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COFES 2009: Putting the Social into Social Networking

Published 18 April 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: collaboration, mergers, cofes 2009, software trends

For those that don’t know, COFES, or to give its full title, the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software has been running over the last few days in a rather glorious Scottsdale. As I sit here, benefiting from the productivity that jet-lag brings first thing in the morning, I’ve had a chance to sit and reflect on why this event continues to draw such a big attendance.

Here you’ll find all the faces in technology for product development, from the well known high-level c-level executives from the major vendors like Siemens PLM, SolidWorks, Autodesk mixing with some of the new players and those looking to gain a foothold in the industry. There’s also a good representation from those companies working in the background, providing component technology that you’ve rarely heard of, but use on a daily basis.

The strange thing about the event is that while it’s centered around a series of keynotes, demonstrations, discussion briefings and round-tables, what COFES is really about is one thing. Networking.

As you sit and look at who’s talking to who, who’s nipping in and about of different briefing rooms, you get a true sense of how this industry operates, how the software products we use on a daily basis get developed – and how relationships between the various parties get established, solidify and get working. To illustrate my rather rambling point, Myself and Martyn got talking to a component technology provider over a cheeky pint yesterday afternoon (come on, we’re British, it’s sunny and there’s a bar by the pool – it’s genetic).

We asked why they came to the event and the answer, to paraphrase, was this “We come because its the only place that we can get face time with the people we need to see, that would be very hard to access by email or phone and trying to work your way through the layers of management.” Fancy that.

Blake Courter, founder of SpaceClaim – we’ve decided to make him an honorary Brit – for reasons that shall remain undisclosed.

There’s also a marketplace aspect to the event as well, which is something that rarely gets discussed. One of the central fetaures of the event is the notion of Tech Suites. Consider this: around a pool, in a sunny resort in Arizona, you have a key number of technology providers, renting small villas, into which they invite all attendees to come and view their wares, to look at what they’re doing, to discuss their strategy and plans – with a level of openness that would be unheard of in many other technology industry sectors. While commercially these organizations are in fierce competition, at COFES this seems to be set aside and discussion is free and frank. This is inherently a good thing and something that maybe seem something of a surprise. But one of the things that I noticed over the last four years of attendence is that this is the interesting part, the thing to watch closely. Around this pool, you have those vendors that are buying and looking to establish new relationships and then there are those that are looking to sell.

Yes, to sell the company or the technology. An analogy of a table top sale springs to mind: “Here’s what we’ve got, you interested?” This year’s tech-suites are playing host to PTC, Autodesk, SpaceClaim, Siemens PLM software, VX Corporation, Share Vis, Nemetschek and Microsoft – I’ll leave you to work out on which side of the table they all sit.

All of this adds up to an interesting mix and while it never results in a huge amount of things that can or should be discussed publicly – we’d much rather talk about hard facts rather than pontificating over rumor, there is a point here.

Jim Brown talks up the Social Media revolution – best quote, from a chap from Boeing “yeah, I’m not going to be designing a plane on Facebook” – Thank god for that

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I sat in on a briefing by Jim Brown, formerly of the Aberdeen Group and now Tech Clarity. The discussion was centered on the use of Social Media and Networking technology in the professional space. While the discussion was interesting and many points raised, both ‘In Favour’ (the ability disperse and distribute information easily) and ‘Against’ (the time consuming nature of these things and often overwhleming stream of information), the thought I left that session with was this:

Today, we have an overwhelming, rapidly developing and diversifying toolset of technologies that allow us to connect, to share, to discuss and disemminate information in pretty much anyway we want. There’s things like the 140 character joy that is Twitter, instant messaging, email and more structured tools like SharePoint. then there’s the whole world of PDM and PLM – in whatever flavour you want. And while this is all certainly (to my mind anyway) a Good Thing, sometimes, it’s nice and highly effective to disconnect, put in a little bit of travel and do these things face-to-face. Right, coffee’s brewed and the newspaper has just turned up. Toodle pip for now. Al Dean. From a sunny Arizona. For once, not hungover. Out.

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Objectified premiere brings its stars along with it

Published 17 April 2009

Posted by Stephen Holmes

Article tagged with: apple, jonathan ive, objectified, marc newson, film, gary huswit, documentary

After the screening of the latest documentary from Gary Hustwit, we were treated to something universally expected; Jonathan Ive dodged questions with a quiet voice and some well-chosen pauses.

Objectified showed with candid detail the human characters behind the names behind the products. Although afterward business was resumed as normal for a man happy to sidestep a straightforward question, but whose presence was as big a draw for the crowd as the actual screening.

The starry names of the film, Ive and Marc Newson, were greeted to as warm a welcome as they walked down the aisles to the Q&A session underneath the screen as they had been when on it, when shown working from their offices, sat alongside a CNC machine, or at a table full of ‘inspiring shit’. These looks into their working environments and homes were as intriguing as the views they offered.

Dieter Rams’ attention to his bonsai tree in his garden; Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s sibling bickering; Karim Rashid’s collection of kitch items at his offices; all of these give the documentary its colour and variety, showing how different each person is in both approach, attitude and application.

Hustwit has approached Objectifed without the clear definition of his previous release, the font-geek-chic Helvetica. Taking in as much of the spectrum of designers and their work as allowed, this film shows the differences in what makes them tick, as well as the issues facing them.

The film is very good, occasionally skittish, regularly humorous, and approaches the subject very warmly. Hustwit admits that the films he makes are the ones he wants to watch himself but can’t find. It would be safe to say that the glowing fondness of the designers that feature in the film was still present as he welcomed Jonathan Ive and Marc Newson to the stage.

Each designer’s idiosyncrasies and characteristics are enclosed in short segments, occasionally they are returned to, while some intriguing commentary from critics such as the International Herald Tribune design editor Alice Rawsthorn, also present for the Q&A, offer most of the direction for the film to follow.

The post film chat was brief but offered up some insights, interestingly what concerns Ive and Newson held for the future of design. A key theme for the film was that there is already enough bad design in the world, but what troubled the pair was the advent of design being handed over to the consumer with the availability of 3D software and the ease of 3D rapid prototyping, just how much will this waste resources and have a negative impact on our lives?

As I left the cinema Ive was still being approached at the front, while Newson greeted his own swarm of admirers, all were keen to learn more about these idols of design. This proved to be the only problem, after each segment you were left wanting more from each designer.

You can view Objectified at the Barbican Centre, London, from 22 – 28 May

www.objectifiedfilm.com

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3Dconnexion launches the Ultimate 3D control device

Published 14 April 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: autodesk, inventor, autodesk assistance program, assistance for being out of work

First seen during a visited 3Dconnexions’ German headquarters in the summer of last year, we’ve been itching to tell you about it since. The new SpacePilot Pro represents the next evolution in the 3d control specialists product range, following on from and improving on the SpacePilot product introduced a year or two ago.

You’ll notice that the companies core technology remains in place, using the control cap to provide full 3D navigation of 3D models on screen. There are the trademark features of the more advanced 3Dconnexion products, such as the programmable buttons, axis locks and such, but the big advance for this release follows on from the SpacePilot, with the addition of an LCD monitor, this time in glorious techni-colour.

In addition to giving you visual guides to the context sensitive short cut buttons, the LCD can be used to connect to your desktop, stream outlook calender items, tasks and to-do lists, even previewing email or streaming or even an RSS feed.

There are five new QuickView navigation keys that give you access to the usual top and bottom, right and left, front and back, two isometric views – they also add 90-degree view rotation of any view either clockwise or counter-clockwise – something that’s incredibly useful when you start to use it.

3Dconnexion has been doing a good job of late, adding a slew of application to its support list, either through its own drivers or through direct integration into the vendor’s code stream. Alongside the usual suspects of Inventor, SolidWorks, Catia, Pro/Engineer, NX and Solid Edge, there’s now support for almost everything from Ansys to Vero VISI and VX. The device will begin shipping later this month, costs 399 GBP and is backed up with a three year warranty. We’ll also be featuring the process that went into the design, development and manufacture of the SpacePilotPro in a forthcoming issue of DEVELOP3D – so stay tuned…

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Autodesk Assistance Program announced for Engineers

Published 06 April 2009

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with:

Hot on the heels of SolidWorks’ Engineering Stimulus Package, Autodesk has launched its Assistance Program for customers who find themselves displaced from work. To enable the ‘fallen’ to keep up their CAD skills, or learn new packages, the deal extends 13 month access to existing Student Edition software of AutoCAD and Inventor Professional, with online training and a path to certification.

Autodesk is also offering the access to Architects and Civil Engineers with Revit and Civil 3D.

The deal includes 24/7 access to online training provided by online vBooks. There will also be offers of reduced fee or free training from authorised training centres. With recently introduced certification and qualifications for its applications this training will assist candidates in achieving recognised industry qualifications.

Again the initial foray for this will be in North America and will be rolled out across all geographies in the coming months.

There is a strong and positive reaction coming from the software vendors to the current financial mess. While it has taken a little while to gain momentum, there is now free access to most of the most popular product development tools to unemployed or retired folks that may be forced back into seeking work.

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