Monday, November 17, 2008

Little Pinkies to the Corner of your Mouth: One Billion Cells!

I just got this press release from ANSYS, Inc.

To summarize, on of the America's cup Yacht teams just built and ran a model with over 1 billion cells in it. Modeling the sales, ocean and all. They don't say if it was FLUENT or CFX, but we know it was one of the two.

Wow! And this was on a cluster ranked 135... not even in the top 100 of clusters. The press release is kind of vague on details but it looked like it was an HP cluster with 208 server blades. Don't know how many cores per blade.


When I was in the basement of the math building punching cards for my FORTRAN class I would have never thought this possible.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Economy and Simulation: Good and Bad

One of the things we do here at PADT is volunteer our time to start-ups who ask various local business groups for mentoring. I got assigned, along with five other local business people, to a company in the mobile phone world that is seeking some funding to allow them to push their product "to the next level" and really break out. All of which has nothing to do with this posting.
Why I decided to jot something down is afterwords the group started talking about the general economy and how what they do has been effected and how they think it will effect them. Most were either business lawyers or former executives who do small business consulting and things are not looking good, except for bankruptcy filings. But I mentioned that our business was actually picking up and that we saw a lot of opportunity in the current horrid situation.

The fact of the matter is that product development competition just got a lot tighter. People have less capital and have a harder time getting customers to buy. So they need better products and they need them made faster. So we are seeing more and more firms come to us to either buy simulation tools, or have us use simulation to improve their products. It is a smaller investment than hiring more people and has a fairly quick return on investment. Talking to others int he simulation world this seems to be fairly common. "Do more with less" edicts tend towards more virtual prototyping.

As an example, the Chairman of United Technologies (UTX) cited simulation as a major reason why they had such a stellar quarter. See that wack job Jim Cramer on CNBC ( You have to listen to Cramer rant a bit but in the middle is the quote about simulation (at around 6:40).

But everything is not rosy. What we are starting to see, and what will devastate our industry, are signs of major corporations looking at their reduced stock price and the potential of decreased revenue in a shrinking world economy. And then they start looking for ways in which they can make a bold move that will excite investors. And that smells like layoffs. And often they are arbitrary and will hit simulation even if simulation is critical to growing. Also, if you are in the US or Western Europe, they are may ship more jobs to other countries (Of course, if you are in those countries it is a good thing).

My last thought to share is one I've brought up before. I suspect that whichever senator wins in the US they are going to engage in some old fashioned Keynesian Economics and pump money into the economy through funding of alternative energy development. Other developed countries have already started. This means a lot of engineering and a lot of simulation.

But, as with everything, you have to be at the right place at the right time. It is going to be a bumpy ride, but I think when we get to the other side, simulation will come out stronger as a profession and stronger as a part of mainstream product development.

What do you guys think? Am I just tyring to make lemonade out of a cloud's lining?

Friday, September 12, 2008

RTFM, Part 2

In a comment to the RTFM post, a blogger named jajohnson announced that he has decided that if you can't beat them, join them. He will soon publish ANSYS Classic 11.0 For Dummies:

Hee-fricken-larious! I'm thinking I should print this out and glue it to the front of a real "for dummies" book and leave it on my desk to see if anyone notices. Thank you for the huge laugh!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Science and Technology Education not Dead Yet

I was using an old layout of PADT's "the Focus" to start the next issue and I went to delete an editorial we had in there, when I thought it might not be a bad thing to put in this blog. If you missed it in Issue 65 of the Focus, then here it is again for your reading pleasure:

We didn’t have time to come up with a good Awesome APDL so we needed something to fill this space. Then I remembered some thoughts I had last weekend and figured “hey, blathering out your opinion fills spaces just as well as pictures from Doug’s last vacations.”

It is sort of popular these days to spout off about how horrible our education system is and how “kids today just can’t cut it.” or to quote statistics on how many engineers are being created in this country or that. And I’ve taken part in some of that grumbling. But last weekend I was asked to be a judge in an engineering competition for elementary through college students called the “National Underwater Robotics Competition” or NURC. In this competition teams build their own Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV’s) and use them to accomplish a “mission” that usually involves picking stuff up and hitting switches in a dark pool.
What amazed me is how innovative, creative and dedicated these kids were. The participants came from almost every ethnic and economic group you can find in this country, and they all showed the same “Yankee ingenuity” that grumpy old people like to say is dead and gone. I have to admit that I had tears welling up in a couple of oral presentations because I was so proud of these kids.
My favorite was a 7th grader who said “When we started, all we had was a box of parts and we didn’t even know what the word solder meant. When we were done we knew how electricity works, how motors work and Jimmie, he is an expert at soldering now”

At the end of each presentation the judges try to ask if they students are interested in going into science, math or engineering. Almost every student raised their hand to say yes. One said, another eye welling moment, something similar to “before I did this project, I didn’t think I could be anything like an engineer, but now I now I now I have what it takes and I can be the first person in may family to go to college”

Is there room for improvement in the US’s education system? Yes. Do we need to find a way to encourage our best and brightest to go into technology careers? Yes. Is the future bleak and hopeless? No, not if the high school and college kids who showed up with their hand made ROV’s are any indication.

Learn more at :

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


This is not going to be a rant about how "kids today are lazy" and "everyone wants to be spoon fed" I've done that and enjoyed it, as have others on the mailing list. No, instead I want to explore why there is less manual reading these days...

So, this comes up because we got a request from someone via e-mail to see if they could "buy" any tutorials or training material on ANSYS. We sell an APDL guide but don't sell other stuff because we either give it away in the "The Focus" or feel that everything you need to know is in the manual. In fact, to be honest, most of what we publish in The Focus is just a condensed summary of what we find in the manuals. Not much else to it.

After spending way to much time on this I don't think it is laziness or anything like that. I blame two things: Microsoft and "An Idiot's Guide..." Microsoft (and other consumer software people) have lowered the standard on documentation to such a pitiful level, that people no longer assume that the answer is in the documentation. They go straight to forums to ask questions or search because reading the manual has never paid off in the past.

And the "Idiot's guide" don't get me started!!!!! Almost as bad as the children's story "Rainbow Fish." If you create a serious of books under the assumption that the reader is stupid, you have lowered the bar even further. Technical writers now feel that they need to write down to the users, and not expect the users to be smart and capable.

The problem is, there is not much we can do about it. Write a good manual, and no one reads it. But I feel better complaining about it.

If you are a new user and you are looking for those tutorials and hints, read the ANSYS manuals. They are very detailed, written well and consistent. So RTFM.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"You guys are engineers!"

One last not-so-funny story from the conference. Thursday night we were hanging out in the lobby trying to decide what to do for dinner. Most of the attendees were gone and ANSYS, Inc. and channel partners were remaining. We met up with some people from the CFX part of ANSYS, Inc. and decided to take a cab down to Station Square for dinner. Two PADT guys, 3 CFX guys and a customer (CFX user). Now Ward (one of PADT's other owners) and I are certainly middle aged. But the other 4 were younger and in my view, dressed somewhat hip and stylish.

As we were waiting for a cab in front of the hotel one pulls up and this knock-out blond gets out. She is attractive and dressed in a casual but stylish way. Expensive but undertated jewlry and matching lugage. As she looks towards the loby she sees us and says, I kid you not: "You guys are engineers, aren't you" We were speachless. Shcoked. Devistated. Was it that obvious?!?!?

After some nervous laughter I even asked her "Is it that obvious" She looked me up and down and said "Yes" and then walked inside.

I'm still not clear on how I should take it. But I'm thinking of burning my khaki's and all of my shirts with some company/product logo on the left breast. Maybe green hair?

Maybe I should have taken some of the MS Beer to drown my sorrows........

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Disturbing observation at ANSYS conference

Last night at the conference exhibition, the good folks at Microsoft provided a couple free kegs of beer. You would think that announcing, "FREE BEER" in a room of 850+ people would be worse than shouting fire in a crowded theater, but you'd be wrong. No stampede, hardly any lines at all. By the end of the evening, they couldn't give the stuff away. The poor girl was begging people to take a glass so it wouldn't go to waste. 850+ engineers couldn't finish off two kegs!!

My fellow engineers, I'm disgusted with you!!

Joe Metrisin