Software as a service is great…

…for some things. The other day, I amused myself by creating a video using a site called Xtranormal. You’ve probably seen 3D cartoon-like videos of people with stilted voices. It’s done by signing up for a free account, choosing a background and some characters, then typing in your script. This is converted, generally fairly successfully, to spoken words. The characters lip-sync to your script, you publish the video and you’re done. If you have a YouTube account, the site will upload the video for you. Video creation service provided on line, video hosting and viewing service provided on line. No problem. Here it is; this blog’s readership is not the intended audience, so you probably won’t find it particularly amusing. Could the video creation have been done using a standalone application rather than doing it on line? Absolutely. It may well have been quicker on my PC, but using this SaaS was fine. It performed well enough to be usable. Somebody taking my work isn’t an issue, as I always intended to show it publicly anyway. The worst that can happen is that my email address is abused, but it’s easy to make a throwaway email address. I think that for this trivial recreational task, SaaS technology was absolutely appropriate. If the site had been unavailable or my Internet connection had been down, it wouldn’t have really mattered. If YouTube goes down for an hour and people can’t view my video, so what? If YouTube closes my account and makes all my videos unavailable, that would be more annoying but still not fatal. So, full steam ahead for CAD on the Cloud, then? Er, no. It has yet to be shown that the Cloud is the appropriate technology for that particular use. I’m sure it will be, for some specialist…

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Australian Fencing Championship 2011

I have been away in Sydney for a while, attending the Australian Fencing Championships. I fenced in five events with uneven success (I came 52nd out of 70 in the Open Foil, for example), but a few things made me happy. First, I was able to fence for Western Australia in the Team Foil event as captain of the WA ‘B’ team, which put up a decent performance in going down to a strong ACT ‘A’ team. Next, I came 6th in the Veteran Foil; down from last year’s 2nd, but quite respectable given the strength of the field. The event I was really concentrating on, the one in which I most wanted to do well, was the Veteran Sabre. I fenced pretty well through the pools and direct elimination bouts and got through to the final. There, I faced an opponent who had beaten everybody else that day, and I had trouble maintaining the same level of performance. Who would come through to be crowned national champion for 2011? Watch the video (YouTube, 3:02 long) of the Veteran Men’s Sabre Final to find out: I’m on the left. If a red light goes on, I’ve hit him. If he hits me, it’s a green light. If both lights go on, we’ve both hit each other within 120 milliseconds and the referee awards the hit based on right-of-way rules. Veteran direct elimination bouts are fought until one fencer scores ten hits. Link to results.

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Fencing in Canberra – video

It’s about time I posted about something other than the Cloud, or even CAD. Every year, there are four national-level fencing competitions in Australia. As they are almost all held on the other side of the continent, I don’t get to compete in them as often as I’d like. However, a couple of months ago I did have the opportunity to compete in the third of these competitions for 2011, held this year in Canberra. This was very special to me because my mother and sister were in the audience and it was the first time either of them had ever seen me fence. It was also special because my sabre coach, Frank Kocsis, flew out to be with me and his other students. Frank has taken only two years to move me from complete sabre novicehood to being competitive at national level, particularly in the veteran (over-40) events. This is not an entirely Cloud-free post, because this video of me fencing in the Veteran Men’s Sabre Semi-Final (2:49 long) is hosted on YouTube: I’m on the right. If a green light goes on, I’ve hit him. If he hits me, it’s a red light. If both lights go on, we’ve both hit each other within 120 milliseconds and the referee awards the hit based on right-of-way rules. Veteran direct elimination bouts (like this semi-final) are fought until one fencer scores ten hits. If you want to see how the winner of the semi-final did, here is the Final (4:46).

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Carl Bass on TV

Autodesk big cheese Carl Bass gets a friendly interview on NBC’s Press:Here (amusing name, “press colon here”). It’s kind of funny seeing CAD described by non-CAD people (the presenters, not Carl). Among other things, he discusses being fired by Carol Bartz, Autodesk’s role in Avatar, the benefits of piracy, iPhones, 3D printing, open source and Autodesk being green. I’ve embedded the two Bassy bits here for convenience; these embeds will display ads that are not under my control. Edit: I’ve removed the embedded clips as they were slowing down this whole site for some users and even disabling some features. If you want to view the interview, please go to Press:Here and look at Episode 46 Autodesk Part 1 and Episode 46 Autodesk Part 2.

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Autodesk’s cloudy drawing offering

Autodesk’s Project Butterfly is its latest offering in the Cloud (Software as a Service, SaaS, web-based software, whatever) area. This is a Labs technology preview (i.e. it ain’t cooked yet) of browser-based drawing system based on Autodesk’s purchase of Visual Tao. The idea is that no software other than a browser is required to create, edit or just view drawings. To try it out, head to http://butterfly.autodesk.com/ and pick on Try Now. If you’re interested in going further with it, you will need to create an account, which is a quick and painless process. This account is separate from your Autodesk ID. For more details, see Scott Sheppard’s posts here and here, the Project Butterfly blog, and the Project Butterfly page on the Autodesk Labs site, which includes a series of videos such as this one: I’ve had a brief play with it and while it’s not as horribly slow as I had feared (the Ribbon is much quicker than AutoCAD’s, although that’s not difficult), it’s currently an extremely limited environment. Other than viewing and some very crude drawing operations, pretty much everything I wanted to do either couldn’t be done, or couldn’t be done in a satisfactory way. Once I had discovered how to get a drawing out of the clouds and in my own hands (it’s not Save As), the export crashed with an HTTP Status 500 error. Apparently, the server encountered an internal error () that prevented it from fulfilling this request. Teething problems aside, it’s hard to imagine anyone accustomed to full-featured CAD software actually spending all day drawing with this mechanism. In fact, I can’t imagine spending more than an hour on it before tearing my hair out; a few minutes was enough. It’s perfectly adequate for viewing and marking up, but as a drafting…

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Bug watch – identify this insect

No, not the Bug Watch, just a bug you can watch. Does anybody know what this insect is? It is the second one of these we’ve found in our home in Western Australia. It’s very active and it smells horrible. YouTube Link For those of you who can’t access YouTube, here are some photos of the bug: A higher resolution version of the above picture is available here. This is the bug about to be given its freedom: On release, it buried itself in our lawn: In 25 years in Australia, I had never seen one of these until recently. Any ideas?

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A gaggle of geeks

Time to lighten things up a bit, I think. While attending the AutoCAD 2010 product launch in San Francisco on 5 February 2009, I conducted a series of micro-interviews with a collection of AutoCAD bloggers and Autodesk employees. One geek asks 14 other geeks if they are geeks; nothing too serious here. I hope Shaan enjoys my tabloid journalist editing job right at the end. YouTube link. Thanks to all the interviewees: Heidi Hewett, Autodesk blogger Lynn Allen, Autodesk blogger Melanie Perry, blogger Robin Capper, blogger Brian Benton, blogger Todd Shackelford, blogger Jon Page, Autodesk person Matt Stein, Autodesk person and personal blogger Shaan Hurley, Autodesk blogger Donnie Gladfelter, blogger Ellen Finklestein, blogger David Cohn, blogger Mark Douglas, blogger Guillermo Melantoni, Autodesk person (still waiting for that blog, Guillermo!) What is the collective noun for geeks, anyway?

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Autodesk not listening? The response, part 1.

While attending the AutoCAD 2010 launch today, I took the opportunity to interview three Autodesk people: Eric Stover, Jon Page and Shaan Hurley. I raised the issue of Autodesk being seen as not listening to its customers, and was given a very comprehensive response. Here is the first of two parts of that interview. YouTube link. Disclosure: Transport, accommodation and some meals were provided by Autodesk.

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Video – Deciphered lyrics

Here’s another video I have done to the music of Swedish metal band Opeth (the first one is here). This band’s latest album, Watershed, does not come with conventional lyrics in the booklet, but rather a page full of rune-type characters. There are actually two different pages in different editions of the album, and in order to work out the lyrics you need to rotate the pages, work out a substitution cipher and combine the two sources. To save you the trouble of doing all that, here are the lyrics of Heir Apparent. This is the only song on the album that contains only angry Cookie Monster vocals (beware!), so without my expert deciphering efforts (ahem!) it would be rather difficult for the uninitiated to know what the song was all about. If you can put up with the vocals, I think you’ll enjoy this! YouTube link.

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Video – Misheard lyrics

This blog is supposed to a strange mix of AutoCAD, music, image manipulation and video, but so far it has been a bit light on in the latter three categories. This post will redress the balance a little. This is a silly video I made based on the song Ghost of Perdition from the album Ghost Reveries by Swedish metal band Opeth. I’m sure the music won’t be to the liking of many of you, particularly as the vocals are partly in the “death grunt” style. If you’ve never heard a death grunt, just try to imagine Cookie Monster singing while he’s really, really angry about something. For the record, I prefer my vocals “clean” but this style is easy to mishear, leading to general amusement (hopefully). Parental guidance: contains very mild nudity, very slightly offensive language and an oblique drug reference. You’ll have to be quick to spot them, though. I consider this safe to show to kids (as long as you think the vocals won’t give them nightmares), but some of you may not agree. YouTube link.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Video from product managers

I generally dislike blogs that just regurgitate contents from elsewhere, so I’m going against the grain here to repost something from Shaan Hurley’s Between the Lines blog. Shaan has been a bit quiet over the past few weeks, but has recently made up for this with a vengeance. A flurry of new posts has pushed this video way down the page, so you may well have missed it. I’m always happy to see Autodesk communicating with its customers (even if I don’t agree with what’s being said), so I decided to bring it to your attention. Here, Autodesk product managers Eric Stover and Doug Cochran show off some of the new features of AutoCAD 2009. It seems Doug is very keen on the use of the words “quick” and “quickly”. Hopefully, that means we will see some serious attention paid to AutoCAD’s performance soon, because it could certainly do with it. This video may lack professional gloss, but I don’t care. In fact, I much prefer something that looks like it hasn’t been processed through a PR committee before we’re allowed to see it. I hope we see more communication like this soon from the real people behind the Autodesk corporate facade.

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Customer Service 2 – Don McMillan

My last customer service story was about McDonald’s. This one is about Donald Mc., but there the similarity ends. After I returned from Autodesk University 2006, I decided to buy a DVD from the comedian that Autodesk put on before the Blue Man Group, Don McMillan. As you’re reading a CAD blog, you are probably geeky enough to appreciate this man’s funny engineeroid slant on life. The likelihood is actually 93.6%. (Did you know that 74.7% of statistics quoted on the Internet are made up?) I wanted to show my wife this funny guy and re-live some of the moments from his show, so I visited his web site and attempted to order the DVD. Unfortunately, his on-line shopping company would not accept orders from Australia, so I dropped him an email. He asked for a US$ money order, but they’re an expensive pain here. I happened to have some cash left over from my trip, so I sent that to him instead. As soon as I informed him that the money was in the mail, he sent off the DVD (which comes with a bonus CD too). My money (it was actually $1.05 too much because of the US$ denominations I had handy) and his DVD crossed in the mail, arriving at about the same time. We trusted each other, and it worked. I was surprised and delighted to discover that Don had shipped not only the DVD with its bonus CD, but another different bonus CD too! With a hand-written note from Don which was, amusingly, on a Post-It note. The DVD and both CDs were, as expected, very funny. Top service, top product, thank you Don! Artist site: www.technicallyfunny.com

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AutoCAD on Linux – Video

Lots of people get excited at the prospect of AutoCAD running under Linux. I’m not one of those people, but for those of you that are, here’s a video from a Linux enthusiast that shows AutoCAD running in an environment that’s doing all kinds of cool geeky stuff. It’s not mine and it’s from October 2006: YouTube Link Cool if you like that kind of thing, that is. I think the effects would drive me mad after a short period of dorkoid enthusiasm, but of course being Linux it would all be under complete user control. Before you get too excited, I should point out that this is AutoCAD 2000, that is, software from last century. It’s running on Ubuntu Dapper with XGL installed and it required the copying of DLLs around from a Windows installation. It’s not supported (of course), and there’s no way of seeing what the real-world drafting performance and reliability is like. It’s a cool fun exercise for somebody with far more nerdish street cred than myself, but it’s not an environment I would use to earn a living.

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Autodesk University 2006 Video

I didn’t make this video and it’s old news, but as I contributed some photos and I’m in it, I guess I’m entitled to link to it in my blog now I have one. If nothing else, you can use it to see what I look like (unfortunately). Except I now look different. By the way, I meant everything I said in this video. Autodesk University is an awesome event. Created by Helge Brettschneider, originally posted on Between The Lines by Shaan Hurley. YouTube Link

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Lynn Allen’s Famous Cell Phone Story

Whatever the subject, Autodesk evangelist and fellow Cadalyst writer Lynn Allen always gives a very entertaining and informative presentation. If you attend one and you’re lucky, you might get to hear this now infamous story. This footage was taken at Autodesk University, Las Vegas, November 2006. Sorry the sound’s not the best, you may need to turn it up a bit. YouTube Link

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