Friday, April 20, 2007

What I Learned at Tech Camp

Those of you who know me, know I carry around a little brown notebook that contains just about every thought and scribble I have ever had.

This week, I filled up the section called "To Blog" with all kinds of great Civil 3D and AutoCAD ideas. Those ideas will be written about on later next week once I get caught up on some work here in my home office.

So here I will recap what I learned after I closed that little notebook and FOR ONCE I did not take it along with me to dinner and beyond. I find it hard to believe myself.

I apparently forgotten a few things in my guide. First of all, the snacks out on the afternoon break of the first day are always the best- full sized candy bars, fruit, and other stashables. The TechCamp souvenir bag that you received when you checked in was actually given to you so that you could fill it up with snacks for the week. Don't forget the pony bottles of Perrier and Coke for filling the hotel room fridge.

You pack a 19" LCD for a trip to Disney World. I could have SWORN it was on the required list right after "Have 337 installed" and "Do your Prework".

I finally had a chance to meet some of the newer bloggers, and I especially enjoyed my poolside chat with Louisa from "Civil 3D for Beginners". If you ever considered leaving your career in CAD for a stint with the Peace Corps, make sure you check out Lou's Comparison before trading in your Red or Blue Army polo shirt for a pair of birks.

I haven't called or submitted a support request since last year when my login somehow got yanked during a database migration, so I hadn't had a chance to talk to the great new people in Civil Software Support in Manchester. Luckily, Autodesk had the good sense to bring a bunch of them along. They are happy, concerned, super smart and forgiving people who can shake a tail feather to any 80's song you throw their way. Did you know their manager was the 1987 regional breakdance champion?

If you leave your laptop unattended, little Canadian Corridor Gnomes will come along and write a special message on your desktop wallpaper. Occasionally, you will also find that your mouse is now controlling your neighbor's cursor. Those silly little elves.

A Pocket PC dropped in the Hot Tub will come back to life after 36 hours of drip dry, however a Palm Treo requires a blessing from Jeebus himself, or at least a call to the insurance company.

There are at least forty 70's and 80's hit tunes with the word "Funk" or "Funky" in them, and no shortage of wordplay that can be done with the word "Funk". If your last name was Funk, you might think that was cool.

Apparently being a pregnant workaholic doesn't mean that a gal can't have some small amount of fun. I mean, there is NOTHING more fun that Civil 3D, but when your eyes go blurry and there is not another Harry Potter to read until July, sometimes a few hours pretending desani is a a corona and pretending you have some rhythm isn't such a bad thing.

The knowledge base doesn't have a workaround for a missing AG, but the general concensus was that though we were desperately short of tall italian guys, that yes, it is possible to smile again. We always poured an extra drink for him just in case, but alas, it appears he was really not going to show up.

I am looking forward to seeing you all again at Autodesk University, because as we all found out....there is still so much dancing to be done.

And with that- back to the Salt Mines!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Read what Dana Reads

I read a lot of blogs. AutoCAD blogs, Civil 3D blogs, just about every kind of blog that has anything to do with anything. I have had one request for the list of blogs from my feedreader. Therefore, I figure there must be at least 100,000 more of you out there DYING read what I read.

So, if you are too lazy to go to Angel's blog and find the feeds for everything on his list, you can download my XML file here and import it into your favorite feed reader- such as Google Reader, Bloglines or others.

Save this XML file and follow the directions in your feedreader for import. (I did strip out the lamer blogs, such as my brother's myspace rants and the like.)

For information about reading blogs using a feed reader:

Friday, April 06, 2007

The $3000 Cell Phone Charger

I'll admit it. I have had an email addiction since I was 18. During my first week at Georgia Tech, I was assigned a seven digit alphanumeric code that would be my login, my email address and a fixture of my self expression. For the following four years, I would answer to "gt1912a" almost more often than I would answer to "Dana".

In the days before laptops and pdas, gt1912a would walk from Unix terminal to Unix terminal around campus on her way to class, lunch and swim practice and compulsively check her email and read the gt.discussion groups. We came up with elaborate telnet schemes so that we could login to the school servers over holidays and when off campus. (Can you imagine life before webmail? God, it was awful.)

As gt1912a grew up a little more, she became dlbreig@, then soon became dbprobert@, but she never lost that addiction to email. Hotmail made things easier, then exchange servers with web interfaces, then laptops with wireless... but not until this November when I obtained my first pocketpc/cell phone did I truly know what life could be.

I used to run into the house and turn on my computer before anything else. Still wrapped up in winter clothes or muddy boots or after six hours in the car with 3 cups of coffee and no rest stops, I would press send/receive just to see what I missed.

Now, I never miss a message.

The thing about the Brick is that the battery doesn't last too long, so if I forget to plug it in when I get home, it isn't ready for me next time I want to leave. So I am pretty diligent about plugging it in.

Well, the other night, I must have unplugged it. When I went to leave in the morning, the battery was hopelessly dead. To quote one of my favorite children's books "Oh doom and disaster what absense of mind...!"

Desparate for a solution, I dug into the tech bucket of stuff only to find no compatible car chargers. Our only AC outlet type inverter was in Mr. Probert's truck fueling his laptop, minifridge and electric razor so that wasn't possible....

Then a brilliant idea. I have an inverter that came with my laptop.... and a USB cord for the Brick... So I took this pile of wires and equipment out to the car. I plugged the laptop into the lighter and the Brick into the laptop. And I exhaled slowly with intense relief knowing that I wouldn't miss TenLinks that day.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

AUGI CAD Matinee May 17 in Philadelphia

I posted this already over on but on the off chance you land here on Civil 3D Rocks, I want to make sure you know about the AUGI CAD Matinee that is coming to town!

CAD Matinees are similar in style to Autodesk University Classes- 70 minute lecture style classes with detailed handouts and a chance to ask questions and learn new things.

To register and for more information visit the AUGI website, or this link:

Here are the agendas for the classes I am teaching:

AutoCAD® Civil 3D® 2008
(S1-4) Using Civil 3D 2008 for Stormwater Management Tasks
Instructor: Dana Breig Probert, E.I.T.
This class will show you how to harness the power of Civil 3D 2008 to assist in designing and performing a TR-55 or Rational Method Stormwater Management Analysis, as well as designing a pipe network for storm drainage. Though the case study used in this class is a drainage design, anyone interested in learning more about surfaces and pipe networks, and creating tables and expressions for any application are encouraged to attend. We’ll take you from building a surface from aerial topo data to complete surface analysis for pipe tables and schedules.

AutoCAD® Civil 3D® 2008
(S2-4) Building a Subdivision from Boundary to Plat with Civil 3D 2008
Instructor: Dana Breig Probert, E.I.T.
This class will focus on the parcel creation and analysis tools in Civil 3D 2008. We will leverage free GIS data such as FEMA floodlines, wetlands inventory and adjacent parcel boundaries as well as topography and image information from Google Earth to assist us in our initial design. Then we will go through Parcel creation best practices and create a labeled site plan. Finally, we’ll cover simple visualization ideas for effective public hearings and presentations

Come to the Possibilities Tour in Washington DC

I'm planning on attending the "Experience the Possibilities" Tour in Washington D.C. next Thursday, April 12.

There is an industry session in the morning and an AutoCAD Tips and Tricks session in the afternoon.

If you haven't seen Civil 3D in action yet, this would be a good chance to see it, plus a chance to interact with the local resellers and talk to people like me who are in the trenches.

Unless I run into some sort of family logistics issue (which tends to happen quite a bit when you have 2 dogs, a 3 year old and a husband who works for the DOT), I should be there for breakfast.

Here is the link to the FREE Registration:

Sunday, April 01, 2007

TechCamp Survival Guide

It's that time of year again, Reseller AEs! We have been called to the mothership for our annual pilgrammage to someplace-warmer-than-Anchorage for TechCamp (the Event Formerly Known as Bootcamp). This will be my fifth time attending TechCamp, so I figured I would share some highlights from Camps of Yore as well as some Tips for the First Timer.

February 2004- Regional Bootcamp Baltimore
I was about 20 days from delivering Panorama and I had the flu. People looked at me with a combination fear (timebomb) and digust (germ machine). Sheet sets were new and in about 2 years I would actually understand them. The Civil software (LDT) wasn't ready or something so I was dismissed early the second day.

October 2004- Civil 3D Mid Year Release in Chicago
This odd little bootcamp was over a weekend. I left PHL at 6AM and arrived just in time for the start of the first class. I would have been ontime if the cab I found actually took Visa like he had said he did at the airport and I didn't have to pace the hotel looking for an ATM. At lunch that day, I wound up sitting with Nick Zeeben, which is how we met and in about 2 years I would remember his name, despite meeting him at every AU and TechCamp in between. I still don't understand him.

April 2005-Civil 3D 2006 Release in Orlando
This is the camp where I learned: 1) Civil 3D changed my life 2) A burger in downtown Disney costs $40 3)There is an amazing salon at the Buena Vista Palace

April 2006- Civil 3D 2007 Release in Dallas
My first (and only) Bootcamp with Beth as my roommate. I learned it is less fun rooming with a technical person because you aren't interrupted at 3AM by someone coming in giggling, and you have no one to make fun of at breakfast the next day because they are currently sleeping through the alarm. I learned Civil 3D Rocks, and _almost_ remembered Nick's name this time. I didn't meet Jason at this Bootcamp, but he learned about snagit (thebest $40 ever spent) at this Bootcamp and a few weeks later he told me about it. So that is important. Also at this Bootcamp I had my first conversation with James Wedding.
"Hi, James, I'm Dana Probert"
"Dana, nice to meet you. I have to go troubleshoot a Vault install.

April 2007- Civil 3D 2008 Release (Prediction)
While the Tech sessions at Bootcamp could barely qualify as business causual, having sales folks around meant that there was a little bit of pressure to match their typically sharper duds, perfume, white teeth and good hair. So I predict that people show up for class this year in frayed jeans, stained sweatshirts and $0.99 flip flops.

There will also be decidely fewer women around, so the male AEs will probably leave with some money left in their expense accounts. It just isn't as much fun to buy six rounds of Bud Lite for a bunch of guys. This kind of plays into the fashion thing too... and I imagine we'll see some three day beards by Thursday.

Now for those of you that are new to the glam world of being an AE, you might need some pointers. Most of us Civil AEs came from engineer firms that didn't do work outside of a 10 mile radius of the office, so the idea of flying to an exotic location may be intimidating at first. Fear not. Here is your guide:

Don't bother installing the latest build before you get to Florida. When they say you should have it installed, it is just like they said when ICE had the pre-req of having installed XP from scratch.

They just have to say something.

In fact, don't bother to install software during the software loading party, either. It would be such a buzzkill to babysit "Install Express Tools? Yes" while you could be loading up on munchies and gossiping about how much weight Dana has gained since AU ("Dude, it's like she's pregnant*** or something!") and shedding a tear or two about how much you will miss AG's animated classes. ("I don't think anyone can take a swig of water midsentence like him, sniff")

Besides, there would be nothing to do during the first half hour of the first class if you had your install ready to go, because you know nobody else will.

As soon as you enter the hotel, before you even check in, sign up for the wireless service. Don't cheap out and try to piggy back on a free connection, after all, the company is paying for this! You need to make sure you can stay in constant communication with the home office, the sales staff, your mom, your gtalk contacts and the Swamp. Troubleshoot any VPNs, exchange server connections, POP accounts, etc. You won't be able to enjoy a second of the Florida Sunshine if you are worried about your wireless.

Choose your chair before you go in to fight the crowd for breakfast. Pick a row towards the back and a seat on the end. Arrange all of your stuff. Then remove at least one chair from your row and line it up with the extras in the back of the room. Go back to your seat and spread out a little. This will prevent anyone from sitting too close to you and will leave room on the table for the manga you brought with you to read during the lecture. If you can't stomach breakfast, go down in your pajamas with some of your gear then go back to your room and sleep until the very last minute. This seat you pick on this first morning is yours FOREVER. Unless of course you want to move seats tomorrow. Then the person whose seat you are taking needs to get over it.

Always leave at empty seat at your table at Lunch in case Lynn Allen wants to sit there. I even set an empty seat at my dinner table at home just in case... But last year, she actually did sit down with us. We, of course, were star struck and embarassed and silent. Althought I did say something that scared her away after she finished her meal. She may not be at tech camp this year since they separated it from the Sales Camp, but you never know.

Spend some time before you go reading the Civil 3D and LDT discussion groups and Blogs and familiarize yourself with peoples REAL NAMES. Don't make the mistake of picking on BlackDog7 when his real name is Johann Smith from CADtastic in Tulsa and actually sitting across the table from you.

It is also rude to address people by their blog name. At AU, I actually called Matt Castelli "Tapping into Civil 3D". How embarassing. You will probably need a guide for this. Latch on to some wizened old AE who knows everyone and have them point them out. Or better yet, we all wear name tags, sharpen up your reading skills.

On the flip side, it is handy to help people figure out who you are if you say something like "I'm Sandy Satchel, from LippiCAD in Memphis. I write The Civil 3D Files blog", but don't be surprised if it doesn't have the same ring as "I'm Anderson Cooper from CNN"

If a man from Florida wearing shorts and suspenders and a camoflague hat tells you to bring your pet potbellied pig to his pig reserve- DON'T DO IT. I'll let him tell the story, he does a much better job.

And this one is serious...

Do all of the prework and attend all of the sessions. I am planning on it- even though I helped write some of the material. Why? Because you can always learn something. The folks that are teaching the classes have a different spin on things than we do, the people sitting next to us also have different experiences to share. I know there are things I know nothing about (new features of AutoCAD, plan production, survey, etc) and things that though I may have banged on it a lot, I am still missing a lot of pieces (pipe rules). Though the material is designed to appeal to a broad cross section of AEs- from beginner to experienced- it will be easy for many of us who have been down this road before to say "There is nothing for me to learn here". But I personally know that I will learn a whole lot. I always do.

Now if I could just remember the name of that nice Canadian boy with the nice shoes who has a way with Part Builder.....

***Yes, I am.