Monday, October 29, 2012

Waiting For Revot

Another goddamned thing - I've mentioned this before (probably more than once).

What the fuck is up with this program going into outer fucking space whenever I click on it.

It sits, it does nothing, it pretends to do something, it dicks around, it fucks off, it makes me forget what the fuck it was I opened it for in the first place (usually to get shit the fuck out of it - or to appease some idiot by slapping some 3d bullshit into their half-ass fuckfest).

 I always wondered - is this typical?  Is everyone using this program having the same sit and stare at nothing for minutes at a time?  Is it my machine? (I can assure you its not my machine) Is it my Windows software? (If so, it's the only program affected by it), is it my network?  Again - everything else runs like a scalded dog.  Is it some settings or integration between all of these necessary to make everything run smoothly?

If so, nobody seems to be figuring it out (or telling anyone), but as far as I can tell - this is as good as it gets, and nobody seems to care.  You hear the occasional admission that the software is deathly slow to do anything, but either these people have really bought into the bullshit, or they are just suffering in silence (which seems to be a fairly commonplace occurrence - especially because of the threat of being laid off or fired during a continued slow economy - I still run around with both middle fingers up because I don't give a single fuck).

And I'm still calling bullshit -this thing could probably run like a top, if (and only if) people demanded it, and accepted no less from Autodesk.  Instead, they have bent over and accepted it, ever since the first release.  Why would Autodesk waste time and money (i.e. - profits) refining or lubricating something that people are apparently content to have rammed up their ass rough and dry?

It would be like if people suddenly didn't care if their cars had any performance or reliability anymore - and were still willing to shell out 20-30K a pop for a 2 cylinder weedwacker motor connected by a rubber band to a rollerskate (as long as it had their favorite automakers badging on it).  It could be steered by slapping your dick against the ground.

And you would still have something more functional than Revit.

Instead people fetishize their cars, and would be aghast at the idea of replacing their shiny, expensive, ego-stroking pieces of shit with anything else.

But they will still putt around in the Ford Pinto of design software...  sad...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Automatic Update Hate

I think I might've mentioned this before, but it really deserves its own post.

I open Revit, attempt to open a file (usually just to take a quick look at something - since I still refuse to waste my fucking time and mental energy dicking with the half-ass piece of shit that is Revit), and it informs me that a 'one time process' of upgrading is occuring.

That's pretty fucking cool right?  I don't have to do anything - and it automatically updates.

That is, unless there are other people using older releases - which will fuck them up if I allow it to update and then save it.

Besides taking a LONG FUCKING TIME to do it, it can't ask me if I want to do it first?  Why the fuck not?  There might be a setting that can be changed to prevent this from happening, or to at least ask the fucking question 'do you really want to do this?' (it's got enough other useless apocryphal errors and messages) but after a quick search online, I'm not wasting another second trying to figure it out, or digging through the thousands upon thousands of useless fucking settings in this goddamn cocksucking piece of shit.

I just go to task manager and end that fucker.  I do give Revit credit for one thing though - it closes extremely quickly when you tell it to fuck off (I've probably mentioned before - but it seems to close especially quickly when you accidentally close the last view you have open - another time a little 'you are about to close this file, which means you are going to have to waste 5 minutes waiting for it come back up again' mesage would be goddamned helpful).

Fortunately I still have access to older Revit, but if I don't know what version a file is in, the process usually goes like this:

Step 1) Open Revit 2013
Step 2) Come back from a coffee break, and open the file.
Step 3) Notice that it is automatically trying to update the file (hopefully right away - since I usually go take another coffee break, use the bathroom, re-arrange all of my files, rotate the tires on my car, and water the plants while waiting for it to open).
Step 4) Kill that fucker.
Step 5) Open older Revit, and repeat the whole process over again.

All this, just so I can find out that an architect has fucked something up beyond all recognition, so I'm dead in the fucking water... again.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Revit Post-Implementation Blues

The last post got off on a fairly disconnected rant about the lack of information flow that I (and most designers) get faced with on just about every project.  There are exceptions, but for the most part I just assume that I'm not going to get the information I need until the last second (if at all - and even then it's a crapshoot whether or not the information is correct), and that the scope of a project will creep out of control - especially in the final days before (and for some time after) a project gets issued.

I attempted to tie it back in at the end - or at least explain (again) how important rock-solid, no-bullshit tools are for having a chance in hell of keeping up.  It's not Revit or Autodesks fault that some of the people I work with (and that we work for) are incompetent, or that the processes that are being put in place are counterproductive and pointless - but it is clear to me that they did not have this kind of work environment in mind when they shat out this piece of crap.

I don't know what kind of work environment they had in mind - government type work if I had to guess (where a lack of productivity actually gets rewarded in most cases).  It certainly wasn't made for someone who needs to get anything done this year.  The ironic part is, I complete yet another project on time, and then watch the Reviteers drag along for another couple of days, weeks, months, or years (and I'm not exaggerating in the least).

I'm not fucking around - part of a lot of projects that people don't realize, is that if you get it done, and get paid, that's what the fuck we're here to do.  Instead, these people waste massive amounts of time detailing out their model, instead of getting the damn thing out the door and it drives many of us nuts (even some of the Revit users).

I've thought about it long and hard, and the only conclusion I've been able to find is that the program simply breeds complacence.  It tricks people into thinking they are doing something that they aren't - and that is being productive.  Yes, they have some happy bullshit to wave around - No, they don't have the goddamned project done (meaning everyone gets fucked).

They don't care, because they can keep bullshitting people that don't understand it - although I've watched a few of them have to start facing the harsh reality that they have gotten themselves in over their heads.  I constantly see large-scale projects that had reasonably long schedules and fees when they started out, and it's still down to the wire to get something even remotely passable out of the Revit box (and even then it necessitates taking shortcuts and just slapping it together at the last second.

 It's fucked - and it's getting worse.

Fudge Packing

On every project I have ever done (and there have been many), I have had to make certain assumptions.

I hate having to 'assume' anything due to the cheesy old adage of making an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'.  If I have to assume something, then I make sure that as many people that are involved with the project know I am making that assumption (and if possible - why I am making that assumption), so that hopefully if anyone has information that counters my assumption that they will bring it to my attention.

Unfortunately, this means that I often have to 'fudge' something on my drawings - hopefully just as a place holder for when more accurate information comes along, but in a lot of cases, it just ends up going out like that.  The biggest concern is that the contractor puts money in the job for whatever is necessary - and I end up with a lot of 'Cover Your Ass'(CYA) notes.

As I have mentioned about notes before - some of them sound retarded, but if I don't explicitly state that the contractor needs to verify, coordinate, field-verify, field-measure, etc. - they will ALWAYS come back looking for more money, and claiming that we didn't tell them about something (even though I know they knew).

Here's a typical scenario - project "A" has some piece of owner-supplied equipment that we are responsible for providing with power.  I am told about this piece of equipment when the project kicks-off, and informed that the owner will be supplying information about it.

Fast-forward to the due date - and I have received one or all of the following:

1) A brochure for the piece of equipment that has every single piece of information you could ever want to know about it - except for the electrical load.  This is usually because brochures don't get into specifics due to all of the various options, configurations, etc. for any given piece of equipment.

2) A scribbled piece of paper or hastily written e-mail with 'information' that the owner supposedly got from the equipment supplier, manufacturer, factory rep, or maybe just some guy they ran into in the hall.  This will almost always be incomplete, and suspect to begin with (in most cases this information has gone through several peoples hands, and like a game of 'telephone' degrades or becomes less factual each time it does so).

3) An out-dated cut sheet or catalog page on a piece of equipment that is no longer being manufactured.

And yet still not a single actual piece of information that I feel confident hanging my hat on, so I have to switch from ultra-specific (which is my normal mode 99.9% of the time) to ultra-vague mode so that they can't come back and say 'well, you said to do that, and so I did that - but I was actually supposed to do this'.

Repeated phone calls, e-mails, and even live meetings - always with promises of 'getting you that information', but it is never forthcoming.  I can't just 'pick something' (as the architect or project manager might suggest) since I am not the one ordering the piece of equipment, and whoever is responsible for selecting it is NEVER in contact with me (despite my attempts at making contact with them - and so it is fairly common for them to select equipment with voltages that aren't available - picking a 480V 3-Phase piece of equipment in a building that only has 208V 3-phase for example, or a piece of equipment that runs on residential 240V 1-Phase (I run into a lot of sewer lift pumps like that), or that needs some special voltage like 230V, 220V, etc.

Some pieces of equipment will function just fine (or at least function) with 208V, even if the nameplate calls for 240V/230V/220V, etc.  but some do not - especially equipment that comes from other countries.  This can necessitate buck-boost transformers or step-down transformers to derive the exact voltage listed on the piece of equipment.  Just in our own office we had a new plotter installed that asked for 230V, and were assured by the manufacturer (who we contacted prior to purchase and installation of the receptacle/wiring/breaker) that it was 'no problem'.  Several months of sheer hell trying to get the plotter to function properly later, they determined 'oh - it's not getting enough voltage', and installed a buck-boost transformer and got it up and running (the thing is still a piece of shit though - NEVER get a KIP plotter).

So, the project goes out - and rather than having a nice clear plan of action for 'use this panel, breaker size, disconnect size, wire size, receptacle size/type - and this how much load it puts on the panel, my drawing (or at least that portion of it) basically says 'Do Electrical Stuff Here - Ask Somebody What'.  I don't give a fuck if that's what ends up happening, at least as long as we don't get a fucking phone call when shit doesn't magically work properly.  The problem is, it will be months (or even years) later when we get that call, and then we have to figure out what the/who/when/where/why the fuck we didn't have specific information on our drawings (even then - still with a catch-all note in case they change their minds, use a different model or manufacturer, etc.).

My notes and e-mails usually cover my ass, because there will be 400 of them asking for the information, and informing them that the 'information' I have received so far has been total shit, but it still looks like I fucked up, which makes it look like my firm fucked up (and that's absolutely what the contractor will tell the owner - who won't have any recollection of almost purposefully preventing me from getting a few simple pieces of information).

Now - it's one thing if it's a piece of equipment or two.  Imagine (or recall - if you've been there) a whole building full of equipment (let's say a kitchen) where this game is being played.  Any kitchen equipment supplier (or restaurant franchise) worth two shits or even half a fuck will provide a detailed (excessively detailed in some cases) spreadsheet/schedule of equipment.  The best ones will take that schedule and distill it down to just electrical information for the pieces of equipment that require power (so I'm not having to sort through three pages of racks, tables, brackets, etc.).

This schedule is god - because it is the only sure fire way to make sure that every single piece of information regarding every single piece of equipment has been addressed - or there will be a glaring empty box where it should be.  I still want cut sheets too - because sometimes there is information that I need to know that exceeds the ability to easily be put on a schedule (and I sometimes catch errors, or things that weren't taken into consideration by the supplier).

Now, get some back-woods dumbass fuckhead who is 'helping' a school system select equipment for their kitchens - and you not only won't get a schedule, you will actually get bitched at for suggesting that it might be their responsibility.  By offering their 'help' they are either replacing (or getting in the way of) someone who can actually help - and then redefining what their role needs to be.  They don't have any liability - nobodies going to be calling their ass when the shit hits the fan.  Fuck them and the 6-burner grill they rode in on (as you can tell - I have had this happen on more than one occasions).

 HVAC equipment runs into similar problems, but at least I have mechanical engineers/designers whose responsibility it is to provide me with information (of course, this can also have mistakes/typos/missing bits).  While they try to get me the information as quickly as possible, it's still usually right at the end of a project - and it's the first time I find out what it looks like, how much power it needs, and where.

Elevators and powered doors are probably the worst, because these are the responsibility of the architect - and if the other people I've been describing are frustrating - architects can be downright murder-inducing.  An elevator affects everyone - architectural, structural, mechanical (cooling/ventilation), electrical - even civil if it is going to have a hydraulic piston that requires drilling.  There are a variety of manufacturers and models - each with different requirements, depending on speed, number of stops, finishes (adding special finishes can add weight), etc. - and the reps are usually very helpful with information (they want to sell them some elevator!), and yet - the elevator (and equipment room) is usually an afterthought for most architects - usually only getting selected when I come near to threatening them with physical violence if they don't stop fucking around.

So how does all of this relate to Revit?  Like I've mentioned before, if I go into a project and start trying to detail out things, only to realize that I don't have any of the information I need, then I'm at a dead end unless I can fudge something together (and I don't want anyone taking that shit as the gospel about where it is, what it looks like, etc).  I can sketch, doodle, move, redraw completely, try out things, show people what I'm trying out (pictures worth a thousand words and all), get feedback on what I've drawn (quickly - because I was able to draw it fast and get it to them, and then make the changes they asked for fast and get it back to them for approval. 

Hell - I had a file error require me to completely redo a (small, but still fairly elaborate) project just this morning - fortunately I had .pdf's of it, and while it took a few minutes to put back together, it would have taken 10 times as long in Revit as it took me to do it twice in ACAD - even for a seasoned Revit veteran.

I can represent ANYTHING in ACAD without being at the mercy of a stupid program and its users that don't give a fuck about my ability (and the necessity) of getting things done quickly, accurately, and without undue stress.  The users are the worst - none of them can agree to do things the same way, and you will have a half-ass model that is next to unusable due to tons of errors, but that I am expected to use (whether in Revit or in ACAD) - while dipshit sits there and details out a stair railing to the Nth degree (only to find out that despite the pretty model, it's at the wrong height, wrong distance from the wall, and isn't even the type of rail that's going to be used.

It's fucked, and it's getting worse.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Physical Evidence

I've talked about the concept of paperless offices before, and I have to admit, it's an impressive task for those who can convert to a totally digital format.

Unfortunately - most of what my job still consists of is distilling information and getting it on paper.

Paper obviously has its draw-backs - the most expensive being maintenance and supplies for printers/plotters, ink, paper (of course) letter/ledger and 18"/30"/36" rolls, and handling paper (especially large format plots) can be a pain in the ass.  Paper tears, it can burn, it can cut, it gets crumpled easily, water damages paper/ink, long-term storage can require special humidity, temperature, and light conditions - even insects and rodents are a concern.  Physical storage can become an issue, figuring out where the hell something went is another.  Digging through it all and trying to figure out what the/when the/why the fuck can be time consuming, and so can putting it all back where it belongs (and god help you if the last person didn't).

Still, despite its many drawbacks, there's a reason paper persists into the digital age - and it's not just a sadistic desire to kill trees, it's that paper provides you with *physical* evidence.  People (including people with jurisdictional authority, who can make or break a project by approving/denying proposed designs, building permits, or certificates of occupancy) like paper for the way it provides a physical record that can be accessed and reviewed, anywhere, at any time, by anyone without the need of a computer, pad, phone, program, reader or reader.

You will never open a roll of drawings and find a sticky note that says 'I'm sorry - you need to download/update/purchase blah blah blah in order to view these drawings (or write on them).  There are no 'versions', no compatibility issues, no resolution problems. There are no 'load times' (although unrolling a set of drawings, rolling it backwards to flatten it out, and then flip to the drawings you need can take a bit - but we'll get to the many advantages of digital in a minute), there is no need to pan/zoom, stretch onto multiple monitors, or make use of viewports in order to be able to see the whole drawing at once.

I can print out a project, take it into a meeting, mark on it, get other people to mark on it, and people take it with them without the need for e-mail, USB stick, CD, or any other kind of media, - no cables/adapters, no network, wi-fi, or bluetooth, no corrupted files, no lagged out downloads, no files that exceed maximum size for someones cheap-ass free-mail, no need for a user name/password to log into an ftp server - AND at any time it can be scanned/copied to digital format too!

Now, with all of that said - I obviously use digital formats constantly while in contact with clients, client representatives, equipment suppliers, factory reps, contractors, sub-contractors, planners, developers, and of course the aforementioned authorities having jurisdiction, utility companies, and people within my own company, and the ability to share .pdf files, document and image files, CAD (and even Revit) files is irreplaceable.

Digital files give you easy access to what would require hours of digging through vast piles of crap.  You don't have to wait for a physical package to arrive (although we do occasionally still get CD's or thumb-drives with larger (or bloated) files - hello again Revit!), as long as they are consistently backed up, with off-site storage, and are organized in such a way that you can actually locate what you are looking for (if I'm looking through the sixth folder named 'EXISTING' filled with files called XBDD009234.PDF trying to find an existing drawing that somebody scanned in, then somebody dropped the fucking ball (not the digital formats fault). 

Another thing to keep in mind is the physical server and network in an office - I've griped about the ridiculous demand that Revit places on a network/server due to the massive files it generates, and even aside from that - unless you double as the IT guy at your office, then you are almost certainly at the mercy of an IT guy (or guys) for your ability to have a functioning computer, software, network, server, as well as security, data redundancy, and as I always warn people - NEVER piss off the IT guy.

They come in a wide variety - in the time I've been at this firm, there have been several iterations (always be aware that your IT guy(s) can change at any time - things might stay the same, they might improve, or they might become totally fucked.).  When I started it was one laid back older guy and one stereotypical overweight geek - they could barely handle the demand.  Part of the problem was that the older guy was taking the money budgeted for building computers and upgrading equipment, picking up the cheapest crap he could find, and pocketing the difference.  I had the power supply fail in my computer one time, and he was convinced that it was my battery backup.  I finally showed him that even plugged directly into the wall, that after a few minutes of run time, that the thermal overload would trip, give it a few minutes to cool down, and it would come back on.  He replaced my perfectly functional battery backup with an either non-functioning (or undersized) one, before finally conceding and putting a new power supply in my machine.  Then a few weeks later a power flicker informed me that my computer was no longer actually backed up with a battery anymore (and yes - I had it plugged into the right side of the power strip on the backup - I'm not a fucking idiot).

The next iteration was just the fat kid - that didn't last long because he basically refused to do anything that required him to stand up and walk, and he was quickly replaced by a (basically waaaay overqualified) guy who stepped in, and managed to get things under control somewhat, but it was obvious he had no intention of staying - so it wasn't surprising when he took a job a few months later doing network security for a government agency.  We had a guy switch gears from design to IT, and despite trying really hard, he was flailing until they brought on our current IT guru - this dudes network kung fu is VERY strong!  It took him a while to get all of the bugs worked out of the cobbled together system, but now things are like clockwork.

This all relates to the topic at hand, because once you go digital, you are opening yourself up to risk, some (if not all) of which is not under your own control.  It pays to know who the fuck has control of it, and if there is any question, then take necessary measures.  If I have an important project nearing completion and I've been pounding the shit out of it every day for 10+ hours, I will make my own goddamned backups, because I don't trust anyone (not even the guru) to care about my files as much as I do.

Anyway, whether you can keep people doing things consistently or not, the digital aspect of this kind of work is here to stay,  and since I've never done a single project 'by hand' in my life, you won't hear me defending that kind of throwback, but just the same, I do caution against over-dependence on (or falling for the various myths about) technology. 

I keep ledger-sized hard copies of everything I am working on - for quick review with anyone who walks into my office, calls me, or if I get pulled into a meeting.  I have to keep them updated, but it gives me confidence that I have a miniature set of the actual deliverable in my hands.  If there are any mistakes, they are right there in black and white.  I have caught things on printed drawings that I would have missed - no matter how long I (or anyone else) stared at them on the screen (in CAD, Revit, or .pdf).

I do keep a hand written project list. I've got due dates and whatnot in Outlook, but I can refer to this concise sheet and see (or show someone) all of the projects I currently have going on, with notes about the status, what I'm missing, etc.  When it starts to get messy I will take a minute to copy it over fresh, and I can see exactly where I stand.  I figure it's the only real handwriting that I do anymore (besides scribbling notes on stuff), and stuff seems to stay with me longer if I hand write it (better than typing it - although that helps too).  Once projects are issued, they go into my archive list (word document - so I can format it however the fuck I want - although I'm surprised I don't keep it in a CAD file), for ease of searching by job# or project name.

Digital formats are awesome, and have already eliminated a lot of paper from my job, but I don't see myself (or my boss - who isn't so much anti-technology as he is anti-bullshit) carrying around a pad.  I've seen them put to excellent use around the office, and in the field - but they don't fill any 'void' in my life, and still seem to come across as a fancy toy for douchebags (sort of like blackberries and smart phones when they first came out - or.. even now).  For every guy I've seen using one to efficiently combine a camera, notebook, and miniature computer, marking up drawings, etc. - I've seen dozens of guys dragging them everywhere and wasting time trying to do things that would take seconds with a simple piece of paper and pen (while looking exceedingly douchebaggy while doing it).

I think  my problem comes less from technology than it does from people who fall for the sales pitch, and then seem to suffer from the need to have their choice to shell out cash and change the way they do everything validated by those around them.  If they are able to do things more efficiently, then more power to them, but I don't give a fuck, and won't be giving one anytime soon.