SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 401 - Windows 8 RTMs...

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Windows 8 RTMs...:

This podcast covers the final feature set of WIndows 8 RTM (release to manufacturing), the upgrade process and a variety of findings in my year long testing of this next release of Windows.  Topics covered:

- A brief history of release builds

- Understanding the new verbiage of Windows 8

- Upgrade options from various legacy platforms

- Start button -> Start screen tips and workflow

- What the Microsoft Store may mean to CAD

- Unofficial SolidWorks product support (my findings thus far)

- Considerations prior to taking the plunge

It was nearly a year ago when Microsoft stood on stage at the BUILD conference and announced the first downloadable build of Windows 8 (Developer Preview) was available to the world.  For many, this was the first hands-on experience with their next major release of Windows.  I was one who downloaded it and did some preliminary testing to experience the new Start Screen (formally known as "Metro").  Since this release, there have been two other milestone releases, the Customer Preview and the Release Preview, each showing slight progression in feature completeness and stability.

For the past year I have been running Windows 8, in its various builds , and testing how well many of the applications that I use, including SolidWorks products, in order to be ready when this version hits the shelves in October.  On August 15th, the feature complete build (aka RTM) was made available to manufacturers as well as MSDN and TechNet subscribers, of which I am one.  Since the RTM bits are exactly what will ship in October, we finally have an understanding of what Windows 8 is with all its official shiny features.

Windows 8 has many traditional environments that will be extremely familiar to long time users of Windows but it does pack a decent list of major changes including the removal and redesign of the Start button, the Windows Store, online services integration and the RT version, coming in the Microsoft Surface in a couple of months.  Since we are all Windows users in the SolidWorks Community, it makes sense to hash out what to expect if Windows 8 is going to be in your future. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 393 - Tech Alert 2012 SP4

Tech Alert 2012 SP4:

This podcast covers a few new features and news that was pushed out in the latest service pack of the SolidWorks 2012 product line. The May support monthly FAQ also was pushed out late so we will cover that as well.  Topics covered:

- 2012 SP4 technical alerts

- New features in SolidWorks SP4

- Recap of addressed SPRs

- Upgrading EPDM and Toolbox

- Support Monthly FAQ (May 2012)

Last week we covered the tech news but after EPDM 2012 shipped, I wanted to read through and dig into the release notes to see what has changed. After doing so, I found a few things worth mentioning and figured we'd talk about them now instead of waiting a month to roll them into the July tech news.

SolidWorks has also aligned they operating system support with Microsoft, as they have in the past, and now is sharing that 2013 will be the last version to support Windows Vista.  Along with Vista and XP, Windows Server 2003 will be dropped for the server support of products like EPDM and license managers. It is good to be aware of these retirements early in order to avoid this creeping up on you.

Beta season is close and SolidWorks has begun sending out reminders to get your customer portal profiles updated and to check the option to be notified for beta programs.  They have also explained the benefits of getting into the beta program in their FAQ so I am hoping the launch is close.  Are you going to test or are you of the belief that should be left to SolidWorks? ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 360 - Toolbox Highs and Lows..

Toolbox Highs and Lows..

This podcast covers the updates to SolidWorks Toolbox around performance and customization as well as some unfortuniate issues that some have been faced with upon upgrade.  Topics covered:

- Overview of the changes of the Toolbox framework related to performance 

- Dependancy around swbrowser.mdb file (S-056444)

- Brief list of what is now customizable

- Possible improvements to use in groups, EPDM, etc.

- Issues with upgrades when...

     - Operating system preferences use a comma (,) as the decimal separator (S-056855)

     - With Toolbox customizations (part numbers and descriptions) (S-056856)

For as long as I can remember, SolidWorks Toolbox has been a necessary evil for many users due to the fundamental structure of the product.  All the information for the toolbox part was always stored in a central place where every user would interact with this mdb file in order to query for the inernal information.  SolidWorks 2012 finally addressed this by adding all this information inside the SLDPRT file itself.

Severing this dependency brought better performance as well as allowed for further customization of all aspects of the Toolbox product like folder structure, file name, etc.  However a few weeks ago SolidWorks support issued a couple of Tech Alerts around the upgrade process.

Unfortunately the upgrade process uncovered a couple issues that can cause issues with the Toolbox information leaving it, in some cases, corrupt!  Both of these issues have been addressed in SP1 due out later this month but there is no immediate fix if this has bitten you.  ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 324 - SolidWorks & IE9

SolidWorks & IE9:

This podcast covers the current status of the SolidWorks product line and the newly launched Microsoft Internet Explorer 9.  With IE being so tightly integrated in the Windows operating system, it is not surprising when certain aspects of other products stop working as intended! Topics covered:

- SolidWorks' statement on SolidWorks & IE9 in the Forums

SolidWorks & IE9 in the Knowledge base:

- Interaction issues with IE9 and 3D Content Central (workarounds)

- SolidWorks Search script errors after IE9 Installed

- SolidWorks customer portal issues with downlods (workarounds)

PDM & PDF issues:

- WPDM & EPDM PDF viewing problems

- EPDM Web Client and IE9 needing compatibility mode

This past week Microsoft released their 9th build of Internet Explorer and since IE has always been tightly integrated with Windows, it was not surprising that some technologies ran into compatibility issue after installation.  

Unfortunately, many of these issues are just annoyances but have surfaced right after SolidWorks releases service pack 3 for SolidWorks 2011.  This means that some of the problems that SolidWorks is facing, although minor, will probably not be addressed till SP4.  Most of the issues that are correctable by SolidWorks themselves and currently have a workaround article posted in the knowledge base in the customer portal.  There are, however, a few related to the PDF previewing in Workgroup PDM and in the 64bit version of Enterprise PDM that are due to compatibility with IE9 and Adobe (and Foxit for those running 64bit EPDM).

IE9 is argueably the best browser that Microsoft has shipped, finally competiing on the front of web standards and speed along side the heavy competition of Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome.  Unfortunately due to IE's tight integration into Windows, many product are forced to rely on IE for certain aspects of their own offering and an upgrade of this magnitude is bound to cause an error or two! ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 301 - New Release Checklist

New Release Checklist:

This podcast covers the checklist that SolidWorks users should go through prior to moving forward with a new release like SolidWorks 2011.  Topics covered:

- Ensure hardware and OS meets recommended leveles

- Read the RELEASE NOTES!

- Read the What's New documentation and test on a non-production system

- Save your SolidWorks settings and Enterprise PDM Admin settings

- Convert / Update data with Task Scheduler / Network Monitor / File Version Upgrade Utility

With SolidWorks 2011 SP0 right around the corner, there are a few things to check before jumping in with both feet on a major release upgrade.  Personally, I run through this on every release, at minimum, just to make sure all the features and functions that I use are at a level of performance that I expect.

With the SolidWorks product line growing in complexity and packages, understanding the impact of a new release across all the installed products is now a concern.  Compatibility of EPDM and SolidWorks or older versions of CAM add-ins with SolidWorks 2011 are all areas to check before moving forward.

Once you have done your homework, moving to a new release can be fairly worry free.  Ensuring your data is backed up prior to upgrade is also something I cannot stress enough.  Make sure your customizations and data is safe before the software is updated to give a safety net in case something happens.  If you have other checks that you go though before upgrading, please share them in the comments! ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 279 - Toolbox Tribulations

Toolbox Tribulations:

This podcast covers configuration options for SolidWorks Toolbox and deployment options when using this tool within a design team.  Topics covered:

- Accessing the Toolbox configuration options

- Creating user-defined standards

- Adding custom property information

- Using export/import tools and Excel to populate part numbers

- How to setup a shared Toolbox installation

- Common pitfalls for deployment on a network or in Enterprise PDM

- Upgrading shared Toolbox databases

I have covered SolidWorks Toolbox in it's entirety over the past few years but wanted to talk deeper about how to configure this tool and customize it to fit your needs.  Toolbox has been the center of much frustration over the years and some of the issues stem from improper configuration and/or setup.

It is important to understand that the local installation of Toolbox is meant for a single user.  Even though the application will add missing fasteners (when inserted with SolidWorks 2007 or later) upon opening an assembly from another user, a shared Toolbox implementation is recommended via the LAN or within Enterprise PDM 2010 or later. ~Lou

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