Archive for October, 2005

Notes on the October 2005 Meeting

15 October 2005

Caroline Blackburn, RMIT: CAD Training

The first presenter for the evening was Caroline Blackburn. Caroline has presented several talks to Vicaug meetings over the years, mostly as part of local Autodesk dealers MicroCADD. She has now branched out and is now the Commercial CAD Short Courses Manager at RMIT University.

RMIT is an Authorised Autodesk Training Centre, which means that Autodesk have certified that they meet the requirements set out by Autodesk. They are part of the School of Design at RMIT TAFE College. This is a new multidisciplinary school, formed at the beginning of 2005. They have about 200 students in campuses in Brunswick and Carlton. The CAD courses are held at the Carlton campus in Cardigan Street. This location is near the city and is well served by transport.

The range of CAD courses is most impressive – not only are there thirty courses scheduled for 2005, but they will also present customised courseware for specialised corporate requirements.

The standard software that they cover includes AutoCAD 2006 (and Express Tools), Revit 8, 3D Studio Viz and even Archicad and Solidworks.  They also cover a range of levels from beginner to experienced users. Courses are held in evenings or daytime and even may be on the weekends to suit the student.

Caroline sees a number of groups who would benefit from these services, including unemployed people wanting new skills, people outside the traditional CAD areas such as police, doctors etc (who may be required to produce models of their work) and undergraduates and professionals wanting to update their existing skills.

The courses are held in a spacious, well equipped training room. Each student has their own computer and software. The lessons are presented on a data projector and students work through exercises which are held on a server. Printed training notes are provided and students can save their work on a USB key (bring your own) if they wish.

One interesting question from the floor was the use of Autodesk educational software. You may be aware that student versions of, say, AutoCAD place a plot stamp or watermark on every plot they produce. This then appears on any drawing further down the line, even if “full” versions of AutoCAD are used for plotting. The concern was that work completed during the course might be “infected” with the watermark for ever more. Well, apparently not. RMIT uses a version of AutoCAD which does not have this “feature.” So your work is safe.

Another issue is that professional development is becoming mandatory to maintain registration in many professions. The RMIT courses provide PD points.required by organisations such as the Building Commission, BDAV, RAIA and the Design Institute of Australia. The courses are worth one point for every hour of training and you typically need about 20 points per year. Every student receives an attendance certificate provided they have attended 80% of the sessions.

RMIT works closely with industry to establish what is required of their graduates. For example, to update skills in particular areas of to work on particular features of the software.

Being part of a university means that they are not purely focussed on providing vocational training. Their aim is also to provide an independent forum for the learning and testing of new technology. For the future, Caroline aims to introduce new ideas, such as shorter time frames for evening courses (e.g. on Mondays and Wednesdays), new training materials for delivery, closer links to industry, to build stronger links to other disciplines within the University and
to introduce Master Classes in areas such as digital modelling and rendering. A Master Class  covers a range of programs, not limited to one program only.

RMIT’s website is at and you can contact Caroline at They also have a mailing list which is available to all Vicaug members: if you send an email to Caroline, she will be pleased to add you name to the list.

Zoltan Toth: Using Wildcards in AutoCAD

Most of us know about the asterisk as a wildcard but how many of us know about the
other ten? Wildcards are one of those AutoCAD features in which we tend to stay within our comfort zone. The AutoCAD help files aren’t too helpful here, but a good place to play with wildcards is the layer filter dialog box. Wildcards come from the early days of computing, before Windows and even before DOS! I won’t try to list them all here – refer to Mick Ginnane’s notes in the Minutes section for a complete list.

I have to admit that, although I was aware of a few of them, I really didn’t use the full power of some of the less common ones. It’s interesting to note that, although the asterisk and question mark are the only two wildcards available in Windows, AutoCAD follows the DOS and Unix conventions with the full range. Unix also has “regular expressions” which are very powerful but not easy to use. In AutoCAD, you can use the full range of wildcards anywhere you can use the asterisk.

The AutoCAD documentation for wildcards is well buried in the Autolisp Programmers Reference. It’s worth digging it out and perhaps printing a small “cheat sheet” to have by you while you get the hang of it all.

Peter Godfrey: System Backup in Windows 2000

Some time ago, Zoltan gave us a talk on getting the most from Windows XP. One of the items he showed us was the System Restore function. This enables you to “roll back” your operating system and restore previous versions of critical system files if there has been a problem caused, say, by installing a less than perfect program.

Well, as a user of Windows 2000, I realised that this feature was something I would have to wait for until I upgraded to Windows XP. Oh well, I thought, that’s just the way things are… until one day I was tooling around with a Windows 2000 computer which was not 100% well. I needed to back up some files before doing major surgery to the operating system and when I was exploring the Windows 2000 Backup Utility, I noticed an option called “System Backup.” Apparently this gives you the option of backing up your operating system – critical DLL’s and the like – to a backup files that you can restore later. It seems to do most of what the XP one does, though it’s not designed to back up user files. The regular backup utility is provided for this.

Now, perhaps fortunately, I haven’t had a need to make use of the restore side of this utility, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t. It tells you what it’s backing up and it certainly looks pretty comprehensive. The backup files it produces are a couple of hundred megabytes in size.

AutoCAD 2006 Offset Enhancement

15 October 2005

You can now Offset to a current layer. In the OFFSET command prompt there is a nrew option to set the offset to be on the current layer rather than the same layer as the entity being offset.

An example of how this could be used is you have one layer for interior walls and one for exterior. When you wanted to offset the interior wall for the exterior, you could have the exterior wall layer current and the offset line would be on that layer instead of the same interior wall layer.Command: OFFSET
Current settings: Erase source=No  Layer=Current  OFFSETGAPTYPE=0
Specify offset distance or [Through/Erase/Layer] :

Minutes of October 2005 General Meeting

12 October 2005



Victoria Associations Incorporation Act 1981(as at 01 July 1998) Registered No. A 13467)
Postal Address: PO Box 466, ELSTERNWICK VIC 3185 


Apologies were received from Branko Gligorov and John Butler.

As recorded on the Attendance sheet.

The President, Mark Miller, welcomed everyone attending, requested them to ensure that they had registered on the Attendance sheet, and opened the October 2005 General Meeting at 6.30 pm. 

Minutes of Previous Meeting (1st. August 2005):

The Minutes of the previous General Meeting held on the 1st. August 2005 as circulated with the Notice Paper in the “Newsletter” were received, adopted and approved. There was no business from the Minutes of the previous Meeting. 

The President’s Opening Address (the Prez Sez): 

The President advised that this is almost last meeting of VICAUG’s 19th. Year as we reach 20 years this evening (the Anniversary will be celebrated at the General meeting to be held on 5th. December 2005. This meeting may (have to) vary from the usual “first Monday” (“of the even month/s”) as it may have to be moved “right” either one day to Tuesday 6th. or Wednesday 7th. December 2005 depending on the availability of noted and esteemed guest/s which we hope to have attend the meeting and celebration of VICAUG’s 20th. year. 

Members and “Newsletter” addressees are requested to look out for notice/s of the final date. This date may well be amended several times and the final date advised at only a day or so notice. 

The President also advised that this evening we would be favoured by three excellent presentations:
a. Caroline Blackburn from RMIT (TAFE) who will present the topics and subject provided by the “Short Course” facility at RMIT (TAFE) of which she is the Commercial Manager;
b. Zoltan Toth, one of our resident computer and AutoCAD gurus who will present the little known but very powerful (in the right hands) “Wild Card” availability in AutoCAD; and
c. Peter Godfrey, Vice President of VICAUG and another of the excellent resident VICAUG computer and AutoCAD gurus who will present the undocumented “XT type” “System Restore” utility in and from within Windows 2000 Pro (aka W2000 and w2k).


1. CAD Training

Ms. Caroline Blackburn, Commercial Manager, RMIT (TAFE) Short Course Facility: RMIT(TAFE) “Short Course” availability:
Caroline Blackburn is a very experienced AutoCAD and Autodesk products presenter with an excellent industry work and presentations back-ground.

She is the Commercial Manager for RMIT(TAFE) Short course facility at RMIT which is situated in Melbourne Victoria. The web sire/page address is:;ID=ujp46msxpa57

The “Short Course” “page” is at:
It is highly recommended that readers visit these web sites as they have a vast array of very pertinent, focussed and industry-related/approved course and subjects.
Caroline delivered a first-class presentation on the course contents and options available in a vast range of topics and subjects. These can be delivered during “office hours”, in the evening or at weekends – depending upon demand and attendances.
There was a very good interaction with the audience on a “question and answer” format.
It was very evident that everybody was very satisfied with the presentation and the presenter.

2. Zoltan Toth: “Wild Cards for and within AutoCAD”:

Zoltan is a long-time and acknowledged “guru” in things: computers; AutoCAD; AutoLisp; and the “dark(er)” side of computing. He is a repository of a seemingly endless and bottomless pit of knowledge on undocumented features of many software products as well as computer infection and protection etc.
Zoltan addressed the topic of the use and capabilities of “wild cards” in AutoCAD.
Many in the audience were surprised that there were any at all. Some thought it was limited to the DOS “wild cards” of *(star) and ? (“question mark”) – these were often (but not only) those from the “DOS” and “pre-Windows” computer operating system environment/s.
The “wild cards” are listed on the AutoCAD on-line “help” facility. Use the “index” to “find” “wild-card”.

The following information (between the blue lines) was “copied and pasted” from the AutoCAD “on-line ” “help>index>”wild-card” search.
You can use the wild-card characters in the table to sort layers by name
Character Definition
# (Pound) Matches any numeric digit
@ (At) Matches any alphabetic character
. (Period) Matches any nonalphanumeric character
* (Asterisk) Matches any string and can be used anywhere in the search string
? (Question mark) Matches any single character; for example, ?BC matches ABC, 3BC, and so on
~ (Tilde) Matches anything but the pattern, for example; ~*AB*matches all strings that don’t contain AB
[ ] Matches any one of the characters enclosed; for example, [AB]C matches AC and BC
[~] Matches any character not enclosed; for example, [~AB]C matches XC but not AC
[-] Specifies a range for a single character; for example, [A-G]C matches AC, BC, and so on to GC, but not HC
` (Reverse quote) Reads the next character literally; for example, `*AB matches *AB

Note If you use wild-card characters in named object names, precede the character with a reverse quote (`) so AutoCAD does not interpret the character as a wild-card character.
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Zoltan used the “Layer” panel to demonstrate how the wild-cards can and should be used alone and in combination as well as included in an AutoLisp program which he wrote “on the fly”. Using the “layer” panel within AutoCAD allowed the user to check the formatting, application and results of use of the wild-cards in their various configurations “on the fly” (i.e. instantly) without any risk or damage to the layer properties.
This really was “excellent stuff” demonstrated by an expert and a “dab hand” of some of the lesser know capabilities of AutoCAD and the resultant improvement in efficiency.
There was a continuous “to and from” and “question and answer” format with the audience who now have a lot of thinking and revision of their knowledge of AutoCAD to do.

3. Peter Godfrey: “System Restore” in Windows 2000 Pro (W2000/w2k):

Peter like Zoltan, is (also) a long-time and acknowledged “guru” in things: computers; AutoCAD; AutoLisp; and particularly with regard to applications in the “Architectural” field. He too is a repository of a seemingly endless and bottomless pit of knowledge on undocumented features of many software products as well as computer infection and protection etc.
Peter demonstrated the use of an established feature of the Windows 2000 Pro (W2k/W2000) operating system just to show that “system restore” is not only applicable to Windows XT and not to W2k as many (incorrectly) think.
“System Restore”, which saves and “backs-up” the operating system “system” files, IS in W2k under “Start>Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Back-up Wizard” – then away you go.
It is highly recommended that you use this facility if and when installing any software that may corrupt your system file or registry as in a case of disaster, the system files and registry will be restored to the “as was” state before the event which caused the disaster.
This presentation too attracted a vigorous and very informative “question and answer” session with even more queries clarified and answers and perhaps some more looking at features either not known or forgotten in the operating system.

“Thank You’s”:

The President thanked the presenters for excellent presentations. He also thanked members who had attended and participated in the presentations.
Reporting of technical aspects of presentation/s: Due to the competence constraints of the writer, these minutes are of a general(ised) nature only.
A more focussed, technical and topic-specific report by “others/another” will appear in the December 2005 “Newsletter”/”News Bulletin”. 

Next Meeting: 

As advised previously in these Minutes, the next General meeting at which VICAUG’s 20th. anniversary is to be celebrated is intended to be held on Monday 5th. December 2005, but may be moved to Tuesday 6th. or Wednesday 7th. December 2005. Please watch your email and the December 2005 “Newsletter” (now called the “News Bulletin”) for details.
The venue will remain the same – at the Conference Room, 1st. Floor, 55 Walsh Street, North Melbourne. 


 There being no further business, the President thanked all for attending, and closed the meeting at 9.30 pm.

Secretary and Public Officer.