RealView on a Mac...Secrets Revealed!

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When Apple switched their architecture from PowerPC to Intel in 2005 the race was on to get Windows running on Apple hardware without emulation.  Since then we all know the story and anyone can get Windows running on a Mac in a number of configurations without much effort.

I have been doing this since 2006 and have run all the SolidWorks products on 4 different Apple Macbook Pros from the first Core2 MBP in 2006 to the newest Macbook Pro Retina now running Windows 8.1.  Over the years I have gone to great lengths to run SolidWorks on my Mac without limits, including support for RealView.  Apple has changed video cards, video card manufacturers and Microsoft has shipped 32/64 bit XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and now Windows 8.1.  Saying that the playing field has changed a bit would be an understatement to say the least!

On the first builds I had to use Riva Tuner from Guru3d.com to build a hacked or "tuned" driver that enabled the pro series features on my "gamer card" that ships with the Macbook Pro.  This method was necessary to meet the requirements on the "Approved" SolidWorks video card testing site in order to unlock the RealView functionality.  The other issue was simply the earlier video cards in the various Mac lines were very under powered and tuning was necessary to handle the graphics load of SolidWorks.  

The good news is the hacking is over and there is a simple way to enable RealView on your Mac.

Disclaimer...

A word or warning though, as you all know SolidWorks still states very clearly on its system requirements page that:

Apple Macintosh®-based machines running Windows using Boot Camp are not supported.

I think it is also safe to say that someone whom uses a Mac has it for reasons beyond just using SolidWorks and want the ability to use the same machine for any application, Windows, Linux, or Mac.  If you don't have a need to use a Mac, don't buy one.  Alright.  Now that that is out of the way, here are the bits you were after...

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  1. You must be running SolidWorks 2011 or later (might work on earlier builds but have not tested prior to 2011)
  2. Close SolidWorks... 
  3. Launch regedit and go to key:   HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SolidWorks\SolidWorks 2012\Performance\Graphics\Hardware\Gl2Shaders\NV40
  4. Under the NV40 key (This will work for many of the nVidia line for ATI the RV420 key works for many of them) create a new key called GeForce (you can use the full name shown in your device manager as well)
  5. Under this new "GeForce" key create a new DWORD (32-bit) Value called "Workarounds"
  6. Double click the "Workarounds"  and enter a hex value "40008" (without "") (this is the setting for the nVidia card, ATI is typically 0 but it varies)
  7. Launch SolidWorks... (Should see the RealView gold ball now)

Keep in mind...

There are a few things that I have noticed since using this registry tune for displaying RealView.

  1. Editing the registry can cause OS level damage so make sure you know what you are doing...consider yourself warned
  2. Typically I have to reset this reg key after installing a service pack so you may want to right click on your key and export it for a simple double click after a patch.
  3. This step by step is my procedure for the last 3 Macbook Pros that all were running nVidia cards so if you have the ATI version, make sure you use the RV420 key instead to add your generic key to. 
  4. This does not work with virtual machine solutions like Parallels or VMWare Fusion (Only booted into Windows native via Bootcamp). 

I get 20-30 emails a year asking me how to do this and I wanted to share it with all of you that are using a Mac and running SolidWorks.  It's understandable that SolidWorks has to limit the scope of support to exclude this configuration from its supported list (as they do for some builds of Windows).  However, I can personally say that I have been able to successfully do this since 2006 and my Mac laptops have been some of the fastest systems I have owned to date.

I have spoken to hundreds of people that are already running SolidWorks on their Macs via Bootcamp or even using Parallels or Fusion to get their jobs done. Whether you have a Mac for  "religious" reasons or require the platform for similar reasons as I do (hardware quality and application preferences only on OSX), this solution will make the SolidWorks experience in Bootcamp at par with most Windows-based laptops.  If you run into any issues trying to get this to work, please leave a comment or drop me a line and I'd be happy to help out.   ~Lou

What Does Windows8 Metro Mean for CAD?

As Microsoft works away on the upcoming release of thier next major version of Windows, the feature that seems to be getting the most mixed reviews is the new Start screen.  The Windows 8 start screen is modeled after Windows Phone's "Metro UI" which is a mosaic of "tiles" that represent applications and shortcuts to places throughout the operating system.  This new "Start Screen" replaces the Start button and Start menu all together, allowing the user to "touch first", which is the motto of the new OS.
There are many other reviews talking about what Metro means (my favorite), outlining the pros/cons of this shift away from the conventional Start button, but I am curious what it means for the CAD tools out in the market. Before I talk about specifics, there are a few things you need to understand about apps that run in Metro:
  • Metro and Metro style apps are Microsoft's attempt to unify their operating system across all devices. (Desktop, tablet, mobile)
  • Metro style apps must be delivered via the new Windows Store, a built in app market inside of Windows 8, vetted by Microsoft, similar to that of Apple's App Store.
  • Metro style apps are full screen and represent a single app per system, not taking advantage of multiple monitors.
  • Metro style apps can be built with a number of languages and APIs including many web-centric technologies like HTML5, CSS and Javascript.
  • Navigation within a Metro style app is different than a conventional desktop application (i.e. Right click will yield options for the app, whereas on a desktop application it reveals the context menu).
There are many other changes to the look and feel of these Metro style applications, some of which I wonder how they can be used in a 3D CAD environment.  Let's take eDrawings for example.  Visually, eDrawings in Metro seems to be a natural choice as a viewer with markup capabilities.  It has big buttons and simple commands that lend themselves to smoother integration into a Metro style app.  Things start to fall apart though when we discuss tools that are buried in the context menu like right click to hide, make transparent and other functions.  
It's not to say that these challenges cannot be overcome with ingenuity and good design but almost every 3D CAD app would need this re-invention, especially on the user interaction front.  Obviously this re-invention is parallel to touch devices, which we have watched some companies overcome the traditional interactions and embrace touch as another option.  With Metro being modeled as "Touch first", many of the same steps will need to be taken in order for CAD vendors to utilize Metro.  There is, of course, the possibility of a revenue stream for delivering viewing tools and ancillary products via the Windows Store.
The Windows 8 Metro interface will make many Windows developers re-think how their applications are built, what technologies are integrated into them, and how users will interact depending on which devices they are using.  Despite the mixed reviews of Microsoft's Metro angle, Windows is a standard and has the potential to disrupt the application market significantly.  
I believe Microsoft's move to Metro is overdue since the Start button has been around since 1995, however it will force one of three reactions.
  • Ignore it (in hopes it will just go away)
  • Embrace it (re-think their apps and build to take advantabe of Metro)
  • Push to the web (re-think their app and go the OS ignostic approach and use the platform that works everywhere - The Web!)
Personally I hope for the latter since the web the only platform that ignores the operating system and puts the focus on the application.  In the end, applications are what we are after, operating systems are supposed to fall away and be transparent to the user. ~Lou

My Chromebook Experiment

On June 15, 2011 Google's official Chrome operating system was finally released and hit the market on a couple of models by Samsung and Acer.  ChromeOS is a lightweight operating system built on a striped down version of Linux to run the Chrome browser.

Since I live on Google and our company is also on Google Apps, I wanted to see how feasable it was to function on a device so forward thinking.  Obviously this is not a replacement device for a superuser or someone who has specific needs like running SolidWorks or doing long form video editing.  What it does offer is a sleak device that boots in 8 seconds, (6 to the login screen) from the off state and gets you on the Internet to do what we all do there, browse, research, email, socialize, share...and the list goes on and on.

With so many companies attempting to move today's desktop applications like video editing, engineering tools like CAD and other CAE applications,  even going as far as hosting full sofware developement environments to offload the resources need by the user. 

Personally I have been interested in this for a couple years and had purchased a eee701 on Amazon for about $140 USD and installed ChromiumOS, the open source project of Google's ChromeOS, in order to get a feel for how this could be.  The early days were rough, as many open source tools are at first, but I have to say Google has really moved this product forward and it is a pretty good V1 product.  Don't get me wrong, there is still room for improvement but instead of focusing on what an internet browser only operating system can't do, focus on what it can.  

So over the next month or so I am going to put the 11" Acer Chromebook to the test and see how it stacks up to other secondary computing devices like tablets and smartphones.  I will also be testing a few of the CAD services that are available in the browser to see how many really understand developing for the web, using standard technologies and HTML5, Java and Ajax instead of relying on plugins or embedded viewers. Oh and yes this post was written on my Chromebook! Wish me luck! ~Lou

Setup a Demo Environment for Enterprise PDM

I was beta testing Windows Vista in mid 2006 when SolidWorks shipped SolidWorks 2007 which had Vista support in Pre-release 2 but was pulled when SP0 shipped. Beta testing for SolidWorks 2008 came in July and both SolidWorks and Enterprise PDM had full Vista support, however at the time all the server components (Archive, Database and SQL) of EPDM were not yet supported to run in Windows Vista.  Since I demonstrate this product and cannot come to terms with running an operating system that is not current, I needed to find a way to make this possible.

Without getting into all the solutions to achieve this, the obvious choice was to setup a virtual machine of my "server" and install all the EPDM components there and simply use the client in Windows Vista.  I downloaded both Microsoft's free Virtual PC and VMWare's Server Edition and setup a Windows 2003 Server and was able to connect to it without any issue.  The default setup for the network adapter was to just share the network from the host, using DHCP to acquire an address.  This was fine when I was connected but ran into some issues when I was onsite and my system was offline.  I could have set my adapter to use a static address but this was a pain since I would need to switch it back when I wanted to get online.  Therefore, I needed another solution...

Demo Environment:

IP setup on virtual machine

1 - On the host machine, go to the Device Manager and right click on the system at the top of the navigation tree (typically the name of your system) and select "Add legacy hardware" and hit Next. Pick the option "Install the hardware that I manually select from a list (Advanced)" and hit Next.
Under "Common hardware types:" select Network adapters, hit next andAdding loopback adapter on Host select "Microsoft" under Manufacturer and "Microsoft Loopback Adapter" under Network Adapter.  Follow the prompts to install the driver.
Now the Loopback Adapter should be displayed in the list of network adapters under Network Connections.
2 - Assign a static address to the newly installed Loopback adapter by going into "Properties" under IPV4 settings and add an IP, Subnet mask and gateway using an internal addresses like 192.168.x.x or 10.x.x.x.  I set the host ip to x.x.x.2 and it's gateway to x.x.x.1.
IP setup on Host machine3 - Once you have your Virtual Machine setup, go into the network adapter (in the VM) and set a static ip and a gateway similar to the host but use a differnt ip and same gateway.  I set the VM ip to x.x.x.3 and it's gateway to match that of the host (x.x.x.1).
4 - The last step is to set the virtual machine's settings to use the Host's loopback adapter as the network connection.
This configuration is one I have used for the past 5 years and is a great wayVirtual machine environment network settings. to estabilsh a closed network between my host and server, keeping all the server components off my workstation. Althouth today these components will run on Vista or Windows 7 without issue, I still opt to use this setup to keep the server components off my workstation.  It also makes it very easy to make a copy of the server and use it for testing of beta builds without messing with the installation.  Moving to another system is easy as well since relocating the vm file to another system, installing your VM software and restarting is all it takes.
There are a number of paid and free solutions on the market to virtualize an operating system.  Sun VirtualBox works well and Microsoft's VirtualPC is nicely integrated with Windows 7 but in the end, for me, VMWare Server seems to have the most customization and advancements in utilizing what the host machine has to offer. ~Lou

 

Engineer's Guide to the iPad

Even though tablets have been around for over ten years, I have never had an interest in using a device that brought "touch" (which I use here lightly) to a desktop operating system, that came at an additional cost.   The devices were under powered since the target market was note-takers and the whole stylus concept was slow. So Apple steps into the game a decade later and introduces their idea of what a tablet should be. If you have paid any attention to the reviews, the field is split and it seems that reviewers either love it or hate it.  Regardless of your stance on it, one thing is pretty clear, the device is fast, has great battery life, and has a HUGE library of applications to fill in some of the device's shortcomings. 

As an engineer and a power user of technology, I was skeptical if a device like the iPad would work for me. Having had smart phones for almost 10 years, connectivity has become a part of my daily life but there is only so much one can do on a 3" screen!  With most smart phones, the library of applications is extensive enough to bring functionality to the device but some features like remote desktop, could help in a pinch but extensive use is really not productive.

Here are some reasons the iPad can be the device to have for engineers and technical professionals alike:

The Device:

As are most Apple products, the device is well made.  It is, in a sense, a big iPod Touch, which is really not a bad thing when you see what developers are doing with their applications to utilize the real estate.  The device is wicked fast and despite the fact it doesn't support "multi-tasking" yet (coming in fall 2010) it can open and close apps extremely fast, resuming the last closed state. It also supports A2DP Bluetooth connectivity with works for audio out and can be used to pair a bluetooth keyboard for any major data entry.

The battery life is just astounding.  10 hours of battery life when the device is being used but when you put the device in standby, it will last up to a month!  I have charged it to 100%, unplugged it and put it in my bag, pulling it out a noon and finding it still reading 100%. 

One aspect that I don't hear people talk about is the instant on.  This device goes from a basic "off" mode to working in a second.  Even Chrome OS doesn't do that and this even faster than any standby or sleep mode wake time on a netbook. 

So what is missing? Well, it could use an SD slot and maybe the ability to access an external storage device via a USB port.  Apple does sell a Camera Connection Kit, which has been determined to be able to connect some USB devices like keyboards and microphone headsets, among other things.  For mass storage, the Camera Connection Kit allows the iPad to pull data off of it but not write to it.

The Browser:

Because the iPad comes with mobile Safari, the ability to use cloud applications and web-based services is very accessible.  Most, not all, sites work pretty well to get to the content you need.  Remember the device doesn't support flash so check with the sites you visit the most and see if that would be an issue. I can get into the SolidWorks Customer Portal & Knowledge Base, and the almost every engineering forum I use.

I am a Google Apps user so nearly everything I do can be accessed and used within the Googlesphere.  Gmail has a specific build for the iPad and everything else (Calendar, Talk, Buzz, Reader, etc) runs as it does with the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The device also supports VPN so if you have internal intranet sites at work or other corporate hosted sites, bearing they do not require Internet Explorer and ActiveX, you can get as well.  If they do require IE, I will talk about how to combat that as well below. 

It is also worth mentioning that natively the device has a great Mail app and can be configured to use Microsoft's own ActiveSync, supporting PUSH Mail, Calendar and Contacts as well.

The Apps:

The rest was left to the applications to bridge the gap.  Let's face it, it is not about operating systems, it has always been about applicaitons and the iPad is no different.  Once I found a few key apps, my decision to buy was solidified.  Below are 6 applications that were key to my decision to get the iPad and the solutions they deliver for me and my workflow:

Dropbox - (free) This data sync service brings file sharing and transfer to every computer you use in your eco system.  Locally installed clients sync selected files/folders to all systems connected, giving access from your desktop, laptop, phone and iPad. I have found that this replaces the need for the USB storage since any file can be synced or a link can be sent from any device to share. (2GB Free)

Evernote - (free) This note and data sync service is where I live.  Everything I do; research, writing code/scripts, storing PDF files and other documents, all get put into Evernote.  I can take notes on the website, on the desktop app, phone or iPad and all of it syncs. There is a free 40MB/month service and the Premium is about $45/year.  I have the Premium account for the full search and expanded space to 500MB/month.

GoodReader - ($0.99) This documents reader connects to many online services like Dropbox, Google Docs, Box.net, FTP and more to download and upload files from across the iPad. Attachments from Mail can be opened and managed from within this application.  GoodReader essentially acts as a device wide file manager and viewing solution for the iPad.

Office2HD - ($7.99) For those of you who use Google Docs, there are many solutions to download and access your documents offline on the iPad.  However, creating new or editing Google Docs online is not possible...yet via the web.  This application brings a word processor and spreadsheet creation capability (cheaper than Apple's own Pages & Numbers) and has the ability to edit existing Google Docs directly.  **It currently does not work with documents created with the newly announced document editor yet**

IM+ - ($9.99) Many companies are using instant messaging to keep communication up among employees and this app has it all!  It supports SKYPE, AOL, MSN, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo!, Google Talk, Jabber, ICQ and MySpace.  You can have multiple accounts on each type and it supports PUSH so messages can pop up as you are working without the application running.

WinAdmin - ($8.99) This is a great remote desktop client and the last piece of the puzzle for me.  Coupled with a VPN connection, access to any remote desktop enabled system can be used.  It supports legacy systems and the most current Windows 7 and Server 2008 systems as well.  This gives a very usable remote touch access to run any application, like CAD, for those times when you need to make an edit or access those corporate PLM/ERP/MRP systems internally.

Conclusion:

Having a snappy, instant on, application rich, big touch device is becoming something I am preferring to use for a majority of my day to day work.  I have not yet traveled with it but for those that do, the TSA has determined that the device does NOT have to be removed for security. For me, not having to worry about the person in front on me moving their seat and breaking off my 17" notebook screen is appealing!

I purchased the 16GB WiFi version since I already own a Verizon MiFi, which gives me connectivity anywhere but if you don't, it might be worth the extra $130 to get the WiFi + 3G version.  The access via the 3G is provided by AT&T (I know, I know) but it is contract free so you can pay $15/mo (250MB) or $30/mo (unlimited, no really unlimited not the 5GB hidden ceiling) and pay as you go.

As I said in my last post about touch, I believe that 2010 is going to be the year of the tablet and engineering software companies should start developing supplementary design tools for these devices.  Portals to PLM/PDM, CAD viewers and markup tools, design planning like SolidWorks LABS Treehouse, and even web-based tools optimized for touch. Mobile is booming and is the single largest hardware and software market so why not give engineers ways to get things done no matter where they are! ~Lou

SolidWorks on Windows 7

It has now been since January 7th, 2009 that I have been running Windows7 (build 7000), mostly on and off, as a dual boot testing option on my Desktop.  I chose to install the 64 bit version since this seems to be the direction for most applications and the option I enjoyed using most on Windows Vista.  The install was simple and I opted to install it with visibility to the both hard drives from either operating system for maximum access.  I went through the usual tasks of installing all my critical applications to work on the day to day, but then dove into installing all my SolidWorks related applications one by one.  On the beta build of 7000, SolidWorks appeared to function fine on new documents but would crash immediately when I chose to open anything existing. Overall the program seemed stable except for that major issue and the only other applications that gave me trouble were Google Chrome (which had a workaround) and AdobeReader.  Since I knew this was a beta and there are usually a few more builds to come, I just chose to spend most of my time using the operating system and figuring what exactly changed that would benefit me.

The task bar, by far,  is a HUGE improvement and is great for those of us that run a lot of concurrent applications, bringing fantastic visibility and navigation options to the user. Windows7 also took the quick launch bar and merged it with the rest of the applications running on the system, making it function much like the Dock on the Mac. This change allows you to "pin" a launched application to the task bar for quick launch in the future.  One of my favorite features of the new task bar is for applications that keep a recent document list like SolidWorks.  These applications you can right click on in the task bar and see the recent list, selecting the document and launching the app!  Overall, most of obvious changes are final touches that I think many of us believe Vista should have had from day 1.

May 5th rolled around and with it launched a release candidate (RC Build 7100) which, again, installed without a hitch, of course, after uninstalling Windows7 beta.  There were some very minor changes to some of the Task Bar defaults but overall seemed to be the same as the beta.  The big difference was with compatibility.  Upon install of my standard daily apps, (MS Office, Chrome, FireFox, Skype, Twhirl, Yammer and Evernote) all seemed to install and function as expected.  I then proceeded to install my SolidWorks products and I was also surprised to find out that all the features of SolidWorks Premium worked!  SolidWorks, Workgroup PDM, Simulation, CircuitWorks and even 3DVia Composer installed and functioned normally (without RealView).  I have installed many of the SolidWorks LABS tools like Tagger, Presentation Studio and Treehouse, all of which function normally.

Obviously we cannot expect these products to work perfectly in an operating system that has not launched yet, but it does give us some hope that the transition to Windows7 will be much less painful. Windows7 is very pretty looking, but don't let that fool you into thinking it is just "flair" and no substance.  I use it now daily on my desktop machine and find all sorts of little features that make me not what to go back to Vista!  If you have the opportunity to install it in a test environment and try it out, the release candidate is good till June 1, 2010 and is Windows7 Ultimate.

64 Bit For CAD Is Better, Right?

A very common question that is asked by CAD users is, "Is 64 bit is better for CAD?". I think much of this stems from the amount of focus the market has put on the 64 bit computing and maybe the fact that the number 64 is twice that of 32 which implies it MUST be better. However the trends suggest that mileage does vary depending on the type of software, hardware and operations the system endures.

There are, however, some prerequisites that have to be met first with the hardware of the system before a 64 bit operating system is to be considered. The most important factor is the CPU, which will need to be 64 bit capable. Many systems today will support an installation of Windows 64 (Either XP, Vista or Windows7 (currently in Beta)), but the other factor is RAM.  If your system is not equipped with at least 4GB of RAM or more then the reasons for migrating to this platform diminish dramatically. Placing 4GB or more on a system and will require the motherboard of the system to also be able to support this type of configuration as well. Now I have only highlighted the main hardware prerequisites however there are some specific hardware requirements in order for all 32 bit applications to utilize the 64 bit environment by accessing WOW64. I won't be diving into that topic here.

Once the hardware specific requirements are met, the installation procedure is essentially the same as it's 32 bit counterpart.  So let's assume you have 8GB of RAM on your system and now running 64 bit Vista, what have you gained?  There are essentially two benefits to running a 64 bit OS. One, 64 bit specific applications have access to 64 bit processing, which means that the CPU can process twice as much information than 32 bit. However when it comes to CAD this tends to not be that beneficial although there are some analysis applications that can take full advantage of 64 bit processing. Two, it's all about RAM. As you may know 32 bit Windows can only address 4GB of RAM, which by default is shared 50/50 between the operating system and applications. You can enable the 3GB switch which is a boot level configuration to override this split for system that have 4GB of RAM to give 3GB to the application space.  With 64 bit, Windows can address up to 128GB of RAM which is where all the performance gain resides.

Being able to address more RAM allows the CAD application to load and work entirely in RAM. This allows operations to be performed on top-level large assemblies than might have not been able to even be opened in a 32 bit environment. This prevents using virtual RAM, better known as the paging file in Windows, which is hard drive space. Once a program accesses the paging file, performance tends to dip dramatically. With that being said, the 64 bit environment is really only beneficial to those who come up on the 3GB ceiling and are running RAM intensive programs like CAD, photo/video editing or gaming.

Now obviously not all the applications you have are 64 bit so compatibility with your 32 bit applications is also a key part to your decision to switch to 64 bit. When I first used Windows XP x64 back in 2005/2006 it was pretty painful since many of my peripherals (XEROX printer) and speciality programs were not yet supported.  Today Vista-64 and Windows7-64 (beta) are more mature and much more forgiving to run 32 bit applications then XP-64 was in it's early days.

The biggest challenge seems to still be hardware drivers. When Vista first shipped, many consumers were having issues getting video cards to support the new Aero graphics and some other legacy hardware to work.  64 bit for Vista and Windows7 seem to have corrected the compatability issues but they do require signed drivers.  If you have any hardware that does not have Microsoft signed drivers, that hardware will not install and this can add some pain depending on your setup.

Overall if your CAD requirements involve large assemblies, large feature-count parts or you have multiple memmory-resident programs you want to run simultaniously, 64 bit is probably for you. Performance gain can be quite dramatic for these types of applicatoins but common tasks like word processing, spreadsheets and browsing the internet will run as they do currently in 32 bit Windows. 64 bit is migrating over to be the standard and is much easier of a transition with new hardware. I am currently testing Windows7 x64 and will be back shortly to share that experience with you! ~Lou

SolidWorks On Vista?

I am asked frequently from various users about what my advise is about SolidWorks running under Windows Vista. I have been running Vista since Beta 1 was released and still have the Business version installed on a desktop at work which forces me to use it every day. I mainly run it in order to support our customers that are running it but I also cannot control myself when it comes to new technology. SolidWorks tried to be proactive about Vista, unlike many other software developers, and get a 2007 version out as soon as possible, however it never survived past pre-release 2 and never was worthy enough for production use. SolidWorks has since abandoned Vista on its 2007 version and has announced that SolidWorks 2008 will be the only version that will be supported under Windows Vista. What reason would someone move to Vista? Well there are a few that stand out. Many smaller companies whose owners are technology focused will move to it because they want the latest and greatest operating system available. On the other hand, many new computers available for purchase are pre-installed with Vista so some users won't realize it may be a concern. You have to realize that Microsoft has come up with an operating system that is very appealing at a glance and sometimes that attractiveness is enough to lure someone to buy it over the out-dated look of XP. Every major release of an operating system notoriously comes with some pain since compatibility sometimes take a hit. What I noticed myself doing is using it and making excuses why I thought it was better than XP when something would happen that I didn't like. In the long run, my excuses were just that and I was not gaining any real productivity that I didn't have in XP.

What are the concerns? This really depends on how you use your computer and what other applications need to be able to run on your Vista system. SolidWorks 2008 SP0 seems to run pretty well on Windows Vista but is noticeably less stable than my XP install. Since the source code of SolidWorks has been written on XP for the past six years and has the most production time, I would expect it to be more stable. This concern was also very prominent when I used the x64 version of XP. For example, I could not get my XP x64 machine to print to my Xerox printer since there were no drivers available for it. In the case of x64 XP there were some major advantages of moving to it like its ability to address more than 4GB of memory which was a limit of its 32 bit counterpart. However when it comes to running Windows Vista I have not found a compelling reason that I would switch from XP especially in a production environment where up-time is crucial.

What versions of Vista are supported by SolidWorks? Since there are seven, yes seven versions of Windows Vista it is important to understand which ones are viewed as supported by SolidWorks. Currently only three of the seven are supported and those are: Windows Vista Ultimate, Business and Enterprise versions. This doesn't necessarily mean it will not run under the others but SolidWorks will not be able to support the other versions since they will not have the other versions installed in their support centers. This same view was shed upon XP Home when XP shipped but I know many users that run on XP Home without a hitch. Another question that does come up is about the x64 version of Windows Vista which is not currently supported by SolidWorks yet. I have been told that it maybe supported later in the 2008 release but specific dates or services packs have not yet been released.

So for those of you who have Vista, you can use it and it will run as long as you are running SolidWorks 2008. If you are a technology person, like myself, then you will figure out how to make it work for you and you won't get too upset if it is less stable. So setup your auto-recovery options and enjoy the "WOW" with Aero glass and the new interface, which I must say is very slick. When it comes to XP, I never thought I would hear myself say that it is the "Rock Solid" choice for an operating system, but when it comes to Windows this is most certaintly the case. SolidWorks 2008 has a Vista look and feel even when running in XP so I have noticed my "need" for that shiny new environment is now satisfied with the new additions to the interface of the 2008 release.

This is not to say I have lost my confidence that Windows Vista will eventually come around and work with a majority of the applications and drivers out in the market. However I am curious what will become of Vista if Microsoft sticks to its plans of shipping the 7th version of Windows currently known as Windows Vienna which has been said to ship in 2009! ~Lou