70% off AutoCAD Civil3D Software

I love deals.

And I’ve just found a way to get AutoCAD Civil3D 2008 for up to 70% off. From now until the middle of October 2008, if you own a copy of AutoCAD LT 2005-2008, get an upgrade to any of the following AutoCAD software titles for really cheap.

As an AutoCAD LT? 2005-2008* software user, you now have more ways to create, visualize, document and share your ideas faster and easier than ever before. It?s time to make the move to AutoCAD? 2008 or better still, to one of Autodesk’s industry-specific applications. At these prices, choosing will be the hard part.

ESMCAD – Promo Detail

Choose which solution works best for you:


Google Apps For UrbanWorkbench

I recently changed servers and hosts from Siteground to HostPapa, (who have been extremely helpful!). While making this change, I’ve also moved my email etc. to Google Apps for My Domain, ie for UrbanWorkbench.com

For those of you who have no idea what this means, well, now I’m able to read my email to the urbanworkbench.com domain natively in the Google gmail interface. My previous solution was what a lot of people use, which is reading and writing emails in gmail on behalf of other domains. But email programs like Outlook were displaying this as “on behalf of”, so people receiving your emails now knew another one of your email addresses. Not the best solution for business!

I use gmail because the interface and workflow is excellent, it integrates well with a calendar that sends me messages on my mobile phone to remind me of appointments, and I can read and write documents and spreadsheets online in the Google documents application. Other benefits to the Google Apps for Your Domain is that you can easily share calendars and documents between email address holders of the same domain name. Doesn’t matter where you are, it’s all natively part of the one suite of applications. There is also a chat function, I’d like to know if anyone else uses Google talk, or for that matter, what chat software you do prefer.

As part of the host transfer I have lost a few registered users, send me an email if your account was affected, or if you have any other problems.

Voice Recognition Software

I’ve been recently suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and am attempting to fins ways to minimize my mouse usage, which is tough when you spend most of your day at a computer. I’m getting better at keyboard shortcuts in many programs, but I’d really like to try out some voice recognition software, but I’m not sure if it is compatible or customizable to individual commands within specialized software, (like my stormwater modeling program). Has anyone tried Dragon Naturally Speaking? It sees to be the best of the bunch, and would be pretty good for writing documents and proposals.

Protect your hands, your wrists, even your eyes and create documents faster by voice than you can by typing with Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 from Nuance.

I achieved a voice transcription rate of 160 words per minute with Dragon Naturally Speaking 9.

Dragon Naturally Speaking 9

I’d love to hear from anyone with some experience with the product or it’s equivalents!

pMetrics Up Again

Update: Following this post at performancing.com, I’ve extended this quick and dirty post into a review of the service.

Do you have a blog? Do you know who’s visiting and what they are viewing and downloading from your site? If you don’t, or the software you are using isn’t working for you, check out pMetrics.

Yes pMetrics is back up and running. I’ve just reinstalled the script and will be removing the Google Analytics one, cause this is waaaay better. They also have a premium version of the service that is well worth $15 a year.

pMetrics Blog Analytics Now Available! | Performancing.com

Performancing is pleased to announce the re-release of pMetrics blog analytics. In its current state, pMetrics is a simple, clean, “chock-full-of-features” stats program, specifically targeted for blogs.

For the discerning consumers, check out the learn more link. But from me, here is a quick run down of my favorite features. 


  • Spy. This is a realtime scrolling list of the most recent activity on your blog, I set it up in my firefox sidebar, (hint to performancing.com, the format could be improved for this usage, but it is still very cool to watch the visitors roll in and follow their tracks).
  • The ability to ignore your own IP address or computer, as mentioned in the comments by SEOGuru.
  • The feeds are cool, especially the ability to send yourself reminders of what search terms people are using to get you your pages.
  • The integration with the google maps API is very cool, way better than Googles own analytics package, go figure?
  • An affiliate program, not that it will earn you much unless you get heaps of clicks through and premium signups, but for some people that is a possible incentive.
  • There are more things in the works too, like Ajax goodness and the ability to export data.

What more can I say, but get over to pMetrics, sign up if you’re not already on board, and get the best metrics package currently available!

Redesigning Civil Design Software

On Monday I featured a new type of interface being developed which adds a much more hands on approach to design, but what about the software that we use to design our subdivisions, can we make that more hands on too?

My guess is that as hardware and graphics improves, our software should also, and having worked extensively in Australia with the 12D software, I can vouch for the interface and resulting speed of design that is evident in that software.

Interface and Usability


The mainstay for most civil engineering projects in North America is Civil3D by AutoDesk, the makers of AutoCAD. The market is so heavily dominated by this product, with a smaller showing from Microstation by Bentley, that it feels like innovation in the software usability has gone out the window.

Trying to be everything for everyone, the interface in Civil3D is crowded and clunky, with too many commands and choices at each point in the design. Fortunately, many of the current technicians working in the software are extremely adept at weaving through the maze of choices and producing a stellar result, relatively quickly.

So what would I do to improve the interface?

Firstly, I’d say that there is lots to like about the AutoCAD interface, it’s just not well transfered to the Civil3D interface. With the number of panels that are required to be open for maximum usability, I’d suggest that any full time user of Civil3D has dual monitors, yes you can get your boss to read this if you want support for your request! Given the base of the software, I think this is a reality of how much information is required or can be viewed on the screen at any time during the design.

Civil3D needs some simplifying of the design process, to keep the design fluid long enough for the client and designers to come to an agreement as to what the design should look like, without investing too much time, money or energy.
One of the great things in AutoCAD 2006 was the tooltip interface that reduced the need for text input boxes. Having a similar interface for various elements of the design in Civil3D would be helpful.


AutoCAD needs to invest a lot of time in analyzing the mouse movements and clicks of the average versus the power user. An interface which minimizes options and lessens the need for additional mouse movement and clicks is high on my wishlist. If you watn t track how many key strokes, clicks and meters traveled with your mouse,download this simple little program, Workrave, that will tell you to take breaks at defined intervals to reduce the risk of computer related workplace injuries, check out your statistics after a hard day at the computer, you’ll be surprised art how far your hand has traveled.

For designers who spend more and more time in front of a keyboard and monitor, simplifying the tasks required to design a straight forward subdivision in Civil3D should be high on AutoCAD’s list of priorities.

Do I think users would have a case for compensation if diagnosed with RSI? I’m no lawyer, but manufacturers of any product can be held responsible for the health and safety of the users of their product, so why not software? Read more after the jump….

New Technology in the Civil Design Process


One of the great difficulties in being a creative-minded Civil Engineer is the limitations imposed by convention, drawing standards and, of course, the tools used to produce drawings. The change over from hand-drawn masterpieces to multiple revisions of average work has taken a toll on the creativity of the industry. Average subdivisions are being output by average engineering departments on a daily basis, pushed by the whims of a client and a push for more detailed designs with higher accuracy at an earlier stage of design, to satisfy the departments and municipalities that nothing could go wrong, as if that were really a possibility!

Planners are often at the front end of design, and are having to get caught up in technology, as the detailed design process gets driven further and further to the front end, at the conceptual stage.

Plan It Autodesk

Land planners need to effectively communicate their design intent in a digital environment without losing the creativity afforded them by their colored pencils and trace paper. After nearly 30 years of PC-based drawing automation this issue remains as one of the clear dividing lines between artist and engineer.

subdivisionSo what do you do as an Engineer or designer? Can you be proud of how drawings look as well as the content they contain? Many clients today need drawings to convey some emotion, either to convince non-technical staff in municipalities, or even as a type of sales plan to prospective buyers. Traditionally, planners have done these conceptual drawings by hand, and many still do. Is Autocad being adopted for this purpose in your business? In a couple of days I’m going to review some software by Autodesk that may be the answer for many professionals wanting the “hand-drawn” look for some drawings, but with a truly technical basis for the design.

On another note from the same link above, technology as seen in this short video may be the solution, (advertisement runs for a few seconds first). With massive improvements in graphics, speed and intuitive whole of body navigation, many tasks relegated to the desktop can now be performed at the wall level.

After viewing the video, do you see any benefit in this technology for your workflow, design, CAD and GIS processes? I can see things might be a bit more fun and interactive, maybe this is how people felt when they could move a mouse around the screen for the first time.

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Ignore Vista

OndraSoukup - Some Rights Reserved When issuing a new product, supposedly an upgrade on what existing users are dealing with, you’d hope for a better public notice from what one would assume to be a publicly trusted user. BECTA, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, than this:

The overall advice on Vista was even worse, from Microsoft’s perspective. “Early deployment is considered extremely high risk and strongly recommended against,” Becta stated. “On the basis of current understanding, the total cost of deployment is significant, the risks are high, and the benefits are far from clear.

Source: UK government agency tells schools to ignore Vista – Computer Business Review

Perhaps the Western English speaking world is coming around to the fact that Microsoft dominance does not have to be a way of life. Could there be room for OpenOffice or Linux in the future of western business computing? Will the existing hang ups with Open Source software dissolve as the choices become clearer?


I’m getting a new computer at work this week, do I get Vista or not? What should the average user do or the webworker without an IT department do?

Drupal 5.0 Upgrade In Progress

As I’m always up for a challenge, with the recent release of Drupal 5.0 I’ve attacked the site, so now it looks quite different.  Be prepared for some changes over the next couple of weeks as colours, themes and layout get tweaked.  The only part that I’ve found that is genuinely broken is the inclusion of a field [block:adsense=0] in place of an ad, but I’ll get around to fixing that over the next couple of days.

Thanks for your patience, and if there’s anything you notice that is obviously busted, drop me a line with the contact form, or leave me a comment. Thanks again!