No, that’s not a misprint. The incredibly intelligent, although slightly whacked, team over at DriveWorks are making a movie. Glen Smith, CEO and co-founder, admitted that the idea came to be whilst indulging in a drink or five one night after work. Once they’d made the commitment, there was no turning back.

For those of us lucky enough to be invited to the event Thursday morning (meaning the Thursday after SWW), it was more than a just pre-screening. We were going to not only be able to see what they’d done thus far, we were going to be involved in more of the filming. That’s right, yours truly is an extra in what is sure to be a blockbuster. I foresee Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, SAGs, the whole gambit. Ok, fine, they won’t even qualify for a Razzie but that’s not the point.

With Glen setting up the scenes, we were walked through a fictitious company’s introduction to DriveWorks from DriveWorksXpress to the complete DriveWorks package. While the movie spanned the whole product line, the main focus seemed to be DriveWorks Solo, their newest product. A step below the complete package, DriveWorks Solo provides plenty of features to make it attractive to a wide swath of SolidWorks users. The interface is as simple as DriveWorksXpress that all SolidWorks users already have (2008 and up). Couple that with a powerful form designer and you end up with a simple way to automate your designs. They’re so confident in this new product that they’re offering up a free 30-day trial. Just go to www.driveworkssolo.com and sign up.

What makes DriveWorks Solo so powerful is that this incredibly intelligent team undertook the monumental effort of creating their own rules engine. One can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a bit more drink involved in that particular decision as well, especially where it ended up taking 3 years to complete it. The results are obvious though. This new engine is capable of doing 20,000 calculations simultaneously in seconds. It’s a pretty damn incredible feat, and quite apparent when running DriveWorks Solo.

While the rules engine is pretty compelling unto itself, there’s more! How about multiple language forms? Pick your needed language and all forms will be created in said choice. The needed currency will also be included. Still not enough? How about pervasive search? Mini-wizard for every function? Accept/reject capabilities so some lame-brain idea by sales doesn’t get crammed down engineering’s throat. As soon as I get my system cleaned up, I’ll be trying out DriveWorks Solo.

DriveWorks didn’t stop there, though. They cleaned up DriveWorks Pro, too, making it more user friendly. The form mapping UI is much easier to navigate and provides a clearer picture as well. They even include ePDM integration. It would appear that the team at DriveWorks spent a lot of time thinking about the end user and how they interface with the products available. Quite honestly, I think they did an exceptional job.

The other thing that got me was the presentation itself. I enjoyed Glen’s humor during it all. While it was a sales presentation, it didn’t have that sort of vibe. What I took away from it, aside from insight into all of their offerings, was a company that was comfortable in its skin. They have a great product, know it’s a great product, but aren’t going to sit on it. They don’t put on a false face, willingly act human and make you feel like you’re more than just a customer. It wouldn’t have surprised me if Glen had pulled out a few bottles of whiskey and asked us all to join him in a nip. I can’t wait to see the complete movie once it’s done.

My apologies for the delay of this post. Things have been rather hectic lately.

February 26, 2010 · Posted in Software Review, SolidWorks Community  
    

This goes out to anyone who attended my SolidWorks Crashes & Slowdowns presentation. I’m sorry. I just watched the video of my presentation and I’d have to say it was, without a doubt, one of the worst presentations I’ve ever seen. Even though I was nervous as hell, coupled with the fact that I couldn’t view my notes, you, the attendee, deserved better. So it is to you, the poor attendees who sat through my rambling presentation, that I offer my apologies. I promise that I will do better in the future, should anyone ever allow me to speak again. If anyone reading this apology was at the aforementioned presentation, any constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated.

The one bright spot about this apology is that I think it applies to a lot fewer people than the apology I extended at SWW ’09.

February 13, 2010 · Posted in Personal, SolidWorks Community  
    

Many people, including me, were disappointed with the special event at SolidWorks World this year. It just seemed ‘less’ than years past. So, to satisfy my curiosity about the ‘why’, I reached out to Kerri Dunne. For those of you who don’t know who Kerri is, she’s the brains behind SolidWorks World. If you want to know more about her, you can read the interview I did with her last year.

I sent her some questions, and she kindly responded. Below is the email that will hopefully answer some of the why:

1. I already know that you pick the venues years ahead, due to the amount of planning involved, but how far ahead do you plan the where and what of the events?
We are booked until 2014, so at least 3-4 years in advance. We look at venues to see if they can accommodate the amount of people we expect, the amount of technical sessions we need, with room to grow. This year we added another Hands-on room, which allowed us to add 11 more hands-on sessions, which we know people want, We also scope out places for events like CSWP and the Special Event during the selection phase for venues.

2. Why was the special event so “scaled down” this year?

If you were in General Session on Day 1, you heard Jeff Ray say that we are still in a recession and at SolidWorks we had to make difficult decisions in order to not have any layoffs. With that being said, some areas of SolidWorks World were affected. Some not so apparent, but others, like the Special Event were a little more clear. To set the story straight, I’ve read some of the comments on the blogs about what we were going to do ect… we were not going to hire Santana for one. We were considering Disney or Knott’s Berry Farm, but due to having to scale back, we chose to do something onsite. This did save money in terms of not having to transport thousands of people.
Now, I know there were comments on the layout of the event and when planning something from scratch you have to visual how people will move about the event. You are also limited to what the event hall can do as well, like the lighting for instance. Lights are set up in sections, not each individual light, so you have to pick and choose areas.  Since we didn’t want to do full lights up as that would be like walking though any hall, we did our best to do low lighting. What we could have done better was the lighting on the buffets, which I agree and mentioned during the event to add light. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do at this point and the convention center would not allow candles on the buffets due to fire hazard. In regards to the layout, we choose to place the cars in the back so we could do full lighting for people to see and also to move people through the venue. If we placed them cars in the front nobody would have walked through the hall and we would have had bottlenecking issues.  For the band we wanted them in the middle for the sound to travel throughout the venue.

3. With regard to this year’s special event, how was the decision reached to have a live rock band play versus some other form of entertainment (comedian for instance)?
From previous communications with the community, we know the group likes music and Aerosmith was a band that was repeatedly named. Now, I did look into getting Aerosmith for real, but at a cost of $1MIL++  – obviously way beyond my budget AND with the band broken up it wasn’t a possibility. As for other forms of entrainment, a band is a good choice to go with, with a group this size as it provides background music or if you want to be entertained you can watch the band. There were people crowding the stage at the end of the night. They even made the band come out to do one more song. As for having other types of entertainment, to have something like a comedian would be difficult for a group our size.

4. In years past, there has been a much wider variety of food to choose from, why not this year?
The range of food wasn’t too different than previous years. It just may have seemed more obvious due to the fact that everything was closer together.

5. Without stating hard numbers, can you estimate what percentage of the overall cost of hosting SolidWorks World is offset by attendee and vendor fees, as well as corporate sponsorships? This relates to how some feel “ripped off”.
I know I feel bad that some said they felt like they were “ripped off”. Without getting into specifics, I can say attendee fees and sponsorships cover less than half the cost of the event. Therefore, SolidWorks does take on a lot of the cost in order for this event to be held. This year we also wanted to be sensitive to the fact that we did have the special event onsite this year, so we reduce the guest fee for the special event to $50. It was difficult trying to find the areas to cut some items that were up for discussion were the giveaways like t-shirts and backpacks, or eliminated beer and wine, but knew that would be a huge issue. Therefore we had to cut elsewhere.

6. How big of an effect did the recession have on this year’s SolidWorks World?
Although our total numbers were great, we did have a lot more people opting for the “Expo Only” pass (cost $199), which allows an individual to get into General Session and the Partner Pavilion only, versus the full conference pass which allows attendees access to everything- technical training sessions, meals, partner pavilion, general sessions, special event.

7. While I don’t expect specifics, can we expect similar changes for SWW’11 in San Antonio?
We will see. It all depends on the economy. We appreciate everyone’s feedback and will do our best in 2011 to make up for the areas that people felt were scaled back this year. Please let everyone know to fill out the post conference survey, which will go out this week to attendees, to provide us with more feedback. We want the feedback—good or bad! This is the SolidWorks community’s event and we want to make it the best event for everyone as possible. Everyone at SolidWorks, including the Executive team, read this information and want to have the best event possible for the community.

On a side note, there are a lot of people who work on this event and as crazy as the event is everyone loves the event and pours their heart and soul into it to make it the best for the community. SolidWorks World is very special to all of us who work on it as we want to make it the best possible for the community. I can’t stress that enough. It makes me sad when it is over as it seems to go so fast. We all love meeting up with the customers, resellers, members of the press, our partners and other colleagues.  You put it best, it is like Christmas being over when it is done—all that planning for what feels like 1 hour of unwrapping and eating- then done!!

Thanks again for letting me share my thoughts.

Best regards,

Kerri

February 9, 2010 · Posted in SolidWorks Community  
    

I’m a few days behind on this, but 3DConnexion has improved the driver for their 3D mice (mouses?) by automatically determining the optical center of rotation. I was part of the beta testing of this driver and I really like what they’ve done. Rather than defaulting to the origin, or having to select a particular point manually, this new driver figures out what the “new” center of rotation is. Personally, I think it’s pretty damn sweet. While I’d figured out how to rotate a model around the origin while zoomed in, it was still a pain in the you-know-what. This new driver takes care of that annoyance. Color me happy!

For your enjoyment, I’ve ctrl+c, ctrl+v’d the press release:

3Dconnexion Announces the Next Step in Intelligent 3D Navigation for SolidWorks Users
Newest Update Allows 3D Mice to Automatically Follow Point of Interest for Smarter Model Design Work
ANAHEIM, Calif. (SolidWorks World, Booth 201) – Feb. 1, 2010 – 3Dconnexion today announced new 3D mouse capabilities for SolidWorks, bringing increased navigation intelligence to the design process. With this new feature, 3Dconnexion 3D mice can now automatically follow a designer’s point of interest and continuously determine the optimal center of rotation, enabling an easier and more intuitive exploration of the largest models and the smallest details. In addition, the center of rotation can now be seen at all times via an icon, further enhancing the navigation experience.
3Dconnexion will be demonstrating the new intelligent navigation feature in Booth 201 at SolidWorks World in Anaheim, Calif., Jan. 31 – Feb. 3, 2010.
“Previously, SolidWorks users had to zoom in fairly close and manually select a new center of rotation. We have listened to the feedback of our customers to provide designers with total control over the point of interest,” said Dieter Neujahr, president of 3Dconnexion. “By automatically establishing and displaying the optimal center of rotation, designers are now free to focus on design creativity and flexibility when using 3D mice in SolidWorks.”
When using the new update, two modes of setting the center of rotation are available. The new Auto Rotation Center sets the center of rotation to a point on the model that is nearest to the display screen center, particularly useful for use at higher zoom levels. For additional control, users can easily pick a new center of rotation point on the 3D model to suit the design task.
Availability
The new feature will be available in late February via a free 3DxWare software update, and will support SolidWorks 2005 – 2010 on Windows® XP, Windows Vista®, and Windows 7 across the entire product line. The 3Dconnexion product line includes the Professional Series with the new SpacePilot PRO (MSRP $399), SpacePilot™ (MSRP $299 with promotion) and SpaceExplorer™ (MSRP $299), and the Standard Series with the SpaceNavigator (MSRP $99) and SpaceNavigator for Notebooks (MSRP $129). For additional information, visit www.3Dconnexion.com.
About 3D Mice 3Dconnexion 3D mice deliver a level of comfort and control that is not possible with a traditional mouse and keyboard. Users engage both hands in a balanced and cooperative work style with one hand using the 3D mouse to position the model, while the other hand simultaneously uses the traditional mouse to select, create or edit. By spreading the workload across both hands, users experience productivity increases of more than 20
percent as well as a more comfortable working experience by reducing traditional mouse clicks by up to 50 percent.
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.
# # #
© 2010 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.

February 9, 2010 · Posted in Software Review, SolidWorks Community  
    

It’s like it’s the day after Christmas; all the toys have been played with, food and drink consumed and the relatives have left. Now, I just have this weird empty feeling. Not as bad as losing your best friend, though. Close, but…

As I’ve come to expect, SolidWorks put on a great show. I really liked the layout of the Anaheim Convention Center. I didn’t feel like I had to walk miles to get to wherever my destination was. Which isn’t to say I didn’t do a lot of walking, ‘cause I did. I’m quite confident that I lost a couple of pounds. Well, extremely hopeful anyway. As has become the norm these past few years, I spent more time observing than attending with most of my observing taking place in the Vendor Fair. It’s here that I thank those companies that have given me the opportunity to try out their products, while meeting with new companies. The amount of partner products out there is pretty impressive. There are times when I want to say “there’s an app for that”, then look over my shoulder to be sure the Apple police aren’t coming after me for copyright infringement. This year’s Vendor Fair was well attended by vendors from all segments of the industry: rapid prototyping, CMM, CAM, PLM, PDM, etc. Need a model of a human body for your Weird Science experiment? Zygote has your back (and front…left foot). Design automation? DriveWorks or TactonWorks will duke it out for your business. How about a new computer? Boxx, HP and Dell will regale you with stories of why there PC kicks the other guys’ butt! What about a cool 3D model of your completed Weird Science experiment? Zcorp, Objet or Solido would be more than happy to impart their wondrous knowledge of all that is 3D printing upon you.

One of the greatest things about SolidWorks 2010 was the arena where the general assemblies were held. Rather than a large conference room where the people in back had to stand to see, the Anaheim convention center had an arena with 2nd and 3rd level seating. I think this helped to get everyone “close” to the stage. It also seemed to lessen the running of people to get to the front of the venue. A lot of people seemed quite happy to sit in one of the upper levels. James Cameron was a great choice as the keynote, too. Much better than Wozniak a few years ago.

I’d say my biggest complaint was the Tuesday night event, a complaint that is being voiced by many. It was held in the same huge room that we ate breakfast and lunch in and was really a step down from previous years. An Aerosmith cover band was the entertainment and BBQ was the food. For a 3D software conference event, it was rather one dimensional. Too loud, too dark, too few seats, too few food choices. I’m trying to find out why there was such a deviation from years past. If I get anything, I’ll let you know.

Would any of the above stop me from going to San Antonio next year? Hell no! I think the plusses way outweigh the negatives and wouldn’t miss it for anything. I hope to see you there.

February 8, 2010 · Posted in Personal, SolidWorks Community  
    

Wow, what a day its been; not that its actually over yet. I just returned to my room to relax a little bit before heading over to Jon Hirschtick’s room. He was kind enough to invite the Twitterverse over and Im not one to turn down such an invitation.

Right now, this is turning out to be the best SolidWorks World I’ve been to yet. Why? Honestly I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it’s the venue. Maybe it’s the people. Maybe it’s James Cameron. Maybe
All I know is that I’ve woken up each day raring to go. Looking forward to seeing what the day has in store. Part of it could be the fact that I’ve remained sober every night, but I think that’s a small part of it. I’ve just felt really comfortable this year, almost like I’m at home. Whatever it is, I’m lovin’ it!

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty, shall we? Today was the day for James Cameron. Much like Sir Richard Branson last year, Jim was interviewed instead of just speaking to us. Jon Hirschtick had the honor and did a damn fine job. I was simply amazed at Cameron’s grasp of engineering, among other things. The guy is brilliant. We got to see an 8-minute behind-the-scenes video of the making of Avatar. I was really impressed with the technology they used. Each actor had a small camera, attached to a small boom, recording their every facial move. I remember talking about how realistic the facial expressions where after seeing the movie, now I know why. The innovations that were created before, and during, the making of Avatar will probably change movie-making, as well as TV. I think it will be a good thing. Imagine being able to feel immersed in every show like you did when you saw Avatar. If you haven’t seen it, what the hell are you waiting for?

I spent more time in the vendor pavilion, lining up more products to review for all of you. Coming in the not-too-distant future will be DriveWorks Solo and ElecWorks. Ill be meeting up with SolidNEST tomorrow to, hopefully, line something up with them as well. Ive had conversations with the guys from igetit.com and will be loading up their software soon as well. I’m also keeping my fingers crossed that Dell might be sending toys my way, too. All-in-all, the review cycle looks to be heating up.

My very first solo presentation went well, I believe. I’m optimistic that SolidWorks Crashes & Slowdowns was well received. I was damn nervous at the beginning, and admitted as much to the audience which, by the way, was much larger than I’d thought it would be. The session was also on a live feed, so there were people watching me that I couldnt see. (Hmmm, thats actually kind of creepy when you think about it.)The bonus to it being broadcast is that I’ll get a recording of my session. I’m sure my boys will love watching it with me once I get it. It’ll provide plenty of material for a pick-on-dad session.

Next came Stump the Chumps II. So far, we’ve been hearing nothing but good things so far. However, I’m waiting for Mr. Doyle to weigh in. We’re also thinking of a format change for STC III. It’ll involve coolers of beer and the movie Animal House. I dont want to give up all the details though. Just keep an eye out when they release next year’s agenda.

Every year there’s plenty of shwag to bring home to the kids. I have to say, though, that this year’s haul is the best yet. First, Ill never be short handed again thanks to Solido:

Next, from Julie at Z Corp, is my new friend, Jane:

Today is the last day of SolidWorks World 2010. Bummer.

February 3, 2010 · Posted in SolidWorks Community  
    

Ok, first and foremost, contrary to what Josh may have said via Twitter, I was not taking shots every time ‘Cloud’ was mentioned. I just want to get that out of the way.

Now for the good stuff…
5000+ attendees at SolidWorks world this year. That is an awesome number! A surprising one, too. Given the economy, one wouldn’t have thought that SWW attendance would exceed last year’s. Very impressive.

Jeff Ray started things off, as usual. He then introduced Bernard Charlčs, Dassault Systemes’ CEO, who talked about Dassault, how the acquired SolidWorks and where the company is going. If his vision comes true, life for designers will be very different come 2021.

Jeff then brought up Jeremy Luchini  and the guy from Prototype this (my note taking abilities suck). They built an electric 1933 roadster! It is, in a word, awesome! I’m going to try to lay out some bribes to take it for a spin around the convention center. How many electric cars do you know of that can bust out tire burning donuts? Awesome!

It was time for a sneak peek into the future and what did we see? Well, what I saw was my presentation being obsoleted right before my eyes. Here I am, nervous as hell to do this presentation on how to maintain your hardware and drivers, and SolidWorks is looking at moving to the cloud. That’s right, the cloud. That means any computer, any OS. It’s years away, but it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Right now, I see bandwidth being a huge issue.

The session ended with James McLurkin, roboticist extraordinaire. This guy, like me, makes being a geek cool. He’s one of the top robot guys in the world and is doing some amazing stuff with them. He did allay the fears of robots ever taking over the world. Not sure if that’s good or bad.

It’s actually Tuesday right now. I had nothing but problems getting this post done yesterday. Today I have two presentations. Frankly, I’m nervous as hell. Depending on how they go, I may be quite hungover tomorrow.

February 2, 2010 · Posted in SolidWorks Community  
    

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