Thursday, June 16, 2016

Another Software Package Sucks The Dick

Well, it's finally happening - due to not using Revit, I'm running out of shit to bitch about in regards to it.

What's awesome is that one of the projects I've been working on has a team of people working on it in Revit (I'll give you a hint - it's not one of the ones that was completed so that I could issue my drawings).  It's a government project too - so besides Revit being an absolute 'must have', it's also being reviewed by dozens of people who are trying to justify their part in the bureacracy (and who, despite all working in the same department - only seem to be capable of communicating with each other via the 3rd parties that are doing the design work (us included).

You can literally watch conversations go back and forth in the drawing markups.  One guy will recommend that we put equipment on the East wall, then decide later that the West wall is better (no problem, because we were just starting out).  Then another guy says 'We should put it on the East wall to leave more clearance', only to be countered by the first guy.  You know what guys?  Go talk it out, then send me one fucking set of markups instead of 3-4 conflicting ones.

The funniest part is, that for all means and purposes, it's just one rectangular room inside of an existing building (roughly 10,000 s.f.) that is being converted into a massive server room - but there is one metric fuckton of stuff being crammed into it.  Over 250 data racks, 16 HVAC units, sprinkler system, lights, and of course - my equipment, which consists of piping and other equipment for a 'Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus' or 'VESDA' system.

I had some limited experience designing this kind of system before - and knew how to run the necessary calculations, however (because this is a government job) they required a set of calculations generated by a piece of 3rd party (manufacturer developed) software called 'Aspire2'.  In theory, this software is pretty awesome, because it allows you to build the system, and it will generate a 3d 'parametric', run calcs, and spit out reports.

With no training, and no resources (except for one guy who had used it before, but who admitted that he didn't really know what he was doing either), I dove into it and started doing a layout.  The first thing I noticed in the software (besides the fact that the interface looked like it was made by some first year programming student) was the lack of an 'undo' function.  Once you did something, your only choice was to manually backtrack - and due to other bugs in the software, this wasn't always easy (or possible).

I got into a habit of changing one thing, saving, changing the next, saving, and thank god - because on several occasions the thing would just go tits up.  At least once it corrupted the file (fortunately I had a backup), and even once I finally got all of the information entered (which, due to it's inability to import anything, required manually measuring and entering data from my drawings) the calculations wouldn't work out correctly.

I fought it for a while - and even pondered going in and making some tweaks to the code of the program to make it spit out what I wanted (one parameter had an arbitrary maximum), before finally deciding to just let it do whatever and I would doctor the reports as necessary.  It was extremely close to being correct (and by the time they tweak it out in the field, it will definitely work), so I wasn't too worried about it.

They had been shuffling HVAC equipment locations around (and sending me very unhelpful .pdfs of the new layouts - complete with no idea which way the airflow of the units was going), and I had asked one of the reviewers (the guy who had sketched the original layout - which was part of the problem) how he wanted to go about tweaking the system to prevent the units from affecting our system.

I got back a hilarious answer - he said that because the HVAC units were STILL getting moved around, to basically ignore them, lay the system out as if they weren't there, and then they would make tweaks in the field as necessary.  Fortunately, because I didn't have to worry about my layout clashing with anything in their stupid fucking Revit model, I was able to put together a comprehensive set of drawings, but was still running up against the limitations of the calculation software.

I still wasn't sure how I would go about doctoring the reports when I exported the first set of calculations.  For some reason the developer only gave it the ability to export to HTML (an odd choice - although it does allow them to be opened by anyone with a web browser).  I was getting ready to print them to .pdf when it hit me.  I opened the HTML file it generated in wordpad, made the necessary tweaks (just one per system - although one was WAY out of tolerance), saved the file, and 'voila', it looked EXACTLY the way I needed it to.

I had been meaning to write the developer a scathing critique of their software (and still wrote them a fairly terse review) but because I was able to figure out a 10 second workaround I decided to make it more productive - presenting them with suggestions for how they could make the software better (of course, some of the 'suggestions' were barely disguised insults).  I even told them how I circumvented the built-in limitations of the softare (I'll be curious if I hear back from them).

I'm pretty sure I haven't heard the end of this project.  Previous ones from the same client have apparently drug on for months - even years as they change their minds, change them back, realize they forgot some extremely important design criteria, attempt to blame my firm, get smacked down hard, before finally relenting and paying us so we can move on.  The Reviteers involved will be stuck dicking with their model long after I am done - because while any 'as-built' drawings that come back to me will take minutes to change, theirs could take days or weeks.

Since I've submitted 3d parametric drawings (intelligent ones at that), my end of the bargain is held up without ever having to set foot inside of Revit.   Meanwhile, some poor Revit junkie will have to figure out how to get them to show up (or model them), but as I said, any coordination will be done in the field (which is how most projects end up getting coordinated in the first place), and that degree of separation is the one thing that takes the sting out of the rest of the frustration involved with a project like this.

That, and the fact that whenever I go into this project - it's open in seconds, will never require 'conversion' (no matter what version of ACAD I upgrade to), and (of course) the hilarity of opening the latest .pdfs of their model and still seeing lights inexplicably hosted to data racks, and knowing that somewhere, someone is cussing up a storm because they can't figure out where the fuck their lights keep going.

Fuck Revit, Fuck The System, and Fuck the Fuckety Fuck Fuck Fuck.


Next Time: I rant about.... something.