Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Go here instead-  it's all fresh. http://civil3detcetera.blogspot.com/?view=classic

This blog is Ponderosa. The new blog is Golden Corral! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Did You Know...AU Virtual is FREE?

Autodesk University is an event I've only been to twice - but never plan on missing again.  It is a much needed change of scenery in a month when weather is dreary.  8000+ Autodesk users infected with the energy of Las Vegas makes for one heck of a cool crowd. Networking is huge for me. Top it off with endless learning opportunities, booze, parties, opportunities to see new technology and even more booze - you've pretty much nailed my version of a perfect vacation. [Yes, I am a total dork.  The only thing that would make this better would be nightly math competitions].

Sadly, not everyone's employer finds value in sending people out for a few days of Nerdvana. Whether you have too much to do or work for a cheap bastard, you can still enjoy the learning opportunities.  Join the AU community for free - then starting November 15th sign up for AU virtual classes.

Register for AU Virtual here: http://au.autodesk.com/?nd=auv2011_event

 Here's a sneak peak at some of the Civil 3D and Map classes I'm planning to look at:

Session ID
Class Type
Are You STILL Not Using AutoCAD® Civil 3D®?
Steve Biver
November 15, 2011
AutoCAD® Map 3D Functionality in AutoCAD Civil 3D®: How to Use Geospatial Data in Civil 3D
Seth Cohen
November 15, 2011
What's New in AutoCAD® Civil 3D® 2012?
Joshua Coombs
November 15, 2011
Incredible AutoCAD® Civil 3D® Users: Prove your Credibility with Civil 3D Certification, Part 2
Michelle Rasmussen
November 15, 2011
AutoCAD® Civil 3D®: Workflow for Visualization Using Civil View and Autodesk® 3ds Max® Design
John Sayre
November 15, 2011
I’m a Civil Engineer: Why Should I Care About GIS?
Rick Ellis
November 29, 2011
Swept Path Analysis for AutoCAD® Civil 3D®
Robert Gadbaw
November 29, 2011
Tales from the Road: Five Years of Corridor Modeling Lessons Learned
David Zavislan
November 29, 2011
Capitalize on Corridor Improvements in AutoCAD® Civil 3D® 2012
Don Quinn
November 29, 2011
Better Infrastructure Planning with AutoCAD® Map 3D
Michael Schlosser
November 29, 2011

Bring the Field into the Office: Using High-Resolution Oblique Imagery with   AutoCAD® Map 3D
Geoff Zeiss
November 29, 2011

Once you are signed up as an AU member, you can access classes from past AUs - a  benefit that used to be reserved for conference attendees.  I go up there ALL THE TIME to look at tips and tricks, network install acrobatics and brush up on functionality. 

If you will be at the real AU...see you there.  Take my Civil 3D for Beginners class. 

If you can't...bummer.  Sign up as an AU member.  Check out the AU virtual classes.

...and BYOB.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Introspection on a Blog (A Manifesto)

An incident occurred last week that made me think deeply about the question: Why do I blog?  Do I blog to disseminate information? (Yes.) Do I blog to show off how witty/adorable/precious/smart I am? (OK, maybe a little.) Do I blog to flex my first amendment rights as an American citizen to express myself freely? (I do now.)

Mostly, I blog because civil design software is complex shit. My now defunct Eagle Point software blog was very similar to this one - trouble shooting, how to's and a compendium of new tools I've learned. When you are asking a computer to do what Civil 3D, In-Roads, GeoPak, Carlson, Eagle Point, CivilCAD, Torus etc do, you're orders of magnitude more complex than typing a Word doc. As an end-user and a support person I feel compelled to keep a record of the successes or problems I've had. I keep these things on record first and foremost for me, and if someone else finds it useful then...awesome. The point is not to stroke anyone's ego or make any money from blogging (I haven't.) The point is to give a realistic picture of the good, the bad and the ugly of the software who's existence pays my mortgage.

If I did not believe in this product, I would not be doing what I do. I would not demo, teach and support hundreds of users on a software that I didn't think could truly change the way engineers work in a positive way.

Last week I was asked to modify a blog post that was perceived to be too negative. My emotions ran the gamut. Initially, I was indignant, then remorseful, sad, then angry.  My mouse hovered over the "Delete Blog" button. While my assessment was less than sunshine and rainbows, I felt (and still feel) that it is a realistic snapshot of what is going on with the software side of things of a large project I am involved with. Realistic, but not libelous.  Frank and controversial but not immoral or illegal. I was not violating any NDA or giving up design secrets of any of my customers.

Is Civil 3D the best possible tool on the market for designing large roadway projects? Absolutely, YES.
Is it insane how much computation goes on and how quickly when generating design data? Amazing.
Does Civil 3D do things that drive me (and my end-users) up the wall sometimes? Um. Yeah.

The censorship topic still hits a raw nerve for me. I am still sad and angry.  I'm sad that my honesty was perceived as negativity.  I apologize if anyone thought I was "calling their baby ugly." Nothing I wrote was intended to be as such. I'm sad that I need to be more careful with future posts.

I'm angry at how I heard about the "controversy". To this day, I have not been spoken to directly by any of the people who requested the take-down. I had to hear about it through my employer - who I attempt to separate from this often foul-language blog. The only reason I relented and took down the information is that I really care about the company that I work for. I did not want to put my managers in a position of defending a stupid blog post on my behalf.

This ain't my first rodeo, boys.  If you have a problem with anything I've written, I encourage you to call me on the carpet directly. Argue my points. Prove me wrong. Read me the riot act, but don't ever let me find out about it through the grapevine again. [Sidenote - how many metaphors have I used in this paragraph?] Leave a comment. Call me. Email me. Tweet me.  I'm damn easy to find.

The temptation to delete this blog has passed.  More than ever, I feel like I have something to say, and will continue to write, piss people off and contribute to the body of knowledge on design software.  My understanding of how my users work and their "pain points" is extremely deep. Through teaching, I know exactly where people have hangups learning the software and what parts are easy.  Sorry its not all roses and puppies - but I know what I'm talking about. If I'm lucky, someone might even listen.

I'm only here to help.

-Peace out

ps Seriously - talk to me.  I love feedback for better or for worse.  Don't you?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

AutoCAD 2012 Tips & Tricks

I put together the following sheet for a short class I did the other day.  Do enjoy. 

Polyline Editing Tips
What it does:
Sys. variable <1>
Automatically accepts conversion of lines, arcs and splines when joining a polyline.
Allows you to reverse the direction of a line.  This way linetypes with text appear upright when needed.

Text Tips
What it does:
express tool
Automatically creates a wipeout to block items behind text.
express tool
Removes same
Sys. Variable or
In drawings with lots of text, it makes text look “blocky” on zooming and panning to improve speed and performance.
Forces the draw order of all text to the front
express tool
Alternative to explode that keeps attribute text at its current value
Drawing setting
Sets the default height for text where the style contains a text height of  0.

Viewport Tips
What it does:
One-stop shop for aligning and rotating multiple viewports. 
Creates a new, rectangular paperspace viewport
Stands for regen all.  Best for regen-ing when you have multiple viewports

Misc. Cool Tips
What it does:
Helps create same object type on the same layer without using an icon. (Also available in the right-click menu for any object)
Selects objects that have the same layer and are of the same object type.
Shift + spacebar
Hot key
Cycles through objects that are on top of each other so you don’t need to change draw order on the fly.
Grip + spacebar
Hot key
After you click a grip for a block, you can force a simple move command into rotate, mirror scale or copy by hitting the spacebar.
Tab to cycle commands
Hot key
Key-in the first few letters the command or variable you are looking for.  Hit tab to search for items with those letters.
Sys Variable <1>
Instead of “stacking up” open files on your Windows task bar, this shows open drawings as an icon.
Express tool
Cleans up a drawing by removing duplicate lines
Sys variable <0>
Controls if “ghosted” display of annotative text appears.
Forces the draw order of all hatches  to the back
Sys variable <3>to<100>
Controls how “zoomy” your mouse wheel is. 100 is the biggest zoom per turn.
Forces paperspace objects to model and vice versa.
Forces objects that have properties set that differ from the layer settings to conform.
Brings back last deleted object without using undo.

The I-39 Chronicles: Part 1 (Take 2)

Historically, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has not required consultants to use any particular software package.  In most cases, a PDF is the desired deliverable.  Project managers at the state have always had the power to require specific forms of data, but rarely do so.  Until now.

For the I-39/90 improvement project, WisDOT has taken the unprecedented action of requiring Civil 3D for design development and all submittal drawings. 

Wow! This is a first for us.  In fact, I think it might be a first in the country for a DOT project of such magnitude (~45 miles & 12 interchanges) to be modeled in Civil 3D.  That's a lot of data, but I have every confidence that when set up correctly, these projects will come though with flying colors.  

Here's what I have advised so far (with the collaboration of two of the main consultants designing the southern portion):

They will import the LIDAR data into Civil 3D 2012 and export the simplified surface model via LandXML to 2010.
  • They will use data shortcuts extensively to keep the size of the DWG's down.  
    • Surfaces
    • Alignments
    • Profiles +  Corridors (keep profiles with corridor so we can utilize locking)
    • Grading
    • Final Surfaces
    • Storm
  • No more than 2 miles of straightaway per corridor drawing.  
  • Interchanges will be in their own corridor drawings.  Complex interchanges will be broken down into several drawings. 
I feel immense pressure to have the software-end of the project go well.  Most of the consultants involved are my clients who I've trained or supported in other projects. This project has the potential to be a stellar success story.

...and I can't wait to tell it. 

I will tell it honestly, in it's entirety, with no editing or interference by any party.