Sunday, February 25, 2007

Happy 50th Birthday

We were planning a big surprise party for Genny's 50th birthday. Our friend Marla Bronstein was helping organize the event under the guise of an Oscar (Academy Awards) party. But Genny figured that something was up and asked that we not do a big party.

So we ended up with a modest cake and just family.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

David Does Hawaii

We left Bellingham on Saturday, February 17, just after noon. The first legs of our trip were a bit silly. We flew on Horizon Air, our twin-engine prop service, from Bellingham to Seattle. That's pretty normal. But then, in order to get to LAX, we continued on Horizon Air from Seattle to Medford, Oregon and then on to LA. But hey, what do you want for free. We're on our way to Hawaii using frequent flier points.

Only one problem. When we went to check in for our flight in Bellingham, the gate agent was having trouble getting our bags checked all the way through to Honolulu. In her attempts to correct the problem, she inadvertently cancelled our American Airlines flight to Hawaii. When we got to LAX, we no longer had tickets, and the flight was completely booked (and there were standby passengers). Genny gave the gate agent a box of chocolates and she was finally able to get us seats. Unfortunately, we were no longer seated together. But at least we got on the plane.

The flight was uneventful. But we didn't arrive until midnight local time (2 am Bellingham time). By the time we got our bags, found the shuttle, and got to our hotel, it was 1:30am.

Bruce met us on Sunday morning for breakfast. No, this is not his vehicle. But I couldn't resist.

He took us to a Chinese New Years party at one of the other officer's homes. They had hired a dragon dance team to entertain. We had a great time. It was fun to meet some of the other people Bruce flies with. His commanding officer was even there.

I've even got some video of the party to share with you.

I think you can probably tell we had a good time.

After the party, we drove back into Honolulu and went to China Town. But the place was pretty much closed down for the day.

Monday morning, we walked down the beach toward Diamond Head and went to the Honolulu Aquarium. It's a small aquarium, but they have a wonderful display of local reef fish.

Bruce met us for lunch afterwards and then Bruce, Emma, Clarice, and I all took surfing lessons. We all did pretty well, but Emma proved to be the absolute champion of the group. Unfortunately, the photographer who usually works at the surf shop took Monday afternoon off, since it was President's Day, so we have no photos of our group surfing. You'll just have to take my word for it that I actually did stand up several times (actually, I was able to stand up and ride a wave on my very first try...with a little helpful push from the instructor). It was both easier and harder than I ever imagined: easier in that it's actually not to hard to stand on the board and ride a gentle wave; harder in that the paddling was absolutely exhausting. My back hurt by the end of our two-hour class and my knees were bruised from the board.

After a hard day surfing, we all headed out for dinner.

Tuesday, Bruce had to work, so we spent the day on our own. We had a leisurely breakfast. My girls are definitely getting into tropical beverages.

After breakfast, we went to the Honolulu Zoo, which turned out to be a wonderful zoo, one of the best we've ever been to. The giraffes were fantastic, but the high point of the zoo was definitely the komodo dragon.

After lunch, Emma was back to the surf shop for her second day of surfing lessons. The waves were breaking much differently than the day before, and the rides were much shorter. But the photographer was there and since I wasn't surfing (I'm still recovering from yesterday), I shot video from the beach. I'll edit the video and post some segments once we get home.

Once the day's surfing was completed, we had just enough time to get cleaned off and then head back to the beach to watch the sun set, which definitely ranks as a ritual. Genny thinks our sunsets in Bellingham are more beautiful, but the one today here in Hawaii was pretty spectacular.

Then it was time to head back up the beach in search of dinner. Of course, before we could get there, Genny, Emma, and Clarice did some shopping, with Emma buying a pair of shoes (what is it with women and shoes?). Even Clarice wonders about all the shoes already lining Emma's closet back home.

All in all, it's been a pretty spectacular three days so far.
Tomorrow we're off to swim with the dolphins.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Autodesk Tells All - Day Two

The second day of Autodesk's "World Press Day" delivered on the promise to unveil the latest features of the next releases of the company's software. Some of those announcements have undoubtedly already found their way onto the web. I'm a bit late reporting in due to a tight travel schedule and a solid schedule of appointments upon my return (a good indication that there are lots more announcements pending from other companies in the weeks to come).

Autodesk personnel spent much of the day going over the new features of the company's vertical market products, leaving the discussion of core AutoCAD 2008 enhancements until the final hour. I'll cover the basics here across the entire product line and then delve into the AutoCAD 2008 specifics separately.

One welcome piece of information is Autodesk's renaming of several of its products. For example, in the Building Solutions Division—oops, that division's name has also changed, to AEC—there has been considerable confusion over the version numbering of the various Revit products. Revit Building is currently up to version 9.1, while Revit Structure is at version 4 and Revit Systems is currently at version 2. At least, I think that's right (and I'm paid to keep up with this). And then there are the AutoCAD-based vertical applications, Architectural Desktop and Autodesk Building Systems.

So I'm quite happy with the fact that the next release will standardize both version numbering and product names. On the AutoCAD-based side of the house, Autodesk has standardized on using the AutoCAD name as part of the product name. So the next release or Autodesk Architectural Desktop (ADT) will become AutoCAD Architecture 2008 and the next release of Autodesk Building Systems will become AutoCAD MEP 2008 (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing). Both products are being more carefully aimed at helping customers streamline their current job flow focused on 2D construction documentation, whereas the Revit products are focused on three-dimensional building information modeling.

Speaking of which, on the Revit side of the house, the name and product version numbering changes are even more striking. Instead of Revit Building, the next release of the architectural flavor of Revit will be called Revit Architecture 2008. Revit Structure retains its name, but changes the version numbering scheme so it will be known as Revit Structure 2008. And Revit Systems gets both a name and version numbering change: Revit MEP 2008. The table below summaries these changes:

Current nameNew name
AutoCAD 2007AutoCAD 2008
Architectural Desktop 2007AutoCAD Architecture 2008
Building Systems 2007AutoCAD MEP 2008
Revit Building 9.1Revit Architecture 2008
Revit Structure 4Revit Structure 2008
Revit Systems 2Revit MEP 2008

I'll look at the features in Autodesk's AEC products in more detail in a separate posting.

Other news of the day included:

  • A more official roll-out of AutoCAD P&ID 2007 (the software was actually announced on January 9, 2007, but no one seemed to notice). There will of course be a new version—AutoCAD P&ID 2008—and Autodesk is also working on a 3D product to be called AutoCAD 3D Plant.

  • Autodesk Design Review, the company's software for online collaborating through the viewing and marking up of DWF files is no longer $199 but rather is available free as a download from the Autodesk website. Now that it's free, I wonder if I should continue to include it in my AUGI CAD Camp repertoire.

  • Autodesk Impression, a new product for producing illustrations that has been previewed at many recent AUGI CAD Camp events was formally released. I've been very impressed by its capabilities, but with a MSRP of $495, I think it may be priced too high to be widely adopted by the architects that would otherwise be its most likely users. Only time will tell.

Of course, I still watch the MCAD side of Autodesk's business, and had a one-on-one meeting with Andrew Anagnost on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the next release of Autodesk Inventor. Inventor 12 has more than 400 new features and functions, which Autodesk says are in direct response to user requests. The most notable enhancements are:

Andrew Anagnost talk about new features in Inventor 12.
  • Enhanced interoperability with DWG TrueConnect enabling DWG exchange with Inventor, faster and more robust IGES translation, DirectConnect for JT, and enhanced interoperability with Autodesk's recently acquired Alias Studio software

  • Improved simulation and analysis thanks to automatic translation of assembly constraints into joints, multiple time step analysis, and thin wall stress analysis.

  • Improvements in cable and harness design with support for ribbon cables, automatic connector placement on nailboards, and connector authoring with configurable pin patterns.

  • Improved drawing productivity with dimension and cross hatching for isometric views, cross hatch rendering by material type, and improved standards and compliance (particularly for China and Russia)

  • Lots of sheet metal enhancements

Yes, I do feel like I was drinking out of a firehose. And as many of you know, I don't just rely on information disseminated via meetings and press releases. I do hands-on hardware and software reviews. So expect to see me loading all of this software and trying it out first-hand as quickly as Autodesk can ship it to me.

Stay tuned.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Not Quite All, But More Tomorrow

So, here we are in San Francisco for the first of day of Autodesk's World Press Day. (Shouldn't that be "World Press Days," since it's actually two days?)

Autodesk issued several press releases today, talking about how the company announced new releases of its software., they didn't. Today was focused primarily on presentations from Autodesk CEO Carl Bass and the vice presidents of Autodesk's various vertical market divisions. The announcements will mostly come tomorrow (Tuesday), when the event turns toward individual vertical market breakout sessions.

There was a lot said, and a lot of excellent presentations, both by Autodesk personnel and by three exemplary customers: Palumbo Motorcar Company, designers and manufacturers of a new hybrid sports car; Infinity Ward Inc., makers of the popular Call of Duty video games; and Patrick MacLeary, CEO of HOK, one of world's the leading architectural firms.

The biggest news today was actually an admission of an announcement that was quietly made several days ago. Autodesk's Design Review software, which I have been speaking about at Autodesk University and AUGI CAD Camp events, no longer costs $199 but rather is now a free product.

Tomorrow, Autodesk will publicly show new features in AutoCAD 2008, vertical market products such as Inventor 12 and Revit 10, and formally announce Autodesk Impression (including, one would hope, a price). But today was mostly a 30,000-foot view of Autodesk and its markets.

I've got lots to distill from today's presentations, and it will likely take me several days to sort through all of my notes and thoughts from today's presentations. But during the question and answer period at the end of the day, Brad Holtz (my former employer at EAReport and CADCAMNet) posed a question to Carl Bass regarding what Brad perceived as the difference between Autodesk's apparent rejection of PLM on the mechanical solutions side of the house versus its embracing of building information modeling (BLM) on the architect, engineering and construction side. Brad apparently felt that the two were somewhat synonymous. But based on Carl's response (which is quoted below and in my opinion is the quote of the day), the two are very different:

"Design needs to be informed by more things in order to make better decisions. The sooner in the process you understand that thing, the better off you are," said Mr. Bass. "What's my anti-PLM rap? There are only three customers in the world today that ever had a PLM problem. One of them is Dassault, one is PTC, and one is UGS; all competitors. There is no company that I know that wakes up and says, 'I have a PLM problem.' PLM is an artifact, it's a marketing slogan to satisfy a financial community." According to Bass, Autodesk talks about democratizing. "Think about between that and what's involved in some of these implementations that take years; they take tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. I always laugh at a PLM implementation that costs $20 million and now they can do engineering change orders online. So not only don't I see companies that need PLM, that don't have PLM problems, the number of successful implementations that I've seen in the world I can count on a single hand...Nobody wakes up and says, 'This is a great system. This is what makes us more competitive. This what makes it fun to go to work. This is what gives us design innovation. This is what gives us competitive advantage.' The moment I starting seeing companies like that, I'm going to rethink it. Until then, I say I think there are much more pragmatic approaches—much more digestible approaches—that solve the problem of how do you inform design and engineering early in the process."

Autodesk Tells All Today?

Today I travel to San Francisco for what Autodesk has billed as its "World Press Day." The promise is that today the company will unveil all of its new software, including (one would guess) AutoCAD 2008.

Unlike in years past, this time there appear to be no non-disclosures required. So later today, I expect to be able to start writing about (and hopefully trying out) the next release of AutoCAD.

Stay tuned.

I actually flew down to San Francisco yesterday so that I could spend some time with my daughter Andrea and son-in-law Josh. They live over in Berkeley. Although I get to the Bay Area frequently, this is the first time I have had a chance to get over to the East Bay to visit them.