"Interview with the CEOs of Spatial"
by Ralph Grabowski
"Interview with the CEOs of Spatial"
by Ralph Grabowski
"Veteran CAD CEO on Staying Relevant and Important in Today’s CAD Market"
by Ralph Grabowski
Well, maybe two clicks
There was a time when PayPal provided us merchants a one-click method for letting customers make payments. Then they took it away, and customers had to log into PayPal, fill out forms, and so on.
Today, they brought back one-click payments, even though the short-memory tech media is calling it "new." No matter. I've implemented it in upFront.eZine for people wishing to donate to my newsletter.
Should you wish to support upFront.eZine through PayPal, then the suggested amounts are like these:
Thank you to those of you who have supported my writing all these years!
Next week's issue of upFront.eZine discusses the resolution of the digitizer on the screens of smartphones and tablets. The reason that the iPhone works only with fingers is that this limitation allows Apple to use a really coarse digitizer, and coarser = cheaper. Other phone makers followed suit.
How coarse? 24x14. That's 14 sensors across the screen, and 24 up and down, for a spacing of one digitizer every 1/6th of an inch (half a centimeter, roughly). This spec is not something that ever gets discussed in the tech world; here is how I measured it.
I had noticed that in bright sunlight the digitizing grid became visible on the screen on my LG-manufactured Google Nexus 4. I wanted to get a picture of it for upFront.eZine #870, but ran into some problems.
A bright light is needed to see the sensors on the phone's screen; indoor lighting is not strong enough. I took the smartphone outside under an overcast sky. The camera, however, kept focussing on the clouds being reflected from the screen!
I tried a few things, like switching to macro mode (nope), switching to manual focus mode (nope), changing the angle of view (nope). Somehow I got the idea to try zooming in. That did it: I got around the reflection problem by taking the picture with the maximum 20x zoom, which minimizes the focal range.
Once the photo was taken, I enhanced the image using controls in PaintShop Pro.
While the screen of my phone has a resolution of 1280x720, the resolution of the sensors is just 24x14 -- 14 sensors across the screen, and 24 up. Each is 0.42cm square in size (0.17"). I got the dimensions by measuring the width of the screen (6.0cm) and dividing by the number of sensors (14).
The capacitive digitizer on smartphones works by sensing the electrical current given off by the finger as it bridges the gaps between sensors. This is why you cannot use a traditional stylus with smartphones or tablets: the stylus is too narrow to bridge the gap, and it does not give off a current.
The type of stylus that works with smartphones has a broad, carbon-infused rubber tip that conducts electricity from your hand. I suspect that the old Palm Pilots could use a simple plastic stylus because the digitizer resolution matched the display resolution, and it relied on resistive (no electricity needed) sensors to record touches.
Tablets that make use of thin-tipped stylii use different technology, usually from Wacom; here's the details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wacom_%28company%29#Technology
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Wondering where the future lies
Dassault Systemes realized some time ago that Solidworks was coming to a dead end. The way it was so smartly programmed in the mid-1990s had made it the run-away best-selling mid-range MCAD program for two decades. For quite some time, the company's programmers expertly bolted on new features and extensions. Running Solidworks on a Windows desktop computer was a sure thing, and for many years it seemed that nothing would derail Dassault's gravy train.
But then boulders began falling onto the tracks. First, a boulder called SpaceClaim happened. Brilliantly marketed, its emphasis on direct editing changed the industry as much as Pro/E did in the late 1980s. Every single MCAD competitor pivoted towards direct editing -- whether dusting off old direct editing software (CoCreate + Pro/E = Creo) or writing new software from scratch, like Autodesk did with Fusion. (For all its impact, SpaceClaim turned out to be mouse-sized, only ever selling about 30,000 licenses.)
Then the mobile and social media boulders rolled onto the tracks. And another one called browser-based CAD. So then users began expecting MCAD to run effortlessly on various kinds of hardware and operating systems -- whether Mac laptops, Linux workstations, Android tablets, or iOS smartphones.
Dassault found itself locked into a quandary:
On the one hand, it had a best-selling MCAD program that it could not simply turn off, as two million commercial and educational users were depending on it for their livelihoods.
On the other hand, the core code in Solidworks was so old and too dependent on Windows to handle direct editing, be involved in social media, run in a Web browser, or be ported to other platforms.
(There are other technical problems that Solidworks faces of which I won't get into here.)
After launching a few transitions that soon became dead ends, Dassault settled on a two-prong strategy that seems doable:
Well, I didn't say it was a great strategy, just one that's one that's doable for Dassault right now, stuck as it is. The plan is ultimately to migrate all Solidworks data to the same master database (called Enovia) as happened with Catia and other Dassault software -- collectively known by the rather generic name "3DExperience."
Dassault now has two special-purpose modules for Solidworks users which offer the following features:
I didn't say they were great features. About the only thing they have in common with Solidworks is the name.
Dassault, I notice, is rolling out the new modules slowly, at a rate of one a year. The slow speed suits Solidworks users, who quite frankly don't care for chatting about their designs on social media, running CAD software in Web browsers, or storing their proprietary designs on someone else's distant computer.
For now, Solidworks users get to keep their software running. Their future, however, is Catia.
[This blog posting comes from the introduction I wrote to an article I am working on for a magazine, but then decided the intro was too long-winded, and I so posted it here.]
I read it on The Interweb, so it must be true
A reader writes:
Did you know that AutoCAD 2017 is available already? And for free? Try googling "AutoCAD 2017 free download" and you'll get a huge pile of hits from a great many sites offering free downloads.
-- F. B.
I did as the reader suggested and found that he was right.
Results from searching on Google for "AutoCAD 2017 free download"
But what was being offered? AutoCAD 2017 won't ship until next March, after all. I decided to investigate. To protect my Windows desktop from virii, I switched to an Android tablet before going any further.
Here is what I found:
No AutoCAD 2017 in sight on Softronic
Site promising to download AutoCAD 2017 but doesn't
I reviewed the .exe file with a hex viewer on the Android, but found only that it was written for Windows and that it was requesting a high security level; see figure below.
Looking inside the .exe code with a hex viewer
Too freaking expensive
For years now, but only about once a year, I get asked whether I would consider providing print versions of my ebooks. I understand the desire of my customers: print has its superior points over ebooks, the 'e' being short for "ephemeral."
The primary reason: I can't be bothered. The amount of time to set this up would not pay for the one time a year a customer wants it. Now, I design my ebooks so that you can print them out yourselves: all my ebooks are PDF files designed to print on 8.5" x 11" paper, double-sided.
Nevertheless, I looked into it further last week after I got this email:
Recently purchased your ebook for BricsCAD V15, and was wondering if you’ve ever looked into having a place print out and bind a hard copy of your books?
I’m not lazy it’s just my employer doesn’t have a color printer and I currently don’t have one at home. I guess being old fashioned that a book in the hand still appeals to me, but if it’s a copyright thing I won’t look into it.
First off, the copyright on my ebooks allows you to make a print copy for yourself, as well as a back up copy. I sometimes even print out one of my ebooks when I need it for reference. Fast laser printer, and it doesn't take too long.
I wondered, however, how much it would cost to have a third-party print the book to which he was referring. Customizing BricsCAD V15 is 522 pages long -- yup, a monster of my own making, and still only $40. (Buy your copy today.)
There are many print-on-demand services out there, and I chose one at random that allowed me to request a quote online. After going through many Web pages of options, I picked a wire-bound (so that it lays flat), 522-page, cheapest color printout. Because I picked the service at random, the final price was in pounds as the service was located in England. Here is the quote:
Translated into US dollars, that's $168. For one copy delivered to my customer. Either that price is way overboard, or else I am vastly undercharging for my ebooks!
Sweet Nothings Whispered for a Fee
Analysis firms are paid by companies to make predictions, who use the predictions to promote themselves, internally and externally. It is a virtuous-vicious circle: when we hear a company boasting that their business opportunity is $X billions by 2017 -- whether 3D printer sales, cloud transactions, or market share -- they paid a firm to come up with the Too-Good-To-Be-True-sounding number.
Naturally, the analysis firms have no way of knowing what iPad-like events will distort the furutre market, rendering their predictions as a fail. So, word of advice: ignore those numbers, 'cause they ain't gonna happen for any reason at all.
How bad are the predictions? Tomi Ahonen writes about mobile phones. He used to be with Nokia, but now is on his own, giving speeches and writing a blog at http://communities-dominate.blogs.com.
This week, he listed predictions made by analysis firms in 2012 about the smartphone market in 2015 (and a few other years), and then compared them with the real outcome. The predictions were made for a mere three years into the future. (Word of warning: he likes to boast about how much he boasts about how accurate his predictions are. I am guessing he picked the worst of a bad lot of predictions by competitors.) Anyhow, here is his list and I quote him:
Mr Ahonen concludes:
It's not easy being in the forecasting business, we all get it wrong from time to time, and sometimes we make big booboos.
But most of my 'peers' do not bother to come back and remind you about how their past forecasts were, nor to try to examine why that forecast went wrong.
To me, the really interesting fail regards smartphone apps. Whereas analysts underestimated the Android sales explosion, the sales of apps were greatly overestimated.
You can read the full blog posting at http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2015/04/reviewing-my-last-4-year-forecast-blog-3-years-in-from-2012.html
Thomas Friedman is out-Friedmaned
Quoted from Wired: "The Guerrilla Tactics of The Racket, and How It Almost Upended Journalism" by Mat Honan. Source: http://www.wired.com/2014/12/life-and-death-of-the-racket/
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“The joke here is that Thomas Friedman is always talking about the benefits of globalization,” says Taibbi.
“We outsourced Thomas Friedman to an Indian content farm, where they produce for pennies a word, any kind of material you want.... I told them I wanted then to write an article about globalization and its effect on the workforce that’s positive about globalization...” said Pareene.
“To show the effects of globalization,” laughed Taibbi. “We can have Thomas Friedman for 1,000 times less the cost.”
Multiplexing cross-selling opportunities
Last week, executives of 3D Systems spoke with financial analysts. One asked about Cimatron, makes of CAM software, which 3D Systems recently acquired.
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Brandon Wright (Stephens): Just want to get a little bit of color on your expectations for Cimatron in '15. Obviously, with being software higher margin, [what] kind of the impact you see coming in there?
Avi Reichental (ceo, 3D Systems): From Cimatron we are looking to immediately have some cross-selling leverage, because they have a very strong [sales] channel, we have a very strong channel, and they are completely complementary in terms of the go-to-market strategy.
Cimatron also opened a very strong door for us into real manufacturing applications on the manufacturing floor. It extends our coverage; it multiplexes our cross-selling opportunities; and it carves out our software interoperability as we begin to look at 3D digital design and fabrication, both in terms of subtractive and additive.
Remember, too, that Cimatron has about 40,000 seats that have already been placed, [and] that could be very attractive targets to us, and a very, very good channel.
Now, let us talk a little bit about our overall software business. We have, in the last couple of years, complete realigned our software go-to-market strategy along the following lines:
We made it easier for users to enter it, so we lowered entry cost for end users and biased our model for annual subscription as we begin to introduce new designs, like our Capture and Capture Mini -- really sophisticated delivery containers for software.
The net result is that our maintenance and subscription revenues for software actually increased 15% in 2014. The overall combination of software subscriptions and devices actually increased 24% for the full year.
That is the kind of projector that we hope to evolve the Cimatron business on field as we begin to integrate it and leverage it throughout 2014, because that is exactly what we have done for our Geomagic and Rapidform businesses in the last 18 months and it is quite impressive outcome.
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Something to do with a Chinese wall
Ken Silverstein's (I actually don't know who he is) non-rant was reported by jimromenesko.com (also unknown to me): "Ken Silverstein Resigns From Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, Blasts ‘Dishonest’ Leadership." I am vaguely familiar with Omidyar (eBay founder who today is worth $6.4 billion). The story Silverstein tells is to me, unfortunately, very familiar.
The story in short: the need to meddle in the world's affairs comes upon a recently-minted billionaire ("the rest of the world should see things the way I do") and so sticks his fingers into gears he knows not of. We see this with billionaires who try to bankrupt the Bank of England, interfere with democratic voting, or destroy publications -- either accidentally or on purpose.
Omidyar decided do his good by giving Glenn Greenwald a full-time job (he was only on a part-time contract to The Guardian doing those Snowden articles) by establishing First Look Media (a pun on the USA constitution's first amendment on free speech) and a series of news sites, such as The Intercept and Racket. His brilliant idea: that lots of money would ensure lots of free speech. Just one year after launch, however, and First Look has gone all The New Republic on us.
There is a vast difference between running a corporation like eBay and running a publication like upFront.eZine: Corporations operate on good news; publications operate on bad news.
To live on their daily diet of happy news, corporations have marketing departments that spin any news as good. They have public relations firms who press good news on publications. Their investor relations folks reports goods news to the fullest extent of the law. They hire corporate lawyers to war against news not deemed good.
Publications, however, operate on both good and bad news. ("If it bleeds, it leads.") We print bad news (like Autodesk 360's failure to display DWG files without corruption) and good news (PTC launching its PLM Cloud). We war against marketing departments, public relations outfits, investor relations, corporate lawyers, and their intense battles to press the line that "the only good news is good news" -- or as we in the publishing industry call it, "puff pieces."
Silverstein gives an example of a puff piece at First Look Media:
...you know what my favorite part of working for First Look was? Last year’s holiday party when two of our fiercely independent staffers “interviewed” Pierre Omidyar and asked him what he did in the morning.
Since you are all hanging on the edge of your seats, he drinks tea and reads stuff, the NYT and other things and then The Intercept was about #5 (he claims).
And for the record, I boycotted this embarrassing affair and sat in a conference room with two other people, one who no longer works there and one who may or may not. It’s hard to keep track. What a joke.
Billionaires whose diet consists mainly of good news have no life experience in running honest publications, which feed on good news and bad. For them, it's mixing oil and water; this is why publications traditionally maintain a Chinese wall between editorial (oil) and advertising (water). Each has a simple, clear role: advertising makes the money; editorial spends it. The two should otherwise be utterly independent.
When the revenues generated by the advertising side are insufficient, then publications have these few options:
Option #1 fails once sufficient readers realize they are being sold advertising under the guise of independence (c.f. HSBC and the The Telegraph).
Option #2 fails when the sugar daddy misunderstands editorial's unique two-prong business model: it is a perfectly regular practice to (1) operate at a 100% loss, while (2) outputting bad news daily. For a normal business man, this doubly-negative model simply does not compute. So he takes a stab at making editorial profitable and the news good. By pushing his idea of success, his publication fails.
No wonder newsmen are traditionally portrayed in books in movies as heavy smokers, hard drinkers, and weary cynics. It's the nature of our doubly-negative biz.
All for one
When I write my books, I use four or five screens. My Windows 7 workstation has three, as illustrated below by the screen grab:
Combo Mac-and-Linux System
Because BricsCAD also runs on Linux and OS X, I have the cheapest Mac mini connected to a separate 23" 1920 x 1080 monitor -- screen #4.
To handle Linux, I have the Mac running the VM Virtual Box software from Oracle (free from www.virtualbox.org). I installed the Mint Linux operating system, which also is free (from www.linuxmint.com/download.php).
In the figure below, the “linuxmint” window is running on the Mac desktop; I outlined the Virtual Box window in green. The Oracle software acts just like another application on the Mac; no need to pay for Parallels Desktop software. Versions of Virtual Box are also available for Windows and Linux.
Windows 8.x and 10 Systems
To check how BricsCAD works with Windows 8.x and 10, I have separate computers running those operating systems.
Windows 8 runs on a touchscreen all-in-one desktop, whose monitor is borrowed by the Mac (screen #4). A button on the all-in-one computer switches the HDMI input between Windows (internal) and Mac (external).
Finally, I have Windows 10 Technical Preview running on a Surface-class Sony 12" HD tablet (with keyboard and pen) -- screen #5.
Sharing Screen Grabs
When I make screen grabs on them or the Mac-Linux system, Dropbox captures the images automatically, and then places them in a folder on my Windows 7 computer for placement in the InDesign document.
In this case, Dropbox uses LAN mode, so that the files are transferred using my office's local area network, meaning the images show up a second or two after I make the screen grab.
If your computer’s graphics board is limited to working with one (or two) monitors, there is a workaround. DisplayLink is a USB dongle that allows you to add a monitor without needing a video port. Windows sees the dongle simply as another screen.
One end plugs into a spare USB port; the other end features a DisplayPort port. Several manufacturers make the hardware for under $70; see www.displaylink.com/shop. Software is included that runs on the computer to redirect the “second screen” graphics to the dongle.
...and take the free iPad mini
A reader sends me this in a brown envelope and asks, "Received this email today. Wonder how many other SolidWorks World attendees will get one?"
"Autodesk believes that the time has come to reimagine 3D CAD from the ground up." Except Fusion 360 runs mostly on the desktop. Could Autodesk be trying to head off Onshape, which is actually new ground-up and written by experienced Solidworks programmers?
Creativity by Hipgnosis
As I was buying a copy of Pink Floyd's newest album at the local store, the young sales clerk stared at the DVD-sized package for a few moments. Finally, she asked me, "Is this a movie or a music group?"
The cover art and included videos of "Endless River" show a man rowing a boat across a sea of clouds. Aerial photography was provided by Bluesky of England, and I'll let their press release explain it all:
... Endless River, the fifteenth and final studio album by the British progressive rock band, features high resolution aerial photography of the River Cam in Cambridgeshire [, England]...
James Eddy, Technical Director of aerial mapping company Bluesky and lifelong Pink Floyd fan added, “It is a tremendous honour; Bluesky aerial photography helping to promote the last ever Pink Floyd album. It was also a great pleasure to work with Glassworks to bring their creative ideas to fruition.”
The aerial photography featured within the commercial video was taken from Bluesky’s nationwide archive of high resolution aerial photography. Available to view and purchase online at www.blueskymapshop.com the images were taken during the summer of 2013 and are offered at standard 25cm resolution as well as higher 12.5 cm resolution.
It depends on the direction
I love checking numbers, and so I was interested when Dell joined Autodesk in announcing a new study. It said that you would be more efficient if you just would spend more money with them. (Had the study found the opposite, it would not have been released, naturally.)
Here's what part of the press release that interested me the most:
The two companies just released a joint study that outlines the productivity gains that can result from upgrading your hardware and design software -- and results found that by moving from AutoCAD 2010 to 2015 and upgrading from a Dell Precision T1600 to a T700 tower workstation, customers can achieve a productivity improvement of 92 percent!
Autodesk has over the years released other studies that "proved" increased efficiency by upgrading to a newer release. Someone once added up all the percentages, and we would now be completeing drawings in something like seconds, if true.
The most infamous one claimed that the ribbon made AutoCAD users 40% more efficient than using menus and toolbars; later, when the Mac version came out, it had no ribbon. I insolently asked Autodesk marketing if this meant that Mac users were 40% less efficient than Windows users, but never received an answer.
When I work through the math in the study, I find that the percentage changes are less dramatic. The study timed drawing activies on AutoCAD 2010 and an older Dell workstation, and then did the same tasks on AutoCAD 2015 and a newer Dell workstation.
Converted to decimals, the timings were 10.18 hours (for the old system) and 5.32 hours (new system). Just by eye-balling it, we can see that the fastest system takes about half the time of the slowest one. Calculating the percentage, it is 48% better.
The study says the improvement is 92%. If the fastest system truly were 92% faster, then its timing should be around 1/10th that of the slowest one.
I think the error resulted from the order in which the results were graphed. The fastest system was graphed first, but was the last result; the slowest system was graphed last, but was the first result.
Percentages are tricky to calculate, because their value depends on the direction of the calculation. It appears the study author calculated up (from 5.32 to 10.18 hours) instead of down (from 10.18 to 5.32).
Here is a site that helps perform the tricky percentage calculations: www.percentagecalculator.net.
A brief article (New at the top: Jeff Ray is chief executive officer at Ellucian) in The Washington Post newspaper carries a brief autobiography by Jeff Ray, the former ceo of Solidworks:
[The experience (at IBM) helped me ultimately land at a company called SolidWorks, where I was named chief executive.] The company had been wildly successful. But I felt that we were reaching the end of what the platform could do and we needed to work on the next-generation technologies. The hardest thing to change is a successful company.
It’s easy to change when you’ve been diagnosed with a challenging disease or some kind of event or crisis is forced upon you. It’s very hard to force change on people when you’re doing well. But that’s exactly the time that you should start questioning what you’re doing.
He went on to become the ceo of Ellucian.
We editors worry about grammar and stuff so that you, dear reader, won't need to. One worry we have is how to print trade names that are capitalized annoyingly, such as "upFront.eZine" and "CATIA 3DEXPERIENCE."
The problem with all-caps (as we in the biz call it) is that it SHOUTS!, which is the intention of the marketing genius who invented it, of course. Now, it took a marketing genius to invent it, because all-caps normally refers to acronyms, like STEP and BIM. The smart reader asks, "What is CATIA 3DEXPERIENCE short for?" But that would be a dumb question.
Now, this screed comes about after a reader called me out for writing "Solidworks" in this week's upFront.eZine. The W is uppercase, he archly told me, as in "SolidWorks." To which I replied, "It is much worse, actually. They now spell it all uppercase, SOLIDWORKS, officially."
He checked, and it turns out we both are correct. Dassault Systemes (not all uppercase, by the way) spells it both ways on their Web site. I guess this is to keep the all-UPPERCASE-haters from hatin':
Two Solutions to the Singular Problem
So, what should be the editorial policy regarding Annoying Capitalization of Trade Names?
My dear friend, Randall Newton, announced at one point that he would spell a trademark the first time it appears in his articles the same way marketing departments want it (just to keep the hounds of marketing at bay -- and trust me, they will bay over mis-capitalized trade names); following this initial appearance, he then spells it the way we all want it to be, and so for the remainder of the article it appears mixed case. I have not, however, checked if he is keeping to his word.
I am not as generous. If the trade name is mixed caps, then I spell it the way it comes to me (solidThinking); but, when all caps, I change it to title mode, such as Solidworks and Catia 3Dexperience -- no first time credit from me.
Further fussiness. When a file refers to the name's extension, I spell it all lowercase, as in .dwg. When it refers to the file's format, then it becomes DWG.
Yah, this is the kind of stuff over which we editors obsess.
P.S. Pet Peeve: writers who capitalize the nouns of commands, such as writing "draw a Line." Ugh.
by Vladimir Talapov
This is a new issue for us. To be honest, it is a very unpleasant one, since it involves an artificial (aggressive) influence upon economic processes painstakingly organized by the business-community -- bilateral, multilateral, and, in any case, mutually beneficial.
Still sanctions are our today’s reality. Thus, I would like to make a few points.
First. Sanctions are introduced by the governments of some countries and not by software developers. I think that to a greater extent, sanctions are a blow against vendors rather than users, but it is rough luck on both.
Second. Formally, sanctions have not yet affected the design-and-building industry in Russia, and so do not threaten BIM adaption, although it may only be a matter of time.
Third. No software firm is going to take back purchased licenses, so day-to-day work is not coming to a halt.
Forth. The time has come to think seriously as to how efficiently available software is used in our design and building industry, particularly because at the time vast sums of money were spent to purchase it. Based on the experience, I dare say that software is employed to no more than 20% of its capabilities. Becoming better at mastering the available programs and optimizing their operational procedures (sometimes even just developing such procedures) coupled with cutting down on the cost of acquiring new programs (as they are already purchased) forms significant resources for advancing design and building industry in Russia.
Fifth (and the most important). Sanctions create truly unique conditions for developing Russian programs, particularly in BIM. I have no doubt that such developments will happen. It is simply a must.
Cloud Technologies and Sanctions
The cloud is entering our lives, but rather slowly. I am aware that many have tried to use them, first of all for visualizing.
I think, however, that in light of the recent sanction wars, we shall have to forget about cloud technologies for several years. It is unlikely that any serious organization would wish to lose control over its information and risk “foreign switching-off” of access to software resources.
[Reprinted with permission of isicad.net]
My Rebuttal to Roopinder Tara
Living the life of a CAD reporter: Atop the Vancouver Art Gallery at a Lenovo-sponsored launch party for media, analysts, and industry friends enjoying free drinks, appetizers, live DJ music, and schmoozing -- along with that fabulous view of Vancouver's Robson Square district
Back in June, CAD Insider blogger Roopinder Tata wrote a controversial item about CAD writers going to events put on by hardware and software vendors, with costs paid by the vendor. (Among some news organizations, like New York Times, reporters can't even accept a free gummy bear.) His controversy: writing about the event is optional. This is something over which we have disagreed for years.
Mr Tara's position is this: when he gets an invitation to an event, he always goes; but he doesn't necessarily write about it.
My position is the opposite: when I get an invitation, I don't necessarily go; but when I go, I always write about it.
I don't understand his position; he doesn't understand mine. We remain good friends, because we disagree amicably. To recap, here are the reasons he gives for not writing about events:
I agree with points 2 and 3. Often vendors will give me off-the-record information to signal future directions -- non-public roadmaps, as it were. Or, I land work writing an ebook or whitepaper for them.
So this leaves point #1 over which he and I disagree. In my case, I work at finding an angle, even when there is nothing "worthy of note." I feel I owe it to the vendor.
Now, there is the larger controversy of CAD writers accepting "bribes" in the form of free air travel, hotel accommodation, ground transportation, food, gifts, and entertainment that sometimes is quite expensive. Typically, it costs a vendor $1,500 to have me attend his media-only event -- a number significantly smaller than the $5,000 figure estimated by Mr Tara.
(The cost is lower for the vendor when we attend his user conference, because 5-10% of rooms are comp'ed by the hotel just for locating the conference at its facility, and one extra plate of food out of thousands is uncountable.)
Some history: Through 1999, we journalists paid our own way, although larger publishers covered my costs from 1985-1997. This all changed with the Revit launch at Harvard University in early 2000, and it was after this event that other vendors began paying for reporters' travels. Since the recession of 2008, however, many vendors cut back by inviting much smaller groups, or offering only hotels (which are free in some cases, anyhow), or relying on Webcasts.
So the question becomes: Why does Ralph Grabowski accept free travel from vendors? I do it for two reasons:
As a freelance writer, I receive zero benefits. I don't receive pay for the days I travel, unlike salaried employees. But I do love the benefit of free travel that my job has given me, sending me to exotic locations I'd never been able to otherwise afford, such as Novosibirsk and Saint Petersburg, Budapest and Prague, Brussels and Paris, Boston and Washington, Tokyo and Manila, Auckland and Sydney.
To solve the problem of perceived conflict of interest, I report a disclosure when vendors pay my costs, and for what. I am pleased to see that several other writers do the same.
When we think about the biggest CAD software companies, we think of the Big Four who make more than $1 billion a year:
#1 Dassault Systemes ($2.6B)
#2 Siemens PLM Systems (?)
#3 Autodesk ($2.3B)
#4 PTC ($1.3B)
(? - We're not sure where Siemens PLM places, as the mother corp doesn't report on its CAD division, but analysts figure its revenues are roughly as large as or larger than Autodesk's. In this article, I use a EUR-USD exchange rate of 1.3.)
What's changed in recent years is that non-CAD vendors have been buying up CAD software, some of whom are pretty big. Indeed, it could be argued Siemens belongs in this category.
Today's news that Hexagon of Sweden bought Vero Software of England reminds us that Hexagon also own Intergraph, the largest CAD vendor of plant design software. At $3.1 billion a year, Hexagon is almost as big as Autodesk and PTC put together. As Shawn Foster (@kcflatlander) said on Twitter, "Plant, mining, etc do not market like buildings and other markets, so many would not know how huge Hexagon really is." The last time Intergraph reported revenues (2008), they were at $0.8 billion.
As of August, Hexagon will own a stable of CAM programs that's nearly bigger than all the Big Four put together. It benefits from Vero's own acquisitions spree that collected together Alphacam, Cabinet Vision, Edgecam, Radan, SURFCAM, VISI, and WorkNC. Hexagon says those seven CAM packages will add about $100 million to its revenues. Only.
The other big non-CAD CAD vendor is Trimble, who we think of as a seller of bright yellow GPSes for surveyors. They own SketchUp and a bunch of BIM software, and their reveues are just under those of Autodesk, at just over $2 billion a year.
Well, then there is Oracle, who many years ago bought out Cimmetry of Canada (and its AutoVue CAD file viewer) via Agile. Oracle's revenues are $37 billion, about half that of Siemens AG. Other "new" CAD vendors include 3D Systems (bought Alibre) and ANSYS (bought SpaceClaim), but both are under $1 billion in revenues, and so don't belong in the club.
So now when we speak of a CAD vendor, it's not necessarially a company that was founded by a group of guys in the 1980s writing a rudimentary CAD program out of their homes. As certain huge corporations recognize the power of the data stored in CAD files, they arise themselves from their slumber, casting about for a suitable prey...
Makes me wonder if Dassault Aviation might reaquire Dassault Systemes. Then there's the strong links Bentley is forming with Siemens PLM.
A reader writes:
On Autodesk's Exchange Apps, I saw that you have an ebook. I thought about making an ebook as I have some exercise made up. (One shows you how to get the true angle on a drawing without drawing an auxiliary view.) I would like to know how you made your ebooks so that no one can copy them.
I didn't, because it is not possible to prevent PDF files from being copied. I have spoken directly with Adobe a couple of times about this flaw, but they tell me that it is not possible to implement this kind of security inside the PDF format. Well, we could add passwords for opening files, but this is irritating to the buyers -- and they can just pass along the passwords to others.
PDF files can be locked only when distributed through a PDF server, but this solution is only good inside a corporation because the locking occurs external to the PDF file -- and so it is no good for sales to individuals.
An alternative is to go with an ebook format such as ePub. Ebook formats can be locked to a reader if you go through sites like B&N, Amazon, or Kobo. The fundamental flaw in ePubs is they make a mess of formatting, whether simple text-only books or content-heavy titles like with CAD.
Copying PDF files is a serious problem in our industry, and it is the reason I have stopped updating my ebooks, except for commercial clients.
To emphasize how little data it collects, the NSA reported to the American people that it collects a mere 1.6% of the 1,826 petabytes of data that flow through the world's Internet pipes each day.
Tiny Numbers of Huge Files. One point six seemed like a small number unti I realized that the spooks were talking about the volume of data, not the volume of messages. Internet data volumes are huge due to the huge sizes of files being moved around. An HD movie is 5GB; Netflix is said to make up 40% of the US's Internet data volume, because its traffic consists primarily of huge movie files. But Netflix takes up a tiny proportion of total message traffic.
Huge Numbers of Tiny Messages. In contrast, messages take up tiny amounts of data. A typical formatted email is less than a megabyte; that's 5,120 email messages per single movie file. A text message takes 160 bytes. That's 26,200 messages per movie. It's mostly those movie, tor, music, and other large files that make up the 1,826 petabytes.
(1 petabyte = 1,024 terrabytes = 1,048,576 gigabytes = 1,073,741,824 megabytes.)
We see that the percentage of messages collected by NSA must be huge, much larger than the 1.6% claimed. They admit as much with their "connections of connections of connections" collection, meaning 100,000 to one million peripheral-persons per person of interest. This does not work out to a mere 1.6%.
This makes me wonder if NSA collects 98.4% of message volume.
We don't know what was happening behind the scenes, but whoever runs Autodesk's official @autodesk account on Twitter posted an image of SolidWorks instead of Inventor. The mistake was perhaps easy to make, as the HSMExpress CAM add-in was first written for SolidWorks and is only now in beta for Inventor.
Reader M.J.S. forwarded a screen grab, because the original post is removed...
The correction tweet with the right CAD program
Binamuse is the Argentinian firm that found a security hole in Autodesk's DWG file format. This week they provided WorldCAD Access with the details of the problem.
The problem is specific to DWG version AC1021, which is used by AutoCAD 2007 - 2009. However, since newer releases of AutoCAD can read and write older versions of DWG, Binamuse says the problem affects the latest releases, including AutoCAD 2014. Autodesk has so far provided patches only for AutoCAD 2011-2014 and related products that use DWG, unfortunately.
In technical terms, the problem sounds like this:
AutoCad is vulnerable to an arbitrary pointer dereference vulnerability, which can be exploited by malicious remote attackers to compromise auser’s system. This issue is due to AutoCad’s failure to properly bounds-check data in a DWG file before using it to index and copy heap memory values. This can be exploited to execute arbitrary code by opening a specially crafted DWG file, version AC1021.
Read the detailed commentary on the DWG exploit at http://blog.binamuse.com/2013/07/autocad-dwg-ac1021-heap-corruption.html. I have alerted Open Design Alliance to the issue, and their technical people tell me they are investing.
It is common for CAD vendors to hold Web-based conference calls. Microsoft Office Live Meeting has a unnecessarily long name, and it works poorly compared to GoToMeeting or WebEx.
Here is the actual transcript of a recent Webinar held using Microsoft Office Live Meeting:
Question: Hey all - is anyone talking yet?
Answer: You need to dial in. Use the information below to connect: Toll-free: +1 (888)...
Question: I cannot hear any sound. My muting is off.
Answer: have you dialied in?
Question: I don't want to tie my phone line for three hours.
Answer: If you can't dial in, you can connect your computer audio via the Voice and Video in the tool bar, select Options->Connect computer audio
Question: That option is grayed out
Answer: You'll have to dial in then, sorry about that
Question: Are we suppose to hear from the video or only call the toll free?
Answer: PLease dial in or connect to the computer audio
Question: Is audio going?
Answer: Connect your computer audio - Vioice and Video->Options->Connect Computer audio
Question: Are you broadcasting Audio online?
Answer: We should be yes, if the option is greyed out please dial in instead...
Question: I think you guys should enable the audio from computers the next time. This is quite mad.
Answer: please try the internet audio again, I have reset it
After 35 minutes, the audio began working over Microsoft Office Live Meeting.
Randall Chase of Associated Press is reporting that software cracked by Chinese and Russians was used in part to design components of Patriot missiles and USA military helicopters..
Prosecutors said Wronald Best, 55, bought more than $600,000 pirated software programs from Xiang Li, a Chinese national who is awaiting sentencing in May. Prosecutors also said Best paid $6,000 to obtain more than 60 industrial software applications, worth more than $2.3 million, from Chinese and Russian sources who "cracked" access control mechanisms preventing unauthorized use.
The list of software sold to Best included the following packages:
CST Studio Suite
Vector Works and Hyper Works
Ansoft Designer, Simplorer, Nexxim, Maxwell, and HFSS
Li faces 25 years in prison, while Best gets five.
This history of Catia is written by its founder, Francis Bernard, and is hosted by David Levin at isicad. The software was launched by that name in 1977, but it was preceded by decade of development work, including a CAM interface in the late 1960s. Like other CAD software of the time, it was developed internally by a manufacturing company, in this case French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation.
The sales breakthrough came in 1981 when IBM agreed to distribute the software worldwide. The primary advantage: Catia did 3D design, while all competitors were limited to 2D; and, Catia was sold by IBM, a requirement for large corporations, like Boeing.
In September of that year, Dassault Systemes broke off from Dassault Aviation as an independent company. In 1984, Bernard Charles was hired for the R&D department, and then slowly worked his way up to president eleven years later. Francis Bernard retired in 2006.
It's been happening since January 22, when the Chinese government finally noticed Ping Fu's book. Bend Not Break was released nearly a month earlier, and described the story of the ceo of Geomagic survivinging the horrors of the Cultural Revolution.
The angry commenters at the book's page on Amazon.com all have this in common: they have never before written a review on Amazon, they uniformly they give the book a single star, they give each other hundreds of Yes ratings on "Was this review helpful to you?" (some get over a thousand), and their names and stilted writing style stem from the region you would expect to find a place like China. Oh, and no other autobiography is being attacked as assiduously on Amazon.
How does this reaction compare with more popular books? The first Harry Potter book in paperback has a mere 394 Yes-helpfuls for the most popular review, as of yesterday.
CAD editor Martyn Day wrote in defense of Ping Fu on Amazon, and for his trouble received 177 angry comments, the first one appearing after just 60 seconds. (See http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A372CJ8A4DVMQP/ref=cm_pdp_rev_title_1?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview#R3DEQKCLLDZV75.)
The Guardian was guarded in its coverage last Tuesday of the controversy, as indicated by the headline: "Chinese cast doubt over executive's rags to riches tale." The British newspaper just wasn't feeling brave enough to allow comments at all.
Later the same day, Ping Fu retorted to her we-are-legion critics in The Daily Beast, "Ping Fu Defends ‘Bend, Not Break’ Memoir Against Online Chinese Attack." No surprise, but in little time 226 mostly negative comments appeared.
(Data point: around 200 watchers are "listening" to comments on the Daily Beast article, continuously. By contrast, other, more popular articles have 40 or 12o listeners.)
The primary complaints are that Ping Fu's story contains errors of history.
If It Were Me
If I were to write my autobiography, there would be errors and gaps, too. It gets hard to remember one's entire life story, even at my young age of 56 -- except for a few stand-out memories and even these might be corrupted by time.
One time as a child driving with my parents, I asked what those clear things were on telephone poles (glass insulators). I clearly remember my mom explaining that if I were lost in the forest, I could use them to light a fire. Obviously I misunderstood and misremember -- the benefit was, however, that after that I was never worried about getting lost in the vast Canadian woods!
I would call the attacks "defensive." The Chinese government's policy is Harmony, and so this book portraying the Cultural Revolution in a negative light would be seen as disharmonious, and in need of attack.
A friend teaches ESL (English as a second language) locally, and last year a middle-aged woman arrived to the class from China. One night she stayed up all night watching tv, for it was the first time in 21 years that she saw what really happened in Tienanmen Square. She was in tears over the deaths -- and the lies the government had told her people for these many years (that only a few student leaders were imprisoned, is the banal version distributed in China).
She called in her young son to watch so that he too would finally know the truth:
Dictators fear competition.
In contrast to those orchestrating the rage over an auto-biography, a contact reported yesterday that "Ping is back on the up and up. She's feeling strong now."
The media is tittering with excitement that Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt's visit to North Korea must result in the country opening up the Internet to the rest of the world. Their hope is vanity.
The problem for North Korea's leader is that he (and his father and grandfather) have created a god-like myth about themselves, called Juche. According to the myth, Dear Leader is so amazing that he himself designed all things in North Korea (buildings, dams, etc), that he made North Korea fully self-sufficient, and so he must be worshiped like a god -- even by tourists, who are brought on their first day to the enormous plaza featuring statues of Dear Leaders, and told by their minders to bow.
To open North Korea to the world through the Internet would allow citizens to see that their so-called Dear Leader has feet of clay. When you are a dictator, you don't want to lose power by allowing your followers to know the truth. So, the Internet must remain closed to maintain the lie of Juche (c.f. Iran).
The current North Korean policy is to bring in some expertise for the families of the ruling class living in Pyongyang, such as English and limited amounts of technology, while outside the capital city the bulk of the population is left to live in darkness and near-starvation.
This year's first episode of CSI:New York featured a 3D printer that made a gun used to kill two people. The application of the technology in the episode was uneven. Here is my list of Yeas and Neas:
Yea: the gun was 3D printed from sintered metal
Yea: the 3D printer was a home-made rig
Nea: the gun's surface was perfectly smooth, as was the inside of the barrel
Nea: bullets fired from the gun left no stridation marks
Yea: the gun exploded during its second use
Yea: the CSI team found the files for printing the gun
Nea: the techie called the files "proprietary"
Yea: the CSI techie described 3D printing to his team by showing an apple that had been sliced horizontally many times
Nea: one of the CSI team said this concept was w-a-y to complicated for her
Nea: one of the team commented that creating a gun now was as easy as pressing "Command+P" (but the computers used were Windows, not Macs).
ZDNet's Ed Bott this morning reveals that Chitika's industry trends probably are flawed. This is the ad-server company that frequently publishes headline-inducing research reports, such as iPad usage falling 7% after Christmas.
Mr Bott investigates the firm and concludes, "Put all those pieces together and you don't get a picture of a company whose data should be trusted on its face." But Mr Bott makes his own error in the middle of his piece, Why you should be skeptical of Chitika's market-share reports when he writes:
As any statistician could tell you, simply having a large sample size doesn't mean you get valid conclusions. Garbage in, garbage out. Doubling or tripling the amount of data just makes for a bigger pile of garbage.
Any statistician will tell you that the larger the sample size, the more accurate the result. When you hear a poll result on the radio, the number has to include the number of people surveyed and the plus-or-minus of the accuracy. (Those of us who took statistics know this as the Chi factor.) The larger the sample size, the smaller the plus-or-minus.
(Statisticians have a formula that tells us how large the sample size needs to be for a specified accuracy of result. But larger sample sizes have to be balanced by polling companies against the higher cost of interviewing more people.)
Chitika claims to track a quarter-million sites, but Mr Bott found that 50% of them are dead or junk sites. This means that Chitika's sample size is very small, compared to the billions of Web sites that now exist. It's the small sample size that creates the problem.
When sample size is small, poll results vary wildly. This any statician will tell you. This is why Chitika's results vary wildly. This is why temperature results varied wildly for climate researchers using core samples from only seven trees in Siberia (later found to be the core of one tree).
Chitika made use of the big swings in its survey results to help market itself, because wide-eyed tech reporters naively believed the company's wild-eyed press releases. Thank you to Mr Bott for aiming your keen eye on the company's inconsistencies. But the corrected formula reads as follows:
Small data set = garbage out.
The Verge reported on a DMV (department of motor vehicles) employee who invented a new language:
Naturally-formed languages are messy, and they've long inspired people to search for the perfect, artificial language. It's a quest that a former California DMV employee John Quijada took up as a hobby for three decades to create what he calls "Ithkuil," which has 22 categories of verbs, 1,800 suffixes, and not a single wasted sound in order to make "you say what you mean and mean what you say."
A friend is a phonologist, and these are this thoughts on the new language:
One problem with trying to come up with a language that is completely efficient is that people aren't. We need redundancy in languages because, frankly, we are not all that smart. We don't always get it.
Also, the oral communication situation is not always ideal, and redundancy is needed to help us fill in the blanks when we lose part of the speech signal due to planes flying overhead and lawnmowers passing outside our windows.
What I see of the [Ithkuil] language leaves a lot to be desired in terms of what the human mind processes easily.
ASCON provided this interview with Nikolai Golovanov, the head of the company's C3D geometric kernel development team. ASCON is the largest Russian MCAD software company, and is headquartered in St Petersburg.
- - -
Q: There is not always a clear understanding in the CAD community about where the geometric kernel ends and the CAD program begins. What is a geometric kernel, and what job does it perform in a CAD system?
A:We call the geometric kernel the part of a CAD system that makes the mathematical model of real and theoretical objects.
Our C3D kernel is an independent software component that consists of five groups of functions and algorithms. The first three groups are parts of C3D’s Modeler module:
Q: There are several geometric kernels available on the market today. By which criteria should they be compared?
A: A geometrical kernel is characterized primarily by its functionality. It has to provide all the functions needed by the programmers working on their CAD software. In addition, it needs features like speed and reliability. The quality of the geometric kernel greatly impacts the quality of the entire CAD system.
For us as developers, the important aspects of a geometric kernel are its structure, its simplicity of use, and the clarity of its algorithms. These features enable developers to produce a software product in the minimum of time and with the lowest expenditure of resources.
Q: What role does the geometric kernel play in the final product?
A: In our own CAD system, KOMPAS-3D, we found that the C3D geometric kernel is less than one-fourth of the program code, when measured by the amount of source code and the size of executable files. The complexity of developing the geometric core, however, is significantly larger than the complexity of the rest of the CAD system. This is evidenced by the fact that there are several times more CAD and other modeling systems in the world than there are geometric kernels by themselves.
Q: ASCON is the only software company in Russia to publish a kernel, and one of only a very few in the rest of the world. What does this mean for you?
A: At the end of the last century, almost all Russian CAD systems had their own private geometric kernels. However, the core functionality of these CAD systems lagged behind their global peers. Because of the great complexity of making improvements to one’s own geometric kernel, many Russian CAD companies abandoned their development efforts, and then purchased ready-made kernels.
Our company, ASCON, took a different route. We decided to continue developing our own kernel. As a result, KOMPAS-3D is now the only Russian CAD system successful at competing globally. And, of course, to develop a world-class geometric kernel is not just difficult, but also is an extremely interesting task. We proud of the results of our work, and enjoy working on it!
Q: For a long time, your kernel remained internal to ASCON. Now, any developer can license C3D. What caused you to make this change?
A: It was the demand from international customers that caused us to change our minds. And so today, in our kernel development work, we rely not only on the needs of our own KOMPAS-3D developers, but more importantly on the wishes expressed by our new international customers.
For example, with the kernel being a standalone product, it had to get its own security system and we added component-specific licensing. We are actively translating the documentation into different languages. Other than this, development is proceeding as before: we constantly improve the algorithms, add functionality, and work on advancing the speed and reliability.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the team working for you on the kernel.
A: Our team consists of experienced professionals, as well as new employees. All are graduates of leading universities and technical institutes. The backbone of the team consists of Aleksandr Maksimenko, Andrew Penquin, and Yuri Kozulin. Each of them is responsible for an important part of the work.
Nevertheless, we are constantly looking for talented professionals who can help us develop the C3D kernel in new directions.
To learn more about C3D, go to ASCON's web site at http://ascon.net/solutions/c3d_kernel/, visit them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/C3Dlabs or follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/C3Dlabs.
A reader accessing the database of attendees and speakers for Autodesk University 2012 tells me that it shows numbers are remarkably down from previous years, with just one month left to go.
The number of attendees is roughly half the number of its peak just before the 2008 recession. No doubt the recession continues to bite, as non-attendees consider the $2,000 cost of registration plus airfare, hotel, ground transportation -- easily $3,000. Bosses have to think about productivity lost from employees not being at work that week, and the wages paid for not being at work.
These are the reasons, no doubt, that the online version of AU is much more popular this year. Some tens of thousands are registered to watch proceedings from home or from work.
The following may not be the exact step-by-step procedure, but you should get the idea. I logged in to the AU site & selected the Class Catalog option. It then asked me to log in again (?) & I selected Browse Catalog. I eventually ended up at this location: https://www.autodeskuniversity2012.com/connect/search.ww (see figure) The first time I did it a while ago it only showed the Classes & Speakers tabs. As I recall, at that time I clicked on one of the Class Type buttons and the People tab appeared.
Autodesk has an unusual pricing scheme for its PLM 360 product lifecycle management system: the first three professional users at a site get to access the cloud-based system free, and then each additional one pays $900 a year.
Software researcher Jay Vleeschhouwer of Griffin Securities may have figured out why precisely the first three are free:
Autodesk’s main competitor in the mechanical CAD market, Dassault’s SolidWorks, has an average of three licenses per customer and, as [DS] management itself has noted, the majority of SolidWorks’ customers do not yet have a [PLM] data management system...
Now, why would an office with three SolidWorks users want PLM from Autodesk? Beats me. OTOH, Mr Vleeschhouwer notes that there are 8x as many PTC Windchill PLM licenses as Creo Pro [Pro/Engineer] ones, although he is not sure if this means that there are lots of non-CAD users or lots non-Pro/E CAD users using Windchill.
300,000 or 1.6 million?
In his report, Mr Vleeschhouwer estimates that SolidWorks has 300,000 active [commercial] licenses at the end of 2011, a number vastly smaller than the 1.8 million [commercial + educational] licenses touted last week in front of invited media, but still ahead of Inventor's estimated 210,000 active users.
One thing that gets agonized over a lot is: who should pay the costs when media are invited to publicity events put on by corporations.
When the journalists work for a large, wealthy media conglomerate, like AOL's Engadget or Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD, then there is no problem: media pays. Indeed, the media corporation may well have a policy that insists they pay. The policy is easy to enforce, because they have millions in revenues to cover the transportation costs.
When it comes to self-employed bloggers like me, the revenues simply aren't there to support a travel budget, other than perhaps paying for parking at a local event. In the CAD world, it has been customary since the year 2000 for CAD vendors to invite journalists and to pay for their airfare, hotel, sometimes meals, and once in a while even ground transportation.
The catch, then, is that these journalists suffer the appearance of being "bought." Which is why a few years ago I instituted the disclaimer that indicated when a vendor paid for my costs in covering a story.
Then there is the third angle: why should the media subsidize the marketing costs of another company? When Siemens PLM Software invited me to their analyst event (taking place this week), they would not cover my air fare. They expected lil' ol' me to (a) provide marketing for them through my coverage and (b) subsidize their marketing costs, for a company whose parent makes close to $100 billion a year. For me, it does not compute.
Hence the agony:
So, Autodesk's external pr firm last week invited me to Autodesk University. They would pay the AU fee and the hotel, but not the air fare (as they have in previous years for media from outside the USA). I explained: I can't afford to subsidize Autodesk marketing. Their response: "Unfortunately, due to certain restrictions we are not able to offer airfare this year." They can't afford to, I can't afford to, and so there will be no AU coverage from WorldCAD Access or upFront.eZine.
In the 30 years that desktop CAD has been enriching our lives, competitors have been loathe to name each other, with few execptions. In particular, press releases announcing competitive wins have typically been against AnonCAD, that CAD system that seems to have close to 99% marketshare, judging from how often it appears in press releases. I don't know if this was an unspoken gentleman's agreement or simple reticence.
(A "competitive win" is when one vendor replaces the CAD system of a competitor. The "win" is usually less impressive than the resulting press release lets on, for it can take years to fully displace the CAD system that formerly enjoyed Most Favored status. In some cases, just one department at MegaCorp switches; or perhaps a new, non-core software package is being adopted, replacing nothing; or in rare cases, upper management was indeed convinced to junk those aging VMS boxes for Windows XP.)
This morning, however, Autodesk went whole hog in naming names:
There are no details on what the competitive wins consist of, except in one instance: a division at Sunkist (Sunkist Research and Technical Services) "selected Autodesk Factory Design Suite software over PTC Pro/ENGINEER software to design the company's flat fruit-packing machine facilities." This tells me that Pro/E is still used elsewhere at Sunkist; as well, the new software is typically used for new projects, and so Sunkist R&TS probably continues to use Pro/E on existing ones.
Actually, I think Autodesk's purpose for this press release is to quiet down the logic expressed regularly by PTC management during quarterly conference calls, in which their thinking is expressed something like this:
a. The CAD market is mature and so it cannot grow
b. We gained several customers last quarter
c. Ergo, our marketshare is growing at the expense of our competitors
With this press release comes Autodesk's virtual "So 2x boo on you, PTC!" reply.
PR people need to read what they send out. Can you image a press release going out to inform the world, yet contains the following harsh warning to keep it quiet:
This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail. Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system.
Yup. Pretty much every day, press releases are sent to me about which I cannot talk. Even when they are sent by firms also boasting they won "2011 Communikations Agency of the Year." Who I cannot name, because the information is confidential and intended solely for me.
Heh. The wording of the keep-it-quiet-Buddy threat is identical, no matter the source, meaning one person wrote it, and then hundreds of firms disseminated, distributed, and copied it.
Oops. Then there's the vexing delete-this-email problem. If the policy of your agency or firm is that all emails must be kept for X number of years for archival and legal reasons, then you cannot erase accidentally-received emails.
Finally. The warning is at the very bottom of the email, where people are unlikely to see it. In any case, I love it when I get emails not meant for me, especially ones that talk candidly about, oh, certain people. Happens a couple times a year. I read them and enjoy them even more than my daily dose of 'LOL Cats'.
Hint. Do not implement policies that cannot be enforced.
Gal Raz is a blogger in Israel who has written insightfully on why Dassault Systemes had to kill of Solidworks. For 15 years he was a sales rep for Solidworks Solutions and a CSWP, and is now a sales manager for a local Autodesk VAR.
Here, I've condensed his reasons, which he published in May; read the full explanation in two parts at his site displaystatesen.blogspot.com:
Solidworks's Dilemma: How to Kill a Successful Product
1. As a new startup in 1995, SolidWorks derailed PTC Pro/E by being the first MCAD system to run on Windows only. Today, SolidWorks doesn't want to be derailed by someone else.
2a. To grow quickly, SolidWorks licensed technology, rather than build in-house. Today, however, it is the only major MCAD system to license a kernel. (Inventor, ProE/Creo, Catia, and Solid Edge/NX all use in-house kernels.)
2b. Because Siemens PLM blocked SynchTech to Parasolid licensees, Solidworks does not have easy access to direct editing technology.
3. Dassault worries about its position, with PTC successful in PLM, and Autodesk successful at everything else.
4. To resolve the file (and other) conflicts with Catia, Solidworks needs to deploy on Dassault's CGM kernel. Existing Solidworks can't do this, and so a new Solidworks based on CGM needs to be written.
5. Solidworks is today the oldest MCAD package. After 17 years, it needs to be rewritten from scratch to use today's programming techniques.
6a. The personnel changes at Solidworks are to ensure that Dassault's dictates will be followed.
6b. To focus on V6, development of Solidworks effectively stopped with 2007.
7. Solidworks is the only major MCAD company failing to invest in new external technology through significant acquisitions (cf. T-splines), because Dassault feels it can provide all needed technology.
In his concluding remarks, Mr Raz asks:
[Customers] are expected to get new software with a new interface, different file types and more. What will happen to all the applications, macro, patterns, and engineering information [with the switch to V6]? What happens to customers who invest now in Epdm [Enterprise PDM] for their engineering information management [with the switch to Enovia]?
PTC last year had bumps in the switchover from Pro/E to Creo, mainly because of overhyping a replacement CAD package that won't be up-to-snuff feature-wise for three releases. Solidworks has the same problem, but for the opposite reason: underhyping by failing to make clear a roadmap it owes its one-million-plus users.
A friend recently arrived from China tells me he was awake all night reading about Tiananmen Square, today in 1989. For the first time, he saw the videos of students gunned down by their government. His daughter asked why he was crying.
He tells me that back in China, he and the other billion were told that students were being manipulated by Western powers. (Democracy being a Western concept, I suppose you could call this partly correct.) When Tiananmen Square was cleared out, only a few leaders were jailed, the story goes; the rest of the students were allowed to leave peacefully.
People in China who know what really occurred dare only refer to it as "The Day." A day so inconsequential that the phrase "Tiananmen Square" is blocked today from search engines in China. Today, this friend wears black in mourning.
Chris Thomson and Ben Ryan are funding their cable-driven time-lapse contraption through KickStarter. Their idea is to make a much cheaper mechanism for controlling cameras, taking time-lapse photos along a path.
The path can be panning vertical or horizontally on a fixed point (the Genie controller itself) or else along a path defined by a rope. The rope can be slung between two points, or control a moving platform, like a skateboard.
Watch their promotional video, and you'll see that they are making use of 3D CAD and 3D printing -- a user story waiting to be told.
Watching the video I see the need for a second product. While the motion time-lapse idea is cool (I love taking time-lapse photography), the result isn't. Perhaps it is the camera they are using, but the lighting is inconsistent as the sun shines and hides behind clouds. The action is jerky. The photographic result is not pleasing, and so I see the need for software (which probably exists somewhere) to smooth the lighting and the action.
In Australia, it's already April 1.
HP made the first computer I ever hacked, the HP41CV programmable calculator. Someone, somewhere figured out a special combination of key presses that unlocked it, allowing owners to access additional functions. I recall the fear I felt on that sunny Spring day in 1981 entering the special key codes, and the rush of elation as it worked!
32 years later, and HP still has a special place in my computing heart. Their line of printers are the only ones I can rely on. But I am dismayed at my decision to ban new purchases of their computers from my business due to their unacceptable quality. And they have no mobile business.
Yesterday I held a Web conference with HP staff in Spain to learn about updates to their ePrint service. We used HP's version of WebEx known as Virtual Rooms, "Your Online Meeting Place." On the one hand, it offers "FREE trial--60 days":
On the other, I got this response during the Test Your Setup stage prior to engaging the Web conference:
ERROR: Your browser (Opera) is unsupported. We support, and optimize for, 32-bit Internet Explorer 6.0 and later on a Microsoft Windows platform, Firefox on a Linux platform, Safari on a Macintosh platform.
Really. 32-bit Internet Explorer v6, the Web browser so old and non-standards compliant that it's been banned by Microsoft itself.
And if Virtual Rooms works with Firefox on Linux, then why not on other operating systems, say... Windows?
Anyhow, it took me a few minutes to hunt down and find iexplore.exe on my computer. Virtual Rooms worked with the 64-bit version of IE v9, fortunately, and so the Web conference went ahead as scheduled. During the demo portion, the HP staffer used Google Chrome to show me his Web-based ePrint site, ironically.
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I'll be bringing you the story of ePrint in next Monday's upFront.eZine e-newsletter. Subscribe by clicking here.