Xi Computers, Unigraphics, the Spacemouse and better PCs at home than work
Just browsed the March 2007 issue of Cadalyst, a trade magazine made for the mechanical CAD world. They came from being an AutoCAD publication to doing general reviews of CAD software and better yet, hardware like PCs and 3-D printers. The inside cover had an ad for Xi Computers. This outfit would consistently win Cadalyst’s benchmarks for speed. For the last 5 years or more Xi always made the fastest machine for running AutoCAD benchmarks as well as Open GL and other benchmarks more suited to 21st century CAD programs like Solidworks. My contempt for AutoCAD as a product and company knows no bounds. As a matter of fact, Microsoft, Adobe and Autodesk form the triumvirate of buffoonery as far as I am concerned, but that is a subject for a 5000-word article, not a blog.
Anyway, I noticed the Xi Computer ad was for three Athlon machines. Since it is generally accepted that Intel has surged past AMD, at least for this six months, I wondered why Xi bet the farm on AMD. Well, they didn’t. On page 37 Xi had the ads for their Intel boxes. This is why you can trust them—they build with both CPUs so it isn’t like Dell. All Xi wants to do is make things fast. I build my own machines but one day when I need a machine ready to go I will be calling Xi first.
The other neat thing was an article about importing models into the CAD program and keeping the history of the model,. Well, like everything else, Unigraphics, now called UGS, blows everyone away. UGS started life as a product of Ross Perot’s EDS and then GM bought them and used Unigraphics for CAD, as they still do. I believe UGS spun off from GM and now they are generally recognized as the best CAD program. What my buddies like is that you can treat solids just like a surface and bulge it out and deform it. UGS has always been good with surfaces since it had to be able to do car bodies. The other thing my buddies like was the CAM part of UGS—it is perfectly integrated and will post to pretty much any lathe or mill or EDM machine out there, including the Delta Tau add-in board I am using on my Bostomatic 14-40.
BYW, if you just want to do 2-D or need a good basic 3-D modeler just buy TurboCAD. It is 200 times better than AutoCAD and one-tenth the price.
Cadalyst also had a nice ad for 3D-Connexion Spacemice. These are neat hockey-puck looking gismos that have sensors on the puck with 9 axis of motion. This way you can run your regular mouse with one hand and use the Spacemouse on the other to rotate, zoom and pan the solid model you are working on. It works great in my Solidworks although Solidworks, being the program that tossed AutoCAD into the dustbin of history, also lets you use a down-click and drag on the scroll wheel to manipulate the view. That is one reason I went back from a trackball to a regular mouse.
The really neat bit of info in this issue of Cadalyst is on the back inside page, where the cadfidential column published a pie chart showing results of a survey that asked whether your home or work PC is better. A full 28% said their home machine was better, and another 16% said their home machine was at least as good. So that means that 44% say their home machine is as good or better than the work machine. I am sure in that crowd, since I have cad-class machinery at my home office where EDN graciously lets me work. I have two redundant CAD stations each having dual 24 inch Dell 1920×1200 monitor setups as well as nVidia Quaddro 2000 graphics cards. I have the 2 CAD stations on the network, as well as an older CAD box that I use for scanning along with 4 laptops in my lab and a PC that will run my Bostomatic milling machine. I am trying to get my software jock buddy over here. He says we can install another NIC card in my Linux firewall machine (a Pentium 3) and then just plug the EDN laptop into that NIC card. Then we write routing rules that prevent the laptop from accessing any of my PCs in case it gets a virus. I suppose we could write a rule that lets the laptop print to my network printer but then I would have to call IT to open a ticket and have them install my printer driver remotely. I have had my Linux firewall box and used Opera for web browsing and Thunderbird for email and I have never ever had a virus in 12 years.