Find us on Google+ Inventor Tales: Humor in Technology
Showing posts with label Humor in Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Humor in Technology. Show all posts

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Downloading your Autodesk 2013 Software - Byte by Byte

“There is an unstoppable trend towards digital downloading of content.”
Phil Harrison

Many of us have already heard.  The Autodesk Design Suites are available from the Autodesk Subscription site.

If you're like me, you logged on as soon as you got to the office and.... and... waited....

There are a lot of great tools in the Autodesk Suites, but "with great power comes great responsibility".  Or at least  a great deal of bandwidth use.

I was downloading Autodesk Product Design Suite Ultimate.  Nearly 16GB of CAD designing goodness.

But like most of us from work, I can't go running around unplugging everyone's computer from the network proclaiming "Mine!  Your bandwidth is mine!"

After about 4 hours, I got one of four files I needed to download.  I started the other, but I realized I had a problem.

5PM was approaching, I was heading to Mammoth Mountain for a Snowboarding weekend, and I wasn't going to be done by 5PM.  And I wasn't hanging around for the download to finish!

I am not missing this for a download!

What do do?!?

Autodesk has a download manager for downloading their software.  The nice thing about the download manager provided by Autodesk is it will let you pause your download, shut down your computer, and restart it later.

But I couldn't get the Autodesk Download Manager to work on my version of Firefox 12.0, which is brand spanking new.  So I had to download using the standard browser method.

While I'm not positive, my Firefox version may have caused my problem.  I haven't had a problem with the Autodesk Download Manager before.  But with 5PM and some fresh powder calling my name, I'm not inclined to utilize the scientific method and research it.

But I have an idea.  One a whim, I check my Firefox add-ons and find that there's an add-on called "DownThemAll!"  It claims to have the capability of letting you pause a download and restarting it at a later time....

Well.  This looks interesting!

I stare at my laptop like someone disarming a bomb in a bad cop movie (Cut the blue wire!  No, the red wire!  NO! THE BLUE WIRE!)

It's crazy.  Just crazy enough to work!

I finally do what I didn't want to do. I CANCEL THE DOWNLOAD.  Two hours and a Gigabyte of data are flushed over the side. 

I install DownThemAll! and try the download again.  I special, different download manager begins, and I restart the whole process again.

Let's see how this works

A get to about the same point where I aborted before when 5PM rolls around.  I pause the download, shut down my computer, and race home.  Which in Southern California means driving at 20 MPH on a crowded freeway.

Once home, I fire up the laptop again, and restart the downloads on my Fiber Optic line, and start downloading again.

The downloads pick up again, and are done in about a little over an hour.

Once I arrive in Mammoth, I can't contain myself.  I extract the files, and install.

It all works perfectly.  The download manager did the trick!

So what is the moral of the story.  Downloading the information takes time.  There's no denying that, and it can be hard to tie up a system to grab a given file at once.

So if you have a hard time downloading your Autodesk products, try the Autodesk Download Manager, it's worked great for me in the past (I swear).

But if you're running a fancy new version of Firefox, or you have a hard time with the Autodesk Download Manager for some reason (stupid I.T. security policies), try another download manager.  It worked for me, and let me download my Autodesk software, and enjoy my weekend in Mammoth!

If you're running Google Chrome, it looks like they also have download managers available, although I've never tried them (click here for the link).

I wasn't able to find one for you I.E. users.  Sorry.  :-(

Got a thought or two?  Have a download method you prefer?  Share a comment.

BTW, I'm hoping for a video tip by the middle of the week!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Paper Business Cards - Going Extinct?

In the absence of light, darkness prevails. There are things that go bump in the night, Agent Myers. Make no mistake about that. And we are the ones who bump back. 
Professor Trevor Broom in the movie "Hellboy"

This isn't a post on CAD of any kind, it's just a "cool technology" post.  But every one of us has to be a proficient networker too.  So this is something just to share about a technology application I find intriguing!


Business cards...  Someday, I'll find a stack of them next to all my socks that have been lost in the dryer. 

In the past, I've always misplaced or lost them.  So I've learned to take a picture of them with my smartphone, then I throw the card away.  It works, but when you think about it, it's pretty wasteful.

Once upon a time, I had a Treo smartphone.  Compared to the current smartphones, that old Treo is like a black and white T.V.

In my day, we couldn't zoom with fancy finger gestures.  We had to squint!
But it did have one feature I liked.  I could beam contact information from one machine to another via an infrared port.   It worked great!

The downside was it only worked with other Treos.  But I missed the functionality of shooting my contact info from phone to phone.

 Lately, I've been hearing about this new app out there.  It helps you transfer contacts from one smartphone to another.  It seemed interesting.  But it was like a unicorn, rumored to be out there, but never seen.

Then, one day listening to the radio, I hear about this elusive app.  It's called "Bump".

Image courtesy of the Bump website
Tonight I finally downloaded it and installed it.  I haven't used it yet.  But I'm intrigued by it.  You bump your phone against another phone with Bump installed, and it transfers contacts, photos, even links to other apps from phone to phone.

Wow, what's old is new again!

The obvious downside is you can only use it between smartphones that have the bump app installed, but for me, I think it's worth having the option.

So I'll keep you posted on how it works out.  Sure, I may never use it and it'll just occupy space on my phone.  But maybe, just maybe, it'll save me a little bit of time, and save the world from wasting a little bit of paper!

Using the app?  Drop a comment and let me know what you think of it?  Maybe the next time you run into me at an event, we can pass virtual cards instead of paper cards!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show 2012 & Something New!

Mobile blog #2:  Let's see how it goes!  :-)

Today was my day at the Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show in Anaheim.

It was a busy show, with lots going on with CAD software (like at the Autodesk booth) as well as with the 3D Prototyping booths around us.

My laptop ready to go.  Yep, I managed to sneak a warbird picture in there!

There was no shortage of 3D rapid prototyping available!   I love this stuff!

There was a lot of activity today.  I spent a lot if time talking about Autodesk Showcase, Autodesk 3ds Max, and of course Autodesk Inventor.  The whole time the Autodesk team was running presentations.

There was a lot of interest.  Most of all, it seemed like the black cloud of the Great Recession that had been hanging over us the last few years was but a memory.

Good news indeed! 

The team getting ready

And Mr. Mike Aubry goes on stage!
And in the middle of it all.... My Droid X chirps as an e-mail arrives in my inbox.

I open it up, quietly hoping its not disposed foreign royalty offering me untold millions to help them get their fortune out of "SouthNorthern Whatsitsplace". It's not. It's an announcement...

"Autodesk Design Review for the Android is now available". 

There's some other words in there. But it's those few that grab my attention.

With cat like reflexes I go to the Android market and begin downloading. After a few minutes of waiting, there's a glow & the sound of angels singing as the app installs.

There it is! In all its dwf-y glory!  Now you can view 2D and 3D files, as well as markup dwfs on the comfort of your Android based mobile device!

Oh.. .this is cool! 

Yep, pretty cool!

So if you've got an Android and you've been waiting for your own version of Design Review, wait no longer! 

Head over to the Android Market and get your copy!  It's free! 

A good show and a new app!  It's been a great day! 

Turn out the lights
The party's over!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Windows User Account Control - The Ghost of Securities Past

“If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough.”
 Mario Andretti

If you've been following my blog, you may have noticed that I've slacked a bit on posting.  It's been a busy week of a business trip to Mexico for a day, a lot of demo prepping and installations as the year comes to a close, and a short vacation to Mammoth to catch my breath from it all.

But that doesn't mean that the lessons haven't stopped.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into an issue caused by a demon I thought had finally gone a way.

User Account Control (UAC).  Found in Windows Vista and Windows 7, it helps secure your system against unauthorized changes. 

It's quite effective.  As a matter of fact, it's so effective, it can prevent programs you need to change your system from doing so, rendering that program unable to do important operations.

Like install, for example.

In recent years and software releases, the issue has gone away as Microsoft, and the programs that installed on it, have learned to coexist much more efficiently.

But recently, that little monster reared up again with an installation of Autodesk Simulation Multiphysics 2012 Service Pack 1 on Windows 7.

I received a tech call where a user was getting a cryptic MDAC error.  It was pretty cryptic, and definitely a little frightening. 

Here's the error, but what does it mean?
It didn't indicate what the error was at all, but once we had eliminated things like the user having appropriate privileges, virus scanners were off, etc.  I remembered one thing.

"UAC used to cause wacky things like this...."

So we went into the control panel, and turned off UAC. 

In Windows 7, pull the slider to the bottom!
Sure enough.  Once that was done, the install went through seamlessly.

Gone away the issues of UAC?  Not just yet!  If it's up to me, I turn if off.  If you ask what I think about you running it?  See the part where I turned it off.

Does that mean that you're going to encounter issues if you leave it on?  Not necessarily, but keep in mind that it can still cause issues (as experience taught me).

So if a program or service pack won't install.  Or if a program doesn't start, it's worth taking a look at UAC.  IF at all possible, shut if off, if only to eliminate it as a culprit.

It can save a headache or two!

And if you want more info on turning off UAC, there's a KETIV Tech Tip!

Note that the tip is for Windows Vista, but Windows 7 is very similar.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

AutoCAD Blocks and Autodesk Vault - An Unexpected Encounter

“The essence of wise living is anticipating the unanticipated and expecting the unexpected.”
Kevin A. Woolsey

Earlier this week, I was configuring Autodesk Vault to read properties from a title block in AutoCAD.  Usually, this is pretty straight forward.  Go through the steps like those on the Autodesk Wikihelp page, make sure the properties are mapped in Vault, verify the steps, and finally, serve and enjoy!

This day, I went through all the steps, I did my check, and...... (insert sound of needle dragging across a record)..... only some of the drawings would have their properties read in correctly.  Others were inexplicably blank.

A "reenactment" of what we saw.  I couldn't show customer data, so I had to create an example

Only some?  I'm standing there with the I.T. admin, and we're both puzzled.  If something went wrong, they all would have failed, not just a some!?!

We recreate one of the properties displaying the problem.  Maybe we made a mistake in mapping....

Nope.  That was done right.

Maybe we used the wrong tag from AutoCAD?  Maybe there are different tags in different drawings?

I jump into AutoCAD, open a problem file, and type "BATTMAN"  at the command line.  I start checking the Block Attribute Manager. 

The attributes are correct.  We didn't make a mistake there.

We repeat the process a few more times.  It all seems right.  Why? Why?  WHY!?!  We ask over and over.

We hadn't missed a step in Vault. 

Finally, after returning to AutoCAD and opening the Block Attribute Manager again, my eyes land upon something I've never noticed before.

There are two copies of the block in AutoCAD.  One is full of the pretty text we're trying to read into Vault.  The other....  as barren and empty as Death Valley on the Summer Solstice.

Two block!  In the end, there can only be one!

Vault was picking up data from the empty block! 

There was only one block required in the drawing.  Once we deleted that, everything started running exactly as expected.  We began breathing again!

I can't say you'll ever encounter this problem.  It can easily be said that it's one in a million. But it also does prove no matter how much you test, there's always something unexpected waiting in the wings.

So keep your eyes and mind open.  As Sherlock Holmes put it.  "Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.

P.S.  Would you believe that this is the 300th blog post!  Thanks for all those who've supported me! 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Life Lesson: The Temp Directory is not Infinite!

Yeah, it felt a little like that!

Sometimes it pays to check the obvious!  Occasional "spring cleaning" of your CAD machine is always a good idea too!

Just today I was working with Autodesk Showcase, prepping some models for KETIV's Autodesk Manufacturing Academy.

I notice Showcase has started to slow down.  I'm not over-tasking it, I've run larger models at higher resolutions.  

But it's still seeming sluggish.  I perform the "three finger salute" (Ctrl + Alt + Delete) and check the task manager.

My machine is running fine.

I'm getting ready to try a new video driver, although I wasn't having problems a few weeks ago....  Why so slow now?

Then I think, "I wonder what my Temp directory looks like?"

I open up Windows Explorer and type "%temp%" to take a peek under the hood. 

My Temp directory looks like the aftermath of a frat party that was simultaneously hit by an hurricane. 

In other words, it's a mess!

I use "Ctrl +A" to select all the files.  I hit delete.  I don't even bother checking the size of the directory.  It's time to get serious.

And with this Temp directory, I wanted to be SURE!

Windows counts the files as it prepares to delete them.  The total size of the collected files climbs like an altimeter on a space bound rocket.

Finally, the numbers settle at nearly 5GB worth of  files!

Suddenly, I can hear Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame proclaming; "There's your problem!"

After a few minutes, the Temp directory is as clean as I can get it.  There are always some files in use, so you can never get every last one.

I open up Showcase, and try the same model.

It was night and day!  Showcase maneuvered around as smoothly as my memories recalled.

What's the lesson!  Check that temp space!  It clutters up over time, and keeping it clean can really help your performance!

Don't let it get to 5GB like I did! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Creating Narrative Assembly Instructions - Camtasia Studio and Inventor Publisher United

Typing the quote just doesn't have the same effect.  So let's hear it from Gene Wilder himself:

For this weeks blog, I had a crazy idea, and opted to go a bit off the page. 

For years I've been using Camtasia Studio, by Techsmith, to create the videos you seen in so many of my blogs.

Then in the last few weeks, I've been working with Autodesk Inventor Publisher, and talked about exporting video files from Inventor Publisher

Then one night, it occurred to me, and I had that moment that Gene Wilder spoke of so well. 
Camtasia Studio for years.  Inventor Publisher can export a video format.  Why not combine the two?"

Using Techsmith's Camtasia Studio for editing my Autodesk Inventor Publisher video

So I did.  Here's the result.  It could definitely use some polish.  But for a first try, it's not too bad (at least I think).  I could probably add a few more bubbles, and tweak the narration a bit more.

Perhaps some of you out there in the "Cloud" can share some of your thoughts on how you might approach something similar?

In any case.  Here's my video.  Take a look, and let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Autodesk Inventor Publisher - If You Don't Write it Down, It Didn't Happen

“Real programmers don't document. If it was hard to write, it should be hard to understand.”

I'll admit, I always thought Autodesk Inventor Publisher was a just a "cool program".  The power of being able to create documentation was impressive, but I asked myself the question, "What does it do that I can't do using presentation files?"

Trust me.  Creating exploded views are just the start!

I told myself, "I'll have to look into it's capabilities later on".  

Then, time marched on.  I found myself working on Vault, on Inventor, on Showcase.  Every once in a while, I'd stick my head up and say, "I need to get back into Inventor Publisher."  Then I'd put my head back down and carry on as I had before.

Nearly a year ago, I saw a presentation on Inventor Publisher's capabilities, and I finally "got it".  I understood the power of being able to create documentation directly from your 3D model.  It can create in in 2D pdfs, publish to a mobile device, you can even use it to create Flash movies!  I get it! I get it! 

I really facepalmed myself for not seeing it sooner.  

Now, at long last, I've found the time (alright I'll come clean, I made the time) to take a deep look at Inventor Publisher.

The more I use it, the more I like it.

So I've decided to create a short series on Inventor Publisher.  Here's the first installment, inserting a 3D model and creating a timeline in Inventor Publisher.  We're just getting started.  I'm going to add more in the up coming weeks!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Setting Default Project in Autodesk Vault 2012

“Instruction does not prevent wasted time or mistakes; and mistakes themselves are often the best teachers of all.”
James Anthony Froude

Like so many of us, I'm guilty of ignoring instructions. 

When I installed Autodesk Vault 2012, I used the same migration procedure I've used for the last few releases.  Surely nothing could change, right?

Wrong!  I used Vault quite happily for the first couple of days.  Then I needed to use the Copy Design tool.

Poof!  I get this new error I've never seen before.

Hello.  What's this?

Projects?  I need to set a default project?  Since when?

I finally break down and read the directions.  As your typical male.  This is difficult for me.  As a matter of fact, I may deny this at a later date.  

Well, since the new version of Vault allowed us to enforce a default project!  If I had read the directions, I would have learned that!  

So what does the default project let us do?  It allows us to choose a project that is going to run our Vault.  It helps prevent us from having file associations get confused, as can happen when multiple project files exist in Vault, and makes sure all our users are on the the "same page" as it were.

It can be set in Tools>Administration>Vault Options

Setting the Default Project at an administrative level

Now that it's set, I like this tool.  It helps me keep things more consistent, and predictable.  But the first time I saw that error, it was unnerving indeed!

So what is the moral of the story!  Read the directions!  You'll avoid surprises! 

Here's a video on my experiences with this particular function!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Best Geek Day in a Long Time! - 3D Connexions New Tools

Various times in the Firefly Series

Earlier in this week, I found out about some exciting news on Engadget. 3DConnexion added a driver that lets their 3D mice work with 2D Applications! 

I love my SpacePilot Pro.  I use it with every Autodesk product it supports.  The opportunity to use it with even MORE programs really made my geeky self happy.

That's the SpacePilot Pro I know and love!

Needless to say, I flew home, downloaded, and installed the new driver off of 3DxLabs.  it was installed before the microwave had dinner warmed up!

I tried it in MSWord!   Slick, I can scroll up and down in my document, zoom in and out, all off my 3DConnexion device.  I'm snickering like joker already.

I try it in Firefox!  It works there too.  Hootsuite!  Booyah!  Evernote!  WOOHOO!  I'm in the full throws of a maniacal laugh now!  This is great!

But there's always been one thing that's been on my wishlist for yeasr.  It doesn't work with Autodesk Showcase.

It didn't work in Showcase 2009. 

I was disappointed in Showcase 2010.

I was disappointed again in Showcase 2011.

Yesterday, after training an Inventor class. I installed Showcase 2012.  I'm looking forward to checking out the new features. 

I had just opened a sample model when my boss comes in to ask me some questions about Autodesk Vault.

We're having a deep discussion on data management.

In the middle of the conversation my hand touches the puck on my SpacePilot Pro.

My eyes jump to my laptop screen.  My boss's conversation suddenly sounds like, "Blah, Blah, Blah."  

The Showcase model moved!

Controlling my Autodesk Showcase model with the 3DConnexion device.  Cool beyond words

I move my left hand with all the caution of a cheating poker player palming a card in a high stakes game.

I push the puck again....

The model moved!  THE SHOWCASE MODEL MOVED!  SHOWCASE 2012 supports 3DConnexion devices.

So there it is!  Autodesk Showcase 2012 supports 3DConnexion.

Definitely some cool news to close out my day!

Thanks Autodesk and 3DConnexion!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Captain's Log - Migrating from Inventor 2011 to 2012

“desire to migrate is strong.”
Roberto Suro

As I sat staring at the progress bar for my Autodesk Inventor 2012 download.  The words "Download Complete" greet me like gifts under the Christmas tree.

The enthusiastic geek in me wants shout "Saddle up!  Lock and load!", click on the self-executing zip file and bask in tingly feeling that only comes with a new software release.

But this time, something stays my hand.  But how do you want to go about this?  My inner voice asks. 

In a rare deviation from my normal behavior.  I actually listen to my inner voice.  

I can't just dispose of 2011.  I have testing to do, files that still need to remain in 2011.  I can't just throw the switch.

So this is my little journey about I decided to move my personal data over.  I'm not writing this as some sort of decree of the "Best Practice" or "Whitepaper".   I'm not standing on a virtual hill shouting "By order the king, thou shalt migrate thy Inventor data in using the aforementioned process."

This is just what I chose to do, for reasons that I thought would best work with my data.  I hope that you find this helpful as you decide to make you're own migrations.

So what do I need to be able to do with my data when I'm done?
  1. I'm using Vault, so I want to transition the data from Inventor 2011 & Vault 2011, to Inventor 2012 & Vault 2012 ultimately.
  2. Item 1 means I'll need to have a project file for Inventor 2011, & Inventor 2012.  These projects will be looking at the same set of working folders
  3. In need to have Design Data that can be used in both Inventor 2011, and Inventor 2012
  4. I need to have templates that can be used in both Inventor 2011 and Inventor 2012. 
So my first step?  Start copying stuff!  I make copies of my project file, design data folders, and template folders.  Fortunately, I keep my Design Data and Templates in one subfolder, and I locate them via a setting in my project folder, so this is pretty easy

The New Folders Copied
Now with copies made, I first migrate my templates.  I'm going to do that using Task Scheduler.

Then I migrate my design data, using Style Library Manager

Then I change the locations my project is pointing at.  Save that, and I'm ready to go!

Changing the location in my project file

So there we have it.  I've copied my project file, and migrated my templates and design data.  Now I have my original data for use in Inventor 2011, as well as new, migrated data for Inventor 2012!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Random Software Surprise of the Day

“My software never has bugs. It just develops random features.”
Computer Proverb

Before I get started, I'll put in the standard disclaimer that the images I use aren't the actual assembly.  The real assembly was customer data, which I can't post here.  Consider it a 'dramatization'.

Today I ran across one of those little random issues that makes no sense, until you try that 'one thing'.

What was that?  I encountered an Inventor assembly file that was crashing when placing an angle constraint in an assembly.   One time, every time, just like clockwork. 

Could it be that the Angle constraint was broken ?!?

I checked all the initial things.  Cleaned up temp space, checked the video settings.

None of it helped.

I tried reproducing the error in a different assembly file.  That file works perfect.  At least now I know I've narrowed it down to something in that file.

Staring at the file, looking for a culprit, my eyes fall upon two components that were downloaded from a third party site. 

Could it be? 

For the heck of it, I remove the two third party files from the file and try it again. 

I hold my breath for a second.  It works perfectly, just as advertised.  It seems one of those third party components had a corruption in it that was killing the file.

So what's my big lesson?  While I'm a huge fan of third party components, there is some bad stuff floating out there.  I'm certain it's not intentional, but every download can't be perfect.

As Damon Runyon put it "Trust but Verify".  If an assembly suddenly starts 'acting up'.  You might want to remove some of that third party content.   A corrupted file might be the cause of your woes.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Getting Previous Versions from Autodesk Vault & the Shifting Sands of Workflow

A sudden bold and unexpected question doth many times surprise a man and lay him open.
Francis Bacon

If you've heard about Autodesk Vault, you've almost certainly heard that it will allow you to retrieve previous versions of a file. This is a definite advantage to having something like Vault, especially when you need to create several design iterations, or just need to recover from a mistake.

The blessed getting of the Previous Version
(click to enlarge)

Personally, I haven't used this feature in practice for a while, and it's not because I don't make mistakes, it's just because I haven't had a chance to get back in there and chew on Vault.

So last week I had to run a quick Vault update course. Nothing flashy, the basics.

So I made sure to be diligent. I ran through my exercises and made sure nothing changed in the workflow.

Everything is as I remember it. I'm ready to go to town!

But then, at the last moment, at the very last step, I can't get the older version to update and become the current versions. This is the last step in the retrieval, what's going on?!? Vault is forcing me to update the file, and bring back the version I'm trying to replace.

I actually appreciate what Vault is trying to do, prevent me from opening an old version, but NOT NOW! I WANT THE PREVIOUS VERSION!

I pour over things, I Google it. I scratch my head. Something has changed, or I'm losing my mind!

Finally, after a few trials and errors, plus a couple of Google searches, I realize theres been a slight workflow change. Nothing major, but enough to drive me nuts.

Lesson 1: Watch out for workflow changes.

Lesson 2: Don't assume ANYTHING!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Time for Some Maintenance! Update 1 for Autodesk Vault

“I was always able to see the defects in the design of an instrument which overlooked completely the need of its maintenance.”

Leo Fender

A few weeks ago Update 1 for the Autodesk Vault 2011 family was issued. If you've ready my previous posts, you know I'm a pretty big fan of updates. I'm quick to update my software.

But when I first looked at the update for Autodesk Vault. I saw something. Something that shook my geeky being down to it's very core....

A screen capture from the Autodesk website. Note scary message in red.
(click to enlarge)

I copied it from the Autodesk Website and pasted it below.

WARNING: Failure to follow the ReadMe instructions properly may result in unusable sites. The installation procedure applies to Single Site, Multi Site and Connected Workgroup deployments.

The message was frightening. I didn't even get beyond :may result in unusable sites". For all I knew, the warning could have continued on to say.

"Side effects may include: extreme loss of data, cold sweating, insomnia, loss of social life, and spontaneous human combustion."

So I put my mouse down, and slowly stepped away. I thought about installing the update, but those warning letters would stare me down.

Finally, I had a slower day today, and decided that I would face those warning letters. I even did something that many geeks will only admit in hushed tones.

I read the readme file. That's right. I read the readme file.

But once I did take a few minute to read the file, I learned that the warnings, while important, aren't really all that difficult. As a matter of fact, they're things that I'd probably do anyway.

I'm not going to rewrite the Readme file here. You can see it for yourself HERE, straight from the source.

So what were those critical steps?

1. Make sure you have a backup. That's a given. I'm careful about using harsh language around the server unless there's a backup

2. Install the Inventor Hotfix found HERE.

3, Run an IISRESET before installing the hotfix. I'm not even sure it's necessary. But it takes about a minute, and for something that can be done that quickly, I see no reason to tempt fate.

4. If you're running multisite, install to ALL LOCATIONS before running ADMS. If this was the critical step. THIS IS IT.'

And one last thought that isn't in the readme. The migrations may take some time, so plan accordingly. Mine took about 15-20 minutes, mostly because I have a lot of libraries installed. But if you have a large database and filestore, you may want to consider installing the patch during a time when you can plan for taking Vault offline for awhile.

Those are the highlights. It wasn't as bad as it sounded when I first saw the warnings. I just let myself get too intimidated by those red letters that suddenly seemed 10 feet tall and screaming "YOU CAN'T DO THIS INSTALL! YOU ARE FOUND WANTING!"

So there's another lesson in technology. Be prudent, but don't be afraid.

And if you have to, check the readme file. You don't even have to admit it to anyone. :-)

P.S. I'm taking a couple of days off to do some volunteer time setting up for the Planes of Fame Airshow in Chino, Ca.

THere are giong to be some hectic days, while I quit geeking out over new tech to geek out over old tech. I probably won't be blogging for a couple of days, but I'll post a link to some pictures when it's all done!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

AutoCAD Mechanical - Where are My Express Tools?

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.”

General George S. Patton

This weekend I upgraded my system to Windows 7, and I must say that it was one of the easiest OS upgrades I've ever done. I have my system up, all my important programs installed, and everything working.

But during that install I remembered something in AutoCAD Mechanical that I've encountered before.

That's right, today, I'm posting on AutoCAD Mechanical, although this applies to all AutoCAD based installs.

It's the accidental omission of Express Tools from the installation.

When installing any program, you should at least browse any additional options screens you see. Even if you don't change anything, I think it pays to double check.

When installing an Autodesk program, check the configure screens. You'll rarely regret it.
(click to enlarge)

With Autodesk programs, this can be particular important for things like network licensing. Autodesk software defaults to single seat (node locked) licensing unless you tell it otherwise.

And for AutoCAD based programs, you guessed it, behind this 'Configure' button, is the option to add your Express tools

Check this box to add Express Tools
(click to enlarge)

Granted, you can add them later using 'Add/Remove Features', but that requires extra steps, not to mention you'll have to get the disks. Which may mean scheduling with I.T.

And for you I.T. guys, checking this little box may save you the hassle of having your CAD department outside your office door with torches and pitchforks because their Express tools are missing!

Incidentally, one of the screens behind that 'Configure' button also changes the install from a Stand-alone to a Network license. So if your installing under a network license, make sure you hit that button.

It can save you from some unpleasant reconfigurations after the fact.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Only Constant is Change - 3D Content that USED to Disappoint Me

This blog post is somewhat anecdotal, but also was the story of a lesson learned. By me.

I'm working on updating my Interoperability class from the Autodesk Manufacturing Academy, and was looking for some broken files in either IGES or STEP format that I could use as examples of how to stitch bad data.

First, I went to McMaster Carr. I remember using the 'big yellow book' in industry years ago. They had very few CAD downloads, and what they had was pretty ugly.

It was exactly what I was looking for, bad CAD files!

I had heard they'd improved their CAD files since those long past days. But how much could they really have improved it?

So off I go to McMaster's website, confident that I'll find some sort of IGES file in a dreadful format.

I quickly find an eyebolt with a CAD download button. They have several file types, most of which I can import. IGES is usually the one that gives me the most trouble, with STEP causing the occasional problem, so I try them both.

Screen capture of McMaster Carr's catalog
(click to enlarge)

The result makes my jaw drop. Both files import flawlessly. Even the troublesome IGES file stitches with minimal effort.

One eyebolt. Imported in seconds!
(click to enlarge)

I try a couple more files. After all, this one has to be a fluke.

Sure enough. Flawless victory. All the files I try are usable with little or no effort.

Okay. I shake off the shock and go to plan 'B'.

Carr Lane. I hated their site back in the day. Surely their content is still awful!

They have a page that lets you search for CAD files by part number. I download a couple of STEP and IGES files from them.

How about a toggle clamp, Scarecrow?
(click to enlarge)

All but one IGES file are just like McMaster Carr's. Perfect import.

Imported, not a single hitch!
(click to enlarge)

The one 'bad part' was an IGES file that wouldn't stitch because of bad surfaces in the Carr Lane logo. Unfortunately, it was such a mess that it would have taken way too long to fix.

But I'll give Carr Lane credit where they deserve it. The step version of this file was another perfect import. If I was using this in the real world, I'd have used that format instead. That's one of the reasons multiple formats are available. So I don't feel I can fairly ding them for that.

So what's the moral of my little story? There's actually two.

One: Vendors providing 3D files is becoming more and more common all the time. Vendors see that there's value in it, and that's good for the designers out there. If you plan on using the part from a vendor, check their site before you build your own version. They may already have a model of that component available for download. Save yourself the work!

Two: Websites change and get updated. I used to poke fun at the Carr Lane website to the point where I'm sure some poor content developers ears burned incessantly.

But I have take my mockery of their site and put it in the archives now. While nobody from Carr Lane called me. they along with companies like McMaster Carr, have obviously been listening to their customers, and forced me to eat a little crow.

The websites are vastly improved over what they've been in the past.

Learn from my mistakes. Just because the site was underwhelming the first time you checked, doesn't mean it hasn't gone through some improvements since them.

Give them a double check from time to time, and ask around. Things change, and you might be missing something!

I sure did!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Stranger in a Strange Land - The Journey Continues

“Let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be...Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar, and you'll live as you've never lived before.”

Erich Fromm

Last night, I once again made the sojourn to the South Coast Revit User group.

Once again, this meant that I was a stranger in a strange land. But as always, the members of the user group were more than welcoming.

Speaking that Thursday night, was Will Harris of WILL2PLAY.

He gave an excellent presentation about how Autodesk Revit was used to design an addition to a Gothic church.

Will Harris Presenting.
Sorry about the picture. A Blackberry can only do so much.
(click to enlarge)

And while the technical achievement was incredible, what I found much more fascinating was his talk on the actual implementation process itself.

He spoke about a lot of the challenges it takes to perform an implementation, starting with the fact that a Gothic church is probably the toughest project to start with. He continued into the constant, ongoing challenges of developing and maintaining the standards, and finished with the fact that he bought a lot of lunches as he got acquainted with the team he was working with.

And, while Revit was a worthy feather in Will's hat, the things that struck me weren't necessarily the technical aspects.

So, while some of the biggest things I learned (and having forgotten a few things, relearned) weren't the button clicks, what were they?

Always have a backup plan

Mistakes are made, things go wrong in spite of the best efforts of the team. Make sure you have back up plans and procedures just in case. For Will's experience, he talked about having to restore standards that were accidentally overwritten. A good backup plan meant restoring it in a few minutes instead of several hours.

The technology is cool, but without people, it's just a box

All the software in the world can't help you if you don't have people motivated to learn the software and implement it. And that doesn't mean you fire your team and replace them with new hires. It means learning what makes your team tick, finding a way to give them direction, motivating them, and making them want to achieve the goals.

What I took away...

So those were the big lessons from Mr. Will Harris. We all love the tech. I wouldn't blog if it weren't for the fun tech I get to blog about.

But there's more than the tech. Once the network license is running, the integrations are tested, and the updates installed. There's the trials and tribulations of the real world.

If we lose sight of that, we're forgetting a huge part of the picture.

Thanks for the presentation, Will!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

But it didn't do that Yesterday! The Laptop to Brick Conversion Utility

1 definition

Bricked refers to any piece of technology which is unable to operate due to bad software. This could be your iPhone, Tivo, PSP, Xbox, or a variety of any other devices. Often times this occurs because you tried to upgrade the firmware to something that didn't come from the manufacturer.

Bricked - Also known as what happened to Jon's laptop Tuesday morning. I went to start it and nothing. It just sat there at the black bios screen, the hard drive spun hopefully, and then silence.

In the blackness of a bios screen, nobody can hear you scream... or curse.

Just what I wanted for the holidays! A laptop shaped paperweight! The USB ports aren't even powered, so I can't even charge my phone. This totally eliminates the possibility for me to make sarcastic jokes about my ultra expensive phone charger!

Is this the final destination for my laptop?

After trying it a few times hoping 'it'll be different this time', I give up. I get it back to the office in preparation for shipping to the 'elves of laptop repair'. I get a loaner machine for the time being.

Fortunately, I have most of the system backed up. So while I may lose some data, I'll still have to most critical data. Thank goodness for those backups! Still, I'll have to configure several things to get the loaner functional.

So this morning, we walk in, and decide to try repairing Windows, taking the 'we can't make it any worse' methodology of computer repair and diagnostics.

I hit the start button and all of a sudden, there's a merry whirring of a hard drive, and the Windows Vista icon. It's booting! It's been magically healed and raised from the dead!

It's ahhhlive!

How this happened, I don't know, I'm not sure, and I'm not arguing. I'm currently finishing up a check disk and defrag of the system, not to mention some much needed file maintenance.

Oh, and make sure to backup the remaining files too!

Go figure. I've never seen a system 'unbrick'.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Windows Vista and User Access Control. You're Not Cleared for that Citizen.

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security

Benjamin Franklin

For some reason, User Account Control in Inventor was the absolute bane of my existence last week. I ran into it no less than three times.

I've only recently migrated to Vista myself, primarily because I was waiting on a couple of utilities to swing over to Vista. So at last, I'm on Vista. For the most part I'm happy, then I hit the U.A.C. wall. More importantly, Murphy's law hit, and I ran into several tech issues with U.A.C.

User Account Control is a utility in Windows Vista. (insert 'Psycho' theme here).

So what is User Account Control? To be honest, I'm not sure, other than the fact that it really annoys me, and can really mess up certain softwares (not just the Autodesk Software).

Generally, it makes sure that as little as possible runs as an Administrator, even if it's in a user account, but it's also overly paranoid, and the price paid for that is nag screens, and software that often misbehaves.

So what have I seen?
1) Inventor content partially disabled
2) Gotomeeting acting up when a user was allowing me to remotely operating a computer. Certain screens would disable the drive function, even if the user granted me permission.
3) Installations treating a perfectly valid CD key as incorrect.

It's tough, it's frustrating, and in a lot of ways, totally random. It seems to affect things it should have no apparent bearing on.

So now that I've ranted on it, how do I turn it off?

First, go to your Vista control panel

(click to enlarge)

Once in the Control Panel, choose User Accounts

(click to enlarge)

You'll get a second screen, click on 'User Accounts' again.

Now we've found it. Click on 'Turn User Account Control on or Off'.

(click to enlarge)

Once you hit this, you've found the mark. Uncheck the User Account Control option, uncheck it, and you're home free!

Once that's done, your Vista experience should be a little bit more pleasant.

In other news, the Sheet Metal and Interoperability Autodesk Manufacturing Academy are starting to come together at last. Time to start finalizing and getting data sets ready!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Well That's Not Supposed to Happen! Changing Screen Resolutions.

“There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes” Richard Buckminster Fuller (US engineer and architect, 1895-1983 )

This is one for the ages. Like that relative that nobody talks about, but appears for Christmas in years with the number '6' at the end, I've only seen this one come up three times in my entire career. Two I directly saw, the last I ran across on a discussion group.

When you start a program in Windows, all of a sudden your screen resolution drops to 'ugly'. I'm showing this one in Inventor, but it's not limited to Inventor, or even Autodesk at all. You can change the same options on programs like the 3Dconnexion Driver, and some of the Adobe products as well.

(Click to Enlarge)

If you shut off your program, it magically goes away. It's quite infuriating (like when that same relative empties your refrigerator). So what would cause it?

If you right click on the short cut that starts the Windows Program (Inventor in this example).

(Click to Enlarge)

Choose properties, click the 'Compatibility' tab, and you'll see the following screen.

(Click to Enlarge)

You'll usually find that one of the check boxes on this screen are checked, causing the program to drop the resolution when you start it.

Unchecking the box (256 colors) in this example, has fixed the issue every time I've encountered it.

Why does it happen? I haven't a clue. I've only seen the aftermath. It's not even a setting that a user could easily find and check by mistake.

It's kinda like coming home and finding that your relative has crashed your car into the swimming pool, but somehow all the fences around the pool are still intact.

So that fixes what might be one of the strangest 'errors' I've encountered. It seems to me more prone to happening on an XP box (I couldn't force my Vista 64bit box to create the error), but who knows. It's pretty strange.

Definitely one for a game of geek trivia!

And on one final note! Autodesk Manufacturing Academy (AMA) is back! October 15th for us in So. Cal., and October 22nd in No. Cal.!

Check it out! I hope to see everyone there!