systems

  • PDF markups for Architects

    In bim, systems on

    One of the tasks in Architecture which still requires printing and scanning, is the markup of drawings and renderings.
    Mostly markups are created by experienced staff to instruct and communicate with their teams and collaborators, thus clarity and time are both critical factors.

    We find that either of the below soft- & hardware combos, go a long way in streamlining this process…

    OPTION A – expand your existing setup with a Tablet

    1 x Apple iMac or MacBook Pro, ideally with a 27 inch screen or display connected
    1 x Wacom Intuos Tablet available in various sizes, we think small is big enough

    OPTION B – use an iPadPro 12.9 inch

    1 x Apple iPad Pro 12.9 4th gen 256GB WiFi only
    1 x Apple Pencil 2nd gen
    1 x PaperLike iPad screen protector

    Regarding software, there is the obvious choice of Adobe Acrobat, however if you are not yet invested into the Adobe universe there are also other options available.

    PDF Expert (iOS and macOS) > easy to use markup tools, including arrows that are easily adjusted plus custom stamps;

    morpholio trace (iOS only) > the sketch design app geared specifically for architects: grid, stencils, hatches and more;

    For ideas which other apps and accessories to use on iOS, have a look at our iPad in Architecture post.

  • iPad for Architects

    In bim, systems on

    Almost 10 years have passed since our first iPad in Architecture review – fast forward to 2020 and the new iPad Pro 4th generation has arrived.

    So here is our latest setup:

    1 x Apple iPad Pro 12.9 4th gen 256GB WiFi only
    1 x Apple Pencil 2nd gen
    1 x PaperLike iPad screen protector
    1 x Anker 5-in-1 USB C Adapter with 4K USB C to HDMI
    1 x iClever BK06 foldable bluetooth keyboard
    1 x Logitech MX Master 3 Mouse
    1 x AmazonBasics Multi-angle stand for Tablets

    In a nutshell the above setup essentially, sets us free of having to log a laptop around. Please note this assumes, that you have at least a 27inch iMac as your base CAD or BIM station at your disposal. Interestingly, a MacBook Pro (with 32GB RAM) plus 27inch 4k monitor is about the same price as a 27inch iMac plus the above iPad Pro.

    There is also the Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad which looks good (and is very expensive!), but we do not think adds any value to our setup. Especially, as our main goal is to travel as lightly and be as flexible as possible.

    Regarding the iPad’s performance there are plenty of in-depth reviews available, which in detail outline the capabilities of this latest iPad generation. Apart from almost reaching MacBook Pro level processing prowess, the main drawing card for us was the new LIDAR sensor that is part of the camera setup. Although there are no apps available that make use of it just yet, this new sensor promises improved AR based architectural workflows – such as iPad based measure-ups of existing buildings / rooms as well as obstruction detection for 3d model overlays into real environments.

    Once these AR apps become available, we will post some more reviews.

    Another interesting development is that Apple has introduced support for bluetooth Mice with iOS 13, which makes navigating around so much easier.

    So to get you started, below is our take on some of our favourite apps for Architects in no particular order…

    linea sketch (syncs with macOS viewer app) > brilliantly simple drafting tools to create diagrams that pop;

    tayasui sketches (syncs with macOS app) > upgrade to pro for additional rulers and a symmetry tool;

    morpholio trace > the sketch design app geared specifically for architects: grid, stencils, hatches and more;

    Archipad > our go to for any onsite defects, simplifying the process drawmatically. It is as easy as uploading your drawings, going to site and marking defects (observations) in plan, taking a photo and making annotations (the app remembers previously used abbreviations) which you can then create a report from on your way home. Done. Archipad also allows for sharing of projects across ArchiPad accounts, which can come in handy if you have more than one iPad in your office.

    Sun Seeker > provides detailed feedback to understand solar access on site;

    PDF Expert (iOS and macOS) > easy to use markup tools, including arrows that are easily adjusted plus custom stamps… Adobe Acrobat begone;

    luna display > unless you dare upgrade to macOS 10.15 for Apple’s sidecar, use the luna display dongle to use your iPad with most old Macs with Thunderbolt 2 as external display;

    Omni Graffle (iOS and macOS) > the one and only app for any diagram and flowchart;

    Soulver (iOS and macOS) > a calculator app that works the way you think about numbers;

    BIMx lab > Graphisoft’s BIMx model viewer available for free, to show or share your 3d ARCHICAD model and Layouts with anyone – perfect for client presentations or site visits. If you have BIMCLOUD licenses there is even a feedback loop for markups;

    ARki > an augmented reality app / service that allows you to show your 3d models in AR… early days still, but very promising;

    Apple Files app > comes with iOS and let’s you connect to any SMB sharepoint – no AFP support!

    Zoom (iOS and macOS) > still the best features for architectural presentations and comms – for additional thoughts on Zoom also see here.

    Pixelmator (iOS and macOS) > another strong Adobe Photoshop competitor at a fraction of the cost – basic but effective;

    Shapr3d > essentially this is SketchUP for iOS;

    GoodNotes > fully featured note taking app;

    Nebo > looking for a notes app with handwriting recognition? BINGO.

    Agenda (iOS and macOS) > simple and elegant date focused note taking;

    Microsoft OneNote > if you are already tied into the Microsoft Universe, e.g. via an MS Office 365 subscription, One Note is a surprisingly feature rich note taking app.

    We are sure there are many more apps suited to architect, thus our quest to find the best possible setup for Architects is a never ending journey… stay tuned.

  • ZOOM – Tips and Tricks

    In systems on

     

     

     

     

     

     

    We recommend ZOOM for video conferencing (either WFH or for general office meetings) as it allows for the following:

    • voice and / or video calls;
    • chat function;
    • screen sharing and a markup / whiteboard tool, that works across all platforms (iOS, macOS, Android and Windows);
    • automatic creation of a company staff directory, so staff can start collaborating straight away;
    • available for free for meetings up to 40 minutes with up to 100 participants – plenty for most ad-hoc team meeting;

    If you need to hold longer meetings choose a single or multiple ZOOM PRO accounts, which allow meeting durations for up to 24h.

    To get started ZOOM provides a series of 1 minutes videos – we recommend you watch the following…

    How do I join a meeting

    Meeting Controls

    Sharing your screen

    …and there are plenty more tutorials available.

    ZOOM TIPS AND TRICKS

    • If you don’t have the zoom app, download and install it from zoom.us
    • Register using your company email for automatic staff directory creation;
    • If your colleagues are already signed in, you will automatically see them under Contacts > Company Directory > Company Contacts.

    USING ZOOM WITH COLLEAGUES OR SAVED CONTACTS

    • To access the company directory, go to Contacts > Company Directory > Company Contacts
    • To make a voice call: right click on name and select “meet without video”
    • To make a video call: right click on name and select “meet with video”
    • To chat: select name and click on “Chat”

     

    USING CHANNELS FOR AD-HOC MEETINGS

    • Create Channels and add all members of specific projects under Contacts > Channels
    • To start a meeting with a channel, simply right click and choose an option as per above;

     

    HOW TO INVITE PARTICIPANTS TO YOUR ZOOM MEETING

    • Go to “Meetings” tab
    • Click “copy invitation”. paste it in email and send it out to attendee

     

    HOW TO HOST A ZOOM MEETING

    • Go to “Meetings” tab and click “Start”
    • Attendees who joined will be listed on screen
    • To end meeting, click “End meeting”

     

    HOW TO JOIN A ZOOM MEETING

    • Click on the URL provided in the invitation – alternatively, copy and paste it in a browser;
    • When prompted click “use zoom app”
    • If you don’t have the zoom app, you will be prompted to download and install it. There is no need to sign in.
    • When prompted to select audio options, click on “join with computer audio”
    • When ready, unmute the mic and switch on camera (bottom left)

     

    FOR PRO ACCOUNTS WE RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING PROCESS

    • Create a ZOOM PRO user account, ideally with a generic email address, e.g. meet[at]macinteract.com;
    • Nominate one person to coordinate meetings for your Office, to ensure that you do not create double bookings. This ZOOM Coordinator also is the only person who has access to all PRO accounts.
    • Staff send booking requests per email to their ZOOM Coordinator, who  creates scheduled meetings and provides the meeting details either via email or shared calendar. The ZOOM Meeting requestor then distributes these details to all Attendees;
  • Caller ID blocking (AU)

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    When you are expected to return business related calls from your mobile phone and you wish to not share your personal (australian) mobile number for whatever reason, you can do the following:

    A. Block your number on a call by call basis 

    From a landline, dial 1831 then the number you are calling

    From a mobile phone, dial #31# then the number you are calling

    B. Block your number permanently 

    For mobile phones, most phones include a “show my caller ID” setting in the settings app, which can be turned off.

    On an iPhone go to Settings > Phone > Show My Caller ID

    On Android phones to Phone > Settings > Call Settings > More Settings > Caller ID (or similar)

     

  • Working remotely – WFH

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    [18/05/2020 > updated with link to flexible work arrangement post]

    The main challenge of working remotely or working from home in Architecture is the combination of large file sizes and slow or intermittent internet connections.

    We find that the following approach typically works best:

     

    INTERNET CONNECTIONS

    Ideally staff have at least an NBN connection. Although 4G connections might work, they are typically not as stable and might cut out regularly.

     

    REGULAR FILE ACCESS via VPN

    1. connect to VPN > https://macinteract.com/vpn-setup-macos/
    2. use the BEACON menu to access the file server – if you can not connect > https://macinteract.com/adjust-lan-ip-address-range/
    3. once connected to the FILE SERVER, copy the FILES you need to work on to your desktop;
    4. open and edit the FILES directly from your Desktop;
    5. once you are finished working, ensure that you copy the FILES back to the FILE SERVER replacing any existing files;

     

    ARCHICAD TEAMWORK FILES via VPN

    ARCHICAD Teamwork files will work as if you are in the office once you are connected to the VPN. The main limiting factor is internet speed if you need rejoin or share a large project file – ideally you do not want to do this outside the office, but if you must please allow enough time.

     

    SOFTWARE LICENSES

    Microsoft Office 365, Adobe CC, etc. all will continue to work as normal.
    All Network based licensing, e.g. SketchUP, VRAY, ARCHICAD & Vectorworks will continue to work once you are connected via VPN.

     

    COMMUNICATIONS

    To continue communicating effectively is key when working remotely – we find the following works best:

    ZOOM > The perfect tool for remote collaboration as in addition to the classic voice and video features it allows to screen share and markup drawings cross platform. Note that in the free version meetings are limited to max 40 min.

    KERIO CONNECT chat > If you are using KERIO Connect as your mail server, you can use its webinterface to access the chat feature.

    APPLE MESSAGES > For all staff that already have an Apple ID they can simply setup the Apple Messages app on their Mac (/Applications/Messages.app) and send free messages to other staff.

    Also refer to our flexible work arrangement post.

  • Adjust LAN IP Address Range

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    For a successful remote server connection via VPN, your home internet router must use a different IP address range to your office network setup.
    For example, if the office router IP address is 192.168.0.1, your home router IP address cannot be 192.168.0.x

    To check please do the following:

    1. When connected to your home internet, go to Network Settings (Apple logo on top left > System Preferences > Network)
    2. Click on active connection (the one with the green light) and check the router IP address:
    3. To change your local setup, access your home router via browser.
      Simply copy and paste the router IP into a browsers address field.
    4. Next you will be prompted to enter the routers username and password.
      Typically the default login credentials can usually be found within the device rating label on the underside of your router / modem.
    5. After you login search for something like LAN or Advanced settings, where the LAN range is typically located within the DHCP server settings.
      Below is a typical router’s DHCP server settings page as reference:
    6. Adjust the IP Address to 10.1.22.1
    7. Ensure that the DHCP range is 10.1.22.2 to 10.1.22.254
      Upon saving the changes typically the router will restart. During this time, also restart your computer to obtain a new IP address from your router.
    8. Next test your VPN setup again and if you are still experiencing problems, please contact us.

     

  • How to create non-editable PDFs

    In systems, Technology on

    Unless you have Adobe Acrobat Pro at your disposal it is not very straightforward to mark up PDFs that subsequently can not be easily edited, e.g. if you need to blank certain passages in a text document without rewriting the document for that specific purpose. We also found that the current version of Adobe Acrobat Pro does not create PDFs that can not be edited with Apple Preview.

    One old school approach to this is to edit the PDF in Adobe Acrobat (Reader or Pro), then print and scan the document – the problem with this is that the resulting PDF might be rather large, depending on your printers scan settings.

    To get this done in a more convenient way, do the following:

    1. download and install PDFwriter, basically this creates a virtual PDF printer that btw. can also be used to create any size PDF;

    2. edit the PDF in Adobe Acrobat (Reader or Pro), then go to the print dialogue and under the Advanced tab choose to ‘Print as Image’

    3. next choose PDFwriter as your printer and print, the resulting PDF is accessible in /Users/Shared/PDFwriter/YOURUSERNAME

    Although a bit of a workaround the above reliably creates PDFs which are not easily edited.

  • ARCHICAD BIM Server backup settings

    In bim, mACT, systems, Training on

    The ARCHICAD BIM Server has a very useful built-in backup function, if configured correctly. Find below some considerations regarding a proper backup strategy.

    1. On Mac OS X we find that people tend to choose Apple’s TimeMachine as their preferred backup option. Although this is a perfect solution for your regular desktop, this is problematic on a server level as it is not easy to control, e.g. the time it runs or what to include or exclude – we use the excellent Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) instead;

    2. We typically adjust CCC to backup after hours, with a preflight script to stop and post flight script to start the ARCHICAD BIM Server;

    3. We also adjust the BIM Server backup settings to typically only do PLN backups, to ensure that in case of catastrophic failure, you at least have PLNs that you can use temporarily without a BIM Server (unless you have a few spare BIM Servers flying around)… note PLN backups are typically bigger in size than BIMSERVER backups;

    4. We also choose to run backups after hours (not all at once at 1600h – not sure how Graphisoft determined that that might be good time to have all TW projects backup at the same time…);

    5. Depending on your BIM Servers capacity and the number / size of your typical project files, carefully monitor that you do not run out of space (and risk corruption of the bimservers mongo database) – unfortunately there is no way to globally adjust the default backup settings easily, i.e. it is a manual process that requires regular checking to ensure that nobody has shared a few 4GB files with the default backup settings;

    6. Offsite backups are essential but depend on your willingness to rotate backup drives / tapes offsite (we do it daily) or your internet connection bandwidth for cloud based backups. Do think twice about cloud backups though, although convenient restoration / download times for several GB of BIM Server data might be prohibitive (we only do tapes and hard drives to avoid massive downtime);

    One last thing to keep in mind regarding the frequency of BIM Server backups:

    If your practice works in large teams and you need to restore or roll back a project file (e.g. if a single user gets detached), we find that hourly backups are not really that useful, as you typically loose as many man hours as there are team members if you reset the project for the whole team (rather than just forfeiting a single users work for the last couple of hours).

  • Identifying malicious email

    In news, systems on

    [22/06/2020 > updated with best cybersecurity practices]

     

    Best practice approach to cybersecurity

    Since any defence mechanism is only as strong as its weakest link (typically the human involved), we recommend everyone to follow the below principles:

    1. DO NOT click on links or download attachments from people:
      – you DO NOT know
      and/or
      – you are NOT currently working with;
    2. DO NOT click on links or download attachments from people you DO know, unless you are expecting a document or link from them. If in doubt call or email them to confirm they sent that email, as their accounts might have been compromised.

    The above in addition the regular cyber security awareness training and testing, will go a long way in protecting your network and data.

    So how do you properly identify malicious email, e.g. phishing attacks?

    The easy way…

    …read the email carefully, there are a couple of easily visible giveaways e.g. the sender address (A) and at the bottom the Russian email address (B). Another telltale sign of maliciously crafted emails becomes visible once you hover (i.e. without clicking) above an link, as a flyout will appear and show you the referenced URL © which is clearly not an official link in this case.

     

    The slightly more involved way – if you are using Apple Mail…

    … in Apple Mail, go to View > Message > View all Headers, which will show more details about where the email came from. Depending on your mail server / hosting setup this will show more or less detail, however the important part here is that there will be addresses and more information (D) that clearly makes this an illegitimate email.

    If you feel like doing the right thing you can then forward this email (with the more detailed header info) to the purported sender’s (e.g. AmEx, Apple, etc.) by sending it to abuse@… (e.g. abuse@americanexpress.com or abuse@apple.com)

  • Carbon Copy Cloner and Dropbox

    In news, systems on

    We have started to use the excellent Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) to sync various Folders on a File Server to a dropbox account to share its content ‘automatically’ with an external party.

    Initially we had some problems, as we had simply scheduled a Backup Tlan to run every hour, which resulted in a couple of errors regarding hidden files that dropbox seems to generate for its syncing process and which stalled the CCC backup.

    Thankfully the support for CCC is excellent and we ended up getting a solution directly from Mike Bombich, which you also might find useful.

    To get it working properly you need to stop and start Dropbox via pre / post flight shell scripts, which can be attached to the Backup Task inside CCC’s > Backup Task Scheduler > Before & After panel.

    dropbox_stop.sh
    #! /bin/bash
    osascript -e 'tell application "Dropbox" to quit'

    dropbox_start.sh
    #! /bin/bash
    sudo -u YOURNAME open -a "Dropbox"

    Simply copy and paste the scripts above into the Text Editor of your choice, amend with your accounts shortname, save them as plain text with .sh as extension, then attach them to your CCC Backup Task.

    Regarding the ‘sudo -u’, Mike Bombich writes…

    “CCC’s pre and postflight scripts run within the root user security context, so there are some limitations placed on the use of AppleScripts and specifically the “open” command. Precede those commands with “sudo -u yourname “(replace “yourname” with your account’s shortname) and the script should work fine.”

    We can confirm it does work perfectly.