Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hey GuyR - Can You Explain This? Please?

What is it about the southern hemisphere? Not enough ozone? Too much agricultural flatulence? Increased lifestyle risks associated with Socialized Medicine?

Ever heard of Steve Irwin?


Thursday, June 26, 2008


1971. Col. Bruce Hampton. Music to Eat. Happy New Year Hendon!

Contents under pressure.
Do not puncture or incinerate.

I had no idea he'd released a new album November of last year.

Crunchy Crunky
Hot Southern Grits and
Smoked Sausage Chunky
Scattered Smothered and Covered
Jerry Garcia
Frank Zappa
Les Claypool

Official home page and sample here.

Check it out. Crunk it up.

Available via iTunes.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Great Answer. Wrong question.

Design Review navigation? Yes.

Design Review functionality: View? Print? Measure? Markup? Select? Move? Isolate? Slice? No.

Reset Current View function? Mildly Ironic.

Overall Rating: Stop funding Clever and start funding Useful.

There's actually quite a bit of potential here if someone would put this idea back in the oven.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cousin Camp

It's that time of the year again. Cousin Camp.

It's Camp. For Cousins. It's a Family Reunion without all of the complications and messy politics. Kids don't understand that stuff. Maybe they shouldn't. Because as the sky is blue they believe everyone gets along with everyone else and we adults all love each other as much as we love them and they love their cousins.

And for the forth year in a row, my sister Carolina has organized, planned and even conscripted my nephews as camp councilors. That's her in the photo to the above, with my daughter Millicent. On a side note, Mills has a very evolving fashion sense and since the age of 6 insisted she needs a cell phone. To call her friend. That lives next door.

What's a dad to do. Hunter? Dave?

Carolina lives in Gumlog, Georgia. Her wonderful husband Ricky is a local contractor and the hardest working man I know. They have two sons: one is in high school studying the opposite sex and the other is in college studying Architecture (which of course includes the studies of the a fore mentioned younger brother).

And for the past three years she's taken time off work as a nurse in order to create a wonderful, loving and artificially fun filled week of activities for six children. Six children that aren't even her own. Why she does this is between her and the angels. Activities include:
  • Matching Themed T-shirts
  • Golf Lessons
  • Fire Works and Laser Shows at Stone Mountain, Ga.
  • Six Flags
  • Water Park
  • Steam Train Excursion
  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Marsh Mellow Roasting
  • Movies
  • Bowling
  • Camping
  • Video Games (limited use)
Uncle Ricky once offered to teach the kids how to butcher a real live farm animal. But the women all agreed that would kind of ruin the overall spirit that is Cousin Camp. Sorry Rick.

Here's the lot of them the other afternoon at Stone Mountain. Note the sullen teenager to the far right? Sucka! How cool does it look to be surrounded by kids when the oldest is ten? Thanks again cousin Daniel! Uncle Phil will be there on Saturday. Bearing gifts. :)

And then, a few months after Cousin Camp - a photo album arrives in the mail, highlighting activities with witty descriptions. Good times.

I don't know how you threaten your kids: no video games, no TV, no internet, etc. Around my house, the most serious of all threats involve not being permitted to go to Cousin Camp. When Cousin Camp is mentioned, backs straighten, voices still and even broccoli is eaten.

Anyway, none of us are actually sure how much longer Aunt Carolina can keep this up. Not to mention that one of these years, one of these kids (and dearest Allah/God/Budda/Vishnu/SpagettiThing/Etc, please let it be my other sister's kids...not mine) will sneak beer (or worse) into the sacred confines of Cousin Camp. But Aunt Carolina will know exactly what to do. And it will probably involve saying sorry to baby Jesus and then calling home to confess. As it should be. :)

My wife and I are planning to bring Aunt Carolina to Las Vegas this year during AU. If I'm not around, please make sure she doesn't buy her own drinks. Then come and find me and we'll settle up.

My kids are so very blessed.

If only every kid in the world had an Aunt Carolina.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Two Weeks After the Day After

Ever driven past the house of an ex?

Yesterday, I actually drove up and talked to some of the people inside.

Yes, they tried to give me beer and break down by inhibitions and I kept bringing up what it was going to cost for what I wanted them to do and they kept bringing up quality and range of services but I kept thinking I was half-buzzed and quality of service wouldn't really matter cause I was getting sleepy anyway and they kept talking about better interoperability and I kept talking about why should I pay more than their competition was willing to charge me and how this was better for the market cause eventually they'd have to lower their price to align with their competition and this would be better for everyone and then they finally agreed to lower the cost this time but I'd have to pay full price next time but I really won't.

Overall - everyone was honestly gracious. Hunter wasn't there, which was a bit of a disappointment. Hopefully we'll catch up later in the week. But if I remember correctly, he needs to get home promptly on Monday night in order to make sure the staff have polished his Bugatti Veyron collection in the appropriate clock-wise direction (as this is the northern hemisphere) with just the right force, using the 50 year old single malt which he says makes the cars glisten and yet impervious to police radar.

On a side note - I'll be the first to admit I don't understand the science behind the radar absorbing qualities of expensive Irish beverages. But Hunter drives faster in reverse than most people drive going forward (and he never gets a ticket). How fast? Well, this one time on the way to Rhode Island, I glanced down at my watch and observed the second hand slow, stop, and then tick backwards.

As for Revit development, I get it. If a subscription renewal costs X and a brand new license costs 4X - who do you want to buy your software? It's a chapter in a marketing book entitled, "Lowering Barriers to Adoption." The challenge is that many would-be customers just don't get it. You're trying to explain the value proposition of working in a concurrent database for buildings, and they keep raising their hand and asking numbnut questions, most of which are variants of, "Can I do _ with _?"

So rather than attract new customers by creating software which appeals to the mediocre masses that don't yet understand the question (much less the answer) what then?

New customers are risk adverse. They are not motivated by hope or promise or potential: these are the early adopters. They got it. They get it. They're on board. They adopted it years ago, ran user forums on Linux boxes in their basement to support it, lurked in other forums to defend it, and a little more than panicked when, for about a year and a half worth of then net revenue someone else acquired it.

But now you've got the bulk of customers still waiting to adopt. They're still somehow unsure. They still think that software is a differentiator. And for a while it is. But then, like many things it becomes a commodity. A loss lead. My observation is that the late adopters are much the same and for the most part are most unfortunately motivated by one word:


Want to lower a potential customer's 'barrier to adoption'? Create meaningful functionality for your existing customers: crazy-ass, tricked-out, ohmygodIknowyoudidn'tjustdothatohyesIdid, mind-blowing, absolutely insanely great kind of functionality. Then show the results of the efforts of your existing customers to your potential customers. And then go one step further: show it to your potential customer's customer. In other words, don't just show it to the architect. Show it to that architect's client and contractor. Because the architects are just the teenagers in this equation and their clients and contractors are the parents. And if you want to get the teenagers to shape up, why not appeal to the people that pay the bills, feed them, buy the iPods/tennis shoes/high-speed internet connections and basically keep a roof over their heads.

Now you're not just showing a potential customer what a bit of software can do for them. You're showing them what a bit of software is already doing for their competition. And for their competition's clients. And for their competition's contractor. And so on.

And when they realize their competition has already done it - they won't ask so many numbnut questions.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Verizon Wireless KPC680

The Verizon Wireless KPC680 turns out to be a great mobile broadband card. Fast network speeds. OS X and Windows capable. For OS X users - the connection software isn't necessary. The drivers are built into OS X and time to connect is faster through the Control Panel.

Unfortunately, if you have epilepsy or may be seizure prone, you'll have to make some modifications. See the white area just above the red Verizon band? There are red and blue lights behind the translucent, white cover. When connected, the bright blue light flashes on and off. About twice a second.


So if you're trying to concentrate while connected: SOL. It's like someone has placed an emergency signal at the edge of your peripheral vision. In a well lit space, it's annoying. In half-light conditions, it will give you a headache after 20 minutes or so.

I called Verizon Support for advice since couldn't find the control panel / setting to turn off the blinking. There isn't one. Their suggestion: Tape over the white area. However, doing this may overheat the card and void the warranty.

So I got a roll of electrical tape and taped over the translucent cover. This actually looks okay and works pretty good - completely blocking out the blinking light. And the plastic casing doesn't seem to feel warmer than before.

So if you're looking into wireless broadband - this may be your card. Just be sure to ask Verizon to throw in a roll of electrical tape. ;)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Good News: Kids made cards, pictures and breakfast.

Bad News: There is some obvious resemblance to the alien head from the previous post. ;)

Other News, Patrick Davis, Todd Williams and I are heading to Boston next week for the ADN conference. External applications certainly provide a competitive advantage (sometimes more perceived than real). I'm interested to know if there is a resolved boundary in the mind cloud of Autodesk with regard to what should be considered core functionality and what is better left resolved by others.

In particular: Massing. Massing was updated with the last release. But this is a far cry from being able to create emotive, intuitive or intentional forms without some significant end runs around existing functionality. So users must rely on other applications.

Inventor? Don't contort a tool meant to resolve manufacturing at a micro level into a tool meant to resolve architectural design intent at the macro level. And if you think that implementing Revit to a room full of designers is tough, try getting their heads around Inventor. They'll keep using Rhino. So the call to using Inventor is at best a suggestion. But not a solution.

And even Rhino isn't sufficent. While it may provide great, leveragible ACIS solids, Rhino alone doesn't contain the necessary functional ecosystem for post-rationalizing and resolving architectural form making within Revit.

Max? Great at 36,000 feet. So is SketchUp. Don't expect either to create Massings which can be leveraged in a meaningful way.

Again - great for pretty pictures. But twisting a building out of a Maya model isn't practicable. See Rhino.

Why doesn't Revit contain the necessary geometric tools to resolve these forms? I've heard many arguments that tend to fall into a couple of categories. I'll talk about the one category of argument in this post.

Argument: "These types of forms are "edge conditions" which are infrequently used, or useful to designers."

I suppose the implication is that to take time and effort to overcome this type of form making isn't a good business investment for a software company from a market perception. And market perception may not necessarily be aligned with the customer perception. So who is the customer? The person buying stock or the person buying the solution that essentially gives the stock it's value?

I'll give you a hint: Take care if the stock in a company becomes more sought after than what that company produces.

Anyway - back on topic. On one hand, I'd agree that very few buildings require this type of macro approach to form making. On the other hand, is seems that every building contains edge conditions: fixtures, fittings, furnishings, lighting, equipment (to name just a few). It is frequently difficult to create adequately literal representations of these forms within Revit.

What we can create in the Family Editor is typically fine for 2D views and resolving documentation. But if part of the elegance of BIM is maintaining centralized information, then trying to leverage these elements to represent real-world elements in live, perspective, or rendered views becomes very difficult. But more importantly, I'd like to address this predisposition of what is an "edge condition" and what is not:

First - one user's edge condition may be very mundane form making to another.

Second - maintaining this "edge/non-edge condition" mentality becomes increasingly circular and self-fulfilling. You see, we refer to them as edge conditions because they're difficult to design and resolve with existing tools. But if we had the necessary tools to design and resolve them - they wouldn't remain edge conditions. ;)

Would there be a rush to create Hadid/Calatrava/Gehry-esque types of forms if these tools existed within the ecosystem of Revit? Not immediately. But designers often select a tool not only for what it does at present, but because of a tool's potential to evolve and surpass present expectations. Likewise, we become architects not only because of what we expect to do, but also because of what we aspire to do.

It's been nearly 9 years since the release of Revit. We know what it can and can't do elegantly. Many would like to see it develop beyond our expectations. And limitations.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Totally Rad Shows

As much time as I spend in the air and on the road, I've little time for TV. And hotel TV is the worst of all possible TV. Apparently it's the same TV networks and shows and blather wherever you live. But for some unknown reason, nothing interesting ever seems to be televised when I'm on the road. After trying to find something decent to watch, it's far too tempting to end up flipping channels with about as much energy as a diabetic retiree next to a Vegas slot machine. And with little more chance of winning.

Why don't hotels just have a special channel that automatically changes the channel for you? Flip blather. Flip blather. Flip blather. At least you could get some work done to the background noise since you wouldn't have to keep pointing and clicking with the remote thingy.

Anyway - by the time I decide to turn off the TV - I'll usually preform one last dry run through the channels. You know, one last cast of the day. And more often than to be mere coincidence, the Discovery Channel is showing a UFO/Alien/Paranormal "documentary". So now it's 2am. I'm alone. And people on TV are being abducted by aliens.

All evening, nothing interesting has been on TV. And now they decide to show something that scares the bejezus out of me? I think it all started with the credits at the end of Star Trek. I love your work Gene (wherever you are) but showing the above image during the end credits of Star Trek wasn't the last thing a 5 year old needed to see before being told to go to bed. Upstairs. At night. In New Jersey.

Fortunately, there's some hope. Interesting, pithy, quick witted and honestly entertaining content is being developed by interesting, pithy, quick witted and honestly entertaining people. Perhaps they're too impatient to wait for an ecosystem of lawyers, advertisers, censors, striking writers, etc. to bless their efforts.

I'm talking about the Totally Rad Show, a weekly video podcast from four guys (one insists or remaining behind the camera). Just a few years ago, they'd have been assigned to the bargin bin of cable access. Fortunately, technology found a better way. It's streamed online, or can be downloaded in many formats and resolutions. How easy is that? You can even subscribe via iTunes. All four presently live in Los Angeles, California.

As CAD is to BIM - these guys represent the best and brightest of this generation's ability to use new technology to create and distribute new ideas.

If you're new to the Totally Rad Show podcast - I'd recommend Episode 29. The Austin Powers sendup is laugh out loud funny. And by the end of the show you'll learn that Dan has trouble drinking tea from a delicate china cup. Sober. Nor does Dan fare well with sake and sushi...but that's a whole nuther story. ;)

Two are actors. One is a director. One is the editor. How these four guys have enough time for day jobs AND this time consuming passionate hobby is difficult to imagine. But they don't simply manage, week after week to review TV, Movies, Video Games, Comic Trades and Viewer Mail. They positively excel.

Discussions are equally filled portions of passion, fact, experience, opinion, off-topic distraction and periodic dash of bawdy innuendo.

In two words: 1) Effing 2) Brilliant.

Did I mention that they just took home a 2008 Webby Award for Online Film and Video?

Do these guys have sponsors? Yes. Do they make you sit through 20 minutes of advertisements to get to 40 minutes of real (or as is the case with a lot of what's on network TV - imagined) content. Absolutely not. Will they sue you if you take their content and rip it to watch on something other than a 40lb. paperweight? Nope.

Network TV may be able to compete for advertising dollars (for now). But I'm not sure how they'll compete for viewers. And certainly not when networks have to compete with four extremely talented guys doing weekly end runs around outdated, inane, enclosed distribution models.

So while airport TV drones the latest 24 hours flapping anchor head - look around. You'll notice that more and more people aren't watching the TV. They're wearing headphones and watching their Laptop/iPod/iPhone/ Blackberry/Zune/ DVD Player/Playstation Portable/etc. And if you look over someone's shoulder to glance at what they're watching, don't be surprised if they're watching these four guys: Doing. What. They. Love.

Four guys passionately talking about TV, movies, video games while using in-house pre-production, post-production and editing. And their target audience? Creative, technology savvy individuals that will fully embrace applications and tools that design, develop and deliver new ideas with new processes. What sort of sponsor could possibly show the most genuine interest in supporting an ecosystem that absolutely has a direct influence on the stuff that these guys love?

Video Games?
Film Editing?

Someone at Autodesk should give these guys a call.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dear Anthony,

The cultural challenge with Warnings in Revit is the present lack of accountability. Users are smart enough to know there's something amiss in the file. But they have no idea where to point (or give) the finger. Or fingers.

Warnings also provide some indication as to the learning and experience level of members on a team. Warnings indicate when users have decided to work in a way that is expedient rather than deliberate. Reviewing Warnings allow people to learn from their own mistakes. Or better yet - they allow people to learn from another team member's mistake. ;)

Unfortunately, many users and teams tend to put off reviewing / resolving Warnings as there's no sense of ownership. This makes project management really difficult. By the time you need to review warnings - it's often too late. And who should fix what?

So I'd propose the following stuff with regard to Warnings:

1. Warnings should be maintained in a regular Revit Schedule. Stop hiding them in a dialog at the bottom of a Tools Menu.

2. Project Managers would like to know the Workset Username responsible for generating the Warning. This would allow Warnings to be scheduled per user name - which would impose a sense of accountability in the Revit database.

3. Original date / time stamp helps the team track the frequency of Warnings against project development.

4. Like any other Schedule in Revit , the ability to jump from line item / to context of project location.

5. Some indication of severity (for ranking purposes). All warnings are not created equal.

6. Counts / Totals / Types of Warnings. Now the project manager knows who (typically) on a team is responsible for the bulk of Warnings so they can remedy the situation, and prevent its recurrence.

Overall, this added functionality compels team members to preemptively fix what they have broken. Project Managers can quickly get a sense project dynamics. And the rest of the team isn't penalized with one or two team member's lack of discipline.

Thoughts / Comments welcome.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Day After

Excellent presentation by Patrick Davis of HNTB Architecture and Jan Reinhardt of Turner Construction on the realities and evolving resolution of successful Integrated Practice. 

Thorough discussion session followed. There are such things as stupid questions. Fortunately, none were asked. 

To those organizations not engaging in this business process: your competition continues to thank you.

Critical to the process is knowing the difference between Intent and Content during design iteration. Surprisingly, Content is not as important during the design phase as you might initially think. What's most important is the communication of design Intent; sometimes as geometry (even if generic) - but frequently via metadata associated to geometry or spaces.

One point of frustration: Walls in Revit don't schedule according to Level. Seems crazy - but not being able to schedule walls according Level is important to the contractor and QS teams. Being able to schedule Walls by Level remains an important area of improvement for the Revit team. Until then? The alternative is a lot of manual (and error prone) processes.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

91% of Large Firm Round Table respondents have selected Autodesk Revit as thier BIM tool of choice. 96% of respondents only want content for Revit. Most needed improvements and functionality? Survey says: Curtain Panels / Curtain Walls (followed by Stairs /Railings).

Damn. There are two Bentley guys sitting in the room, shoulders slumping. They're going to have to keep listening to Revit and BIM being used interchangeably for the next two days.

Going to the prom and not getting asked to dance must suck.

The Revit Project Manager is also here. We're going to water board him later unless we get some meaningful timelines and commitments on core functionality. Time's up. ;)

Fantastic demonstration of Bentley's "Generative Components" functionality. Real world, real project, real firm. Walked through parametric, iterative form making through to curtain wall and panel resolution. Unless ADSK has something forthcoming, we'll be looking at the iteration and resolution of the massing and curtain skin in GC and delegating the rational insides and concurrent documentation to Revit.

Little doubt that'd be a real Bastardfrankenchild (TM) of a workflow. And a real marketing win for Bentley since the sexier parts of buildings keep showing up on the outside.

Either ship or get off the can. ;)

"If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less."
--General Eric Shinseki, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Getting from There to Here

Parallels Transporter seems to be extraordinarily elegant and works without second guessing. Installed on new laptop and started creating VM and walked away. About an hour later copied the 7.9GB VM to MacBook Pro and launched. There was an ignorable warning about hardware related tools (expected - some warning about Toshiba services).No relicensing popups for OS or apps. Everything just seems to work. VM launches in about 30 seconds.

Very approachable solution to working from approved/corporate configuration.

Two. Two. Two laptops in one.

Still using / testing VMWare. All's well.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Another Option to Running Revit in Virtualization

Remote Desktop for OS X
Feel free to post comments / user experiences. I've got a laptop in the office that will have all the necessary apps. I just need to tunnel over.

I'll be experimenting with this during the next few weeks. In the same office, from other offices and from home.