Monday, December 31, 2007

My VB.NET Odyssey - Part 1

I am attempting to learn VB.Net scripting and it's all great fun. There's nothing like the tingly thrill of a dialog box popping up with the information you told it to show.

In deciding to want to learn to develop little scripts I had to figure out if I needed to learn full-on Visual Basic before learning VB.Net. Turns out the answer is no. Thank goodness.

First, I downloaded Visual Studio Express 2008. It's free as long as you are just learning and not planning on selling your apps. If you are planning on being the next add-on king and selling your stuff, you'll need full-on Visual Studio 2008. That will set you back a mere $170.
There's great little videos introducing people to the Visual Studio Express interface on the MSDN beginners page.

The trouble with Visual Studio Express and wanting to play with AutoCAD is that you are not able to tell Visual Studio that you want to fire up AutoCAD when testing or debugging your scripts. So I downloaded this little gem, which sets up an "AutoCAD Managed VB Application" template for you. As long as you start new Visual Studio Express 2008 projects with that, you're good to go.

Once I had that going for me, I watched some Autodesk DevTV. Fenton Webb is the kindly voice behind the video. If you downloaded the AutoCAD Managed VB Application thingy you can disregard all the stuff about adding acdbmgd.dll and acmgd.dll as resources.
I had to pause a bunch and try things before it all sunk in. Don't even think about looking at this video before you do some of the MSDN beginner exercises.
Happy New Year, Lovelies!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Firing Clients

In all my proselytizing about the virtues of Civil 3D and other Autodesk products I've come into contact with several clients I think, "Are these people really worth my angst?"

I've got a handful of examples of clients that I've advised a sales person to run far, far away from:

Example 1:
There was the one group of people who had seen a demo by my esteemed colleague Russ. To my annoyance, the sales person thew a demo copy of Civil 3D 2008 their way. They had not purchased software or any services but were calling into the tech support line fishing for free training. One gal called me and actually asked, "Yeah, I installed Civil 3D. Can you tell me how to use it?" I explained that a Civil 3D class is a three-day course but I gave her some resources to go to; help files, blogs and Autodesk tutorials.

A few weeks later, they decided they needed to see a test drive. Our test drives are basically hands-on demos that last about three hours. The sales person arranged a special demo just for this company - which is pretty unusual for us. At the beginning of the demo I clearly stated that the intention of the test drive is to familiarise clients with the capabilities of the software and introduce them to the interface. My favorite little line I use is, "This isn't even the tip of the iceberg. I'm just making you a sno-cone." While attempting to proceed through the exercises, they had a barrage of questions that clearly indicated they were already attempting to use it in production but were looking for free training. At this point I was annoyed- but remained professional and polite. I answered their questions - but prefaced each answer with, "In the training class we go into this topic in much more detail, but the answer to your question is..." We ended up going an hour past my usual time-frame. To this day they have not spent a penny.

Example 2:
In this example - I'm not sure who fired whom. He had a Land Desktop quote from a competitor and wanted a quote from us. I told the sales person we should not sell new Land Desktop seats and that we should explain why going to Civil 3D right off the bat would be better. [Note, the client is currently using base ACAD to produce subdivision plans.] So the sales person arranged a call and I explained what is happening with the product he wanted. The client was stubborn as a mule and full of misinformation about Civil 3D. The last demo he had seen was Civil 3D 2006. I explained that much has changed since then. The prospect said that he had seen a lot of sloppy engineering coming out of companies using Civil 3D. I said that the software is a tool, not a replacement engineer and that any sloppy user can produce sloppy results. He said, "I heard you need a full time CAD manager just to keep people running in Civil 3D." I said, "It is much easier to manage than Land Desktop or even base AutoCAD." He came up with a bunch more excuses, and said, "Well, if you don't want to sell me what I want, I'll go to [your competitor]." Frankly, I'm glad. If our competition wants to sell people the wrong tools just to make a buck - let them deal with a bull-headed client.

Example 3:
Lastly, there's the crass, incompetent "CAD manager." More like "CAD Mangler". His users are such sweet, nice dudes. The CAD manager likes to yell and intimidate - probably to mask the fact that he has no idea what he's doing. I was on-site with him just yesterday which is the inspiration for this post. When I was at their offices last year I migrated their custom MNU/MNL/MNS stuff to CUI and basically set up a bunch of network shared resources. Previous to my arrival yesterday the Mangler moved some files, which broke some tools. Since he didn't know his way around CAD setup, he basically copied the files over and over into different locations until things started working again. What was really going on was he got lucky and managed to copy files into a support file search path. Dumbass. Of course when I got there yesterday, the custom CUI "just stopped working." After many hours of beating it with my brain (and calling Russ to help) I finally concluded that the CUI file was corrupt and needed rebuilding. The Mangler demanded to know why it became corrupt - clearly *I* had done something to it when I built it last year. Of course none of the changes he made to the menus were the culprit - and the fact that he didn't make backups was somehow my fault too. He loudly proclaimed in his absurd Bronx accent, "I'm not happy dammit!" I left the office reassuring him that we would fix it as best we could via Webex after I had a chance to look at it.

I don't want to fire the whole company - but I want to somehow let the higher-ups know what an ignorant buffoon this guy is.

After doing some research in preparation for writing this post, I found some great articles for further reading on "Firing Clients"

How to do it. By Andrew Neitlich
When to do it. By Christopher Hawkens

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hydraflow Webcast

Y'all know that Autodesk purchased Intellisolve (makers of Hydraflow), right?

At AU, Autodesk announced that Hydraflow will be available for download to Civil 3D subscription customers any day now for no additional charge.

This is from Autodesk's Steve Gonda:

Join us for this week’s Civil 3D webcast, an Introduction to the Hydraflow Storm Sewers Extension for AutoCAD Civil 3D. Dave Simeone, Civil 3D Product Manger, will give an overview of the new storm sewers extension functionality, provide details on how this functionality will be made available to our customers, and review the recommended workflow for integrating analysis operations with the layout, design, and drafting capabilities of Civil 3D 2008.

Note: Registration is required. To register visit:

Topic: Introduction to AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 Storm Sewers Extension
Date: Fri, December 7, 2007, 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST)
Duration: 60 minutes
Registration is required

Audio Information:
USA Toll Free Number: 888-593-9101
Toll Number: 1-517-623-4532
Leader: Heather MacKenzie
Passcode: Civil 3D

AutoCAD for Linux - sha right.

My hubby sent me this link (thanks hunny).
Note the AutoCAD reference at the end of the article.

It seems like the people who ask me about AutoDesk products for non-windows os's are mostly non-CAD people. The thing is, Autodesk is emphasising the vertical markets so much there would be essentially verticals within verticals depending on which OS you needed. That's a lot of codestreams to maintain. Vanilla AutoCAD might be a good candidate.

Just an interesting tidbit I thought I'd share.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Post AU Post

This was my week:

The hubby and I arrive at the the Venetian. 9000+ people did the same thing. I picked up my badge with flair. The rest of the night, stays in Vegas.

The opening session, "Designing the Future," was a little...overwhelming? Sensory overload, but cool. Thousands of people in a dark room with techno music going. It was just a few hits of X away from being a rave. No rave is complete without Yves Behar, Lynn Allen and Carl Bass.

"Highway Interchange Design" was very useful. I've always had trouble grading gore areas, and Andrew Walther helped straighten a few things up for me.

"AutoCAD .NET Basics" parts 1 and 2 with Stephen Preston was a little less basic than I was hoping, but still useful. It is currently my new personal mission to learn VB.NET.

The hubby and I went to Zumanity. Nuff said.

Wednesday morning I went to my first session but was fighting a migraine. I ended up going back to the room to take medicine, then rested till it passed. The afternoon was 5 hours with Partha Sarkar. Learning about the Civil 3D API's. By the end I think Partha thought I was stalking him.

That night was a Caribbean Party...which basically meant that the parking garage where we ate had different color table cloths. I did see Dana and the crew from EE. I finally met James Wedding in person. Such great people. Right next to them was the gang from Eagle Point. It was a one stop social shop.

Thursday: "Polylines to the Rescue" by Michael Choquette was great. Even though he works for a competitor reseller, I had to admit he knew his stuff and was a great presenter.

Then I stalked Partha again at "Subassemblies Using .NET"

Mark Scacco, of EE, taught us how to make a slick spreadsheet and play with pipes. There were lots of, "I never thought of that!" moments.

Dana taught about stormwater management tasks. Which is good because it is what I used to do in the "real world." I never thought of turning on my elevations to see a better 3D relief. Hot damn!

"Scripting your way to Sanity" with John Herrman was dangerous. I can now delete and add registry keys with a few lines of text. Muaahhaahaa.

That night's reception theme was "Party Like It's 1982." By then I was a little too fried. A common assumption people make about me is that I like to party. Well, I do, but with way fewer people. I'm a little crowd-phobic. We ate and ran. Fast.

Were they saving the best for last on purpose? Road reconstruction with Radomir Lazic was killer. I learned the most new stuff from this session. Plus Rad has a rad Aussie-Russo accent.

Then I had Visualization Techniques with Jack Strongitharm. Not only do I want to pick the man's brain about everything he knows, I want to do it over a few pints of Guinness. He seems like a hoot. And his presentation was excellent.

Ahhh...and done. A long, hard week of thinking, negotiating crowds, schmoozing, learning, keeping up with support email, prepping for a class next week, and oh yeah, dealing with Vegas. I'm not really a Vegas kinda gal.

And that's all folks.