Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big (old) news

So I'm like two weeks late on this, but it was official on the last day of AU. Burt Hill has merged. I'm now officially an employee of "Uncle Stanley". Still not quite sure what it means in the long term, but at least I have a job, and so far the people I've met and talked to seem to like me... :-)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Inspiration from AU

Where did we take that photograph of existing conditions?
Where am I standing while looking at this rendering?

Familiar questions when working with Revit, right? Revit provides no good way to mark, or locate cameras, renderings or photos, right? Well earlier this year I created a generic annotation component to callout "cameras" this came out of the need to identify photo locations on a site. It was nice, but completely manual in nature, particularly in terms of setting the detail and sheet numbers, which also meant it did not update correctly.

Ever since the customizable elevation tags came out I've tried to think of something useful to do with them, sure you can finally "tweak" the OOTB content to look exactly like what you drew on mylar, but really? How important was that? Inspiration finally struck when I was hanging out in the AEC lounge at AU answering user questions, you can use a custom elevation view type to "callout" a photo or camera location!

click for enlarged view

How does it work you ask? First I've got a custom pointer family and body family. These are assigned as a new elevation tag, which is then assigned to a new Elevation Type. The last trick is, when you go to place the elevation, you choose "Reference other view" in the Options bar. From Reference other View you can choose  either drafting views (good for site/existing condition photos) or any view saved as a "rendering" (image) in the project. Once placed you can rotate and adjust as needed, since it is not a "live" view, these annotations will only show up in the view they're placed in. Of course, because its an elevation tag, it will carry the sheet/detail number references when you place your drafting or rendering view onto a sheet.

So, there are a few "drawbacks" to this approach....
  1. You can't actually directly reference a real "camera" (Autodesk are you listening?) but you can save a camera view as a "rendering" in your project browser tree (warning, this is the same as inserting an image in a drafting view, so watch your file size!).
  2. You can't really adjust the size of the "Field of View" without having multiple custom Elevation Tags assigned to multiple Elevation Types (could get quite messy in the project browser).
Other then that, I think this is likely to work really well for a number of people, particularly if you're dealing with photos or renderings, annotated 3D views might be trickier. One solution might be to place the actual camera view on a sheet, reference an empty drafting view and place the drafting view on the same sheet, and use its title and detail number to identify the annotated camera view. Not perfect, but better then anything else, right?!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

AU 2010

Somehow it is already Wednesday!

I'm finally actually taking a class being given by James, Phil and Jim about "Future Technology". On Monday I had the pleasure once again of attending the third annual Computational Design Symposium. Of note from that event was a company named "Evolute". While they don't have a a software tool for Revit (only Rhino) there is some interesting potential if you're using Revit's conceptual massing tools and exporting to Rhino to leverage their tools to help further rationalize the form.

The classes I'm teaching/running have all gone really well so far. The recording on Sunday for the Virtual session on collaboration in Revit (Revit Server) went really well, both lectures are done, with a crowd that stuck around and the first lab went very well with most people keeping up!

A huge thanks to all of my co-speakers and lab assistants who helped out and Autodesk staff who provided technical review of the documents related to worksharing and Revit Server.

All in all a very succesful AU so far!

Friday, November 26, 2010

See you @ AU!

I will be in town as of Saturday night. If you're around and looking for someone to have dinner with, reach out. Private messages on AUGI are the best unless you already have my email or phone.

See you there!

Robert Manna
Burt Hill
sent from my mobile
This email is intended for named recipients only.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hacking Vasari

The Best of Both Worlds part II
So I've tooled around with Vasari a little bit, in some ways it is quite liberating because it is so "lite" in other ways it is quite limiting, for obvious reasons.

One of my favorite commands in Revit is "Create Similar". It makes it so easy to create something in canvas without having to go use the Type Selector or do much else, click on the item and use the keyboard shortcut (CS), or right click and choose "Create Similar" from the context menu.

One of the interesting things about Vasari is that its still "Revit" and while they've turned off any number of tools and what not, a command like "Create Similar" is so ingrained, and so low level that it can't really be turned off (not to mention it has its uses in any context in Revit). Its almost like the "sleep" command Data used in TNG to stop the Borg from attacking Earth. Who would think that such a minor little command could wrought such interesting possibilities!

Anyway, if don't have a full blown version of Revit Architectture, but you download Vasari, fear not! Grab a Revit file from any number of locations (AUGI, Revit City, Autodesk) that already has some walls, floors, doors, whatever created in the file, and go to town! You can use Create Similiar to make your own elements, all without the convenience of the commands found in the Ribbon. Now this is not to say you'll be able to do everything and anything, but I do think it would be possible to do some fairly rudimentary modeling in Vasari with "typica"l Revit elements.

If you were really enterprising, you could create a "template" file for yourself with a bunch of elements created in an orderly fashion, that can be used with the CS command to begin modeling what ever you want.

Happy explorations!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

We didn't design this one in Revit....

We've built a family, just not in Revit...

Thanks to Steve Stafford for the shout-out. Yes, I'm still planning to be at AU, and yes my wife is a saint. She did contribute to the Beyond Project Templates course, though I'll have to speak for her I think.

See you in a week!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

AU Handouts!

One hundred plus pages later, all four handouts for all four AU courses are done! I'm not sure when they will go live for attendees, but the due data for speakers is tomorrow (Monday 11/15). Lab content was due about two weeks ago, so the big push has been finishing up the other three courses. My many thanks to all of my co-speakers!!

Each class is only 60 minutes long, so thanks to my co-teachers hardwork we've packed a huge amount of content into each handout. I figure with a 60min class, we're looking at a 20 - 30 slide presentation at best, since each handout is at least 20 pages that is at most a slide per page!

Enjoy and see you in a few short weeks!!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Danger of Shared Coordinates

So many people have seen or gotten this error before:

"Linked file File FILE NAME.rvt cannot be saved because it has changes in more than just shared coordinates and therefore can invalidate Local Files owned by you."

What this error hints at is that Shared Coordinates are invasive and indicate that even when you think you've done nothing, something has occurred between linked file because they have Shared Coordinates. What we've seen recently with our project that is in Revit Server is that shared coordinates are very invasive! We've seen a number of "false" locks on Central Files from users who are not actively working on the Central File that is locked. Instead the presence of Shared Coordinates between linked files causes a lock on one of the linked the Central File by a user working in the host file.

To be clear, none of these false locks have caused lost work, or prevent team members from getting their work done. There have been a few delays, but mainly it has left us scratching our heads, attempting to determine:

  1. Who has the file locked.
  2. How the lock got there in the first place.
Without Workshare Monitor to tell you what is going on in the Central File (and more importantly who is "working" on the file) its a bit more of a challenge to track down the issue. Bluestreak's Activity Monitor does not really help either, because it only reports what has happened, not what is happening.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

New toys, free toys!

This caught my attention...

I think that it may introduce a few spruced up features, but this is really about encouraging people to get into using the Conceptual (core) modeling environment in Revit. Oh by the way, since it will likely be on Autodesk Labs that means its Free! Install it one whatever computer you want, and have fun. I suspect they're aiming to have live before AU, but that is just a guess on my part, or maybe right after or during.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Rotated Views??

Had a user come to me with an off problem last week that had me stumped until I got into the file....

The user said they had some enlarged floor plans that were slightly rotated, needless to say this didn't look very good on the sheets. My first reaction was:

  1. draw a detail line, which will snap to Revit's orthagonal snaps
  2. Create an angular dimension an element in the view to measure the angle.
  3. Rotate the view based on the angle.
Well, that did not work....

So then, what was going on? The view was a floorplan, not a callout, so it was not a relationship to something like that. I checked true north versus project north, that was ok. I created my own floor plan view, and rotated it, and followed my own instructions, and they worked. That meant there was something controlling this view (and four others). I stared at the view properties, and then it hit me, hiding at the very bottom "Assigned Scope Box"!

Now I'm glad that someone on the team was smart enough to use a scope box to control view extents, and attempt to rotate the view 90 degrees. The problem is, when they rotated the scope box, they obviously snapped to something, rather then typing in the desired rotation angle! Worse, you cannot snap to, or otherwise determine the rotation of a scope box. The only solution in this case was to create a new scope box and re-assign the views to the new box.

I'm actually a little disappointed in myself that it took me as long as it did to find the scope box issue, but at least I did finally narrow it down. A good lesson in how to control views, but also a good lesson in troubleshooting, don't rule anything else, and look carefully at properties in Revit, the answer is usually there!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

2011 Subscription Advantage Packs Live

Available for download from the Subscription Website.

Another note, "instructions/help" for the CEA tools and Revit Server can all be found on Autodesk's wiki.

This is a new approach, so we will see how it goes. They are actually interested in user contribution to the site, and I already have a few things to add, if they are not already there.

More specifically:

Revit Server Installation
Revit Server Administration

Conceptual Energy Analysis

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Conceptual Design Workshop

I won't be able to go to this (past my no travel date) but in case you're interested:

"- The 3-day Conceptual Design workshop will explore the new Revit conceptual design workflows, specifically parametric modelling and performative design using Autodesk® Revit®. The first two days of the workshop will focus on the ins and outs of the new form making and manipulation tools including creation of parametric rigs to drive and modify form, surface panelization, reporting parameters and adaptive components. The second part of the workshop will focus on analysis applied early into the design process (conceptual energy analysis, solar radiation, use of structural analysis plug-ins), and will also provide overview of API features such as Analysis Visualization Framework and Dynamic Updating.

- The 1-day Sustainable Design workshop will be focused on using Ecotect to explore the boundaries of generative and performative design using Autodesk® Ecotect® Analysis, Autodesk® Green Building Studio® and Autodesk® Revit®. The workshop will focus on the use iterative techniques and automated feedback from performance analysis to optimise and refine building geometry. While developing scripts in Autodesk Ecotect is quite easy and the fundamentals can be picked up during the course of the workshop, some experience with programming concepts and/or languages will be advantageous."

Monday, September 27, 2010

CEA Tools Diagram

Autodesk Blogger Day: Revit Server

So, I've had to sit on this for quite some time!!

Autodesk is releasing a product for subscriptions customers called Revit Server. This is an internally run software solution for sharing Revit Central Files across a Wide Area Network (WAN).

This is not a "cloud" solution, rather it is meant to be installed on your servers within your firm. We have been working with this software for some time at Burt Hill and the feedback and experience has been exceptionally positive. There are some limitations since it is Version 1, but for the first time I can truly say we have feasible, solution sourced from Autodesk that allows our different offices to collaborate together on projects.

I can also finally admit that my AUv course "Virtually" There: Using Revit with Geographically Dispersed Teams: AB22-1R" is intended to primarily focus on Revit Server, implementing it, and our experience using it on a real project team involving multiple offices and an external consultant.

Autodesk Blogger Day: CEA Tools

What are CEA tools you ask?

"Conceptual Energy Anaylsis" - (CEA)

The point of these tools was to make it easier to run early energy analysis of building designs, and primarily various massing options of a building. It is important to note that Autodesk's internal (cloud based) analysis (GBS / DOE2) is great for the 30,000' view of building energy analysis. However, what is particularly nice is that these tools result in a much cleaner gbXML export that what you typically get from Revit now. The problem with Revit as it is now, is that the gbXML output is derived from rooms or spaces, and often results in errors. With the CEA tools you can fully control the volumes that you are going to analyze, which also means that you can create a more simplified "zone" model of a building for export to more detailed energy analysis programs. For instance if you want to use IES, and your design is in DD, you can be a simplified mass that represents the overall building form and major zones, based upon the DD model, and export the gbXML to IES. This is a bit of a manual process, but results in a cleaner, better model for use in IES, Ecotect or Equest.

Its raining in Boston...

But I'm huddled in a conference room in Waltham MA. We will see what develops today....

Monday, September 20, 2010

AU & Free Culture

Our second go at the lab course will be Wednesday afternoon 3:00-4:00, so as long as you're not more interested in Fuzzy Math (really good course BTW) come to our lab!! If you don't get into our lab, go learn about Fuzzy Math!

Something else of note that I found interesting, this Saturday is Museum Day, sponsored by the Smithsonian. You can get free access to museums all around the country, one that caught my eye in our area is Walter Gropius' house. Unfortunately due to a prior commitment, we won't be able to go, but maybe you can make it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

AU update!!

So, the lab course I'm running (Au Bon Panel: Baking Your Own Adaptive Components and Panels with Autodesk Revit Architecturewas apparently so popular, and in such high demand, we're going to be doing part deux!!!

That's right look for a schedule update with a second session available to sign-up for!

The teaching team (Zach, Steve & David) will be meeting in a week and a half to do a dry run on this puppy, so hopefully we can live up to expectations!!!

If you're already signed-up, or do, look for more direct communications via the AU website. We want to live up to what you're looking for, but we need the students to do the same!!! Labs are tough nuts, and we need as level as a playing field as we can get.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

News!! AU & more!

I'm a speaker at AU2010!

So we've been quiet for quite some time, because there are just sooo many things going in our lives!!!

First off, I will be presenting at AU this year. Two Classes, One Lab and one Virtual Session. Thankfully I have a great supporting cast around me, and each is only an hour long:

  • Parametrics Laid Bare: Panels and Adaptive Components in Autodesk Revit: AB223-1
  • Beyond Project Templates: Managing Company Standards and Best Practices in Autodesk Revit: AB234-4P
  • Au Bon Panel: Baking Your Own Adaptive Components and Panels with Autodesk Revit Architecture: AB316-1L
  • "Virtually" There: Using Revit with Geographically Dispersed Teams: AB22-1R
Hopefully Krista will be co-speaking (via Skype) with me for the Project Templates course, but alas, she may be a little tied up with our new baby who is due on Nov. 13th!!

Lastly, if you have not heard or seen the most recent big news, you may want to read the press release here.

Look for some more posts later this month, but I suspect we will continue to run pretty silent, stay tuned!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Time to retire....

32bit that is! I've been waiting for this post to be published by the Revit Clinic folks. I've been working with Ryan for a month now on a user that continues to crash no matter what. The current thinking being that it is the issue of stability of 32 vs 64. Needless to say we've tried and exhausted just about every other possible option, and no, this user is not working on huge Revit files at all either.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Navisworks 2011 Addin file

Ugh! More then a month since I last posted, and that was from my BB while at Dev Camp.

Dev Camp was fun, too bad I've not really got back into programming. :-(

However, one thing that was further clarified for me was AddIn files and lo and behold, I need to make one!

We're in the midst of prepping for full rollout of ADSK 2011 BIM products here, which includes Navisworks. I manually installed Navis, and noticed that it modified my Revit INI in order to load the export plug-in! Well that was just annoying, modifying the ini is a pain, especially with packaged deployments, the new manifest files are much friendlier to packaged deployment of software, rather then having to make sure an INI file is properly modified. So, I wrote my own!

If you feel like using an Addin file to integrate Navisworks into your 2011 installations, just copy the code below into a text file (I recommend Notepad) and save the file as a *.addin file. Place the new file in your addins directory, remove the nasty code from your ini, and presto, you'll be all set!

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<AddIn Type="Command">
<Text>Export to Navisworks 2011</Text>
<Description>Exports an NWC file from Revit for Navisworks</Description>
<Assembly>C:\Program Files\Common Files\Autodesk Shared\Navisworks\2011\nwexportrevit2011\nwexportrevit2011_8.dll</Assembly>
<p>Use this command to export an NWC (Navisworks Cache file) file of your Revit model. NWC files can be opened in Navisworks and saved as NWD files.</p>

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Dev Camp AEC Keynote

A few interesting tidbits out of the keynote this morning by Nicolas Mangon.

Point cloud support is coming (someday) to Revit. Nothing specific, in terms of time, but I would say '12 or '13. This information supports my suspicions as in '11 you'll note a bunch of .dll's for "AmberCore" which turns up some interesting Google results.

Another interesting note, it sounds like for MEP '12 we can expect to see a focus on Plumbing/pipe development/improvements after this years focus on M and E improvements.

Autodesk AEC Dev Camp 2010

Spending yesterday, today and tomorrow at Dev Camp. So far its been interesting. Today we'll really get into the "meet" of the classes, I'm looking forward to some solid re-enforcement of what I've self taught myself, plus learning new tips, techniques and best practices.

What is particularly nice is the high ratio of Autodesk staff to attendees, its a great chance to network and really talk about some "under the hood" type stuff.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Guide Grids

I’ve been exploring these a little bit as we get ready to roll out 2011 to the firm. I have to say they are an odd mix of Revit objects and attributes. For instance;

How do you delete a guide grid?

Well oddly enough, to detele a Guide Grid from a project, you simply select it, and delete it! If you have multiple Guide Grids defined you cannot purge them, and they don’t show up in the project browser. They simply exist in the sheet view(s). What is even odder is what this behavior implies. A guide grid is effectively an instance of a datum object similar to Grids, Levels or Reference Planes. There are no type properties of a Guide Grids, there is a single “Type” within a whole project. When you manipulate the Instance Properties of a particular Guide Grid in the Properties Pallette, it updates the Grid in all the sheets you’ve “placed” the grid in. In fact what you’ve really done is actually make that particular instance of the Type Guide grid visible in the particular sheets you assigned it to. You don’t actually place the Grid. What this also means is that the location of any particular grid is based on the origin of a sheet view.

Interestingly enough, if you get to thinking about it, Sheet Views are really nothing more then a Drafting View whose behavior has been specialized to allow Views of the Model to be added to them. They have an origin just like drafting views, but “we” can never see or find that origin perse (its important to note that using the API you can find the origin in both Drafting and Sheet Views, or using a linked DWG).

The point is, that the Guide Grid function operates based on the premise that your titleblock locations share a common origin, much as Grids operate on the premise that your model is built around a commong origin from floor to floor. If you move your titleblock (for whatever reason) within the Sheet View Canvas, the Guide Grid will be in the same place, but not relative to the Titleblock.

What this also means is that even though the Guide Grid uses a very basic implentation of the “Pattern” functionality to create the graphical grid, it effectively represents the coordinate system of the Sheet View(s) with the one minor fact that you don’t know where 0,0 is.

What really gets me about this whole thing is, why implement each individual grid as a separate instance of a single Type? Why not allow multiple Types to be defined? Multiple Types would make more sense in the long run, and would allow for some type of “management” console to see all the defined type at once, and delete/modify, etc. Instead all we get is a drop down in view properties, which in reality is simply turning the visibility of a particular instance on or off. Furthermore, when you click on the “Guide Grid” button once again you’re creating “new” by way of placing a new element of an existing Type. Lastly, this comes back to the “delete” issue. In Revit “delete” can be and sometimes is confused with “removal”. One can easily imagine a user opting to “delete” a grid from a particular view, when in fact they simply want to make it no longer visible in that one view. Hitting delete however may have the un-desired effect of completely removing the Guide Grid from the whole project (which might be a big problem!).

I have to say, the one really nice thing about the functionality they did add, is that if, like us, you’ve added your own “grid” and visibility controls to your Titleblock families (with Symbolic Lines) then you can actually use that to snap to and align your views (or offset them from the grid to a specific point, etc.). What is nice about this approach is that the grid is relative to the Titleblock, so if you move the Titleblock, or for some reason delete it, then add a new one back later, you will always have the “same” grid no matter what.

For now, even though there are some drawbacks in terms of management and printing with our own TB grids, I think I’ll generally stick with them, as it seems to have fewer pitfalls, and is potentially less confusing in the long run, then Guide Grids.

Monday, May 17, 2010

AU 2010 Voting Is On!

So, voting for AU 2010 classes is upon us!

This year I’m somehow involved in Six! Courses and Krista has three.

First up, Zach of (Buildz) and I teamed up for a lecture and a lab focused on the how to create good Panels by Points and Adaptive Components. Those two courses are:

Au Bon Panel: baking your own Adaptive Components and Panels with Autodesk Revit – 2hr lecture

Parametrics Laid Bare: Panels and Adaptive Components in Autodesk Revit – 3 hr lab

We actually think that our two courses, combined with what the BIM Troublemaker and David Fano have submitted would make a really awesome mini-powertrack dedicated to the Core Modeling (Conceptual Design) tools. So if you are so inclined to vote for our course, please vote for their’s too!!

Next I’ve submitted the same course twice, but in two different formats:

Using Revit with Geographically Dispersed Teams – 1hr lecture

"Virtually" there: Using Revit with Geographically Dispersed Teams – 1hr virtual session

I actually would prefer to do this course as an AUv course, not a lecture, first off it lets me do it ahead of time, and somehow, it seems fitting that a course about teams collaborating virtually should be taught virtually. The description(s) on this course are a little vague, but I have some good reasons for that, so all I can ask is that you have faith! I also think that with the AUv session that the on-line chat/QA will be helpful, and useful to you, the attendees.

Lastly, to follow-up on my course last year, which was a great success, I’ve submitted an hour long course focused on Source Files, which are the little brother(s) of your Project Template, there were a number of questions about how we use these files, so it seemed like an hour would be just about right to share our experience and knowledge. Krista will be helping me out on this one too, as she has some good experience thanks to the work her firm focuses on.

Beyond Project Templates, Techniques for Managing company standards and best practices in Revit – 1 hr Lecture

Krista has put together two of her own courses. The first one, (with me as co-speaker) is going to take a look at really leveraging the room and area data in Revit and get into some of the nitty gritty details of working with this stuff in Revit.

Get with the program: how to better validate building size with Revit Architecture – 1hr lecture

Secondly, she is going to offer up a course focused on color, we both really believe that color is under utilized in Revit, particularly by Architects and Interior designers. So here is a chance to learn some good examples and techniques for employing color in not only in your drawings but also as a design tool.

            Revit in Living color – 1hr lecture

Last but not least! I’m also co-teaching with Jason of (Adaptive Practice) to talk all about how to understand your models once you’ve got them and how to help keep your teams on the straight and narrow of good Revityness.

Revit Autopsies: Structured Model Examination and Assessment Techniques – 2hr Lecture

So please!! Vote early, and vote often (ok, you can't vote often) for our courses, and our friends courses, I also want to throw out reminders about other great presenters who always have something new and interesting to share:

Steve Stafford – professional Revit instructor
Jim Balding – runs his own AE research lab!
James Vandezande – two years off from AU, you know he’ll come back strong
David Light – fellow blogger and awesome Revit user
David Baldicchino – also a couple years off from AU, lots of practical experience
Scott Brown – too many people missed a really great course by Scott last year about interior design in Revit (bad scheduling!!!)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Upgrading to 2011: Deleted Levels!? Broken Plan Regions!?

So I came across this error quite by accident. The good news is if you don't care about the explanation, you can stop now and safely ignore the warning/error (shown below) that might be posted when upgrading a file from any previous version of Revit.

So what might you ask is going on? I'm glad you asked! :-)

As I said the short story is that this error is harmless (as far as anyone knows). I've now seen this error show up in three different models, two from 2009 and one from 2010. At first I wrote it off, as the first two models were not 100% familiar to me, and I assumed it was some type of error related to the files, and something the user(s) had done. However, when the error(s) above showed up in the model from 2010 I started to wonder as I'm much more familiar with the 2010 model.

So, off went an e-mail to my Autodesk contacts... and low and behold we've got ourselves a reasonably straightforward answer.

<snip>This warning is a result of fixing one of the bugs I was assigned right before code split. Basically, when the slanted columns project was originally done, a level id was stored in the view range dialog used by plan views and plan regions. At some point, the design changed, but the data was left in place. Somehow, and I’m not sure how, lots of plan regions are storing a stale element id. That was the source of the bug I was assigned.  This warning just indicated this is such a plan region. It can be ignored. There should be no consequence to the user.<snip>

So, basically when they first wrote the code for slanted columns the data mattered, but it doesn't anymore. Now we get a warning that is meaningless. If anything I think an example like this really illustrates the complexity of a piece of software like Revit. One might argue that they should be doing a better job of making sure random bits of data are not stored (taking up space) but given the complexity of such things, its not really surprising. A great deal happens as they write the software, and just like architecture and engineering the design changes. Have you ever sat there looking at a drawing, wondering how a design decision was arrived at....? Decisions and changes get made, and sometimes we loose track of the history and process, we're then left to clean it all up later on down the road.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Revit 2011: Stepped Foundations with Adaptive Components

So, if you want to learn all sorts of impractical for the new Adaptive Components (AC) you can visit Builz. But if you're interested in some more practical applications you've come to the correct place.

I don't know about you, but I've always found modeling stepped footings to be a bit of a pain. There were several techniques, but they all had their drawbacks. I think the newest technique that AC's offer us is the best yet. It is still not perfect, but its quick and easy! This quick demo illustrates some of the flexibility AC's actually offer, and the concept of thinking of the Conceptual Mass Environment as a wrapper for working with these elements.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

AEC Media Day: Time Spent with the Development Team

So, I did promise to get back to this topic, and I have at least a few more posts about 2011 to come to. Steve's review of the whole day was good, so I wanted to focus in particular on the time we spent with a development team.

No, I'm not going to give you any insights into what is coming in terms of features, instead we had a fascinating opportunity to get an idea of how the software we use every day is developed.

The Cast

As Steve said we got to visit with Greg's development team. So we met (most of) them in a conference room. Hopefully I get the titles right: Greg the Product Designer was there, then there was a gent from the Quality Assurance part of the Factory, Erik was there for a few minutes, but had to pop out (he is product design too) then we had Lev Lipkin (long time Revit developer), two more developers (whose name's escape me) and one last developer on the phone.

So what is everyone's roles in creating a new feature? Obviously the developers write the code that makes the software run. I'm assuming there is some further breakdown in terms of responsibilities, but we did not get into that level of detail.

Product Designers provide the specification of what the new feature is, what are the goals it is supposed to achieve and what is the required functionality.

This then leaves you to wonder, what is QA doing there? Well QA in the Factory is an interesting role. They not only test the software as it is developed, and test again, and retest, and test some more, but they also regularly use the software, and they typically have a design background, so they're familiar with our collective industries. QA and can offer input from a user background, their interaction with clients, and their experience troubleshooting bugs and other problems that users do run into. Lastly, QA is valuable because they are the ones who have to test and effectively approve new features for release. Therefore when considering the time for a development cycle (effectively about 9 months, when you take out 3 months for project scoping and research) you have to consider, is it realistic to test the proposed new feature set in that length of time, when you consider all the other things that have to happen to develop new code or modifying existing.

This is a critical part in the software development process that I think a great number of people underestimate the complexity and time involved. The QA team has a "huge" server room dedicated to their work where they run, and re-run thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of tests on the software (every night). Everyday a new build of Revit is released in the factory and every night those builds are tested. Furthermore, as the software grows, the number of tests continues to increase. These are all tests to make sure that:
  1. New features don't break old features.
  2. Modified features continue to work.
  3. New features aren't broken (this can't be done until you have a test for the new feature).
So a new feature is a big deal, you have to test is against what you already have, then you have to design a test for it, to make sure it continues to work, and that takes a great deal of time. Even with what is a pretty darn good QA process, and really, really good QA team, bugs still find their way through to us the end users, and we don't even catch them all in Alpha or Beta either.

The Process

In the discussion we were part of, Greg began by going through an outline of what the end goals were for the feature, also recognizing that this feature would only be one small step towards more features in the future. From there the discussion commenced....

QA was concerned about scope. In particular there was concern about enough time to fully the test the new feature and there was concern that the Revit team, would start to take on and own something that was not previously "theirs" in terms of development responsibility and support. This is actually a big deal, its kinda like the architect saying to the Mechanical engineer, "oh don't worry, we'll make sure to put all the HVAC diffusers and returns in the all the right spots". In many cases we might do pretty well, but we're not experts, and do we really want that responsibility in the first place? So the Factory has the same issues to contend with in their world.

So, this issue of ownership then led to a discussion about, what could be done internally in Revit, to support the proposed workflow, without taking on scope that Revit did not have previously. This then led to a discussion about what did users really, need, what could they get by with, and what might have to just wait (no matter how much the users might want it).

Essentially then feature development becomes a process of risk analysis. What is the minimum required to keep users happy? What is required for the feature to be useful? Can the code be written and tested to meet those needs? This is not to say that it is only a discussion of numbers, but no matter what, the bottom line is the bottom line, code cannot be changed until the 9th hour, its just not how it works.

So the discussion then really became focused on what would meet the user needs, and really focusing in on what the core goals were that Greg had in mind, and what could be "stripped" away to meet them, or what was the best way to meet them. This is where development starts to speak up, because they have an idea of what they might be able to do with existing code, and they also (mostly) know where the the Jimmy Hoffas of the Revit world are buried ("we" learned about at least one which I think took a few people by surprise....) The ideas of the developers are interesting, when compared to how an end user might consider something, and it this mix of Product Design, QA and Developers that eventually leads to a finalized feature.

As "flies on the wall" we were able to "speak up" from a user's point of view and hopefully provide a little bit of insight (Product Designers also have the responsibility of interviewing and researching real users, like us). Steve even got up an drew on the white board!

There is more I wish I could share, but it would reveal too much about the feature being discussed. In any event, it really was quite a unique experience, and educational. As we all left, the comment from the Factory staff was "this is what we do all day every day", a stretch perhaps, but quite telling. Not a single bit of code has been written for this feature yet, and won't be for probably several more months, instead there will be more meetings, more discussions, analysis of user interview data, and debate how best to achieve the goal. That way, when the developers do sit down to write the code, they can focus on writing code that immediately produces the desired results, rather then writing and re-writing code, because it does not do what "we" thought it would.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Revit '10 crashing & UIState.dat

A quick search on Google will reveal a number of posts about related directly to the UIState.dat file. Much has been made about deleting the UIState file in order to "reset" 2010's ribbon interface (Autodesk even publishes a tool and instructions). However, I've recently learned that corruption of this file is heavily suspected in cases of Revit 2010 crashing for no other obvious reasons.

As I've made mention before in different forums, generally my firm has held back from moving to 2010. However, its been un-avoidable for a number of reasons, on a number of projects. What has been alarming is the frequency of crashes we've seen/are seeing with users in 2010. Part of this may be in-sufficient hardware (as 2010 simply seems to be more intensive then 2009) or, another reason to blame may be more complex models. Several of our 2010 projects have structure and MEP (one of the reasons they are in '10 to begin with) which even on a small project greatly increases overall memory footprint when all files are loaded.

However, it turns out that the real cause of blame may be the UIState.dat file. I've been told (off the record) by reliable sources that if we have un-explained crashes (no warning, no recovery save, not in the middle of a significant operation) and in the journal file we see  just prior to the journal termination/exception error then there is a good chance that deleting the UIState.dat file will alleviate the crashing.

So far we've deleted the file on two PC's (mine being one) and with fingers crossed, we have not seen more crashes, but we need to give it some more time. I expect we'll be deleting the file from other's PC's in the near future.

The really wacky part was a case last week (while I was trying to enjoy Media Day). We had a user who, when he logged into one of our 64bit remote workstations, the moment Revit finished opening a file, and he did anything to affect the Ribbon, Revit crashed! It turned out that Revit was not creating any type of UIState.dat file for this user (though when I logged in, it created a UIState.dat file for me just fine). Furthermore the user could run Revit MEP without a problem.

Autodesk's only suggestion for this case was to delete the user's local profile from the machine, as there also seems to be cases where the whole local user profile becomes corrupted in some way.

Once the profile was deleted, the user logged back in, and Revit created a UIState.dat file without any problems, and so far has been stable.

Thus, all I can offer, is that if you have random crashes in Revit 2010, and they can not be reasonably attributed to anything else, and your journal file matches up with the above description, chances are you should start by deleting the Dat file, and if that does not clear the problem, delete the user's profile (by the way I take no responsibility for lost data if you do delete a profile, its up to you to know what you're doing, our IT staff already has it down to a science).

I'll also say, that off the record Autodesk is quite hopeful that this issue is resolved moving into 2011, however, even with Beta testing the numbers are simply not there to reveal a problem that is so hard to troubleshoot and hard to even be sure when it is happening. Indeed, to date I've not seen this problem myself in 2011, even though its occurred to me in 2010. We can but hope that this page has been turned.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Subtle Updates in 2011

We'll get back to Media Day, but for now Steve does a good job of recapping most of what went on etc.

First up on updates in 2011, everything that was previously only available for Subscription customers (Q3 Subscription Advantage Pack) is available to everyone who buys Revit, needless to say, Autodesk's sales pitch is, "buy the subscription pack it will be worth it" (something confirmed at the Media Day and recent Boston Revit User group events).

So what about these subtle changes?

The first one quite handy, "Save View as Image", You can right click on any view in the project browser and choose "Save View as Image". This is a great way to "freeze" a drawing, without having to export to CAD, and it keeps everything in the model. The same functionality is also exposed in the API. One presumes that this is all part of the new "Analysis Styles" view framework meant to make it easier to graphically convey and save analysis data in the model.

Next, we have some changes in the user interface. Autocad users can rejoice, Revit's UI now supports activating  a modifier command (such as Copy, Rotate or Move) before selecting any elements. Once the command is activated, you can select elements, finish the selection and execute the command. This means that combined with more keyboard shortcuts, mouse clicks to the ribbon can be greatly decreased.

Lastly, Revit Structure provides a number of enhancements to framing, particulary in terms of cleaning up slanted columns, trusses, and how you can place edit these elements. All these changes are available in Architecture too. I have to say I think the method of placing a slanted column is quite elegant (not the only one either) and the new ability to manipulate the top and bottom of a column is quite handy to.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Autodesk: AEC Media Day, Revit 2011 Text & Labels

Well, technically media day is tomorrow, but it started tonight with a reception. Quite the crowd they've brought in, and I appreciated being invited and entertained too. Steve Stafford, David Light David HarringtonLachmi Khemlani and more were all there.

Tomorrow we get down to all the "real" release info, a chance to ask questions, and perhaps, if we're lucky some goodies that we probably won't be allowed to blog about anyway (pesky NDAs....).

Text & Labels

A small, but possibly overlooked new feature in 2011 is a change to Text and Labels (you may have already heard Text is going to support bullets, numbering and several other new features).  What I want to focus on in this post is the new border feature.

In both text and label types you can check to show a border around the text in the object. The size of the border is controlled by the size of the text/label box and the offset in the type properties. I tend to equate the offset to being the "margin" around the text, but since this offset also controls where a leader terminates, I guess they've used the correct term.

Of course, this means you better start thinking about redoing all your tags and annotations! Think of all those families with boxes draw with symbolic lines, that don't adapt to text size! No longer a problem, with the border feature. Line weight of the line is controlled by way of the Text/Label type properties. However, its important to note that the box and any associated leaders will have the same line-weight. It also means that the line-weight will be consistent in all views. The only way to override the line weight is an object specific override. It would be preferable possibly useful if the leader and border had their own subcategories, under annotation categories, but perhaps next year..... On second thought, perhaps it should remain a type property? Or possibly, both? Allow the base value to be defined in Object Styles, overrides in Visual Styles, and then, last a property in Type Properties that has "By Category" by default.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Video's up and running

For those who are subscribed, etc. The videos are up and running again via YouTube.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Screencast Bandwidth Limitations

Hey all,

Just as a warning, apparently I have a limit on bandwidth transfer for my Screencast account, and given the length, size and (apparent popularity) I'm at risk of maxing out (which means you won't get to watch my videos).

So dealing with YouTube was not so bad. One more video uploading, but the rest are there and "live".

YouTube was out, as they won't take SWF files, same with Vimeo. I'm investigating options, but if anyone has suggestions throw up a comment. If anyone has some spare server space and bandwidth, I'll take that too.

Thanks to Kyle's tip on a conversion program, we're back in business. Videos uploaded to YouTube. I may have to give up on Jing do to what seems to be slightly poor conversion quality from SWF to FLV to YouTube. But, it should be good enough that you get the idea.


Revit 2011: Custom Elevation Tags

So, this feature was not on my personal list of requests, but obviously it is/was on someone's given its persistent presence on AUGI wishlists (along with site tools*). I have to say, it will be nice to be able to create Elevation tags that are smaller, and will fit better into small interior spaces.

These new tags are pretty straight forward. You have to create a "body" which can hold as many pointers as you like. The pointers allow for the creation of elevation views. There are some limitations as you will see in the video, but overall the implementation is really good (and I wish it would come to section heads too). There is a new property for text and labels that controls the relative rotation of the text to the symbolic geometry. Lastly, the same problem that has plagued section heads, plagues elevation tags too, where masking regions will mask symbolic lines. Thus you either must create many separate masking regions to get all your required edges, or skip the masking regions, which can be a problem in complicated spaces or when floor patterns/finishes are visible in views. See the video for a fairly quick demonstration of the new feature(s).

* A brief note on Side tools, a bug in 2010 when a sloped pad was adjacent to a level pad resulted in a teeny tiny sliver of "site" extending up past both pads has reportedly been fixed in 2011.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Revit 2011: Reporting Parameters

2011 is here! As I post, I'm participating in Autodesk AEC's blogger day event. Much like David Light, I've had to sit on most of this information for 9 months+ now (and its been soooo hard!), I can also say that I expect to see more! Maybe not tomorrow, not even next month, but soon!

There are a growing number of posts in general about the new features in 2011, so I decided to focus on something near and dear to my heart (supposedly my case-study provided good reasons to move forward with this feature) Reporting Parameters.

Reporting Parameters are a hugely powerful feature (as mentioned by other posters). So I thought that I would do some movies to demo how they work, and what they do. I've got four movies lined up, each builds on the next in complication.

First, the basics. Creating a reporting parameter, and showing what it can do. Note, a reporting parameter does not have to be shared, but combining reporting parameters with shared parameters, means you can get that information into a schedule (or tag).

Next up, a little bit of what you can and can't do with a reporting parameter in a family. For instance you can use dimensions from "Host Geometry" to drive elements in families. However, reporting parameters driven by non-host geometry can only report the information, you can't use the value in a formula. Note, you also cannot directly drive geometry with a reporting parameter, you should set another parameter equal to the Reporting parameter in the formula column.

Third a creative application of the reporting parameter in Curtain Panel. Note that when a curtain panel is loaded into a project you can already schedule Width & Height, so if you create reporting parameters to do the same thing you should probably name them differently (particularly if they're shared).

Are the idea juices cooking yet? Here is one more example, also making use of the new "Adaptive Component". Note that these components can only be placed in a Conceptual Mass family (think of the mass family as a "wrapper" but you can change the category of the Adaptive Component, as well as linking parameters and geometry, to give the user in project full control of the Adaptive component (within reason, there are still some limitations).

Friday, February 05, 2010

Room Separation in Group

I was working on a space plan on a project today & came across something slightly annoying.

I created a group for each workstation with it's associated chair. Copied it all over a plan. Then copied the group to the plan above. After doing this for 4 full floors, I then realized that I needed to have room separation lines to create rooms so I could easily color code the plan. So thinking that since I already have the groups I can just add room separation lines to the group & voila I'd be done in 5 minutes flat. Everything was fine until I started editing groups that had been copied to the floors above. All of a sudden after editing a group on floor 1, "random" room separation boxes showed up on floor 1. After some investigation, I discovered that these were actually from rooms on floor 2. Some of the instances of the group their room separation lines were located on the floor 1 even though the group was located on floor 2.

I tried copying & pasting the lines in edit group mode from floor 1 to floor 2 to try & fix the problem but that only made things worse. The groups that were on floor 1 now had their lines on another level. The only solution that I found to work was to delete & replace the offending groups (which is a pain). So instead I created new groups of just room separation lines and spent more time copying those around the plan.

So as a warning: Room separation lines & groups do not always get along.