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Review of Eagle Point Pinnacle Series Business Edition

Eagle Point’s Pinnacle Series Business Edition is a platform for delivering training and support designed for design and engineering professionals in architecture, engineering, and construction offices. I found it useful, especially based on the broad ways to use the system. I would expect its usefulness to actually increase over time. In this review, I describe my experience with the software.

What Pinnacle Series Is?

Pinnacle Series is developed by Eagle Point Software as a more useful method of learning. The company designed it to be available on your computer precisely when you need it. It consists of a collection of video lessons, text tutorials, and chat-based help sessions that are organized conveniently into a single dialog interface.

The entire Pinnacle Series covers many AEC and MEP software packages:

Pinnacle series covers numerous Industry software titles. These are as follow:

Civil Industry Architecture Industry Structural Industry MEP Industry
· Civil 3D· InfraWorks

· AutoCAD

· AutoCAD Map 3D

· Autodesk Storm & Sanitary

· Navisworks

· 3ds Max Design

· Autodesk Design Review

· Revit Architecture· AutoCAD

· Navisworks

· 3ds Max Design

· Autodesk Design Review

· Revit Structure· AutoCAD

· Navisworks

· 3ds Max Design

· Autodesk Design Review

· Revit MEP· AutoCAD

· Navisworks

· 3ds Max Design

· Autodesk Design Review

Each resource is placed into its own tab along the top of a dialog box, as follows:

  • Search Results
  • Workflows
  • Cheat Sheets
  • Videos
  • Training Calendar
  • Support and Chat
  • Community
  • History
  • Favorites

The resources are represented by the icons shown in figure 1

Workflows

Workflows are text-based step-by-step instructions. We can read them before and after a video demonstration to focus on areas we might be unsure of – in addition to using them as step-by-step guides. Being text, they are fully searchable.

Each workflow is segregated by the respective CAD software. We navigate it through in a collapsing tree-type browser interface or flowchart diagram. Under each software package, major sections are presented for the software, which are further subdivided into concepts and performance.

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Pinnacle Series’ Workflow

Figure 1: The Workflow tab in Pinnacle’s interface

Each topic breaks down the steps required to perform a particular project task. Within these descriptions and explanations, there are links to Pinnacle training items and will launch the commands of the related software package; these are handy for speeding us along. Listing the software commands is helpful especially for new users, who typically are unsure how to navigate a software program’s command tools.

I found the instructions to be quite complete and easy to follow. For instance, the Civil 3D training package contain the standard compliments of teaching roadway, grading, and utility design; in addition, the workflows connected it to other products in Autodesk’s Infrastructure Design Suite, such as 3ds Max and Navisworks. Companies that purchase Autodesk’s suites and wish to move forward with incorporating the suite’s additional capabilities into their designs will find this quite useful..

Cheat Sheets

Cheat Sheets are a collection of tips developed by Eagle Point’s support staff. They wrote up frequently experienced problems and issues in need of troubleshooting. I found them a great addition to the platform.

As Pinnacle is cloud based, cheat sheets are added and updated as new items come up. They represent a really nice way to distribute knowledge to everyone on the network.

How-to Video Training

The videos are the visual compliment to the hands-on text. These tutorials are performed by the Eagle Point staff, who demonstrate each step in the process as they talk us through various points along the way.

The length of each recording ranges according to the complexity of the task.

Training Calendar

The training calendar represents a collection of upcoming live classes, including a previous recording of each class. During these, Eagle Point staff answers questions from attendees.

The calendars I saw were filled out every working day (see figure 2).

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Pinnacle Series’ Training Calendar

 

Figure 2: Pinnacle Series’ training calendar

Support and Chat

The chat dialog is just like any other chat dialog box, but with a few exceptions. Two types of chats are available, with our design team and with Eagle Point employees.

We can select multiple team members with which to chat. An option to save the chat is available as a way to provide an internal method of cataloging company tips and procedures that were discussed; this is a great way to reduce repetitive questions that need to be answered by internal support staff.

This is also used to save the solutions that Eagle Point’s experts come up with, which can be saved by the company as customized content.

Community

This part does not seem to me to be fully implemented yet. In speaking with Eagle Point, however, I learned that the community will be providing members with solutions to the same problems solved by Pinnacle, but related to any topic, such as business topics like accounting, human resources, and IT. The solutions will come from other community members rather than from the content delivered through the Pinnacle resources.

History and Favorites

History provides a list of the content we already reviewed, and is listed in chronological order. If we were to look at specific features frequently, then this list would make it easy to get back to the topics that are reviewed more recently.

This can be accomplished in another way, using Favorites. This is a list of items that we tagged so that we can refer to often.

Search Results

All content, no matter where it is in the Pinnacle Series product, is searched. Even the saved chats are cataloged in search results. The benefit is that when we solve a problem about the odd behavior of software, for example, the solution will come up years later in the search (see figure 3).

Pinnacle Series' Search Results

Figure 3: Search results

Each search result is ordered by a hierarchy using concept matching. Pinnacle Series employs an algorithm that reviews the keywords and brings best matching content to the top of the list. For example, if AutoCAD appears to be acting up and a user enters “Don’t get dialog boxes,” the search results bring up near the top the chat about the FILEDIA system variable I have every year with teammates. They get instant help without needing to track me down.

During my time with Eagle Point, I think they began to realize just how much I dislike videos: because largely they are unsearchable. Eagle Point’s staff worked around the problem by integrating each video topic into the workflow content. This allows us to search for very feature-specific words to find obscure references to a process. Each video corresponds to a detailed step-by-step workflow, and its text is searchable.

Using the tools

When we start up software, such as Autodesk’s AutoCAD Civil 3D in my case, the Pinnacle system automatically logs in as well (see figure 4).

Logginh into Eagle point Pinnacle series

Figures 4: (left) Log-in screen

Once the CAD software is up and running, Pinnacle Series will also be running; its window can be found in the last place we moved it to. In my case, it was on a separate monitor in its rolled up state (see figure 5).

Eagle Point Pinnacle Series Training Dialog Rolled Up

Figure 5: The rolled-up browser dialog

I decided that I needed to dig into the product some to see how things shook out. I chose the tutorial on using Civil 3D’s Intersection Wizard (see figure 6).

Pinnacle Series' The “Using the Intersection Wizard’ Video

Figure 6: The “Using the Intersection Wizard’ Video

I found the instruction to be detailed enough to successfully complete a corridor intersection using the wizard (see figure 7).

 

a completed Civil 3D Corridor Intersection using Pinnacle Series Video and Workflow

Figure 7: A completed Civil 3D corridor intersection using Pinnacle Series Video and Workflow

I found the best route for this application was to follow this approach: Visually scanning the Workflows in text form, and then viewing the video. The Intersection Wizard is a very long workflow, and as a result the text can become quite overwhelming. Scanning the text for the overall concepts, then watching the demonstration, made things a bit easier to grasp.

I tested the team chat, which went as expected; no problem. I also used it to simply connect with team members on-the-fly, and not necessarily as a help tool.

Administration and Settings

Administration of users and their licensing is handled by the Administration Utility. The options are well organized and easy to use. I added users, changed rights, and so forth, without needing any help. The process was self-evident and well prepared for the user.

The features are broken into four tabs (see figure 8):

  • Users
  • Permissions
  • Expertise
  • Reports

Pinnacle Series' Administration Dialogs

Figure 8: Administration of users, reports, permissions, and expertise

Users – The first tab allows administrators to add users, their email address, indicate their software usage roles, as well as their career field (civil, architectural, structural, mechanical, and so on). The available tools are simple: Add, Remove, or Modify.

Permissions – This tab allows administrators to designate the access rights for each user or group in the areas of managing content, administrative rights, limitations on live Eagle Point expert chat and team chat, and so on. Administrators can designate group rights, which are inherited by the group’s users by default. Inheritance and individual rights can be toggled for each member, if desired.

Expertise – This tab allows companies to establish areas of users’ expertise. It is a simple field that becomes available when using features like team chat and looking for help from within the company. Need hardware help? Chat with the hardware expert.

Reports – I found this tab to be quite useful. It allows us to generate simple reports to identify who is using the training, and who might need mentoring in one or another. It will also point out those who are deficient in their skills, but are not using the training provided to improve their situation and value to the company.

Pricing and Subscription Models

The software titles associated with each Pinnacle Series subscription is based on industry. In the Civil industry, for example, we get access to help and training on the eight titles listed earlier in this review. The Civil series that I reviewed covered software releases for 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Subscriptions and pricing were a concern I had going into this review. I felt that a high price could drive away many companies. However, the more I used the training software and considered how much time it can take to find useful training for a new concept, the more I feel that the value is proportionate to the cost, at the very least.

This software is priced for two models: Business and User. I happen to be reviewing the Business Edition, for which Eagle Point does not have a per-seat price; instead, the cost is matched to the firm’s use of the corresponding products from Autodesk. Volume discounts apply. More information on the actual price model is available from Eagle Point directly.

Licensing is handled by checking out of non-user defined floating server licenses. These licenses are administered on the Pinnacle Series servers. This means that companies have a pool of licenses and any users that wants to software can check out a license as desired. Companies can invite the users they want to participate, regardless of who they are; licenses are administered by Eagle Point, while users are administered by the design firm.

All-In-for the first year

Eagle Point wants everyone to try their software for the first year. When a design firm receives the package, there are no limits or concurrent user caps the first year. The software is wide open for all. Just prior to the renewal near the end of the first year, reports and analyses are generated of how many user licenses are being checked out, and how the training software is being used. This allows both parties to make an accurate determination of how many licenses to subscribe to.

When I discussed pricing with Eagle Point, I proposed a 25-seat design firm. They indicated that they would estimate the actual license usage for the first year, and price the subscription accordingly. Then after a year, Eagle Point would suggest how many actual seats were needed based on the analyses of the data usage for the past year.

Conclusion

Overall, I found the product a great idea as it provides a single location to find valid training for most of the basic needs of AEC engineers and designers. The wide purposing of content and features of the application provide useful information for users at any level of expertise.

While price is a significant deciding point with such a training and support tool, the training and expert assistance is available 24 hours a day, and has no limitations. Moreover one of the biggest selling points the software has is the expandability it provides in the customization section.

Among the benefits, I found these:

  • Good feature coverage, both video and text formats
  • Good troubleshooting tips
  • Awesome customization capability
  • Training and Eagle Point expert assistance is always available without limitations
  • Usage reporting
  • Login and administration were flawless, and it was quite easy to add users

I’d like to report things that were problematic, but quite honestly the tool provides a straight forward resource, without complications. To say something about drawbacks, I offer these:

  • The login was a bit laggy; it still logged in by the time AutoCAD fully started
  • The rollup window got in the way when trying to keep it on a single monitor (my biggest beef)
  • Eagle Point might consider documenting some advanced uses for software features that companies regularly send team members away to learn.
  • Eagle Point might try adding screenshots to the text oriented Workflows. In an effort to keep the streamlined appearance, these could simply be links in the workflow titled “screenshot 1″ etc. People could then choose to open them or not as needed

Other than these, I really don’t have anything else negative to say!

I’ve always found training costs to be the first area that most companies cut back to save some money. While Pinnacle Series isn’t free, I think you should consider the overall value and benefit to having support and training 24 hours a day. Once this type of training tool is in place, the thought of losing its functions may well force companies to look elsewhere to cut costs.

In the past, support has routinely felt distant at best. The greatest value is not in the individual features of Pinnacle Series, but in bringing the entire support channel into the company.

 

Disclaimer

This article was a paid review on behalf of TenLinks, and published on their site as well. This final version was edited by them and fact checked by the software vendor.

AutoCAD Civil 3D Segment Label Error Fixed

I was reliving problems that we had with Parcel Labels in AutoCAD Civil 3D, as far back as 4 years ago. The problem is that all the curve geometry is labeled correctly, except the chord length. Rather than re-explain the entire process, I’ll simply say that various methods were used to evaluate the curve, and only the chord length in the label is wonky. Here is the article: http://designandmotion.net/2009/civil-3d-parcel-segment-bug-again/

I thought it was a software problem, however I think I have it figured out.

It is a Slope Issue

I decided that there must be something in that curve geometry that is causing the problem. I decided to check the elevations along the parcel (which many hold as a flat value). Sure enough, the curve had a slope.

Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D Parcel Label Error Fixed

A quick change of everything back to 0, and the labels behave.

Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D Parcel Label Error Fixed

Notice the chord value changes, but nothing else does.

Clearly there is a problem in how the chord is calculated in the label, vs. the Parcel Vista and the like. Keep this in mind the next time your labels don’t reflect compatible data. If this helped anyone, please leave us a comment.


 

Civil 3D | Remove Specific Station Labels

Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D End Station LabelIf you’ve been fighting the beginning or end station labels on Autodesk Civil 3D Alignments, here’s the fix. Sadly, the answer has been around for a long time.

Civil 3D End Station Label

We often manually add our end station label, customized how we like, and in the case of some plans, the end station is denoted in a separate table. In all cases, the end station is automatically generated on the Civil 3D alignment.

  • It is usually useless, and is traded out for a more useful end station geometry label
  • It is ALWAYS in conflict with something

Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D End Station Label

You can select the label, but it is a function of the entire label set, and highlights the whole set accordingly. If you delete it, you will delete the entire set.

There is a fix that is so easy, you will laugh until you cry from the frustration of it all

Use CTRL + DELETE

That’s right. Hold the CTRL key and pick all the specific labels your hear desires. Release the CTRL key, and push the DELETE key. It is that simple. The labels will be gone.

Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D End Station Label

Use the Station Label Control Dialog

AUGI member Anthony Rhodes answered such a question in January of 2009. He noted the how the Station Label control dialog is supposed to be used, and the fact that it does work. Edit the alignment labels. Enter in the desire stations to start and end the labels.

Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D Station Label Dialog

In this example, any stations after 10+00 will be removed.

http://forums.augi.com/showthread.php?87565-Beginning-End-Labels-and-Align-Layers

While I don’t have a copy of the awesome book “Mastering Civil 3D” handy, I’ll bet money that this information is in there.

Credits

The answer for this has been around for a long time. So long that I wanted to credit those who pointed it out.

Autodesk Expert Elite – user wfberry – June, 2012: http://forums.autodesk.com/t5/AutoCAD-Civil-3D-General/Turn-off-end-Alignment-Label-in-Plan/td-p/3518008

CadTutor user CyberAngel – Nov, 2011: http://www.cadtutor.net/forum/showthread.php?64025-Removing-End-Point-Label-in-Profile

James Wedding and Dana Probert – 2008-2009: Introducing AutoCAD Civil 3D books; Mastering AutoCAD Civil 3D books

Autodesk Expert Elite – Christopher Fuggit – July, 2009: Article on not only how to delete, but programmatically hide the labels.

http://blog.civil3dreminders.com/2009/07/major-station-label-eliminate-end.html


 

UAS, GIS, and CAD?

A former co-worker of mine and long time friend sent out an email last week showing off the results of a project he’s been working on. This project combines two of Warren’s hobbies: Flying model airplanes and hacking (programming) things. [Not sure why he couldn't find someway to incorporate a drum kit into the mix?]

Adam Radel & Warren Medernach of SRK Consulting have developed a system for capturing high quality imagery from a remote-controlled (RC) airplane. This UAS system they have developed can capture images with horizontal ground resolutions of up to four centimeters and elevation surface data with vertical ground accuracy of up to 10 cm

SRK UAS Project

UAS defined in wikipedia…

“Uninhabited (or Unmanned) Aircraft Systems (UAS) Technology is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot on board. Its flight is controlled either autonomously by computers in the vehicle or under the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle.”

The data captured can be used by SRK to produce high quality, very informative topographical maps and 3D surface models. The key here is that compared to existing systems this is a much lower cost, quicker to deploy, and its very safe. Take a look at some of the samples they have posted, it is very impressive!

GIS @ SRK Consulting 


 

Autodesk 360 Previews Powerful Collaboration

Attendees of Autodesk University got a preview of what Autodesk 360 is transforming into. No matter what you may say about where the concept evolved from or who has similar services, Autodesk is definitely doing it well.

When Autodesk 360 first rolled out, I had limited experience as there was little benefit to the manufacturing and analysis community. Equally the AEC coverage was mostly architectural. However as file syncing became available, I used it to store my standards and option sets, which became a convenience I depended on.

What was truly difficult was project and data management of collaborated projects. We use PLM 360 and Vault to handle these needs, but the collaborative disconnect was troubling, no matter what other services we attempted to use to fill the gap. There were some budding collaborative and management ideas inside services such as Fusion 360 and SIM 360, but were dependent on the use of those services, which was a severe limitation when the project required other capabilities, such as Inventor and Simulation Mechanical.

The New Autodesk 360

Autodesk 360 Becomes a Useful Hub for Small Businesses and the Decentralized Workforce

Autodesk previewed serious improvement in their cloud initiative. By backing out the collaborative features in Fusion 360, and handing them off to all users in Autodesk 360, the company has given purpose and drive to the 360 cloud, and the people involved in those decisions should get a raise and promotion. Now the collaboration and organization is a baseline layer that supports all the products. Very nicely done.

Autodesk 360 Project Orientation

What they have done is created a hub for collaborative work in a project oriented atmosphere, supporting a decentralized workforce with disparate workflows and needs. This permits the greatest collaborative efforts to be achieved in an environment where all members can come together on the common goal and share experience and skills.

The Preview of Autodesk 360 showed:

  • Projects management cloud centralization – connecting all data, activities and people in a single user experience
  • Intuitive social interface – helps teams interact, access and share information
  • Deep search functionality – helps users find exactly what they are looking for, within the context of the project
  • Project collaboration – organizes and provides access to all information and datasets to all team members, in a device independent experience
  • Viewing – virtually any data types (including non-design data) without the need for special tools or software
  • Cloud rendering – virtually infinite computing power is used to create high resolution renderings

Autodesk 360 collective

A Note on New Users and Traditional Needs

More and more influence is being put on the new user, which I am finding to be a good thing. While the 360 toolset is designed around many of those needs, they still suit new and traditional users alike. My focus has been biased towards PLM 360 and SIM 360, and have found them quite useful in solving both traditional engineering and non-engineering needs. In the near future I suggest a very close watch on how the project management aspect of Autodesk 360 merges with the collective of products on the cloud, namely PLM 360, Fusion 360, SIM 360, and CAM 360.

Conclusion

Autodesk 360 has gained 14 million users, an increase of 40% since 2012, and has the potential to be a significant stage for small businesses in a world of continuously outreaching collaboration. Carl Bass, Ceo of Autodesk stated that “Autodesk 360 is like Facebook for engineers” during the Autodesk University Commencement Ceremony. I think it has the potential to be so much more, and connect people from all reaches of skill and knowledge in a functional, collective manner, in order to reach a common goal.

Autodesk 360 Mobile Device

 

Additional Resources

Autodesk PR announcement

Note: Autodesk, Inc. and Autodesk User Group International graciously covered portions of the expenses associated with my participation at the event, however in no manner did they influence or suggest any content in this article.

Autodesk University 2013 Registration Opens Today

Autodesk Univeristy Registration Opens Today

Autodesk University is a great place to connect with people of all industries, to solve problems and to learn more about better solutions to the problems they face every day. Registration opened up today. The event will be held at the Venetian, so rooms will go quick. Here’s the link:

http://au.autodesk.com/