Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My New Home Is Ready!

I know I've been a bit of a blogging nomad for the past year, thanks for sticking with me! My new digs- an Offical Autodesk Blog- are finally ready, so I will be posting over there a minimum of 3X per week from this point forward. Civil 3D Rocks will stay here as a repository for the old reference material.

I am very excited about this- we'll mix Civil 3D technical information, previews, tricks, with relevant Civil 3D Industry information, photos and updates from conferences and user groups, and general good times. I hope you will join me- I feel like I am getting my voice back after a year or so of relative silence!

The new blog is called BIM on the Rocks. See you there! (And of course, you can always find me on twitter

You can subscribe using this link: BIM on the Rocks Feed

Or from the website, click the RSS Feed icon.


If you are used to getting Civil 3D Rocks in your email, use the above link then in the next window, choose the "Get BIM on the Rocks delivered by email"


If you are unfamiliar with reading blogs and other frequently updated webpages, watch this short video on how you can make it easier to keep up to date.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Learn more about the coming release- get involved in Beta!

I've been quiet- yes- but the good news is that my permanent Autodesk branded blog home is almost ready! I get my training tomorrow on how to use the site, and soon I will be back to bothering you a minimum of 3X per week! I know you are excited. The timing is perfect- just in time for the coming release!

Jack has some information over at From the Ground Up about how to sign up for the last phase of our beta program. Please check it out!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Want to See AutoCAD 2010? Watch the recording of yesterday's press conference!

Yesterday, Autodesk announced some key features in the upcoming release.

As Brian over at Being Civil posted, the recorded video can be watched here: AutoCAD 2010 Product Launch.

Also be sure to download the Press Materials. There is more than just information about AutoCAD in there- all of the platform products (AutoCAD MEP 2010, AutoCAD Architecture 2010, AutoCAD Civil 2010) have bits in the press kit as well.

Today will be the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) event, so check the site later today for information about the Revit family, Civil 3D and others!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!!!

When I first watched this adorable little cartoon, I thought it was cute. Then I realized, its a storyboard for my next AEC Keynote presentation!



Friday, January 09, 2009

Civil Structures with Revit Structure Webcast 1-27-09

If you had a chance to see or watch the AEC Keynote Presentation at Autodesk University, you might have been excited to see some of the bridge modeling tools for Revit Structure. If you missed the presentation, it is available for viewing. Get the link to watch the AEC Keynote here.

Scott Hammond will be doing a webcast on these tools on January 27, 2009 at 10AM PST.

Register for Civil Structures with Revit Structure 2009 here

Also note there are some great archived webcasts listed at that link including:

Getting Up and Going with Revit Structure 2009: From Pilot to Production
Revit Structure Best Practices: Concrete Structures
Revit Structure Best Practices: Steel Structures
Revit Structure and AutoCAD: Which tool is right for you?
Revit Structure: Analysis Showcase

Friday Whetstone 1-9-09

Just a few quick things I wanted to share as we get rolling in this new year...

Last year I made a few New Year's Resolutions. Here is a status update on how I did.

  1. I let my subscription to National Geographic lapse, so I no longer have this problem. CHECK!
  2. I kicked the cookie dough habit, and picked up a cheeto habit to replace it. CHECK!
  3. I submitted three. Once got accepted, I was asked to repeat it. So I did two classes, but they were the same. (And it was based on last year's material, so it didn't take that much time to prepare.) semi-CHECK!
  4. It became exhausting to buy anything, and I gave away half of the other stuff in my attic because I just couldn't deal with it anymore. Though I do admit to buying new gloves because the old ones were packed away somewhere that I could not find. NO CHECK!
  5. I used to have a 4 cup coffee maker. Now I have a 12 cup coffee maker. So I still make 4 cups, but its not a full pot. CHECK! Cheating? Maybe.
  6. Panorama is waaay to smart to let me get away with this anymore. CHECK!
  7. While I may not read a book every month, some months I'll read two books. I also count watching episodes of "House" and any Clive Cussler novel movie as reading a smart book. CHECK!
  8. I applied for the P.E. last year. Some of my experience letters didn't come back in time for the October exam, but 4.8 years worth are in the hands of the DAPE right now. There is another 1.1 years out there I am hoping gets signed for in the next few weeks. So April is looking like it might be a winner. Cross your fingers.

This year, my biggest resolution is to rediscover my inner athlete. Secondly, I'm always looking to continue to learn and grow. I've tweaked my list of daily blog reading to include a wider variety of sites- not just CAD and Civil 3D, but industry sites, travel, education, and fun.

One thing I wanted to share with you is this little video about RSS and reading blogs on feed. I've mentioned this before, but it came up again this weekend when my Dad asked what feeds were. If you like reading blogs, but are frustrated by having to check lots of websites and missing new things, watch this little video. Also, if you are already feed reader savvy, share this video with your friends who aren't.

For some more information and a somewhat dated list of blogs that I read, check out this post: Read What Dana Reads.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Interchange as Art?

It's been busy around here- deadlines butting up against the Autodesk "Week of Rest", the post AU catch up frenzy, my design class coming to an end, oh yeah, and that whole Christmas thing.

We'll get back into some hard core Civil 3D tech once I drink a few egg nogs next week.

In the meantime, if you needed some artwork for your Holiday Greetings this year, one of these just might fit the bill.

These drawings came from looking at an aerial of spaghetti junction immediately after I hit my head on the sink while standing on the toilet to hang a clock.

Dana Probert Week 6 Assn 1-more ideas

Here is the one that I wound up turning in.

Dana Probert Week 6 Assn 1

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Whetstone 12-12-2008

I don't think I am the only geek in the CAD universe who celebrates the new year on the day I return from Las Vegas. Everything we work on comes to its apex during AU. There hasn't been a year yet that I don't sit in McCarran and scribble down my "AU Resolutions". The first year it was "Submit a Proposal", then the next "Learn how to write a paper that doesn't suck" and of course "Wear more comfortable shoes".

In all seriousness, we have 361 days from one Autodesk University to the next. How are you going to take advantage of each day? Those days are going to go by whether you like it or not, and before you know it, we'll be right back here again.

If you spent one lunch hour per week watching an AU Class (crank it up to 2X speed to get through it in 45mins), you'd be able to experience 52 classes. If each one of them gave you one little idea, think of how far ahead you'll be. If you download the AU Online podcasts and listen to them while you drive to work, you can dig in even more. I know I will spend a lot of time watching and listening because the AU crush always leaves too little time for me to see as much class as I would like.

On that note, what do you do on your drive to work? Replace one commute time rock out session per week with a ULI podcast, a TED talk, or maybe an interesting audio book or language program. That's another 52 hours of ideas, insights and skill.

What if you spent an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon once a month flipping through Urban Land, Landscape Architecture, New Civil Engineer, CE News, ENR or another industry magazine to keep up with what is going on in the industry and feed your brain some new ideas?

In addition to learning more about graphic design, presentation skills, visualization and of course civil 3d civil 3d and civil 3d, I need to find my former physical self. I read an article this year about an Estee Lauder executive and mother of four who said Take Care of Yourself First: “You’re going to need energy for this juggle.” She was right and running around like a maniac in the month before AU and while in Vegas let me know that I need more endurance to keep up. Like learning Civil 3D or preparing for a presentation, physical fitness is an exercise in consistency over the long haul.

Here is some stuff I have on my list for this week:

1. Presentation Zen Webcast. You've heard me talk about Garr Reynolds before. While I didn't get a chance to implement all of his ideas, Presentation Zen helped me immensely this year, and I can't wait to learn more to become even more comfortable with my talks.

2. This month's Urban Land Magazine

3. Tons of Classes on AU Online. I'm beginning to bookmark my MUST WATCH AND READ list here.

4. An article called Water In Balance from this month's CE News. Salvatore Napolitano from Metcalf & Eddy /AECOM shows some ideas for using Civil 3D for floodplain modeling.

5. ENR's Continuing Education Center features tons of online readings and quizzes that you can use for continuing education credits and general learning fun. I'm checking out Pedestrian Friendly: Planting Trees and Celebrating Stormwater in Urban Areas and some of the other topics under sustainability and site infrastructure design.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Miss the AEC Keynote? Check it out!

Check out the Autodesk University 2008 AEC Keynote Session at the new AU Online.

If you don't have an AU Online login, access the AEC Keynote here.

The Civil portion begins around minute 62 or so. It is a twelve minute talk about BIM for Civil Road and Highway projects.

Adam Strafaci speaks about the process, and I show live demonstrations. We also work in video from mobile LiDAR, RDV Systems Rapid Road Safety Analyzer and a really spectacular visualization done with Civil 3D and 3DS Max using the tools from 3AM’s Dynamite VSP.

The Civil 3D portions are shown in Civil 3D 2009 to focus on thought leadership for using the current product.

This presentation was designed to appeal to a variety of technical and non-technical audiences. We wanted them to say “I didn’t realize that Civil 3D could be used for that type of project!”

I urge you to watch the entire presentation. There are great pieces on using Inventor as a key part of AEC projects, also some great Navisworks information, and an integrated segment on Sustainable Design using many products in our portfolio.

If you are looking for some more information about Civil 3D for transportation projects check out Civil 3D for Aviation and Airports customer success story, Civil 3D for Port and Harbor Projects, and much more at the Civil 3D Transportation Success Story page.

Don't Forget to Fill Out Your AU Feedback

I don't think its too late. If had your badge scanned when you came into a class, you should have gotten an email about filling out class surveys.

I cannot stress how important this feedback is. As a speaker, I know that I have taken the comments and ratings to heart and used them to help me improve. I credit this for my steady improvement over the past three years.

The results are also used my the selections staff to decide which speakers come back, which speakers could potentially wind up on certain tracks and how to improve the AU experience in general.

My classes both have are at about 60% reporting. That means there still close to 40 people out there who need to fill theirs out.

Don't leave me hangin'- tell me what you really think so that all of AU can improve!

If for some reason you can't get in to fill out the survey, or you wanted to tell me more than 200 characters can handle- email me anytime. Dana.Probert (at)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Behind the Curtain on the Mainstage at AU

I am sitting, literally, behind the black curtain in the GIANT room where Carl Bass's mainstage keynote was delivered, and where I (and a cast of many) will be delivering the AEC Keynote tomorrow at 8AM.

It's really incredible back here. I'm rerendering some videos for the 10000th time because I am a movie noob, and while I wait I am just amazed at the logistics involved in this event. Its a long way from one girl and one projector and a loud voice. That is for sure.

So far, Autodesk University has been fun. I have more to to than ever (and I mean EVER) but some how I've been able to relax, visit with some folks and make time to sit in a class or two and learn something.

I think maybe AU is like children. Before you have kids, you think you are busy, which is like AU as an attendee- so much to see, so much to do, so many things to learn.

Then you have the first child and things seem really nuts and you have no idea how you will manage, but you do. It isn't pretty, but you get there. That's your first year as a speaker.

Then, you have another kid and you realize there really is no reason to freak out- that things will somehow get done and everyone will be taken care of, so why not enjoy the ride? It isn't worth stressing over.

Really, three or five or six couldn't be that much harder, right?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Getting Ready for AU 2008: A Preparation Guide of Sorts

My first AU I went as a regular attendee and it was busy but fun. I showed up with one suitcase and left with two. We just saw as much as we could, then left happy.

Then I got the brilliant idea to become a speaker. Every since, AU has been even more amazing, but amazing in a "wow, that was a lot of work" kind of way. I didn't even know the half of it! This year, I am so excited to be participating in a workshop, two classes, two keynotes, and a lunch as part of my official duties, and lending a hand everywhere else once those are done.

I haven't changed my packing list much for this year, except I did go out and buy some sensible shoes. Knowing me, I'll wind up wearing cute shoes again the first night and wind up needing a rental scooter the rest of the week. You walk SO MUCH I CANNOT EVEN EXPRESS IT.

Reflections of AU 2006- What I learned, what to bring, etc.

AU 2007 Packing List

If you'd like a bit of a running commentary on what I'm up to at AU, you are welcome to follow me on twitter. My twitter account is not public, but I do approve just about everyone who requests to follow me. Unless you seem like an overt spammer, or if you are scary. But considering some of the other characters I let follow me... I am sure you couldn't be that scary.

I'd love to say hello and catch up with as many people as possible. Here are some of the things I'm involved in, or that I hope to attend. Note that I say hope. AU is NUTS, the Venetian is big, and sometimes a girl gets dragged into "just one more dry run".

To give you an idea- this is what my outlook calendar looks like, and I'm only getting started putting things on. (Yes, it's blurry on purpose people. That's so you get a feeling for the tears I shed when I realize that I cannot possibly do everything and see everyone I want to at AU! Such is life.) :


Tentative things are shown in italics below. Black means- if I'm not there, it doesn't happen. Or at least my part doesn't.


8AM-5PM Civil 3D Implementation Bootcamp (organizer, proctor)

6:30PM-7:30PM Speaker Social (speaker, socializer)

7:30PM-9:30PM BIM Mixer (mixer, socializer, maker of bad slides)


10:30AM General Session "Carl's Keynote" (reveler, show geek, maker of several still images showing off civil engineering)

Noon- 1PM AEC Subscription Customer Lunch (presenter of subscription goodies like new subassemblies and HEC RAS extension)

4PM-5:30PM Blogger Social (blogger, socializer)

5PM-7PM Closed Invitation Event (heckler, drinker of cold Amstel)

(I'll likely miss the beer bust due to rehearsals)


8AM-9:30AM AEC Keynote (Transportation Speaker. I don't care if you come in your pajamas, just don't miss it!)

5:00PM - 6:30PM CV 218-1L Get Your Head Out of the Point Cloud (Instructor)


10AM-11:30AM CV 218-1L Get Your Head out the Point Cloud (Instructor)

Done with the hard work! AU Party, as many classes as I can see, swag patrol!

Giving Thanks for a Great Year

Good grief! AU is next week. I guess time flies when you spend twelve months writing two books, teaching web classes, starting a new job and sharing an office with this guy:


Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect. It's been a wonderful, hilarious year filled with new adventures, but it was also a year filled with late nights, working weekends and much juggling.

This year I am thankful for my family and our good health, my wonderful coworkers, Venti Peppermint Mochas, the popcorn counter at Target, twitter, Facebook, Digsby and (too many) long talks with my good friends Ben and Jerry when everyone else is finally asleep.

This coming year, I need to be thankful for more long walks and vegetables! Prospector is finally well settled into his intensive NASA preparation and Linux developer magnet preschool, Panorama writes me long letters from her internship at CERN, and my new job has proven to be more fun than I ever could have imagined.

So here's to another great year in the constant effort to find balance, love and laughter.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Whetstone 11-21-08

One of the things that we talked about in the 7 Habits class is the idea of paradigm. More than just a buzzword, paradigm is the way we see things. It's our own reality. In order to truly understand people and situations, we often need to change our perspective and see things from a different angle.

Of course the best way to do this is to expose yourself to lots of new people and situations. Take trips, do an exchange, ask questions, really listen when people are talking to you, try something new...

In addition to real life experiences, I have found it useful to listen to books on tape and other audio programs. I spend some time driving, walking, at the gym, and on planes and I was searching primarily for entertainment. Every once in a while you read or listen to something that really changes your perspective because it expose you to someone else's reality. Sometimes we need to hear that our problems aren't really that bad compared to what they could be, sometimes we need a kick in the pants to get us moving towards a reality that is better than our own.

Here are a few favorites:

1. A Thousand Splendid Suns and the Kite Runner.

I have an audible subscription. Last year, I had an Erica Jong novel on my iPod. As I was listening, I kept thinking- "Yeah, wow. I am glad I'm not a single career woman in my thirties in 1960's America. They had it hard."

For some reason, I didn't have part II of the Jong novel, so I switched to A Thousand Splendid Suns. Let's just say I never made it back to Jong. It just seemed incredibly superficial after listening to the story of two women in modern day Afghanistan. It was gripping, touching, at times hard to listen to, but worth every minute. The Kite Runner had a similar effect.

2. Family Matters and A Fine Balance

Living in Canada helped me understand what cold really meant, and I will never complain about winter again. Reading Rohinton Mistry books helped me understand what it means to live in a place (Modern and Recent Past India) where opportunities and freedoms and even dignities are limited.

3. Most Episodes of This American Life

Specifically, an episode from last week called "Who Do you Think You Are?" that featured three stories that really gave me insight into some perspectives that I could never experience myself- growing up during the depression, growing up as a black male in the 1960's and growing up as a perfectly family, only to have it taken away (but finding out that made the family much more wonderful.) Subscribe to the podcast, it is very good.

4. The Fountainhead

While there is the typical Rand Objectivism message, what really changed my perspective was the way Howard Roark approached architecture. He believed that the form of the building should be in tune with its function and structural needs. For example, he disliked facades and decoration because they served no real purpose on the building. He would rather work as a laborer in a quarry than compromise his architectural ideals.

While I realize Rand was probably going for a bigger metaphor here, I took it pretty literally and tend to enjoy simple and functional designs in furniture, buildings, bridges, and of course all nature of engineering projects. I also try to examine my work life against his occasionally. I'm not sure I'd give it all up to work at a quarry, but now and again you have to smack yourself around and get back "on mission".

There are tons more, but this should keep you going until next week!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mommy What Did You Bring Me?

Dominick picked up something for Panorama at the Green Building Expo in Boston yesterday.

Every kids needs to... Learn About Cement!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Civil 3D Styles in Action

If you've ever had a hard time convincing the CAD manager at your company that you can make Civil 3D styles look like your local standard, here are some ideas.

This is also great for those of you out showing the product to potential users, or when speaking at user groups. If you make a few sets of styles, then use a named view (or just the same zoom when taking your captures) then switch between styles, you can make a slide show where the images overlay nicely and it seems like the styles are changing right before your eyes.

This could be a good idea for recording styles for a company standards manual, or for the Civil 3D setup consultants out there you could take a capture of each style you create to build a portfolio for potential clients.

The above slideshow is a little small and doesn't come through in the feed- so check out the direct link:

As I was typing this, I came up with a fun idea. I've created two flickr photo groups.

The first one is Civil 3D Styles. Show off captures of your best label hacks and funkiest code sets. It will be a great way to get "mindshare" on what everyone is doing out there and seeing what is possible without having to give away our "secrets" about how we created the style itself.

The second group is called Civil 3D Gallery. This one is for screen captures of your models, your finished drawings, your everyday work. If you use Civil 3D, you have something to contribute. I want to see what everyone is doing out there- from the meat-and-potatoes work to your slickest renderings.

Register to be a Useability Tester for Civil 3D

I encourage everyone to become involved in Autodesk's MyFeedback ( program, but sometimes you wish you could do more, or get involved a little bit earlier in the process.

I am in Manchester this week, and I learned that we need useability testers. The research is used for the current and future releases.

Useability testing goes on all year in many ways, including remote work. So even if you can't be at AU, fill out the form below to get your information into our list.

If you use Civil 3D and have always wished you could try a tool while you had the ear of someone who could listen to you as you worked with it- and use that to improve the product- here is your chance!

Want to help improve the Autodesk AEC products you use every day and get an early opportunity to try out future releases?

This is your chance to participate in user research sessions at AU (or in the future) that will give us a deeper understanding of how you use our products and what we can do to improve them.

We conduct user research throughout the year, so we’re interested in hearing from you even if you can’t participate at AU. To learn more, you can either:

Visit us Online:

Visit us in person:-AEC Usability Center (Zeno room 4601 in the AEC Campus on the 4th floor) for AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD MEP, Civil 3D, Revit Architecture, Revit MEP, and Revit Structure-

Exhibit Collaborative Project Management Usability Booth (#354) for Autodesk Buzzsaw and Autodesk Constructware.

Thanks for your support.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Book! AOTC Interchange Design for Civil 3D

Check out the new courseware to help you with advanced corridor modeling techniques featuring a cloverleaf interchange.

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2009: Interchange Design (Solution Series) AOTC

Buy the book here:

Autodesk Official Training Courseware Book Interchange Design with Civil 3D 2009

Check out a sample chapter here:

Sample chapter from AOTC Interchange Design for Civil 3D 2009

More reason to do better

Reading my design book here at the airport and noticing a pattern. Often the examples of poor or boring design are civil projects! Uniform subdivisions and expansive parking are particularly picked on.

More reason to do better

I don't want to let some fancy art folks push us around and demand cubist parking lots, but there is something to be said for that "oh, this feels nice" feeling we all get when going somewhere special like a main street in a cute small town or an urban park that just seems comfortable and relaxing.

There are tons of good examples out there and I will be sure to point some out.

In the meantime check out for some inspiration.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Fun with Surface Analysis

There really isn't much point to this post except that I spend some time last week trying to find cool ways to make exhibits to convey messages about how steep something is, or how much earth had to be moved.

A different visual wound up being chosen for the project, but I spent some time working through a few things, and I thought you might get some ideas that you could use in your work.

Each of these images tells a story- what story are you trying to tell? How can you best show that?

Keep in mind that a lot of the time your audience (such as clients, zoning hearings, public workshops, management) care less about what is a meaningful exhibit from an engineering perspective, and care more about understanding the site. Try to  put yourself in their shoes. Good practice audiences include: your mom, or even better your grandmom or your six year old. You need to find people who aren't totally immersed in our world to give you feedback.