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Blank Datums macro link updated to get latest version

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the May 6th, 2010

Some time ago, I had made minor adjustments to my “Blank Datums” macro.  The adjustments were to prevent crashing on later versions of SolidWorks.

The update has been out for some time, but I failed to update the link on the download page, so users still only had access to the old version 2.0.

The link has been updated.  If you have trouble, make sure you are running “BlankDatums2a.swp”, available for download at http://www.esoxrepublic.com/freeware/

Word of the Day: “Concinnity”

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the November 6th, 2008

Got this in one of my daily Arcamax word-of-the-day emails…

concinnity \kuhn-SIN-uh-tee\ (noun) – 1 : Internal harmony or fitness in the adaptation of parts to a whole or to each other. 2 : Studied elegance of design or arrangement — used chiefly of literary style. 3 : An instance of concinnity.

Concinnity comes from Latin concinnitas, “elegance; harmony of style,” from concinnus, “well put together; pleasing, on account of harmony and proportion.”

SW Simulation (”COSMOS”) WI-IL user Group meeting

Went to the WI-IL SW Simulation user group meeting yesterday. Worth the trip. Details to follow.

Reliable Sources of News re: Economic Crisis

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the October 10th, 2008

I have been following the current economic crisis long before it became news. I average two to three hours per week reading in-depth about the conditions that have brought this crisis to bear. After the last big crash, I took stock of my news sources to see who actually saw it coming. I promised myself I would pay heed when these same sources sounded the alarm again.

My sources did not fail me. I pulled my long term money from the stock market in November. Since then. I have made modest profits taking short term contrarian positions, while my coworkers’ 401k’s nose down, adding years to their projected retirement dates.

Where to go

My favorite dependable sources for news and information:

John Mauldin: John writes two blogs on Investor Insight: Outside the Box and Thoughts from the Frontline. These are not light reading. These are articles to print, study, and highlight. There is much to learn here

Bill Fleckenstein: I actually discovered “Fleck” just recently. A friend of mine who had exercised similar foresight told me this is where he got his “heads-up”. I’ve read many of his articles, his record speaks for itself. Fleck writes a free weekly blog on MSN money in addition to his subscription service.

Stratfor.com: I was fortunate to get in with Stratfor ten years ago while they had more free stuff available. I still get alerts and news via email from them. I don’t know how to get on their list, but if you can… SCORE! It was Stratfor that introduced me to John Mauldin.

Schaeffer Research: If you’re looking for a good base to start learning about contrarian investing, this is a good place to start. They’re pretty aggressive about trying to sell their wares. Ignore that and dig into the content. Even in tough times, it is possible to make money.

Soundbites and News Reveal Nothing

By now, only complete idiots believe the mainstream news media provides fair, balanced, accurate coverage. Also worth bypassing are left- and right-wing partisan commentators. Most of the talking heads are too lame to understand the nature of the current climate, anyhow. The situation is too complicated for blurbs. To understand requires study.

The Crisis Hits Main Street in the Midwest

For those who believe this is only the problem of in-over-their-head mortgage holders and Wall Street fat cats, think again. 401K’s are getting sapped. Insurance and pension funds, too. What’s more important, the credit crunch is hurting business.

I heard from one business owner that he is losing orders because his customers can not get credit. They are good customers in a growth industry. As inventory piles up, so will the ranks of the unemployed.

Another business (one that I have a personal financial stake in) is having similar problems. They manufacture capital production equipment. Customers are pushing timelines back while they search for financing

The best two paragraphs I have read

Below is an excerpt from a Stratfor email I received recently. It is the best synopsis I have read.

As interest rates declined in recent years, investors — particularly conservative ones — sought to increase their return without giving up safety and liquidity. They wanted something for nothing, and the market obliged. They were given instruments ultimately based on mortgages on private homes. They therefore had a very real asset base — a house — and therefore had collateral. The value of homes historically had risen, and therefore the value of the assets appeared secured. Financial instruments of increasing complexity eventually were devised, which were bought by conservative investors. In due course, these instruments were bought by less conservative investors, who used them as collateral for borrowing money. They used this money to buy other instruments in a pyramiding scheme that rested on one premise: the existence of houses whose value remained stable or grew.

Unfortunately, housing prices declined. A period of uncertainty about the value of the paper based on home mortgages followed. People claimed to be confused as to what the real value of the paper was. In fact, they were not so much confused as deceptive. They didn’t want to reveal that the value of the paper had declined dramatically. At a certain point, the facts could no longer be hidden, and vast amounts of value evaporated — taking with them not only the vast pyramids of those who first created the instruments and then borrowed heavily against them, but also the more conservative investors trying to put their money in a secure space while squeezing out a few extra points of interest. The decline in housing prices triggered massive losses of money in the financial markets, as well as reluctance to lend based on uncertainty of values. The result was a liquidity crisis, which simply meant that a lot of people had gone broke and that those who still had money weren’t lending it — certainly not to financial institutions.

R.I.P. AllAPI.net

Posted in API, Uncategorized by Administrator on the August 28th, 2008

I was gearing up for a set of articles on using Windows API in macros. I was going to lead off with a brief article about one of my favorite resources, AllAPI.net. Unfortunately, that article has turned into an obituary.

For years, AllAPI.net was my first stop for Windows API help. I first discovered it in 2003. Already, the site had been relegated to archive status, available but no longer updated. Still, it was an indispensible resource for adding Windows API functions to code.

I’m verklempt. I’m lost. I don’t know where to go, now. If anyone has links to good online Windows API examples, I would appreciate a heads-up!

Windows API to extend macro functionality

Often, questions come up about adding certain functions to a SolidWorks macro. File open/save and folder browsing are the most popular. Since the dialog objects for these tasks are not licensed to VBA, one must take a backdoor approach via Windows API. I also use Windows API for Windows file security, registry functions, and opening documents.

SW Coordinate Systems Are Nearly Useless

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 30th, 2008

Coordinate Systems in SolidWorks have been a disappointment from the beginning. Like a freshman congressman, they have little purpose but to wait around, be present and hope for greater possibilities as they gain seniority. Unlike said congressman, coordinate systems are just not gaining any power.

SW Help’s own description of coordinate systems’ limited utility is embarassingly anemic:

You can define a coordinate system for a part or assembly. Use this coordinate system with the Measure and Mass Properties tools, and for exporting SolidWorks documents to IGES, STL, ACIS, STEP, Parasolid, VRML, and VDA.

That’s missing a whole universe of potential usefulness, especially compared to what UG, Pro/E, and even AutoCAD(!) can do with their coordinate systems (”CSYS”).

Back in my Pro/E days, I would create a user-defined CSYS to use as the main anchor for locating part geometry. That way, I could move and rotate an entire part w.r.t. the universal CSYS simply by redefining one feature. This was very useful when making models for customers that required “in-place” designs (”in-place” = line up origins of parts to locate in master assembly).

That’s what I miss the most. But, there’s plenty more. Here’s a partial wish list of what SW can’t do w/ coordinate systems that other programs can:

  • Define and update view orientations
  • Mates: SW CSYS’s are truly impotent, for they can not mate.
  • Define datum planes and axes. (Add to this that SW has no control over which side of a datum plane is the front.)
  • Sketch relations: Can not constrain sketch entities parallel/perpendicular/coincident to CSYS axes or origin. This would be especially handy in 3D sketches.
  • Move or copy geometry: it would be wonderful to be able to use a CSYS transform to define how geometry is moved or copied.

Painful Workarounds

Meanwhile, I have resorted to second-rate workarounds to get me by. Sometimes a 2D or 3D sketch can stand in for a CSYS. At least then I can make sketch references and create planes. Still, very inelegant. No workaround in sight for view orientation. A macro could do this, but I haven’t written one yet.

Speaking as the “High Priest of the Temple of Unused Potential”, I beg you, SolidWorks, please do something with this!

Quick-access notepad, calculator & paint for “scratchpad”

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 22nd, 2008

When I was in the navy, one was considered out-of-uniform if one did not have a pen and notepad on his person. On my workstation, I have a few tools to use for “jotting things down” when simple copy-and-paste is not quite enough.

Quick access shortcuts

I like to use MS Notepad as an on-screen scratchpad. I find it is handy for storing quick notes and lists of numbers that I may need elsewhere during the course of my CAD modelling. To make Notepad readily available, I add a shortcut key to the Windows menu. That way, I can have my scratchpad ready with a quick “Ctrl + Alt +N”.

To add a shortcut key, go to the Windows menu and find the application of interest (i.e. MS Notepad). Instead of left-clicking to start, right-click and select “Properties”. You will see a line for the shortcut key. Here, you can enter a “Ctrl + Alt + {letter}” or “Ctrl + Shift + {letter}” for a shortcut key. Once set, the application will start when the shortcut key combination is pressed.

Quick shortcuts for screenshots

I have a key shortcut for MS Paint, which I use for editing screenshots. Use “Shift + Printscreen” to capture the screen, open MS Paint, and paste (Ctrl + v). MS Paint will allow you to select a portion of the screenshot to crop or copy. The copied protion can be pasted into email, PowerPoint, MS Word, etc.

Other handy tools

Two other tools I like to keep on “hot standby” are the Windows Calculator and the Character Map. Character Map is handy for those odd symbols, Greek letters, etc. Calculator is good for, well, calculating. BTW, if you haven’t discovered it yet, Calculator does have a scientific mode w/ trig & log functions, etc.

A Simple Way to Thank Our Vets

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the May 27th, 2008

Try to live a life that shows you aspire to be worthy of the blood that was shed for you.

Synchronous Technology First Blush

Posted in UG/NX, Uncategorized by Administrator on the May 23rd, 2008

Plenty of buzz about Siemens/UGS new synchronous technology. All I can say for the moment is that it will be interesting to watch.

I love UG. It’s where I cut my 3D teeth. Later, I was baptized in fire at Apple, modelling transluscent blue shells for demanding and temperamental industrial designers. For that, UG was the right tool for the job. I also learned Pro/E there, and was a dual-user for a while. Pro/E lets you play doctor, UG lets you play god.

At that time, UG already had a lot of great tools for dealing with unfeatured data. We could (and often did) abandon the feature tree and model exclusively with these tools. UG could also already assimilate “unfeatured” data into its feature tree. For instance, raw “curves in space” could be swept or extruded, then those curves could be brought into a sketch and constrained/parameterized accordingly. Neat stuff.

I could go on. I’ve carved a nice career from SW, but UG still has a siren song.

What it is; how it works

For those who haven’t seen, here are a couple links explaining UG/NX6’s new “synchronous technology”. The video is an attention getter. The PDF white paper provides a more detailed explanation.
Propaganda video
White paper

The video does a great job of showing how synchronous technology should work. Looks slick. I would hope so. That’s what video editor folks are supposed to do. The white paper provides a reasonable explanation of what is happening. Very intriguing. Apparently, the synchronous technology evaluates the model to determine what feature edits it must do in order to change geometry in a certain way. Neat!

We can see how it works. What will prove more interesting is how it doesn’t work. Models and model trees come in all degrees of complexity. Some are complex by necessity. Some are complex due to poor training or bad hiring decisions. In either case, I’m sure it won’t take long before folks are finding the limits of this budding technology.

Bad example, before Bad example, before
What kind of model tree goes from this… …to this???

Here is a good specimen of a bad example. This is an .avi of a really extreme example of poor model tree management. Pure hack-slashery. The video is a series of screen shots as the part feature tree is rolled back and then forward. I would love to see how UG/NX6 handles something like this.

I would also like to see how UG/NX6 handles well-constructed surface modelling. I can’t imagine that synchronous techology has evolved to a point where it could handle a fully-featured model of something complex like an iMac shell or an auto interior console. I do hope it can, but I doubt it.

Your jobs are safe

The CAD users of today are not going to be instantaneously supplanted by an invading army of synchronous-using replacements I also don’t foresee a great improvement in the CAD-user populace. The aces will still be aces. The putzes will still be putzes. There will be a market shift, but there will be no mass-divestment in current parametric modelling technology.

Delusions of Relevance?

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the May 16th, 2008

This T-shirt says it all.
Finally starting a blog. That makes it officially uncool, even by geek standards.

Why bother? Dunno. Feel like it. I’ve learned to enjoy writing. A few deranged souls have even learned to extract a modicum of entertainment value from my writing. God bless them all.

I can’t promise anything special. I do hope to get some good API development discussions going. Of course, I will deviate from the technical into the musical, recreational, political and spiritual. I have some projects in the works (always in the works! finish when?). Topics in the near future:
“Nearly Free Nearly PDM”: designing a cheap system for those in need
Back to basics: occasional articles about geometry basics
Non-traditional fly fishing: rivers in my Sheboygan County neighborhood abound with smallmouth bass, northern pike and carp that are quite willing to entertain a fly fisherman who has lost his patience with trout
Music: been married to the same guitar for 21 years now