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Sunday, August 05, 2012

Quickly Running Prechecks for Autodesk Vault

A winning effort begins with preparation.
Joe Gibbs

***Edit  7-August-2012***

If we take notice Theo's comment below, he very astutely pointed out that Autodesk doesn't recommend this practice in the post at this link, which frankly, I was not aware of. 

In that light, I considered removing the post, but instead have opted to leave it in place, as in the spirit of "a lesson from the real world", this is indeed that life lesson. 

To that end, I have used this .process with success in the past, in an installation this week it saved me a great deal of difficulty by finding issues before I arrived on site

But I will also be more cautious where I use this process, I'll likely use it on new installs, where I know IIS isn't running other processes.  

So yes, I leave this post up with a word of warning, but I leave it up nonetheless

***End Edit***

When getting ready for installing the Autodesk Vault Data Management Console (the server side of Autodesk Vault), a little prechecking can go quite a long way.

One of the tools Autodesk has provided for us is the Autodesk Server Diagnostic Tools.  During the installation, the Vault installation runs these checks to make sure that it's ready to accept the Vault installation.

If it finds something wrong, it tells you, and provides possible solutions to help rectify the situation.

An example of a precheck screen.  Clicking on the link will show possible solutions for this error.

In my experience, the tool does an excellent job of helping fix the issues by providing possible solutions.  Granted, it can't solve every last little thing, but it does get several issues you might encounter.

If it has any drawback, it's that the installation has to be started before the precheck runs.  This isn't a huge problem, but it can take a little while to step through the installation screens before you get to the precheck.

Then if the precheck finds a problem, you may be stuck repeating the process again.

So what do you do if you're not quite ready for the installation?  Maybe you're local reseller is going to perform the installation next week, or perhaps you want to minimize potential server downtime.  Wouldn't it be convenient to quickly run the precheck and see if you're ready for the ADMS install?

Fortunately there is a way.  If you know where to look, you can run the prechecks without having to start the installation!

It's pretty easy to locate. 

Whether you've downloaded your media from the Autodesk Subscription site, or you have physical media in your hands, the location is.

....\x64\ADMS\Program Files\Autodesk\ADMS 2013\Tools

The executable is "ScriptTool.exe", so you can also just search for the executable file in the installation directories.

The actual executable to run the precheck.
Now there's a means to run the precheck quickly, and fix as much as possible before going for the "big show!"

So for a little help, here's the video showing the process!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Blast from Electricity Past - For Fun & Interest

“I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all.”
 James Arthur Baldwin

Just a quick blog post for something I thought would interest my friends in the electrical world.

A very old electrical panel from the Baldwin Estate at the Tallac Historical Site in Lake Tahoe!

Here's something old school! 
I hope you find it interesting!

I'll be thinking of new blog posts when I get back from vacation!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Off the Topic - Vacation in Lake Tahoe

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”
Henry David Thoreau

In this post you won't find a tip on Autodesk Inventor or a rendering in Autodesk Showcase.

So this week if you're looking for the usual CAD tip or video, that's not to be found here.  I'm going "off topic" today.

Those of you who follow my Twitter account have probably noticed that I'm on vacation in Lake Tahoe this week.   It's the longest vacation I've taken in about five years.  It's been a much needed rest and recuperation.

Between work, volunteering at Planes of Fame, and maintaining Inventor Tales, I have much of my week planned.  While I enjoy them all, during a hectic week, I might only have a portion of Sunday to "not do a thing".   So when I came up to Tahoe, I decided my plan was to "not have a plan", and simply enjoy my days as they came, and not rush to cram in as much as I could.

I made a point of bringing up my bike, and so far, I've ridden about 30-40 miles around South Lake Tahoe.

My truck and bike

It's been well worth it.   Cycling around, I've been able to stop and see things I never would have noticed at 50MPH in a car.  Slow down and smell the roses, so to speak.
Cold Creek.  I only saw this while pausing on a bridge.  Something I would have passed if I hadn't ridden my mountain bike

Another view that never would have been seen by speeding car.

So what's the point.  Why put this in my blog post here?

Perhaps there is no point.  But I've had a chance to see things from a different perspective, meet some great new people, and clear my cobwebs, so to speak.

And cruising a bike path on a gorgeous day is a great way to clear cobwebs!

So in our fast pace world of CAD, Digital Prototyping, 3D Printing, and so on.  Slow down and enjoy things  once in a while.  You never know what you might see out there that will give you some inspiration!

Sometimes the best thing you can do with a situation, is walk away from it for a while.  This week off has given me a chance to come back to my tasks with a new energy.  

And after putting the bike back on it's rack, I feel the urge to map the suspension of my mountain bike has made me a bit curious.  Perhaps I'll map it in Autodesk Force Effect...

How do you unwind from the pressures of your day job.  Feel free to drop a comment. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Using the Organizer in Autodesk Showcase

“A first-rate Organizer is never in a hurry. He is never late. He always keeps up his sleeve a margin for the unexpected.”
Arnold Bennett

This week is only a brief post, as I've taking this entire week for a holiday in Lake Tahoe.  This time I've brought my trusty mountain bike up with me, so I'm hoping to get some good riding in, even though I'm about 6000 ft (roughtly 2000 meters), higher than my usual riding altitude. 

My truck and my bike.  Both better prepared for working at this altitude than I am!

I hope I don't end up gasping like a landed fish.

But now, the post!

Most of the time when I'm using Autodesk Showcase, I can pick what on want by choosing the part, on screen, right in the scene.  It's there, it's simple, and it's easy.

But there are also those scenes that aren't so simple.  They have a lot of parts that aren't easy to find on screen, making working with the model a tedious and frustrating affair.

Not every component in this scene can be easily selected

But Showcase provides a tool that can help out with that. It's called the organizer, and it lists the parts by in a list type of format that you can use to, well, organize your information!

The Organizer can help  locate and organize your scene!

It's my personal belief that this tool doesn't get the credit it deserves, and is probably underused since I think many users get accustomed to picking on screen, which lets face it, probably covers most of our needs. 

By using the organizer, data can be moved into folders that make it easier to select, move, hide, change materials, etc.

But why describe it when I can show it.  Here's a quick video on using the organizer.

And by the way, have a suggestion on how you use the organizer?  Throw a comment (it's down at the bottom).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Autodesk Showcase - Create New Faces for New Colors

“The hole and the patch should be commensurate”
Thomas Jefferson

There are times when I'm working in Autodesk Showcase that I find I need to change the color of a portion of a face, and I'm not able to do so.

For example, here's a model I built in Autodesk Inventor.  It has the KETIV logo on it, which I'd like to change it to red. When I select the model, the entire model highlights
I just want to select the letters!

Usually this is because the faces were imported as a single color, and Showcase "unified" them.

So what to do?  I could open the file in Autodesk Inventor, copy faces or change color there, and update the CAD model.  But Showcase has a tool that can do this for us, without having to fall back to a CAD tool.

Extract Patches as New Objects.  This tool copies faces and creates new ones that can have Showcase materials applied to them.

Extract Patches as New Objects will do the trick!
 Once the patches are selected, all that's left to do is select which patches to extract!

Extracting the patches
And these colors of these faces can be changed separately from the faces they were copied from!

Now the patches can be selected separately
For a little more detail, here's the video portion!  Enjoy!

And if you have a tip on how you might approach this challenge, leave a comment!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Anti-virus and Autodesk Vault - When Security is too Secure

“If you hack the Vatican server, have you tampered in God's domain?”
Aaron Allston

Not that long ago, I ran into a real head scratcher with Autodesk Vault.

A user was trying to start the ADMS Console, and recieved the following error.

Error starting service 'Autodesk Data Management Job Dispatch'onmachine 'SERVERNAME'.
This service is required for execution of the server console.

Apparently the Job Dispatch Service wasn't running. No problem!  The scary part was ADMS would not open.  That meant no backup could get made.

Even worse, this also meant the command line script wouldn't run, since all it's doing is starting ADMS sans the user interface.. 

No problem though! I can just open up the Windows Services and start that bad boy up!

Start 'er up!

Instead, I was created with this, disheartening error.

Windows could not start the Autodesk Data Management Job Dispatch service on SERVERNAME.Error 1053: The service did not respond to the start or control request in a timely fashion.

 Now what? 

No ADMS, no backup.  One rightfully worried end user.

My goal, we need a backup.  A new server is ready and and able to accept a Vault upgrade, but how do we get the backup to the server, when ADMS can't be opened.

I actually did find a way to copy the filestore and database over to the new machine and reattach them to a new Vault. 

But it's crazy,... just crazy enough to work.  

I feel like I'm about to hotwire the Starship Enterprise...

But just before we pull off the covers to the reactor and try to MacGyver something, the user tries "one more thing".

They were running Kaspersky Antivirus, and played a hunch that it was causing a problem.

So they uninstalled it.  

And ADMS started to the light from heaven and the voices of angels. 

So it was an overzealous anti-virus seeing the job dispatch and marking it as something bad.  I had never seen that happen before.

Now before everyone goes out and tears out your anti-virus software, an exception to the Job Dispatch Service will likely fix this. I found this on the Kaspersky site for adding this exception here.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't add the exception personally, nor can I speak for every anti-virus software out there.

But what I do hope, is that this experience I found helps someone else out there. 

When in doubt, turn off the anti-virus and give it a shot.  You never know when it's gone a bit too far!

Do you have an experience with anti-virus crossing up Vault, or any other Autodesk product? 

Throw in a comment and help a reader out!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Autodesk Vault - Using Groups to Set Permissions

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does”

There isn't a video for this weeks blog.  I'm currently dog sitting for my sister and her husband while they're on vacation, so I'm away from my recording gear.

But it was good company this weekend!  

Smokey the incredible fetching mixed Chihuahua

Aretha.  Quite the diva, her name suits her.
So we'll revert to the written word for this post!

Here it goes!

One of Autodesk Vault's strengths is how it can handle user permissions and therefore, accessibility to the data in safeguards.  But there are two ways to grant user permissions in Vault, at the user, level, or via a Group.

When I first plunged into Vault basic in the back several years ago, I started by assigning user permissions.  It seemed easier at the time.  I also was working in Vault environments that only had a few users and relatively simple permission schemes.

When I first looked at Groups as a method of controlling user permissions, it seemed like an unnecessary level that was going to do nothing more than create a convoluted the system.  So I stayed far away from Groups.

But a few years of experience, and the wisdom of mentors has taught me the values of Groups, and what I thought was an extra layer of complexity is actually simplifying the task. 

Now, almost without exception, I look to Groups to set up Vault permissions.

So what caused my change of heart in my approach?

The Users have no permissions by themselves.  They are members of a Group, and the Group contains all the permissions they'll need.

In other words, you have to be a member of the "Vault Club" to get inside.  And if you're not on the "VIP list", you're not getting into the Administrator's lounge, and so on.

This approach began to really show it's strength when in environments with many users. 

Typically these environments have Users that lend themselves into being organized by groups, such as Administrators, CAD Users, CAD Viewers, and so on.  The Users in these Groups have the same permissions, and therefore, the Group can manage the permissions.

Now, Users permissions can quickly be moved from one group to another if their permissions changed.  And if an entire Groups permissions change, it can be changed in a single screen instead of clicking through several users and hoping you don't miss one.

With all that being said and done, how do you assign a user to groups?

First you need to be an Administrator, so if you're not on the "list" (that is Group), you're not getting past the bouncer.

  • But if you do have those privileges, you can go to Tools>Administration, and choose "Global Settings

Accessing Global Settings in Vault Explorer

  • Once in the Global Securities dialog box, choose the "Groups" button

The Group button is on the Security Tab

  • Next,the Group Management Dialog opens up.  Here Groups can be created, and edited.  In this example, the Groups are already created, one of these Groups can be edited by right clicking , and choosing "Edit"

Right click and choose "Edit"

  • Now the heart of the matter.  Now Groups can be given roles, given access to specific Vaults, and even collect different groups under this group (although I haven't needed to do this yet.

So there it is.  Using Groups in Autodesk Vault.  It's definitely something that's worth a look if you're a Vault Administrator.

And if you access Vault through the ADMS Console, the same options are available through the Console as well.

  • In ADMS Console, got to Tools>Administration

  • On the Security Tab, choose the "Groups" icon.  From that point, it's like the steps above!

Choose the Groups icon, and you're off!
That's it for this post!  And I'll be adding some more video tips later on!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Redefining a Sketch or Workplane in Autodesk Inventor

"If at first you don't succeed, redefine success."

I've done it before.  I've been working on a part that is nearly symmetrical, but not quite.  I draw a profile on a face, extrude it, and it's then that I realize that I should have put it on a different face.  

Usually there's a bit of profanity at this point.

In cases like this, many of us would just redraw the profile on the new face, and carry on.  And  there are cases where this "cut bait approach is the fastest way to complete your task.

But if there's been a significant amount of work put in the sketch, this may be "less than appetizing", so to speak.

What to do if this was accidentally built on the wrong face.

In cases like this, there is another, little known tool that may be an option for you.


So what makes this tool special?

Redefine is selected by right clicking on a sketch or workplane and choosing "Redfine".

Selecting Redefine to move the feature

After activating the tool, a new face can be selected, much like when a new sketch or workplane is created.

Moving the sketch and the feature.

The sketch or plane will attach to the new face, bringing nay geometry with it.  The sketch may have to be rotated and moved to get it correctly placed on the new face, so there may be a little bit of work involved on the "back end".

Some repositioning may be required.

That's why I say there will be cases where it's easier to rebuild the geometry.  Redefine won't necessarily "Redefine" how you approach ever sketch (pun intended).

But what it does do is give you another tool, when faced with having to get geometry from one face to another. 

So while there may be times when it's easier to recreate geometry, there may be those other times when redefine saves you the trouble of having to recreate a lot of geometry.

So keep keep it close, and use it wisely!

I've attached a video for redefine below, take a look! 

And if you have any suggestions, or places where you've used Redefine, leave a comment!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Open the Right Door - Changing AutoCAD's Default Open Location

“What Romantic terminology called genius or talent or inspiration is nothing other than finding the right road empirically, following one's nose, taking shortcuts.”
Italo Calvino

As you might have noticed, I had a long trip out of the USA to Edmonton, Canada for work.  It was a great trip that I enjoyed, but I'm still playing a bit of catchup.

So this week's blog is a bit brief, but does contain a lesson that I've been wanting to share. Once I'm caught up again, I'll be looking to create some more "verbose" blog posts!

One thing I've always liked about Autodesk Inventor's project file is it's ability to set a Workspace that defines a root open and save location for all your Inventor files.   It's always helped me keep things a little more organized.

The Workspace helps organize your files

It's a bit of assistance I've always been grateful for.

Although I don't use AutoCAD as much as I did back in the days of R14, I did want a way to direct AutoCAD to do something similar.  Open in the directory I'd like.

Fortunately, there is a way to do it.  It's a two step process.

First take the AutoCAD shortcut, right click on it, and choose "Properties".

Choosing the shortcut.

The Properties screen for the shortcut appears.  Next, choose the "Shortcut" tab and change the "Start in" directory to the desired directory.

Setting the new open location

This tells AutoCAD to start in the folder you define.  But there's one more step.

Open up AutoCAD and type "REMEMBERFOLDERS" at the command line. If AutoCAD is set to default, the setting will be "1".  Change this to "0". 

Now when you start AutoCAD and choose the open or save command, it will open in the folder you set in the shortcut.

Have any suggestions on how you've approached this challenge?  Drop a comment below!

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Return From the Canada. Back in Los Angeles

“There is a magic in that little world, home; it is a mystic circle that surrounds comforts and virtues never known beyond its hallowed limits”
 Robert Southey

After a week in Edmonton, Canada, I'm back home. 

It was a busy week of working, not sleeping quite enough (those long Canadian nights really kept me up)!

But it was a great experience of seeing a  different part of the world, meeting new friends, and learning a little more about installing Autodesk Vault in the process.

Canada, you're a great neighbor with wonderful people.  I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to visit! 

But while I enjoyed the trip, and I'm grateful for the experience, it's good to be home!

I have some ideas for a future blog or two coming up.  But for this Friday night, here's a few of pictures from the trip.  Tonight, I have an appointment to catch up on some lost sleep!  They're long summer evenings meant I was staying up a little later than a boy should!   :-)

The Maple Leaf.  I'm not in the U.S. now!
I saw electrical connections in every parking lot.  At first I thought Edmonton might have a lot of electric cars.  Then I found out it was for the engine block warmers!  In winter it can get well into negative digits!

Open fields in a city.  Not something you see much of in Los Angeles, sadly.

The view of Downtown Edmonton from Sherwood Park, were I stayed.

A friend who is an Edmonton native hooked me up with the local Starbucks!  Thanks Irene!

All over.  My ride back to L.A.'s concrete jungle.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Visit to the Great White North - Welcome to Edmonton.

This week's blog is only a brief one, due to a trip to Edmonton, Canada for an Autodesk Vault install.  I spent most of today traveling. But I'll likely come back with some new installation lessons to share!

My office this AM.  A Boeing 737.

But on that theme of Vault, I'll give a brief lesson life taught me last week.

That them is: "If it's crazy, and it works, it's not crazy."

I ran into a Vault installation that was crashing when files were checked in from Autodesk Inventor.   The files would start to check in, then BOOM, Inventor would go to ground.

We checked system virtual space, service packs, and server logs.

No smoking gun jumped at us.

Finally a suggestion came out of the blue.  "Test it without publishing a DWF on checkin.  I have a feeling we've got a bad video card."

We were out of ideas, so what the heck, right?

We tried it.

Turning off the DWF Publish option

The files checked in perfectly.

We scratched our heads, and checked the video card.  Sure enough it was below spec.

We never thought of that one!  

So what's that lesson?  Sure, if your Vault is crashing on checkin, try turning off the DWF publishing.  That's the easy lesson.

But the other?  Don't dismiss something too quickly.  We never thought about the DWF publishing, but thankfully, someone else did. 

"If it's crazy, and it works..."

The other thing.  Send in those CERs, or Customer Error Reports to Autodesk, and make sure ot add your e-mail address.

Because it was an astute Autodesk tech, looking at that CER that had the suggestion that solved our issue. The CER showed the crash was happening when the DWF visualization file was created.

So there will be new video cards to be had, and more testing to be done, but we're now on the trail of what caused the issue.

So if you run into your own issues, send in those CERs, and try the stuff that makes no sense.

You might just be on to something...

Have an unusual solution you encountered to an usual problem you encountered?  Share it!  Leave a comment!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Details! Details! - Changing Labels in an iLogic Form

“Never neglect details. When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.”
Colin Powell

While looking over my iLogic video last week on creating forms,  I had what could only be described as a "facepalm" moment.

Yeah.  It was one of those moments.

I talked about everything but how to rename the labels!  By Default, the labels identifying the parameters in form take the form name.  But you don't have to keep them!  They can be changed!

Example of labels in an existing iLogic form.
Now, changing labels is, for the most part, pretty simple.  But I'd hate to imply that  it can't be done by leaving it out!

The steps are pretty simple.  First, edit the form from the iLogic browser.  It's on the "Forms" tab.  Just right click on the rule you want to change, and choose "edit"

Choose the form to edit.
The form editor will pop up.  Just double click on a label to change it.  The description in the form will change.

The process of changing the form "Board Width" has been changed "Board Thickness" is in the process of being changed.
 So there it is!  Not difficult, but a good to know.

So go ahead and go wild on creating forms! 

Have an idea or an interesting use for iLogic!  Feel free to drop a comment!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Using an iLogic Form to Make a Rule User Friendly in Autodesk Inventor

“Everything that is simple is theoratically false, everything that is complicated is pragmatically useless.”
 Marleen Paul Valery

In last week's blog.  I created an iLogic rule that changed the length, width, and thickness of a board for the template I use in my woodworking projects.  It also turned the tenon joint on and off, as well as setting the dimensions of the tenon.

But, while effective, the rule could be refined to make it more effective.  This is especially true when looked at with respect to ease of use.

So in this blog post, we don't make the rule.  We make the rule better.

How do we do that?  We create a dialog box, or form, that makes the rule easier to interact with.  It puts all the critical inputs in one simple, easy to use interface.

The board with the form open.

To create the form, right click in the iLogic Browser, and choose "Add Form"

Adding the new form
Next, drag and drop the desired parameters from left to right to create the form.  That's it!

Drag from left to tight to build the form.
Labels of Parameters can also be changed, so you can make them look exactly the way you want them to.

We'll also set up two types of triggers.  This will help control when the form is displayed.

The first, is an Event Trigger that will start the form when the template starts. 

The second, will fire the form when the iLogic "iTrigger" icon is clicked. This will let us fire the rule, "at will".

In order to create the iTrigger functionality, add a new rule by clicking "Add Rule" from the iLogic Panel on the Manage tab.

The :"Add Rule" icon
Give the rule a name, and type the following code.

'Fires rule when "iTrigger" icon is clicked
trigger = iTrigger0
'Shows form named "Board Options"
iLogicForm.Show("Board Options")

Where "Board Options" is the name of the form created.

Now this rule will fire when the 'iTrigger" icon is clicked.

Next, we add an "Event Trigger" which fires the rule when the template starts.

Selecting the Event Trigger
Setting the rule to fire when the template starts.
Now of course, this blog post wouldn't be complete without a video!  So here it is!

Have more ideas?  Leave a comment!

P.S. If you'd like to download the part used for this blog post. It's located on the GrabCAD website here!