Cadalyst salutes noteworthy new hardware and software.
Once again it's time for Cadalyst's semiannual awards gala, in which we recognize the top products we've seen in the past six months. The All-Star awards salute the best of the best-the most outstanding among all products that earned five-star Highly Recommended ratings from Cadalyst Labs.
The Editors' Wow! awards come from the much larger pool of products introduced or upgraded during the first six months of the year. This is an opportunity to highlight products that appear in the online Product Showcase as well as those we see at industry events. We base our selections primarily on the Wow! factor: Is the product innovative? Distinctive compared with others on the market? Does it solve problems creatively?
If there's a theme to this year's intriguing new products, it's knowledge capture or management. Before you can reuse data, you must first capture it, then be able to find it when there's an opportunity to use it again. In addition, many thousands of engineers are expected to retire in the next decade, taking with them centuries of accumulated knowledge and experience.
Hewlett-Packard L2035 LCD display
Reviewed February 2004, p. 17
In this 20.1" display, HP managed to combine both the fastest response time and lowest price of any monitor in our roundup review (the Dell UltraSharp 2001FP did match the response time). Response time is the rough LCD equivalent to the refresh rate reported for CRT monitors. It measures how many frames can be displayed per second. A slow response time manifests itself in ghosting and choppiness when viewing videos and animations. The unit performed flawlessly in our image testing. Another nice touch is the integrated power supply, which, along with the thin bezel on all four sides of the screen, makes it easy to tile multiple monitors.
The three top systems in our single-processor workstation roundup cluster so closely on the price/performance chart that we can't really single one out as superior. The three finished neck-and-neck on the performance benchmarks, with perennial performance leader @Xi Computers placing 0.4 of a point ahead of second-place Velocity Micro. There's a $600 difference between the high (Polywell, $4,399) and the low (@Xi, $3,749) prices. Interestingly, all three workstations use different processors, but the same graphics card (NVIDIA Quadro FX 3000). The @Xi uses a 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4 chip, while the Velocity Micro incorporates the more expensive 3.2GHz Pentium 4 Extreme processor. Polywell uses the Athlon64 FX-51 processor from AMD.
As in the March workstation review, we have a cluster of Highly Recommended units, but in this case all but one come from the same vendor. Consequently, Contex earns all-star honors for its scanning technology as seen in two of its 36" models-the PREMIER TX and COUGAR TX-and in reseller IDEAL.com's MAGNUM XL, which accommodates originals up to 52" wide. All units quickly produced high-quality scans. They vary in price, color capability, optical resolution, and software options.
Who'd have thought that after 20-odd years of development, Autodesk could come up with something as dramatically different as the new sheet set functionality found in AutoCAD 2005? Though you'll find plenty of drawing improvements in this new release, its most significant addition are powerful file management tools based on the sheet set paradigm already familiar to most design firms. A side benefit is increased ability to set and enforce drawing standards.
KollabNet is a new product, currently in beta testing, designed for what Igal Kaptsan, vice-president of product engineering, calls "knowledge accounting." It captures design requirements and best practices through links to spreadsheets, Word documents, and CAD models. Changes to one of the linked documents automatically reflect throughout the KollabNet DesignMap, which resembles a flowchart that captures relationships among the various elements of a design. You can save design variants for future reference. Supported CAD applications include CATIA, SolidWorks, and Inventor.
Product Sight calls its FindView products a manufacturing search engine that can search files for data such as part numbers, text, and dimensions. Its SyncroSpec product manages and controls the process of product development, revision control, bills of materials, and production. These products operate on top of your existing intranet. Users can manage data and files as though they reside in a single location, even though they actually come from a variety of sources across the network. More than 200 file formats are supported. Product Sight's Bruce Winegarden says the products provide PLM functionality without the need to index and vault your documents. Deployment takes as little as three days. The product is sold as a server with database.
TechSmith's Camtasia Studio 2 ($299) is a versatile screen-recording and production package that produces highly compressed, high-fidelity Macromedia Flash and streaming media output. You can use it to create application demonstrations, software simulations, and video tutorials. Camtasia Studio records in real time, making it possible to record all onscreen action from any CAD application. Its reasonable price makes it feasible for a company to create its own custom e-learning modules. Camtasia Studio also provides editing tools that help you combine audio and video files into video presentations. TechSmith also offers SnagIt 7 ($39.95), a screen-capture utility.
InterSpec's e-SPECS automates the drudgery of preparing construction specifications. It's a harbinger of the kind of downstream automation promised by intelligent object-based CAD software. E-SPECS extracts product and material requirements from AutoCAD, Architectural Desktop, and now Revit drawings. It scans the text in a document and creates a dictionary of items that are then linked to specifications. You can link to existing office masters or create new ones. E-SPECS can help find products that meet your specifications through a built-in browser that lists relevant manufacturers. InterSpec also offers a spec-writing service using its technology.
Anzwerz is a broadly applicable Web-based information management system that can be used to organize project and design documentation. The hosted solution is designed to be a less costly alternative to traditional document management systems. Users can enter natural-language questions, and Anzwerz searches designated databases for material that matches. New questions are routed to specified experts, and their replies become part of the database for future reference. Reporting tools provide information on most frequently asked questions, response rate, and return on investment.
Baren-Boym offers ShapeWorks, an attractively priced add-on for creating NURBS surfaces inside SolidWorks. You can import 3D DXF, 3DS, ASC, RAW, OBJ, and LWO files, as well as point-cloud data in text format. ShapeWorks includes free-form surfacing tools that let you change an object's shape simply by pulling on it.
AimaSoft, a longtime Autodesk developer, showed an intriguing new product called EntraLink at SolidWorks World. Unlike client PDM (product data management) applications, it automates interoperability between CAD software and enterprise applications such as ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relations management), accounting, and even existing PDM products. Its underlying database stores a unified dataset accessible by engineering, sales, accounting, and other departments. EntraLink features a simple, customizable interface, including a dashboard that provides real-time access to data. It also works with legacy data. A taxonomy engine lets you search metadata. Aimasoft says the product eliminates duplicate data entry and synchronization headaches. Starting price is $25,000, which includes five days of implementation training.
HP's Performance Tuning Framework is like having your own desktop IT person. It analyzes the hardware and software configuration of an HP workstation to ensure that it's set up for stable and reliable operation. The tool accesses an online database of driver information to make sure the most recent certified versions are installed. The Performance Tuning Framework supports Inventor, I-deas, Pro/ENGINEER, CATIA, Unigraphics, SolidWorks, and 3ds max. The free tool works only on HP workstations and comes loaded on all new units sold.