Thursday, November 29, 2007

AU 2007 Usability Testing

Today is the last full day of AU. Tomorrow the conference will end at noon. That's just the on site conference. The AU team has continued to out do themselves with many different ways to participate after leaving Vegas.

Yesterday was my longest day here. I had a 15+ hour day. I attended some great classes.

Tuesday I was really disappointed because I had signed up for Matt Dillon's class on Revit families. This is one area that I really need to see in person or get help with because it is the most important aspect of Revit and I don't feel that I have a handle on it yet from just reading tutorials and books. I arrived at the class and there was a sign that the class was full, though no one stopped me from going in the door. When I got inside the huge ballroom every seat appeared to be taken and the walls were lined with people. The only spot to stand was right in front of the door. I stood there a few minutes but could see that this wasn't going to work.

I also didn't mention that on Tuesday I had volunteered through AUGI to help with the Birds of a Feather lunch. My duty was to encourage everyone table by table to complete the game cards and to collect the completed cards. I didn't know what I was in for!

My feet were so tired after walking several times all over what I believe was a parking garage converted to our meal area. A real bonus was that I met a user from India that I had corresponded with and helped during my time on the AUGI BOD. I'll save that story for another blog post. Those are the things that really make a difference.

Last night I attended a reception and heard about the direction of Autodesk into the HVAC fabrication field with EastCoast CAD. I can't talk about it, but it was very interesting and I met some folks from my own back yard and had some good discussion about their situation. I love learning how different users do different things.

After that I went straight to the AutoCAD usability study. They could not thank me enough times for coming! The day before I had done a web usability study.

If you are wondering what usability study is, it basically is a way to capture how and why you do things to help the direction of whatever the usability study is. So when I did the web study I had someone asking me questions and someone writing down notes as I showed them why I visit the Autodesk website and what I do there.

At the AutoCAD usability study I used the beta product and went through a 68 page book. You didn't have to complete the whole book and could leave whenever you wanted, but I guess that shows what a geek I really am because not only did I complete the entire book and three surveys online, but I also participated in one on the other side of the room relating to the desktop shortcuts and how you launch the program. I spent an entire 2 hours doing both and ended at 9:00 PM. I was exhausted and hadn't managed to fit in dinner yet so picked up some take out food from the food court to take to my room and had a quick bite before collapsing into bed.

I believe strongly in beta testing and usability. How else would Autodesk know what to do for us if we don't participate in these programs?

Today I am leading an unconference topic on the same topic as my class. It dawned on me that I should've mentioned that in class too. From talking with some other attendees there was a lot of confusion on how to register for these. I'm hoping this won't affect the attendance.

Tonight is the 1982 party. I am not a party person and the 80's were not my time and I never got into any of the music or entertainment of the time. Normally I try to participate in all things at AU, but this time I decided to opt out of this one. I'm sure there will be lots of photos, videos, and coverage in blogs on it to review later. We are going to the Las Vegas Speedway for some laps around the track in an Indy car. That's my Christmas present to my husband.

Tomorrow I have one long class that will last until noon. It is on Windows Vista, something I need to learn.

If you're attending AU, I hope you are getting as much out of the experience as I am. If you are not here, I hope you will be able to attend next year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

AU 2007 Beginnings

Today begins Day 2 officially, though for me it began Sunday and Monday.

Sunday we walked to the Mirage to pick up our tickets for the LOVE concert that night and then walked through the Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes.

I met Shaan Hurley at the front desk as he was checking in and returning from his hike mentioned on his blog.

That afternoon we walked over to where AU would be held as they were setting up to get a lay of the land. This doesn't come off easily, though Autodesk would leave you to believe that the way the finished conference looks. There is a lot of hard behind the scenes work. Thank you AU you staff!

I found the Speaker Ready Room and almost felt goosebumps walking in there. I was there. I was still having a hard time believing that I was finally chosen as a speaker. Thank you for your confidence.

I met Robert Bell's wife and the man whom I admire that is all AU, Joseph Wurcher.

The speaker shirts and AU messenger bags are all black with red letters for AU. It's almost ominous to see all this black all around the hallways. I was all dressed in black on Tuesday since that was the day I presented and almost felt a part of some cult or previous portion of 20th century history. I didn't march, however.

Watching all the attendees walking the halls with their badges on and the way we are herded into the main stage or for meals almost makes me fearful that we are going to collect our Soylent Green. O.K., so maybe I enjoy history and old movies a little too much!

My class went off beautifully. I believe that I am the luckiest of presenters here as my class was at the top of the list and was the first session of the first day. The students were wonderful. I was very fortunate to have two top notch lab assistants. Steve Bennett is well known through AUGI and his dedication is amazing. Matt Stachoni I confess I have not heard of previously, but was really amazed to find that he is also an AU presenter. How great to have a fellow presenter be your lab assistant!

The workstations in the lab I taught were very nice HP machines and the technicians were very helpful. There wasn't a single hitch with equipment during the 90-minute lab.

I visited with several students as they were filing into the class to get a feel for why they were really there and what they did. I met some really good people and was able to gauge the fact that everyone really did want to learn exactly what I was going to be teaching. There really are a lot of people out there that have AutoCAD Architecture and only use it to draw lines as if it was only AutoCAD.

I met a lot of people in just the first day. Some were people I'd only known through the Internet and some I hadn't seen in a number of years. I met at least half of the AUGI BOD that I served with during my term. I met 3 people from Brazil including the couple that are involved in the Brazilian Chapter and will be hosting the first ever Brazil CAD Camp next week. I met old friends from AUG-JP from Japan that I met during my term on the BOD and at the last AU I attended in 2004. I met Melanie Perry finally after reading her blog for so long. I also met in person some people with EastCoast CAD that have asked me to teach a day and a half AutoCAD MEP session in conjunction with them for their fabrication product.

There were many more people and is much more to tell. Now it's time to head downstairs and get a start on what will be my longest day here yet.

We also visited the Imperial Palace Auto Collection on Monday before I attended the Speaker's Social and the Beta & Bloggers event that night.

More later...(including The Birds of a Feather Lunch)

Monday, November 26, 2007

AU Arrival

Well, we are here! The airline portion of the trip was very uneventful. I think we must have picked the perfect day to fly. We were there at the airport in plenty of time and there was no line at all. The flight out of Roanoke wasn't even near full. Everything was on time and there was no rushing around.

We picked up our convertible at the car rental. It's a brand new car with only 158 miles on it. A Chrysler Sebring. We couldn't believe our luck since the last time we came here we rented a Jeep with only 6 miles on it.

Then we hit The Strip traffic. We sat for 2 hours trying to get to the Venetian. Very aggravating. We didn't get there until midnight. That's when our luck started turning sour.

We are not rich people and I very carefully had planned and budgeted out everything on this trip and allowed for some unexpected expenses. I have been buying tickets, making reservations, and planning since the summer. That way everything was paid for well in advance of even thinking about leaving home.

Well, the Venetian has a policy of $150/day required as a hold on your credit card. Ouch! I hadn't prepared for that sort of unexpected expense. I figured a few hundred dollars for the entire stay.

Then there was just one problem after another relating to registration and payment. It was so late and we were so tired (it was really after 3:00 AM according to our EST bodies) that I was just ready to go sleep in the car. They finally allowed us to just check in for the night and said the rest could be straightened out tomorrow when their office opened. Good night!

Saturday I wrongly assumed that we could complete our check-in process and be on the way to the places on our itinerary. Instead, we spend all day fighting with the Venetian until 2:00 PM that afternoon. By 10:00 AM I decided that we would just check out and come back and check in on Monday. They wouldn't let us check out or we would lose all the reservation for AU. I attempted to get them some information that they needed from the Internet, but they would not allow me an Internet code to do so. I ended up carrying my laptop downstairs to a free WiFi area to get info out of my email.

Because it was a weekend everything was really multiplied in difficulty and I was greatly unimpressed with the way the Venetian handled it. Besides that, we were still tired and realized that we hadn't eaten since breakfast on Friday at home.

I was finally able to call someone at home from my office and get them involved. We didn't even stay around to see it through and simply trusted that it would all work itself out. We paid for our personal nights and the incidentals and got out of there as fast as we could for some breakfast off the strip at a great local place.

So, we missed our Lake Mead cruise which I had paid for in advance. We attempted to go to the Hoover Dam anyhow even though it was late in the day, but by the time we got there we saw miles and miles and miles of traffic waiting to get there. So those pre-paid tickets went to waste as well. So much for planning.

We had planned on seeing the dam and lake and then traveling along Rt. 66 to stay for a free night Saturday night and then seeing more sights on Sunday before returning to Vegas for the Beatles LOVE show. It was so late there wasn't any point in heading out from the dam and we wouldn't have been along Rt. 66 until dark. It was too late to cancel our reservation for our free night so we lost that too.

We returned to the Venetian and collapsed. We went to bed early and slept 12 hours. What a stressful day.

Sunday we wandered around and did some walking until I got checked in at the Speaker Ready Room. It was great to finally meet several people that I'd only known through email or webcasts. I saw several people I knew along the way including Shaan Hurley. It amazes me that people even remember who I am.

The LOVE show Sunday night was fantastic! There was so much to look at that it was hard to know what you were missing. The music was great. Beatles music is my all time favorite. Peter was at the final Beatles concert and while the concert was not all that great, it was the experience. He's my own little piece of history.

Monday we will take the car out again and go out for breakfast off the strip and try to salvage some time to ourselves. I am rehearsing my presentation. I want to be the best speaker of all the new speakers. I realize it's a long-shot with all the great presenters here, but I'm sure going to give it my best.

Tonight there is a speaker's dinner and then two parties/mixers (there are really many) including the bloggers and beta testers and the Revit mixer. It will be nice to put some faces to names.

Tomorrow the real work/fun begins!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Travel Woes

Are you sick of hearing all the media reports about how bad the airlines are or how busy travel is this time of year? I certainly am.

I'm getting ready to leave for Autodesk University on Friday. Why Friday? Well it seemed like it might be the least busy time of the Thanksgiving weekend to travel. Also, that gives me the weekend before AU to see some sites and relax before the big week.

My son is in China right now. He was scheduled to leave last Friday (11/16). I took him to the airport at 4:30 AM! He had a flight on Northwest Airlines to Detroit and then a layover until the daily flight to Shanghai, China.

Wouldn't you know it that there was a maintenance issue and two flights were cancelled that morning. He was on standby all day to get to Detroit where NWA had reserved a hotel and shuttle for him until Saturday's flight to Shanghai. He spent 12 hours on standby until he finally caught a break and got to Detroit.

Because he wanted to "see the world" and has had this trip planned for what seems like forever and we were heading to AU, we simply cancelled Thanksgiving as a family. After all, we have lots to be thankful for and are not bashful in giving thanks. We also have a tradition since he moved out of our house to set aside Sunday nights as a family night. He either makes us dinner or takes us out to dinner and then we may watch a movie together or play a board game. It's been great.

So, we'll be passing each other with our travels. He's visiting a Pen Pal in China and experiencing life and will not be back home until very late Tuesday night. We are leaving this Friday. We'll catch up on 12/2/07 for a reunion and our family afternoon and evening together to share travel stories and photos.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Beth's Autodesk University 2007 Itinerary

I have only been to Las Vegas once and that was for AU 2004. I was very overwhelmed by it all. During that trip, we (my fiance and I) did stay an extra two days and rented a brand new Jeep with only 6 miles on it. We went out to Red Rocks and drove off road as much as we dared so as not to return the vehicle with damage. We also drove to Lake Havasu City, AZ to visit a friend from the club. We didn't really have any money to spend to see any sites, but did a lot of research on what we'd like to do on our next trip.

Well, it's time for the next trip and while we can't do everything on the list (have to save something for another time), we are going to have a great time. We are not gamblers and always try to get out of the tourist areas wherever we go so we will be "off the strip."

I've been very overwhelmed with all the invitations for special parties, meetings, and presentations.

Joseph Wurcher, Manager of AU Program Development, has posted on his blog a list of Ten Things that will "make AU 2007. For me, my main goals are:

  • Send attendees of my sessions go away with a positive learning experience.

  • Learn as much as I can.

  • Enjoy time with the love of my life.

I will check email at least once a day should you need to reach me.

Lodging: The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino

Air Travel: Northwest Airlines

  • Leave Roanoke, VA 11/23/07 4:10 PM
  • Arrive Las Vegas, NV 9:05 PM
  • Return from Las Vegas, NV 12/2/07 1:00 AM
  • Arrive Roanoke, VA 12/2/07 12:05 PM

Renting a convertible for the duration of the stay. We'll use this for our trips on the weekends and non-AU times and Peter can use this for jaunts out while I'm attending classes when he's not working at the AUGI booth. (He does have to earn his keep and he knows that AUGI is #1!)

Personal Schedule

Saturday 11/24
Hoover Dam

Lake Mead Cruises

Chloride Mining Town, U.S. 93 at the NV/AZ line, Chloride, AZ

RT 66

Williams, AZ

Free Night Stay at:
Quality Inn, Flagstaff, AZ

Sunday 11/25
Planes of Fame Museum

Grand Canyon National Park

Powell Point

7:00 PM Cirque du Soleil – The Beatles LOVE

Monday 11/26
Titanic Artifact Exhibit

Star Trek Experience

Scout out room for class and visit Speaker's Room as well as prepare for the week.

Thursday 11/29
8:00 PM Mario Andretti Indy Car Racing for Peter (his Christmas gift)

Friday 11/30 (After AU classes end at 12:00 PM)
Atomic Testing Museum

Machine Gun Shooting! (Pete will re-visit sources and select our destination earlier in the week.)

9:00 PM Larry G. Jones: A Man of 1002 Voices

Saturday 12/1
12:00 PM Celtic Wedding – Valley of Fire

Imperial Palace Auto Collection

Autodesk University 2007 Personal Schedule for Beth Powell

Monday 11/26
6:30 PM
Speaker’s Social Event (special invitation)
Bouchon Restaurant

6:30-8:30 PM
Blogger & Beta Social Event (special invitation)
La Scena Lounge

7:30-9:30 PM
Revit Mixer (special invitation)
Palazzo Ballroom P

Tuesday 11/27
6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Breakfast

8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Exhibit Hall D General Session - Designing the Future

10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Murano - 3201 Start Using AutoCAD® Architecture Now!


11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Networking Lunch - Birds of a Feather (Beth help AUGI)

1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Lido - 3002 Design to Fabrication in AutoCAD® MEP – Why Engineers Should Care About Downstream Fabrication

2:30 Autodesk Web Usability Testing (special invitation)
Titan 2306, Level 2

3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Palazzo I-J All in the Family: Creating Parametric Parts in Revit® Architecture

5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. AUGI® Annual Meeting
7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Exhibit Hall Open/AUGI Beer Bust

Wednesday 11/28
AUGI Day – Wear your AUGI shirts!

6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Breakfast

8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Exhibit Hall D Building the Future - AEC Industry Presentation

10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Lido - 3005 A Simple Plan for Implementing AutoCAD® MEP

Revit MEP Feedback Luncheon (special invitation)
11:30-12:00 – Introductions and Lunch
12:00-12:30 – Open Feedback Session – Workflow Barriers
12:30-1:00 – Next Steps – Collaborative Prioritization
Nerf Bats will be provided for frustration release

(Pete-AUGI Booth 11:00-12:00)

2:00 pm - 3:00 pm The Future of AutoCAD (special invitation)

Marco Polo 806 & 807

1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Marcello - 4505 Opening the Door to Curtain Walls in AutoCAD® Architecture, Part I

3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Murano - 3205 Cross-Discipline Coordination in the Autodesk's Revit® Platform

5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Lido - 3005 AutoCAD® Architecture Installation Secrets and Techniques

5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
MEP & Fabrication Customer Focus Group – Meeting and Reception (special invitation)

Marco Polo 806 & 807 Autodesk MEP Product Managers & Eastcoast CAD

6:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Exhibit Hall Open

7:00 – 9:00 PM AutoCAD Sneak Peek & Test Drive (special invitation)
Venetian Hotel, Room Titian 2205

7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Technology Main-Stage Presentation

6:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.Networking Event: Caribbean Island Hopping

Thursday 11/29
6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Breakfast

8:00 AM-9:30 AM
San Polo - 3501 Breaking Free of the Plan -- AutoCAD® Architecture Sections and Elevations

10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Lido - 3103 AutoCAD® Architecture Solutions: The Power User’s Challenge

11:00-11:50 AM
Are you using AutoCAD Architecture (ADT) only as AutoCAD?
TITAN 2204

(Pete-AUGI Booth 11:00-12:00)

11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lunch

(Beth-AUGI Booth 1:00-1:30)

1:00 PM-2:30 PM
San Polo - 3403 Rendering Using mental ray® in AutoCAD® Architecture

3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Lido - 3101 MEP Design with Revit MEP 2008 - A Real-World Implementation, Part I

5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Lido - 3101 MEP Design with Revit MEP 2008 - A Real-World Implementation, Part II

6:30 p.m. – 11:00 pm Dinner & Entertainment Event: Party Like It’s 1982

Friday 11/30
6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Breakfast

8:30 AM-12:00 PM
Lando - 4303 Windows Vista: The New Frontier

12:00 PM End of Conference (Whew!)

Revit Additions & MEP Customer Council

In case you didn't hear it elsewhere, there is a new build of Revit to download in several flavors as well as new Revit MEP Content.

Thank you, Kyle and team, for the new content!

There is also a new MEP Customer Council. Sign up today if you are part of this industry.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Autodesk University Helpful Information

Almost in unison, Elise Moss wrote an article on Tips for Autodesk University for CAD Digest while Lynn Allen's AU 2007 Primer Webcast is now available for download on the Autodesk University Blog.

Both of these contain good information. If this will be your first time attending AU, I can speak from experience that you will probably be overwelmed.

Don't laugh off all the discussion of dryness. The humidity is normally in the teens there and you will not believe how dry it feels both inside and outside. Your lips and mouth will feel dry and you will feel very stuffy. Airliner air just adds to that and you may think you are coming down with a cold.

I know of people that ship, buy, or rent humidifiers for their hotel rooms during their stay at AU. I know personally how stuffy it feels and the desire for nasal moisturizers and/or decongestant.

I have only been to AU one time and that was when I was on the AUGI Board of Directors 4 years ago. I am attending this year because I am honored to be selected to be both a presenter and a leader in an unconference session. AU has changed so much that it will be almost like the first time again.

I will post my personal schedule next week of what types of things I'll be doing while I'm there that are outside of AU.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CAD related License Plates

I have seen some fun posts recently of license plates that remind you of CAD somehow. And there there are some folks that have been around a while (not that they are old or anything) and have plates that match their login names such as CADMama from AUGI.

I was behind this one the other day and while I am doubtful that the person has anything to do with AutoCAD, that's what came to mind when I saw it.

Here is one of my own. The name of my business is CAD Fuel Design, but you wouldn't believe how many people come up to me and want to know what kind of fuel the PT Cruiser runs on. They think CAD Fuel is some sort of alternative fuel!

Monday, November 12, 2007

AutoCAD Architecture/Architectural Desktop

November is all about Autodesk University (AU)! It's only two weeks away and in less than that I'll be on my way there. Excitement is in the air.

There are many changes and new ideas associated with AU this year. They vary from the handouts being handled differently to the Unconference at the Conference. (In my mind I can hear the Uncola commercial from decades past.)

You can visit the Unconference site and read about the idea and sessions scheduled as well as take part in discussions. It is an unconference because it is not an instructor teaching students, but a leader leading a discussion on the particular unconference topic.

My topic to lead is related to the lab I will be teaching.

I'll post more about AU, my lab, and my plans for the Vegas trip between now and then. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Revit MEP

Revit MEP, that began life as Revit Systems, is starting to draw attention. One reason is because it is on it's way to becoming a mature product. Give it another 1-2 releases and more content and it will be there.

The second reason is because as more architects are using Revit Architecture to design buildings, more MEP engineers are looking to the future with Revit MEP. Some is due to future planning while some of this activity is due to owners or architects expecting the MEP design to be completed in Revit MEP since that is now a choice.

What is not always understood is that while Revit Architecture has been around for a number of years, that doesn't automatically mean that Revit MEP has the same history. In some cases the assumption can be a recipe for disaster.

I recently taught an AUGI ATP class on Revit MEP. It was a weak course at best and attempted to simply give some highlights on what makes up the program. It's difficult to do that in 3 sessions.

Kyle Bernhardt, the Revit MEP Product Manager, has started a blog. Inside the System is already a great resource and is no surprise. "Kyle B" is known throughout discussion groups and forums for his technical support answers prior to the promotion of Product Manager. He is a young and likable guy and visits the AUGI forums to see what is going on in the user world and to ask questions and offer information. He is one of the more "in touch" people you'll find at Autodesk so it's no surprise that he's started a blog. The Building Solutions products are sadly lacking in blogs as compared to other products within Autodesk. We need more employees at Autodesk like Kyle!