If anyone is to blame, and thank, for all this it is Shaan Hurley. I read his Between the Lines AutoCAD blog before I really knew what a blog was. It prompted me to think about doing my own and he suggested trying TypePad. It made blog management & hosting simple. I’d looked at other alternatives at the time and found them too limiting or complex.
I love not worrying about hosting, running servers, ‘web page coding’ or managing plug-ins and having support to fight the hostile aspects of web hosting. TypePad has been target to a few denial of service style attacks this year but as a blogger I haven’t had to deal with them.
While other platforms do get some of my attention — I like Twitter, love Microsoft Sway, barely tolerate Facebook — the content I really care about still goes on my blogs.
The main reason is its open — no login or membership to view — and I have full control of my content and presentation. Twitter is awesome for what it is, but very limited. Facebook is plagued with pesky (to be polite) algorithms deciding what your readers see (not all you post) and a dismal interface*. Sway is beautiful, elegant and delightful to use but compliments, rather than competes with, a blog.
Biggest change to my blogs this year was a recent update to ‘responsive design’ thanks to a beta TypePad theme builder. It meant I could maintain my design, with some refinements, and have a blog which works on anything from a smartphone to large monitor. I’ve yet to see it on a smart watch — my GShock doesn’t really qualify — but wonder if anyone out there has?
I away from the blog I have interesting challenging year ahead. It may see a change of focus, new impetus, for the CAD blog. It was rather neglected as I prepared, experienced and blogged about a month cycling across Tibet to Mt Everest (photo right) and Nepal. It wasn’t a sponsored trip but, by chance, was wearing an Autodesk cap at Everest so CAD wasn’t entirely forgotten!
I’ll be able to share more about my upcoming changes soon. I still find it amazing that thanks to this hobby I’ve made, and in some cases met, many friends around the world. To everyone, everywhere, thanks for visiting, reading and subscribing!
Some annual stats follow in the extended post if you’re interested.
* It amazes me how awful Facebook is to use and how broken, given the resources they have, it is. Basic stuff like photo/comment relationships and recognition of time zones are a mess.
I’ve updated my blogs to a new responsive layout using a beta TypePad Responsive Theme Builder. Responsive Design lets the site to resize and reflow to a variety of screen sizes (below right). The old template just cropped the view and added scroll bars (below left).
TypePad has had pre-set responsive themes for a while. The beta Theme Builder, which allows customisation, still has a few wrinkles—sidebar items and emphasis tagged <em> text formatting mainly—but I thought worth a try. The TypePad support team have been great with rapid answers/fixes for a few questions I had.
I have tested the blog on PCs (I.E., Chrome, Firefox), Windows & iOS Phone/Tablet and have been told Android/Chrome devices are OK. Interested to see how you find it, leave a comment or email me via the sidebar link with any hardware, screen, browser combo which doesn’t work.
You’re a TypePad blogger and want to try it?
If you are on the TypePad Beta (info and join here) you’ll see a responsive option to tick in the Theme Builder. I use Microsoft Windows Live Writer to post and had to add (with TypePad Support help) some custom CSS to get the heading styles it creates to format correctly. The Custom CSS follows…
AutoCAD Blogger Council member Melanie came up with the idea of tweeting the day in the life of a CAD Dork. You can find the others with the #CADdork tag on Twitter and Facebook.
I was going to tweet during the day (within personal and commercial disclosure limitations!) but it turned out to be a rather unusual day. The tweets would have read:
Got up, walked the dog #CADdork #AutoCAD
Went to work #CADdork #AutoCAD
Came home at midday to supervise a tree felling #CADdork #AutoCAD
Dinner! #CADdork #AutoCAD
Last weekend I discovered a pencil willow tree behind the house had rather structurally compromised trunk. It was beyond both me & my little electric chainsaw so today the professionals came to deal it before the wind did. What follows is more typical day in the life…
Getting to work;
I hope to wake before my 6:30 alarm, and usually do, because an alarm is an awful start to the day. I crawl out of bed careful not to trip over the dog already waiting for his morning walk. That is next on the agenda, usually a couple of kilometres around the neighbourhood or local park.
Then it is exciting stuff like making lunch, showering etc. before heading off on my (nearly) cross country commute. I live in West Auckland and commute to the North Shore. Although it is only a 25km (usually a 35-45 minute) commute New Zealand is rather thin where I live!
A favourite weekend bike ride is literally coast to coast, about 100km loop you can easily do in a day. The photo below from the ranges near my suburban home shows the East (Waitemata Harbour) and West (Manukau Harbour) coast in one shot!
I use the radio on my phone (Windows Phone has FM built in) to hear the news while getting ready so by commute time have heard enough. I generally listen to podcasts in the car: topical comedy (News Quiz, Wait wait don’t tell me), geeky IT (TWiT & Windows Weekly) or Science/Skeptic type stuff (Infinite Monkey Cage, Doctor Karl, Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Radio Labs).
I time my run to miss the worst of the rush hour; more of a start late, finish late person than racing the sun to work. Unfortunately traffic flow means I have to go via the city ‘spaghetti junction’ but there are alternatives if that clogs.
There isn’t really a viable alternative to the car for me. Public transport would take 2 hours (one way) and I could get there by bicycle slightly faster! I’ve actually tested that in the weekend and even waiting for a ferry (no cycling on our harbour bridge) meant bike beat the bus/train combo! It is just the hassle of getting up another hour earlier, showering etc. at work that puts me off cycle commuting!
First excitement is logging on. Our machines sync documents & desktop so a cold boot to Outlook + CAD running can take long enough to get that vital first cup of coffee! Thankfully most days restoring from logged off sleep mode is a lot faster. I use an HP Mobile workstation, achieved after taking a desktop to meetings for presentations, but most the CAD machines are HP 620 desktops.
A typical day for me might be meetings (company, team or project), production work, some tech support and IT related activity. The production work is mostly AutoCAD Architecture or Revit Architecture. I occasionally stray in to the MEP flavours, more rarely Max, Navisworks and other supporting apps in the Building Design Suite. I also use & support Costx which takes CAD (Revit is CAD too!) layouts to component orders.
We have a great IT department supplying network and core app’s (Office etc) and hardware so my support role is CAD IT focused. I look after the local machine CAD install/deployment and any related patching. There are still not many 64bit desktop users at work so occasionally we need patches etc. the business doesn’t get. Patch Tuesday is Wednesday in NZ. I tend to install them on my machine and if OK update the other machines on Friday evening.
I sometimes get random requests for non-cad support and try to help if I can. Often that is just finding the answer on-line (sometimes ending up on my own blog!) and passing it on or another expert in the office to refer people to.
My desk has turned 90º since this picture was taken but the location and clutter is much the same!
I try & break for lunch, if not always at lunchtime. Its a good chance to meet folks from other teams (amazing how much you can learn), get a change of scenery (view from the office café below is a few metres lower!), fresh air and avoid crumbs (or worse) in the keyboard.
I check out the news or sometimes read a book on my Lumia 1520 Phablet if nobody else is around. As an aside, I’ve decided Phablet is a real word since it was used in the Windows 10 announcement!
And More Work:
Work and platform varies by project. We currently have projects with AutoCAD Architecture store refit models, a Revit building model from point cloud scan and a development plan based on a PDF underlay because it was all we could get!
Most of my communication is email, although we are trying 360 Drive for plan data sharing to replace DWF based intranet viewing. If I had an app use log CAD and Outlook would dominate followed by Excel for project work. I’m tending to use OneNote for meetings and as a digital idea capture/record tool mainly because it is available everywhere.
I still author my CAD support documents in MindManager—love the structure it imposes and flexibility of output to Word, PowerPoint, HTML or SWF (for intranet)—and use SnagIt and ActiveWords all the time.
Favourite recent email was thanks from a Store Manager for the comprehensive support notes I sent within minutes. I literally hit reply and typed 4 characters to insert several paragraphs of instructions and tips for our intranet plan viewing using ActiveWords!
Social Media & Work?
Social media overlaps work in a number of ways:
Twitter: I have some CAD, Retail and IT Twitter lists for ‘breaking news’, gossip and support. I add accounts to a list as you can follow/unfollow, to keep the Twitter main timeline manageable, but still keep in touch. I’m amazed to find have accumulated 719 members on my CAD/BIM list and 54 other people using it!
I tend to check Twitter on the phone when the dreaded progress dialog or Windows 7 circle cursor indicate the PC is busy. Plotting, re-pathing AutoCAD Architecture projects, data exports or big file moves are the main culprits as I don’t do a lot of rendering.
Twitter is also awesome for support with accounts like @AutodeskHelp responding in seconds if you have a question that can be asked/answered in 140 characters. Here’s an example from home where my Tablet was getting short on SSD drive space and I wondered about future uninstall after deleting the C:\Autodesk extract files:
@robincapper Hi Robin! Yes, it will work. The uninstallation files are part of what has been installed on your computer. ^CAM
RSS Blog Feeds: Although Twitter is great it is very transient. I still use a feed reader but more like weekly than daily before Twitter arrived. Its great to catch up with those blogs, news and discussion groups which can be distant history in a few seconds on Twitter.
I also make a news round-up for the monthly Revit User Group Auckland selecting posts from the past few weeks with links to the relevant blogs.
I’m still using an old desktop RSS application as haven’t found a decent on-line or multi-platform one which works for me. There are some nice Windows Modern apps (desktop & phone) but they choke on my 1000+ feeds.
A good view of the motorway (and great ‘nz bee’ Windows Phone Auckland Traffic app for further afield) allows me to time my departure to avoid the rush. I generally go North (Hwy18 on map above) to avoid the city traffic and have a change of scenery. Although longer there is more motorway (freeway for US readers) so little time difference. As in the morning I usually listen to podcasts on the drive.
The nocturnal life of a CAD Blogger:
CAD blogging is a hobby, as seen by my erratic posting schedule! Most these posts are written on the couch in front of TV (on my ATIV Hybrid Tablet) which probably explains the proof reading. I still have a desktop PC at home but don’t often use it.
I’ve adopted OneNote as my blog notepad as find it’s cross platform nature great. If I stumble across something blog’able in the day I note, capture or send the link to OneNote for later review.
Of course on-line events, mostly US based Autodesk/Microsoft or Apple even, are at a ridiculous time in the morning here (typically 3:00-6:00) and I sometimes get up for them. Even more ridiculous is I don’t blog about everything I see on those calls. Often relevance or being unable to add to more to the topic than deadline focused outlets decides that. I compose, or more accurately partially compose and abandon, far more draft posts than ever get to the blog.
In the early days of CAD blogging companies were doing such a poor job of covering their own products on social media there was demand for those new features of release x posts. I feel they, and other full time blog/media, do that perfectly well so just try and find my spin, my thoughts, or things I find interesting or useful. I also tend to blog on things I use, or would like to use so that limits some of the scope.
So that is a Day in the Life of this CAD Dork, except I think I prefer CAD Geek as a description!
PS: Had to backdate this post an hour because it is already tomorrow. Another hazard of being a CAD Blogger is insomnia!
The trip was not a surprise, booked in 2013, but was surprised to find I could have blogged from the middle of the Himalayas!
I chose not to organise mobile data but was surprised how good the service was, considering.
Using hotel Wi-Fi could read my blog in Tibet but couldn’t get to the TypePad Dashboard to create posts. Post by email worked and the ‘Friendship Highway’ from Lhasa to Nepal was lined with solar powered cell phone sites. I doubt they are there for the convince of bloggers though…
I still like using Microsoft Live Writer to compose off-line but it seems Microsoft are ignoring it. Be nice to get a Universal app update of Writer for phone, pc and tablet. Anyone at Microsoft listening?
Happy New Year!
Thanks for visiting, reading and coming back. Lets see what 2015 brings!
March 31st means it is blog’iversary time again. I find it hard to believe a decade has passed by since that first tentative post.
It was rather special to spend a few days last week with the Shaan Hurley (on the left wearing a cap below), who inspired me to blog, and other CAD bloggers. Amazing that thanks to this hobby I have made, and in some cases met, many friends around the world. To everyone, everywhere, thanks for visiting, reading and subscribing!
On Wednesday from approximately 1:15 to 3:45PM Pacific Time, we experienced downtime which prevented the Typepad application and blogs from loading, and we are truly sorry about that.
The downtime was due to a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Say Media which impacted not only Typepad but other sites around the internet. (Say Media currently hosts Typepad blogs.)…
Although there are some limitations the joy of not having to patch, protect, upgrade, monitor your blog engine and great support when things do go wrong makes having a hosted blog a joy. Thanks TypePad!
NOTE: TypePad isn’t free for most but they are generously honouring a long standing arrangement to cover my hosting (see Typepad in Disclosure). It was compensation for participating in the TypePad Customer Advisory Board. It is no longer active but when queried several years ago refused to reinstate billing. The equivalent of that annual fee is donated to RobiNZ Blog Kiva Team.
As part of my day job at Microsoft, I've begun to learn more about how advertising across the internet works on a technical level and it is quite interesting to learn how an image of a some head phones I looked at an e-commerce site ended up staring back at me from an ad on Facebook later that day…
Another year has flown by and it is 2014. Time to look back at 2013 from a bloggy (not just CAD) perspective:
Best Blog Event:
For me the event of the year, blog’wise, was the Revit Technology Conference. It was an inspiring mix of education, inspiration, meeting new folks (many Kiwis from out of town) and reunions. I didn’t get to Autodesk University this year but RTC meant some of the notable AU speakers came to me.
Also notable that it was ‘at home’, Auckland, but also a new experience. The evening dinner was in an Auckland venue I’ve known about all my life but never visited. What was once the 1970s licenced restaurant ‘Fishermans Wharf’ has transformed, after several dubious previous attempts to revive it, into a quality reception venue “The Wharf’. It sits under the harbour bridge I cross on my daily work commute but I’d never been there, or seen Auckland from that point of view, before RTC!
I also attended two other conferences —Skeptics NZ and TEDx Auckland—which were also excellent but haven’t blogged much about them yet!
I found the comments on a post about my Samsung ATIV PC most interesting this year. The initial units had a dock fault and my experience and several readers—as seen in the comments—getting this sorted was interesting. I felt the retail channels handled it well but was totally underwhelmed by the lack of information from Samsung NZ.
It was apparent the retailers were not getting much supporting info, repair status or time, and a direct approach to Samsung NZ (who are literally next door to my work) was a complete waste of time. I wonder if mentioning I was blogging about it would have made any difference but didn’t as wanted to see the consumer experience.
While the issue was eventually resolved (and the hardware has since been fine) I won’t be favouring Samsung when the time comes to replace my PC and phone.
I’ve added a bunch of podcasts to my regular listening this year but one of the best offers a local spin on the world of IT, Tech and gadgets:
A weekly look at all things Microsoft, including Windows, Windows Phone, Office, Xbox, and more, from two of the foremost Windows watchers in the world, Paul Thurrott of the Super Site for Windows and Mary Jo Foley of All About Microsoft.
Check out their December “best of 2013” shows for a flavour of these podcasts.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the demise of RSS, or at least my use of it.
While the technology is still a vital part of web services Google killing its Reader portal and, despite some reasonable attempts, the lack of a decent Web, Windows Modern/Metro/Phone reader which could handle the volume of feeds I use has greatly reduced my use.
I still have a desktop reader on my tablet/PC but must admit use it perhaps weekly rather than the previous daily use. My prime replacement for keeping current is Twitter with RSS reading now just a useful backup.
Twitter is instant; both its strength and weakness. If something is happening you’ll see it there but it flashes into history in minutes, even seconds. With a RSS reader you can look at your feeds and review a weeks, months posts at any time. As for Facebook, only really use it to keep up with those people and communities who are only on Facebook.
March was the busiest in a year which was pretty consistent. Posts from March 2013:
Overall traffic was down about 10% but probably because I’ve posted less this year than due to any other factor.
I’ve become even more of a lazy blogger, not posting much, which is something I also mentioned last year.
Some of that has been lack of opportunity to try some great new technologies (some cloud access limitations) but also not making the time to finish an increasing backlog of draft posts.
That quote about ‘my work never being finished, only abandoned’ seemed to happen in the draft stage for many posts this year.
Best Blog Tool:
I’ve had no problems filling this category before now but can’t think of anything radical which grabbed my attention over the previous year.
One aspect I’ve refined is use of a Windows Tablet and SkyDrive (replacing Live Mesh) for much of my blogging resources. I also switched to Windows Phone after my old iPhone 3GS finally literally cracked up (from use not abuse).
I haven’t regretted the move to a Microsoft only platform as the iOS apps I used, as opposed to those I had, were available. I think it really is easier to live in one ecosystem no matter which one you choose.
Happy New Year!
Thanks for visiting, reading and coming back. Lets see what 2014 brings!