Monday, May 31, 2010

Synchronize with Central - Twice?

I frequently work with my computer connected to a client network without actually having it added to their domain. This means that we map the computer to a shared folder by entering the path and supplying the correct credentials to access the resource.

With 2011 I'm seeing a recurring theme where I must synchronize with central (SWC) twice to actually commit changes so that the other users can see them with Reload Latest. In the same way this afternoon I found that a user needed to double their SWC so that I could see their changes.

Just to add another wrinkle to the situation, the class is a mixed XP and Windows 7 operating system environment, some laptops using each. Their computers are mapped to the network as members of the domain. I'm not sure if these conditions have anything to do with the double SWC or not but it seems to be recurring when I am connected this way. Any corroboration from readers?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dept. of Moved Cheese - Tag on Placement

Previous releases of Revit offered a check box to decide if we wanted a tag to show up as we placed various elements. For example placing a door offered us this on the Options Bar.

With 2011 this has been changed a little. There is a button to press to choose tagging or not. Fun to see the puzzled look trying to work out where the option went. It goes something like, "I could have sworn there was a way to stop tagging when I place families?!? Oh!! There it is!!".

Friday, May 28, 2010

AUGI is Down

AUGI is no longer experiencing a hard drive failure at the moment. All better now...

Detailing in Revit - ARCXL

There are a growing number of resources available for Revit families. I'm not aware of anyone focused entirely on providing complete details. I received an email from Mark Siever with ARCXL.

He wrote:
We have created a native Revit built library and web based interface for accessing the library. Currently it exceeds 36,000 completed architectural details. These standard details (not simple component families) currently fall under the following categories; Roof, Window, Door and Foundation. We are presently working on stair details, railings, and a system of linking our details and included parametric components to specification sections.

He put together a video demonstration of what they offer (hosted at YouTube) and I've embedded it here if you are interested (nearly 9 minutes long). The service they provide isn't free and each detail will cost you around $15 if you buy them individually. The website says they are offering introductory prices of $12.99 each and they'll reduce the price to $9.99 each for orders of 50 or more details. You can request some free samples for evaluation via email. Here's the video.

Off Topic: I liked the opening/closing music, in the video, by Ronald Jenkees. Reminds me of Michael Lee Firkins style as well as Michael Reese.

Friday, May 21, 2010

1K Run

I started this blog on November 19th of 2004 with a really exciting post stating my curiosity about blogging and deciding to dabble. Tonight as I was trying to catch up on nearly a hundred blog posts by more than a dozen other bloggers I noticed that this blog has 999 subscribers. Just one more reader to subscribe and push this blog to the 1K mark. As of tonight, this post is number 881 since then.

I'm flattered that so many have subscribed. I was flattered when it was just 5, 50...100. There have been times when I've been busy and my dedication flagged. I get apathetic or uninspired routinely like anyone else. Ultimately the fact that there are people who like the blog keeps me coming back to it.

Thanks for the ride! I had no idea when I started it how much fun it could really be. All the best!!

AU2010 Voting

Voting opened recently for Autodesk University class proposals. If you plan to attend physical or virtually please be sure to vote for the classes that fit your needs the best. I'm not going to attempt to sway your opinion by suggesting any for you, you know what you want and need (hopefully).

In response to a couple emails asking why my name isn't among the listed proposals, I didn't submit any. I've had my turn at AU in years past and others deserve a chance to take a turn as well as share the knowledge they've worked hard to acquire. I'm looking forward to a rich collection of choices again this year!

Happy voting!

Mind Control and Revit

Watched a demonstration of some interesting technology this evening at the Revit Technology Conference (RTC 2010) here in Sydney. Emotiv is a combination of software and electrodes that receive impulses from a headset and then uses this to provide information about your brain activity. It can be used in many ways including learning facial expressions and other gestures to interact with a computer. There are more important medical related uses for this technology that certainly supercede its relevance to Revit but it is quite a concept.

We saw the Emotiv EPOC Brain Activity Map feature and the site says this about it:

This application displays a real-time map of your mental activity in four significant brainwave frequency bands. Adjustable gain allows you to see detailed information and relative strengths between different brain regions. Adjustable buffer size allows you to see instant responses or average activity over longer periods.

Here's a picture of it in action that Jim Balding posted on Twitpic.
Now using Emotiv headset to walk/look around in Navisworks #R... on Twitpic
Check it out!

Oh, this was part of the Glorius Gadgets session that RTC has run at each conference for the last few years. This year also featured Phil Read demonstrating the virtues of the iPad and various apps for it. It also featureed Chris Needham (he also found and introduced Emotiv) showing off a stylus that permits you to use a "pen" on practically any surface to interact with your computer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dept. of Errors - Can't Write to File

Recently observed a couple users that couldn't create a new local file. What was unique about this situation was that they had shared the same laptop computer in the lab. I chose to have a few different students drive the computer that was connected to the projector so that they would get to do the work, the others could watch and I could get around the fact that I couldn't be part of their network.

Whenever I end up doing this it reminds me of my white glove days in various unionized cities where the local stagehands didn't permit you to do the work yourself, you just directed them to do everything, literally everything! Try doing your job all day long by telling someone else what to do, down to the slightest detail. Move case to here, open lid, remove the first cable, pull it over to the first lighting truss section, connect to the receptacle, coil the excess here in a clockwise rotation. Repeat for the next cable...over and over all day. You find out quickly how well you know your gig.

Back to the problem, when the users attempted to create new local files the next day the computer was still using the same Username for Revit but they were logged in as different computer users. When Revit saw that username was the same but the computer user that created the previous local file was different it balked and refused to save the file. When we changed the Revit username to something else, no problem.

Not very likely that others would encounter this but thought I'd share the oddity just in case.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Solar Radiation Technology Preview for Revit 2011

Autodesk Labs announced earlier today that this feature has been updated for Revit 2011. You can visit their lab site to download it now.

You can watch a video about it at YouTube.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dept. of Subtle - Properties Palette and Elevation

Placing components at specific elevations has been tedious for quite some time because instead of providing a way to set an elevation/offset value first we have had to place first and fix the elevation second. For example an air terminals that are not hosted or face based end up on the floor. Equipment families end up on the floor too.

With the introduction of the modeless (techy one word for "it can always be open") Properties Palette we can see the elevation value and set it first! A video is more fun? Embedded below:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Numbering Stuff

Revit doesn't automatically number everything. It does it for doors, windows, rooms. In Revit MEP it numbers a variety of other elements too, some of which people wish weren't because they end up generating useless warnings. A post at AUGI asked about numbering parking stalls. One suggestion was tricky and involved temporarily changing the category of the parking stall to doors so the automatic numbering would kick in. How about using the Extensions for Revit instead?

Seems to me that too many people are either unaware of the extensions that have been available for Revit for several releases now or they just don't have them installed. One of the extensions is called Element Positioning. Pardon me, lousy name for the routine, sorry. I've posted a short video showing how it works in the context of parking stalls. I've embedded it here too if you'd rather listen than watch.

[amended 5/12/10] Room and spaces are not valid elements for this tool. Neither are annotation or load elements (according to the tool's help doc). This tool got its start as an add-on for Revit Structure and was made available to the other versions.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dept. of Nice Guys - Aaron Saves the Kitty

Aaron Maller recently joined a new firm (new for him) in Dallas, Texas (The Beck Group). He's one of their Revit/BIM guys now. On a trip to Atlanta this week, for some Revit work there, he discovered a tiny kitten in the elevator shaft when he arrived at the hotel to check in. He lay down on the floor to keep the door open, called the hotel staff and got the kitten out. It was sitting on a piece of metal stud between the car and the door.

Story doesn't end there. He got the hotel staff to watch the kitten while he headed out to find some supplies, food, milk and a pet carrier. He took the Kitten to work and he found it a home with one of the local staff families. Aaron shared his tale on Facebook, that's how I learned about it. He posted a little video of the kitten recovering in his hotel room. Looks like it is doing fine.

Attaboy Aaron!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Revit and WAFS

Okay two posts with funny acronyms in a row, sorry! The previous one was playing around but this one is real, Wide Area File Services (WAFS).

I spoke with Marc at Globalscape yesterday. They have been providing services for file replication/mirroring (among other things) for many years but recently they've been focusing on solving the Revit central file collaboration situation. More and more firms are trying to share work among their own offices as well as among other consulting firms. The first is a little easier to solve when the firm is dealing with its own wide area network ("intranet" WAN). The second is harder, harder still when firms are not able to share a common network resource regardless.

What is intriguing about them is that it is a software solution applied to project servers. One firm takes the lead as primary and purchases software ("agents") equal to the number of team member firms involved. The primary firm's project hub server gets its own server side software agent. The lead firm distributes agents to each firm that is part of the team. This hub server and the other agents manage Jobs (shared projects and their folders) and use a Vault (file access data) that keeps the single central file replicated at each agent site.

From their "BIM meets WAN" site page:


Facilitating multi-user, multi-site collaboration is often one of the most challenging obstacles for organizations. When you pair Autodesk® Revit® Worksharing capabilities with GlobalSCAPE WAFS users from locations across the world can access and share files over a WAN at LAN speeds. This means faster and more reliable element borrowing and multi-user access to entire worksets.

More specifically, file replication ensures current copies of the central files and worksets exist at all locations that require collaboration. Real-time file locking prevents users from concurrently borrowing the same workset or entity. Once a user is finished, the common Save-to-Central command publishes changes back to the local central file copy, and then WAFS instantly mirrors those changes and unlocks the workset at all sites on the network.


From the Revit user perspective they really have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. They create local files, work and synchronize with central as usual. The software does the work behind the scenes. They can use Revit's companion application Worksharing Monitor to see what other users are up to which is invaluable when teams are spread far and wide.

Interested in learning more? Visit their website. They have a couple documents you can review (though I couldn't find convenient links on the site for them) and a video you can watch.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Revit and FOUS

I wrote a post back on February 1st, 2010 about the Two-Mile-Limit imposed on importing CAD files. I referred to these files as FOUS or Files of Unusual Size paying homage to the movie, "The Princess Bride". It has been mentioned quite a bit already but I wanted to update my own blog to reflect the latest development with the release of 2011.

The limit is now 20 miles, though you can still import the file. A warning is generated but the file will still be permitted, unlike before. You can read the blog post at The Revit Clinic called, "Revit 2011 2 Mile Limit Now 20 Mile Limit".

Books - Design Integration

Daniel Stine recently sent me a copy of his most recent book, Design Integration Using Autodesk Revit 2010. He has written other books such as Residential Design using Revit Architecture, Commercial Design using Revit Architecture and Chapter in Architectural Drawing. All of his work is aimed primarily at use in a classroom setting but can be useful regardless.

What makes his newest book unique is that it attempts to address all three versions of Revit within the context of the same building. That's a pretty big undertaking to squeeze into one course book. His foreword contains the following paragraph:

This book was designed for the building design industry. all three "flavors" of the Revit platform are introduced in this textbook. This approach gives the reader a broad overview of the Building Information Modeling (BIM) process. The topics cover the design integration of most of the building disciplines: Architectural, Interior Design Structural, Mechanical, Plumbing and Electrical. Civil is not covered but adding topography to your model is.

If you choose to become this book's student you'll develop a two story law office and it will take you through fifteen chapters (pages are not numbered in total but the book is pretty thick). A CD is included with additional information for creating Revit families as well as all the resource files required to complete exercises.

The book format is pretty large so there is a lot of room for information and supporting screen captures. I really haven't had time to dig into it deeply yet but the text is large, easy to read, the steps are plainly described, useful tips are provided throughout and the supporting graphics are large and full enough to understand what is intended.

Dan's publisher is Schroff Development Corporation if you are interested in following up this post for more information. Amazon lists the book at $69.95. If you are looking for another weapon in your arsenal of learning tools for Revit you should check it out.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

New Autodesk Revit Blog - Family Jewels - Revit Content

Autodesk staff members have started a new blog with content as its focus - called Family Jewels.

As long as Gene Simmons doesn't go after them they should be fine. Authors, William Spier, Ian McGaw, Martin J. Schmid and Jason A. Spleha are teaming up to contribute to the blog. Their first post appeared, according to the archive, on April 26, 2010. Might want to add it to your reading list?!?

Dept. of Moved Cheese - Warnings

With Revit 2010 I found myself repeatedly clicking the Manage ribbon when I wanted to review Warnings. No sooner would I click on it than I would remember that it isn't there it is on the Modify ribbon tab, nuts!!

It should be on the Manage ribbon!!!

In 2011 it IS! Yes!! Trouble is that I'm now clicking on Modify first, oh well. It's where I felt it should be instinctively, just have to listen to my instincts now.

By the way, notice they also moved the selection features; Select by ID and IDs of Selection. Measure is still on the Modify ribbon tab though.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Dept. of Errors - Slightly Off Axis

David Duarte (Revit Beginners blog) mentioned in a post at AUGI that he's observed that detail lines in drafting views that are drawn at very small angles no longer generate warnings or are stored in the Revit Warnings dialog box. He posted at AUGI looking for confirmation that it is supposed to be working this way now or not. I don't recall it being mentioned at all in the various sessions regarding new features.

In my testing I find that Model Lines do generate a warning message and store a warning but Detail Lines do not when sketched in Drafting Views (or plan views for that matter). In the following image (in a regular floor plan view) the model line generates a warning but the same angle does not for the detail lines.

Hopefully this is an intentional change. Regardless it is welcome since I've seen many projects littered with such errors in drafting/detail views. In particular those that have been created from external cad data originally. Now they just need to reconsider the <1/32" (less than) line length limitation, at the very least in drafting views.

Revit MEP Now?

In the past I've found that a fair number of engineers considering Revit MEP were able to dismiss it fairly quickly for a several reasons, such as; no conduit, no cable tray, no flat oval duct, panel schedule inflexibility and overly simplistic demand factor concept. That is a fairly long list of things that a given HVAC designer or electrical designer could consider a deal breaker.

I think that the Revit MEP 2011 release represents a tipping point. Enough of the easy obstacles have been removed such that you can't dismiss it as easily. Sure you can still avoid it, dismiss it, disregard or marginalize the software and keep on doing what you've been doing even with the new features they've added. Doing so now though just appears less objective as much as subjective.

In past posts at AUGI, maybe even here, I've commented that Revit MEP is still youthful even though Revit just quietly celebrated its 10th birthday on April 5th. When Revit 5.0 came out I think it reached its own tipping point with architects. Prior to that it was still too strange and weird to go for it. The very idea that someone actually used earlier versions to do real work is nearly shocking to some. I know at least five people, off the top, that used release 1.0 to do jobs. Wow! Nutty eh? Not many considering but still, brave doing real projects with the very first release!

Well for comparison sake Revit MEP is at that same point, counting up the releases since the first one in 2006, the 2011 release is number 6. You can review the Revit Timeline hosted at AUGI but here's the sequence: Revit Systems 1, 2, Revit MEP 2008, 2009, 2010 and now 2011. The first release was in April 2006 (four years ago). Revit 5.0 was the ninth release but only two years young (excluding 1999 before the public release) at the time.

It has taken a little longer to get here with Revit MEP but architecture is just "one" discipline, Revit MEP is focused on three, four if you count Fire Protection as separate. Is it perfect, no. I think for MEP users this is an exceptionally strong release. We'll always want and find more to ask of it but I think we've reached that tipping point where the excuses to pass on it till later are just that now, excuses.

To steal a song lyric/title from Pablo Cruise - "Whatcha Gonna do"?

To focus on one of the new features that knock off an excuse, you can check out this Autodesk video narrated by Armundo Darling - Panel Schedule features.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Family Editor - Use a Default Type

It has always been a good idea to create a default type for a family, even if there is only one. When Revit loads a family into the project it gets a Type name that just matches the family name if you don't go to the trouble of making a default type.

When you reload the family later you might find that it doesn't update properly or that if you get around to creating more types you'll have this rogue original one to replace.

Simple solution, create a new type right away and you can call it default for now. Rename it later if you decide you don't like it or need it anymore.

With the 2011 release we can test parameters in-canvas. In the past any attempt to drag a reference plane or element that was constrained by a parameter/dimension would generate an error message. They provided this in an effort to make the Family Editor more relaxed about this. When you select a reference plane that has a dimension and parameter associated with it and drag it to change the size of a family Revit will just let you do it.

The change(s) you make is/are applied to the current type.

It becomes more important to consider a default family type in light of this. You probably don't really want to mess up specific type dimension values. If you are careful to make the default type current and then adjust the family you'll avoid creating a problem. Then again you can just reset all the values that get adjusted. Either way just be aware that you can manipulate them in-canvas and you can mess up existing family type parameters.

If you'd like to watch a video that discusses this new direct manipulation of families then check out Autodesk's You Tube Channel, THIS ONE narrated by Chico Membreno. I've embedded it here too.