Google SketchUp models, is partnering with Graphisoft to develop, host and share GDL building content libraries.
Okay, so marketing managed to work "Google SketchUp" into the press release, but neither SKD nor Google Warehouse have anything to do with GDL. Instead, this is about third-party GDL developers maybe making some money by letting FormFonts resell their 3D models.
Customers get access to formfonts.com starting at $16.58 per month when the annual subscription cost is prepaid -- but only if your computer runs a supported Web browser.
HP Canada continues to taunt Canadians by listing the Mini-Note computer on its hp.ca Web site, but won't sell it -- nor list an availability date.
HP Canada's pre-sales support has been spectacularly unhelpful:
-- When the Mini-Note was announced for the USA, I asked when it would be available in Canada. "We don't know that kind of information," was the response, paraphrased. A few days later, the five versions of the computer appeared on the Canadian Web site with no publicity -- but not for sale.
-- When I asked why the Mini-Note could not be purchased direct from HP through from hpshopping.ca, pre-sales support told me to buy it from a retailer.
-- When I replied that no retailer in Canada carries the new computer, I received no response.
I'm still stoked about this fine-looking budget-priced sub-notebook, but I am glad it cannot be purchased here for several reasons:
1. It would be primarily for trips, and I have none planned for now. So there's no rush to buy it.
2. The only SSD [solid state hard drive, or flash drive] option is a mere 4GB; ASUS next month is shipping one of their budget subnotebooks with a 20GB SSD for $50 more than HP's 4GB model. Perhaps HP will react competitively.
3. Computers with Intel's new Atom CPU are due to start shipping in a few months. Perhaps HP will switch from Via to Atom -- and then it'll be interesting to see if there are performance differences, in faster computing speed and longer battery duration.
4. HP doesn't allow custom configurations right now. I would want 2GB of RAM with the Linux model; currently, you have to buy the 1GB model, buy the 2GB RAM module separately, and then swap the memory -- throwing out the 1GB. Such a waste.
HP 2133 Mini-Note Review by Jerry Jackson and Tiffany Boggs
PTC's non-GAAP results for Q2:
-- revenue of $259.5 million, up 14%.
-- net income of $18.8 million, up 8%.
For Q3, the company expects revenues of $260 - $270 million, nearly flat.
For the year, PTC expects revenues of $1.06 billion.
HP's Mini-Note computer runs SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 from Novell. If I eventually buy such a computer, it would be good for me to check that I can live with Linux -- ahead of laying down $550+tax.
My dad gave me one of his older notebook computers. How old? So old that this Compaq 3000-series doesn't have built-in wireless networking. So old that it runs an actual Pentium 4 CPU at 2.4GHz. Since Windows XP had gotten itself screwed up, he gave the hardware to me.
Since I had a copy of it laying around, I ran the Live CD version of Unbuntu Linux v9.1, and it worked just fine. That Compaq's 2.4GHz CPU runs Linux quickly, even though the code is running off a CD. Then I got a brainwave: I should run SuSE Linux on it and check whether the Mini-Note would work for me -- especially on the road, where one is far away from the support structure found at home.
First roadblock: I found that SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 is not a free operating system, and you won't find out from Novell's Web site how much it costs. (You need to contact a local representative who'll quote you a price.) Thus, I was unable to download it to try it out (well, I could have: they have a sixty-day trial version).
After a Google search I found that the free version is called openSUSE 10.3 from en.opensuse.org. I downloaded the Live CD version, which lets me boot Linux from the CD drive without replacing the existing operating system.
Second roadblock: OpenSuSE doesn't work on the Compaq 3000. After it starts to boot, the screen goes black. That's too bad, so I went back to Ubuntu, and installed it on the hard drive -- wiping out Windows XP (so much for the possessive stickers that Microsoft demands be affixed to the bottoms of notebook computers).
From my experience, all variants of Linux are pretty much the same -- kind of like running Windows v3.1 or 95 or 98 or Me or 2000 or XP or Vista: they all look somewhat different, but Vista operates pretty much the same as v3.1 (both Vista and v3.1 make it really hard for you to access files on networked computers).
My primary concerns about getting the Mini-Note with Linux were: (1) being able to install software; and (2) being able to install software that I need. More about that in my next installment.
Now a press release from KUBOTEK:
When Kubotek announced in 2004 that we were pursuing an alternative to the mainstream, history-based modeling approach we knew it was a revolutionary concept. We've been in a unique position to observe this technology trend come to prominence in the Mechanical CAD market over the last three years.
The company announces KeyCreator 7.5 today with new ability to calculate mass properties of polygon mesh models, as well as mixed polygonal and solid models. Also: improvements to sheet metal design and dimension-driven design.
6:55am: The company has been hinting at amazing new CAD software to be announced today. Will it live up to its maker's hype? Let's find out...
6:59am: The Web site has changed to declare, "Discover Synchronous Technology now" -- synchronous meaning happening at the same time.
7:02am: We're watching a canned Flash video that keeps stalling -- too many viewers?
7:04am: A "Breakthough" that will be be installed throughout Siemens. Now being introduced is...
7:05am: Video has complete stalled now.
7:06am: It's president Helmuth Ludwig, introducing the kinds of breakthroughs Siemens has introduced over the last 100+ years, like the first streetlight. "3D design is vital." 3D throughout the design process -- a reaction to Dassault's "3D for all?"
7:07am: He's introducing Synchonized Technology, and Executive Vice President of Products Chuck Grindstaff. We're getting the history lesson of CAD -- lines and arcs with no intelligence... 3D solids and features models and parametrics... problem with history-based models is order dependence, and computational overhead.
7:08am: The new tech synchonizes features, parameters, and gives direct control of the model. Is this just history-free modeling like CoCreate? Now showing demo of the software that reduces the number of commands -- commands are inferred.
7:10am: Showing direct construction and editing using grips and some commands. I'm thinking that "Synchonous" refers to a CAD system that is both history-based and freeform, kind of like IronCAD.
7:13am: And some of the things I've seen demo'ed in CadKey (oops, KeyCreator), like seeing how the model was created. I'm thinking this is not a reaction to Dassault, but reaction to PTC and its acquistion of CoCreate. Which leads to the question, "How will Dassault react?"
7:15am: Siemens has released the press release on this new tech...
7:16am: Looks like my guess was right. The press release describes synchronous technology as "the PLM industry’s first-ever history-free, feature-based modeling technology."
"...combines the best of constraint-driven techniques with direct modeling, and is being integrated into the company’s next versions of NX and Solid Edge software."
The next versions are scheduled for launch on May 21, this year.
7:22am: Video is over.
More info here.
Geoffrey York writes in yesterday's Globe&Mail that "China stalls North American auto move." Much of the story is about companies like Cherry saying that it will take at least four more years before their cheap vehicles are available for sale in the USA and Canada.
The excuses: The USA is the world's toughest market; more time is needed to set up the dealer network; cars need to be built of sufficient quality for the American consumer; the Russian and Asian markets are exploding.
Left unsaid is the real reason: safety.
Chinese car makers were ready to enter the European market last year, and then their poorly designed cars hit a brick wall: crashtest dummies reported that humans would not survive when European agencies safety-tested the imported vehicles. The German test organization reported that Chinese cars were the worst that they ever tested.
It occurs to me that this is related to human rights. Western countries that respect the rights of humans to life, liberty, etc., build cars differently from countries whose rulers are so disinclined.
COFES 2008 is over. I missed filing my report of the last day due to cumulative hangovers from previous nights. Then I was in Atlanta for a business meeting, and finally I found myself back in India. I am still struggling to find my coordinates in space and time.
Day 3 Keynotes
Anyway, the third day of COFES went somewhat like this. Two keynote speeches followed morning breakfast. Mills Davis is founder and managing director of Project 10x, a research and consultancy company specializing in next wave semantic technologies and solutions. He spoke about innovation and the Web. But what began as an interesting talk ended up being a mind boggling, confusing, and irritating experience for me. I am not referring to the content of his speech, but rather to the way it was presented. Take a look at these images:
His presentation ended up being a presentation on how not to make a presentation.
The text was so small and the images were so minute that Mills, on more than one occasion, found himself walking up to the big screen to get a closer look at that he was talking about.
The second keynote speech was by Terry Swack, a “serial entrepreneur”, and specializes in creating environmental startu. Clean Culture is her third. Basically, she let us know, in no uncertain terms, how we are going ahead all guns blazing and screwing our planet. Most of what she said is covered at www.storyofstuff.com, which I strongly recommend that you visit; watch the video.
Something New from Scott Harris
Thereafter, there were a series of discussions and roundtables in and about the hotel. I had a very long poolside discussion with Scott Harris, a co-founder of SolidWorks [and Cosmic Blobs]. I was surprised to learn that he regularly followed my blog at www.deelip.com. One topic led to another; after a half-hour I realized that I was having a wild and animated argument with the co-founder of SolidWorks. I stopped and said, “Scott, I can’t believe that I have said all the things I have.” And he calmly replied, “This is precisely the reason why I come to COFES. Such discussions and arguments can happen only in an environment like this. Here is where people tell me things they normally wouldn’t have.”
Truly, COFES is an informal event like no other. You can literally walk up to someone, whoever he may be, introduce yourself and start talking as though you were old pals. I did this over and over again with so many people. I am not sure whether it was my badgering, but eventually Scott went on to disclose more than he should have. He then gagged me from blogging it. But I can say one thing: Scott Harris is going to be in the news pretty soon. And for the right reasons.
I lunched with Mike Riddle, a guy who needs no introduction. So I will not give one. I asked him why he stopped blogging. Apparently a company decided to sue him over what he said on his blog and that made him stop. Fortunately, he intends to fix that and so we may be hearing from him in the future. After lunch, he showed a couple of us his "new stuff" that he was "persuaded" not to show in his presentation the earlier day. It’s unfortunate that things are a bit messy here, and mess is something I don’t enjoy analyzing.
After lunch I was busy moving my things to another hotel and could not attend the series of discussions and roundtables. I returned in time for the final reception and dinner, which ended with the CAD society awards ceremony. No prizes for locating Rachael Dalton-Taggart in the picture below.
COFES 2009 will be held April 16-19, 2009 at the Scottsdale Plaza; I hope to be there.
As my dad watched my daughter washing his car last sunny Saturday, he notice she was listening to music. Those white earbud headphones dangled their thin cord to a pocket in her shorts.
He asked me what she was listening to, so we showed him the iPod. "This 4GB model," I explained, "holds about 60 CDs worth of music."
My dad didn't think he had that much music to listen to, but the idea intrigued him. "I could use something like that when I drive my tractor [up north on his small farm]."
I knew exactly which one to get him. I'd been eyeing Sony's relatively new NWZ-S615F digital media player, because I liked its diminutive size and -- most important -- tactile controls.
While I wish that Japanese companies would learn from Apple's naming scheme, I am glad Sony ignored Apple's drive to reduce the hardware parts count by eliminating buttons that you can feel before you press. (My Zen Micro MP3 player suffers from that, too: just feeling for a control causes it to be activated.)
The Sony has distinct buttons for volume, play/pause, back, and options. A four-way controller surrounds the mildly protruding play/pause button.
I went comparison shopping on the Web, and found that most places charged the same price for the 2GB model -- $100 at London Drugs, Sears, Staples, and so on. FutureShop doesn't carry it, but BestBuy.ca had it for $10 cheaper than the rest.
I bought it for him, and set up the options. Likes and dislikes:
-- nice size (thin and not too small), with rubberized backing.
-- controllers work blind.
-- screen is small but very clear, bright, and colorful!
-- 33 hours playback of music; charges through the computer's USB port.
-- plays back MP4 videos, which can be downloaded from Google Video and others.
-- drag and drop to load it with any kind of file.
-- user interface has a beautiful design.
-- manual does not explain everything.
-- includes a plastic base that doesn't keep the player upright.
-- the Skip-to-next-track function is vague to me.
-- doesn't have an accelerometer for automatically rotating pictures and videos between portrait and landscape.
-- lacks the ability to erase files.
If I didn't already have a suitable MP3 player (ie, my three year old Zen Micro), then I'd get this one for myself, but I'd get the 8GB model. (2GB is sufficient for my dad.)
The hp.ca Web site today began listing the Mini-Note 3122 ultralight notebook computer. Price and initial configurations are the same as in USA.
One problem: you can't buy it (yet). HP.ca lists the Web-only price, available only when purchasing it through hpshopping.ca. But the hp.ca page lacks the Buy Now or Add to Cart buttons, and hpshopping.ca doesn't know about it, either.
Everything Old is New Again
Suddenly I thought back to my first notebook computer with a color screen -- a diminutive unit from Daewoo model 7400S. I hauled it out of storage, and wondered about the dimensions. They are almost the same! The Daewoo is 1cm deeper and 1cm taller, but 1 cm narrower.
-- both have an 8-inch screen; Daewoo = 640x480; HP = 1280x800
-- both lack a DVD drive and a floppy drive.
-- both have VGA out and a card slot: Daewoo = PC Card; HP - Express/34
-- both have 2 data connectors: Daewoo has a parallel and a serial port; HP has 2 USB ports.
-- both have headphone out; HP also has mic in.
-- both have input devices: Daewoo = scroll button; HP = touchpad.
-- hard drives: Daewoo = 20MB; HP = 120GB.
After that, the HP also has wireless internet, fax/modem, etc., which the Daewoo doesn't. But the Daewoo has infrared.
The Daewoo was $1700 with Windows 95; the HP is $550 with Linux.
My old Lexmark laser printer used to come with huge toner cartridges that lasted about 1.5 years. Since I replaced it with an HP 1320 laser printer (love that duplex printing!), I've had to live with cartridges that last half as long.
Today I comparison shopped for a new cartridge, and the price differences were eye-opening! The 1320 uses the '49A cartridge:
FutureShop.ca -- $113
Staples.ca -- $88
LondonDrugs.ca -- $85
CorporateExpress.ca -- $84
BestBuy.ca -- not available
But then I found a better money saver at CorporateExpress.ca: a two-pack of the '49X high-capacity cartridge for $303 ($151.50 each). Each prints 6000 pages, versus 2500 pages for the '49A.
At 2.4x less output, the A cartridge would have to be priced at $63 to be competitive with the X one. (Or, to put it the other way around, you'd spend $270 on '49A cartridges purchased from FutureShop to print as many pages as one '49X cartridge from Corporate Express.)
A few minutes comparison shopping on Web sites saved me $120.
The Economic Times interviews Jeff Ray, new CEO of the SolidWorks division of Dassault Systemes on its arrival in India. Highlights from the interview by Chiranjoy Sen:
-- Currently at $380 million; goal is $1 billion in four years by outgrowing the rest of the industry. [That requires a growth of 30% a year!]
-- One way to grow is to add more software products, primarily around CAD.
-- The focus in 2008 is on performance, reliability, and scalability; future focus is on communicating designs. Quote:
To make it easier for engineers to communicate great designs to a broader audience and to help remove barriers for them. And to make every product in the very first phase of design, a perfect product for our customers.
Microsoft marketing launched Vista with a single word, "Wow!" A launch phrase so vacuous served as an unintended warning of the operating system's lackluster content.
It takes some time to reverse engineer marketing slogans, but I think I've finally achieved it. WOW is short for...
The Marin Independent Journal reports Autodesk is cutting jobs for the reason of efficiency:
The San Rafael-based computer-aided design software company made the cuts to employees in its Platform Solutions and Emerging Business Division, said Colleen Rubart. About half were based in Marin.
The ADSK share price continues to falter, down roughly $20 from its 52-week high of $52.
Alibre is giving away its new CAM Xpress free, but only to a selected group of users. In Google GMail fashion, the Elect will be permitted to invite others (the Sub Elect) to also get their free copy of CAM Xpress (formerly Alibre CAM). The related Web page is vague as to how one qualifies, other than to leave one's email address.
What do you get for free? Not a lot, obviously:
* Profiling (2.5 axis).
* Horizontal roughing and parallel finishing (3 axis).
* Drilling, including user-defined drill cycles.
* Hole sorting.
* Some post-processing.
* Tool path and holder simulation.
* Standard mill and drill tools.
The next level up, Alibre CAM Standard at $1000, provides a whole lot more features.
"Alibre CAM and Alibre CAM Xpress are going to disrupt the stagnant CAM software market," says CEO Greg Milliken in a press release. The problem isn't stagnancy; it's fractiousness. Even the biggest CAM software vendors have small marketshares.
Boston is one of my favorite cities. Joel On Software is planning a programmer's conference for September, and describes the city:
Boston is absolutely beautiful in September. The weather is usually perfect. You can go kayaking on the Charles [River] or take the Duck Tour(*) if you're unambitious. Over 250,000 college students have just arrived, full of completely unjustifiable hope and optimism. The summer tourist crowd has mostly gone home so you can get into museums and historical sites. There are plenty of coffee shops that aren't NASDAQ-listed.
Unfortunately, last time I was in Boston, it was middle of July and weather-dreadful. With daughter in tow, we endured umbrella-less downpours resulting from a passing tropical storm. Yuck!
(*) Duck Tours uses my photo of Newbury Street on their Web site's interactive tour.
Think3 shut down most of its operations in the USA a couple of years ago, but is now looking for a comeback. Says its press release:
Think3 ... wants to expand its sales presence in USA, looking for new VARs.
The company hopes to build a network of American resellers in 2008 offering these products:
* thinkreverse (new) - reverse engineering.
* thinkID - A-class complex surfaces.
* thinkcompensator - mold tooling and sheetmetal.
* thinkdesign - 3D MCAD.
* thinkPLM and thinkteam - PLM.
Report by Deelip Menezes:
The second day of COFES 2008 began with the keynote speech by Karl Ulrich, a CIBC professor from Wharton. He spoke about his upcoming book, Innovation Tournaments: Creating, Selecting and Developing Exceptional Opportunities. Basically he described an approach to pick the best idea for a business venture from a list of ideas.
There were some enlightening aspects, but it seemed to me that everything else was more or less simple common sense -- with the addition of a litany of charts, graphs, diagrams, and statistical analysis jargon. I always have a problem with overdoses of charts and graphs, and so maybe that’s what turned me off.
After the keynote, I attended the Autodesk technology suite briefing. A technology suite is basically a hotel room where a sponsor gets to present a few ideas to as many people who can fit into that room. The Autodesk suite was pretty much sold out.
Buzz Kross, vp of Autodesk’s Manufacturing Division, explained his vision for digital prototyping. I have heard about digital prototyping for a while now, and was interested in hearing it from the horse’s mouth and, if possible, question the horse as well.
Buzz mentioned a few things about Autodesk first, calling it the largest CAD company that spends $150 million annually on R&D. (I wondered, with a budget like that, how come AutoCAD 2009 isn’t very different from AutoCAD 2000. When was the last time a concept as radical as layers or blocks was added to AutoCAD? I hope they are not spending all that money to make fancy things like non-rectangular viewports and pretty interfaces.) Over the next ten years or so Autodesk will acquire companies that have technologies that will aid in giving Inventor the capabilities of digital prototyping.
So what exactly is digital prototyping? From what I understand, it's solid modeling + other features that validate, improve, test, etc. the solid model. A simple example would be a finite element analysis module what works inside of Inventor. Which begs the question, how is this different from what is being done now in other CAD systems?
When Buzz stated that digital prototyping would "completely replace" physical prototyping, I had to make my presence felt. I pointed out that a company designing a product such as a mobile phone is not going to rely on digital prototypes alone. Someone would need to actually hold a physical prototype in his hand and put it to his ear to get the"feel" of the product that they are going to spend millions on. You simply cannot "feel" a digital prototype, however intelligent and sophisticated it may be. Buzz admitted that he had no answer as to how a person would "feel" a digital prototype, but still maintained his position that physical prototyping would eventually be done away with. Well, if Buzz turns out right, it means that the rapid prototyping industry (and maybe a few others) are going to go up in smoke. Interesting.
In response to my question about varied user interfaces between their products, Buzz mentioned that Autodesk was working on something they are calling "Airmax" -- that’s AutoCAD, Inventor, Revit and Max. No, it’s not all of them wrapped into one (what an organized mess that would be!). It is something to do with giving each program a unified user interface. It looks like some of this is already in AutoCAD 2009, for I doubt they spent all that time and money on AutoCAD 2009's ribbon interface, only to drop it for something else soon. And as I type this, I wonder why Maya isn’t part of Airmax?
Later in the day, there was a program called "Maieutic Parataxis." (Maieutic means the midwifery of knowledge; parataxis means the juxtaposition of ideas without connection or conjunction.) I am quite positive that the person who came up with this -- must be either Joel Orr or Brad Holtz -- must have been high on something. As it turns out, Maieutic Parataxis was several groups giving rapidfire five-minute presentations on products, services, startups, and ideas that they were working on.
One of them was Mike Riddle, and I was disappointed that he did not show his SmartNotes or Thinker products like he hoped he would in an interview with Ralph Grabowski in upFront.eZine. The "oohs" and "aahs" went to the Australian Centre for Visual Technologies and their Videotrace technology. Maieutic Parataxis indeed!
Finally, all the COFES attendees were filed into buses and taken to the Arizona desert for Evening under the Stars, a western cookout among the cacti and large telescopes to gaze at the stars.
Tomorrow is the last day. I do not see another Maieutic Parataxis in the schedule for tomorrow. And I am not sure whether that is a good or a bad thing!
[Disclosure: COFES provided complimentary registration and a USB drive.]
My two-year-old Palm TX is in perfect shape -- except for the serious misalignment of the digitizer. (I'll write more about the problem in another posting.)
Yet, it is nearly dead. More accurately, the PalmPilot concept is nearly dead -- for me, and for most of the market. Business people would rather have the equivalent of a PalmPilot in their cell phones, and so the Treo and iPhone are popular.
For me, the PalmPilot began to die following our family's once-in-a-lifetime trip together to New Zealand. Due to a syncing problem, I lost all the daily notes I took during the 19-day trip. That was several years ago; since then, I increasingly found myself not using my PalmOS model of the time, Sony's magnificent Clie.
When it died two years ago, I automatically bought the latest and greatest, the Palm TX. It's an amazing device, pre-dating the similarly spec'ed iTouch by three years. (Where was Palm marketing?) But it was bundled with a lousy (free) external keyboard and lately the unfixable digitizer drift is making it miserable to use.
What to do?
I could replace it. (Refurbished units are $200.)
I could wait to see what Palm might have next. (Something is promised for 2009.)
I still use its address book, play some games (barely) on it, and use it to access Internet radio on our living room stereo.
Then HP announced its Mini-Note (model 2133) notebook computer. For the price of a Palm TX and extra-cost keyboard, you can get a full computer with 8" screen, nearly full-size keyboard, running Linux. $500 (for RAM disc) or $550 (with 120GB hard drive). Primary drawback: no DVD player, although an external one could be added.
I've read some exclaim that they can get an HP 15" notebook computer complete with DVD for the same price. They could, but then they would miss the point.
For a writer who travels (like me), the idea of this class of sub-notebook is an exciting concept, combining the compact size of the PalmPilot with the full functionality of a regular notebook computer. The exclaimers should also contrast the Mini-Note's price against that of similarly sized units from Sony -- care to pay $2,200?
The mini-notebook is not HP's idea, but HP reacting to the new market segment created by Asus and its EEE notebook. I find it interesting that the market rejected Microsoft's idea of what a mini notebook should look like (the overpriced UMPC), but is thrilled with something conceived in Taiwan by a builder of hardware.
With me finding reasons to use Google Docs, GMail, and FireFox, a Linux-powered computer would not seem as strange as it as in the past.
I plan to try out the 2133 once it becomes available in Canada (date unknown, HP Canada tells me).
Deelip Menezes reports for WorldCAD Access from COFES 2008:
COFES 2008 started Thursday afternoon with presentations on varied topics, the first by Kathleen Maher from Jon Peddie Research. She spoke on "The Practicality Gap" -- the causes for good products failing.
Second was Ken Hall from Gensler, who spoke on "The Sustainability Paradox". He painted a sad picture of how we are using our resources as a civilization, and what we need to do to prevent doomsday. From what I gathered, neither our governments nor we citizens appear to be in the mood for implementing his recommendations.
CAD At the Nano Level
The third presentation interested me a lot. Mark Sims is with Nanorex, a company that has developed the first CAD system for nanotechnology. The CAD system is called NanoEngineer 1 and looks a lot like any parametric solid modeler, except that it uses atoms and molecules for building blocks. (It even has a model view and a feature tree, except that it is called a "model tree" here.) In short, nanotechnology involves creation of custom molecules and fiddling around with them in order to create things that I haven’t quite understood yet.
NanoEngineer 1 lets users create 3D virtual molecules and string them together to form complex compounds. The output of the modeling process is a plain text file containing a bunch of numbers and codes which can be sent to companies that build these compounds and ship them to you by mail. Reminds me of rapid prototyping.
NanoEngineer 1 is the result of four years of development, and is due to be launched on April 24, And guess what? Nanorex is releasing this as open source! It has an API which can be used by programmers like me to make plug-ins. However, I am going to stick to developing plug-ins for normal CAD systems for now, for the very simple reason that I can understand them. I am not yet comfortable with poking around molecules.
I had heard a lot about nanotechnology, but never got to understanding it. Mark Sims' presentation explained a lot of what's going on in the field of nanotechnology research and implementation. I must admit that most of the core fundamental stuff went over my head, but at the same time, seemed to be quite interesting. Maybe I will read up on nanotechnology soon.
The Future of Engineering
The fourth presentation regarding “The Future of Engineering” was given by Peter Marks of Design Insight. He described how and why the USA had a period of excellence in the 1900s. Their innovation and engineering supremacy over the rest of the world made it a superpower and led to a strong economy. Then he shredded each and every factor that worked for the US in the 1900s, and showed how these factors are now obsolete or no longer work for the USA anymore. Basically he set the stage for the US to be royally screwed in the 2000s. Although his views were quite pessimistic, I must admit that they closely resembled the reality that we see today.
He touched on many factors, one of which was outsourcing. In my opinion, outsourcing is not a solution for the USA, but rather a problem. The USA is no longer outsourcing only manufacturing and services; it is also outsourcing knowledge activities, like research and development -- things that are going to come back to haunt them in the future. When you end up making other people smarter than yourself, you are going to end up finding yourself in a compromising position.
After the presentations, there was an informal poolside gathering, and later spouses were called to join with the eating and drinking. In my case, my spouse is sitting pretty on the other side of the planet.
Friday is when the real action starts.
(Deelip Menezes is the owner of SYCODE, a programming firm specializing in CAD translators, located in Panaji, Goa, India. His Weblog at http://www.deelip.com carries additional reporting on COFES.)
As an author whose books are sold into technical college courses, I have some insight into why college textbooks cost $100 or more, each.
1. The college bookstore takes 40% for itself. Just as many colleges overcharge for meals and residences, they charge full list price for textbooks. Some colleges, such as Columbia Bible Collage, do students a favor by charging less than full price for textbooks -- sometimes even less than Amazon.com's price.
2. Amazon.com's massive discounts drives up cover prices. The impact of Amazon offering you larger discounts is that you pay more for books. When Amazon demands 50%-60% discounts, publishers raise list prices to continue making the same amount of income.
3. The owners of books publishers want higher profits-- like any other corporation. As an author, publishers every year look for ways to pay me less, even though my portion amounts to 5% (or less) of the book's list price.
Make no mistake: book publishers generate 2nd, 3rd, 4th editions to generate more income (some material is changed to justify the new edition). They hate the idea of second-hand book sales. They are non-competitive: when another book publisher raises prices, they do too. To me, it appears that book publishers never took economics: when sales of a book fall, they increase its price.
In summary, the fault of high textbook prices lies with:
1. You college bookstore.
2. Amazon.com's discounting practices.
3. The book publishers owners.
What can be done against high textbook prices?
In my first year of university (1974), $20 was considered expensive for a hardcover textbook. During my seven years there, prices increased so much that I engaged in these tactics:
-- avoided buying any textbook until I determined whether I needed it. Some profs only assign textbooks because it is university culture to do so -- not because it is needed. In my last year, I bought no textbooks.
-- shared textbooks between roommates or others in the course.
-- bought second-hand, particularly in the second semester, when the same edition always used.
-- tried to locate a cheaper source, such as at a different college bookstore, an off-campus bookstore, or a used bookstore. (I have found Amazon.com useless, for textbooks either are no cheaper, or take months to ship.)
Autodesk Labs now has a XVL exporter for Inventor 2008 for download here.
XVL is a highly compressed 3D format for viewing CAD models using the viewer from Lattice Technologies. In addition to the usual viewing options, XVL Player also does:
-- Display color contours.
-- Several rendering styles.
-- Selectable element displays.
-- Surface processing.
-- 3D animations with support for hot links and triggers.
Download the XVL Player free from here, after registration.
The CEO of Lattice Technology, Hiroshi Toriya, has written a book on "3D Manufacturing Innovation: Revolutionary Change in Japanese Manufacturing with Digital Data" but at $119 for copy of the 115-page book, I don't know how many it'll sell. (Well, Amazon.com has it for a bit cheaper -- $94.90 -- which you'll find here.)
An, the marvels of dynamic pricing. I checked Amazon's Web page for this book, and now it is up to $102.
WikiLeaks is apparently a bullet-proof site for hosting controversial documents, whether formerly-secret manuals belonging to the Church of Scientology or cellphone videos of bloodied Tibetans.
"Have documents the world needs to see? We protect you and get your disclosure out to the world," announces the site.
Problem is, are the documents accurate? As the site proudly proclaims, "We aim for maximum political impact," which means verification is secondary. The protestor wants the touch run extinguished, because of he thinks it stands for; the athlete wants to continue running with it, lit, because of she thinks it stands for. Both reasons are political.
The site hopes that the accuracy of documents will be sorted out by the public:
To some degree, there is a trade-off between censorship and guaranteeing authenticity. Wikileaks could run a site almost guaranteeing authenticity, but then we would censor out a lot of information that might be very likely to be true -- and very much in the public interest to reveal. The world audience is intelligent enough to make up its own mind.
So far, CAD vendors have escaped WikiLeaks. Of all the names I ran through its search engine, I found just one minor reference: Autodesk's Civil 3D software as part of a military kit.
Autodesk showed AutoCAD v2.5 in June 1986 at the AEC Systems show in Chicago. I have Autodesk's brochure from back then, and it's interesting to read what was considered "new" in 22 years ago:
-- AutoCAD had more than 50,000 users.
-- Autodesk recommended 640KB RAM, but this release of AutoCAD also had Expanded/Extended Memory Support for computers running the then very expensive 80286 CPU.
-- regen-free zooms and pans.
You can see the list of new commands in the figure below. Autodesk cheated by making the ellipses from short polyline segments. Real ellipses would come later. Still, you can see why v2.5 was such a hit, because these basic commands had been missing 'til then.
(There is one typo: Table Menu is asterisked as a drawing command; it actually refers to the addition of a tablet overlay included in the box, which killed a number of small third-party developers who had been creating custom templates.)
As well, there were enhancements, such as these:
-- context-sensitive help.
-- Crossing and Previous selection modes
-- Polar option for the Array command
-- Mirror could now make mirrored copies at any angle
But not all new features have remained to this day. IGES im/export was later removed. As was the much disliked hardware lock (withdrawn a few months later with v2.52). Autodesk spun the unwanted addition this way:
AutoCAD 2.5 is execution-protected with a hardware lock. There are no power wires to trip over or take up outlet space; the hardware lock simply connects between your pointing device and computer.
At the time, Autodesk had hired a new marketing guy from IBM. As I recall the story, CADalyst (the only magazine dedicated to AutoCAD software at the time) could get a review copy of AutoCAD v2.5 with a 90-day invoice. After 90 days, we could return the software, or pay $2,500 (I think that was the price). Fortunately, saner heads prevailed: the new marketing guy was let go, and the 90-day invoice torn up.
Henry Bloget explains why there may be very few IPOs (initial public offerings) any more:
There's one sure way to make sure investors don't lose money in initial public offerings: Make sure there are none. ...there has been exactly one (1) ONE Valley IPO this year.
Why does no one go public anymore? ...in part because our legislators have made it outrageously expensive to go public, especially for small tech companies. ...In this environment, what sentient CEO wouldn't choose an M&A [merger and acquisition] exit route?
Full blog entry here: Hey, Sarbanes and Oxley, You Killed Our IPO Market--Are You Happy?
Hence, UGS allowing itself to be bought by Siemens, rather than go public.
These days, software packages are either inexistant (those downloaded from the Web) or a let-down (who designed in all that plain brown cardboard filler?) You pay $4000 or $6000 for software and get -- a disc with a couple of leaflets. Last you got less. This year, lesser. You want a printed manual? That's a penny-pinching $$$ extra.
Anyhow, opening software boxes was exciting in the 1980s. How many diskettes will this software upgrade boast? Over how many feet of bookcase will the fatter-than-ever documentation rule? But then it became dull as dust in the 2000s. Last week,
VectorWorks Nemetschek North America shipped me their VectorWorks software. And I got around to opening it today...
Opening the Vectorworks 2008 package is a mini Wow! experience. Reminded me of opening that iPod Nano package in a New Orleans restaurant at a SolidWorks we-love-the-press event a couple years back.
The outer box is white with gray type -- the German influence.
Inside, a small black box that comes apart like a fancy multi-CD retrospective package of the fading rock star in need of a royalty boost.
Inside, a pair of DVDs with a unique slider mechanism that gently ejects the discs from their clear plastic cases -- the e-slimecase is of German design (www.ejector.de). One DVD has all the software, the other a learning series of core concepts.
Underneath, two fat printed manuals -- user guides on the fundamentals and on design series -- nearly three inches thick!
Finally, a color brochure with six pages of assistance methods and courses. (I'd've like to have seen a clear indication which are free, and which not.)
Someone at Nemetschek thought about how to make the software unpacking experience as thrilling as Christmas morning (er, Christmas Eve in Germany).
Thing is, I never use printed documentation -- rarely even use online documentation. The dullness of downloaded software suits me just fine, as does a DVD delivered in a thin-as-possible plastic box. For I want to get my work done. Software should be so well written that I don't need to access additional assistance.
Still, this VectorWorks package makes me think kind thoughts towards the thoughtfulness of the package designers.
One BIM isn't enough, for Bentley Systems has created another: Bridge Information Modeling, with the r-ized acronym "BrIM." Explains the press release:
This end-to-end solution will enable the transportation industry to efficiently and effectively address the challenges of new and aging bridges and deliver sustainable, long-lasting infrastructure.
Lofty ideals, to be sure. Too bad nobody's got any money to sustain bridges 'til after they fall down.
Sometimes, technical editor Bill Fane uses commands as excuses for jokes. Here's one for the Stretch command:
And one for the Time command:
Once in a rare while, copy editor Stephen Dunning manages one. His contribution for the Trim command.
Notice that he alerts us his humour through the use of the :) happy face.
...other than because of its excessively slow speed, of course.
#1 Reason to Hate Vista: display problems. (I already know that Microsoft's astroturfing drones will announce self-righteously that device drivers aren't Microsoft's problem, and I would reply, I don't care, there is just one customer. Got problems with the Microsoft-written OS, and HP has to foot the support bill -- how'd HP and other manufacturers let themselves get suckered into that one?) Anyhow...
My Vista-running HP notebook has nVidia graphics, and I can't count the number of problems I have with a second monitor attached. Here's a partial list:
-- sometimes, the notebook's monitor is identified as monitor #2, while Vista identifies the external monitor as #1.
-- if the notebook is allowed to blank its display, the cursor no longer appears on the external monitor after the display comes back. Only solution I have found is to reboot the computer. This means I can never blank the monitor, only dim it manually with the keyboard buttons.
-- the list of available resolutions varies by the day of the month, seriously. The external monitor runs at 1400x900. This resolution sometimes appears on the available list, and sometimes not. Sometimes other resolutions appear, as high as 2048, other times as low as 1280. Sometimes there are just a few resolution choices; other times many. All this occurs without changing the driver.
-- sometimes, for no apparent reason, Vista changes the "main" monitor to the external one, meaning that the taskbar, desktop icons, etc appear on the external monitor.
-- the external monitor can run at 75Hz, but no matter how many times I change it to 75, Vista changes it back to 60.
I've tried to get HP support to fix some of these, the most frustrating being the fluxuating number of available resolutions. The weak response: install a different driver. nVidia is as bad a Microsoft, and won't touch the problem, either. Yet, their driver support software has a "Contact nVidia" button.
I s'pose it's only poetic justice that Vista SP1 should be worse even than Vista FCS.
Here is a photo of Vista mishandling the screens:
* The desktop icons moved themselves to the external screen, even as the taskbar remains on the notebook's screen.
* The external screen is identified as monitor #1; the notebook computer's screen is id'ed as monitor #2.
No postings today, because it is April 1 (other than this one). I find April 1 to be a hard day to read news -- especially for someone who spends a couple of hours each day perusing a multitude of sites.
Which news item is true?
And which is a fool?
Worst of it is that April Fool's Day tricks are spilling into 31 March, such as this "news" item that appeared a day early: Microsoft is adding ray-tracing to DirectX 11 and shipping it this fall -- but limited to running on 8-core CPUs from Intel and Intel GPUs.