It’s Been a While

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I’ve been horrible about writing of late. I could give you a bunch of different reasons, but the main one is I’ve just been focusing on life.

I lost my job back in March, and have been searching for work since then. It’s surprising how busy one becomes when unemployed. Every morning I think about what I need to do that day and then, WHAM!, the day is over and I’ve accomplished nothing on my list. Now, too, I have to get past the cabin fever that is setting in. While I could imagine living the life of the idle rich, living the life of the “I-don’t-want-to-be-idle-my-savings-are-dwindling” isn’t any fun.

I did write a review of Siemen’s 3DSync recently, that will be appearing in Develop3D in the not too distant future. Because of the article, or at least that’s my assumption, I’ve been invited to attend SolidEdge University next week. I’m going, but have absolutely no idea what to expect. The one upside is that I already have a title for my post about it. (If anyone from Cincinnati reads this, what is there to do in Cincinnati?)

I’ve also been approached about some other writing gigs as well as possibly doing some training videos. The articles will appear here, after they’ve been printed, so you’ll end up seeing posts that aren’t SolidWorks related. I do hope you find them interesting, though. I guess things are looking up a little.

If you know of anyone looking for help in the Seattle area, send them my way, would ya? I really want to get back to work full-time. You can point them to my LinkedIn Profile, or just have them email me.

June 20, 2013 · Posted in Personal  

Let’s get this out of the way right now, is this release going to blow your socks off? No, I don’t believe it will. There are, however, aspects of it that will definitely ruffle your skirt/kilt/bathrobe (*ahem*, Mr. Mings). Some of the stuff was just “eh”, but that’s to be expected as well. If everything was awe-inducing, the bar would be set way too high for future releases and SolidWorks Corp would burn through programmers and Product Managers far too quickly. Plus, things like stable releases shouldn’t be awe-inspiring, they should just be.

I spent a good portion of a day at SolidWorks, along with some of my fellow bloggers, being shown a bunch of what was new in SolidWorks 2013. It was, for all intents and purposes, a rollout. We’re just able to be more boisterous with the presenters. When I got back to Seattle, I got 2013 loaded up onto my laptop and started messing around with it. (Yes, I know, I was late to the party.) I’ve been digging into it and am impressed with how quickly it loads up on my tired Dell M4300. While it never crossed my mind to do an actual test, I’d say it’s a good 10-15 seconds quicker than 2012. I haven’t really noticed anything different graphically or speed-wise, aside from the initial loading. Again, bear in mind that I’m using a beat up 4-year old laptop. 32-gigs, at that.

That all being said, you’re going to have to wait until my thoughts are published by Devlop3d. I have to say that I was quite flattered when Al asked me if I’d be interested in collaborating with him on a SolidWorks 2013 review. I’m guessing it was because we’d been at the bar drinking for a couple of hours, but that’s his problem. I, on the other hand, get to enjoy my 30 seconds of fame as a “writer” for Develop3d. Yay, me!

September 23, 2012 · Posted in Software Review, SolidWorks Community  

It wasn’t until I joined Twitter in July of ’08 that I first became aware of Alistar Dean. How this was even possible is beyond me. Al is one of those people who, upon meeting him for the first time, you know you will never forget. If asked to describe him, I would say he’s an uneven mix of father, scholar, punk and geek. I say uneven as I believe the mixture changes depending on environment. Perhaps ‘chameleon’ would be a more apt description? No matter, it is the sum of these parts that makes up the incredible Human being that is Al Dean.

Let’s back up a bit, though, and talk some about how Al, in his present form, came to be. Al has been surrounded by engineering all his life. His father was a Chief Engineer in the Royal Navy, his grandfather a carpenter on movie sets from the 50′s through the 70′s. It was only natural that Al would develop a fascination with design and manufacturing. It was this fascination that led him to get a degree in product design in the mid 1990′s. That was as specific as he got. I’m not sure if he was being deliberately vague or if he’s simply not sure any more. I suspect either could be true. One of the things I love about Al is he has such a way with words. What he actually said about his college days was “…spent three years arsing about as one does at university.” After those three years of arsing (that could be my new favorite verb), Al came to the conclusion that he wasn’t ready to get a real job so he was able to “blag his way” onto a Master’s Degree in Engineering Product design. I had to look up ‘blag’ to be sure it was an actual word, which it is.

As is typical of college students, he held a number of different jobs. Roofer, bartender (apropos?), chicken processor (WTH?). He then moved on to various contract jobs using Pro/E and AutoCAD. From his reply: “One of the last jobs before I jumped ship was spent designing fridge handles and the associated dies for nearly 6 months straight. A lot of dies and a lot of fridge handles. I think I lost the will to live. Or at least to open doors and discover cold food.” One constant throughout his college career was the reading of CADD (Computer Aided Drafting and Design) Magazine. How fortuitous was it that he spotted an ad placed by CADD looking for a “CAD Software reviewer?” He placed a call, was invited to London, interviewed with the illustrious Martyn Day and the rest is history. During Al’s time there, they turned CADD Magazine into MCAD Magazine, refocusing it on mechanical design while watching the fledgling PC workstation in design industry grow.

(As I’m re-reading, I’m realizing that I may be doing Al a bit of a disservice here. The interview was conducted through email, and his manner of writing is light years beyond mine, as evidenced by the quotes I’ve, er, quoted. He has so many great quotes that would make no sense out of context. That causes me to wonder; do I continue in my words or switch to his? Eh, I’ll stick with mine, I need the practice. Sorry, Al.)

Naturally, I needed to find out how Develop3D came to be. Why was I not surprised to hear that it was conceived of in a pub? It wasn’t until the end of 2007 that Develop3D was born, partially out of necessity. MCAD Magazine was being reorganized and Al, and his cohorts, realizing that they could very well end up unemployed, and that they were virtually unemployable elsewhere (his words, not mine) set about creating their own magazine. What’s even more surprising is that the name was thought up in a Starbucks, not a pub. They had their plan, took as much of the staff as they could, and set up shop. About three months later, MCAD closed its doors.

So, what does Develop3D have to offer that other magazines/ezines don’t? Well, as Al pointed out to me, that is a question best answered by those that read it, so I asked the question on Twitter. Some of the responses I received:

“They just get it. They know what people want to read about and deliver it in a way where it’s easy to take in.” – Chris Serran, Senior Design Leader
“The attention to detail and the characters that write it. They are like Top Gear for CAD” – Rachael Taggart
“Reading other CAD magazines I always have the impression that their customers are the sponsors not the readers. Not for D3D!” – Franco Folini, President of Novedge,
“The guys who run it of course. Show me another mag with such colorful characters.” – Deelip Menezes,

Al did, however, chime in with his own perspective: “We wanted to give people a magazine that gave them a sense of pride in what they do. Other professions or interests have fancy magazines that have actual time and effort spent in making them look slick and read well. Why not design and engineering?”

What they wanted, and what most would agree that they’ve achieved, is a magazine that isn’t chock full of marketing bullshit and hyperbole. The team at D3D talks about the designer’s design, with only a passing reference to the software or hardware used, much to the chagrin of the manufacturers. Apparently, vendors have been known to call up Al and complain that one of their customers was on the cover yet they hardly received any press. Al’s response? Quite politically correct, which I find a bit maddening. To paraphrase, Al simply tells them that people want to read about the designer and his/her influences, not the tools used. This isn’t to say that they don’t talk about engineering tools, because they do. However, they do it in the context of a review of said tools and not as a “co-star” in an article about some incredible design.

The previous paragraph is a perfect segue into my next question regarding Al’s day-to-day duties as editor. He was quick to point out that the true editor of D3D, if there is one, would be Greg Corke. Al’s days are spent communicating with people, essentially keeping his finger on the pulse of the industry. They’ve done a bunch of research on reverse engineering and they’re in the process of researching simulation. Al figures he only spends about 50% of his time actually writing these days. The rest of his time is taken up by “yacking and hustling.” Oh, and working on a sister publication to Develop3d. That, I believe, will be a future post. Just as a teaser, it deals with sustainability.

Even though he’s not out there designing himself these days, he still gets the opportunity to help in design cycles via reader inquiries or friends that ask for a hand. He shared a bit about one such project with me. A reader contacted him to find out what Al knew about laser scanning as he, the reader, had a sculpture he wanted to scan. Nothing out of the ordinary there, right? How about the fact that the sculpture was a blowtelope? Yeah…a Blow fish with Antelope horns. I’m still hoping to see a pic of that, Al.


Picture stolen, appropriately enough, from





March 26, 2011 · Posted in Interview  

After an uneventful flight on my current favorite airline, Virgin America, I arrived in Anaheim to the welcoming committee that was Alex Ruiz. He’d run into Mr. Christy Jordan (nee Ricky Jordan) and Rich Hall, so the twosome became a foursome and off we went to the hotel. (Tangent here – more swag just came my way courtesy of Al Dean and Develop3D. I love swag) After a quick shower, it was time for an informal tweet-up in the lobby of the Hilton. After a bit of discussion, a group of us were off to Chubby’s for dinner. You can see said group over at Deelip’s blog.

As seems to be the norm, a large contingent of SolidWorks World attendees, employees, bloggers, VARs were congregated around the bar. With this being my fifth SWW, it was a time to reacquaint myself with friends from years past. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when I was approached by three gentlemen. They wanted to know if I was Jeff Mirisola. Though the temptation to say ‘no’ was there, I admitted that I was. Turns out, they were from AMV and wanted to thank me for my review of SteelWorks. Phew! You’re welcome, guys, it’s a great product!

The night ended quietly, unlike last year. I’m quite happy that I don’t feel compelled to apologize to anyone I may have spoken to. Today is a mellow day. Tonight, well, that may be a different story.

January 31, 2010 · Posted in SolidWorks Community  

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