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

Network resources: The New Super-Computer

Many of us have heard of terms like cluster computing or server farms and once you begin to apply these resource harnessing techniques to CAD and CAE tools, you end up with a huge amount of CPU capacity at your disposal. A couple of weeks ago I did a revised show on the SolidWorks Task Scheduler since in the most recent build (2009 SP4), SolidWorks introduced a new sub-toolset called Network Monitor (NetMon). NetMon essentially deligates tasks to "node" computers on the network to participate in tasks that might consist of many sub-task routines. This coordinates the efforts in order to allow each system to utilize it's own resources and SolidWorks license to complete the large task in a fraction of the time. Currently this new feature can only partipitate in the "Convert Files" task, which consists of opening an older version and saving it in the current version. This repetitive task is perfect for deligation, however I hope to see more tasks added to NetMon's feature set.
This "cluster conversion" routine has existed for a while in SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, under the "Support/File Version Upgrade" folder in the install files. Once this utility is installed, it coordinates systems on the network, much in the same way NetMon does, to convert files inside the vault the the current version of SolidWorks.
Another front that has been utilizing the cluster format is SolidWorks Flow Simulation (previously called FloWorks). Within the "Batch Run" dialog, not only can the solver take advantage of the various CPU's on the local system, but also other systems running Flow Simulation as well, creating a CFD server farm within your organization.
Many task oriented procedures are responsible for causing our productivity to go down or at least bring it to an annoying crawl. These are some techniques that might be a solution to take advantage of standby CPUs that are already on the books. Even if you can offload these CPU intensive tasks to anthoer "speed challenged" system, it will enable you to continue on without watching the simpliest applications drag while a task is being run locally! ~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.

RealView Perspective

Many of you may have seen screenshots of SolidWorks 2008 or may have heard talk about hardware requirements that will be necessary to support this new graphic capability. RealView was introduced in SolidWorks 2004 and has continued to be in the product over the past 4 releases, which was essentially a real-time visual material property on the model. SolidWorks 2008 has redefined RealView as we know it. RealView in 2008 is no longer only a real-time material property it is real-time PhotoWorks including the environment around the model! This capability shift will require some understanding with respect to graphic card support since there will now be three levels of support when it comes to RealView. Support for RealView is now laid out like Olympic medals, Gold, Silver and Bronze. Gold, being the highest support, will enable all 2008 RealView features with Silver still supporting RealView with some limitations. This can mean that some of the reflections or environments may be disabled during modification of geometry or during rotation. Then bronze bringing up the rear with support of the RealView capabilities seen in previous versions. This will remove support of the environment rendering, leaving only the material visual properties displayed.

The two players supporting this new RealView capability are ATI and nVidia. ATI has a 7 supported cards at the gold level where nVidia has 13 at this point. I am sure we will see more cards step up to the plate as this becomes more common so if you have a system with a card that is a few years old, you may want to check the SolidWorks Graphics Cards site to see if you are going to run into any issues.

Personally, I think it looks very cool and didn't think it was that big of a deal the first time I laid eyes on it. What is incredible is how great it looks! If you are looking to create something realistic without having to do much work setting up PhotoWorks to render your model, a simple File, Save As, JPEG will leave you with an incredible looking picture that could be used for any marketing piece! ~Lou