Posts Tagged ‘Displays’

Plan a CAD Software and Hardware Upgrade, Part 3: Find the Right Solutions

April 28, 2011 2 comments
Do your research for CAD upgrades.

Do your research before asking about upgrades.

The first part of this series about upgrading CAD software and hardware talked about using the Information Technology Lifecycle to help define how computer software and hardware can support your company’s business goals. The first three steps help you define the needs and measure your current productivity levels. Next we’ll discuss how to recommend solutions.

Step 4

Recommend solutions that fit your business. If you are going to the company’s decision makers with a problem, it’s best to have the solution. Take the initiative to find out the benefits of the upgrades you want, and then include those as part of the solution. Also, be aware of any software system requirements. Your new CAD software might require Windows 7, but will your other, older applications work on that operating system? Do your own research now to prevent unpleasant surprises after your company invests in new computer systems.

Step 5

Think outside the box. Many design professionals and their IT personnel understand that software upgrades, particularly upgrading from 2D to 3D CAD or taking on demanding design analysis or visualization applications, means you also need to increase computing power. What many don’t realize, however, is that simply increasing the memory or processing power of a standard desktop PC isn’t necessarily enough. Be sure to work with IT to fully consider the value of upgrading to a professional workstation. Many workstations are certified for specific CAD applications. They can improve throughput as well as decrease down time to such a degree that they often pay for themselves within months of integration — and many of the latest models start at prices that are comparable to those of standard PCs. Work with your IT contacts to be sure you consider all hardware options, not just the familiar. You’ll be more productive and your IT department will spend less time addressing system crashes.

Step 6

Consider managed services. Here’s the gist: Your IT personnel have a lot of things to deal with on a daily basis. Many companies are using managed services to control the workload. Managed services are externally provided operations and management capabilities delivered over a networked infrastructure, using a monthly subscription model or recurring charge. Managed services can be provided for networks, security, databases, servers, storage, and applications. Think of managed services as making your IT personnel’s job a little easier, instead of harder. Find out how managed services might fit in with your company’s upgrade plans. Automated Windows system updates, CAD licensing services and security patches are good examples of managed services that will keep you focusing on your CAD designs instead of calling your IT personnel about computer problems.

Explaining how technology integrates with your company’s business goals will make it easier for your management team to understand your suggestions for upgrade. Once all parties are on the same page, you’ll have a much stronger position for advocating for the hardware and software upgrades that can help you do your job better.

Authors: Mark Shaw and James Ecklund

Plan a CAD Software and Hardware Upgrade, Part 2: Define Needs, Measure Productivity

April 27, 2011 2 comments
Define your CAD needs, Measure your productivity

To plan a hardware or software upgrade, define your CAD needs and measure your current level of productivity.

The first part of this series about upgrading CAD software and hardware talked about using the Information Technology Lifecycle to help define how computer software and hardware can support your company’s business goals. These first three steps help you define the needs and measure your current productivity levels.

Step 1

Define your company’s needs to understand how it uses technology. The truth is that if you are a CAD user, technology is highly relevant to your job function. In fact, we’d go so far as to say the two elements are inseparable. Summarize your company’s need as succinctly as possible. My company develops and manufactures widgets that are designed with ABC CAD software and produced via XYZ CAM software using DEFG equipment.

Step 2

Measure your technology pain points and their impact on the organization’s productivity. Here’s where users get to really show how an upgrade can make their life easier. Are systems timing out? Crashing frequently? Are you missing deadlines because of system inefficiencies? Do you need better collaboration tools? List the problems and how they make your job harder, because these things are making your IT department’s job harder too.

Step 3

Analyze what works and what needs to be improved. Chances are not everything is problematic, so figure out what works well, too. By identifying what is working right, you can better define the areas that need to be improved.

Next we’ll discuss how to recommend solutions.

Authors: Mark Shaw and James Ecklund

Plan a CAD Software and Hardware Upgrade, Part 1: Working with Your IT Department

April 26, 2011 4 comments
CAD Software and Hardware Upgrade

Present your CAD needs in terms of their business benefits to get approval.

Spring has sprung, and with it comes the buzz that surrounds all the announcements of new CAD software, workstations, and other hardware that burst onto the scene this time of year. As a CAD user or manager, you might be eyeing these new products and considering the benefits of upgrading. However, as is often the case, your IT department has different ideas about how your computer system should work. Here are some tips from the perspective of a systems integrator about how to speak the language of the IT professional and improve your chances of getting the hardware and software updates you need.

As a CAD user or CAD manager, you want your CAD system to work efficiently and help you get your job done on time and on budget. Your IT support staff members want that too, but they also have to weigh in on how the CAD system integrates with all the other computer software and hardware in the company.

What all parties have at heart are your company’s business goals. To instill a spirit of cooperation during system upgrades, we at StoredTech use the Information Technology Lifecycle to help define how computer software and hardware can support your business goals. Use this six-step process to develop a strategy to talk about CAD upgrades with internal departments, from your IT personnel to your company’s management team.

The overall goal is to present your CAD department’s needs in terms of their business benefits to improve the chances that they will gain acceptance. Our next two posts will explain how to do just that!

Authors: Mark Shaw and James Ecklund

Hardware for the CAD Professional, Part 8: More Graphics Cards

April 22, 2011 1 comment
Update Software Drivers

Regularly update your software drivers.

So far in this series, we’ve discussed system requirements, commonly used terms, processors, RAMhard drives and connectivity. This installment of Hardware for the CAD Professional will continue our discussion about graphics cards.

Installation and Configuration

Once you’ve decided on a specific graphics card and determined that it will work on both your operating system and the software package(s) you intend to use it with, then comes the installation and configuration of the software drivers. All the companies that manufacture workstation-level graphics cards spend a lot of time and energy in not only keeping their software drivers up to date, but also in certifying that a number of industry-standard applications work correctly with them. This, and the related support, is one of the added benefits in using a professional-level graphics card that can save you lots of expensive troubleshooting time.

Some vendors integrate special support for an application such as AutoCAD with their base drivers, while others provide accelerated drivers for such applications as a separate download. In either case, you want to be sure that you’re using the best drivers to get the maximum performance from your system. I am a strong proponent of regularly updating software drivers, finding that many such updates increase performance or add benefits beyond the typical “bug” fixing ensured by such releases.

Maximize Your Performance

First you have the drivers installed and have determined that they are working with your application. The next step is to maximize your performance. There are number of operating system level adjustments to make, but I’ll cover these separately. In terms of the graphics card drivers, there’s one big adjustment that can significantly increase performance — so much so that we automatically do it when testing graphics cards at Cadalyst. In your graphics card settings found in the operating system’s control panel, be sure that your settings for Vertical Sync are set to OFF or FORCE OFF. Changing this simple setting will provide significant performance benefits to your system.

There may be other configuration options you wish to make to your video drivers, but this one will certainly need to be done. Combined with the operating system configurations to be discussed next, the Vertical Sync settings will enable the level of professional level performance you expect from your hardware. Once you’ve made these settings, it’s time to configure your operating system for its maximum performance.

Author: Ron LaFon

Tips for Going Mobile with CAD, Part 4: More 15″ Laptops

April 15, 2011 4 comments

In Part One of this series, I talked about how 17-inch mobile workstations aren’t really mobile, but rather desktop workstation replacements that you bring to a stable destination, plug in and go to town. In Part Two, I outlined the features I would look for when selecting my 17-inch mobile workstation. This post continues our discussion from Part Three about features for 15″ mobile workstations:


For the display, just make sure that it is at least an 8-bit option. Ask and be sure to check out a gray scale blended image with your own eyes, before you buy. If you see banding, you want to look for a different display.

Hard Drive

While a regular hard drive is fine for a 17” workstation where you are putting down roots when you use the system, with a 15” mobile workstation, you need an SSD (solid-state drive) for two reasons:

  1. You are going to be moving this thing around while it is working. 6 lbs. is not light, but it is light enough that you will have your machine on while you take it with you from your office to the kitchen or bathroom. You are supposed to power down your hard drive when you move it, but I never do this. I simply move the laptop with the hard drive spinning away. This is a recipe for data loss. However, SSDs can be moved without potentially damaging your data. There are no moving parts to break. So get a 200+ GB SSD. If you can afford it, spring for extra storage in a 500 GB SSD.
  2. The other big advantage of SSDs over hard drives: typically they are faster and lighter.


Finally, get some kind of backup option in place, preferably cloud-based so it is offsite. 15” laptops are magnets for theft because they are small and relatively lightweight. So have an automated cloud backup system in place. I have been using Mozy because it had an unlimited option and runs in the background. The unlimited option has been discontinued, so do your research for other cloud backup solutions. At the very least, backup your critical working data to the cloud, while backing up movies or mp3 or photos on a USB drive.

What about 14” or Smaller Mobile Devices?

For CAD production work, forget anything smaller than 15” — you won’t have the performance or the real estate you need. But for CAD or architectural presentation work, smaller laptops or tablets can be great options. You can do some incredibly sexy demos of your CAD work to clients on an iPad. While you can’t really modify anything, you can present your work in a form factor that makes everyone want to interact.

The Next Generation

I’m not privy to the refresh cycle for Dell and HP mobile workstations, but each is at about a year since last update. So in the next few months, for 15” inch mobile workstations, I would expect to see: lighter devices (6 lbs. is increasingly difficult to justify in a word of MacBook Airs and tablets), high end FirePro mobility graphics cards, and maybe quad core CPUs with higher clock speeds and lower power consumption than today’s dual core systems (e.g. Fusion and Sandy Bridge).

Author: Tony DeYoung