Thursday, December 31, 2009

Barely Legal?

We all know how easy it is to install and activate software. Autodesk activations department gives you the benefit of the doubt, and will reauthorize almost anything. Don't let this get you in DEEP trouble!

Those activations are closely watched. I once had to vouch for a client/friend who was having trouble getting his network license manager going because of hardware problems on the server. We ended up needing to request codes several times within a short period - which threw a big red flag in the Autodesk system. I spoke with some really nice people at the license compliance department and explained what was going on.

If you think your company might be out of compliance with your license agreement, both Autodesk and your reseller will bend over backwards to get you in line as inexpensively as possible. We'll look at our records and compare them to yours - heck, you may even find out you can install more!

However, if you were recently laid off and want to hit the bastards where it hurts, why not report them to the Business Software Alliance (BSA). You can even get a reward as a percentage of the value of software.

Members of the BSA include Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Bentley, SolidWorks, and Microsoft, just to name a few. Their purpose in life is to combat software piracy worldwide. If you don't play ball - they can come after offending companies or individuals with an army of lawyers.

Here's what happens if a company is found with illegal seats of software, and refuses to get straight (Source: person I know who went through it several years ago):

  • For every seat of illegal software: $150,000 fine.

  • The IT guy in charge of your machine gets fined $10,000.

  • The IT guy's boss is also fined $10,000.

  • The IT guy's boss' boss gets fined $10,000.

If you are caught selling illegal copies of software, you will probably do some jail time in addition to the fines.

Now, those are the maximums. Most of the time, BSA members settle out of court for far less.

For example, this past year a civil engineering company in Nevada settled with Autodesk for $205,000. In that case, Autodesk gave the company a chance to do an internal audit and do the right thing. When the result of the company's internal audit denied any wrongdoing, ("Nope, no illegal software here. Nothing here but us chickens...") the BSA got to suing. Read the full article here.

Before it gets to this point, companies (especially Autodesk) give you a chance to get into compliance with your license agreement. Nobody wants to spend the money going to court over something so stupid and fixable.

Here's more information about how Autodesk will help you stay legal.

I encourage you all to do the right thing...unless your former employer has it coming!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's a Christmas Corridor!

Happy Christmas and a groovy New Year. We will soon be in those few precious months where the calendar year and the latest Autodesk release align.

May the magic of the season stay with you all year.

The corridor shown here was created with offset alignments with 11 widening regions each. Then I tweaked a few styles for the decor.

Now if I had really been feeling ambitious I'd have modeled a star on top like an intersection...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

AutoCAD Skills for Civil 3D: Part 3

It's that time again! Another installment of my who-know-how-many-part series. This time we're talking about the use and wonders of the Properties palette in AutoCAD.

Have a great weekend!


-Lou "Hot Grips" Holland

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

AutoCAD Skills for Civil 3D: Part 2

I've been putting together a series for brand-new users of AutoCAD who are getting ready to learn Civil 3D. You don't need to know AutoCAD inside out, but understanding the basics is huge. This originally was a ten-part series but it has grown a bit.

Part 2 is ready! AutoCAD skills for Civil 3D: Part-2 Selecting things!

Part 1 is still available: AutoCAD skills for Civil 3D: Part 1 Getting to know the interface.

Coming soon: Part 3: AutoCAD Properties

Have fun!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Save the Tatas!

Breasts are near and dear to my heart. I was delighted to discover that Shaan Hurley of Autodesk is also a fan. If Shaan can raise $2000 by AU2009 (NEXT WEEK!) he will shave his head at the Autodesk Blogger's Social.

What can you do?

For everyone who follows the blog, Greg Arkin is donating $1 to the Susan G. Komen foundation for the Cure. He's hoping that like-minded people will donate as well.

Let's do this! Click here to donate.

Remember, you can't motorboat prosthetic funbags.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

AutoCAD Skills for Civil 3D: Part 1

Folks, you don't need to be an AutoCAD guru before you learn Civil 3D 2010. However, you do need to know some basics or you will get lost, frustrated and/or confused when working in Civil 3D.

Lately, I've been teaching a lot of Microstation/Caice users how to use Civil 3D - and finding that the best approach is to spend at least a day focusing on just the AutoCAD side of things.

The following is part one of my 10-part series AutoCAD Skills for Civil 3D.

The document is called 10 AutoCAD skills, but that's a bit of a misnomer. It is more like 10 general topics to be aware of.


Happy Thanksgiving to my US friends. Happy Belated Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends. Happy early Pongal to my Indian friends.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

CAD Quickie

As you know, I am a huge fan of using the Overlay option when working with external reference files. Read this post to find out why. I recently discovered a system variable that will help you by forcing the default attachment type to Overlay.


Set this system variable to 1 to default to overlay all the time.

For some of you, I'm sure this is old news, but for me I was tickled pink to find it.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

AutoDesk "See the Difference Tour" Virtual

Haven't decided if the Autodesk 2010 products are for you?

November 17th, Autodesk takes its 2010 roadshow into the cyberwebs.

Register for this online event now. There will even be a virtual trade show area - where you can chat live with yours truly. The web interface for the virtual event is more fun and interactive than your average webcast.

View informative sessions including:

  • AutoCAD 2010 Tips & Techniques with Lynn Allen
  • The AutoCAD Family of Products with Shaan Hurley
  • The World of 3D Modeling with Heidi Hewett

Be sure to stop by the MasterGraphics booth and say "Hi!"

Monday, November 02, 2009

Eagle Point to Retire RoadCalc, Surface Modeling Products

It is the end of an era. After November 2011, the products that launched Eagle Point into the competitive world of civil engineering software will be retired.

The modules being retired are:

  • RoadCalc
  • COGO
  • Surface Modeling
  • Storm Sewers
  • Sanitary Sewers
  • Watershed Modeling

The last version of AutoCAD that Eagle Point will make these modules for is version 2012. The Microstation compatible versions of these modules are also being retired.

Users can get technical support for Eagle Point's legacy software through the end of calendar year 2011.

Eagle Point has transitioned into building add-on products for Civil, Civil 3D and Revit. From

"With AutoCAD Civil 3D now in its 5th major release, we are excited about
standardizing on Civil 3D as our development platform. This means that we are
able to focus our energy on developing new technologies that help you complete
your land development, transportation, and environmental projects better, faster
and more affordably than ever before."

If you find yourself in a position where you'd like to transition from Eagle Point to AutoCAD Civil or AutoCAD Civil 3D - stay tuned. I'll be posting more on this topic over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You Know You're an AutoCAD Geek When...

  1. Someone asks you what your favorite color is and you say, "190".
  2. You've rubbed off the letters in the ESC key.
  4. You ask your mom to "plot" the directions to your aunt's house.
  5. You believe there is no such thing as too many monitors.
  6. You think hand-drafted drawings are "adorable!"
  7. You refer to cleaning your glasses as "doing a REGEN."
  8. You create detailed floorplans before moving any of your furniture around.
  9. They're not family photos, they're raster images.
  10. You've ever worked on AutoCAD in your pajamas...or underwear.
  11. You use the middle mouse wheel to pan & zoom everything (and have messed up a Google map doing so.)
  12. Most of your Facebook friends you know from AU or techcamp.
  13. You don't clean your house, you PURGE.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sooner than Expected...Subscription Advantage Pack is LIVE!

Go get it!

If you are having trouble logging into the subscription center, contact your friendly neighborhood Autodesk reseller.

Yessssss! This beats the crap out of the Windows 7 release.

Monday, October 19, 2009

OMFG!!! Subscription Advantage Pack Coming Soon!

Merry Christmas Civil 3D 2010 users!!

Ok...for months I've heard rumor swirling that "some kind of roundabout" tool would be coming soon for Civil 3D 2010. Imagine my surprise today when I saw it in action plus TONS of other tools available only to subscription Civil 3D customers.

More details to come, but check your subscription account SOON for the subscription advantage pack (SAP).

Note: this is just the tippity top of the iceberg.

  • 2D roundabout layout tool. Not as powerful as the intersection tool - but a good start.
  • Point cloud support. Navisworks has always been able to see these, now C3D can too. Lots of different file formats supported. Don't expect a TIN out of this - but you no longer need 3rd party software to deal with this data. No weeding of this data either (yet)...but hello??? POINT cloud support! Snap-to, measure and color-code this data.
  • My personal favorite tool comes in the form of the surface enhancements. Remember this post? Totally useless now. You can now import a surface direct from SHP file or other geo-database.
  • More profile creation tools.
  • More alignment manipulations tools.
  • More supported survey formats.
  • More visualization tools! (Tools that answer the question, "Can drivers see over that statue of the Fonze?)
  • Better export to Microstation.
  • More!!!
I'm going to try to scam some screen caps from Dana and post more here.

Look for these tool in about a week. I'll post when they are available.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Doing Lines

A few handy line variables to know:

LTSCALE - This is very straightforward. LTSCALE set to 1 draws your lines as defined in the *.LIN file. LTSCALE set to 0.5 makes it half as big. LTSCALE of 2 makes it twice as big and so on. This is a drawing-wide setting. If you change LTSCALE, all your lines will adjust accordingly, unless you've set the LTSCALE by object or if you used CELTSCALE.

CELTSCALE - Similar to LTSCALE, but does not affect lines that have already been created. Think of it as an alternative to setting line scale by object. Say you set your LTSCALE to 1, draw a bunch of stuff, and then need to draw more stuff with an LTSCALE of 10. But you don't want to whack out the stuff you already drew. Set CELTSCALE to 10 (leave LTSCALE alone) and draw your new stuff.

PSLTSCALE - you want this to be 1, which means the viewport scale will effect the scale of the lines. With this set to 0, your lines will look the same in paperspace as in modelspace, regardless of the viewport scale.

PLINEGEN - AKA "Linetype generation." By default this is zero, meaning that if a line segment is too short to show dashes, it will appear solid. What is happening is that CAD sees the short segment and starts the pattern over, centering the pattern at the midpoint of the segment. If you don't like that, you can set your PLINEGEN variable to 0, where CAD doesn't start over at each segment. In Civil 3D 2009 and earlier this comes into play when creating existing ground profiles (in Civil 3D 2010, profiles always act like PLINEGEN = 1).



Monday, September 28, 2009

Working from a Layout Tab?!

There are many mythical creature out there: vampires, wood nymphs, unicorns and people who work in layout tabs with modelspace active.

I've met exactly two people who do this, and both were civil drafters with a long history of AutoCAD knowlege. At first I was dismissive of this concept, but the more I think about it, the more I can see where it might be handy.

I decided to try it for a few days. It was uncomfortable, yet exhilerating; much like wearing your underpants backwards.


  • You can work in a DVIEW > TWist mode without messing with your modelspace.

  • You don't have to worry about what layers you freeze and thaw, as you are not affecting the main model space. However, the better way to work is to use the layer states manager.

  • Civil 3D pops you back into the model tab after some operations. For instance, after I imported points, I was shot back to "real" modelspace. It feels like Civil 3D was not designed to work this way.
  • VP scale is constantly changing as you zoom around. When the drawing is regen'd your text updates and can be a mess to work with.
  • Seems to slow things down. It took a few beats longer to, say draw an alignment.

So, if you've ever wondered what this button does and if you should be pushing it - just say no.

Civil 3D 2010 SP 2 is Here!

Everyone who's even thought about blogging has already posted this, but here's my contribution:
Civil 3D sp 2
Be sure to download the correct version for you - there is a seperate download for plain old Civil.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Thing About Geo-referenced Images...

The thing about geo-referenced images is that there really isn’t one way to insert images into Civil 3D.

Depending on your situation you may use the traditional Map > Image > Insert command. However, if your drawing is at a different coordinate system from the image you are inserting, the MAPIINSERT command will not transform it - leaving you with an image in la-la land.

Here’s an informal guide to what to do & when with raster images. Hope this clears up some of the serious confusion out there!


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Weirdest Support Problem Eh-var!

After a long few weeks of training people until they were ready to run screaming, I am back in the office and back in the saddle with tech support. Well, at least today I was.

So I had this call today that was initially very mysterious. In modelspace plan view the corridor looked perfect. The layout my client was getting ready to print looked exactly as expected.

But when he went to print preview he got strange lines that always emanated from the lower right of the viewport.

When I took a closer look at the corridor in object viewer, I noticed that all was not as it seemed.

The links were totally freaking out and throwing themselves into infinity. I guess you could call them FREAK-quency lines. Harhar.

Taking a closer closer look I went to the subassembly properties and noticed that there were a bunch of zero's in the subassembly parameters.'s.

Since the guy really just wanted a simple model of a road and wasn't concerned about thickness, we recreated his assembly using generic links instead.

Ahh. Mystery solved. After fixing the assembly, no strange lines.

Lesson learned: Avoid zeros in your subassembly properties. If you need to set something to zero, use 0.001' instead.

Friday, August 28, 2009

How to Be an Annoying Trainee

Training people how to use Civil 3D can be very satisfying. It's great to see the light bulb go off in people's minds and help them use a tool that will make their jobs easier and possibly more fun. However, there are a few things trainees do that drive me up the freekin' wall.

How to Be an Annoying Trainee:

  • Answer your cell phone in class. This works best if you have a really obnoxious ring tone. Speak loudly and remain in the room for the most irritating effect.
  • Ask questions that are clearly not on topic. When getting a guided tour of the interface the first 20 minutes of class, make sure to raise your hand and ask, "Um, are we going to do cross sections soon?"
  • Ask stupid questions. Yes, Virginia, there is a such thing as a stupid question. Make sure to ask something like, "What happens if I delete everything in my project? Is there a way to compute volumes after that?"
  • Start your own sub-class in the back of the room. You saw a demo once of creating a parking lot with a corridor. The instructor is not getting there fast enough for your taste, so you get the attention of the 3-4 people around you and start your own lesson.
  • Skip the fundamentals. You don't know Autocad? No problem! Surely the instructor has time to go into a lesson on using paperspace just for you. If she doesn't, act indignant.
  • Constantly whine about making the change from your legacy software. The instructor will certainly appreciate your insight on how easy it was to model surfaces with the LISP routine you used in 1997.
  • Bring a laundry list of tech support questions from your coworker. Corner your instructor on these during break, before she has a chance to use the restroom!
  • Don't bother paying attention. After the instructor has just spent the last 10 minutes explaining and demonstrating the uses of frequency lines, get your head out of your email and ask, "Hey, what are theses lines on my road for?"
  • Interrupt. This isn't kindergarten -hell if you're going to raise your hand. Why should you wait for the instructor to pause to make your point?
  • Give up. This is hard. You're tired. You will retire in 5 years, anyway. F it. For full effect act visibly bored or just put your head down on the table for a nap.

Got any more good ones? Leave a comment! I'd love to hear your stories of annoying trainees. :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Civil 3D 2010 Out of Memory Problem

Last Updated 01-11-2010:

Civil 3D 2010 is fully supported on Windows XP (both 32 and 64 bit) and Windows Vista (both 32 and 64 bit).

Civil 3D 2010 is also supported on Windows 7 with a few known issues.
Previous versions will *probably* install on Windows 7, but are not supported.

Civil 3D 2010 is NOT supported on any of the following OSs:
Windows emulators on Mac, Linux, etc...
Windows ME
Windows 98

Ok - so what is the solution to an out of memory problem in Civil 3D 2010? You will need administrator rights on your computer to do most of my suggestions. Most of these require a reboot to take effect. When in doubt, seek out your IT person.

I promise one of these actions will work. Try them in the following order:

  1. Check out your video card driver's date. Right-click on your Computer icon and go to Manage. Double click Device Manager. Expand Display Adapters. Right-click on the name of the video card and select properties. Look at the date on the driver. Is it more than a few months old? If you are connected to the interwebs you can click Update Driver and have Windows seek out the newest driver (if a newer one exists).
  2. Install Civil 3D 2010 Update 2.
  3. Get more RAM. 4 gigs are reccomended. Is your machine recognising all of what you have? I ran into a case not long ago where the guy insisted he had 4 gig, but the hardware guy didn't install it correctly. Doh! Go to your Computer Properties to verify.
  4. Throw the 3-gig Switch. Here are my favorite directions. They are a little more clear than the TS1071001 doc.
  5. Increase Virtual Memory. Windows uses a chunk of your hard drive and pretends it is RAM when needed. Right-click Computer > Properties > Advanced tab. Click Settings under the performance area. Go to the Advanced tab. Click Change next to virtual memory. Whatever its set to now for initial and maximum size, double it.
  6. Set your WHIPTHREAD variable to 3. Got multiple core processor? Use it!
  7. Is the Problem Drawing-Specific? Use Recover with XREFS under the Application Menu > Drawing Utilities > Recover > Recover with XREFS to verify the health of your drawings. AUDIT, PURGE, -PURGE for regapps.
  8. Do Less Stuff. If you can get by with running just email and Civil 3D at once, that might help your RAM situation. If you're on a beefy machine, this shouldn't be an issue, but know your computer's limitations.
I really hope this helps.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How to Force Raster Design to Work with a PDF

Background: While AutoCAD 2010 can insert a PDF or use it like an XREF, the Raster Design software can’t work with PDF documents. The PDF file needs to be converted to a bitonal image in order to work with the vectorization tools in Raster Design.

There are several options for working with a PDF with Raster Design.

  1. Use Adobe Acrobat to convert PDF’s to a TIFF image.
  2. If you don’t have “full blown” Adobe Acrobat, do the following
    a. In Adobe Reader, go to Tools > Select and Zoom > Snapshot tool.

  3. b. Place a Window around the portion of the PDF you wish to use with Raster design.

c. This will copy the selection to your windows clipboard.

d. In AutoCAD 2010 go to Paste Special (Home tab, Clipboard panel, Paste Special).

e. Paste the object as an Image Entity. Click OK.

f. Click in the drawing to place the image. Hit enter to accept a scale of 1, rotation of 0.

g. Once the image is placed in the DWG, select it, the right-click on the it.

h. From the right-click menu, go to Image > Write > Save As.

i. Save the image with a name that you can recognize and in the same Windows directory as your cad file. (If you don’t do this step, it will be easy to lose track of the file!)

Next, you’ll convert the image to Bitonal, then convert it to indexed color, then back to bitonal. The reason we need to do this is because the first bitonal conversion inverts the colors (white becomes black and vice versa).

j. From the Image tab, the Edit Panel, click Process image and select Change color depth.

k. At the Command line you are prompted to type B for bitonal. At this point the image becomes a “negative” of itself.

l. Repeat the command, but this time convert it to indexcolor using I. The image will not appear to change.

m. Repeat the command for a third and last time. Convert the image back to Bitonal and the colors will be back to normal.

n. Save the drawing and proceed to work with the image as you normally would in Raster Design.

Friday, July 17, 2009

AutoDesk and Reseller Relationship

I've been meaning to do a post for some time now explaining the relationship between Autodesk and its resellers. This came to the forefront for me a few weeks ago when one of the WGUG attendees said, "Hey, how come your logo is on the same freebie as Autodesk? Aren't you competitors?" Heck no!

Here's the deal...think of Autodesk as a car manufacturer, like Toyota or GM or VW. The resellers are like the car dealerships. Autodesk designs and manufactures the car, but the dealer sells, services and, in some cases, pimps out the cars.

In this analogy, the dealer is often the driving instructor. Training classes are held at a dealer's local office. Autodesk University is always an option too - sort of like going to the Detroit Auto Show.

But who is the "mechanic"?

One of the biggest points of confusion is subscription versus support. Your subscription (much like a new car's warranty) is through Autodesk. An Autodesk subscription includes web-only support though Autodesk subscription center. Subscription does not mean you can actually call somone to tell them about your technical support problems. To speak with a human about tech support issues you need either subscription with Gold Support from Autodesk or a support contract through your reseller.

I shall now go on a related tangent about what subscription means.
Top six reasons to purchase and remain on subscription (in order of importance):

  1. Easier budgeting. The cost remains low and constant every year. No surprises when you realize you need to upgrade. If you don't have subscription and wait more than three years (the time it takes for products to retire), you end up re-buying the software from scratch.
  2. Prior use authorization. This happens to one of our users once a week: New guy starts and the company needs to purchase a new seat. However the company is still standardized on 2008. If you are on subscription, its no big deal - you can get a serial number to install another seat of 2008. If you are not on subscription, new guy is stuck with 2010. End of story.
  3. Web-based support. This is a great supplement even if you have an in-house guru or outside tech support. Don't believe your reseller? Get a second opinion straight from Autodesk.
  4. Bonus packs. Autodesk has put out some juicy tidbits out there for subscription members to download. Right now, Civil 3D users there can get style converters, stage-storage tools, HEC-RAS tools, white papers, cheat-sheets and industry related articles.
  5. e-Learning. Need to brush up on making surfaces? Wanna see how to make dynamic blocks in base AutoCAD? Browse the eLearning catalog for interactive tools.
  6. Product Updates. Yes, this is the last reason to be on subscription. Yes, you get a shiny, new box every spring containing the latest and greatest product. If you are too eager to wait for the box you can download your product from subscription center the minute it is released. However, this should be your last consideration if looking at subscription. Many companies are tied into client file formats. Others may want to wait until they get computers with more juice. The smart ones install on a test machine and lurk on the discussion groups to see if there are any major problems.

What's your takeaway? A) Subscription and support are different beasts. B)Subscription is not the plot of a big, evil company fleecing a captive market. C)Autodesk University is like a car show, minus the chicks in bikinis draping themselves seductively over the hood...unless you are into middle-aged white guys, in which case, its exactly like that.

Peace out.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Civil 3D "Styles Workshop"

Where the heck has this spring/summer gone? I've been very busy (yay job security), but too busy to really blog much. And I feel guilty. Seriously. Hundreds of people bother to hit this site every day or two (or three) and I have been slacking on content. Since my sense of guilt has been compounded by a few glasses of wine this evening, I am posting to you a little gem I usually reserve for my clients.

Here is the text of my 2009 Styles Workshop. All of the concepts are still valid in 2010, however the interface has changed - hence the screen caps are out of date.

Enjoy the sh*t out of this.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Map 3D 2010 Surface Extension

Ripped from the Subscription website:

Surface Creation Extension for AutoCAD Map 3D
Release Date: 2009-05-28

The Surface Creation Extension for AutoCAD® Map 3D 2010 software helps users create, visualize and analyze terrain models and improve design processes when working with point data collected by surveying, scanning, and GPS instruments and devices. Using the Surface Creation Extension, users can

Quickly create surfaces from external point files, AutoCAD® point data and block references in drawings, as well as point and contour data that reside in FDO data sources such as ESRI SHP files. Use a combination of these data sources in different projections to create a surface. Then use AutoCAD Map 3D functions to create elevation contours for mapping and related projects.

Use AutoCAD Map 3D software functions to combine surface, CAD, GIS, and aerial imagery to effectively visualize sites in 3D and perform elevation, aspect, and slope analysis as well as perform sunlight studies, enabling you to make better decisions about land development projects.

Easily exchange surfaces via GeoTIFF format with other software packages such as AutoCAD® Civil 3D® and ESRI® ArcGIS® software.
This extension is available in English only, but will install on all language versions of AutoCAD Map 3D 2010 software.

More on this later...after I play with it, that is.

Civil 3D 2010 Network Deployment Heads-Up

Are you the guy/gal assigned to create network deployments and install the new Civil 3D 2010 software? There are a few things you should know.

1. The documentation on the DVD still refers to the network activation utility. That is a crock of hooey. There is no more network activation utility. To activate your new license(s) you need to go to:

2. Before you even think about starting to build your deployment, copy the contents of the 3 installation DVDs to a location onto your server (or external drive...whatever). Copy all these into the same folder. Any messages regarding "This location already contains a folder blah, blah blah..." just click yes or Copy and Replace and move on. The files on disk will end up taking up just shy of 8 GB.

If you don't copy the DVDs to a harddrive, the resulting deployment will not correctly install the content packs or tool palettes.

I am not lying...check this out:

Once you have the files copied to a harddrive, launch setup.exe per usual.

In other happy news I am now an official LEED Accredited Professional. Or, as my dad says, "a card-carrying tree-hugger."

I'm now off to try to get the song Play that Funky Music (Whiteboy), out of my head.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Coming soon...POSTS!

Hi All-

I'm back from vacation in San Fransisco and done with a marathon run of training classes and consulting. After tomorrow I'll have the LEED exam out of the way (pass or fail it will at least be out of my way).

I'm hoping to have some useful posts up soon.

Here's what's in my pipeline:

  • The Reseller/Autodesk connection.
  • Using Map books to create x-sections in 2010 - the non-youtube version of Jerry's presentation found here:
  • Styles, Styles, Styles!
  • Civil 3D 2010 QTO capabilities: Software scope creep or salvation?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Civil 3D Webcast - June 10th - 12-noon

Register for my Intro to Civil 3D 2010 Webcast. June 10th at noon, central time. I'll be running through several examples, focusing on what's new in Civil 3D 2010.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

WGUG Pictures

It was a beautiful location on lake Michigan.

Eric, Rick, Steve and Karen

Me and Rick

Me and the Imaginit boys.

Me, Steve and Russ

Me and the twins with the Autodesk guys.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Awash in Autodeskers...and service packs.

OMG! Autodesk has sent the full court press to our humble state and the Wisconsin Geospatial Users Group.

So far I've seen:
Steve G.
Karen W.
Jerry B.
Bruce M.
Brad B.
Pete S.
...and I know there's more...

I couldn't be more star struck if I walked onto a taping of celebrity rehab.

Not to mention some of the civil legends from the reseller world are here.

Anyhoo...SP 3 is out for Civil 3D 2009. It increases the performance and stability noticeably.

Well, I'm off to schmooze some more.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Few Housekeeping Items

No More Twitter. Twitter makes me crave Zanax. It's like a crowd of people shouting into a room and only a few of the Tweets are worth the bytes in the universe they take up. It makes me insane trying to weed the major crap from the less crappy. You can't say anything of technical value in 255 characters or less.

Blog May be Quiet for a While. The next few weeks I'm gone and have presentations and training up the proverbial wazzoo. Then I'm headed to San Fransisco on vacation for a week or so in June.


Accidental Discovery

Last week when I was teaching about extracting profiles from the surface, one of my students discovered something I've never tried before: You can sample multiple offsets at once by separating the values with a comma. How about that!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Layers are Not Listed Alphabetically...WTF?

MAXSORT is an AutoCAD system variable that most people never run into. Civil 3D users tend to run into it more than average because the number of layers that Civil 3D uses and creates. ESPECIALLY if you're using layer suffixes in your drawing settings.

If you find yourself with more than 1000 layers, you've maxed out the number of layers that ACAD will alphabetize.

Type in MAXSORT and set it to a larger number, such as 5000. You'll never need it again.

Friday, April 24, 2009


So, I made some Plan and Profile sheets in Civil 3D 2010 for the first time yesterday. This is in the Output tab, on the Plan Production panel*.

When I created sheets I sent the new layouts to a new drawing, as I tend to do. (If you don't do that, I highly recommend it - keeps the file sizes down and allows you to work faster.)
Anyhow, since I created the sheets this way, the original plan drawing gets XREF'd into the P&P sheet drawing. There's a new setting in 2010 that makes the XREF appear faded out by default.
Write this down:
This setting can be set from 0-90 (90 representing a 90% fade). You can set this to a negative value if you find that you are switching between faded and non-faded frequently. For instance setting this value to -55 will NOT fade out the XREF but is a handy "reminder" if you often want to get back to 55 without digging through the Post-it notes at your desk.
Note that the XREF will not plot this way. It's just a handy way to visually recognise which elements are from an external reference.
Thanks to Esteemed Colleague Russ for helping me with this.
Have a great weekend!
*Oh, by the way: I am ALL ABOUT the ribbon panel for Civil 3D 2010. It was a well-executed implementation of the technology. Once you get the feel for where stuff is, it is SO much faster than digging through menus. LOVE IT! BE the ribbon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SQOTD: Corridor Boundaries are Driving Me Nuts!

Q. Is there a better way to stop the finished surface boundary at the edge of the corridor than using the daylight line?

When the proposed profile changes so does the daylight line and I need to re-extract the daylight featureline and turn it into a polyline. This is really annoying!


A. When it comes to the surfaces created by corridors there is good news on the horizon. Civil 3D 2010 has a tool that makes what I’m about to tell you a moot issue (Civil 3D 2010 has an option “Corridor Extents as Outer Boundary” for corridor surfaces). However, in 2009 creating a surface boundary takes a little more finessing.

When you are in your corridor properties, go to the Boundaries tab. Right click on the name of the surface. If you have Add Automatically, use it. However, you won’t see that option in a corridor with an intersection, if you are using generic links or one with more than one baseline. However, you will see Add Interactively. It can be time-consuming to set up initially, but it is worth the effort because it will change as your corridor changes.

Once you click Add Interactively, you will be shot back into the drawing. Snap to your daylight featureline. A dialog box will pop up asking you to verify which daylight line you were aiming for (Daylight, Daylight_Cut, Daylight_Fill) - highlight Daylight, and click OK. Now you will trace the daylight line.

As you move your cursor, you’ll get this thick red line following the path of the Daylight line. As you pan and keep tracing the line may stop at the region boundaries. If it does, click again on the Daylight line and verify if you need to.

Essentially what we are doing with this procedure is spoon-feeding Civil 3D the location of the daylight line. You’ll need to click to jump across the street, any time you change baselines or anytime you encounter an assembly that created a different line from Daylight. Trace around the entire corridor and when you’ve looped around back to where you started, type C for close (similar to a polyline).

It may seem like a pain in the neck at first, but once you’ve created a corridor surface boundary this way, it will prevent those overruns even if the corridor geometry changes.

Hope this helps!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Civil 3D 2010 Install: Clearing Up Confusion

The first item of confusion I'd like to clear up is the download off the subscription site (which is available NOW).

The download area shows the 32-bit version. However it will install and run just fine on 64-bit machines. This is just saying that the program itself isn't truly 64-bit....yet.

If you are waiting for the DVD to arrive in the mail, that will be starting to ship this week April, 17th 2009.

The second thing I want to mention is for network installs. There is no more Network Activation Utility. You now must either A) login to or B) Call 1-800-551-1490 (press 1 para Englais). In either case, you must know your server MAC address and your product serial number/group number.

If you've never done an online registration before - registration only takes a moment. You'll need your company information and e-mail address to create an account.

Lastly, I want to mention the Portable Licence Utility...or lack thereof in 2010 products. All stand-alone license transfers now go through the online License Transfer Utility found in Start > Programs > Autodesk > AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010.

Believe me - this is much easier. You don't need to have the product installed on both computers at the time of transfer anymore. Nor are there any computer ID numbers to deal with anymore. You essentially upload the license to an Autodesk "holding area" and pull it back down when you need it. Yes, you do need internet access on both machines - just for transferring.

In all cases, if you have trouble with registering your new software or transferring licenses, don't forget to call your friendly neighborhood reseller for help!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Back to Beginners: XREF Attachments vs Overlays

In Civil 3D 2010 XREFs have really gotten good. We can now XREF a whole slew of data types without bonus packs or add-ons.

It seems like civil drafters are the most enthusiastic XREF users. However, there are a few nuances that many users don't understand that are good to know.

When I teach people about XREF's for the first time I steer them toward using the Overlay type XREF instead of an Attachment.

Funny though it seems at first, this setting doesn't actually effect the drawing you are currently working in. It does effect any "downstream" drawings that might have your current drawing XREF'd in.
Time for a diagram!

Say you are in drawing Y. You XREF drawing X in using the ATTACHMENT option.

Later in the day you are working on drawing Z. You then XREF Y into Z. The result is you will get both X and Y. When a you XREF drawings that contain attachments - those attachments come along for the ride.

In the case of an overlay, you only get one level of references. (Microstation users will know this as a nest depth set to zero).
In other words, if X is referenced into Y as an overlay, and then Y is later referenced into Z, X does not come along for the ride. When I'm working in Z, I'll just see Y attached. Overlay is preferable because it is less confusing and avoids the dreaded circular reference.
Now get out there and attach!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Homage to Being Civil

Jason sees CADD on his desktop.
This is what I see:

Monday, April 06, 2009

Join Us in Sheboygan, WI

The Wisconsin Geospatial User Group (WGUG) is holding it's first annual tech conference June 1-3rd 2009 at Blue Harbor Resort & Convention Center in Sheboygan, Wis.

Think of this as a Civil and Geospatial-specific mini-AU. Autodesk, MasterGraphics, Avatech, Imaginit, TopCon, Wisconsin DOT and others will be there teaching, talking and hanging out in the name of Map and Civil 3D.

The conference is open to all civil engineering and geospatial professionals and, in addition to training at intermediate and advanced levels, provides attendees with networking opportunities.

For more information about the conference , e-mail Tom Horness at or call (920) 459-3397.

Click here for seminar descriptions and more information on who will be there!

To register, visit:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Map 2010 Available for Download for Subscription Customers!

Yet another reason being on subscription RULES! 64-bit and 32 bit versions are both available.

And for all you base ACAD users...2010 is out there too.
When you log into subscription, click on "Download your product software"

If you can't log into subscription center, contact your Autodesk reseller NOW.

...Civil 3D 2010 should be up there any day now.

OSNAPZ, eTransmit and a Few Shout Outs

If I ever quit my day job to become a rapper, my stage name shall be OSNAPZ. Besides being a fly gangsta' name, OSNAPZ is an AutoCAD variable which determines whether or not Z is included when using object snaps. When the OSNAPZ variable is set to 0 (default) Z is picked up with object snaps. This can be problematic when placing pipe networks in a Civil 3D drawing, since usually you want Z to come from a surface. It also affects 3D Polylines and Feature Line creation. Setting OSNAPZ to 1 will tell AutoCAD to ignore the elevation of the object you are snapping to. It will use the XY location, but Z will be your active CAD elevation (which 99.999% of the time = 0) or in the case of placing pipe networks - it allows Civil 3D to use the surface for the rim elevation of structures.

eTransmit is a beautiful, beautiful command that is shockingly underutilized.

Say I have a Civil 3D drawing that I want to send to a colleague or a tech support person, and I want that person to see exactly what I see.

eTransmit picks up the drawing, XREFS, attached raster images, color tables and data shortcuts to package up in a neat little zip file. You can even create a transmittal that will automatically explode and save down the civil drawings to an older base AutoCAD format.

In Civil 3D 2009 go to File > eTransmit. In Civil 3D 2010 go to menu browser Send >

Finally, the shout outs: Dan H., Tod H., Scott "Scooter" C., Nicky, and Kent K. of Eagle Point. It was awesome seeing you last weekend. Let's get together for some dirty Irish dancing again soon!

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Autodesk Labs is a website where end users can see what's cooking in Autodesk development. Many of the cool/fun/weird things you'll find in Autodesk Labs ultimately get incorporated into existing products (such as Google Earth extension) while others end up as stand alone tools.

Project Freewheel is a way to view DWF files from your web browser - there's even a mobile version.

With the ShareNOW plug-in for AutoCAD (and Civil 3d!) you get a button in CAD that will publish your DWF, upload it to the Freewheel website and launch your project in your browser in one fell swoop. Damn, those Labs guys are good.

The attached Freewheel screen is from my good friend Dave K. who is CAD manager with RFC Engineering:

Feel free to explore and view his DWF with Freewheel. Zoom and pan just like Design review.

Thanks big D!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Civil Webcasts

Forget HuLu...this link is takes us to the Autodesk recorded webcasts.

Bookmark it.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Visualizing Civil Projects

For years architects and artists have teamed up to help their clients understand how the building they are designing will look upon completion. Civil projects often impact more people yet rarely do engineers or designers utilize visualization tools to convey the final aesthetic.

My good friend and colleague Steve Gabriel and I recently had the opportunity to share our work flow for getting Civil 3D data into 3Ds Max. We presented this video and our experiences at the annual WLIA conference.

First I started out on the Civil 3D side of things. I had existing contours for my site, a design alignment and an assembly (or typical cross-section). At first I thought LandXML was the way to go to export data into 3DsMax - however, when Steve imported the LandXML, file the final surface looked "choppy." Instead, we opted to export the Civil 3D contours as AutoCAD polylines at elevation. The smaller the contour interval in Civil 3D, the smoother the surface looked in Max.

The corridor also was not smooth using the LandXML. There was segmentation caused by the way frequency lines are used to create the corridor in Civil 3D. Instead, Steve used my alignment and assembly to re-extrude the cross-section along the road. The result was the smooth, fluid looking corridor that you can see in the video and image above.

Steve created the bridge in base Autocad using 3D solid primitives for the piers, decking, and cables. After inserting the bridge in the correct location in Max he was ready to make it realistic.

Next, Steve did his magic in 3Ds Max. He applied materials, added lighting and inserted entourage items such as trees and water. After the scene was set up, Steve used Max to create several animations. He created a construction timeline animation and an animation showing what it would be like to cross the bridge in a vehicle. The final animation for the presentation took more than 30 hours of processing time on the MasterGraphics render farm.

After several animations and renderings were completed, Steve took the project into Combustion for some final touches. Here he stitched together the animations and renderings into one, cohesive video.

Take a look at the fruits of our (mostly Steve's) labor in this WMV file here. (Requires Windows Media Player)


SQOTD: Service Pack 2.1

I read the readme for the service pack and I saw this:
Per AutoDesk:
Before applying this update, make sure that any customizations made to the user profile (such as, customizations made to the support file search paths, print file customizations, printer support file paths, redirections, custom template settings, and so on) are exported to a secure location, then imported and reapplied after the update has been successfully installed.

What is the best way to do this?

Well - this is how I do backups...
Basically you’ll want to save your CUI file to a non-default location and export your profile somewhere too. To do all this:

1 - Go to: (this is the default location in Win XP)
C:\Documents and Settings\USER\Application Data\Autodesk\AutoCAD Civil 3d 2009\R17.2\enu

2- Copy the enu folder to a backup location.

3- You will also want to go into Civil 3D, go to Options and the Profile tab and export the your profile as an ARG file to a backup location.

Let me know if you need me to go into more detail on this. These should be “just in case” measures, as normally a service pack won’t blow anything away – but it never hurts to C.Y.A.

Hope this helps!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Let me paint you a little picture of my evening: ass planted in an innertube drifting down the lazy river in my leopard print bathing suit discussing Civil 3D with a very well respected client. Trying to have any sort of business decorum in this situation becomes increasingly difficult when said client drifts ahead of me and I do this sort of flail-paddle to catch back up.

Ain't conferences great?

Here I am at the WLIA annual conference. My co-worker Steve and I did a really fun presentation on a workflow getting Civil 3D data into 3ds Max then Combustion for some super-realistic renderings and animations. As soon as I get somewhere with decent bandwidth I'll post some of our output. It was an interesting learning experience, as I thought LandXML would be the key to our success. In fact it was not. I'll post our process and more soon!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Beer, Cheese and WisDOT

Fire up your laptop and don your cheese hat for the upcoming Autodesk webcast starring Eric Arneson of WisDOT. If you want to join me in a drinking game, every time you hear him say "photogrammetry" you hafta take a shot of Jagermeister.

Eric will be discussing:

  • Surface and topography base map creation using photogrammetry data from MicroStation® DGN files
  • Importing survey data
  • Assigning field codes
Thursday, February 26, 2009
1:00 – 2:00 pm Central Standard Time
Register with Autodesk NOW!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Intersection Design 101

Hey guess what I've decided to give away? My exclusive Intersection Design tutorial thingy for Civil 3D 2009. Why? Because I love you...AND I think it would be good to understand these principals before the automated tools turn the corridor portions of your brain to mush. I'll try to post an example file soon.


Friday, January 30, 2009

SQOTD: "My view is whacked"

This SQOTD is inspired by my buddy Rob C. who is a former co-worker and perpetual punk.

Q: All my layers are on, but I can't see all the objects I'm expecting to see in the drawing. It looks like I can only see zero-elevation stuff. What's up?

A: The fix - type PLAN at the command line. Then W for world. (If you are not a key-in person, go to View > 3D views > Plan > World). This will turn your UCS and your view to Top in relation to the world coordinate system.

When you are working in Civil 3D there are quite a few ways a person can accidentally whack out their view. In Civil 3D the most common culprit is jumping into View/Edit Corridor section view and for whatever reason C3D gets stuck in the temporary, unnamed UCS.

Another common culprit is accidentally using Shift-middle mouse wheel. Shift + select adds items to the selection set. Shift+middle mouse wheel gets you into 3D orbit mode. Your view is whacked, even if your coordinate system is still world.

So there you go: PLAN W
Memorize it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Learning to Love Ribbons

"Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

When Saint Francis of Assisi said these words in 1220-something its almost like he saw the coming of Ribbon panels. Saint Isidore of Seville is widely thought of as the patron saint of all things computing, but I'm declaring Francis the patron saint of Ribbons.

I am trying so hard to learn to love ribbons, honestly. Change is good. Technology drives my livelihood. I preach the gospel of embracing new technology everyday. But it's just frustrating to relearn interfaces that use ribbons. My intuition to hit certain menus is totally thrown off. Since graphical user interfaces hit the scene in the 1980's one thing we could always count on were the standard "File" "Edit" "View" "Insert" menus. Mac OS's, Linux and until now, Windows have been fairly standard in the location and functionality of menus and toolbars.

The biggest problem I have with Ribbon interfaces is the lack of consistency between applications. Word 2007, Snagit 9 and of course AutoCAD 2009 are all ribbon based - these are just the ones I use on a day-to-day basis. Some have a full menu browser (like AutoCAD) and some just have what you'd expect to find in the File menu (like Snagit and Word). All of the Ribboned applications have a Quick Access Toolbar (which I lovingly call the "quat"). Most quats are customizable, but vary in the behavior of the default commands.

The way I see the future going, there is no escaping ribbons. We need to get used to them, pronto. Our collective productivity may take a hit while we adjust, but ribbons are here to stay.

May Saint Francis grant you the courage to change your CUI as needed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

For the Love of All that is Holy: Watch this Bridge Webcast!

It will change your fricking life! Or at least that's what about a dozen people said to me when a similar webcast came out for resellers a few weeks back.

Still, it's cool. Need to model a small bridge on a site? Revit Structure is a software package that can do so. Revit cannot do finite element analysis on your members or anything, but it is a heck of a lot easier to model in Revit than using Autocad solid primitives.

Technical Marketing Manager Scott Hammond will be presenting the bridge modeling tools in Revit Structure 2009 on January 27th, 2009 at 10:00 am PST.

Click Here to Register for the Webcast

Be there, or watch your life pass you by.

Friday, January 23, 2009

First Impressions

If you are on subscription for your Autodesk product you can download Impression 2.0 FREE from the subscription center.
The problem is, Impression really isn't built for Civil 3D, yet. If you've played with Impression and tried to import a DWG layout directly, odds are you crashed Impression.
My little white paper should help you work around some of the problems you may encounter with Civil 3D and Impression.
Spoiler alert: The trick is plotting to DWF first!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

SQOTD: Dude, Where's my Corridor?

Q: "I have sample lines and section views in my project. I went to extend my sample line to get more of the existing surface in the view, but then my corridor disappeared from my section view. What happened?"

A. This fellow accidentally skewed one side when he grip-edited the sample line. If you grip edit a sample line and it is no longer perpendicular to the alignment, you will no longer see your corridor in the section view. This happens for a reason: kinky stations don't get included in end-area volume calcs.

To extend the sample line without skewing it, use the triangular grip. The square grip will let you move it wherever you wish - including out of line with the other side of the sample line.

You can fix it by selecting the sample line that is out of whack, right-click and select Make Orthogonal. This forces both sides back to perpendicular to the alignment. Then you're corridor will show up in the section views again.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Are You Ready to be Stimulated?

Unless you've been living under a rock or are part of an oil sheik's entourage, you've heard that the economy has been sluggish for a while. Furthermore, you've heard that the transportation sector is going to be a large focus of the economic stimulus package cooking on Capitol Hill. Figures between $45 and $100 billion have been heard thrown around for dollar amounts promised for roads, rail, bridges and water distribution projects over the next two years. Additional money is being talked about for the energy sector.

AASHTO has a nice breakdown by state for projects that could break ground within the first half of 2009.

But are you ready?

If a glut of work came your way right now, are you and your co-workers equipped to handle it?

More specifically, are you as efficient as you can be with your design software?

In my humble opinion, we are in the calm before the storm. Now is the time to implement software and train people before you are knee-deep in projects. When this work comes you don't want the headache of taking time out to get up to speed on Civil 3D.

Get good at your software now, while the lull still exists.

In all fairness, I realize I am not an impartial voice on this subject. One of the primary parts of my career is teaching and implementing Civil 3D*. However, I feel that the incoming presidential administration will come in with checkbook open. Whose bank account the money ultimately lands in won't depend on which projects are "shovel ready", but which engineering company's systems and personnel are "project ready."

*If you are interested in having me work with your organization to train or assess your needs, please feel free to contact me.