Thursday, October 22, 2009

VisionRez 2010 Part 2.

Click here for all 3 VisionRez Reviews

On startup I am greeted with a startup screen that looks much like the native ACA version. Actually it is with the addition of the VisionRez Logo. I have used the UK shortcut which I expected to start VR in metric. But it appears that the startup logo is the only thing different and I am back in plain ACA land. I only explored quickly so I could be wrong.

Ulp! There are no VR toolbars present! So I closed up anxious to see the VR I have read so much about. So I close the UK version and this time I use the VR U.S. shortcut and try out the version with those feet and inches - oo I feel so ancient! Now I am greeted with an obviously modified layout. Some of the VR tool icons look quite dated. Not up to the grey (where there heck is that tool again?) look of 2010. But I bet you can find stuff, let's see.

You can now see the additional VR toolbars and menu's spread across the robbin. It comes with tutorial pdf's. The quickview pdf is 66 pages !

VR works on a set system so you will need to change your work process to match. It has it's own idea of layers, view configuration, display representations etc. The strength of AutoCAD (ACA) is it's customability. The weakness of AutoCAD (ACA) is it's .....customability. Having everyone do their own thing hurts sharing and is especially evident in an office where you have a maverick who won't learn the office protocols. You open a drawing and have no idea how or why this drawing is set up like it is. So really having VR step in and say, "this is the way it's going to happen" can be really a good thing especially when they have thought it right thru. Did I mention that they use their own product in production so it's developed and sold by users to other users. Surely a good combination. I may not agree with everything they have done but it works. There is some flexibility (much if you want to work hard). VR does't need the PN and works naterally with a 1 file approach (yay!) but you can use the project navigator if you wish (which is a good idea for large projects). VR works with layers. Lots of them. I don't like lots of layers and I work with manipulating layers a lot. But this is a personal issue and not one I see anyone else complain about. If the process & tools largely make the layering system in the background then that too can be a good thing.

The VR ribbone with access to the palletes is a lot easier to read than ACA's new monotone version which is so bland you can't find anything cause you get bored looking. Icons are cute but you can read a lot faster than you can learn a vague icon that changes every couple of years. Actually here as VR has moved from toolbars to the ribbon, text has been introduced which is an improvement. The level & Layer controls and backgrounds look really gawky and not very sophisticated but they are very clear and I can imagine existing users getting very upset if VR refined them to conform with blandland.

The American residential market is largely framed whereas the local market in Perth is double brick (but changing). In the eastern states brick veneer is often used. Our setout line is the external perimeter, sized to suit the brick lengths, reduce cutting resulting in a neater and cheaper finish. Not so in VR. Masonry walls are set out from the external face of the internal stud wall and I believe New Zealand does this as well. Framing is king! VR also splits the internal & external leafs of the external wall and I would assume this is so it can effectively quantify and frame each leaf. In base ACA you cannot really quantify cavity wall and get accurate quantities unless your wall shape is dead simple.

So I work through the tutorial and create a house, tracing over a 2d plan. It's kinda familar and kinda different and definitely fun. I do have more om my experience with VR to reveal.

Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tip Bits on layers and blocks.

LayerMerge: I hate extra layers and I only work in one file (ok perhaps a survey x-ref). I hated (when working in the PN) finding multiple useless layers in every drawing I didn't want but couldn't get rid of. These are coded into obscure styles in the OOTB templates. In 2009 & before ACA has a Layer Merge command found under the Format-Layer Tools menu or typing "_laymrg" at the command line. This command was in 2006 & prior (under Express Tools) but didn't work if the layer was hardcoded in a style definition. For 2009 this tool will now rid you of unwanted layers even if coded into an aec style. Try it on a template with a few start up layers like G-Anno-Nplt etc before you draw anything else. I generally draw a line on layer 0, then a line on each layer I want to remove and then run the command. Now there is a point where it will not work (in a full drawing) and I don't know why. Perhaps a layer in a nested block?  It seems to stop and not work at all. But at least I can get rid of those layers in the templates I don't want without trawling through the display system to find them. When you are using PN to stack quite a number of drawings together it can be a pain to deal with 6 unwanted layers per drawing.

p.s. I haven't a clue where it is in 2010! It possibly hidden somewhere in the robbing! Is it 'managing' or something to do with the 'view'?......oh I don't know - let me know if you find it and I will add it here.

SETNESTEDOBJECTSBYBLOCK: I've alias'd this one to FB because I was using a lisp FixBlock. This will set all colours, linetypes, layers, lineweights AND plot styles to ByBlock, removing any trace of an unwanted plotting or layering scheme from a block in one hit. Very sweet. Not sure when this one came in. I'm happy with ByBlock as it gives you that extra bit of flexiility and now that I am using .stb's this saves me an enormous amount of time and frutration. Tpe FB, one click and move on.

Large companies might want to restrict practise to ByLayer to ensure that a block always follows the layer it's inserted on. Anybody know if there is an equivilent command? Help is unhelpful on this one.

My biggest tip by far is to use alias commands for as much as possible. It's been interesting moving to 2009 from 6. I added a couple of extra alias's for commonly used commands and the disruption was minimal. I just largely ignored the robbing. Realise that it won't stop at the ribbing. Once they have that all sorted and dusted, they will come up with another new idea and it will all start again. Did you have anyone who had spent time customising their 'dashboard' only to have it all dumped after only 2 years! And it takes that long to learn these interfaces! Learn to use the old pgp file and it's very easy to bring your shortcuts along to the new version, dump it in and keep working! and ADesk can waste resource changing the interface again and again and your disruption will be minimal.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Testing VisionRez 2010 on Windows 7

Click here for all 3 VisionRez reviews
I write this as I install VisionRez Standalone 2010 on my freshly built new computer, sampling a brownie cooked by my young daughter, and recover from suspected appendicitis (maybe not?). The computer, sporting 4mb RAM is targeting for some testing! I installed an old XPpro 32bit and then installed Release Candidate version of Windows 7 32bit. I skipped Vista as un-nessessary marketing drool but 7 sounds like they got the mix right. Even better I don't have to pay for it until March 2010 when it will start shutting down every 2 hours. And now - what I really want to do, set up Windows7RC 64bit. To do this I have used a Gnome tool to split up the new 1TB hard drive into 4 seperate partitions, the 2x Win7 OS's are installed on smaller 20Gb drives ready for toasting if I don't procede with any OS upgrade. (have to remember not to save anything important to those drives). Actually Windows7 seems to have it's own partition tool so probably needn't have bothered except to say I've now used a linux tool. All OS's are available from a boot menu. Windows 7 32bit & 64bit both show up as simply Windows 7.

My aim is to test ACA in a 64bit environment. If succesful I might move here for my work machine and install some extra RAM. Now ACA doesn't natively use more than 1 cpu except on a couple of executions, like regenerating or redrawing windows and then only 2. But the new Mental Ray rendering engine will pump up as many cores as you have, bringing Quad core into their own. If you plan on rendering, then quad's may have their use but for general ACA work, a faster Dual core will bring you better return. The 64bit environment will allow you to use more than 4mb of RAM. Apparently 32bit can access close to 4Mb but you need to include your graphics card so if it's a 512Mb, then only ~3.5Gb of RAM will be addressed. Further I understand that any one application can only use 2Gb. 64bit opens up a lot more RAM for use in Windows. I bought all except the CPU as I had an old D805 Dual Pentium lying around so that may penalize my results a little. But it can overclock so we'll see what I can get out of it. The $100 case has a nice blue lit fan that's large enough to cool the whole room so hopefully overclocking will bring a decent improvement. If it does become my work machine it will have to be upgraded.

So to VisionRez 2010

So when I saw that VisionRez invited tryouts of their latest release based on the v2010 series I jumped at the chance to take a look at this excellant residentially slanted tool. Whilst we bemoan AutoDesks ignoring the residential community's cries for better 'resi' tools, this is VisionRez's market so you can be assured of their focus. However, they are an American firm and the product, heavily customised for residential reflects the US building methods. This is a great opportunity for me to check out their product and evaulate how easy it could be moulded to fit a different market. My fear is that I may wish that I had bought their more residentially targeted product rather than the broader, general and less focused ACA. I am installing the 64bit VisionRez Stand Alone.
VisionRez series of products are based on ACA, either a plugin for your full version, or 2 standalone versions based on cut down versions of ACA (depending on what you need)
VR Designer and VR Builder. I am reviewing the full version standalone.

Builder includes the Framing, Bill of Materials etc, gear required for actually building it. Designer doesn't include these or Curtain walls & Spaces. (See link for complete list) But the prices are keen for cut down versions and a many may not require these extra features. Designer is $1495US which get's you an amazing amount of power as a residential designer. That's the same price as the plug-in for a full version. For a small office that want's to tool up on a great CAD platform, produce models for rendering and CD's efficiently this is a great option.

Of course VR is famous for their roof tool which looks everything a roof tool should be, except it can't naturally create a Gablet or Dutch hip, both which can be easily created by the native ACA tool. Apparently North Americans just don't do them. But Aussies do and often so therein is a problem that I am interested in seeing how to resolve in VR. But VR is a lot more.

One thing that surprised me was that they had not enabled the default install of the express tools. I understand that they are not supported but the amount of users who have paid the enormous price for the full version but don't know about these fanastic, practical & versatile tools is just silly. To a power user it's anaethema not to have them available.

So - don't install default, go custom, add Express Tools, and also add the UK version if you are using Metric. UK version is a lot closer to Aussie use that the US Metric. Of course if you are in the US then just go with the US versions - they will be right in your pocket.

One error on install - MS SQL server seems to have issues with Win7 but it installed so we'll see. The install starts and I am greeted with Robert Shelton of VisionRez work team's images in slide presentation. Robert's images are so good it's either inspiring or makes you want to give up ever trying a rendering again. I choose to be inspired. (Also on YouTube)

It seems that a full version of ACA is installed and then the plugin. I'll be interested to see how a VR created model and data is handled in a regular version of ACA2010. (update - it doesn't completely - a barge board looses it's sloping profile and becomes a large square mass).

Oh and the test also comes with an install of HSB which will build wall & roof frames in both timber or steel. This should be fun. - Ouch, HSB wouldn't install! - Error. (I think this is stated in the install help - as I didn't order that product it won't install).

So how is it? To be continued.......

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Is this a good thing?

This link will give you a list of Autodesk's products available. I guess it's good to be supported by such a large and diverse software company but it could be easy to get lost in the crowd.

AutoCAD mechanical is referred to as "a standard in 2D mechanical design" and then mention is made of 'prototyping' which I thought could only refer to 3D.  The downloadable pdf shows 3D renderings.  Maybe much of it is still 2D? Here's an old article about Mech's demise. But it appears a 2010 version has been released. Maybe users didn't move to Inventor as quick as they hoped. I think that Mech is still only available together with Inventor or at least that's how it was for a time.

AutoCAD Civil3D is mentioned as a BIM solution? whereas AutoCAD Architecture is not .... er.... because Revit is! Ah....marketeers! No mention is made on the ACA opening page of 3D but it does tell you that you can move to a BIM solution "at your own pace" and points you to Revit! It's there again in the pdf brochure!

Ok so I'm just grumbling really and just surmising what's going to happen with ACA in the future. As I am about to set up a builder's drawing office with a system, you'd like to know which direction to head. For now it's looking like ACA!

I also have noticed that all the major players in the 3D architectural modelling are now (or appear to be) owned by North American companies. Not sure what that means but the basic package is never a fit for the way we do things here in Oz. We are always reliant on local content (bought or created) to make it relevant to our local market. But I guess whether the package is from the US, Canada or Hungary we always have to customise it somewhat and we are always at the mercy of developers far away!


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ouch!!! Chief Architect Australia get scalped !!

I just need to post something so you know that I am still alive! It's been quite a busy couple of months though I have a number of good articles in the works and some good ideas coming from James I have just not found the time or energy to spend in carefully editing a detailed post but I thought this could be of interest to aussie cadders.

Chief Architect I was surprised to learn had a support team/supplier in Australia but now in the words of the supplier "Chief Architect Inc's USA short sighted management has made the decision that in an effort to support all Chief Architect users 'more efficiently' (?) they will totally eliminate the middle men.. i.e. their remaining commercial Chief Architect dealers acoss the world, before the end of the year.. and have started the ball rolling by terminating the contracts of Gordon McDermott and his dedicated team at BayCAD in New Zealand.. and of course ourselves here at Chief Australia." Read the rest of their web page epitaph here. They don't sound too happy! ...."Only an American company could stoop this low in an effort to save their own skins." Ouch! Them's fighting words.

I came across a small local firm here in Perth that was using CA when I was starting out with ADT. A builder I worked with also bought CA 1997 thinking he could do some of his own drawings but he ended up giving it to me and my kids enjoyed playing with it. It's great how you can very easily get something you could immediately show a client with a walk through, something it would be great if we could do in ACA now 12 years later! Sigh!

Here's a link to a great 'Walk Through' presentation from ArchiCAD's Virtual Building Explorer from a young local team that are doing fantastic things using ArchiCAD. (VBE is a paid for add-on to AC). It's about a 14mb download that allows you to tour the house like you would a 3D game. Sensational. Worth the download.

So when can I do this in ACA? I've just been playing with Design Review 2010 and it's just not up to the standard required. Lighting washes out the materials for my front view, the camera view too narrow to negotiate the internal of the model for a walk through and it's awkward to navigate. It's pretty pathetic in comparison with what I see in the ArchiCAD's VBE.

I have changed work places and am now in a better place of common sense. I have brought ACA into an Autocad, Autosketch, ArchiCAD, chaotic environment and am going thru the phase of standardizing the work practises around ACA. (Heck even with Autocad there is various plot files being used - all custom and none any good) Is that a good idea?? I don't know! ArchiCAD is the prime tool in the residential housing market here (or Autosketch and I'm not going there!!) as it has been well marketed here in Perth. I don't like ArchiCAD.... too messy and proprietory but should I be going Revit? I don't know why I want to spend more money and another 2 years becoming profficient in another package to do what I can already do but it's a different story setting up an office. So I wrestle!! At least with ACA on subscription it's a small step to the Revit Arch suite if they decide on that path in the future. I've spent so much time with ACA and finally comfortable setting up content and standard palletes etc.

Ah! Such is life.

Best to ya!