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Windows 10 Tech Preview Reviewed | The best new features

Windows 10 New Old Start MenuI couldn’t help myself, I had to sign up to the Technical Preview and get Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 10, installed in a virtual machine immediately. Ultimately I will try out some CAD software to see if it will install and run appropriately. I will try out AutoCAD, Inventor and possibly even SOLIDWORKS. In the meantime, I thought I would share some initial observations.

Installation

To get started I swung over to the Microsoft Insider Program website and signed up. Super easy, especially since my browser was already logged into my account. After accepting the agreement, I had my pick of which installer language I needed. 4GB later, about half an hour, the ISO file was ready to be mounted to a VMware instance. Once that was configured, the install process was no different to the Windows 8 process. I had the choice of upgrading or installing a fresh copy. Since it was a VM, I went with a fresh copy. I have my VM’s running on my local Samsung EVO SSD drive, so the installation was done in just under 10 minutes.  From booting the ISO image to logging into Windows within 10 minutes!!! It wasn’t that long ago with Windows 7 where you would easily be waiting nearly an hour to get the operating system installed. Once I gave the install my Microsoft credentials, it asked me which PC I wanted to copy my settings from, or if I wanted to create an independent computer. That isn’t something I’ve seen with Windows 8, and to be honest, it’s a welcome addition. I wonder if there is a setting somewhere to retrospectively ‘detach’ the PC from your group of sync’d devices.

Windows 10 PC Sync SetupFrom there, Windows does it’s usual setting up routine, then within a few minutes I’m in. I have to say, it was the easiest operating system install I have ever experienced.

Naturally I started poking about, so what’s different? At this early stage, I can only hope to discover some visual changes and areas of the system I use regularly. Let’s get cracking.

Start Menu

Context Menu

The first thing I did was check the power user context menu on the Start Menu button was still in place. Thankfully it is. That in my opinion is reason enough for people to upgrade to Windows 8.1 from 7, so I really didn’t want to lose that. If you aren’t using it already, direct access to useful tools such as; running the Command Prompt as Administrator, Programs and Features, and the Run command mean you are missing out big time. Get in there.

Search

Windows 10 Start Menu SearchStart Menu based search in Windows Vista and Windows 7 is woefully underutilized by the vast majority of PC users. In my opinion it was that skill / habit gap which made the Windows 8 user experience so many pundits refer to as ‘Jarring’. The reality was, if you were half decent at typing, pressing the Windows key on your keyboard, then starting to type what you wanted is a far more productive way to work. The Windows team knew this and enhanced search brilliantly in Windows 8.1. The Start Menu, yes, a Start Menu, because that’s exactly what the Windows 8 start screen is, has now become a one stop shop to acquire whatever you need at any time from any where within the Windows operating system. Windows 10 brings this functionality to the forefront by placing a Search button smack bang on the taskbar, right next to the much loved Windows icon. I can only hope this encourages more users to take advantage of the excellent search tools within Windows. I’ve already noticed the search results favoring recently used files, which is handy indeed.

The ‘New’ old Start Menu

It’s baaack, but frankly I don’t care, I’ll still be pressing the Windows key and typing the same way I did with Windows 7.Windows 10 Start Menu All Apps I am glad they have updated it though, and it does look pretty swanky. Tacked onto the side of it, is a hark back to the Windows 8 Start Menu, with a Live Tile section. This can be fully customized by pinning anything you turn up in the left side of the Start Menu or via a Start Menu search. At this stage, you can’t pin any results via the aforementioned Search button on the task bar, personally I will be turning that off if I can. Admittedly, I am happy to see a folder based hierarchy return, just for when I need to rummage for Apps of the same name, but different release years. For Autodesk Inventor users, that will be things like Task Scheduler and the Styles Manager.

Going back to the Live Tile section of the Start Menu, you can move the tiles around and choose from four different sizes. Some people don’t like the constant movement of Live Tiles, so Microsoft have provided the ability to turn that functionality off on a tile by tile basis. As you add pin more tiles, the width of the Start Menu grows. I haven’t tried to overflow the menu yet, but I will eventually. If need be, you can increase the height of the Start Menu in the same way you can with a normal window. So essentially you could almost create a full screen ‘New’ old Start Menu which.. at which point you may as well revert to the Windows 8.1 Start Menu, which can be done within the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog. Accessed from the taskbar context menu.

Snaps & Apps

Alt + TAB

It works the same way it always did. Except now it has to consider the Virtual Desktop feature. As a result all the open apps and applications currently running within the operating system are displayed when you press this age old key combination. Personally I barely use it, but I know others love it, so it’s good to see Microsoft have preserved its behavior.

Virtual Desktops / Task View

Windows 10 Task View - Virtual DesktopsThis is a biggy. At first I thought, meh, I kind of wanted it to allow me to have work and play desktop layouts. But I quickly realized it had precious little to do with the desktop itself, rather it’s all about grouping open applications together. One of the reasons I didn’t like using Alt + TAB in the past was for when I had applications snapped side by side. As soon as I Alt tabbed, I would lose my layout and find a need to keep mashing my TAB key until I got back to it. With this, I can just switch between organized app groups. I will share some CAD related productivity thoughts on this in a later post.

However, I’m not a fan of one feature here. All running apps still appear along the taskbar, only the ones available in the active Virtual Desktop appear to be running. The rest just look like they have been pinned to the taskbar. Upon closer inspection you will notice, the ‘running’ version of the icon is hiding just off screen, with its edge just poking up. I think this makes the taskbar look a tad messy, but at this point I can’t think of a better way of handling that, other than removing it entirely. Having them, does mean you can quickly switch to its Virtual Desktop just by clicking on that edge, instead of having to click on the Task View button just to the right of that handy new Search button.

Snaps

Windows 10 Snap AssistI’ve always liked using the Windows Key + Directional arrows to evenly dock windows around my screen. With Windows 10 that has become enhanced. You can now dock / snap windows into the corner of your screen as well, meaning you can have four apps evenly docked on your screen, perfect if you have a mahoosive monitor dominating your workspace. There has been talk of Snap Assist suggesting apps to fill in the spaces, but in my testing that only seems to be the case when you snap a window full height to the right or left of the screen. It doesn’t appear to be working for the four corner snap yet, hopefully that is on the way.

Charm Bar

Windows 10 App Charm BarIf you have a keyboard and mouse, and an ‘old skool’ sticky finger free monitor, like my Gen 1 HP ZBook 15, then mousing over the right side of the screen won’t reveal the Charm Bar. The little flyouts in the top corners and bottom left corner of the screen are no where to be seen either. However, the Windows + C Keyboard shortcut will force the Charm Bar to reveal itself within some installations, as it did mine. One aspect I do like, is if you have a modern app window open, and you press Windows + C a mini charm menu appears in the top left corner of the window. You can also access this by clicking the ellipsis button found up there. This is handy because you get access to a few other commands, Play, Print and Project… now project is nice to see. I can’t wait to get a WiDi Miracast enabled TV for my lounge (living room).

Command Prompt

Windows 10 Command Prompt Experimental SettingsAutodesk power users will be very familiar with Windows Command Prompt, they will also know how dated it is. Surprisingly, even in the presence of the much vaunted Windows PowerShell, the lowly old Command Prompt has received some attention. I didn’t even realize this until today, but you can access the Command Prompt Properties dialog from the Title bar context menu. In there Windows 10 has an Experimental tab containing a host of new goodies. As you can see in the image above, we can now control the opacity of the window, which is rather swanky. But the big win is the ability to highlight text like a normal person and when you hit Ctrl + V on your keyboard, you aren’t greeted with ^V. THANK YOU Microsoft!

Verdict

Yes please! I liked the progression of Windows 8 from 7 and I really like this update as well. At this stage it feels a lot more like Windows 8.2, but there is nearly a year of further development here. There will be a lot more going on in the background here with respect to harmonization across devices and being more sympathetic to enterprise admins and users. I’m pretty stoked to see Microsoft are being sensible here and I can’t wait to see how Windows Phone 10 shapes up.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for a couple more Windows 10 posts from me over the next week. Cheers for taking the time and I hope you have found this useful, have a good day.

Is Autodesk Fusion 360 Ultimate Ready For The Big Time?

A couple of weeks ago I got to spend an hour with Kevin Schneider, Director Fusion 360 at Autodesk, about the September release of his cloud based CAD tool, as well as covering a few forward looking areas for the service. I was excited to get this opportunity, since I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to get stuck into Fusion 360 especially with some of the recent changes. This way Kevin could show me in real time where the product is and the kind of things it’s now capable of.

iphone_ipad_mbp_fusion360Kevin started by explaining where Fusion 360 is coming from as a product, why it was created. As any good product should, Fusion 360 was born from the need to address the changing landscape within the manufacturing industry globally. Increasingly, crowd sourcing is gaining popularity, but not just with well known implementations like the GrabCAD competitions or the interesting way in which Local Motors has built itself around using a community of designers and engineers to work on vehicle projects. Businesses and at this stage mostly corporations are taking the crowd sourcing ethos and applying it internally, they are using their biggest asset, their staff, to help guide and improve their products and services on a scale previously considered a logistical nightmare. We have social media to thank for the change in mindset there. Tools born from that movement and increasingly simplified user experiences mean that data can be collected and compiled in a coordinated way.

Which brings us to the next shift, the products and tools we use everyday are becoming increasingly connected, which means more and more electronics are being used. With electronics comes software, and yet more ways to not only produce, but consume the data. This data can then be used to improve the products UX in realtime, and / or filter back to the OEM so they can improve the next iteration of the software or the physical product itself. If you haven’t clicked yet, this is what the ‘Internet of Things’ is all about. Along with an increasing number of computer aided manufacturing techniques available, their decreasing cost and ease of use, manufacturing is at the beginning of a golden age of new ideas and change.

The next issue within the industry were the available tool sets attempting to solve these issues. When companies try to implement these independent and fragmented solutions, it ultimately leads to a disconnect within the tools themselves and consequently the processes revolving around them.

During extensive market research, Autodesk learnt two big things from industry:

  1. Teams were resonating a need to collaborate, and reiterated that there is no difference collaborating between cube walls & oceans. The value of collaboration is always the same. Clearly it was a pervasive problem to solve; Share with Anyone / Work anywhere!
  2. The connection between mechanical and industrial design had historically been lacking. Combining the two increases iteration and data sharing. Increasing fluidity and access to data across departments in the organization. Increase productivity and decrease cost.

Recent history

macbookpro_model_for_masFusion 360 launched as a paid service at the end of June last year. That makes the product only 15 months old… 15 months old!! I don’t know about you, but it feels like a product which is much older. Sure it was in beta and tech preview for 7 months prior to that, but that isn’t a long time either. So if you want to include that time, it’s still less than 2 years old. I was too young at the time, but I bet SOLIDWORKS and Inventor weren’t this feature rich and capable after 2 years?

It’s the platform the product is built on which has allowed this explosive development, along with the refreshingly open approach from the team, truly listening to users and a willingness to admit and correct mistakes. These ingredients have lead to 10 major releases in the last 12 months! Autodesk must be leading the industry with this rapid response and Ideastation driven development rate. The September release contained over 50 Customer Driven improvements alone.

Collaboration scale

Kevin went on to demonstrate some real world examples of just how wide Fusion’s collaboration net can be cast. Currently the largest project he is involved in, has 270 members, although it’s Open Source no details can be shared at this stage. I didn’t get to see it either, but I do wonder if it has something to do with Autodesk’s SPARK 3D printer or maybe a foundational project with Local Motors? I’m just speculating. He was able to show me an open source UAV project targeted for Africa. They are trying to make surveillance of wildlife reserves more expansive, their main target as this stage is Rhino surveillance, that project has 70 stakeholders, all part of the project. I asked him if he could show me some models, which he was immediately able to do via the new side bar, it was seamless. Prior to this update he would have had to switch tabs and dig about in different pages to find what he needed to show me. The new side bar has clearly reset the balance between the CAD tool and collaboration. However, if you do still need the old style view, you can opt to view the data or model in your browser. This launches the new Autodesk 360 site, My Hub, this means you can now be more productive with dual monitors. When you use Autodesk Vault with Inventor or AutoCAD, you will often have the CAD application on one screen, then your data management solution on the other. With this update, it’s expected you would have My Hub displayed in your browser on one screen and Fusion 360 on the other. Ideal!

Who’s using it?

Modbot

Modbot Robotic Arm assembly AnimationCredit: Modbot inc

Modbot was formed by two Aussie blokes, Adam and Daniel, with the aim to challenge the light industrial medical robots industry. Each robot is made out of 3 basic components you can buy in different sizes. As a result they can focus production on a larger quantity or fewer components and produce ‘very’ cheap robotic solutions. All of this had been designed in Fusion 360! The simplicity is pure art.

Lumitoro

Lumitoro fusion 360 screen shotCredit: Lumitoro

This company has received lots of press in Sweden for their products and the way they are creating high end jewellery. Their products are all laser sintered and then plated with semi precious materials. It’s stunning work and a great example of how old school tactile approaches can be combined with modern CAD / CAM work flows, in this case enabled with Autodesk tools. I bet these guys are hoping the SPARK platform will become integrated in Fusion 360.

Macotuba

Macotuba design Tuberculosis testerCredit: Macotuba

This innovative team have used Fusion 360 to design a low cost Tuberculosis tester. Using the Android operating system, to run an app it leverages the ‘Cloud’ to perform calculations on the data supplied from this hand held device. The hope is the low costs and distribution simplicity will go a long way towards increasing the diagnosis rates for on of the great silent killers. These guys are looking for funding, they seem like ideal Microsoft foundation candidates!

Effortless Visualization

The next element Kevin demonstrated took me by surprise. Within the modelling environment, you are able to create saved views, this capture both view positions and visual changes, such as colour and texture options. Inventor has a similar feature called View Representations, so I didn’t see this as a big deal. But. Then he switched over to My Hub, and told me to imagine I’d been sent a share link to this model. On the model page, you have access to one thumbnail per saved view. Again, not all that impressive, but when he clicked on these thumbnails, a larger viewing window appears next to them containing a medium resolution rendering! That surprised me, they were very good quality and definitely good enough to convey design intent or to make decisions regarding style changes. These renderings happen on the fly and are included as part of your monthly or annual subscription. So what if you want high resolution renders? or you want your client to pick which view they want rendered at high res? Well they can, right within that large preview window. Users can even change or select settings to control the resulting render! Now that is a great example of how the power of the cloud can be leveraged. However, these high resolution renders do consume cloud credits, which is to be expected.

September Updates

  • Adds control over hard & soft edge control in a single T-Splines form.
  • Improved surfacing tools – Control curves and splines, perfect G2 control, improved spline control and lofting take offs.
  • Zebra surface analysis tool improvements – the view style is now adjustable, which means you could use it during modelling if you wanted to.
  • The Javascript API has been released!!
    • You can build dialogs, and there are some samples to get you started.
    • They’ve included a development environment to use out of the box.
    • A Python API should be available by the end of October with a C++ version appearing by the December / January time frame.
  • Create public link is now available, these launch the Autodesk 360 viewer within a browser window.
    • The viewer provides the ability to download the file in any of the available formats!!! A HUGE WIN for collaboration across multiple platforms and disciplines.
    • Embedding is currently available within the Fusion 360 Gallery, once it’s ready it will be available from the A360 viewer as well.
  • Here’s the potential game changer for the future of the CAD reseller channels around the world. Fusion 360 is now available on the Apple Mac App Store!
    • Fusion 360 is now exposed to tens of thousands of people from all walks of life.
    • In line with Apple’s commitment to the enterprise.
    • Here is a nice Mac App Store FAQ prepared by the F360 team.

Fusion 360 on the Mac App StoreWhy will three API languages be supported?

  • They will all have the same level of support.
  • All built on the same API layer.
  • Javascript has built in security limits with respect to local file access, since it is a web based language after all.
  • Python is kind of the opposite, it works well locally, but it can be harder to get it to talk to the web based server stack.
  • C++ is probably the most powerful of the three, but with that comes complexity.

If you want to know more, in a fun way, check out this video:

Inventor vs. Fusion 360

This one has been itching away at me for some time. I’d touched on it briefly with Kevin in the past, but we ran out of time to chat properly about it. So I took the opportunity to raise the issue again. I know I’m not the only one to wonder this, so I wanted to share it with the readers of Design & Motion. So here it is. Kevin suggested the best place to see the differences between the end users and therefore markets for the two products, is within their respective Ideastations.

“You only have to compare the types of requests and conversations taking place to see the differences between use cases.”

Kevin says

“The only ones who are confused are students, because they have to pick which free product to use”.

He went on to break the two products into two distinctive categories:

  1.  For BIG engineering – Inventor is clearly the best.
  2. Fusion 360 is better suited to ‘Startups’ – Especially since consumer products is a highly competitive industry.

Kevin continued by saying:

“Customer don’t see the confusion between the two. When they approach the product it’s clear to them which one is best. Autodesk’s competitors often have more than 1 modeller, sometimes 2-5 so it’s pretty normal”

Is it working?

How is Fusion 360 coming along with respect to the requirements laid out at the beginning of this article?

Autodesk is trying to lead the field as the manufacturing and design landscape changes, their Open Source approach with the SPARK 3D printing platform and their various Autodesk 360 services I think it’s tough to argue they aren’t already leading them. What’s really telling though, is from the outside Autodesk 360 presents itself as a series of services, which it is… but it’s real future is as a platform. Fusion 360 is the first Autodesk product which makes this abundantly clear, especially with today’s announcement of the release of Fusion 360 Ultimate, it’s utilizing virtually all of them now. With that, Fusion 360 IS the real deal, it’s quickly becoming a full solution. As Autodesk continues to release API’s for their 360 Platform, and CAD software sales are being moved to online only, developers and resellers will be able to spin off their own services to diversify their businesses into the future.

Thank you Kevin for your time, patience and openness in answering my questions.

Autodesk and Local Motors Collaborate on First Spark 3D Platform Implementation

Press Release Issued by Autodesk

Deal marks Autodesk’s first industrial application of its open 3D printing platform to solve challenges in large format 3D printing

SAN FRANCISCO–Earlier this year, Autodesk announced plans to introduce Spark, a new open platform for 3D printing, aimed at making it simpler and more reliable to print 3D models and easier to control how that model is printed. Now, Autodesk is collaborating with Local Motors, the leader in open-source hardware innovation, to utilize the Spark platform as Local Motors continues to develop the Strati, the world’s first 3D printed car.

“The Spark platform is set to accelerate manufacturing innovation,” said Alex Fiechter, head of community management for Local Motors. “From capturing our ideas more accurately to guiding Design for Additive Manufacturing (DFAM) and simplifying the creation of machine code, Spark will help us to turn digital models into an actual physical production parts far faster than was previously possible.”

The recently unveiled Strati is being developed by Local Motors team at the DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), one of the nation’s leading innovation centers around additive manufacturing. The Strati vehicle design was chosen from entries submitted by Local Motors’ global co-creation community and as the project progresses Local Motors plans to use the Spark platform, which will make it the first large-scale industrial application of Spark.

Local Motors Strati Raw - Dean Fehribach

 Image courtesy of Dean Fehribach

Local Motors

Autodesk and Local Motors collaborate on first industrial application of Spark, the open 3D printing platform to solve challenges in large format 3D printing

“Local Motors recognizes the capabilities of the Spark platform for industrial manufacturing projects,” said Samir Hanna, vice president and general manager, Autodesk. “This collaboration is a natural fit to push the boundaries of large format 3D printing to fundamentally change how things are designed and made.”

ORNL and Cincinnati Incorporated created a BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) machine similar to a fused deposition modeling (FDM) printer by taking a 6.5′ x 13′ foot bed laser cutter adding custom hardware to transform it into a massive 3D printer. Spark will help connect automobile digital design information to the 3D printer in a streamlined way for easier visualization and optimization of 3D prints.

ORNL and Cincinnati Incorporated BAAM - Local Motors
According to Local Motors, the Strati simplifies the automotive assembly process and is a result of leveraging the contributions of community, advanced manufacturing tools, and software, like the Spark platform. This could bring many advantages, including reduction in the number of parts in a vehicle’s Bill of Materials (BOM) from 25,000 components to less than 50. The on-demand nature of 3D printing means that automotive manufacturers can change aspects of their design – or even come up with an entirely new one – with little or no additional cost in tooling or time.

Local Motors Strati Raw - Autodesk Spark
About Autodesk

Autodesk helps people imagine, design and create a better world. Everyone – from design professionals, engineers and architects to digital artists, students and hobbyists – uses Autodesk software to unlock their creativity and solve important challenges. For more information visit autodesk.com or follow @autodesk.

About Local Motors

From bytes-to-bits, the Local Motors platform empowers anyone to design, build, and sell the world’s coolest machines. The platform combines global co-creation and local micro-manufacturing to bring hardware innovations to market at unprecedented speed. The Company stewards a global co-creation community made up of enthusiasts, hobbyist innovators and professionals that come together to solve complex mechanical problems. The Company operates a growing global network of micro-factories, each operating as a nexus for next generation product development, where innovators create amazing products and consumers come to marvel and shop.

Images courtesy of and Learn more at localmotors.com.

3Dconnexion SpaceMouse® Pro Wireless Review

SpaceMouse Pro Wireless Female hand

Around a month after 3Dconnexion announced their latest product, I received a test unit of the new 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse® Pro Wireless. I’ve only ever owned and used the entry level 3Dconnexion devices in the past and always thought the professional series, although nice to have, really were a little bit over the top. Admittedly, if I’d had some spare cash lying about or I could have written off the purchase cost against my business taxes, I probably would have at least purchased the SpaceMouse Pro. I am a tech geek after all. With that in mind, I was keen to see how this shiny new toy? shaped up over the next couple of months. I decided on roughly two months, since that was the stated battery life. So how does it stack up?

Stated Benefits

  • Complete Wireless Freedom — Real-time 2.4 GHz wireless connection and a two-month battery life. When it does need recharging, for uninterrupted productivity simply connect one of the supplied USB cables.
  • Professional Performance — SpaceMouse Pro Wireless automatically recognizes your application environment and based on your personal configuration, maps commands to its four Function Keys.
  • View Your Work From Every Angle  Detect errors, explore alternatives, and present your work more effectively for review with SpaceMouse Pro Wireless’s 6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys.
  • Minimize Hand Movements —Conveniently positioned keyboard modifiers provide quick and easy access to Control, Shift, Alt and Esc functions, reducing the time you spend moving your hand to the keyboard.
  • World-Class Ergonomics And Build Quality  Full sized, soft-coated hand rest for maximum comfort.15 tactile, fully programmable buttons.
  • Flexible Connectivity  With a choice of two USB cables, either plug the USB receiver directly into your workstation or use the included Twin-port USB Hub.
  • The 3Dconnexion Experience – 3DxWare® 10 allows you to customize and optimize your SpaceMouse Pro Wireless for peak performance. Easily tailor settings and buttons to your application and needs.

Connectivity

The wireless benefits are clear, if needed I can re-position the device anyway on my desk unconstrained. I have enough cables kicking around my desk as it is, so this was a welcome addition. As it was with the SpaceMouse Wireless when it landed on my desk. I did find it curious that 3Dconnexion provided the Twin-port USB Hub, they mentioned it would come in handy during meetings in the board room where the PC being used for the presentation maybe be stashed away somewhere. The 1.5 meter cable would to expose the USB receiver in those instances. I honestly have never had any issues with connectivity, although to my surprise a couple of CADPRO’s clients have suffered some issues. They were each solved by moving the USB receiver away from the metallic casing of their workstations. I’ve since heard of people having connectivity issues with 2.4 GHz wireless keyboards and mice as well, again extending the receiver away from the case solved the problem. I’ll chalk that up as a win for 3Dconnexion.

3Dconnexion USB-Hub Right-Iso_Receiver

But, there is a less obvious, albeit inconvenient benefit, of 3Dconnexion providing this Twin-port USB Hub. I now have access to two 3Dconnexion space mice, this puppy and the SpaceMouse Wireless I received last year. While I’m at my primary desk I now use the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless exclusively, but with the SpaceMouse Wireless hard sided Carry Case, I’m able to safely cart that about with me on my travels each week. So what’s the inconvenient benefit? 3Dconnexion haven’t managed to unify their USB receivers yet, and although there are a decent number of USB ports on my HP ZBook 15 mobile workstation, they aren’t in abundance and certainly not enough to justify taking up two slots for 3Dconnexion. I need to keep one USB port spare so I can plug in devices Ad-Hoc. This is where the Twin-port USB Hub comes in handy for me. I have both receivers plugged into that, then it plugs into the slot which used to be exclusively occupied by the SpaceMouse Wireless receiver. A bit of a pain yes, but all I have to do is hide it around the back et voila, no big deal. Of course, 3Dconnexion’s well established attention to detail dictates they wouldn’t be happy about this either, I’m sure they have their reasons and I have no doubt they are working to rectify the situation in the not too distant future.

Alright, enough of the moaning. There are two great things I have discovered about using a Professional 3Dconnexion device. They are both the reason why the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless has earnt it’s permanent space on my desk, it’s not small, so it does need a right to be there.

6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys

SpaceMouse Wireless 6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys

This collection of buttons were the ones I was most eager to get my thumb on. While the Autodesk view cube is pretty handy, there are times I find it fiddly to get to the view I need. I’ve been using SolidWorks a bit as well recently as a result of supporting Autodesk’s CAM product in Australia and New Zealand. So this has been my savior, because, well, the SolidWorks view cube sucks in comparison to Autodesk’s. However, it wasn’t any of the four peripheral buttons in this set that I have found the most useful. It’s the Axial Rotation lock button which sits proud, all important like, just above all those around it. That self confidence justifies this little buttons power… I’ve often found myself having to go back to my keyboard, or regress to the orbit command just so I can rotate and pan my 3D view or 2D sketch without tumbling the view away from the orthogonal elevations. It really does break your train of thought, you don’t realize quite how much, until you are able to tap that button and nudge the puck to pan around the sketch you’re trying to manipulate.

Keyboard Modifiers

The next major realization I had with the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless was the collection of four buttons on the left side of the device. The Keyboard modifiers. Honestly, I haven’t used 3 of them all that much… yet. SpaceMouse Pro Wireless Keyboard Modifier ButtonsI’m sure I will get to using those more as time goes by and my hand relaxes into using it more naturally. But it’s the very real benefit of using the CTRL modifier button with Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks when orbiting around your model and selecting multiple and possibly random objects. In the past I would orbit my model, then move my hand to press the CTRL key on my keyboard, left click on my mouse to add that object to my selection set, theeeen back to my 3D mouse… urgh. It’s hard to read, let alone do. The crazy thing is I thought it was acceptable until I’ve experienced this first hand in a few different situations. Not only is it more productive (the most important part after all), but I can now create way cooler tutorial videos for Inventor, Inventor HSM and HSMWorks. I only have to pause orbiting momentarily now, just enough time to position and click my mouse, then immediately start orbiting onto the next object. I love it, and so will you, if you get to sit down and use it this way for an hour or so.

Battery Life

I’ve had this productive belle sitting on my desk now, for just over two months. I think I’ve turned it OFF a few times overnight. I didn’t put it on charge as soon as I received it and started using it immediately. I’m NOT designing 8 hours a day, but I’m in and out of Inventor and SolidWorks a number of times a day and generally that means I’ll have a fiddle and poke. So in all reality, I’m not using it anywhere near as much as a full time drafter should be. I’ve charged it twice. So my particular version isn’t really meeting the numbers stated by 3Dconnexion, but it has been on, albeit inactive, 24/7 for most of that time. In all reality, I still think that is quite impressive and it seems to recharge pretty damn fast. It just hasn’t bothered me in the slightest.

Final Words

Once again 3Dconnexion have turned out a fine product. The versatility of having a wireless device is a no brainer, you can move around the office with it far more easily, either collaborating with colleagues or presenting in the boardroom. The SpaceMouse Pro wasn’t a broken product, it’s proven and well designed, there really wasn’t a need to deviate too far from that. So would I pay for one out of my own pocket now? Yes! The prices have come down for these devices compared to a few years ago and I think once you have spent a little time with one, most people will realize a ROI pretty quickly. If not it simply makes using CAD more fun and precise. For those bouncing between multiple CAD products, the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless means they can force a consistent navigation and interaction experience across all the applications, when the standard user interface methods are completely different from one another. That’s a huge boost and has certainly proven useful for me now, switching between Inventor and SolidWorks so often.

It still surprises me that most CAD users still have no idea these things exist! Virtually every time I go to see a customer, one or more of their staff will be immediately intrigued by my SpaceMouse Wireless when I pull it out of my laptop bag and place it next to my workstation with a satisfying thud. We need to find ways to get the word out there further and get more CAD users buying and making use of these wonderful tools.

An Electrifying Threesome – AutoCAD Electrical 2015, Office & Access 2010

Office 2010 32 bit AutoCAD Electrical 64 bit not supported

Microsoft Office 2010 is supported they say, 64 or 32 bit they say… hmm I say. What am I banging on about you say? Well, if you have a 64 bit Operating System installed, which is highly likely if you are running Windows 7 or 8.1. Then when you install the Autodesk Product Design Suite, AutoCAD Electrical or any other Autodesk product that installs the Microsoft Access 2010 Runtime, it will install the 64 bit version of both the CAD applications and the Access Runtime. HOWEVER, if you already have the 32 bit version of Office 2010 installed, then the install will fail. OR if you try to install Office 2010 32 bit AFTER you have install the Autodesk software, then the Office installation will fail.

Office 2013 32 bit 64 bit installation error

Here’s the thing, Microsoft are very clear about wanting people to install the 32 bit version of Office. The 64 bit version is only intended for developers to use. There are far too many conflicts between Office 64 bit and other applications which rely on Office components. SO, the only way you can use Office 2010 with 2015 Autodesk products which have an Access 2010 Runtime prerequisite, is to install the 64 bit version of Office and risk all the issues that come with it. I’m not a database guy, so I can only assume the AutoCAD electrical development team have been forced into using the 64 bit version with 64 bit AutoCAD and the 32 bit version with 32 bit AutoCAD.

OK, so what about Office 2013? That is fine for now, you can happily install 32 & 64 bit versions of Office as long as they are different releases. I’m running Office 2013 32 bit, and AutoCAD Electrical installed Access 2010 Runtime 64 bit on my laptop. So I have two requests of Autodesk:

  1. Please don’t produce 2016 products requiring Access 2013!
  2. Please update your System Requirements for any CAD products requiring Access 2010 Runtime, that also includes the Suites System Requirements.

Design and Motion Cools Off For ALS

Yup, everyone is doing it. All in the name of ALS. I just hope everyone doing it is donating as well. Design and Motion donated to Lynne Grainger to help fund her treatments, we decided to directly help a friend of a friend. So thanks to Sean Dotson for bringing Lynne to our attention and Jay Tedeschi’s ‘attempt’ resulting in myself getting nominated, so I thought it was only fair I got the Design and Motion Ice Bucket Challenge rolling. So here they are in order of appearance:

So there you go, Sean gets nominated for a second go, James Herzing and Buzz Kross are also named by John. Epic, I can’t wait to see the last two. I have to say John really looked like he enjoyed that! So are there are outstanding nominees? Why yes there are… Joey Foster, Hans Grootegoed and Kevin Ellingson are all current stragglers. Come on guys, make it happen.

If you would like to donate towards Lynne Graingers care as well, then swing on over to her gofundme page and enter your digits. Thanks for being good sports guys… special mention to Mike for doing it while on holiday, while at what looks like a campsite.

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