The census says 115
I've written close to 200 books; what are they? Here is the list of (nearly) all e-books I've written. (The remainder are paper-based books.) Not in the list are bespoke editions, about two dozen e-books I've written for specific clients. Together, this makes the total of e-books written around 115.
My very first e-book was "Tailoring AutoCAD," written for AutoCAD 2000 around that year. The e-book began as a series of articles I wrote for AutoCAD World, a now-defunct tabloid-style magazine. They called the column "Tailoring AutoCAD." The editor returned me the copyright on my articles after 3 months, and so I began posting them on my Web site.The column went on for a couple of years.
A reader one day asked if I would collate all of the columns into a single book, so as to make it easier to download the PDF files. As a result, in 2002 my first e-book was born. Thirteen years later, the most popular e-book of all proved to be Tailoring Dynamic Blocks 2010.
On to the list:
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All of these ebooks are available for sale through my sales portal, eBooks.onLine at http://www.worldcadaccess.com/ebooksonline
1,250 members strong
We extend our summer break into the fall as we march off onto the conference circuit. If last week was Prague, then it must have been the Teigha Developer Conference put on for the second year in a row by the Open Design Alliance.
The next issue of upFront.eZine appears September 28 with our review of what was said at the conference about the state of Teigha and the ODA's plans for the API.
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Join the 7,500 subscribers who enjoy reading about the business of CAD. Email 'subscribe' to email@example.com
Genius today, OrthoGraph Survey System tomorrow
One of the problems with mobileCAD is that there is little money to be made. (The other problem is adapting to hardware limitations.) One iPad developer put the blame on Apple, because the behemoth did not allow demo versions of software on its ubiquitous e-store. To get people to try software, it has to be priced so cheap that potential customers would not mind throwing away a dollar. This drove pricing expectations in the brave new world of smartphones down to a near-nothing level -- the pricing so feared by Bill Gates in his early days of DOS-based PCs. Pricing on other smartphone e-stores followed the pattern set by Apple, because they couldn't charge more, now could they?
Well, this long intro is just to introduce OrthoGraph's new approach to it mobile app for measuring and annotating floor plans. Until now, it was available only on iOS. But now they have it in beta on Android. But not just Android, because the rewritten app is cross-platform.
This is another way to grow income: make apps more broadly available by making them multi-platform. (There are other ways: introduce subscription prices so that users have to pay again every month or every year; establish tiered pricing, so users get more functions when they pay more; or set a really high price -- or all three.)
About OrthoGraph Survey System
Orthograph's new cross platform app OrthoGraph Survey System is code-named Genius. (See figure 1.) Genius runs on Android but it will be available on other platforms like iOS and Windows. This is, unfortunately, a closed beta. Only those with valid OrthoGraph Cloud Pro or Business subscriptions can apply to join the beta program.
Sneak peak at the new Android app
Capabilities of Genius:
The beta program beings tomorrow, September 22, through firstname.lastname@example.org
Forgotten step-brother today leading the way
For many years, AutoCAD LT was the Embarrassment of Autodesk. Not because it was the cheapest, most underpowered desktop CAD program offered by the company. But because LT was its best selling software, outselling AutoCAD, the supposed-to-be "market leader," 3 to 1 -- and so this was something Autodesk became loathe to publicize.
Not that Autodesk didn't try to discourage sales. It upped the price from $499 to $1,200 -- and 2x even higher in unlucky countries like New Zealand. It imposed severe limitations on feature sets and programming.
(AutoLISP does work with LT. Autodesk included the popular programming language during the beta of the original version, but pulled it just before LT was released by swapping in a dummy alisp.dll file. Explanation at the time was that dealers didn't want to lose revenues with a cheap, powerful alternative to the 6x more-expensive AutoCAD.)
So it came as a surprise to market watchers when Autodesk ceo Carl Bass just a couple of weeks ago waxed eloquent over AutoCAD LT. Why the sudden love-in?
AutoCAD LT continues to lead all desktop subscription products, which is important because LT has historically been our highest volume product and represents the biggest opportunity to convert non-subscribing LT customers.
LT was always seen by Autodesk as the gateway drug: get new users hooked on LT, then bombard them with upsell offers to "real" CAD. Now, however, AutoCAD LT has become Autodesk's guinea pig for its bet-the-company, subscription-only future. Mr Bass again:
We're quickly approaching the end of this fiscal year when we stop selling new perpetual licenses for stand-alone products.
We started the process in Q2 when we stopped selling new perpetual licenses for AutoCAD LT in Australia and New Zealand. The results were very much in line with our expectations. We experienced a surge of buying perpetual LT licenses prior to the cut-off date...
We'll start by ending sales of perpetual licenses of AutoCAD LT in APAC [Asia-Pacific], with the exception of Japan at the end of this quarter.
Next... we'll announce the date for when we'll stop selling new perpetual licenses for suites, but I'll say that we are accelerating our plans that substantially move up that date.
But there is a fly in the ointment, and it As we've seen over the years in adopting new technology and business models, Japan has never been the leader, and I don't expect that to change.is Japan. Reports Mr Bass:
And I think we mentioned the one place that we're nervous, which is Japan, which is certainly meaningful in terms of LT...
...people [in Japan] who have perpetual licenses and maintenance can continue to stay that way.
The second thing that's interesting is what I'm seeing which is more anecdotal at this point: there is a split in the Japanese market. So like these new products like Fusion, which is a cloud-based CAD product, we're having dramatically better results in Japan. We're just releasing a Japanese version of the product because it's been so successful, and that kind of runs counter to what we're seeing in the mainstream.
I am sure many Autodesk users wish they has the option of living in sensible Japan right now, so that they won't have to be forced unwillingly off perpetual licenses. At $360, just one year of LT now costs nearly as much as the perceptual license originally cost. Autodesk loves it.
Autodesk's pricing comparison at autodesk.com/store/autocad-lt generously assumes user routinely update every other year
Since Mid-September, 1985
This week marks my 30th year in the CAD writing business. Thirty years ago, the CADalyst founder, owner, editor, and publisher hired me on as the brand-new technical writer/editor. I was the first full-time employee.
In those days, CADalyst magazine was concerned only with AutoCAD. The new version at the time was v2.17f, which offered the ground-breaking "Expressions and Variables" feature. The first issue I worked on featured the first use of color in the magazine, with the cover story by Bill Kramer on how to use expressions and variables in AutoCAD -- later to be known as AutoLISP.
I stayed with the magazine for just over five years before going off on my own in this fascinating business. What a ride it's been, as I published CAD++ newsletter in print, followed up upFront.eZine e-newsletter, this WorldCAD Access blog, the now-defunct Visions.eZine newsletter for Visio users, the eBooks.onLine ebook sales portal, lots of kinds of consulting, writing and updating nearly 200 books and ebooks about CAD, and a whole lot more.
Thanks for reading me all these years!
Real-time constraints engine runs on iPad
ArcSite from Arctuition is the first CAD program for mobile devices that uses real-time shape recognition and constraints to convert hand-drawn sketches into connected lines and arcs. More than any other mobile app, it bridges the gap between the interface of the tablet (which lends itself to freehand drawing) and the precision required of CAD.
Launching ArcSite on an iPad first runs through a few introductory screens, as is common now with iOS and Android software. (See Figure 1.)
Introductory screens highlighting ArcSite's capabilities
After the first launch, ArcSite goes right into the file manager. (See figure 2.)
Starting a new drawing from scratch is not the only way. Tapping the blue + in the upper left corner accesses alternatives: drawing over a PDF or a photograph. (See Figure 3.)
The PDFs and photos are placed into drawings as backgrounds and then we can draw on top of them; we can even dimension items on them. A scaling function lets us size the PDF or image to the correct 1:1 scale, but it requires that we know a dimension in the PDF or image. Photographs can be added later to the drawing through the Camera icon.
Additional options for starting new drawings from existing materials
Drawings are stored locally, and can be optionally uploaded to Arcsiteapp.com. The free version of the software allows us to upload only one project.
To erase or copy a drawing file, select it after tapping Select, and then choose Delete or Copy. File are stored in a proprietary format, but can be exported in DXF, PDF, and PNG formats.
In the Drawing Editor
The drawing editor operates in three modes:
As we draw with a finger, ArcSite keeps our squiggles in Squiggle mode, or else converts them dynamically to lines and arcs in Precision mode. It is in Precision mode that the shape recognition and constraints engines kick in. (See figure 4.)
Dimensions are associative, so that when you edit a value, the associated entity is also changes in size. A small shape (parts) library is included (Appliances, Architecture, Communications, Electrical, Interior Design, Landscape, and Plumbing) and we can add our own shapes to the library.
While drawing and editing, a magnifying loupe appears in the upper left corner to show us what is under the finger. When we select one or more objects, glyphs appear near the object and at the left edge of the screen for accessing editing functions: Resize, Move, Copy, Rotate, Mirror, Erase, and Convert to Shape. (See figure 5.) At this point the only stand-alone editing functions are trim and extend.
Editing commands appearing around a selected object and in the lower left corner;
notice the magnifying loupe in the upper left, showing what is under the finger
The Settings dialog lets us set the scale factor, toggle things like the grid and magnifier, choose object snap modes, and set the page size for PDF exports. (See figure 6.)
Settings dialog box
Properties include eight colors, line weights from 1 to 20 pixels, and three linetypes other than solid. (See figure 7.)
Available properties include color, lineweight, line types, and optional arrowheads
The first time we use a function, a short video shows us how to use it. (See figure 8.) An integrated blog tells us what is new in ArcSite, as well as how to use functions step by step.
Video showing how to use a function
To return to the file manager from the drawing editor, tap Projects. At this point in the development of ArcSite, drawings cannot be printed, except after being exported as PDF files.
As I mentioned, ArcSite is free when you need to store just one drawing on Arctuition's server, but then the following pricing is applied:
Save 17% with annual subscriptions.
Real-time constraint engine runs on iPad
We continue to take our summer break by publishing every other week. The next issue of upFront.eZine appears September 14 with our story about ArcSite from Arctuition and exclusive interview with developer Pei Zhan.
To whet your appetite, WorldCAD Access later this week will post an illustrated walkthrough to show you how ArcSite works on iPad.
To not miss out on the Business of CAD, email 'subscribe' to email@example.com
A, C, & ?
Now we are hearing about Teigha Architecture, not Teigha's architecture, which we heard about before the break. This one is for architectural design planning and is an extension to Teigha Core: design a building model with intelligent objects, and then take 2D sections and elevations. The objects are compatible with AutoCAD Architecture, and so objects can be used in both programs.
(Intelligent objects are like walls, windows, and doors. They contain data that identifies the manufacturer, size, stock number, and so on. They are intelligent: if you move a wall, the embedded windows move with the wall. Styles define the appearance of windows, doors, etc. Changes made to the floor plan are updated in the 3D model, and vice versa.)
Teigha Architecture currently handles objects from versions 2000 through to 2016, 2D and 3D rendering for all architectural objects, display representation, object creation and modification, and snap and grip points.
Primitives include wall, door, window, opening, DWA (door-window assemblies), roof, stair, railings, and structural members.
Documentation objects include 2D sections, dimensions, schedule tables, and spcaes. I wouldtake a picture but the Prague sunlight is flooding the conference room's floor to ceiling windows.
Also an extension for Teigha Core, Civil is for civil engineering, like roads, bridges, and earthworks. Like Architecture, it is a SIG (special interest group) project, which means it is not an official programming project by ODA but of a group of interested ODA members.
It supports Civil objects between 2007 and 2016, renders supported objects, but creates only some objects. The SIG has many plans to improve it, such as transformations, recover corrupted projects, public API for data extraction, and a way to remove all Civil data from a DWG file.
To end the day, we are learning about a new SIG project that I cannot talk about for another year. It is currently in alpha status, but will fill as big a hole in the CAD industry as the ODA (and its predecessors) did for opening up DWG. Eventally it will cover 3,500 classes.
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And that's it for the Teigha Developer Conference for 2015. Tomorrow is one-on-one meetings, and I'll report on them in an upcoming issue of upFront.eZine.
In business, it appears that Android and iOS (iPhone, iPad) share have nearly equal market share, yet ODA also supports WinRT (ARM verison of Windows 8) and WinCE (from 2005), even though their market shares are razor thin. Despite WinCE being ancient, ODA supports it because some members still use it. Indeed, DGN support was added to it this year.
I was surprised to see that Android and iOS come on so many hardware platforms. I counted 15 architectures that ODA supports. The interface is built using Qt.
Presenting the mobile work by ODA
At the Teigha Developer Conference we get to see a preview of a Teihga-based viewer running on Android, quickly zooming and rotating a 3D model of a bright yellow mobile crane. ODA is not building any mobile apps; rather, it is providing the toolkits and simple apps to show that it works.
For the future, ODA will support iOS 9, Android 6 ("Marshmallow"), Windows 10 Mobile, and native apps for iOS and Android. Almost all functionally from the desktop Teigha are found in the mobile versions -- except where functions cannot be supported by mobile.
C3D is the fast moving 3D modeling kernel from Russia. No, not the one funded by the Russia government that no one uses (so I am told), but privately developed some 25 years ago for the KOMPAS-3D MCAD software by ASCON -- the largest CAD developer in Russia.
Couple of years ago, they decided to make the C3D kernel available generally, and formed a new division to adapt it to outside use, license it, and market it. As it now normal for ASCON, they spun it off as a separate division responsible for its own profits and losses. After two years, they have signed up 17 CAD vendors and universities inside and outside Russia, and now they have adapted it to Teigha.
Oleg Zykov from C3D Labs describing his kernel for Teigha
The full kernel licensed from C3D Labs consists of four modules: modeler (solid, surface, direct, sheel metal, etc), solver (2D, 3D constraints), converter (translations of public formats), and vision (rendering with materials and textures, lights, and level of detail).
The Teigha has limited functionality, because then it is easier to implement and you pay no royalties. It does only solid modeling: it is half way between the Teigha modeler and the ASCI modeler.
It will go into beta on December 3, and then distributed by the ODA itself. Flat license fee, no royalties. It runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS, Android, C++, and C#.
The full version of C3D is available separately from https://c3dlabs.com/en/
The primary purpose of the Open Design Alliance is to keep up with advancements in the DGN and DWG file formats. In addition, the technical organization branches out into other areas, like PDF import-export and other libraries, such as those from C3D Labs and Ledas.
A survey found that ODA members are most interested in the following future technologies:
40% - doing renderings on remote servers (cloud)
40% - 3D PDF (no surprise, PDF has become the ASCII format of graphics)
30% - Point cloud data stored in DWG files
30% - Model documentation (where 2D drawings are generated from 3D models)
We're now learning the technical details about Web services from ODA. As Randall Newton tweeted,
"Autodesk has big job turning client apps into bits running as Cloud deployment. ODA perhaps more nimble in this regard. #ODA15."
TC uses LLG [low level graphics] metafile format that contains geometry and rendering instructions; users can create their own metafiles. The renderer uses NodeJS for Linux and ASP.Net on Windows; the functionality is similar and so users can switch between them.
We are now getting a demo of the Web renderer with a 10MB drawing. You can specify the layout and the type of rendering, then it takes a few moments for the rendering to show up. Switching between rendering modes is instant, as is 3D rotation.
The presenter has the Web renderer working on his tablet, and will demo it later. Future pans include sockets support for communication with TxHost instances, and stream GS data to clients.
PRC is short for "product representation compact," and not People's Republic of China. It is a file format that encapsulates 3D PDF, and just last December became an ISO standard.
The great thing for programmers end users about formats becoming ISO standards is that the format is fixed. For programmers, they are no longer chasing a moving target; for end users, they no longer need to purchase software updates. In the case of PDF files, old versions, like Acrobat 9, work just fine. Same for DOCX files: no need to ever get another update to Word. This is probably why Autodesk refuses to make DWG an ISO standard.
ODA supports PDF import and export inside of Teigha. I asked why write their own, instead of using an existing library. The problems with licensing someone else's library are lack of control, and complexity: drawings need to be exported far more accurately than other kinds of documents, and so writing their own code gives the ODA better control over the process involving complexity of drawings.
Teigha Developer Conference
Alright, here we are in beautiful Prague. Geographically, we are in Prague 6, the diplomatic area where many embassies are located, just north of Prague Castle. No wonder the hotel we're in is the Diplomat Hotel.
I am here along with fellow CAD journalist Randall Newton, typing madly to keep up with the 16 presentations today, a new one every 20-30 minutes. As Randall says, we have to remember that this is a developer conference, not a user conference. This means that some of the things we hear about we cannot report.
(Before I forget, my disclosure statement: The ODA paid for my airfare to Europe and my hotel accommodation in Prague, as well as meals today.)
ODA president Neil Peterson keynoting the developer conference
It is interesting to listen to the presentations, as I learn how some of the internals work. For example, to put a box around MText, DWG uses extended entity data.
Teigha Platform: Status and Future Plans
"Today," began ODA president Neil Peterson, "we are no longer just an import-export library." Teigha is a full development framework, upon which CAD systems can be built, including custom aware objects built on the extensible object model. Tiered royalty-free licensing, starting $100 a year for start-ups.
Getting close to 20 years old, the ODA is father to thousands of applications developed by 1,200 members that are being used by millions. The effect is laddering, as those who build CAD systems on Teigha are now seeing vertical apps being added by third-party developers.
"We are a development organization," said Mr Peterson, "and the qualities that guide our organization are:
ODA uses VMware to manage the visualization of all the platforms and configurations and compilers at a professionally-managed data center in Arizona. We're talking variants of Windows and Linux, and versions of OS X, Android, and iOS.
In addition to providing Teigha for DWG and DGN files, the ODA has integrated optional libraries. This is done as a convenience for members, who can optionally use them but pay for them separately:
Strategic directions for the ODA include...
- Strengthening the core platform
- Expanding the platform to Teigha Cloud and PRC (3D PDF)
- Adding special interest groups
"We provide a technology, not a service," concluded Mr Peterson. "We don't want to lock customers into a service; [for instance], we want them to build their own cloud technology."
We have to remember that Autodesk originally did not provide access to DWG files, insisting instead that DXF was sufficient, even though 3D modeling data in DXF was encrypted. Only after the ODA was established did Autodesk suddenly come up with its own DWG API. So, thank the ODA for getting Autodesk to open up.
Annual Open Design Alliance Conference
I'm planing next week to be in Prague for the annual Open Design Alliance developer conference. I was last in this beautiful city in 2006 (see the photo I took, at left), and so I am looking forward to being back.
September 8 is going to be a jam-packed day with these topics on the agenda:
... and new stuff not yet announced!
Day 2 is time for one-on-one interviews, where editor Randall Newton and me plan to chat with ODA execs and members. See www.opendesign.com/DeveloperConference2015.
While in Prague, I hope to blog the event live right here on WorldCAD Access starting Monday, 7 September.
Not paying $300 for a music player
Petro-Canada is one of the gas station chains in Canada, and it runs a a Mobile Virtual Network phone network like 7-Eleven does. Right now they are giving away a free Android cell phone if you buy at least $35 of time. I was switching my wife's cell phone away from Rogers (Canada's biggest and most expensive cell phone carrier), and so got the free one (worth $160) but didn't know what to do with it.
It was, after all, being given away free because it is a two-year-old phone no one would want to use any longer: 1GHz single-core CPU, 390MB operating RAM, 2GB storage RAM, 3.5" low-res 320x480 screen, and Android 4.0.4. My wife said, "Well, keep it as a spare, you never know."
The Huawei Vision U8687 phone intrigued me, because has fabulous build quality for a cheap phone; it feels solid -- the build quality we wish phones still would offer, like rubberized back, decent-sounding loudspeaker, replaceable battery, and microSD slot. The camera takes good photos, but has no flash -- but then I never use a flash, except as a flashlight.
One day I got the idea that I could turn it into a free iTouch-like music player. The microSD slot accepted a 32GB memory card I had laying around. (I tried 64GB, but the phone did not recognize it, so 32GB is the limit.) I installed music-related software, like PowerAmp Pro and AlarmClock Player. Naturally, it can run most apps from the Google store. I filled it up with music from my 110GB collection.
It works well, and it sounds good. Having a low-power CPU and small, dim display means the 1750mAh battery lasts a good while. The small size makes it portable, compared to today's monster phablets.It has a fast boot mode that starts it up in half the time of other Androids.
The 32GB memory card holds about 9,000 songs. The math works out like this: the rule of thumb is that 1GB holds about a day's worth of music. 24 hours corresponds roughly to 24 CDs, each with, say, 12 songs.
Even if you don't have a 32GB memory card (down to $11-$22 these days), the 2GB of storage memory holds two days worth of music -- nearly 600 songs.
Unlike an iTouch, my free music player comes with a SIM slot, so it can even be used as a cell phone! And it didn't cost me $300, like 32GB iTouches do in Canada.
Well, maybe two clicks
There was a time when PayPal provided us merchants a one-click method for letting customers make payments. Then they took it away, and customers had to log into PayPal, fill out forms, and so on.
Today, they brought back one-click payments, even though the short-memory tech media is calling it "new." No matter. I've implemented it in upFront.eZine for people wishing to donate to my newsletter.
Should you wish to support upFront.eZine through PayPal, then the suggested amounts are like these:
Thank you to those of you who have supported my writing all these years!
All's fine in Cloudland
Richard Hugh Davis (Canaccord Genuity analyst): So I know the cloud kind of helps you guys compete better, but one of the hardest parts that I hear from companies that are thinking about switching from one vendor to another is the fear that the engineers have with regard to their old models won't translate over seamlessly.
Is that still an issue, or is that a legacy issue? Is that a data issue or is it not an issue at all?
Carl Bass (Autodesk ceo): I think this used to be a huge issue in the industry. One of the things that we've done with both our cloud and with the products is hopefully made it more of a non-issue: we will read in models from almost any vendor, dozens and dozens of different formats and operate on them almost as if they're natively.
Look, I would be worried if I had a 77-set of plans with 12 million parts in it. So the question is not does it translate, but how do you check that it translated 100% correctly?
And so I think there are some industries that will be slower in adopting this, but I think we're getting to the point where the majority, the mainstream of customers, deal with files that come from heterogeneous systems every day and have worked through that, and have come to trust that the translation of these things just works well.
The one thing that's really good about moving this to the cloud has -- digging a little bit deeper on the technical side -- two nice benefits:
So there's a lot of benefits: sort of while we're wholly protecting the customers' data and IP, you can actually give them a much better experience, and so it's one of the many benefits of doing this cloud-based engineering.
[Reprinted from http://seekingalpha.com/article/3473396-autodesk-adsk-carl-bass-on-q2-2016-results-earnings-call-transcript. Edited for clarity.]