Monday, April 28, 2008

Licensing of Software Engineers

If I was one, I wouldn't get licensed.

As a licensed engineer, you accept liability for the health, safety, and wellfare of the public. Also, you have a certain legal obligation for negligence.

If I write error-prone code, that causes a business down time, does that mean I am personally liable? As a licensed engineer, I think it does.

Maybe licensing software engineers will be a good thing. Forces the person to verify code more to avoid those troublesome conflicts, lock-ups, and crashes that cost users dearly. Can you imagine all the lawsuits as corporations sue individual P.E.'s for negligence based on error-prone code, or code that allowed hackers or viruses to infiltrate?

I'm all for licensing for engineers. I think licensing software engineers will force code to be better written based on the personal liability for bad code. I also think that industrial exemptions will be rampant for software engineers and hardly any will bother. Where's the benefit in licensure compared to the liability?

B+30

B+30, that's the short name for engineers requiring a Bachelor's Degree + 30 additional credit hours before getting licensed.

I'm sitting in the hotel room in Columbus, MS on a 2-day business trip. Like usual when on travel, I didn't sleep well. But the one good point of traveling on business, I get to catch up on reading trade journals. In this case, because the first leg of the flight from Phoenix to Atlanta was long enough, I watched the Simpons Movie, too.

In the latest edition of NSPE's PE Magazine, reader comments continue to discuss B+30 and the relavent articles that have appeared numerous times in this magazine. It's time I sound off on this topic.

B+30 is horse rubbish.
1) Any good engineer is going to seek out additional education, either in the form of advanced degrees, seminars, or other continuing education, whether it is required or not.
2) Engineering is such a misunderstood profession that marketing it to students as a career path often falls short. How many grade school kids do you know that aspire to be engineers? Personally, I hear police officers, doctors, teachers, fire fighters, and astronauts. I don't hear engineers.
3) With the potential "crisis" looming over engineering shortages, forcing higher education levels - and increased cost, will not motivate more people to enter engineering.
4) Cost is a huge issue. The engineering profession, at least in the US, is becoming a commodity. Salaries are marginal for the level of responsibility an engineer absorbs. Add increased school costs so fresh grads start deeper in the hole is not a solution to this growing concern. I compare it to Physical Therapists. They are at a time in their field that a doctorate is required to practice, but they don't get paid doctor's wages. Why would anyone want to be a physical therapist anymore? If I were in school and had to spend that many hours on a degree, I'm going to spend them in a field that pays better.

There is also a lot of discussion about the type of education new grads are getting. Most certainly, more technical knowledge has accumulated over the years and it must be dispersed to engineering students, but perhaps the classroom is not the best way to do that. Instead, let the classroom teach some of the soft-skills that are also needed to enter the workforce: ethics, accounting, law, team development, etc. and let the industry mold the recent grads to the specialist positions they need.

I will say one positive thing about B+30. When it comes to making the engineering profession more of a revered profession like doctors and lawyers, requiring at least a master's level degree in order to become licensed is probably the only way. Until that point, engineering will continue to be just a commodity. But, a definitive difference between engineer and designer will have to be drawn, with engineers compensated appropriately.

This is a hot topic and I have plenty of opinions. But this is a blog, not a white paper. Hopefully the points I mention here are enough to build further discussion.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Synchronous Technology

Did I call it our what?

Siemens, in their much anticipated "webinar" announcement of their new technology, dubbed Synchronous Technology, is the epitome of Direct Editing functionality. Personally, it looks a lot like SpaceClaim, but with the same parametric tools as it always had to get the model initially created.

It's nothing new even though they claim it to be, but it is still exciting to see this technology come to the forefront with so much marketing momentum behind it. I also like the idea that the main-stream CAD packages are implementing this technology so the companies that already employ those solutions do not have to suffer the slings and arrows of a multi-cad environment. But what does this say for SpaceClaim's future? I've said it before (but not in this blog) and I'll say it again, Alibre would be wise to partner or acquire SpaceClaim before somebody else does. Within one version Alibre could also have the same type of "synchronous technology" in their solid modeler and continue to compete with the entrenched mid-range modelers. Having SpaceClaim technology also reduces the need for advanced surface features, something Alibre has stated they are not interested in pursuing but is much desired by users.

How long do you think it will take Solidworks to have their version of synchronous technology?

See the Siemens webcast here.
http://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us/campaigns/breakthrough/

Granted, it doesn't say much specifically about SE therefore many of the specifics have not been answered. Perhaps the remaining bullet points of my rumors and ruminations for SE v21 may still come true.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Joe Greco Community Award

I just finished reading Evan Yares' latest blog post about the name change of the award from the Cad Society.

Living so close to Joe, I never got a chance to meet him. Too bad for me. But I think the name change of the award to honor Joe is a great idea. Personally, I am still looking for an industry pundit to write CAD articles as well as Joe, with the same excitement and unbias direction as he did. Too bad I can't plug myself for the job. I'd love to do that.

My congratulations goes out to Evan. He is a fine recipient of the award, especially considering his personal relationship with Joe. Receiving the first award in Joe's honor seems more than fitting.

Articles about the award.
Tenlinks
PR-Inside
Cad Society News
Cad Society Press Release (link broken?)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

COFES Crashers

Just like in Wedding Crashers, I had a back story and headed up to COFES 2008 at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. But security was tight. Every attendee had this giant name plate placarded to their chest via a lanyard around their neck. Anyone without one really stuck out. No penetrating that security.

So instead, I just hung out at the hotel bar hoping to see a face I recognized and maybe buy a Margarita or Bloody Mary. That didn't work out either. Instead, I decided to be happy with the original reason I made the drive up to North Scottsdale.

I had arranged a meeting with Mr. Paul Grayson of Alibre, Inc. The intent of the meeting was just to put a face to the names of the people who have been conversing online for years. It was a meeting between user and Director on the state of the program and where it should be headed. Since I never told Paul that I would be writing about our meeting in my blog, nor did I set it up like an interview, I'm not going to quote anything specific from the meeting, but I will give general highlights.

Alibre is in good hands.

The meeting was a lot of casual chit chat to get to know one another and really get to understand the two sides of the software: developer and user. Occasionally, we did tackle some current topics with Alibre Design.

If you read my signature file on the Alibre Forums, you will see that I list two things that could make Alibre's future brighter. The first one is more development in the 2D tools of Alibre. I am happy to state that Alibre is focusing on improving the usability of 2D as well as making it align with ASME and ISO drafting standards. The second item in my signature file is to focus on Alibre's unique features. To me, Alibre's unique features are it's online collaboration, peer-to-peer team design, and repository. Any solid modeler can go head-to-head on a feature per feature comparison, and in a version or two will be tied again. Why not focus development on something that makes a software unique? This is where Paul and I agree, but alas Greg Milliken, who happens to be in charge of the development plan, disagree, and rightfully so.

Greg has focused heavily on developing new features for Alibre. I whole heartedly agree that it was needed. Let's face it, having more streamlined workflows and more & better features means I can create my design faster and subsequently improve my bottom line. It's great, and it was needed. But the features that make Alibre unique have taken a secondary importance lately, and I feel that it is time to put a new focus, at least one version's worth, on improving those tools.

Shortly stated, Paul and Greg have gone a few rounds on which direction Alibre should head. I am both happy and sad to say that Greg is currently winning by TKO. (Apparently, Greg is much more athletic than one might expect at first glance. Then again, I've only seen his head shot on the Alibre website - can't judge too much from that.) Either way, with two heads-of-state both firmly entrenched in the "proper" direction of the software and company, I can rest assured that all aspects are at least being considered. Tunnel vision is not a problem. And, sooner or later Paul will win one match and we'll see a version that makes improvements to Alibre's unique features in addition to enhanced solid modeling features. I continue to look forward to each new version of Alibre.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rumors and Ruminations: Solid Edge v21

"The biggest release since v1"
"The next big breakthrough"

Both of these quotes are part of the marketing effort flying around by the new Solid Edge owner, Siemens. I haven't heard such grandeur since the inventor of sliced bread marketed his idea.

So what could this possibly entail? Strap on your tin foil hats and shine up that crystal ball, here we go.

From the Solid Edge newsgroup, we have heard that the acquisition by Siemens has been a good thing for UGS' product line. Plenty of resources have been added to development and marketing. That lends me to believe the hype, but what is the hype about?

* My guess, GUI overhaul. First and foremost we're looking at a Vista, i.e. MS Office 2007, interface. A brand new GUI is the only thing as unique as an original launch of the software. But there has to be more because a simple GUI change will not "change the world of digital product development."
* More interaction among the Velocity Series of programs: CAD (SOLID EDGE), CAM (NX CAM EXPRESS), CAE (FEMAP EXPRESS), as well as document management and workflow (TEAM CENTER EXPRESS) has to be a part of it. The world is no longer just CAD based. The entire value stream must be optimized in order to have a huge breakthrough that will change digital design.
* A change to DirectX from OpenGL. I have to list it as a separate item, but really it is a part of the GUI change and utilization of the Windows graphic libraries. Remarkably, I'm not totally against this change. Alibre has been using DirectX and I have not come across any issues with it vs. OpenGL. I kind of like the ability to use less expensive graphics cards and maintain the same level of performance.

To be a bit more facetious, what if bigger just means it ships on two DVDs instead of one?
What if bigger just means they added more features? C'mon, in v1 all the features are new. From that point on, it's just an incremental addition of features. Perhaps they've doubled the number of features, or commands needed to create a feature, or something just as ridiculous.

OK, so maybe not so ridiculous is that they are all new features. Why isn't it ridiculous? Look at CoCreate or SpaceClaim. It's a whole new way of performing an old method of CAD. SE has been developing their Direct Modeling approach for a few years. Is v21 the epitome of that effort and therefore SE is no longer parametric in the way we are used to parametric being defined? Personally, I hate the sketch-and-extrude method of modeling. I think it is slow and resists creativity, not to mention functionality for future, unplanned changes that differ from the originator's design intent.

Here's my hope: Solid Edge v21 is a completely new architecture with a brand new concept of parametric solid modeling tied to a more efficient value stream throughout the entire workflow of engineering, design, and manufacturing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rumors and Ruminations: Introduction

From time to time, I will post a topic called Rumors and Ruminations. In these posts, I will join Mr. Peabody in the Wayback Machine and collect a sample of CAD rumors from all mediums at my disposal. I'll then insert them into my shiny new crystal ball and go Back to Future in an attempt to guess what is in store, and how to best plan for it.

Like all crystal balls, even the new shiny ones are a bit foggy or cracked. And, I will only gather rumors and information from sources available to the public. Note: These may not be public knowledge because some of the sources require membership or subscription. I just want to iterate that nothing I use as rumors is affected by my involvement with NDAs, alpha/beta testing, or other relationship with companies I am writing about. As such, not all of my sources can be quoted or linked to.

So put on your tinfoil hats and be ready to join me for a fun-filled trip as part of a Futurological think tank.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Vision Statement

So what makes my blog any different than the thousands of other blogs already out there, and on similar topics. To define that, I guess I should tell you what I plan on writing about and what in my background gives me authority to write about it.

I am a licensed professional engineer in the great state of Arizona. I work full time for a defense contractor and do a little side work under a keep-the-house-liability-coverage called Wertel Enterprises, LLC. I have an inherent understanding of CAD, Configuration Management, best-practices, and similar items. I'm also a pretty darn good mechanical designer and engineer who understands what it takes to produce something, not just make it look good on paper.

In this blog, I'm am hoping to develop a broader relationship with fellow CAD bloggers, like the Solidworks blogsquad, Deelip Menezes, and even the CEO of Alibre Design. I'm also going to discuss topics important to engineers, not just CAD designers, such as outsourcing and the importance of licensing. Finally, since I'm relating this to a personal blog more than a business blog, you'll even see some highlights of my latest pwning in WoW and how hunters are FTW regardless of the latest nerfs in 2.4. (I'll refrain from shortcuts except when applicable to the WoW community.)


So that's it. I'll field all questions and comments as quickly as possible. Please open up a dialog with me about any on-topic discussion that you'd like. Flames are even welcome, if they are constructive.

My business website... www.wertel.eng.pro
My business email... scott.wertel@wertel.eng.pro
Note, this blog has my personal email, but please refrain from using it. If you do, I will most likely reply from my business one.
My full-time job is completely unrelated to this blog and my opinions and writings do not reflect any views held by my employer.

Welcome to the Jungle

After much postponement and delay, I finally succumbed to my friends and have started a blog. I didn't' realize it was so easy to do. The hardest part was deciding on a name for my blog.

The Power of a Thesaurus
Harangue: Not exactly the first thing people would think for a name, and not mine either. Actually, I'm under the philosophy that one should keep a dictionary by their desk AND USE IT. And no, MS Word(tm) might find typos, but it is not a dictionary.

I thought of those early influences in trade journals that I frequently read and couldn't help but being drawn to the style of Anthony Lockwood's Diatribes in DE magazine. His style and grace is one to be admired. Not to mention, I too lack tact (no offense Anthony). But diatribes was already taken.

Considering I have a tendency to be long winded when it comes to topics I am passionate about, some would call it soap-boxing, harangue fits the definition. Thank you Mr. Webster. Sorry Bill, Word just didn't do it for me.