Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Gifts to You

Tis the season for giving.

Sure you hear about free apps for your smart phone all the time but did you know that there are free programs for your computer too?

Here are some that I use and some that come recommended but I haven’t had to use yet... but might now.

  1. SketchUp - I’ve talked about it before and it’s still the best deal out there.
  2. Trillian - this chat program is a great way to combine all the different chat programs (AOL, MSN, Skype, Google+, Facebook) in one so you don’t have to load each program to chat with different friends.  It also has an app for your phone if you really can’t get enough chatting! Pidgin is another program like this that my husband uses.  
  3. Picassa - I use this program for organizing my photos uploading to their web site so I can see them on my smartphone without actually using space on my phone.
  4. CutePDF - installs a printer driver to print to pdf.  It doesn’t have all the functions of Adobe but it’s all I need.
  5. Jing - fun and easy way to capture either images or short clips from your screen.  It’s great for tech support when you want to send in the steps you did and don’t want to write each one out.  Just start the recorder and do it, you can even narrate.
  6. Evernote - I use this to take notes and capture web sites on my laptop, smartphone, or when I’m on someone else’s computer.  They all sync up so if a friend gives me a great recipe when I’m at her house I have it when I get home on my laptop. Now, there are people who say the DropBox is better, I’m tempted to download it and try but I don’t know if I can transfer my notes from one to the other and I’ve got a lot of notes.
  7. GIMP (Graphic Image Manipulation Program)  - If you don’t have PhotoShop you can get this one for free.
  8. CCleaner - cleans up the junk on your computer great if you are running out of hard disk space.
Here are some recommended ones that I’m going to try:
  • 7-zip - zips up your files
  • imgburn - copys files to a DVD - great if you have a lot of files to send to a client
  • teamViewer - online viewer of other peoples computer, similar to GoToMeeing but free.

BEWARE: Make sure you download these programs from their actual web site or a trusted site like CNet.  There are lots of hackers out there setting up fake versions of the populars free downloads with their own bad stuff on them.

I hope you can use some of these programs to life a little easier. 

From my family to yours I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
(Yes, we are geeks)


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Comfortably numb

I've been thinking about the user experience lately. And I've come to the conclusion: It's amazing what you can get used to.

Case in point. CET Changed the behavior of the Schemes dialog pop up box. It used to pop up in the upper right hand corner but now it remembers where it was last and pops up there. This is so much nicer. I forgot that it bugged me and I simply got used to it.

This happens to power users all the time. We find work arounds or just get used to it. But the bug is still there.

As a trainer and a power user I’m in a unique position to watch new users get frustrated by bugs that have long since stopped bugging me. This fresh perspective is something most of us gloss over.

A couple weeks ago I was training some designers who are dealing with very badly drawn furniture symbols.  They learned to deal with them by redrawing the symbols correctly. All this extra work because the people who drew the symbols originally haven't responded to their complaints. Like most of us, after a while you stop complaining and just deal with it.

My challenge to you is, UNITE.

You need to make yourself a thorn in the side of the software companies.That's what I do. A lot of times complaining to a huge company like Microsoft or AutoCAD makes you feel like you’re the only one not clapping at the end of a rock concert. Smaller companies are different. They tend to care about complaints. CET, CAP, ProjectMatrix, and others like them fall into this category.  

A lot of my students say they don't have time to report the little things but I say if we all complain a little, maybe they will fix it.

Every thing they fix is one less thing you have to remember when using the software. And that makes your job a tiny bit easier. All these tiny bits add up.

So instead of being numb to the weird idiosyncrasies, tell someone.  

If you don't know who to tell, tell me.

I'll tell them!  

Be thankful!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vegas Baby!

The CET User Conference in Las Vegas last week was excellent!  I saw a lot of old friends, met some new ones and learned some new tips as well!

One thing I can away with is I am more inspired than ever to learn SketchUp better. Aidan Chopra from Google SketchUp spoke and he was excellent.  I really see where it can work with CET but also with CAP & ProjectMatrix. With specials being so important it's nice to have a 3D drawing tool that I can use to create customs in, export to ACAD or CET and add intelligence and then render. I bought the Pro version last week for $500 to be able to import/export ACAD symbols but that seems like it will be worth it once I get good.  And it won't take me long to get good!  Three reasons:

  1. It's easy - my 9 year old son plays in it and he taught himself. I figure if he can I should be able to.
  2. There are loads of videos and tutorials online to help. 
  3. It's fun.  I find myself playing in it when I'm supposed to be doing something else.
I might use SketchUp for sketchy renderings too but I think my use will be mostly for specials.

Tip 2
Another great tip I got from the conference was to use Movie Maker for presentations.  Whether you are doing walk thoughs or just have renderings and text it was a FREE way to pull stuff together.  I downloaded it today and will check it out.  I am all about FREE software!  

Naturally it wasn't all about work - the food and the costume party were great. There were some very creative costumes. I'm not sure I want to see the photos! I had plenty to drink so I was at my BEST dancing! LOL

Thanks for reading,

Monday, October 24, 2011

Specials - blech

Specials seem to be the thorn in designers sides when they are doing projects.  How do you handle them?  There are lots of ways: add them to the spec, put a dummy symbol in the drawing, create the symbol in SketchUp, stretch it in AutoCAD, draw it from scratch, etc. Then you have to add intelligence to the symbol and each software has it's strengths and it's issues for doing that.

Some good news:
I've heard that CAP is coming out with some new tools for specials that will give you the ability to include specials in Visual Impressions.  VI is a great new tool but only for standard product, so adding that functionality will really help.  I haven't seen it yet - but as soon as I do I'll share it with you!

Other good news:
CET is updating the Editables extension to make it more user friendly. I like Editables, however, it has a lot of steps and buttons. CET has been getting feedback from users and incorporating them into the tool. Also, haven't seen it but I will this week at the CET User's Conference in Vegas.  I'll let you know what I find out.

By the way, let me know if there is a topic you'd like to hear about.  I'm happy to share what I know.

Have an excellent day,

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hardware. Finding the perfect little black dress.

I get the hardware question a lot.  What do I recommend? What do I have? What do I like?  It's a toughie.

First off, let me say I am not a hardware expert.  I ask a lot of questions from people I trust and do the best I can.  This is my take on that info.

It's a lot like getting a little black dress for a big event.

You could spend $500 at a boutique or find one on sale at a department store for $20.  The dress from the boutique may be a classic and you could wear it for years. I have a few of those - I gained weight and can't wear them, but also can't just donate or sell them at a garage sale because I spent so much on them.  So they take up space in my closet waiting for me to lose weight.  The dress from the department store may be cute at first but sometimes the cheap dresses don't last - sometimes they do - but often enough they lose their shape or fall apart. Sometimes it's a great deal, sometimes not.

So what we do is find the dress that we can afford but that we know will last and will be good for a long time. We find that comprise. 

The same thing with computers.  We need to find the one that is the best we can afford and that will last.  

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Your IT department - Do you have one? Do they really know what you do?  Are they responsive when you need help?
    If you have a great IT department you can trust them to get you what is best for you and what they like.  Make sure they know how your software works, that having a laptop designed for gaming doesn't mean you are a gamer.  If you don't have the best IT support you may need to stick to your guns about the hardware.  I have heard many designers tell me that the IT person didn't believe them when they said they needed a good graphic card and got a cheapie and the designers are paying for it with crashes and slow machines.  If you are your IT department then support from the manufacturer is going to be very important.
  • Laptop vs Desktop - Are you going to work from home/clients/Starbucks?
    A desktop computer can be upgraded and can have more power for less money.  However, with the graphical nature of our programs and the work anywhere attitude people have a laptop is much more practical, even a large heavy laptop is better than a desktop and a monitor if you want to work from home or do a quick presentation at the clients.
  • The brand of the other computers in your office.
    If your office has a contract with Dell you may get better pricing.  Or your IT person may have a good working relationship with someone. 
What do you need? 
The most important issue when getting a computer for designers today is getting the best graphic card you can afford.  My experience is get a Nvidia GeForce Graphics Card but there are lots of them so here is a chart to figure out if the one you are getting is as good as you can afford. 

The second most important is the hard drive, then getting plenty of ram to support that awesome graphic card.

What Brand
Just like dresses we all have our favorite brands.  I can't wear Ann Taylor because I'm just not thin enough but I know there are people out there that love her.

I don't have a favorite brand right now. It used to be Alienware when they were a boutique shop and they are still fine but then Dell  bought them and if I'm going to buy a Dell - I'll just buy a Dell.  Which I think is a good computer.

I wouldn't get an HP.  Rumor has it they are getting out of the hardware business and my experience has been a bit like getting the dress form the department store. Sometimes they are solid other times not so much.

I like Lenovo ThinkPad and the Thinkstation  but they are on the higher end of the price scale. You do get what you pay for and I have some clients that have them and are very happy.

Mac are right out.  Our software doesn't really run on them.  Oh well.

This is what I have right now:

Malibal P150H Lotus P150HM

  Display: 15.6" 1920 x 1080 FHD LED Backlit Glossy Display
  Processor: Intel® Core™ i7-2920XM, Extreme 8MB L3 Cache, 2.50-3.50GHz
  Memory: (12GB) 12288MB, PC3-10660/1333MHz DDR3 - 3 SO-DIMM
  Graphics Card: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 485M 2GB GDDR5
  Hard Drive: 160GB Intel® X25-M SATA II 3Gb/s SSD2 Drive

I got this laptop in June and I haven't been happy with it because I think I got a lemon.  My friend Jason at Configura loves Malibal and has over 20.  I have heard others say the same thing.  However, my experience with their customer service was bad.  They were unprofessional and unresponsive to my problem - blaming me for my hard drive crash.  I would only recommend them if you have an extremely good IT person.

Keep in mind, all of this could change in a minute because there is always something new. You are also going to want to get a new one in a couple years to keep up with all the new software that is going to come out!  Trust me, it won't stop.  I buy a new computer every 18 months - but that's pretty much my only business expense so you  may want to budget for every 2 to 3 years.

So, have I answered the question?  No, but I hope you can make a more informed decision now.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nifty new tab in ProjectSymbols for CET

There was a new release for CET and ProjectSymbols last month.  A huge improvement for ProjectSymbols was the new tab in the Layers dialog call Categories.

See, you can link the layers to categories that will be able to turn on and off when you plot!

And you can save them like layer sets.  It's very cool.  It's been needed for a long time and I'm happy to see it working in 2.6.

The release notes are a bit vague about this but once you start using it you will see why it is needed.

Hope this makes your work a bit easier!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Change the focus

Today I learned something new I wanted to share with a lot of people.  I emailed a couple people, chatted with another, I even told one over the phone.  When I told Dennis about it later he told me I should be blogging it.  What a brilliant idea!  I have a blog started - I've been sharing things about the Susan G. Komen 3Day for the Cure but I don't have much to post.  Why not change the focus?

So starting today.  I'll post tips, tricks, opinions, feedback or just plain information about the software I train and about the furniture industry.  I welcome feedback and interaction.  I don't claim to represent the software companies that I work with, just myself.  But I've been doing this for a long time and I've got a pretty good handle on what's going on.

So, let's see how this goes.  Tomorrow I'll give you a tip about ProjectSymbols!


Sunday, September 18, 2011


I did it!  My third 3 Day Walk!  60 miles through San Francisco, did you know that city is very hilly?  Oh, yes.  The route took us through the city, through Berkley & Oakland.  Then on the third we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Many of you don't know this but I am terrified of heights so this was actually a huge accomplishment for me.  Well, I held the hand rail the whole way and almost threw up at the end - but I did it.

Along the way I met so many caring people.  It's amazing to be part of a group of people like that, no one is mean!  I wish you could all experience it.  Every one helps each other, is friendly and even when exhausted will smile and crack a joke.  I also hear a lot of stories. But the best part was at the closing ceremonies when we heard that this particular event had raised almost $4 million to help fight the battle against breast cancer!  Then we raised our shoes to show the world that we would keep on walking, to do whatever it takes. I was in tears (honestly, I'm in tears now remembering it). If you ever get a chance to attend the closing ceremonies for one of the 3 Day walks you should go, it is amazing.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

4 Weeks till the 3 Day

Can you believe it?  4 weeks from today I will be flying to San Francisco to walk in the Susan G. Komen 3 Day Walk for the Cure. The time has flown by.

All my stuff will be in Ziploc and garbage bags in my husbands large gym bag ready for the camp.  I'll be wearing pink and eating plenty of pasta.  Then on Friday I'll be there by 6:30 in the morning when opening ceremonies start, along with around 2,000 other walkers, ready to walk 60 miles through SF. The next three days will be fun, entertaining, heart wrenching, and exhausting but in the end it will be so worth it.  I'm hoping for no blisters and a few new friends.

Can you tell I'm excited?  I'm excited to be part of something this big, that helps so many people.  Last year people walking in the 3 Day raised more than $77 million.  Did you know that most of the money raised goes towards breast cancer education and awareness? That's important because so many women don't know that they need to get checked or what to even look for.  If you can catch it early enough it can be cured.

So, once again I'm going to ask for money.  I haven't raised my $2,300 yet, but am very close.  Those of you that have already donated, thank you so much!!  I know many of you give to other causes and I respect that so I'm not asking you. But there are some of my friends who say, "Oh, right, I was going to donate." now is your chance.  :)

Help me help others. Everyone deserves a lifetime is the slogan of the 3 Day and mine is If not me, who? If not now, when?  I can walk, so I will.

Thank you for reading and for donating. 


PS Let me know if you want updates on my walk. I'll be texting family and can add you to the list!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Walking and technology

Recently I found three new apps for my phone and I love adding them to my walking time. I have a Droid and love it.  As I start doing more and more miles alone it's nice to have the distractions.

One is Endomondo.  It tracks distance and time walking - which a lot of apps do  - but what I like is it tells me when I've gone a mile and gives me my times.  Every mile after that it gives me my splits. The uploads to a web site.  The web site has lots of fun stuff - like how many times I've walked to the moon (none) and how many times I've walked around the world (.003 still a ways to go).

Another app I'm loving is my new podcast player called BeyondPod.  I can stream or download podcasts.  I like having them pre-downloaded then it doesn't seem to take as much of my battery life.  I'm catching up on all kinds of stuff.

The third app is a mobile version of GrooveShark, my favorite online music player, called TinyShark.  I have had so many problems with Pandora on my phone that I took it off and switched to this one.  Same concept except you can actually play the song you like.

One other addition to my phone isn't really an app but Dennis has been downloading audio books for me and I love listening to them from my phone.

Walking alone isn't boring any more!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Training Tip


This week I got an email from the 3 Day coaches saying I have 24 weeks until my walk with training and fundraising tips.  So I thought I'd share one with you:

Training Tip of the Week: Your Training Program
Training for an endurance event like the 3-Day involves three things:
  • Developing muscular strength and endurance
  • Building cardiovascular fitness
  • Experimenting with exercise gear, diet and fluids 
To be honest,  the one that I found the most challenging last year and the year before was getting the correct exercise gear (read: the right clothes)!  Getting shoes that don't give you blisters and shorts that don't creep up after 5 or 6 miles can be difficult as well as expensive.  The good news is I still have last years clothes so all I have to do is get walking.

So tonight - I start walking!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Change is in the air

It is time for me to start moving, in 6 months I'll walk my 60 miles in San Francisco but before that I'll walk many times that in training.  Although I exercise sporadically all the time, when I'm training I try to focus on increasing my endurance and calluses.  HA!

I also have to get my fundraising into gear. I've sent some emails and set up a fundraiser at Buffalo Wild Wings but I think I need to be a little more proactive.  I'll be reminding people to donate, talking about how they can help and explaining how this walk is helping women all over the world.

So, it's time for change, I need to get out of my winter hibernation and move.

I also think it's time for change in my personal life.  I feel like my work needs to shift but I'm not sure what that looks like yet. I know there is something I'm seeking I'm just not sure exactly what it is yet.  When I figure it out I'll let you know.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ready for 2011?


This September I'm going to walk 60 miles with about 3000 people in San Francisco to raise awareness and money in the fight against breast cancer.  We will each raise at least $2,300 and train for months to be ready.  Then very, very early on a Friday morning we will set out.  It will be an amazing experience, there will be laughing, crying, dancing, joking and lots of just plain talking.  I will make many new friends and hear many stories, some inspirational, many sad. After walking the first 20 miles we will be fed and entertained then camp in cute pink tents. We will all get up and do it two more days.  At the end we will have all stand together and raise a shoe to show that we walk for those who can't.  I promise you I will cry.

This is my third time walking and many people ask me why I walk, I don't have cancer. Well, I walk because I can. I have so many people in my life who have been hit by cancer, my mom, my sister-in-law, my aunt, my great-grandma, my friends, my ex. Most of them are survivors, a few lost the battle.  If we could find a way to cure or prevent cancer my son won't be saying the same thing when he is my age. So I am going to do what I can

  • Breast Cancer Fact: Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and is the leading cause of death among women worldwide.

Today the 5-year survival rate for all women diagnosed with breast cancer is 89 percent. This means that 89 out of every 100 women with breast cancer will survive for at least five years. Most will live a full life and never have a recurrence. Your chances of survival are better if the cancer is detected early, before it spreads to other parts of your body. In fact, when breast cancer is found early and confined to the breast, the 5-year survival rate is 98 percent. That is why it is so important to take steps to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages

With the help of the Susan G. Komen foundation more women around the world are getting checked earlier and lives are being saved.

Today I start my fundraising.  I need you to help me get to the $2,800 goal I've set. 
Go to  and click on the Donate button.  Together we can make a world without cancer.

I'm going to walk because I can't walk away.