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Just a quick note about Worksets in Revit 8.1

Hey all, I just gave a presentation for a new Revit User's Group forming in Oakland on Worksets in Revit 8.1, and thought that I should post it here too for those out there using Revit.
As you may or may not know, Worksets changed a great deal in Revit 8.1, even though they cleverly look and feel the same. In this post I'll explain the differences, and talk about what the new changes allow you to do that you couldn't do before. But let me just take a moment, and say that the Worksets in Revit 8.1 totally rock, and that the Revit team did a great job on them.
OK, now, a quick review on what Worksets are:
  • Worksets allow you to break up your Project into user defined 'chunks'. Like West Wing vs. East Wing, Core/Shell vs. Interior, Site vs. Building, anything really.
  • Great for project management & visibility control, for you can turn off Worksets selectively to either hide part of the project within a view or to speed up working on the model by giving Revit less to think about.
  • Worksharing allows for more than one person to work on the Project at the same time. This is Autodesk's new term for this, prior it was all just called Worksets.
  • Worksharing means that there is a master copy of the Project on the server, and people check work out and into that master copy, with Revit acting like traffic cop and librarian.
  • You can check out a whole Workset, making you the only person that can work on it at a given moment, or you can just borrow Elements from a Workset (or from someone else who has the Workset already checked out). You then check them back in when you Save to Central.
  • Worksharing allows much more project tracking and backups. You can roll the project back, review logs as to who did what when, see who's working on what within the Project, and more.
  • Worksets & Worksharing always works together. Can't have one without the other.
  • While most training manuals and classes on Revit treat this as an 'advanced' topic, it tends to be the second thing I show beginning Revit users, for in the real world we all have to work together from day one and now with Revit 8.1's improvements to Worksets there isn't anything hard to understand about them.
OK, now, in Revit 8 & prior:
  • Worksets & Elements had to be checked out prior to work. You had to stop and ask permission prior to editing anything.
  • Borrowing wasn't automatic at all. You always had to ask.
  • Borrowing wasn't easy. You had to go through a multi-step process to select and ask to borrow anything.
  • If any element was changed within a Workset, that whole Workset had to synchronize with the server. (more on this later).
  • So much data had to move on the network that you couldn't really work remotely.
  • Revit generated a ton of junk backup folders. An issue for some IT staff folks and backup software.
  • There wasn't an easy way to take a Project on the road. If you wanted to take a copy with you for a presentation or to noodle with on the road, it always complained about not being able to find the central file, and you could potentially leave the office with things checked out upsetting your coworkers.
So, now, in Revit 8.1 & Revit Structure:
  • Elements check themselves out automatically. As soon as you edit anything, it's borrowed out to you automatically.
  • Borrowing is automatic. You only have to ask if someone else has the Element already checked out.
  • Borrowing is easy. Not more multistep process, you simply pick an item, and edit it or simply click the blue 'ghost' puzzle piece to borrow it out to you.
  • If an element has been changed within a Workset, just that element has to synchronize with the server. This makes save times much less (more on this later).  
  • Much less data is moving on the network, so working remotely is now possible.
  • Revit has greatly cleaned up it's backup folders.
  • There is now an easy way to take a Project on the road. There's a option when you open the Project to separate it from the Central file, so that you now have an orphaned copy that you can do whatever you want with and not hurt the master Central file on the server (or upset your coworkers).
So, what do you mean by the better saving thing?
Well, before, any time you edited anything on the Project, when you Saved to Central, Revit would have to push the whole Workset the element was in back to the server, and then pull back any whole Workset that contained any elements that others had edited while you were working. This could at times be a huge amount of data, and took a long time.
Now, Revit 8.1 is a lot smarter about how it does this, now it just pushes back the Elements that changed to the server, and pulls back just the Elements that others had changed, greatly reducing the amount of data moving back and forth. Meaning quick save times and opening up the possibility of working remotely via VPN. Here's a chart I made that shows this idea off a little better:

So, what does this mean for me?
  • Now you don't check anything out, unless you really want control.
  • You 'Borrow as you go' as you work, not caring about checking things out first. You just open the Project and get to work.
  • You need a lot less Worksets, for you rarely step on someone else's toes. You just need them now for project organization or visibility.
  • You're able to work a LOT faster.
  • You're able to work remotely (if you've got the infrastructure).
  • You're able to take projects with you safely.
Hope this helps, and happy Reviting!

Frank's first day out

Sorry for the long break in the 'blog. Had a whole mess of work getting my handouts ready for Autodesk University for the two classes I'm teaching, and then right after that I had to get a portfolio together to go talk to some folks about some possible work (on top of 20+ hours a week consulting). Now I should be able to get back to my once-a-week posting. Anyways, super excited to say that I finally got the CNC table working!
Frank's first sign
After some software problems (that were totally of my own dunderheaded creation) got sorted out everything is working great. Except that the dust collection system is on back-order, so we can't do too much just yet. But I had an meeting this afternoon with a client who wanted to see a portfolio of stuff I've done, and I figured this morning why not make something to carry the portfolio in to show off the new CNC-goodness?
And here's a somewhat blurry photo of the final result. It's two bits cut from a sheet of oak plywood held apart by bolts.
Bolt detail
The presentation boards then sit in there, held on the sides by the top bolts and held up by the bottom ones.

So then the boards just sit in there, and you can pull out whichever one you want. Then that big top slot acts as a handle as well.

So you can haul it around. It's funny, it took longer to draw and design on the computer than it did to cut it out, sand it, and stain it. I'm not too happy with the finish, I only had time for one coat. I think I should hit it with another, and then maybe give it a satin poly finish.
Front shot
Finally, I really wanted to do something more subtractive and/or sculptural to that blank front. But without the dust collection system, I'm loath to do something that would create yet more dust. But, lucky for me, it just showed up from UPS while I was posting this, so very soon you should see some more complex work, and we'll also have the big ol' Robot christening party...


we_buy_cars.JPG, originally uploaded by jillianisaphotographer.

The googie sign compelation is still at work- but i have just added a few more photos from San Jose.... a mecca of old googie signs and general wierdness. I am really starting to like San Jose.
Home of our Googie sign God: The Western Appliance Store sign. I need to go back and take these photos and more at night.... when they truly shine.

It's alive! ALIVE! Ahahahaha... (The Shopbot's Working)

Got the Shopbot (Frank's) wiring all finished up on Monday, and in my excitement to make it go I used the wrong software (doh!). But now, with the right software talking to it's brain, it's clunking, moving, and vrooming around just like it's supposed to. Here's some photos of it, if you're interested in how it looks (and again, I love it's royal blue color):

This is a picture of the table itself, much like the last one, but now as you see there's more stuff on there than before. We spend all of Sunday simply making those rails it rides on perfectly straight, level, and parallel to only have to probably do it several more times before it's 'done'.

Here's a shot of one of the X-axis (the long one) drive motors. It's basically a big stepper motor, driving a gear that's on a long pinion that's on the underside of that long blue rail. That spring there keeps it in place while it's rolling along. Dig all the warnings, that's why we made one of our own, and we're gonna print it out as a sticker and put it along the other warnings (for robots are dangerous!).

Here's a shot of the Y and Z axis. That large carriage cross-bit moves back and forth along the length of the table, like a gantry crane, while that vertical bit in the center of the photo moves back and forth perpendicular to the length of the whole table, thus giving us the Y-axis. The vertical bit in the very center moves up and down, giving us the Z-axis. All three can move together at the same time smoothly, making it possible to move in very complex patterns and paths. That ring in the center there is what holds whatever tool you've decided to use- it's quite literally the Shopbot's 'arm'. My router will go in there today, and in the future we'll be getting a nice power dremel tool to go in there for fine relief work.

Here's that 'arm' from the underside. You don't want to be here when it's on.

So now all I gotta do is hook up the X and Y proximity switches (so Frank knows when it's arm has reached it's 'home base') and the Z-axis plate (so Frank knows how deep to cut), and put the router in there and we're almost done. The final step is placing a thick sheet of MDF (a denser particle board) in the bottom, and having Frank surface it to be perfectly flat and level. It makes it's own worksurface. As a matter of fact, once we've done that, Frank will make itself it's own vacuum hold-down, dust collection accessories, and more. It comes with the job files to make the rest of the parts it needs to be fully functional. But we'll need some kind of dust collection system before then, for that first step of leveling the table is gonna make a WHOLE lotta sawdust...

Follow-up to X11-over-SSH post, X11DisplayOffset explained!

OK, so a friend (one of the two people who read this Blog) explained to me more about the whole X11-over-SSH voodoo, and I thought I'd post it here as a follow up. I'm very proud to present that information to the other reader of my Blog, who probably knows it already:
So says my friend SPACEMONKEY:
Hey, I really liked that description of doing the blender  remote stuff (at http://www.becausewecan.org/node/23 ); in the whole 'spirit-of-blogging' thing, I might could shed some light on the X11DisplayOffset thing: Hope you've got some coffee...
In X, you're not limited to having a single remote host fooling around on your desktop (or vice versa). If you wanted to play with two, three, or (even) four other machines, all opening up windows on your laptop, X11 does this by having all those machines open sockets up to the Xserver running on your desktop (which the Xclient finds, typically, by a environment variable called DISPLAY). 'k?
Note this is a different model than, say, telnet or ssh; with those, you connect to the server and the server starts talking to you. With X, you run a program on the server and it connects back (opens up sockets) to your client.
Back in the golden days when no one cared about security (ie, when X11 was developed) that was swell. But, when you introduce ssh, it needs to be able to hijack (tunnel) all the socket data between two machines so it can be encrypted before going over the wire (otherwise it's just a quick packet sniff away from the cover of the NY Times).
Okay, back at the server side, you run a fancy program to look at pictures of puppies. The fancy program tries to open up a window, the local X instance creates a socket (just like normal)... but it can't talk directly to your laptop, as you're running ssh. But, ssh doesn't *know* you're running an X11 program and there's no way for it to (cleanly) know about programs you're running that talk to your laptop, so it can't intercept the socket calls it needs to tunnel the traffic back. And, furthermore, you could ssh into one machine, telnet from that machine to *another* machine, and run a program on that third machine which opens a window back to your laptop (all through the magic of X).
As a clever hack, what ssh does is open up a range of *potential* sockets on the server machine (when you enable X11Forwarding) and waits for any program to connect any of these sockets, effectively pretending these sockets are the Xserver on your laptop. When some program (presumably the puppy program) connects to these ports, ssh intercepts the X11 data sent (to open windows, draw pictures of puppies, etc) over these fake sockets and tunnels them over an encrypted socket to the ssh on your laptop, and asks the local ssh to open up sockets to your local laptop's Xserver and pass on the commands the server program sent (and you see puppies!)..
The range of sockets the ssh server opens on the remote side starts at... wait for it.... 6000 + X11DisplayOffset.
Now, how is this useful? If you wanted to have *more* than one X11 connection from your laptop to a given server or if there a lot of other people running X clients off your server, you could avoid getting windows destined for your client popping up on other people's machines by setting X11DisplayOffset to a different value. Or, if you were a paranoid type, you could change *your* X11DisplayOffset setting on the server you're using to a different value than the default of '10', which makes it less easy for crackers to get into your machine.
man, I need coffee now...

Halfway there...

Shopbot Halfway there
Fisheye photo of the shopbot mounted on the table... halfway there!
Wooo... to busy to post much (as my two readers have noticed), but as you can see we re-did the shop, built a table, and put the shopbot on the table, but not mounted the Z-axis, the motors, or wired it up yet. And the table is too tall, so we gotta chop it down a bit... We've decided to name it Frank. We're very proud. We'll be even more proud when it actually, you know, does stuff. Boy is it bigger than I thought! I thought a 4' x 8' cutting area meant that the machine wouldn't be that much bigger than that, but oh boy, I didn't know that it adds 6" to the cutting area in each direction so that non-plunge-able cutting bits can start outside the material and cut in, and, well, due to other things the 4' x 8' table has turned into a monster 5'6" x 10' table... woo...

Upstairs Bookshelf 'round two... FIGHT!

So a second, more 'organic' approach to the upstairs bookshelf. I'm diggin' the idea of making it via these CNC-cut 'ribs'. While I think this one is interesting, there's a third version that I like a lot more (that I'll post as soon as I have time to generate a model of it).
Second Bookshelf Try...
Last week at the full-time gig, so hopefully I'll soon have time to get the website looking better, get the Shopbot put together, yadda yadda yadda... All for now, too busy to post more!

Idea for the upstairs bookshelf...

Working on a design for a bookshelf we want to make for our place. The plan is for it to be a big ol' U shape, for then the low middle part can act like a bench and the two 'towers' will frame what we hope to be in the future a screen (or the wall) for a video projector to aim at. This is being optimistic that someday we'll be able to afford said video projector, but hey, it's a cool shape to work with anyways and it would be good to have a better bookshelf up there.
Wavy Bookshelf
I don't like this one, but it's a start, and now back to 'real work'. I like the idea of the flipping shapes cut on the CNC table to make up the body, but it's too rigid and too 'woody'. I think I need to make it more organic...

The Best Thing Ever.

From it's wonderful royal purple/blue color to the cartoons in it's instruction manual to what it represents, I do believe that this here thing is the best thing I've ever been lucky enough to own.
The Shopbot made a sudden unexpected appearance today. And after a panic-stricken last-minute cleaning of the shop, and the truck driver being nice enough to help me break open the crate (nice crate too!) and unload the parts, I now have all the parts sitting on the floor to make my very own Robot, and man, I couldn't be more excited.
Cudos to the Shopbot folks. Everything's clearly labeled, the three-ring binder it came with is very well done, it was even shipped well. Should have called/e-mailed me first, so I knew it was on the way, so I could have been ready for it... well.. actually, I probably wouldn't have been able to sleep... so maybe it's for the best that it arrived suddenly.
When Jillian gets home, we'll take some pictures, and when we start to put the thing together we'll post that too. But for now, back to work, and I've got to cleaning to do to make room for it. Sorry for my posts being spaced so far apart, busy wrapping things up at the current gig and all that. Much more to come in October!


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