|Updated||Fri, 06 Jun 2008 16:52:59 -0400|
|Description||Desktop and Internet engineering software applications for industry and academia|
|Free Software ? Part 2 (of 2)|
|Category||Software - General|
|Description:||Subtitle: The gray and dark sources. Gray sources? They are people who want to tease you with a free version but want to tempt you to purchase a paid full version. This is fair and reasonable in my opinion as... more...|
Subtitle: The gray and dark sources.
Gray sources? They are people who want to tease you with a free version but want to tempt you to purchase a paid full version. This is fair and reasonable in my opinion as long as their intentions are stated up front. Reasonably priced 30 to 45 day trials seem fair to me also. For example, after a WinZip trial the product will cost $29, a price I can live with for a product I can?t live without.
Then there are the gray sources that demonstrate a dark side. Download Apple?s free iTunes and you will constantly be reminded to update it AND QuickTime. QuickTime tries to ?hijack? my preferred Windows Media Player. Hijacking is when a program associates common file extensions to be run on their program without asking permission. This drives be nuts since I have to undo the ?damage.? During a recent iTunes ?update? they even tried to slip a copy of Safari (web browser) past me. After getting caught doing the ?dark thing? they recently modified their attempts. As the world goes to more and more Web served applications (vs. your desktop apps) the browser is going to be more and more important. Little ads are soon be a part of the browser I am convinced.
My free Java runtime plug-in, which is constantly requesting to be updated, tried to slip a copy of their free OpenOffice past me during an update. Cleary a Java update should not be pushing OpenOffice. I plan on checking out OpenOffice but when I want to!
To paraphrase Susan Bradley at http://windowssecrets.com ?I understand that software vendors? desire to gain customers. But abusing the sensitive and essential security-update processes in not ethical.?
Even getting a copy of the must have free Adobe Reader can be tricky. Type ?Adobe Reader? in Google and the first hit is a sponsored link called Download PDF Reader 8.1. This is NOT Adobe Reader and not even made by Adobe and the only thing that is free is the updates! A novice could easily be tricked. The second link is the real free Reader but here again they (Adobe) try to slip in a copy of Adobe Media Player during the download. Media Player Wars now rank right up there with Browser Wars. Deciphering Google hits is tricky given the fact that companies can purchase the top link and include Meta keyword and description tags. I checked the source code for the first site and sure enough there is the Meta tag ?Adobe.? Sneaky. Meta keywords have been so abused and used to mislead visitors that most search engines no longer give them any weight when ranking pages but this does not apply to paid for sponsored links. This is not only the dark side of free software but also the dark side of searching on the Internet.
I could go on and on and on?.but enough for now.
As I said ?buyer? beware.
|Free Software - Part 1 (of 2)|
|Description:||Subtitle: ?Buyer? Beware This topic has been on my brain for several months. I am ready to expound. Who works for free? Actually a lot of people. Well meaning volunteers. People like my fellow Lions Club members and people who... more...|
Subtitle: ?Buyer? Beware
This topic has been on my brain for several months. I am ready to expound.
Who works for free? Actually a lot of people. Well meaning volunteers. People like my fellow Lions Club members and people who work at my wife?s FAITH Food Pantry. Both organizations helping people in time of need. I could list other examples that would fill my hard drive?well, not really?but you get the idea
Who writes software for free? Anyone who does not have to pay the rent/mortgage or buy groceries from the effort. This means they have a source of income. Examples:
1 - People who have a ?day job.? Professors and students being particularly good examples.
Any of the above could have a passion for writing software and are generally safe sources for free software. Finding these programs can be a bit daunting. Type ?free software? into Google and you get (as of this writing) 177,000,000 hits! As usual the top hits bore instant fruit, www.fsf.org and www.freewarefiles.com to name two. Avoid free-to-try sites, it is not the same as free software. Get a copy of PC Magazine (March 2008) where they list the 157 Best Free Software programs. You can trust this magazine.
The last source is:
5 - Volunteers who ban together to form an Open Source community which grew out of the vision of MIT?s Richard Stallman. Software like Linux, Apache, and the ?dynamic duo? of MySQL and PHP are not only free they are industry standards in their own rights and offer alternatives from the Microsoft money machine.
There are also companies where software is a sideline and they simply want your eyeballs to always be on their Web site. Google is a classic example. They give away a good entry level 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) package called SketchUp. You can get it at: http://www.google.com/sketchup/index.html. From what I can tell Google?s real motivation is to put this modeling tool in the hands of everyone as a means to add buildings and structures to Google Earth, also is also free at: http://earth.google.com/. If you want support and additional features you need to buy the Pro versions. Based on Google?s reputation this does not seem to be a bait and switch tactic, they have more money than they know what do with. Although I admit the smallish white Download button is not as attractive as the big green Download button for the Pro version. I guess they could not resist the temptation to get a few buck from me. I have been ?playing? with the free version and like it.
??..to be continued in Part 2
|Have You Upgraded to Web 2.0?|
|Category||All Things Internet|
|Description:||I was at a publishing conference in New York and they were talking about Web 2.0. How do you get it? It turns out I had it and did not know it. By having the latest browser, and there is... more...|
I was at a publishing conference in New York and they were talking about Web 2.0. How do you get it? It turns out I had it and did not know it. By having the latest browser, and there is no excuse not to, you are up to date.
The term "Web 2.0" was coined by O'Reilly vice president Dale Dougherty in 2004. In the early days web sites were passive, you viewed what was delivered and that was it. The pages were static, meaning that the user could not interact with the Web page. Dynamic Web pages, on the other hand, allow the user to interact with the Web page. In the book Wikinomics, Don Tabscott says, "the new Web is about participating rather than about passively receiving information." How true it is.
If you have web based on-line banking you are experiencing interactivity. At two companies that I consult for engineers and scientist can search databases and reference books and can experience interactive graphs, a term coined by Knovel Corporation, at www.knovel.com. First responders like Homeland Security and fireman can even get toxic chemical properties, interactively, on their cell phone from William Andrew Publishing. You can experience the actual content at http://www.williamandrew.com/wml/sittighome.html.
What does Web 3.0 have in store for us? I am sure my children and their friends, the Net Generation, has something in store for us.
|Description:||I have been trading emails today with SolidWorks, Inc. Public Relations Specialists Nancy Buchino who is my new best friend at Concord headquarters. Nancy pointed out that my birthday (which is today) coincides with other "famous" people. Babe Ruth (Baseball... more...|
I have been trading emails today with SolidWorks, Inc. Public Relations Specialists Nancy Buchino who is my new best friend at Concord headquarters.
Nancy pointed out that my birthday (which is today) coincides with other "famous" people.
Babe Ruth (Baseball player) - 2/6/1895
Can you match the names with the pictures?
Nancy then asked me some questions:
Q. Birthday wisdom? A. Have a passion for what you do and it will not be a job.
Life is good. Now back to serious business.
|Full Circle - Part III (Final)|
|Description:||When I left you in Part II I said there were 18 versions of Windows. Add three more to the list. On October 1992 Microsoft introduced Windows 3.1 Workgroups. Until then Novell, Inc. owned the networking market. If you wanted... more...|
When I left you in Part II I said there were 18 versions of Windows. Add three more to the list. On October 1992 Microsoft introduced Windows 3.1 Workgroups. Until then Novell, Inc. owned the networking market. If you wanted to create a network you bought NetWare. Eventually Microsoft did to Novell what they did to Netscape. In the early days everyone used Netscape if for no other reason it was not a Microsoft product. Microsoft embedded Internet Explorer with Windows and went on to crush Netscape. In March 1997 Novell hired Eric Schmidt from Sun Microsystems to stop the attack. They still got crushed but Eric didn?t, he left to become the CEO of Google. Smart move Eric! Who knows he may buy Microsoft but since Microsoft announced yesterday their intentions to buy Yahoo the battle lines are now clear. Microsoft/Yahoo will claim to be the king of operating systems, desktop applications, and search. No matter what they say Google is still the real king of search. Google will continue to claim that the Internet network is the OS of the future and cloud applications are the alternative to desktop apps. Sun?s Scott McNealy?s has been saying this forever. Gates ?missed? the Internet search revolution and is playing catch up. Don?t ever count him out. 2008 is going to be interesting.
Recently I just learned of two more versions of Windows. Windows XP 64-bit and Vista 64-bit. The later is offered in five editions. Learning Windows is not trivial; learning which edition to buy is equally difficult. If you don?t buy the right edition, sooner or later you will find a critical piece missing. Currently only high end applications like engineering analysis (Cosmos, ANSYS, AMPS, Abaqus, et.al.) and mechanical CAD packages (SolidWorks, ProE, Catia, el.al.) need take advantage of the huge memory (up to 128GB+) capabilities provided by Vista.
So were do we stand? You are probably using XP but are still confused (or scared) to switch to Vista. There are some horror stories. Then again there were horror stories when you were asked to upgrade from 98 to XP. As Lance Ulanoff said in PC Magazine ?Vista will recover in 2008, and by the end of the year people will forget why they hated it so much.?
So what alternatives does a person have? Buy an Apple iMac with Tiger or Leopard? But you will not get all the high end apps available on the PC unless you want to run an OS emulator program which is bound to slow things down. There are also some Leopard upgrade horror stories on the Internet. Welcome to the club Apple. How about buying a Linux based computer? Great idea, be free once and all from Microsoft/Apple. You can access cloud applications the way Google says you should. I am going to explore doing so but I am not yet ready to give up my trusty Word, Excel, PowerPoint (et.al) and trust my ?sensitive? data to the cloud. Maybe someday, maybe sooner than later. Will keep you posted on my progress.
In all fairness Windows works most of the time. It is a marvel that it works as well as it does plus buying a computer is like buying a new TV with many price points available. It is when your computer acts up that you are in a quandary. If you work in a company with an IT/network guy you call him just like I did in my Part I piece. Yep?.we have come full circle. You and I no longer own our own computer.
If you work at home like I do, and you have a problem, pick up the 4.5 pound manual and dig (and pray). Along with the manual be sure to subscribe to the free Windows Secrets newsletter, windowssecrets.com. If things still don?t work out buy a new computer with a freshly installed OS, it is bound to work for the next two years and by that time Windows 19 (or 22 depending how you count) will be out. Of course you will have to once again learn a new OS. Microsoft will just not let a sleeping dog lie.
Go Giants! Go Google! Life is good.
|Goodbye San Diego|
|Description:||After 5 intense days of talks and product demos my head is spinning and it?s time to get back to my wood burning stove in CT. Solid works is fast becoming the solids (3D) modeling standard of the world much... more...|
Solid works is fast becoming the solids (3D) modeling standard of the world much like AutoCAD was in the 2D world back in the 80?s. Pro/ENGINEER, the company that created the market in 1987, must be scratching their heads. The differences in the company cultures I think explain the market shift.
Everyone, from the CEO down to users, are concerned about feature bloat. After 3 days of using SW 2008 I think their ?ribbon technology? will allow users to make features that are used frequently to be readily accessible while keeping others ?on call? and away from view. A brilliant solution. The developers clearly listen to the users. There are things tthey did and will be mentioned in future blogs.
The highlight of the show for me was a presentation by Jon Hirschtick on the History of CAD. Many, many, of my friends from my FEA days were in the audience. Old timers like Orr, Holtz, Wolfe, Kathleen Maher-Peddie, Yares, MacKrell, and Wohlers (to name a few) were part of the history. Afterwards we all talked about the good old days, a sure sign that we are all getting older. Like I said it was a love fest.
Jon ended his talk with 5 future trends that will impact SolidWorks and the CAE industry. Some of his views are very profound. I agree on 2 of them and not so sure on 3. I of course will share Jon?s 5 future trends in future blogs.
|On the Road from SolidWorks WORLD 2008|
|Description:||I had to go San Diego to see the future of engineering. SolidWorks (SW) co-founder Jon Hirschtick invited me to join his company?s blog site and I was honored to accept his invitation. Jon handed over the CEO job several... more...|
I had to go San Diego to see the future of engineering.
SolidWorks (SW) co-founder Jon Hirschtick invited me to join his company?s blog site and I was honored to accept his invitation. Jon handed over the CEO job several years ago to give himself more time to do strategic planning for SW. The truth of the matter is he is really a futurist for all things related to computer aids for engineering.
When I got off the plane Saturday I headed off to the Blog Squad dinner where I met my fellow bloggers. They are the not so silent evangelist for SW. They are not employees so they tell like it is. I don?t know of any other CAD company that proactively fosters this freedom of expression all accessible on the Internet. I am happy to call myself a member plus the food and drink was good!
The next day both Jon and relatively new CEO Jeff Ray gave a ?special? talk to 160 members of the press. The Blog Squad was invited and in fact were acknowledged frequently by the speakers. Jeff spoke from heart, no PowerPoint! I like when people do that, it cuts down on canned spin. Jeff really got my attention when he admitted he was concerned about feature bloat. The good news is the developers at SW agree and have provided a solution in SolidWorks 2008. What is it? I will tell you tomorrow. I will also tell you about the love fest I had.
|Full Circle - Part II|
|Description:||The early ?80s were good times for engineers and business people who could not afford, nor desired, main frame computers. With the IBM logo on a PC it was not only okay to have a PC at home--you could buy... more...|
The early ?80s were good times for engineers and business people who could not afford, nor desired, main frame computers. With the IBM logo on a PC it was not only okay to have a PC at home--you could buy one for the office too. Smart people quickly figured out they could replace their expensive Wang word processing system with a PC. During my DuPont days I could get a purchase order approved for engineering use by calling it an ?engineering word processor,? and then proceeded to use it for everything but word processing.
The first PCs ran the DOS Operating System (OS). Apple users could never comprehend how anyone in their right mind would put up with a command driven OS. I fired up my old PC the other day and counted the total number of commands. There were about six commands that I used regularly. The only ?dangerous? command was FORMAT C: . Many a secretary (now called administrative assistants) wiped out their hard drives with this command. I asked if they had backed up their data. What?s that they said. When it happened I would ?rename? the command and told them to be sure to backup in the future. They rarely did.
Contrary to the belief of Apple users, managing my programs and files was trivial. Want to run a new application? Just make a new directory (later renamed folders by Microsoft), copy the A: drive floppy disk to the C: hard drive, and you were done. Type the name of the application at the C:> prompt and you were up and running. Today (Windows OS) you must have installer software do this. Installers do a lot of ?magic? things, like update the Registry for instance. To quote from the Microsoft book Windows XP Inside Out, ?making changes to the registry directly, as opposed to letting your software do it for you, is hazardous.? Microsoft is essentially telling me that I no longer control my computer. They all but say, ?hire an IT professional to do it.? Hewlett-Packard says they are putting the word ?personal? back into the PC. Have they read Inside Out? It is 1308 pages long, two inches thick, and weighs 4.5lbs.
As much as I liked DOS, the general public wanted to be like Apple users and have a graphical user interface (GUI), or as the ?in? people like to say, a ?gooey.? On November 11, 1983 Microsoft announced Windows 1.0. In reality, Microsoft was just putting a stake in the ground as the product did not ship for a full two years later. I am not making this up. What it did do was get Steve Jobs upset. He sued Microsoft. Gates said if you can steal a GUI from Xerox why can?t I steal one too. I am not making this up. Windows 1.0 was really DOS on steroids. Only a few true Windows applications were available. Windows 1.0?s real claim/value was the MS-DOS Executive application. For the first time DOS commands had a pretty face. Apple users were still not impressed but I must admit I liked it.
The flood gates were opened. Microsoft was on a mission to control not only your personal computer, but your company network (as you will discover in Part III) as well.
After Windows 1.0 came Windows 2.0, Windows/286, Windows/386, Windows 3.0, Windows 3.1, Windows 3.11, Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows NT 3.5, Windows NT 4, Windows 98, Windows SE, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows CE, Windows XP, and finally today?s Windows Vista. Microsoft is now talking about the next generation, Windows 7.0. According to PC Magazine pundit John Dvorak, they should fess up and call it Windows 19. If you factor in many applications insist on having the latest OS Service Pack (SP) installed, there are essentially more than 19 versions of Windows floating around. Go to Control Panel, open Add Remove Programs, and check the Show Updates box. As of today, my Windows XP SP2 has 114 security updates and hotfixes installed. At any instant in time I wonder if any two people have the same exact OS on their computer. I will not even try to describe the many versions of Office I have gone through. Microsoft has its hand in my wallet for sure and I am not happy about it, particularly since I am supposed to be retired. Gates should at least give me a senior citizen discount!
|Full Circle - Part I|
|Category||All things CADx|
|Description:||In the mid ?60s as a graduate student at Stanford I ran all my computer programs on ?big iron? (IBM main frame computers). I spent hours and hours punching up cards. I would submit the deck to an operator behind... more...|
In the mid ?60s as a graduate student at Stanford I ran all my computer programs on ?big iron? (IBM main frame computers). I spent hours and hours punching up cards. I would submit the deck to an operator behind a window (a glass one!). The window always annoyed me. People who ran those computers seemed to have ?attitude.? They were in control. To get my job to run ahead of the queue I had to ?kiss up.? I was good at it. This does not mean I liked it.
In 1980 a mechanical engineer from Fluor Corporation, Tom Lazear, introduced a Computer Aided Design (CAD) software program for the Apple IIe called CADapple. Now we had software to help make engineering drawings. This was now the start of the CAD revolution. Engineers sensed something big was about to happen. It did.
August 12, 1981 my life was irreversibly changed. IBM introduced a 16-bit microcomputer, the so called Personal Computer (PC). Engineers/hobbyists were coming out of the closet in droves, myself included, to get one. Why? It was a great computer, but more importantly it was now getting the stamp of approval from Big Blue. The real computer revolution was officially on. The PC came with three available operating systems. One was CPM-86 from Digital Research, the second UCSD p-System from Softech Microsystems, and finally the IBM-branded DOS from Microsoft. The most surprising announcements were that they included the source-code listing of the ROM BIOS chip and also provided the schematics for the I/O bus. Little did IBM suspect that by doing so a floodgate would open to cloners. Those that simply copied the soured-code met with legal disaster. Many of them were na´ve as to how copyright laws applied to ROMs. The Eagle PC, which I owned, was one such guilty manufacturer and was put out of business by IBM. But as time went on companies found workarounds and IBM eventually lost control of the market they created, a clear indication of the good things that can happen when things are at least somewhat open.
Like the microcomputers in the ?70s, engineers who owned a PC were not beholden to anyone. The computer was theirs and using the OS did not require help from anyone. The folks in the IT Department were not happy about this. Their job security was now a concern.
Little did anyone suspect that black clouds were forming for these unsuspecting happy engineers. The good news was they were no longer called hobbyists. Stay tuned.
......to be continuted in Part II
|The Deerhunter Knows|
|Category||All Things Internet|
|Description:||Watergate reporters relied on Deepthroat for inside information. When it comes to AT&T insider matters I have the Deerhunter. I can not tell you any more. In February I needed a new office phone. The Deerhunter said not to buy... more...|
Watergate reporters relied on Deepthroat for inside information. When it comes to AT&T insider matters I have the Deerhunter. I can not tell you any more.
In February I needed a new office phone. The Deerhunter said not to buy an AT&T phone. I did not listen, and went to Staples and got one for $29. The fact that the box said made in China did not scare me. I plugged it in. I got a humming sound. The Deerhunter said, ?I warned you.? I took it back to Staples and got a replacement. I told the clerk to be sure to call the AT&T Quality Control Department. He said, ?yeah sure.? The replacement phone lasted 8 months before it quit working. I did not tell the Deerhunter. He reads my Blog and is now smiling I am certain.
UPDATE. In my Blog, ?Wire Wars,? I told everyone that the courts in Connecticut would not allow AT&T to distribute TV signals over their phone lines. The Deerhunter told me he knows for sure that they will win the dispute. On October 31, Judge R.F. McWeeny ruled that AT&T is clear to go. The Deerhunter was right again. I think I will call my cable company and tell them the good news!