Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2010 Civil 3D Resolutions

I'm not usually big on New Year resolutions. However, it is useful to reflect on the past year and set goals for the future.

This is my personal list, no particular order:

  1. Expand the list of Civil 3D blogs I follow.
  2. Save blocks before closing the block editor. I trust it to prompt me to save way too much.
  3. Use ribbon more and not cop-out by typing in the key-in when I can't find a command right away.
  4. Always save before entering Object Viewer, no matter how much of a hurry I am in.
  5. Publish to DWF more often than PDF.
  6. Update my white papers to show 2010 screenshots.
  7. Learn how to make multi-view blocks.
  8. Get past the "Hello World" stage of learning VB.NET
  9. Get awesome at the Hydraflow tools. Dig up old hydrology & fluid mechanics text books to facilitate awesomeness.
  10. Understand & use more obscure subassemblies.
  11. Present at Autodesk University.
  12. Stop naming all my test data sets "Yodalinda Valley".

That's pretty much it. Hopefully I'll get a few of these done!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Repeat After Me: Civil 3D is NOT Backwards Compatible!

I wrote this for 2010, but the same is true for both 2011 and 2012 and will probably be true for ALL future version of Civil 3D.

Civil 3D is not backwards compatible.
En Espanol:
Civil 3D no es compatible hacia atrás.
En Francais:
Civil 3D ne sont pas rétrocompatibles.
Und Deutsch:
Civil 3D werde den Zwerg zu zwingen, Sie zu verletzen.

OK. Now that we are on the same page, let me explain. If you use ANY VERSION of Civil 3D, someone using ANY EARLIER VERSION of Civil 3D (or base Autocad) can't readily open your drawing and keep working. I know what you are thinking, "But Lou, what about the 'Save As' feature?"

'Save as' is very misleading to my civil brethren. 'Save as' only works on base-Autocad elements (your lines, arcs, circles, etc). It doesn't work on Civil objects (surfaces, points, corridors, etc.)

Whenever possible, avoid mixing versions of AutoCAD. In any given firm, your Map people, Civil people, Civil 3D people base Autocad and even AutoCAD LT users should all be on the same year. It is better to not upgrade at all than to upgrade piecemeal.

So what happens if going backwards is unavoidable?
Here's what you do:

Export everything you can to a LandXML file. Output > Export to LandXML

This is the export out of 2010, which shows all of the entities possible to export. Click OK and save the LandXML file somewhere.

Also, Export (not 'Save as') the DWG to a 2007 format. This will explode down all the Civil objects into base-ACAD elements.

In 2009 or prior, start a new DWG using your 2009 version template.
Go to File > Import Land XML

Click OK and let it crank.

You will need to recreate profile views to view your profiles.

Now, XREF the drawing you exported from 2010 into the 2009 drawing.

What you lose by going backwards:

  • Assemblies
  • Corridors
  • Sample lines & cross sections
  • View frames
  • Dynamic connections between objects (i.e. surfaces are disconnected from points, existing profiles are divorced from surfaces and so on)
  • A little part of your soul.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hatian Observation

This post has absolutely nothing to do with software. The short of the long of it: Donate to Engineers without Borders.

The earthquake in Haiti is tragic, but the biggest tragedy of it all was the fact that thousands of deaths could have been prevented with better construction methods.

Looking at the photos of collapsed buildings and crumbled infrastructure there were a few things that caught my eye.

The first thing I noticed was the conspicuous absence of rebar. Having lived in the Caribbean for several years I know that concrete block is the most common construction material used in the region. It is cost effective, keeps things cool and can be installed by novice laborers.

However, what most laypeople don't know is that block has crap for sheer strength. When constructed properly, a concrete block building should have a vertical steel reinforcing bar packed in the openings with mortar at least every two feet. Even if the building fails, the steel acts to keep the wall together and will make more of a "tent" instead of crumbling into a pile.

Another thing I noticed about the concrete is how small of pieces it crumbled into. Even without rebar, the concrete should have failed in chunks, rather than turn to dust. I have two theories about why this happened. Either WAY too much water was used in the mixes and/or the water used was cut with salt water.

The whole point of this post is to make the observation that once the humanitarian crisis is under control, the rebuilding of Haiti needs to happen with proper building codes. Personally, I feel that the best organization that can help make this happen is Engineers Without Borders. They have a special Haiti fund set up. If you are a French-speaking civil or structural engineer they are also looking for volunteers. (Sidenote: I would totally do it, but the only French I know is "Mai j'ai une autre Diet Coke, s'il vous plaît?")

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I'll Miss that New Software Box Smell...

First they delivered on 5.25" floppies...
Then they delivered on 3.5" floppies...
Then they delivered on CD...
Then they delivered on DVD...

Now they are delivering via download...

Starting this year, you will no longer be getting that shiny new DVD box full of disks for your 2011 Autodesk products. The fastest way to get your product software will be to log into subscription center and download it from there.

It's greener, it makes a helluva lotta sense and unless you are living in a cave, you've got an internet connection that will allow you to download this no problem.

However, you can request a physical disk from the Autodesk subscription center at no charge. If you want to let your reseller know ahead of time about your disk preference - go ahead and let us know before March 12, 2010.

I can't wait!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Raster Image Not Plotting

SQOTD: My SID file shows up in print preview, but doesn't actually plot! I need to show this aerial photo - help!

Answer: No matter what type of raster image (SID, TIF, JPG, BMP, PNG, etc) big files need a little coaxing to print. It doesn't matter what flavor of AutoCAD you have either (Map, Civil, Civil 3D or even vanilla AutoCAD) some adjusting to your print settings may be needed.

The most likely culprit for the SID not plotting lies in the printer settings. When AutoCAD converts the drawing to a format the printer can read, it often “chokes” on large raster images.

1. When going to plot, click on Properties (just to left of the printer name).
2. Go to the Device and Document Settings tab.
3. Expand the Graphics area (click on the little plus sign).
a. Highlight the Raster Graphics area.
b. Slide the Trade-off slider bar all the way to the left. This lowers the resolution on the raster image for plotting, but most people do not notice a difference.
4. Click OK.
5. If it asks you to save changes, do so. That way you can use this setting again if you run into problems in the future.

This same setting should work regardless of the printer you are printing to. PDF was just the example I happened to take a screen shot of, but a physical printer will have the same raster graphics settings.
Make sure you don’t slide the top two settings all the way to the left or the image will not appear. Try the first “notch” from the left on each. You may need to do some trial and error with the settings before they take effect. Once you get a setting that shows your SID, save the PC3.

If you are still having problems there are some other things you can do:
• Use Image Clip to cut down on the area of the SID AutoCAD needs to process.
• Check your RASTERTHRESHOLD system variable in CAD. This value indicates the size (in meg) of raster file that AutoCAD will even try to print. Make sure it is larger than the SID file itself.

• Check your RASTERPERCENT system variable in CAD. This indicates the amount of virtual memory CAD will use when plotting a raster image. The default value is 20. I advise setting it to 60.
Now get out there and plot!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Autodesk Wants to Know How to Reach You...

AutoDesk is looking for input from US-based Civil 3D users and buyers regarding their use of social networking (you know: blogs, Twatter, Faceplace, etc.).

If you’ve got 15 minutes to spare, please take the survey so that they know where to spend this portion of their marketing resources.

Onto the $50 USD Amazon gift card!

1. Take and complete the survey:
2. Take a screen-cap of the last page of the survey (the Thank You! page)
3. Add your screen name over the ‘Thank You’ text
4. Post the screen-cap image to this Disco thread to enter a random drawing

On Wednesday, January 13th, Dave Mills of Autodesk will randomly select 5 ‘entrants’ and post the winners on the discussion thread. The winners will be contacted via email.

Check out the discussion thread for details!