(Drum roll please)And the winners are…

Posted on April 23rd, 2009. Posted In SolidWorks Community

The winners from the contest I ran are:

Steve Reed
Hayden Morgan
Michael Lord
Chris Serran
Mahir Abrahim
Jay Barrette (who emailed me today and said he’d already passed his exam)
Jim (didn’t give his last name)
David Walker

Congratulations, guys! You should all have your coupon codes by now. Good luck on your certification exams.

There are actually two more winners out there, but they haven’t emailed me back with their exam choice. So, if sodaConnoisseur and mudslung want to get in touch with me, I’d be happy to get you your codes.

Last week, when I started this “mini-series”, I talked mostly about your network. (Awesome post, btw. You can check it out here.) Today, let’s talk a little about crashes and what can cause them, shall we?

You have SolidWorks open and you go to insert a drawing view. You can hear your computer crunching all the 0’s and 1’s, but what you don’t know is that some bad juju is happening. A bad address, faulty driver, unavailable memory, or some other glitch and, BAM!, you get: crashThere are some common denominators that can contribute to a crash. One is your operating system. Obviously, if you’re running SolidWorks on an unsupported OS, you’re bound to have problems. However, even the supported ones can create issues. Ever have some Microsoft patch hose your system? ‘Nuff said.

Hardware and software combinations can also cause issues. You’ll see people posting about graphics issues fairly regularly in the various forums. More often than not, it comes down to two things. Either they’re using an unsupported card or they have the wrong driver installed. The fix for the first one is pretty obvious. The second one, however, isn’t quite as obvious. Many don’t realize that the driver for an nVidia Quadro xxxxxx that is in a computer they bought from HP or Dell may be different from the driver for a home built computer. When you go to SolidWorks’ testing site, pay attention to the first drop-down menu. If you’re using a branded system, that’s who you should choose for the manufacturer. If it’s home built, then you’d choose your card’s manufacturer. Now that you’ve downloaded the correct driver, you need to uninstall the existing driver, then reboot, stare in awe of how huge your icons are, then install the new driver.

Hardware issues aren’t always just video card related. There have been issues where mice, printers or other periphery have caused problems. Granted, most of the issues could be traced back to the products drivers, but you get my gist here, right?

As far as software goes, every once in a while you’ll hear how SolidWorks doesn’t play nice with AutoCAD or some other software. This is why there are people out there who have machines dedicated solely to SolidWorks. There isn’t too much you can do about it. Sometimes things happen when it comes to software compatibility.

Next up, installation.

Dear SolidWorks & 3Dconnexion,

Posted on April 21st, 2009. Posted In Rant,SolidWorks Community

Can you guys please get together and fix the issue I’m having with my SpacePilots? The need to have the tool I want to map to my buttons on an active toolbar is ridiculous. One of my favorite things in SolidWorks is the fact that I don’t need to clog my graphics area with toolbars. I like having my space! When I got this SpacePilot PRO, I was beside myself with joy. I LOVE new technology and dove right in. Then I got bit. My button mappings wouldn’t work; not even the default mappings. I uninstalled/reinstalled the 3Dconnexion software to no avail. I called 3Dconnexion’s tech support and was told about the whole toolbar thing. I’d forgotten about that tidbit of information when I was having problems with my SpacePilot last fall. The “solution” I was given was to populate a macro toolbar with the commands I wanted to map to my buttons. Seriously? What is it about the coding in SolidWorks that’s preventing me from being able to use the buttons as designed? Where is the disclaimer telling SolidWorks users about this shortcoming? Are any other CAD packages effected this way? Another thing is the whole ‘S’ key thing. That I can get to map to a button, but it won’t stay mapped. Why is that?

Don’t get me wrong, I think the SpacePilot PRO is great. It’d be even better if it worked like it should. With all the software gurus at SolidWorks and 3Dconnexion, you think they’d be able to solve this issue. While I’m at it, can we talk about the default drivers? Is it absolutely necessary to load drivers for every CAD software under the sun by default? I don’t use AutoCAD, Maya or any of the other offerings. It seems to me that, when installing the drivers, you should be given the choice of what to load versus having to go through the custom setup. It just doesn’t make sense, in my humble opinion.


A frustrate, yet hopeful user.


I’ve mentioned Fisher/Unitech’s “No Engineer Left Behind” program a couple of times in posts about the SolidWorks Stimulus Plan. However, these guys need to be recongnized as what I think is the most customer-centric SolidWorks VAR.  As mentioned in Desktop Engineering online, Fisher/Unitech is extending their program in conjuction with the SolidWorks Stimulus Program. I would have thought other VARs would have jumped onto this bandwagon by now, but I haven’t heard of any others extending themselves the way Fisher/Unitech has. If you ask me, now is a perfect time to be building relationships with the masses of engineers who have become unemployed lately. At the very least, the word of mouth advertising would certainly help out, especially for those VARs with a less than stellar reputation for customer support.

So, to the whole team at Fisher/Unitech, I applaud you. If I had the means, I’d buy you all a round of drinks too. You guys have raised the bar on customer support.

Free Stuff Part II

Posted on April 17th, 2009. Posted In SolidWorks Community

I’m guessing that the question I asked in yesterday’s post offering free CSWP exam coupons may have been a bit obscure as I only received one correct answer (congrats to Chris Serran). So, in order to award the final 9 exam coupons I have, here’s a new question: What are the four training courses SolidWorks recommends you should take before attempting to take the CSWP exam? (Hint: you can find the answer on the SolidWorks website)

First come, first served! Just email me your answer.

By the way, the answer to yesterday’s question: the CSWP program was launched in 1999.

Back in January, I put up a post about SolidWorks certification being free and how I thought it cheapened the whole exam. At SolidWorks World, I interviewed Jeremy Luchini and we discussed my thoughts. He explained why they’d made the changes and it seemed reasonable, though I wasn’t fully convinced. About a month ago I took the Sheet metal exam, which I figured I’d pass with no problem. I’m ashamed to say that wasn’t the case. Though I made the mistake of taking it at work, complete with interruptions, the test was definitely more difficult than I thought it would be. I hate humble pie, but I’m chewing on it right now.

Jeremy, and his team, have really done some great things with the certification program. They now offer five different certifications:

  • CSWP – Core Modeling Specialist (8,329 world-wide)
  • CSWP – Advanced Sheet Metal (457 world-wide)
  • CSWP – Advanced Surfacing (61 world-wide)
  • CSWP – FEA: (35 world-wide)
  • CSWA (8,086 world-wide)

You can get complete info on each of the exams here.

They’ve revamped the certification site, making it possible for you to see which exams you’ve taken and how you did. If you’re a manager, you can set up a test event for your team and track their progress. You can also export the info to Excel and see what areas to focus on for training.

I know what you’re thinking, “quit rambling and tell me how to win!”. Ok, here’s the deal; the first ten people to email me and a signed, and notarized, document stating that they will forever be a diehard Red Sox and/or Patriots fan will win.

Too much for you to swallow? Ok, I’ll make it more simple. The first ten people to email me the correct answer to the following question win: In what year was the CSWP program launched?

Each winner will get a free certificate for their choice of exam. Simply email me your answer and which exam you’d like to take. Once I have the ten winners, I’ll send them their codes.


3Dconnexion has a new controller, one that makes my SpacePilot™ seem like last year’s technology (actually, it’s about 4 years old). The SpacePilot™ PRO is, basically, a SpacePilot on steroids. 3Dconnexion took input from their customer base and have squeezed all sorts of new goodies into the SpacePilot™ PRO.

The main features they’re touting:

  • Larger Full-Color LCD Workflow Assistant
  • Quick-Navigation View Keys
  • Navigation-Settings Keys
  • Intelligent Application Function Keys
  • Six-Degrees-of-Freedom Sensor
  • Optimized Comfort Design
  • Keyboard Modifier Keys
  • Sensitivity Control Keys
  • Standard 3D Mouse Keys
  • Workflow Assistant Control Keys

A color LCD screen that not only shows you available commands, it’ll show you your inbox or upcoming meetings or tasks. You can write your own code to create your own applet as well. How about a Twitter-like app for when you have multiple designers on a project or displaying PDM status?

Dual function buttons. I liked this more than the color screen. You have your typical view buttons: Right, Front, Top and Isometric. But, by holding any button down, you get a secondary view. Top/Bottom, Right/Left, Front/Back, Iso1/Iso2. There’s also a fifth button to rotate any given view by 90° Clockwise or Counter-clockwise. All told, you can get 32 different views with 5 button. Add to that the ability to not only toggle on/off rotation, but zoom/pan as well. Man, things just keep getting better!

The function keys are now dual function as well. Granted, this only adds four more functions, but with the whole ‘S’ key thing, that should cover most all that you’d want, right?

The SpacePilot™ PRO is said to be more ergonomic than the SpacePilot™. From what I was told, 3Dconnexion’s engineers spent two months tweaking the shape until it was perfect, or at least their version of perfect. I’ll let you know if they passed of failed once I get my sticky fingers on one. I’ll also be sure to write a comprehensive review for the overall product. Being the techno-geek that I am, I can’t wait to try this one out once Mr. UPS/FedEx/Postman delivers it!:


The full press release for those who’d like to read it:

3Dconnexion Launches Its Most Powerful 3D Mouse Ever: the SpacePilot PRO

Integrated Color LCD Workflow Assistant, QuickView Navigation Technology, and Intelligent Function Keys Save Time and Reduce Interruptions

FREMONT, Calif. – April 16, 2009 – To meet the rigorous demands of design engineers working in powerful 3D applications, 3Dconnexion today announced the new SpacePilot™ PRO. The company’s flagship 3D mouse is designed to deliver advanced control of 3D models, easier access to the power of professional 3D applications, fewer interruptions in the design workflow, and superior comfort. Specifically, the SpacePilot PRO features a new color LCD Workflow Assistant, second-generation QuickView Navigation technology, Intelligent Function keys, and an improved design for enhanced comfort and control.

“3Dconnexion’s 3D mice have rewritten the rules on the way design engineers and professionals interact with 3D environments,” said Dieter Neujahr, president of 3Dconnexion. “Our new SpacePilot PRO builds on our market-leading industry experience, delivering the most powerful 3D mouse we’ve ever made. It enables increased performance that ultimately results in better designs, created in less time.”

The SpacePilot PRO 3D mouse provides the highest level of performance features ever available from 3Dconnexion, including:

LCD Workflow Assistant: The color LCD lists function-key assignments and provides at-a-glance access to Microsoft® Outlook® e-mail, calendar and task lists, allowing professionals to access important information for a fully integrated design experience with fewer distractions. Through 3Dconnexion’s open software architecture, the workflow assistant can be further customized to meet the needs of individuals, companies and software vendors.

Advanced MCAD Navigation: Five new dual-function QuickView Navigation keys
improve error detection, design review, and design presentation by providing one-touch access to the following views: top and bottom, right and left, front and back, two isometric views, and 90-degree view rotation of any view either clockwise or counter-clockwise – for a total of 32 views. A short press activates a key’s primary view command, while pressing and holding a key activates a secondary view command. In addition, new Navigation Setting keys offer simplified and customizable control, allowing professionals to turn pan-and-zoom, rotation and one-axis control on or off, making it easier to define navigation settings for certain work modes.

Intelligent Function Keys: Five new fully customizable, dual-function keys offer immediate, one-touch access to 10 frequently used commands within any supported 3D application. The SpacePilot PRO automatically detects the active application and assigns appropriate function keys – whether default or customized. The color LCD denotes the function key assignments and application mode so engineers can easily identify commands and design states.

Superior Comfort: The SpacePilot PRO has a new sculpted, soft-coated wrist rest that positions the hand in relation to the controller cap to support a balanced workflow. The micro-precision six-degrees-of-freedom sensor allows for fingertip control with minimal effort from the arm, wrist and hand, while frequently used commands are conveniently positioned at your fingertips. The intuitive and symmetrical layout of the function keys makes the device usable with either hand.

About 3Dconnexion 3D Mice

Unlike traditional mice confined to motion on one flat plane, 3Dconnexion 3D mice enable design engineers to move in all three dimensions simultaneously, using six-degrees–of-freedom sensor technology. By gently lifting, pressing and turning the controller cap, design engineers can easily pan, zoom and rotate without stopping to select commands. Using a 3D mouse together with a traditional mouse engages both hands into a balanced and cooperative work style.

3Dconnexion provides advanced and affordable 3D mice that are supported by more than 130 of today’s leading and powerful 3D applications, including Autodesk InventorTM, SolidWorksTM, CATIATM, Pro/ENGINEERTM, NXTM and Solid EdgeTM. For a complete list of applications supported by 3Dconnexion, visit www.3dconnexion.com/solutions.

Compatibility, Pricing and Availability

The SpacePilot PRO is backed by a three-year warranty, and is currently available at a suggested retail price of $499. The SpacePilot PRO is supported by Windows XP, Windows Vista®, Sun Solaris 8 (SPARC), Sun Solaris 10 (x86), and Linux® (Redhat Enterprise Linux WS 4, SuSE 9.3 or later). Linux and Solaris support workflow assistant function key assignments only.

The entire 3Dconnexion product line, including the Professional Series with the SpacePilot™ (MSRP $399) and SpaceExplorer™ (MSRP $299), and the Standard Series with the SpaceNavigator (MSRP $99) and SpaceNavigator for Notebooks (MSRP $129), are available from professional CAD resellers and major online resellers including CDW, Insight, PC Connection, and PC Mall. For a complete list of resellers or to buy directly, visit www.3Dconnexion.com.

About 3Dconnexion, a Logitech Company
3Dconnexion, a wholly owned subsidiary of Logitech (SIX: LOGN) (Nasdaq: LOGI), is the leading provider of 3D mice for 3D design and visualization. 3Dconnexion devices support today’s most popular and powerful 3D applications by offering users a more intuitive and natural way to interact with computer-generated 3D content. 3Dconnexion’s award-winning 3D mice serve a wide variety of industries and are used by 3D designers, animators and artists worldwide. 3Dconnexion is headquartered in Fremont, Calif. with European headquarters in Seefeld, Germany and offices worldwide. For more information, visit www.3Dconnexion.com.

# # #

© 2009 3Dconnexion. All rights reserved. 3Dconnexion, the 3Dconnexion logo, and other 3Dconnexion marks are owned by 3Dconnexion and may be registered. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

You like that title? I did when Richard told it to me. It’s also the title of a new presentation I’m working on. Richard had done a similar presentation back in ’04 and, realizing it was right up my alley, bequeathed it unto me. After much updating, it’s almost done. I’m hoping to be presenting it at the next SASPUG meeting. I thought though, that I’d give you, my loyal reader (the check is in the mail), a peek into this incredible presentation by sharing some of the info in it over a couple of posts.

CAD Hurts!

Seriously, it can. It can cause headaches, bruising (from banging your fist on your keyboard) and serious amounts of stress. All CAD systems experience SSC (slowdowns, stalls and crashes). A lot of what you experience can depend on what you know or don’t know.

Many of the common denominators for SSC are your OS, the maintenance on your hardware and software, how you go about creating your models/assemblies/drawings and by simply not getting any help.

Like any other software package, SolidWorks will only work on certain operating systems. Yes, I know that’s somewhat short-sighted, but that’s the way it is. The current version of SolidWorks runs on WindowsXP (32- or 64-bit) or one of the Vista Business versions (32- or 64-bit). If you work some geek magic to get SW to work on a Mac, or any other platform, you’ll be SOL when it comes to tech support.

Is your network up to the task at hand? While everyone knows that you shouldn’t work across your network, most pull from, and save to, a network drive. If your network is maxed out, SSC, and data loss, are bound to show up. An easy test: Get in early and download/upload a good sized file, tracking the time. Do the same during the middle of the day and at the end of the day. If there’s a noticeable difference in the times, you might want to look at upgrading. If it’s at all possible, you should have a dedicated engineering server. You don’t need another department’s issues corrupting your data.

ATI FirePro V5700

Posted on April 9th, 2009. Posted In Hardware Review,SolidWorks Community

About two weeks ago I came home to find a large box addressed to me. Inside was a test computer from ATI loaded with their FirePro V5700 graphics card. ATI asked that some of us bloggers test out this card some time ago and I got to be one of the first. I haven’t touched an ATI card in four or five years. I had all sorts of annoying problems and haven’t heard enough good things in the intervening years to want to. However, I was looking forward to trying this one out. In the past few months, there’s been some rumblings about ATI and the progress they’ve made with their cards.

The machine they sent was an HP wx4600 with the following specs:

  • XP Pro – 32 bit
  • Core2 Duo E8600@3.33 GHz
  • 4Gb Ram
  • ATI FirePro V5700 (Driver version 8.543.0.0)
  • It came loaded with SolidWorks Premium 2009 as well.

I created all sorts of funky models, assemblies and their related drawings and was not unhappy with the results. I loaded up a large assembly I have (~4500 parts) and, again, not unhappy with the results. I didn’t see any of the “ghosting” I’ve seen, and heard about, nor was there any choppiness or any other funky graphics issues. In the model/assembly arena, the card did very well.

The one area that I did see a problem was in PhotoWorks. Some of the renderings I did just weren’t quite right. The part would have striations running through it and I kept losing the reflection off the floor. Obviously, if you use PhotoWorks, this would cause you great pains. Just to be sure, I tried the exact same thing on my M4300, and didn’t see the same thing. As a matter of fact, the renders looked much nicer.

Another thing that I couldn’t quite figure out was the settings for the card. With nVidia cards, there’s a nice interface where you get choose your 3D package and let it drive the settings. For someone like me, that’s a huge bonus. With the ATI interface, I saw no such options. There were a bunch of different categories to choose from, and you’d get previews of changes, but I, personally, just wasn’t sure about what I was changing sometimes. Obviously, this could be attributed to my lack of knowledge in the graphics settings area.

Overall, the card wasn’t bad. Would I run out and buy one? No, it just didn’t impress me enough to switch from nVidia. Plus, the issues with PhotoWorks make me a bit leery. However, individual test results may vary. Over the coming weeks, the other bloggers will be writing about their experiences with the same machine, so stay tuned.

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