SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 419 - CAD Admin Dashboard

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CAD Admin Dashboard:

This podcast covers the new service offered inside the SolidWorks Customer Portal that finally takes the "Performance Email" that we all used to disable and gives a full history of usage and specs to help any CAD admin or curious user.  Topics covered:

- How to find the new CAD Admin Dashboard (C.A.D)

- What tools from SolidWorks assist the C.A.D.

- Navigating the C.A.D. interface

- Customizing warnings

- Setting up baselines

- Tips and observations

For years we all would see the "Would you like to enable Performance Logging" after we install a SolidWorks service pack and most would check "NO" since it appeared to be sent into the DS abyss only to never be seen again.  Despite countless assurances from SolidWorks that this information was very important to improving and understanding usage, saying "No" to stop the phoning home might have more draw, even by those of us who knew this was put to good use by R&D.

SolidWorks 2013 finally gave users a selfish reason to turn it back on....VISIBILITY... and then some.  Building on the importance of SoildWorks to better understand its users, the new CAD Admin Dashboard is a user-facing tool that takes the information about your SolidWorks session history, options, hardware specs, etc.  This gives those of us supporting SolidWorks (both internal and external) to get a wider understanding of what is really happening.  

Understanding this is the first year this has launched, I'm sure pressure testing from the user base will probably reveal needs to make the offering exceptional.  Currently the service is available to all users with a login to the account and not a restricted group or external groups like resellers and support staff.  This is a great start and a service I think all users will benefit from. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 333 - Multi-Threading Madness

Multi-Threading Madness:

This podcast covers the common question of "Does SolidWorks utilize multi-threading or multi-core processing?".  This question is consistantly asked due to the mass adoption of muli-core processors in the PC market.  Topics covered:

- Overview of Multi-threading (MT)

- Knowlege base articles that generally address the MT questions

- General layout of SolidWorks applicaiton processes

- Areas in SolidWorks that do/don't utilize MT

- Areas of focus where SolidWorks continues to utilize MT

- A list of areas across all SW properties that do/don't utilize MT

Back when I first starting using CAD, all our PCs were built with one CPU but with today's PC shipping with multi-core processors and in some cases multi-core/multi-processor, the question of how much SolidWorks takes advantage of these processors is more common today.

SolidWorks, in general, is very linear and utilizes only a single core, however I believe the list of what utilizes MT is growing and has been introduced in the high-demand area of SW.  With the SW Backgroud process taking on the redrawing, loading, viewing and other low-level functions does take some of the load off the processor running the sldwks.exe.

To date there is no "Official Document" of the exact features that take advantage of MT but in places like rendering (PV-360) and Simulation (Solving, Assembling Meshing, CFD and batch running) have been under the MT microscope in SW R&D over the past few releases.  I would love to know how SolidWorks V6 will take advantage of MT even though it's processing power is hosted. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 326 - Large Assembly Tools

Large Assembly Tools:

This podcast covers a variety of tools built into SolidWorks to help alleviate performance issues related to large assembly modeling.  With 64 bit now being the dominate OS among SolidWorks users, the complexity and scope of designs growing. Topics covered:

- AssemblyXpert

- Open Methods

- Lightweight (options and capabilities)

- Quickview / Selective Open

- Large Assembly Mode

- SpeedPak

As our hardware and software grow in capacity, assemblies have grown and continued to push the envelope of performance.  Although the adoption of 64 bit Windows 7 is growing and now has become the majority, there are still a number of measures we can take in the software to help balance performance vs. capability.

Lightweight mode has been around for a long time and among users it seems to be one of those necessary tools but requires a number of user interventions when certain operations need to be performed, like edits. Over the past years Lightweight mode added to the list of functions that can be done while in this "performance sensitive" mode.

Now with tools like Selective Open and SpeedPak, there are a number of tools now to address these performance hits and can be toggled on/off easily depending on the operations required.  My hope is to see all these tools come together in a similar way as Windows memory management has.  Imagine SolidWorks knows what resources are available and always allows me to operate at the optimum performance for whatever operation needed to be performed.  This appears to be the direction SolidWorks will be taking with it's SolidWorks V6 solution, as most cloud based tools do on the server end. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 303 - Benchmark Resources

Benchmark Resources:

This podcast covers options to measure the performance of the hardware to run SolidWorks and related CAD activities.  Topics covered:

SolidWorks Benchmark website:

- PassMark Performance Test

- SPECCapc for SolidWorks 2007 

- Anna's SolidMuse

- Windows Experience Index

- SolidWorks 2011 Rx Performance Test

SolidWorks users are often asking me at rollout event and other meetings how to get the best performance out of their hardware or what new hardware to purchase.  Some decisions can be made easier with resources like the graphic card site that SolidWorks has or reading through the SolidWorks forums to hear the reviews of a user's new system.  The trick is measuring your system with those who have similar uses and needs and a way to see what differences in hardware have the most impact on performance.

SolidWorks' benchmark site has a few resources, some more useful than others, to assist in the ongoing quest for better CAD performance.  One listed is Anna's SolidMuse, a longtime user here in Arizona, who has made a name for herself in the SolidWorks community as the CAD hardware guru. Her benchmarks range from surfacing, complex parts and other file sets and allow capture of a number of variables to really parse performance gains.

In SolidWorks 2011, there is now a performance test build right into the installation folder (Programs -> SolidWorks 2011 -> SolidWorks Tools -> Performance Test). The test uses a variety of parts, assemblies and drawings (some of which are thanks to Anna!) that run through a routine 5 times each to measure rebuild times, zoom and pan performance and rendering times.  These are then computed and can be shared among the community to really help understand how your hardware stacks up.

Both SolidMuse and the new 2011 Performance Test can give you great insight into why some systems perform better than others. I hope that now that one is built into every install of SolidWorks, more users will opt to share their results to help us all make wise hardware decisions in the future! ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 300 - Graphics Tuning

Graphics Tuning:

This podcast covers the why, when and pros/cons to tuning your graphics card for better video performance in 3D applications like SolidWorks.  Topics covered:

- What is graphics tuning (not overclocking or other low level hacks)

- How gamers started this tuning market

- How Apple running on Intel and Bootcamp caused this to be popular among SolidWorks Users

- Risks/rewards of tuning (Not for the tech faint of heart..you have been warned)

My tuning story

- Apple MacBook Pro 1st Gen (Core2 Duo) - ATI Raedon X1600 (Tuned to ATI FireGL V5200)

- Apple MacBook Pro 2nd Gen (Core2 Duo) - nVidia GeForce 8600M GT (Tuned to nVidia Quadro FX 570M)

- Apple MacBook Pro 4th Gen Unibody (Core i7) - nVidia GeForce 330M (Not tuned....yet)

Video card tuning and driver modification was born mainly from the gamer market by users trying to maximize their video performance out of the hardware they have.  For gamers the common trend is to tune a low end or professional series card like an nVidia Quadro or ATI FireGL into a high-end GeForce or Raedon respectively. The gaming industry has continued pushing the power of the GPU, bringing forth technologies like SLI (Scalable Link Interface). 

Since mid 2006 I have been running SolidWorks on a Mac, but with that came a lot of response from the community on how to tune the graphics card to enable SolidWorks' RealView.  Since all Apple laptops ship with either integrated graphics or gaming graphics, the "professional" capabilities are not unlocked, which removed the ability to enable RealView.

Using tools like Rivatuner, can give you the tools to unlock those professional capabilities, allowing your hardware to perform like it's Pro-Series counterpart.  Make No Mistake, tuning and other low-level modifications are not for everybody and can, if not performed correctly, damage your system.  Most of today's "gamer" series cards do perform very well without tuning but lack some of the real-time rendering in some systems.

Remember to check out the SolidWorks: Heard! Blog and to follow me on TwitterFacebook and THE HEaRD!

SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 271 - Hardware Performance 101

Hardware Performance 101:

This podcast covers common specs and questions that come up with the selection of desktop/laptop hardware for SolidWorks and other CAD applications.  Topics covered:

- Processors (Core, Core2, i3/5/7)

- Threaded processes in SolidWorks' products

- RAM amounts and why

- 64 vs. 32 bit operating systems

- Video card selection and common video related issues

- Hard drive selection (mechanical vs. solid state, rpm & read times)

I am constantly asked questions on hardware recommendations, whether it be manufacturer or specs, everyone wants to know what to buy to run CAD.  Things on the high-end hardware front are changing by the week and in order to stay on top of the technology I rely on reading and listening to tech blogs and podcasts.

With the new "i" series here from Intel, there are some great technologies that can be leveraged by threaded CAD platforms and it is important to understand what performance gains there are with respect to price.  64 bit is also something who's compatibility shortcomings have faded and with Windows 7 being embraced by many IT departments, the question arises quite a bit.

The other area, besides which video card to choose, that is sometimes missed by many is the selection of the right HDD. Now that solid state drives are making their way into many systems from manufacturers, the access speeds and quick launch benefits are within financial reach and can boost performance related to disk access up to 10X.  ~Lou

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