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techdirections October 2013 : Page 26

Cutting-Edge Technology Cloud-Based CAD Offers Collaboration and Engagement By Mark Schwendau schwendau@aol.com T WO of the biggest chal-lenges associated with being a technical educa-tor today are to remain current with today’s technology and fully engage today’s students. Developing lessons to teach collaborative design in cloud computing can address both of these challenges. Background on the Cloud For those in need of a brief definition of cloud computing, “the cloud” is essentially the Internet. Cloud computing usually involves uploading data to the cloud (a server somewhere in the world) and making use of an online plug-in application where parts of it reside with the host server, while other parts of it are temporarily downloaded to the user’s computer. Several years ago, the Autodesk Corporation released AutoCAD WS (Work Space) in both mobile appli-cations and a web application. The apps are programmed independent of one another, but they offer similar capabilities. A little later Autodesk added online capabilities to its very popular AutoCAD software with a menu option to go “Online.” AutoCAD WS now appears to be on its way to being phased out for AutoCAD 360, but Autodesk has not made a formal announcement about this. For this reason, I will be discussing both of these web-based Mark Schwendau is a technology instructor, Kishwaukee College, Malta, IL. applications together as AutoCAD WS/360. I suggest that those wishing to dig deeper in this topic conduct their research using the search term “AutoCAD 360.” Autodesk allows people around the world to accomplish a multitude of tasks such as sharing a drawing session to view, edit, and chat about, then save at the conclusion of the collaboration. The AutoCAD WS/360 programs are similar to the free DWF file viewers Autodesk released previ-ously known as WHIP, now known as Autodesk Design Review. But Auto-CAD WS/360 offers three important differences: O It is cloud-based computing, meaning the program and drawing are in the cloud. O Multiple persons can interact with the drawing and each other in real time. O It opens, edits, and saves, both DWG and DXF files. Users do not need to own or use the AutoCAD program to use Auto-CAD WS/360, but with Autodesk now making many of its product offerings available free to students, it is logical for students to make full use of the program and application together. Any program that can generate a DWG or DXF file can make use of the AutoCAD WS/360 app for data shar-ing and collaboration. making use of the web app ActiveX, activation for Adobe Flash Player 9.124 or higher with JavaScript cook-ies enabled are requirements. The AutoCAD WS/360 web app is compat-ible with all major web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome. To make use of the mobile apps to upload or download drawings and collaborate requires a 3G or 4G cel-lular phone with either Android or iOS operating systems with mobile Internet access. Unlike the web app, the mobile app will allow you to work standalone without the collabora-tion ability and it works with 3D CAD models. Setting Up an Account Setting up a free user account in the AutoCAD WS/360 cloud couldn’t be more simple. You go to the Internet web address https:// www.AutoCAD360.com and open a free account by giving some very basic identification information and agreeing to a user agreement. Much like social networking accounts used today, your screen name login is your email address, while your password is personally set by you for the Auto-CAD WS/360 website. First Impressions Collaborative cloud sessions are usually initiated by an email invita-tion unless you happen to have the application open when somebody shares a drawing with you—in which case it pops up in the Drawing folder area. You can either click on the link in the email sent to you or click on System Requirements The hardware requirements for this app are not as demanding as those of most higher-end CAD pro-grams, but a high speed Internet connection is required. For those 26 tech directions X OCTOBER 2013

Cutting-Edge Technology—Cloud-Based CAD Offers Collaboration and Engagement

Mark Schwendau

<br /> TWO of the biggest challenges associated with being a technical educator today are to remain current with today’s technology and fully engage today’s students. Developing lessons to teach collaborative design in cloud computing can address both of these challenges.<br /> <br /> Background on the Cloud<br /> For those in need of a brief definition of cloud computing, “the cloud” is essentially the Internet. Cloud computing usually involves uploading data to the cloud (a server somewhere in the world) and making use of an online plug-in application where parts of it reside with the host server, while other parts of it are temporarily downloaded to the user’s computer.<br /> <br /> Several years ago, the Autodesk Corporation released AutoCAD WS (Work Space) in both mobile applications and a web application. The apps are programmed independent of one another, but they offer similar capabilities. A little later Autodesk added online capabilities to its very popular AutoCAD software with a menu option to go “Online.”<br /> <br /> AutoCAD WS now appears to be on its way to being phased out for AutoCAD 360, but Autodesk has not made a formal announcement about this. For this reason, I will be discussing both of these web-based applications together as AutoCAD WS/360. I suggest that those wishing to dig deeper in this topic conduct their research using the search term “AutoCAD 360.”<br /> <br /> Autodesk allows people around the world to accomplish a multitude of tasks such as sharing a drawing session to view, edit, and chat about, then save at the conclusion of the collaboration. The AutoCAD WS/360 programs are similar to the free DWF file viewers Autodesk released previously known as WHIP, now known as Autodesk Design Review. But Auto- CAD WS/360 offers three important differences:<br /> <br /> -It is cloud-based computing, meaning the program and drawing are in the cloud.<br /> -Multiple persons can interact with the drawing and each other in real time.<br /> -It opens, edits, and saves, both DWG and DXF files.<br /> <br /> Users do not need to own or use the AutoCAD program to use Auto- CAD WS/360, but with Autodesk now making many of its product offerings available free to students, it is logical for students to make full use of the program and application together. Any program that can generate a DWG or DXF file can make use of the AutoCAD WS/360 app for data sharing and collaboration.<br /> <br /> System Requirements<br /> The hardware requirements for this app are not as demanding as those of most higher-end CAD programs, but a high speed Internet connection is required. For those making use of the web app ActiveX, activation for Adobe Flash Player 9.124 or higher with JavaScript cookies enabled are requirements. The AutoCAD WS/360 web app is compatible with all major web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome.<br /> <br /> To make use of the mobile apps to upload or download drawings and collaborate requires a 3G or 4G cellular phone with either Android or iOS operating systems with mobile Internet access. Unlike the web app, the mobile app will allow you to work standalone without the collaboration ability and it works with 3D CAD models.<br /> <br /> Setting Up an Account<br /> Setting up a free user account in the AutoCAD WS/360 cloud couldn’t be more simple. You go to the Internet web address https:// www.AutoCAD360.com and open a free account by giving some very basic identification information and agreeing to a user agreement. Much like social networking accounts used today, your screen name login is your email address, while your password is personally set by you for the Auto- CAD WS/360 website.<br /> <br /> First Impressions<br /> Collaborative cloud sessions are usually initiated by an email invitation unless you happen to have the application open when somebody shares a drawing with you—in which case it pops up in the Drawing folder area. You can either click on the link in the email sent to you or click on the drawing file in the Drawing folder area of the application to begin a session.<br /> <br /> I was really impressed by the user interface and instantly felt “at home” because of my background in CAD. (See Fig. 1.) Having had the summer off, I did not make use of my AutoCAD WS cloud account. Coming back to check on developments since last spring, I noticed I now log into AutoCAD 360 but can migrate between AutoCAD 360 and AutoCAD WS. It appears you now have to enter AutoCAD WS by way of AutoCAD 360’s interface. All of my drawings can be accessed from either application since both apps can access my Autodesk cloud account.<br /> <br /> One thing new users to AutoCAD 360 will notice right away is that, while you can “draw” in your previously created DWG/DXF drawing file, you lack abilities to precisely locate geometry by acclimating yourself to the Cartesian plane of coordinates (no coordinate dial). Also, keying in coordinate values is not an option. All coordinate entry involves using your mouse and screen cursor. Using the few object snaps (OSnaps) available in AutoCAD 360, along with Ortho Snap turned on, I did determine that you can key in direct distances to 90° increments.<br /> <br /> I immediately noticed that the input entry method was the big drawback of the application. The new beta release of Auto- CAD 360 offers a heads up distance display and a highlighted cursor to offer feedback of locking in every 45°.<br /> <br /> The biggest plus was seeing all kinds of mouse cursor arrows all over my drawing editor screen with all of my student’s names attached to them! The built-in chat capabilities had us giddy with excitement after our first cloud collaboration. We felt like pioneers looking into the future. Thank you for that, Autodesk!<br /> <br /> Cloud Size Limits<br /> Like any CAD designer, one of the thoughts I immediately had during my first cloud-based CAD collaboration session was, “I wonder what the size limits are to this cloud both in terms of my free account folder and individual drawing sessions in the application?” It took me some time to determine the answers, but when I did, both answers had me dropping my jaw. The size limit of a drawing in the cloud is currently set to 10 MB, a very respectable limit for the most complex of CAD drawings. There is a Pro Version that ups that size to 30 MB for the extra charge. The size limit of each individual user’s account in the cloud is 5 GB for free users and 25 GB for paying Pro Version users.<br /> <br /> Version Numbers and Capabilities<br /> It is important to note that, as of this writing, the versions we worked under last spring were 1.2 for the web application, a strictly 2D version, and 1.4 for the mobile application, a 2D/3D application version. But Autodesk promises a 3D version for those not using Apple Macs, iPads, iPhones, as well as Androids is coming soon. Back at school this fall, I began using AutoCAD 360 version 2.1.<br /> <br /> For capabilities overall, AutoCAD 360 allows users to:<br /> -Upload DWG/DXF files directly from AutoCAD software to an online workspace.<br /> -Work on DWG/DXF files offline without a 3G or Wi-Fi connection from a mobile device.<br /> -Open DWG/DXF files that have been sent as email attachments directly into AutoCAD 360.<br /> -View and edit DWG/DXF files from anywhere using just a web browser or mobile device.<br /> -Invite design team members to review and edit DWG/DXF files online, with no software required.<br /> -Allow multiple people to work on the same DWG/DXF file online, in real time.<br /> -Record changes to designs in a timeline for revision control and auditing.<br /> -Store DWG/DXF files online for off-site storage.<br /> -View raster file formats such as BMP, GIF, JPG, PNG, and TIF.<br /> <br /> The new mobile app version allows global orbiting of 3D CAD models as well as GPS global positioning.<br /> <br /> Security and Legal Issues<br /> Those planning to use AutoCAD WS/360 would be well advised to read and download the user agreement and share it with others for their thoughts and opinions. Like any new technology, cloud computing offers a plethora of new legal issues.<br /> <br /> Most CAD designers appreciate and make use of off-site data storage, but the security of Autodesk’s fast servers in some mysterious distant place would be beyond an end user’s control. Also, it is ironic that for years many serious CAD educators have taught the value of isolating CAD workstations from the Internet for security reasons. Now, we find one of our major software providers pushing us in the opposite direction.<br /> <br /> Another thought I had on this security issue is that not all countries adhere to our laws and code of conduct related to copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. Some might argue that whatever country the cloud is floating over (i.e., the server is based in) would have the laws of that locale in force there.<br /> <br /> As far as the application program itself goes, AutoCAD WS/360 offers four levels of sharing security:<br /> -Edit and download—Allows the collaborator full permissions of the session with all who contribute retaining a marked-up copy from the collaboration.<br /> -Edit only—Allows the collaborator to mark up a shared drawing with the originator retaining it, while no one else does.<br /> -Download only—Allows the collaborator to have the drawing without marking it up. The collaborator can watch the originator of the sharing session mark up the drawing.<br /> -View only—Allows the collaborator to mark up the drawing without retaining his or her modifications.<br /> <br /> Learning Activities<br /> My immediate use of AutoCAD WS/360 was in a higher-level mechanical drafting and design course that included a team collaborative learning assignment. An assembly of a mechanical object, such as a machinist’s vise or wheel puller, is assigned and each student has to solid model a part to contribute to the whole. A team leader is responsible for the integration of the parts as a finished drawing consisting of individual detail views, a bill of materials, and drawing assembly of the product.<br /> <br /> Another learning activity I am working on involves situations in which we have people visit to see our CAD program. For this population, I hope to have some form of drafting puzzle like a missing line problem in which our guests will have to complete the lines of the orthographic views in collaboration without talking.<br /> <br /> The way I see it, as educators, when it comes to making up new learning activities to enforce this new CAD tool, we are only limited by our imaginations. I hope to get some ideas for future learning activities from Autodesk Labs.<br /> <br /> Final Thoughts<br /> While 30-year-old Autodesk now boasts some 12 million licensed users of its products around the world, it only took two years for some 7 million people to find their way to AutoCAD WS/360 where they now upload an average of 300,000 drawings per week. Some critics call cloud computing a fad, but I think they are dead wrong. The ability to communicate and collaborate over long distance, graphically, is a tool of the highest value—one of the greatest achievements since the development of computer-aided design (CAD) itself.<br /> <br /> What I am not comfortable with is a goal that an Autodesk sales representative told me many years ago: “Autodesk would like to move all of its product line to web-based applications [now known as cloud computing] to eliminate product theft.” Call me old fashioned, but I still highly value buying software in a box that comes with, at the minimum, printed installation instructions, printed troubleshooting instructions, a list of commands and capabilities, and contact information to talk to a real person if I should get stumped.<br /> <br /> I recently had a cloud computing experience in which my virus protection program on my home computer placed red dots with white exclamation marks on every data screen icon on my computer desktop. It took me a half hour of searching the Internet to determine the source of the problem and another half hour for the software maker I have a yearly subscription with to remotely take control of my computer to unload and reload my virus protection program.<br /> <br /> This help person was in a foreign country, which did not concern me as much as a question that came to mind when she was half-way through: “I wonder what would happen if I lost my Internet connection right now?” My fear was legitimate as my service provider had interrupted my Internet connection just the week before and I was without service for almost half a day without prior warning or later explanation!<br /> <br /> All of the electronic geeks who sing the praises of new technologies being offered remotely would do well to remember two old adages:<br /> <br /> “Nothing worthwhile in this world ever comes for free.”<br /> <br /> “Anything that can go wrong, will.”<br /> <br /> Mark Schwendau is a technology instructor, Kishwaukee College, Malta, IL.

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