December 2011

Just today I learned that there is a new tool up on Autodesk Labs called, “Project Silverstar”. The name means nothing to me but what this tool does is it will optimize your profile for you. Basically, you upload your existing ground profile and a series of offset profiles to the Autodesk Cloud, put in a few parameters, it chugs away in the “Cloud” and it returns to you the optimum profile for your alignment.

This is the first tool that I’m aware of that uses cloud computing to assist you in your design specifically for the Civil Engineering market from Autodesk. If you were at AU2011, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about “The Cloud”, well, Civil 3D now has the power of the Cloud.

As I just heard about this tonight, I haven’t had a chance yet to really try it out. Look for a post next week to see my take on how well this tool works.


Last week I was in Las Vegas with 10,000 (verification needed) of my closest friends for Autodesk University. If you’ve never been, you are missing out on a truly wonderful experience for anyone that would find this blog interesting. This post is just to put down my thoughts on the week and to point out some of the highlights of the conference from my perspective.

I had to got to the ATC (Authorized Training Center) conference on Monday so I flew out on Sunday and, that sucked. Leaving my family on a Sunday morning of the Thanksgiving weekend really blows but, oh well, that’s just the way life goes sometimes. I was able to fly out of an airport that was only 10 minutes from my house which was really nice. Security took a grand total of 3 or 4 minutes. Sunday I walked around the strip a bit with a coworker and nothing exciting happened. (I’m still amazed by the fountains at the Bellagio. If you are in Vegas and have never seen them, you must go if for no other reason to be amazed by the engineering that went into them to manage the water hammer that goes on.)

Monday was the ATC conference and I won’t bore you with that because I know I was bored silly. Monday evening I got to go to the Speaker Social in the nightclub TAO in the Venetian. Really cool to see a bunch of old friends and talk with them (it seems that at all these “mixers” the music is way too loud, perhaps I’m just getting old). I then was invited to the blogger social where I spent the rest of my evening. I was able to talk with a bunch of other bloggers such as James Wedding, Cyndy Davenport, Rick Ellis, and many others (if I forgot you, you’ll have to forgive me, the beer was free).

Tuesday was the first day of classes and as always Autodesk starts it off with the general session. The theme of this year is the cloud. All week long it was Cloud This and Cloud That. I wonder what Autodesk is focusing their development on? (Is it raining?) I had a great class on using Civil 3D with HEC-RAS, was in an unceference on using .net to access the Civil 3D API that was WAY over my head (must get back into programming some day). At lunch I was invited to a lunch for the top forum contributors on the Autodesk discussion groups. I haven’t been as active there as I used to be but I guess I’m still one of the more active. I was also invited to the Beta Preview for the next release of Civil 3D (no I won’t tell you what they said there, sorry). Yet another perk for going to AU. Tuesday evening was the International Community Reception and they had free beer there (I know, shocker huh?)

To put a bit of a damper on the festivities, as I was getting all psyched up to see what might be coming in Civil 3D, I get a phone call from my wife, she’s on the way to the hospital with one of my boys, he’s broken his arm, again. He just got out of a cast in October and he re-broke his arm.

Sam with a broken arm while sporting some AU swag (the glasses)

Wednesday started another day of classes. Had a much more appropriate uncoference dealing with sanitary sewer modeling using Civil 3D. This was lead by Chris Fuggit over at We had some great conversations in there. In the afternoon, I attended one of my favorite classes of the week. The title was “Making Dirt Look Good: The Autodesk® Civil Visualization Extension” and was taught by Kristina Bollin. She did a great job. The class started out and I kept thinking to myself, “Yeah, I know that. Yeah I know that too, I should have gone to a different class” but about half way through the class I started thinking, “I didn’t know it could do that!” At one point, Dana Probert from Autodesk who was sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Did you know it could do that!?” Really great class. It didn’t get into how to model in Civil 3D to get the data into Civil View, just what you can do with it once it’s in Civil View. If you get a chance and you have access to the online recordings, you should go check it out.

Wednesday night, I was invited to a smaller get together. It was really nice. I get to see some old friends (Jason Hickey, Lousia Holland, Chris Fuggit, etc) and some new friends (Kati Mercer). Had a great time but I couldn’t stay too long as I had a class to lead first thing in the morning.

Thursday was an extremely hectic (not in a bad way) day for me. Started off first thing leading an unconference of my own on Civil 3D styles (if you read my blog, you know that’s one thing I really enjoy). It went well, I think (didn’t get any negative feedback so that’s good). After that I attended another class and then went to lunch.

After lunch I walked around the exhibit hall and noticed that AUGI was still allowing people to take the AUGI Top Daug test. This is a test they allow anyone at AU take. So I took the test, the results came back, and it turns out I won. I scored 100% on the test and was finished in 6:10. I won a $100 Amazon gift card from, a free pass to AU2012 from AUGI and Autodesk, and a laptop from HP. Needless to say I was extremely excited. You can see all the results and the winners of the other tests HERE.

David Harrington the current president of AUGI is on my left and Tom Salomone of HP is on my right.

I skipped my class after lunch in order to get ready for the big class. The class I taught this year was called “Get Your Style On” (bet you can’t guess what it was about). Attendance was a bit lower then my classes in previous years but I think those that attended enjoyed it. I got some really good feedback and only a couple gave me bad marks on the class evaluation. On a side note, I’ve heard some comments on other speakers classes and there are some mean people out there. Remember, if you comment on a class at AU, the speakers get to see those comments so if you have negative comments to say, the least you can do is say them in a constructive manner (eg., The speaker didn’t do this good at all. If they had done this, it would have been much better.) Directly after my class, I had another unconference I led (same as earlier). I even had one of the guys from my unconference in the morning come back for more in the afternoon.

Thursday night was the AU mixer where everyone was invited to try to talk to each other over the very loud music. We (my coworkers and I) didn’t stay long. We bolted and got a nice fancy dinner. I was exhausted by that point so I crashed early (can you blame me?) and then flew home Friday morning.

All in all, it was another fantastic trip to Autodesk University. If you are interested in going next year, it will be at the Mandalay Bay. If you can’t make it but want to take part in a way, follow me on Twitter as I try to keep my followers informed as to what is going on.