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Friday, August 21, 2015

Defragging Autodesk Vault Using a Script

It's been a little while since I've been able to dig into Autodesk Vault, but just this week, I had to locate a script to defragment the Vault database. 

The reason for a defragment is to make sure Vault performance doesn't degrade when making database queries.  For those of us not intimate with SQL, those are Vault Searches.

A manual defrag can be kicked off from the ADMS Console on your server at any time.  All you have to do is right click on the database you want to defrag, and choose "Defragment Database".

A manual defrag from the ADMS Console


But the next warning will give you an indication that this isn't a small feat.


You should read and heed this message! 
The database will lock during a defragment, and the users won't be able to use it.  As a rule, this is undesirable during working hours.

What would be better, is if we could run it during off hours when nobody is accessing the server.

A script can be used to make sure you, as a CAD Manager, don't have to log in during the dead of night to execute the command yourself.  The script is just a text string that runs the same function as the command shown above.

An example of the script in Notepad.  Click to enlarge this image.

This can be set to run as a Window Scheduled Task.  You can let the server run this at a time of your choosing.

First of all, the text for the script is listed below.  You can type this in Notepad.  Also, it's all one line of text.  Don't let the wrapping below fool you.

"C:\Program Files\Autodesk\ADMS Professional 2016\ADMS Console\Connectivity.ADMSConsole.exe" -Odefragmentvault -NVault -VUAdministrator -VP -S

There's a lot of geeky sort of words and phrases in this script.  So let's break it down a little bit.

C:\Program Files\Autodesk\ADMS Professional 2016\ADMS Console


This line just opens up the directory where the executable file to run thee script is located.  Note that it's version specific if you use the default location.

To make sure I've got it right, I copy and paste the location into Windows Explorer.  If it opens up the folder location with the file, Connectivity.ADMSConsole.exe in it, congratulations, it's right.

Go get yourself a cookie!

Speaking of Connectivity.ADMSConsole.exe. 

This one is pretty simple, it's the executable file that starts Vault commands.  In effect, it's starting the ADMS Console without the interface.

-Odefragmentvault

This is the switch that tells Vault that a defragment is being done.  Different switches can get Vault to do different functions, such as backup.

-N

This is important! The -N is a switch tells Vault which Vault database is going to be defragmented.  For example -NOlympus would defragment the Vault database named "Olympus".

-VU

Often the user "Administrator", the -VU switch tells Vault which user the Vault is using to run the defragmentation.  The user running the script isn't important, but they must be a Vault user with administrative permissions.

-VP

This is the password for the user identified by the -VU switch.  In my sample, it's blank because my administrator doesn't have a password.

Yes I know, this is a terrible practice.  Do as I recommend, not as I do!  (cheeky grin).

-S

This runs the script silently.  That means that it won't show you any dialog boxes and wait for you to hit "OK".  It's just going to chug along.

Now that all that is been explained, you can save this script with a *.bat extension.

Now, set it up as a Windows Scheduled Task, and you should be off and running!

It's hard to give a solid schedule to run a defrag on, but I usually run my tasks about every six months or so, but that's just what works for me.  You'll have to keep an eye on your Vault and see how it performs.  You may be able to go longer or shorter depending on your personal experience.

If you want, you can always check the ADMS Console, if it says "Defragmention Recommended", it's probably a good idea to run that defrag!

Time to do a little maintenance! 
One more tip, but this is a big one.  Always! Always! Always! Make sure you close the ADMS Console interface when you log off your machine!  

Vault will only allow one instance of the ADMS Console to run at a time!  If you forget this step, the script won't be able start.  That means that no backups, defrags, or anything else that runs off Connectivity.ADMSConsole.exe will work!

You don't want to see this message
The last thing you want to see is this message when you need a backup, and one hasn't been running for six months because you forgot to close the ADMS Console!

In conclusion, good use of batch scripts can be a boon to making sure your Vault runs efficiently.  It can eliminate the need to constantly log into run maintenance processes.  Instead, you can let them run on a schedule, and just monitor to make sure the finely tuned system is still finely tuned.

The defragmenting script is one, the backup script is another.  But there is a lot more that can be done.

For a full reference, check out this link from Autodesk here!





Sunday, August 16, 2015

After a GPU Failure, Fusion 360 Keeps Me Designing!

This Friday, my laptop had to go to back to the manufacture because the graphics card was spiking at a 100 degrees C.  Needless to say, my GPU was better suited to making coffee than processing graphics.

At least that GPU is good for something! 
With my laptop, I also lost my installs of Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk Vault, and AutoCAD Electrical.

Fortunately, I have a personal laptop that I can use, but it doesn't quite have the horsepower to run 3D modeling software.

So what do I run in the meantime?  I decided to take it as an opportunity to use Fusion 360 in the meantime.

I've not used Fusion 360 much but I have created some files, and that did allow me to enjoy a couple of benefits.

1. I had very little configuration to get up and running on my "backup" system.

Most of the configuration is stored in the cloud.  I only had to install the Fusion 360 application.  At about 1.5 GB, it not a big install.

The client itself is pretty small. 


2. All my files were readily accessible.

The files are all stored online, so there was no backup to restore.  I just need an internet connection, and I just log into the system.

My training files. No restore needed.  They were there when I logged in to my account.
3. The hardware requirement isn't nearly as heavy.

My "backup" laptop only had a 4 GB of RAM, a 2 GB ATI video card, and a respectable AMD processor.  Not a bad machine, but not a CAD station for sure.

But it does run Fusion nicely!

Most of the drawbacks are matters of my own personal preference, but I suppose in many cases, drawbacks always are.  And ultimately, it's all a result of my acceptance of the "status quo".

1) It's not Inventor!

I've been using Inventor since 2000.  That's right!  Since the turn of the century!  I'm used to it, I'm comfortable with it.  Fusion is new, and different.

I guess I'll just have to expand my comfort zone!

2) All that data is online.

It's a little weird at first, isn't it?  I'm used to having my data local.  I'm comfortable with it, I know it.  But I'm already backing up my Vault data to Dropbox, so it's not that big of a departure, in many ways.

So I'll have a bit of learning to do!  I'm planning spend a little time this week!

Friday, August 14, 2015

It's Been a Great Run - Farewell to KETIV

After 7 incredible years, I've decided its time to move on from KETIV Technologies.  I will remain with them until August 31, 2015, in order to make sure our transition is as smooth as possible.

They've been good to me, they deserve my best efforts.

A perfectly natural question to ask is "Why?" or "What's the story?".  Some may even ponder, "What's the real story?"

And that question has really been posed to me!

Some seem to think that this is a good analogy for leaving a job.
This is far from reality for KETIV and I.
I can say there are no great wrongs, real or perceived, no dirty laundry to air.  It is simply time for me to move in a new direction.

I'm going to miss my colleagues at KETIV, even as I look forward to my new course.  They're an outstanding group of people, and I look forward to seeing them at a future event!

As a user, I wouldn't hesitate to have KETIV support any engineering department I land in!

So what does that mean for InventorTales?  I plan on keeping it going and adapt it to my new path.

And as for that path?  What does that look like?

It's a trail I'm still blazing.  I'm hoping continue taking aircraft maintenance classes, combining my theoretical engineering mind with the practical lessons of grimy hands and bloody knuckles.

It may yet be a while, but I'm hoping to gain my aircraft maintenance certification from the FAA some day.

I also plan on continuing to expand and improve my work in CAD, I'm not quite sure what form that's going to take, but stay tuned! There will be more news for sure!

I'll add updates as I have them, and I will certainly have some!

Thanks to all those who've supported me over the years!


You'll never find out what's over the next hill, if you don't get up and take the journey.

Acknowledgements

U.S. Thunderbird F-16 Ejection: By U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons





Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Proving a Concept - My 3D Printing Test

A few months ago, I had an amazing opportunity to try something with a colleague and fellow aircraft enthusiast, Justin Nishitsuji.

He's a member of a team restoring a Spanish variant of a German BF-109 fighter at Planes of Fame Air Museum, where I'm also a volunteer.  And he posed a question to me.

An example of a restored Bushon. 


The Planes of Fame Bushon under restoration to flight
"Can you 3D print this part?"  Justin shows me an aileron horn.  "I want to see if we could prototype it before making it. The bearing surfaces are worn out."

The original part we started with.  The bearing surfaces were shot. 

Before going further, I'll provide a little background.  A new part had already been machined, so This wasn't going to "revolutionize" the process.  There are plenty of posts and videos that talk about that.  This isn't one of them.

What I was presented with, was the opportunity to prove that 3D printing might be a viable option in in this application:  Aircraft restoration.

It was research and development.  And R&D is often times more the tortoise than the hare.

Looking at the part, the modeling wouldn't be hard.  Its the measurements that would be hard.  There were some compound angles that would have to be dealt with.

I couldn't 3D scan the part, I'm not proficient at it, and I didn't have time to learn it.  No great mystery on why I made that decision!

Machining was also limited to the old school manual knee mill.  There was no making that part in a cloud of chips on the Blastomatic 5000! CNC machine.

Even though we weren't going to machine the part for our test, we had to approach it as if we were.

So I resorted to the old school way of doing things.  Scales and micrometers.

Fortunately, one of the guys had a micrometer that read in metric, because.... German based design!  And I measured away.

Soon, I had the 3D part modeled in Autodesk Inventor.

The part on my Laptop, Autodesk Inventor running on my laptop.
The Bushon is in the background.
Next, I exported a stereo-lithography model and sent it to Stratasys Direct Manufacturing for printing.

In a day or two, I had a quote.  I chose the cheaper option , at about 120 U.S. Dollars, since we were only proving an idea.

After about a week, we had our part!  And while the part came out exactly the way I modeled it, I did screw up one measurement.  The standoff was too long.  Nobody to blame but the guy taking the measurements for that!

Sigh.  Measure twice, cut once.  

The new and the old.  Yes. I know the standoff is too long.  
But here's what we learned from the experience.  And that was the real goal.


For this application, form and fit testing before manufacture still appears to be the strongest case. 

     Not much explanation there.  I know great strides are being made in printing metal, but I'm not sure I want a printed part holding a control surface on just yet.  But for testing to make sure the control surface has proper range of motion?  I'm on board!

Consider leaving some details out. 

      I built the mounting holes into the printed model.  Next time, I'd think about transferring them from the mating part.  In essence, treating the 3D printed part as a blank. The machinist could then take the 3D model and use that to create his part.  That approach might make sure that the new part fits exactly the way they should.

I might have left the mounting holes in the base plate out, and transferred them instead.
Cut the part down to size.

Seeing how I accidentally made the standoff too long, I would probably consider cutting the 3D printed part down.  I know some would consider that sacrilege.  The 3D part should be made right! 
But the point is to validate fit and function.  And at 120 USD a pop, I'm going to think twice about getting another.

Build what you need, not one bit more.

I'd consider building only portions of the part next time.  Perhaps only build the base plate and mounting plate, use a wooden dowel for the standoff.  That would allow us to test the compound angles, and "tweak" the part in.  Remember, we were after fit and function.

I might have left of the standoff, and "tweaked" the part into the right dimensions.
You don't need all the "cool gadgets".

I'd love to have had access to a 3D scanner and a CNC machine, along with the expertise to use them. But it wasn't necessary, and it was no reason not to integrate the technology we could employ.

We were able to combine old school tools (micrometers, calipers, and the Mark 1 eyeball) with the new tools (3D CAD and 3D printing) to reach our intended goal. 

There we go.  It's my small venture into the very real world of 3D printing.  

In this test, we answered some questions, and raised more questions.  

Research begets development.  Development begets further research. 

And the journey continues.  I'm looking forward to where it takes me.

This is a step in the journey.  Not the destination.
Special thanks to Planes of Fame Air Museum and Volunteer Justin Nishitsuji for the opportunity.  I would have never had this chance without them!

Photo Attributes

By Kogo (Own work) [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons