Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Autodesk University 2014 : It's a Wrap!

74,000 plus steps - more than 21 miles walked this year at AU. Multiple classes, business meetings, great keynote sessions, a real life hoverboard and more made up for a great AU.

For me, the class highlight was seeing an entire train maintenance yard modeled in Revit. Rails, ties, utilities, structures, signage and more was all done in Revit. Great tips for challenges encountered along the way. Check out the class if you can! CV5504-P Case Study for a Civil-Based BIM Project Using Revit

The keynote highlight had to be the hoverboard. As a kid, Back to the Future II hit a sweet spot for me and I grew up wishing I had one. Now they are real! Well, difficult to obtain and challenging to find a surface to ride them on but definitely real! Check out HendoHover for more info.

Now I need to bring together the ideas found into the everyday workflow our projects see, should be a fun 2015 lurking right around the corner!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Dilemma of Multi-Building Campus Projects and Similar Details in Revit

If you've worked with Revit for any length of time and have been on a project with multiple buildings, I'm sure you've realized that each building will likely have similar details between them. If the documentation sheets are kept in each building, you soon realize that you are going to have duplicate details in each project to manage. In the past with other software platforms, you could simply link in each detail multiple times and be done with it. In Revit, the project tends to bog down with multiple links of individual details and linking in one project with many details doesn't help.

I've seen some creative ideas to get around this dilemma. One method involved creating a separate project with floor plans having multiple Dependent views cropped to individual details. Then, linking in this project to each individual building and creating more views you could start to reference details that are similar.

Another method is to link each building into a master site project and create all documentation in this master project. Depending on the size, this method can become sluggish as well. It also requires you to have views setup in advance in each building for reference in the master. Also, you inevitably have 2 copies of Revit running simultaneously for both the master site and individual building file. Again, more duplicated work.

What if I told you we could have the best of both worlds when it came to these details? If you haven't heard of Revolution Design, allow me to introduce you to a tool they have which solves this dilemma.

Revolution Design's - Revit Worfklow "autoLink"
This tool has the potential to save your team a lot of time and headaches.

Project model A = One of our buildings on a campus
Project model B = Our master set of similar details shared by each building

Using Workflow with it's autoLink function, I've built a detail bubble that will be placed in "A". The autoLink tool will allow me to place this special bubble. Next, I link into model "A", model "B", without needing to show it in any views. Finally, I'll type into the autoLink detail bubble, the detail number and sheet number of the corresponding detail from "B". When I tell autoLink to update linked references, the detail bubble is linked up with the corresponding view from "B". Using the detail view reference ID, if the detail number or sheet number for the view in project "B" ever changes, the bubble in "A" will be updated as well. Now, I can setup sheets in "A" as place holders for the sheets in "B".

I'd recommend you check out this tool! There are other more obvious uses for autoLink too, this just happens to be the obscure use for it. Revolution Design makes some other highly useful tools as well that are worth taking a look.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Finding Something Positive - Everyday

It's so easy to lose sight of the things that really matter - especially if things don't go the way we would hope. I know we all face something everyday that can cause us to feel the day was completely wasted. Why not flip things around? Why not spend your day looking for the best thing that happened instead of grumbling about the bad thing that happened?

My cousin is looking for something positive everyday and blogging about it each time. Since she works as a nurse, she sees plenty of things most would rather not face, everyday. Yet she is finding something positive everyday. If you are looking for an encouraging read, check out her blog: A Positive 365!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Benchmarking the NEW BOXX LEGO Workstation and RenderPro

Earlier this month at Autodesk University, I had the opportunity to obtain the latest offering from BOXX - their new LEGO Workstation and Lego RenderPro. I could hardly wait to get these two systems built and benchmarked and share the results with everyone. Well, the results are in and these are the fastest systems with the most performance per dollar you can get in the LEGO world. I have to admit, I've never been able to assemble a LEGO kit as quickly as I did with these two. I hope you enjoy my review of these limited edition systems from BOXX and NO you can't have these - I've already gifted them to my kids!

In my testing, I found that I needed to miniaturize myself in order to get the full appreciation of the Workstation and RenderPro. Here you can see me basking in the full glory of the immense Workstation:

You'll note that just like other systems they offer, there are plenty of USB ports on the front - 4 for the Workstation and an extra on the RenderPro. Standard power on and HDD function LEDs on both units along with Power & Reset Buttons.

On the back of the Workstation, things get fun. A total of TEN Expansion slots, Dual Ethernet ports, another 4 USB ports and more that are too small to make out what they are... The RenderPro has Dual Ethernet ports and another 2 USB ports. You can see me eagerly applying the front face decal in this photo to the RenderPro.

Here you can see me taking a quick stroll across the top of the RenderPro after its been docked with the Workstation. Together they make a formidable foe that will render any LEGO scene faster than you can say Minecraft!

I also wanted to give everyone a sneak peak inside the Workstation to show you how cleanly assembled it is and easy to work on should you want to utilize those expansion bays. Despite the thick walls of the LEGO chassis, I found it incredibly easy to work on. You can clearly see they spared no expense on this liquid cooled, overclocked XEON CPU. Given that there are SIX stickers on the Workstation and FIVE on the RenderPro, that counts for an extra 55 Horsepower total above the overclocked 4.5GHz if you count 5HP per sticker. I have to say I was very impressed with these two systems and would like to thank BOXX Technologies for the opportunity get hands on time with these special systems.

Every other LEGO computer system you could buy is just a complete BRICK.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Islands of the Pacific and Other Far Off Places

Mauritius, French Polynesia, New Caledonia - thanks for visiting! It's great to see such a diverse international audience that comes to visit this blog. It would be great to hear back from you with any efforts of BIM in your area. Feel free to drop a note in the comments or touch base with me via twitter or linked in.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Are You Brave Enough to Ask for Feedback?

I've been doing a lot of Revit training for the company I work at this year. I did plenty of training when I worked previously at U.S. CAD and at the conclusion of every class we always had the students fill out a survey. Sometimes the feedback was uplifting, other times it was a wake up call. It takes a certain mindset to process feedback from others on something you spend a lot of time doing and have put a lot of energy into. To put it to use is another thing all together.

After a few class lately, it occurred to me that I had no way of really knowing what those who attended thought about what they just learned and how it was delivered. So, I put together a brief survey for each different topic via Survey Monkey and started passing them out. I got some really good comments back already, albeit in a limited fashion. I think I am going to start requiring attendees to fill out the survey before they leave at the end of the class so I can get better participation in the survey's.

So, would you ask for feedback?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Specifying a Computer to run Modern Design Applications

Much discussion surrounds system specs for running modern design applications. I've made previous posts about system specs (wow that's old!), Jay Zallan has done so recently, but I have a slightly different take on it now after my recent benchmark tests. To make it simple there are 5 main things to consider when spec'ing out a system, something I've touched on previously. I've listed them here in order of importance.
  1. OS
  2. CPU
  3. RAM
  4. Video/Graphics Card (GPU)
  5. Hard Drive
The tough part comes when trying to spec a system for a user. Do you spec one configuration only that covers the majority of needs or have multiple ones depending on a users focus? A designer might be more concerned with running Adobe products, Rhino, Sketchup and Revit early in the project. A sustainability expert would be running still different software while someone wrapping up construction documents would be spending a majority of their time in Revit. Until recently, we have been specifying one spec for all positions, one that can handle large Revit projects with ease.

The thing I noticed with my recent benchmarks testing Revit is that it did not benefit as much from an expensive GPU as I previously thought. Also, I found that steps taken that should benefit from a SSD did not produce as much benefit as I'd hoped. When it comes to OS, you better be on a 64bit platform or most of the rest won't help you.

If you are on a tight budget like I am and trying to get the most benefit for your money, I would go with the fastest CPU you can get as that seems to drive the most benefit for productivity. Next, add as much RAM as you can get, starting with 16GB minimum as Autodesk recommends.

As for a GPU, Revit did great on my benchmark tests with a mid-range card, the Quadro 600. The jury is still out on what happens with it in other applications like 3ds Max, Rhino or Sketchup. Initial experiences from our in house 3ds Max expert Chris Grant said he felt that viewport performance was very snappy, more so than his desktop running a Quadro 4000 with dual Xeon CPU's. We need more testing in other applications, but I predict the Quadro 600 will suffice for them as well. My thought is that because on our BOXX 4050 & the CPU was running overclocked, the CPU was able to hand the data off to the GPU faster for it to process things.

When it comes to hard drives, there are a few things to consider. If you are running a regular physical hard drive (HDD), RPM of the disk speed as well as transfer rates from disk to CPU/RAM affect how fast data can be read/written. You can get some pretty high RPM drives these days for HDD. I noticed on the spec sheets from BOXX that their system with a HDD running @ 7200RPM had the same transfer rate as their SSD. Getting to the data is one thing, sending it around the computer is the other part. I need to run more testing on a similarly configured BOXX with a Solid State Drive (SSD) to confirm my suspicion, but I would have to guess that running with a HDD vs SSD does not offer the performance boost when using Revit that one would hope for.

When does Revit access the hard drive? Per the Revit Model Performance Technical Note, it is only during model load, model save and any hard disk swapping managed by the Windows OS.  What is hard disk swapping? According to this page on Wikipedia, it is part of virtual memory (VM) implementation in the operating system that allows disk storage for data that does not fit into physical RAM. So to me, I interpret that to mean Revit only uses VM if it runs out of RAM. If you have enough RAM, you shouldn't need VM with Revit. This in turn means Revit only really accesses the hard drive when you first open a model and when you save / sync with central. Overall, this is a far less occurring activity during the day and for only short bursts compared with model creation/editing and viewport regeneration. Also, with many large models, they are central files and a good amount of that save time is sending data to/from the server over your network. So I guess that's a long winded way of saying I don't see the benefit from the added cost of a primary SSD. I'm not saying it won't speed things up here and there, I'm just looking at the overall picture of trying to get the most value for my money.

In summary, I can't stress enough that you need to spend as much of your budget as you can on the fastest CPU you can get your hands on. It will just make life so much more productive and pay for itself much faster than other bits you might splurge on. If I had a rich uncle give me a bag full money to go buy whatever desktop I wanted, it would have the fastest CPU (multi-socket/multi-core), best dual GPU setup with a couple SSD's and as much RAM as I could stuff into it. Until then, I'll squeak by with a fast CPU and get by with lesser components elsewhere.