Notes on the October 2005 Meeting

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 http://www.cbs.rmit.edu.au and you can contact Caroline at caroline.blackburn@rmit.edu.au. 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.

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