2006-10-18

Autodesk Civil 3D and Vault

I attended a seminar on Autodesk Civil 3D 2007 and Vault today that was sponsored by Avatech today, and I've got to say I was impressed. Autodesk has come a long way in helping Engineering/Survey firms. This could be both greatest productivity boost and paradigm shifter in Site/Civil work since the shift to CAD from pencils itself.

Civil3D

Autodesk is totally inverting the design model used for site/civil work. They are moving from a model where designers draw lines to represent roads, curb, and parcels to a true parametric/GIS model where the lines are merely graphical representations of the roads, curbs, and parcels that have been geometrically described by the engineers and designers to Civil 3D. This, once fully appreciated is a sea-change for the AEC industry.

To implement this new work model, you first must setup templates/styles for the ways your organization wants Civil 3D to represent your parcels, alignments, plans, profiles etc. This goes far beyond layering standards and into colors, line thicknesses, notes, call-outs, scales, dimensioning styles and much, much, more. Remember, Civil 3D is going to do most of the drafting, based on the geometry you lay out. This means you actually are training Civil 3D in much the same way the you would train a new Designer in how your plans should look. Except now, you can't simply hand them a set of reference plan and tell him "Make your projects look like this.", you instead have to codify your preferences in a machine readable format through a multitude of dialog boxes and data entry forms.

The good news is that this work is not done every time you open a project but rather you are able to easily condense these designs into a template for future use.

More to come....

2006-10-16

House of the Rising Sun

It felt really good, on Friday, to be able to throw a little love Sun Microsystem's way. They are good guys, real innovators in my book. We haven't been a "Sun Shop" for a very long time. The proliferation of PC-based workstations, early Samba file-locking/performance issues, and the ability of Linux to run lightning quick on inexpensive x86 hardware did away with our Sun habit. That and Sun's, at the time, high price tags for hardware.

Sun made it easy, to come back home, though. The Sunfire X2200 M2 is a dynamite Opteron based server at a price point I couldn't ignore, easily edging out both Dell and HP in the competitive quoting process I always use for servers. Doing this for so long, I've grown callous to the "coolness" factor in most new technology purchases instead looking at ROI's and availability issues, but I find myself waiting in almost eager anticipation for the Sunfire X2200 M2 to arrive. I have high hopes for it as a VM Server host for my Websense project.

Now if only I can find and old SunExpert to get a forwarding address for Mr. Protocol...God he was good!

2006-10-13

Quantum / TechData Continued

Man, just when you think it can't get worse. It turns out that the LTO-3 drive we were erroneously sent was actually mislabeled as DLT-S4 at Quantum, not TechData. My CompServ representative asked Quantum to call me directly to explain the issue and arrange shipping but I have yet to hear from them.

The beat[ing] goes on.

2006-10-11

Websense

I've been working on a web filtering solution today. It seems that unfortunately in today's society it has become acceptable for individuals to waste inordinate amounts of time surfing the Internet to the detriment of themselves and their employer. Combine that with the incredibly letigious nature of the modern employee and you have to protect employees from each others "surfing" from creating a hostile work environment.

Enter today's web filtering poducts. We have been using Squid Web Proxy as a caching web proxy for years. It has saved our company thousands of dollars over the years in bandwidth costs. In addition, it provides logging and some manual regex based filtering. The product I'm going to soon be implementing is Websense. Websense does for the Web what a Barracuda SPAM firewall does for email.

Websense will allow us to take a more proactive stance on web filtering with live databse updates via subscription that group sites into categories which can be allowed or disallowed based on global, group and individual policies. Now, instead of having to do reactive detective work most issues can be thwarted proactively by blocking access to non-work-related sites during business hours.

Best of all, it both runs on Linux and integrates with our existing network of Squid servers. We'll be able to purchase one physical server, and have it host (2) virtual server using VMware Server 1.x. One virtual server will run the Websense software stack, and the other virtual server will be our Tampa office's new Squid proxy. Then we can configure all of our Squid servers at all our remote offices to check with the Websense server prior to fulfilling HTTP/HTTPS/FTP requests from local clients. And important part of this will be to configure this solutions to fail-open should a remote office's VPN connection to Tampa go down for any reason.

Strike Three for TechData

TechData did it again. I'm trying to push along this enterprise backup project which hardware-wise centers around a Quantum PX-502. It was supposed to have (2) DLT-S4 drives it. While my vendor, CompServ, has been stellar, they keep having to clean up TechData's screw-ups. Here they are so far:

  1. TechData's Quantum team gave CompServ and I the wrong cabling information. The library as configured needed (3) FC connections, not (1) as they said. That would have been a $1,500 blow to the budget, had CompServ not stepped up to bat.
  2. TechData sent double the amount of tapes they were supposed to and then started leaning on CompServ for them or $$$. I ante'd for shipping the tapes as a thank you to CompServ fixing the FC-ports problem.
  3. TechData shipped the library with mismatched drives: (1) DLT-S4, and (1) LTO-3. Now, we've got to cross-ship the LTO-3 back. Even more time is now lost.

Can't these TechData guys get anything right?

2006-10-09

Blog via email

It works!

Genesis Group Wins 2006 Tampa Small Business of the Year!

We Won!

Quoting from our web site (9/29/2006):

At an evening Gala event attended by over a thousand of Tampa's creme de la creme of business, big and small , Genesis Group was presented with the 2006 Small Business of the Year Award for the 51 to 250 employee category by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

This spectacular event was MC'd by News Channel 8's Stacy Schaible and featured Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio as a guest speaker and award presentor.

This prestigious award was accepted by Bruce Marriner, Mark Llewellyn, and Bruce Kaschyk who were joined onstage by the rest of the thirty Genesis employees and family in attendance.

Genesis Group is honored and proud to receive this award and would like to thank Craig M. Neuman the Marketing Manager of the Maddux Business Report who nominated us, Charise Strandberg the Director of Small Business Programs for the Chamber and the rest of the the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, our clients, and most of all the dedicated Genesis Group staff and their families who made all this possible.

Now in Blogger Beta

I switched the blog to blogger beta today. Wel'll see how it works out...

CompServ - A Rare Breed

Well, while it's true about good help being hard to find, I apparently did find a good vendor. I've been busy on a variety of things for a long time including our bid and selection for the 2006 Tampa Small Business of the Year award, so I haven't posted in a while, but we finally got our new tape library.

May our 1995-model Exabyte Mammoth-1 based EXB-200 rest in peace! It was faithful, hard working, durable, inflexible, unexpandable and REALLY slow.

We selected a Quantum PX-502, a 2-drive, 32-slot, stackable/scalable workhorse that's not overkill now, and can grow with us over time. In that library we are putting (2) Quantum DLT-S4 drives which are 800GB Uncompressed and 1.6TB Compressed @ a 2:1 compression. At our average compression of 5:4 (25%), we'll be putting about 1TB per tape.

The trouble comes in where we hook this bad boy up to the new backup server. See, the PX-502 requires one FC connection for each drive and one for the library itself. With two drives installed, that means we need three FC ports! When we were researching the solution, I asked on two separate occasions of my CompServ account rep. whether we needed more than one PC port on the server. He called TechData's helpdesk who gave him bad info, indicating that I would only need (1) FC port because there was a FC hub or a daisy-chained FC-AL setup in the PX-502. Wrong!

So here I am on hook-it-up dayday with not enough FC ports, which as you probably know are pretty expensive. I called my CompServ rep. and explain the issue and to my surprise, when TechData wouldn't help out with the situation, CompServe stood up and sent me a 2-port HBA to install in my server to fix the situation. How about that, a company that puts their money where their mouth is!

2006-07-06

MySQL Query caching

I just recently found out that MySQL 5.x has a Query Cache feature that will cache select statements and their results. In addition, it will track the tables involved and invalidate the caches if the involved tables are updated. From the 5.0 Documentation:

The query cache stores the text of a SELECT statement together with the corresponding result that was sent to the client. If an identical statement is received later, the server retrieves the results from the query cache rather than parsing and executing the statement again.

The query cache is extremely useful in an environment where you have tables that do not change very often and for which the server receives many identical queries. This is a typical situation for many Web servers that generate many dynamic pages based on database content.

Note: The query cache does not return stale data. When tables are modified, any relevant entries in the query cache are flushed.

Note: The query cache does not work in an environment where you have multiple mysqld servers updating the same MyISAM tables.

Setting a query as eligible for caching is done through a directive in the SELECT clause. From the 5.0 Documentation:

Examples: SELECT SQL_CACHE id, name FROM customer; SELECT SQL_NO_CACHE id, name FROM customer;

The documentation for enabling the Query cache mechanism can be found here. Once you get it running, it works quite well. If you use the MySQL Administrator application you can monitor the efficacy of your setup using the "Memory Health" graphs.

2006-03-14

Prudencio "Peaches" Hernandez, Jr.

Last Tuesday March 7th, 2006, my Grandfather passed away. This marks a momentus milestone in my life, for he was truly my Father in every sense of the word execpt biologically.

He was renaissance man who could intelligently discuss politics, religion, science, art, sports, or libations and did so at ease with his life-long friends who were numbered in their hundreds and came from every walk of life, race, and religion. His integrity, tenacity, devotion, and resilience were second to none and were reflected in specularly brilliant fasion in the many facets of his life from famliy to baseball, to community service.

As I take stock in my own life, I can only hope to distantly mimick his life's meaning and accomplishments. Below is his obituary, but it would take volumes to summarize his life accurately.

HERNANDEZ, Prudencio "Peaches", Jr., 94, of Tampa passed away Mar. 7, 2006. He is preceded in death by his wife Mercedes R. Hernandez. Survivors include his daughter, Diahn Hanes, grandson, Craig Anderson and wife Stefanie, great grandsons, Spencer and Victor Anderson. Mr. Hernandez was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. He graduated from Jesuit High School in 1932, played 8 years of professional baseball. He worked for a phosphate Co. [US Phosphoric] as a chemist and retired after 33 years of service. He coached baseball and basketball for 21 years, volunteering as a coach for Jesuit High School, OLPH, Most Holy Name and Mary Help of Christians Schools.He coached American League and little league and received the Pop Warner Award and the Sertoma Service to Mankind Award. He also coached the Gibsonton Chiefs, a semi-pro baseball team, which became the 5 year state champions and placed 3rd in the National Tournament in 1961. The family will gather to receive friends on Friday, Mar. 10, 2006 from 6 to 8 p.m. with recitation of the Catholic Wake Rite at 7 p.m at Boza & Roel Funeral Home, 4730 N.Armenia Ave., Tampa, FL. Private services will be held Saturday, Mar. 11, 2006 and interment will follow in Centro Espanol Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to Jesuit High School Endowment Fund, c/o Jesuit High School, 4701 N. Himes Ave., Tampa, FL 33614.

2006-03-02

It's Workin'

Looks like the hard work is paying off. Through quality content generation, keyword density, good CSS/XHTML, and good design, our traffic is increasing.

Here's the month to month comaparison. Comparing November-2005 (old site) to February-2006 (new site):

VisitsPages ViewedAvg.
Pages/Visit
2005-111,0003,0003.0
2006-021,5007,0004.7

This is a good KPI for measuring the success of our efforts. It not only shows that we're getting more visitors, but that they are staying longer to visit more pages. That is GREAT news.

Lot's more work is needed to maximize our positive exposure. Like Jerry Reed sang,

"We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there. I'm east bound just watch ol'Bandit run . . ."

2006-03-01

RSS Solved and Oracle XE so what!

My RSS problem is solved I think. The class I was using had a reference to a dictionary that was not longer available, so I modified it to not try to link it and voila it works reasonably well.

On a lighter side, Oracle announced the availablity of Oracle XE, their answer to Microsoft SQL Server Express and Developer editions (edition comparison. So what! The big problem is that it only supports 4GB of data(FAQ)! For 2006, that's small. Maybe 5-years ago that would have been adequate, but now....so what. One county's worth of parcel data is 500GB. We cover 75% of the state and those data lifts happen anually, quarterly, and sometimes monthly.

2006-02-27

RSS's not easy

While the RSS 1.0 PHP class I used does work with Wizz Reader, and MyGoogle, it doesn't work with the MyMSN content aggregator or the Wallace News Reader I use on my Blackberry. The really funny thing is that it DOES validate with the W3C RDF Validator

Strange. Maybe Atom is the way to go? I don't know. I just want it to be widely useable.

As a side note, I did a little research on google Adwords today at the behest of our marketing committee. Their concern was getting our job opportunities in front of more potential applicants. The AdWords program seems fairly inexpensive. A quick estimate shows we could increase traffic by about 300% for about $60/week. I would like to find out how qiuickly we can "turn-on" and "turn-off" a campaign. That could really be worth it the first week that a job or announcement is in place.

2006-02-24

RSS Feeds

I had to roll my own RSS feeds for the new web site. I created them for our projects list, careers, and news articles. The idea is that it provides an another venue for clients, potential hires, and search engines to keep up with the activity on our site effortlessly without having to remember to re-visit the site just to check for updates. The secondary benefit is that as webmaster, I now can get timely updates to news, career, and project updates too through my news reader.

Informal polling around our office has revealed an upward trend in RSS readership, which hopefully is indicative of prospective employees too.

Along the SEO front, it seems many of the portals, Google, Yahoo, and MSN all have "personalized" pages. A prominent feature of these is the ability to add RSS feeds to your personal page. My theory is that these search providers are definitely going to pay attention to what their own account holders deem important enough to add to their own personal portal pages. We'll see if I'm right in a few months.

Here are the RSS feed links:

2006-01-23

Gone Live!

We went live today!

The site is not perfect, and in fact needs a lot of back-end work. It looks pretty good though. We are getting pretty good positive feedback and constructive criticism. It's a dynamic, scalable medium, and out framework should evolve in a healthy way.

On the SEO side there is a BUNCH of work. Our baseline KPI is a Google PageRank of 3.

2006-01-13

Web site News feature

I spoke with the web developer today and got across my ideas for the news feature. Hopefully we'll be able to have our news and job opportunities syndicated as RSS feeds. That would be pretty sweet. Now if only we can get a pretty constant content stream.

2006-01-11

More Progress

Well, the site progresses on. The content is on the way, and the design continues to get refined. I think we're even ann clear with regard to Services, Disciplines, and Sub-Services. My PIN is even starting to come around to the idea that the "Hightlights" he wanted are actually better classified as sub-services and "Hightlights" are things like "We save the client a million dollars". Taxonomy skills...

The core service areas we came up with are:

  • Community Design & Regional Planning
  • Genesis CE&I Services
  • GIS / Geospatial
  • Land Development & Entitlements
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Public & Civic Infrastructure
  • Survey & Mapping
  • Transportation & Mobility

2006-01-06

Web Site Progress

The web site is coming along well, but it is frustrating. I'm learning so much about SEO, but at the same time, I can't help but be daunted by the enormity of the necessary content and frequency of update necessary for the desired results.

The other problem is that our search terms are quite nebulus. I have no idea what search terms are being used by our clients. See, the issue is not what terms are being used to find us, but instead, what terms are being used and not finding us, but our competitors instead.

Maybe some sort of analysis of their sites...