SolidWorks Real Reward (Smart Button)

SolidWorks USB Web Key Smart ButtonSolidWorks has a new Real Reward program.  This new marketing scheme is being kicked off by mailing out these USB Web Key smart buttons.  All you need to do is plug this device into your USB port and press the button.  It kinda reminds me of the easy button from the commercials of one of those office supply stores.  Of course, those easy buttons pretty much solve whatever problem with which you happen to find your self.  This smart button does one thing.  It takes you to the SolidWorks Real Reward program website.  Oh, and it has an LED that glows at you all day (assuming you leave it attached to your computer).  No matter how many times I press it, it always takes me back to the Real Reward program website.

Yup, it did it again.

The Real Reward program allows you to give the SolidWorks Marketing Department all of your friends and family email addresses so that they may email them with an offer for a 30-day free trial of SolidWorks, along with online support and training.  Matt Lombard’s recent post about the Walmart dollar bin comes to mind for some reason.

Once I plugged it in, I pushed it.  It went to the Real Reward program website.  Oh, dang, I just pushed it by accident and it opened up my web browser and did it again.  The documentation that was included with the smart button suggested that the button was programmed with two websites, but unfortunately, both actions with the button goes to the Real Reward program website.  It would’ve been cool if the second setting went to the main SolidWorks website or something so that I have an excuse to keep it plugged in for more than 5 minutes.  Marketing, huh?  Oh well.

Anyway, I then started looking for ways to reprogram this dang thing to make it actually useful.  No such luck so far.  I’ll report if I find a method.  In the meantime, it will light up my desk with its tiny LED reminding me to sell my friends and family’s email addresses for free to SolidWorks so they can promote a $6000 program to them.  I’m sure my Aunt Cathy (a nurse by trade) will appreciate the offer and snap up a copy as soon as she tries it out.

Oh, I didn’t mention the best part.  See, you don’t really sell the email addresses for free.  I was exaggerating.  Here’s the deal, if the people you refer actually buy SolidWorks, you start collecting prizes!   Seriously, check it out.  There’s some pretty cool stuff.  Maybe we can all send in each other’s email addresses so everyone gets credit for everyone else’s purchases so we can all get the free computer!  Oops, did I already find the MLM loop hole in this Marketing scheme?

Update (12/18/2009)

This program was cancelled by SolidWorks Corp as of December 2009.  I am not able to fulfill any further submission requests for the trial version of SolidWorks.  It is my understanding that SolidWorks still has other programs available.  Please contact a local VAR for details.  To find a local VAR or for information about current offers, please see the website.

[30-trial, 30-day trial, 30 day trial, thirty-day trial, 30-trial program, 30 day trial program, 30-day trial program]

SolidWorks World 2008 Day 2 (Jan 22) Breakout sessions and such

Finally, after two days of being strangers passing in the night, Chris MacCormick and I finally had a chance to meet up on this day.  But more of that later.

After the General Session was over, my first breakout session of the day was the Hands-On Session Creating SolidWorks Add-ins.  Although I dabble in creating and editing SolidWorks API to help shortcut common functions, I still am just a hack at VBA programming.  I had hoped this session would’ve been useful to continuing my exposure to VB.NET and making add-ins for SolidWorks.  I was very dissatisfied with this session.  This was particularly disappointing because this was my only Hands-On session for the entire SWW8, even though I had logged-on to the SWW8 website at the right time to allow me to get any Hands-On sessions I wanted (way back in 2007).  The session didn’t start off well.  There was a typo on my schedule card that pointed me to the wrong room.  Once I found the correct room and sat down, it took too long to get the session started.  Once the presenter started, he asked a question to check every-one’s experience level.  He asked the question so quickly, I do not believe anyone understood what he said until he uttered the words something like, “Good, everyone will know what I’m talking about.  Let’s get to this.”  Once he did start with the lesson, he flew through so fast, most everyone just gave up trying to follow along.  It took forever to get his attention to tell him no one know where he was in the lesson.  He just wasn’t paying attention to the attendees.  Worse yet, very few of the computers were even configured correctly to allow us to successfully follow along, even if we tried.  By the time some of us finally were able to bring this to his attention, half the session was over.  Many of us had not passed the first few steps.  He then discovered our computers had a wrong setting.  As we moved on again, we again found we couldn’t follow along.  He found out that yet another setting on the computer was wrong.  Basically, the presenter did not make sure the classroom computers where set up properly for his lesson.

At that point Chris MacCormick gave me a call to check when and where we were going to meet up for lunch.  I was so frustrated at the poor quality of the session, I answered the phone without apology. Chris and I planned to meet up in a few minutes.  I then just walked out with 15 minutes to spare. By that time, I was about the fifth person at a Hands-On computer to walk, and I wasn’t the last.  Also, almost all back of the room observers had left by that point.  What did I learn?  Know when to hold them; know when to fold them; know when to walk away; know when to run.

I finally met up with Chris just before the cafeteria opened.  It was about time.  He turns about to be a cool guy with a lot of dynamic energy.  Lunch provided by SWW8 was pretty good.  (I had given up on the SWW8 breakfasts by this time.)  We were later joined by Richard Doyle and another acquaintance of mine.  Chris had missed the SWUGN Annual Summit Meeting on the day before, so Mr. Doyle filled him in on some of the details.

After lunch, my first breakout session of the afternoon was Chris’ own Using the Power of 3D to Teach GD&T.  This session was geared towards being an interactive event between educators.  There were a lot of others who attended that may not have understood this paradigm.  Chris went into detail about the DimXpert and how to use this an other functionality to demonstrate GD&T, including possible limitations or dangers with relying too much on the software to define specifications.  I’ll let Chris go into more detail about this and his other session if he chooses. His session did spark a lot of dialogue between educators.  After the session, I witnessed more people flood up to the front of the room to talk to him than any other presenter at any other session I attended throughout SWW8.

Chris MacCormick

My final breakout session for the day was Exploring the SolidWorks API from a Battleship.  This session was more of a demonstration of how to use SolidWorks and its API creatively for unusual tasks.  The game of Battleship was completely modelled and emulated within SolidWorks.  It was very cleaver and extremely comprehensive.  The presenter did go into his methodology for writing API.  In part, these are some of the points:

  • Identify goals and level of user interaction.
  • Build API ready SolidWorks data (in the model and any files that will be used in the program).
  • Outline the code and define variables; including organization of classes and modules.
  • Explore SolidWorks API for automation.
  • Use clear naming convention for variables.

Because of the nature of the demonstration, this session proved to be a bit self-serving to the presenter.  However, this is also why this particular session was prolly the most entertaining of the day.

SolidWorks World 2008 Day 2 (Jan 22) General Session

Another amazing day at SolidWorks World 2008 started at this day’s General Session.  Both keynote speakers are greats in their own time.  Dr. Donald A. Norman has a pedigree too long for me to go into here without having to site multiple references and a lengthy list of achievements.  He was billed by the SWW8 introduction as being in the ranks of Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Thomas Edison for having been presented with the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute.  His speech was a cleaver.  He discussed the design of every day things in the context of what is good design and what is poor design.  One point he made was that a good design is intuitive.  It doesn’t need signs just so that the user can understand the product.  He spent quite a lot of time showing poorly designed products with signs everywhere on them and comparing these to well designed products that are so simple, no explanation is needed, or perhaps it only needs explanation once and then never again.  He showed examples of how pointless signs are, especially when their meaning is lost.  The irony of this is that I found such a pointless sign within an hour after his presentation right at SolidWorks World 2008.  Those of us who saw Dr. Norman’s presentation will likely have a deeper appreciation of this sign, and yet be just as confused by what it could possible mean as anyone else would be. 

Crazy meaningless sign posted at SolidWorks World 2008

Seriously, what in the world could this sign mean and why is it taped to the wall, and how come it mentions “Solid Works”?  Is this instructions to the SolidWorks software not to hit the wall, or randomly placed instructions for humans not to hit SolidWorks?  Or is it that for some reason, the sign’s maker was concerned people attending SWW8 would have sudden and uncontrollable urges to go around hitting this particular spot on the wall?  If so, what’s so special about this spot that makes hitting it worse than striking some other spot on the wall?  Oh, and why did they spell SolidWorks with a space in the middle as “Solid Works”?  So much information is packaged in this meaningless sign. 

The other keynote speaker was Dr. Robert Ballard.  He is another person with a long laundry list of accomplishments.  His most pop culture oriented claim to fame is that he was co-discoverer of the HMS Titanic.  Dr. Robert Ballard talked about his program to bring ocean exploration into the class room, literally.  This is being accomplished by using the most advanced communications technology available.  I think he was almost bragging about the fact that he has I2 access for his many projects.  I2?  A.K.A. Internet 2.  It’s the next generation of the Interest that is much faster and has much higher capacity than our slow old dumpy Internet.  DSL vs. Cable?  This is nothing and meaningless.  I2 is the future.  Of course, normal human beings cannot get access to I2 right now, and prolly won’t be able to for many years, but it was fun watching Dr. Ballard go into his many uses of it.  How does he use I2?  Because of its extremely wide bandwidth, he is able to transmit huge amounts of data.  This allows him to send a ship out to sea that can launch an ocean exploring robot.  That robot can be controlled from a land based location which is no where near where the exploration is going on.  Everything the robot sees is transmitted half-way across the planet where it is also being controlled.  This great feat was Dr. Ballard’s goal since the 1970’s and now he has made it happen.

Now, the question of this General Session really is, who is this mysterious female photographer who is silhouetted against the stage backdrop that was taking photos of all of us? 

Mystery woman of SWW8

Feeling Better after SWW 2008

*Previously written but accidentally left pending*

My head is clearing.  Thursday after the SWW2008 close I came down with something awful.  I found myself huddled in the fetal position all day and night.  Some of you may have seen me in that same position Saturday in the airport terminal.  Bless my wife for getting delta airlines to provide a coule of blankets while we waited for our 2 hour delayed flight.  Note to self – When running a 103 degree temp DO NOT GET ON A PLANE.  It took 3 days for my head to decompress.

Enough of the self pity let’s talk about the conference-

The week flew by much faster than I would like it to.  My time started Saturday moring with alpha testing.  Because of the NDA that uses my wife as collateral I can not comment too much about it but I do like the ideas that we worked on- Keep it up COSMOS group.

Sunday was filled with Round Table discussions.  I usually enjoy these because i get a glimpse into the minds of other users and how they are using the software.  honestly after these session I have enough content for a 3 hour stand up routine as well as 2 months worth of ideas I want to try to implement in my companies.   This year was a little different as I had much more to offer than most.  One of my concerns with the release of 2008 was the DimXpert.  Some of you may have already seen some of my concerns about this really cool functionality.  The SolidWorks Guy (forgive the mispelling) Avelon, was very attentive to my concerns and had some really good ideas for the continuation of this tool.  Here is a list of what I find problems with – 1. Many people have no idea what GD&T is and now they can make even more expensive and impossible parts with an easy button that is not really that easy.  2. Users have no idea what ANSI/ASME 14 standard this tool is pulling from. 3. With the epidemic of poor modeling to get the job done, this enables even more of that by allowing users to apply appropriate dimensioning &  tolerancing after the model is complete without any regard to how these parts will react when edited later..  Later on in the week Avelon did a great demonstration of DimXpert which really calmed me down.  There is a method to using this tool and it is now my job to learn that method and apply it to the teaches here at NTI.

Another topic I commented on is about Top Down Assembly.  Far too often I have found rascally users finding a part that was deisgned Top Down and Say “this part will work great for my new assembly” modify the part and completely hose up a released products documentation.  I asked for a Release To Production button that would take Top Down Assembly design and “completely” break references to the assembly changing up to surface to Blind and the current dimension so on and so forth.  I saw some SW employee eye brows raise to this idea.  Especially when another attendee discussed how his company remodeled every thing designed top down prior to product release. Productivity lost i say.

Anyhow overall Sunday was very successful for me.  I was able to vent and be heard in the same breath.  I was able to compliment and be heard when appropriate and I met several new people who share some of my concerns.

My next blog will discuss the actual conference proceedings.

Until then – Work Hard, Play Harder

Chris MacCormack

SolidWorks World 2008 Day 1 (Jan 21) A Commanding Presence

One of the stars that kept popping up all over the place at SWW8 was the famous/infamous Matt Lombard.  As mentioned, I attended his Hybrid Modeling breakout session.  Before showing up, I didn’t know what to expect.  First of all, his breakout session was in one of the large rooms, that could seat possibly  500 people.  I don’t really know.  I know it was pretty full in comparison to other sessions this year.  I’m not going to go into too much detail about the session’s agenda since I covered that already.  Instead, there are other items of note. 

In a moment of surreal quality, right in the middle of an audience member asking him a question, Matt recognizes him and declares something along the line, “I’ve been looking all over for you! I have it right here.”  He then proceeds to find a copy of his SolidWorks book and brings it down to his faithful attendee.  At the same time, I see a hand reach out from the front row or so grasping some amount of dollar bills.  Matt makes the exchange, declaring some self-derogatory statement and continues the presentation. 

This photo here is of Matt lording over the model he is about to render subservient to his will.

Lord Lombard commanding his model

Two other moments came up where he recognized others in the audience (if I remember right, SolidWorks perennials of some sort)  and declared his complete amazement that they where there listening to little ol’ him.  Just because you write a highly regarded book about SolidWorks doesn’t preclude you from being in awe of others.

The session was informative and entertaining in the shear unexpected natural phenomenon known as Matt Lombard. 

SolidWorks World 2008 Day 1 (Jan 21) Breakouts and Such

Though the breakfasts at SWW8 left a lot to be desired, I have to say the food serviced at the lunches was enjoyable.  One of the things that SWW8 organizers tried to do was set up tables for lunch with particular themes, called Birds of a Feather.  Basically, each day, the cafeteria was laid out with tables in particular areas being labelled with particular interests.  One day the tables were labelled based on SolidWorks software related interests.  Another day, the cafeteria was divided into industry genre.  The last day was divided into regions of the U.S. and the World.  Honestly, it didn’t make a dang bit of difference to me.  Two out of the three days, I sat pretty randomly anyway.  The one day I did sit where I was supposed didn’t turn out all that interesting to me (no offense to the people at the table with me).

 On my first day of SWW8, my breakout sessions where actually not directly SolidWorks related.  The first breakout session I attended covered Advanced Project Management Concepts.  I choose this session originally because other available sessions at the same slot were either topics I already know well enough, or were not related to me at all.  I didn’t expect much from this particular session.  I was surprised.  I’m glad I was in attendance.  The session was kinda an eye opener covering topics in project management including criticisms of and improvement upon the critical path method, the root causes for scheduling issues, bad behavior that I have always thought was good behavior (multi-tasking), Parkinson’s Law (work expands to fill the time available for its completion), 3 Minute Egg Rule (sarcastically: it’s not quality if its finish before time is up), and the CYA factor.  The session then addressed the true nature of projects and discussed methods to use in order to plan projects more effectively.  Out of all my breakout sessions, this is the one where I took the most notes (and that wasn’t because it was the first one I attended).

I then attended the breakout session labelled Clarifying Software Tools and Regulatory Compliance.  I work in a heavily regulated industry, and have been grappling with the question of how to treat SolidWorks within that environment.  Is SolidWorks and related applications subject to validation requirements.  The answer I found here was no!  SolidWorks and its related applications are authoring tools.  Drawings can be document of record in the Device History File, but they can be so in the form of formats like PDF or TIFF.  My company already treats the PDFs of drawings as the controlled document, so this fits well within our processes without the risk of having cumbersome activities limit the use of SolidWorks in some artificial way.

Hybrid Modeling Solids and Surfaces was the next breakout session I attended on Monday.  This session was conducted by Matt Lombard.  This session revolved around the idea of using good practices to create models that employed both surfacing and solid modelling.  He discussed the sequential method where one starts out creating a part as surface model and then becomes a solid model.  This is accomplished by grouping all of the surface features at the start of the Feature Manager, and grouping the solid features at the bottom.  This method produces a well organized tree, but may be difficult to maintain if certain features which blur the boundaries of surface and solid modelling are used.  The alternative is simultaneous hybrid modelling, that has a combined use of solids and surfaces throughout the Feature Manager tree.  He also went into details about many of the surface and solid modelling tools.  Seeing many of the SolidWorks tools demonstrated was enough to make this time well spent.  I briefly met Matt at the end.  We previously have had some correspondences regarding a particular topic du jour: HM, CF, RC1, RC2, & RC3.

I went to my final session of the day on a whim.  I had intended on going to a session that covered the topic of PDMWorks and API or something.  However, it was across the building, and this session was just down the hall.  Welcome to the 9th Annual SolidWorks User Group Network Summit Meeting.  The attendees of these meeting turns out to be a who’s who in the SolidWorks universe.  Many of us Blog Squad members where there, but the focus of the group was the SWUGN and its leadership.  I was first introduced to this level of activity by a personal invite from Richard Doyle to attend a SWUGN Regional Technical Summit in 2007.  Before that, I had been to a couple of SWUG meetings over the years and that’s about it.  The one thing that strikes me as quirky and yet endearing is Richard Doyle’s pronunciation of the letters S-W-U-G-N and how they just roll off his tongue.  It’s not swu-jen, or swoo-jen, or swu-gun, or even swug-in.  He pronounces the g as in begin, not as a j like in giant.  He easily utters swu-gin in a way that may take other English speakers years to master.  

 The session was very informative as to the progress and goals for the SWUGN in 2007 and throughout 2008.  As the day come to a close, I headed off to recoop in preparation for the long day to come.