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

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First day of Conference

Well, it is late at the end of the first day of the conference and I had to say it was an enjoyable day. Jim Cashman started stuff off with a good overview of ANSYS, Inc's vision and direction which was very positive for me because it stressed core technology and productivity improvements. Then the product managers/planning folks gave a real brief look at what is coming down the road, including some tantalizing looks a the new analysis management tools in 12.0. Lots of good stuff for hardcore ANSYS users as well.

After the first session I spent the rest of the day hanging out in the exhibit hall meeting lots of folks, including many XANSYS people. For lunch I had the privilege of sitting at a table with John Swanson and a bunch of users. We talked about APDL and what we would like to see him change or add to it. He is an incredibly intelligent man who is incredibly humble and willing to listen to everyone. That lunch may be the highlight of the trip!

For dinner we had food from around the world served in the exhibit hall. I got to meet more people and talk geek to lots of people. Very enjoyable.

The only down side is our booth is kind of in a dark corner. We are feeling a little neglected. But we have been able to hand out a bunch of XANSYS stickers and all sorts of PADT propoganda and pens.

I'll try and get some pictures on my phone tomorrow.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Finite Element Training Classes

In a comment to Paris's post about Abaqus features, Fern noted that, "The ABAQUS training programs were fantastic in that they didn't shy away from theory at all." This brings up a very good point, "How much and what kind of theory should be presented in an FEA training class?".

As I see it, there are 2 branches of theory that can be dealt with in the training class. First are the engineering principles that are represented and how they are implemented/accessed activated within the analysis code. Things like plasticity models, large deflection, thermal radiation, random vibration and piezoelectrics fall into this category.

The second branch of theory which can be dealt with is the computational/programming aspect of the analysis code. This deals with items such as element formulations, matrix solvers and user
programmable features.

There is also significant gray area between these to branches. This touches more on the art of FEA. Things like determining the correct damping to use, Hertzian stresses, choosing the correct turbulence flow models. It soon becomes apparent that developer must pick and choose which topics to cover in the typical limited 2 to 3 day training classes they offer.

From my experience in giving training classes, most students tend to lose focus (that’s code for falling asleep) when a lot of theory is presented. Most students want to know the just the basic
commands to get their analyses running and worry about the quality of their results after the fact. This is where qualities brought by the experienced engineer really shine. It is their upfront thinking about the results they want and knowledge of the theory that they consider BEFORE they start building their models.

Should theory be presented in all classes or should there be follow-up classes in theory made available to those who are interested?

Friday, August 15, 2008

About doing that homework…

Here's an interesting excerpt from a thread on Ubuntu . with an excellent example of how not to use a mailing list and why not . It's a briefly summarized thread starting with a request by an apparent lamer for help cheating on a job interview.

_________Original Lamer
Calling All Linux Experts
If I could ever so kindly ask the Linux world for some help.

I have applied for a job that is in a heavy Linux environment and I have been sent a questionnaire about my knowledge. I know my way around pretty good and just want double check my answers. Some of the questions and a gim-me, some take some thinking and some are just down right hard. Any and all help will be greatly appreciated.

Here are the questions:
1. Give an example of set of shell commands that will give you the number of files in a directory
2. How do you tell what process has a TCP port open in Linux
3. On a Red Hat Linux Variant how do you control whether a service starts when the system boots
4. How do you tell the amount of free disk space left on a volume
5. Give an example of a set of shell commands to tell how many times “bob” has logged on to the system this month
6. Give an example of a recursively copying a directory from one location to another.

(more of the same)

20. Given a radius server at and a shared key of ‘abc123’ show the IOS commands necessary to authenticate switch users against the radius server, while still allowing the use of local username / password pairs


_________End lamer post

A number of responses appeared in roughly the following vein, telling the original poster to do his homework.

_________Reply #1
Location: Melbourne, Australia
How about you supply the answers so we "experts" can tell you if they are correct or not, because I for one will not be taking the risk of aiding and abetting someone to get a job they may not be qualified for by potentially helping them cheat (and possibly prevent someone that is qualified from succeeding).

If you don't answer then those others on this forum who may not be as cynical as me may have learned a valuable lesson themselves.....

_________End Reply #1

_________Reply #2
Location: NorCal
Perhaps if you don't know the answers to these questions or you're not confident enough in your knowledge of linux systems to know your answers are right, the job is not for you.

_________End Reply #2______

The really interesting response comes from the potential employer who submitted the questions to the recruit:

_________Employer reply
For those who have commented, it is indeed an entry level network administration position with some Linux skills required as most of our network management tools run on Linux. I would also like to say thank you for the very sensible comments you all have made about the call for answers. And "bradcarr" while you haven't broken the rules of my questionnaire you have definitely broken the spirit of the exercise. I did indeed say you could use any resource available to you, but didn't it cross your mind that this might be the wrong thing to do? I want to see the "real world" ability of a potential employee, not what they can recite in an interview but what they can come up with using their normal information sources to solve a problem or research a subject.

This has shown me that you won't take the initiative to research a problem, even when it might land you a job. I "googled" most of these questions before making the list and most of them are very easily discovered. It didn't seem to me that I was asking too much for people to use mailing lists, forums, IRC whatever to compile the answers themselves. I actually expected to see some questions show up on forums but I didn't expect someone to paste the entire thing and expect the forum users to do all the work that would qualify you for an interview. I think at this point you could save us all some time and not turn the answers back in, I already have the information I need on your answers.

As far as the rest of you, if there are any of you reading this thread that live in the Nashville area that want a network administration job with some Linux work feel free to shoot me your resume at paul.tinsley (at) Oh, while you are at it, go ahead and send me the answers to the questions

_________end Employer reply

The lessons are apparent:

__When you post to XANSYS, or anywhere on the Internet, you're not as anonymous as you might think. Use your head and don't show the world that you're not above begging strangers to do your work for you. You never know who might be listening in. Not only did this guy lost the chance for a job, everyone on Ubuntu and likely a lot of their friends knows about the lamer who announced for all and sundry that he was looking to dig someone else's potatoes.

__Do your homework. If you think you need help, the first thing to do is try to help yourself. Try not to look like a complete dork.

__If you don't have the skills for a job, don't try to fake it. Better an honest job search than getting sacked for incompetence and having to explain why during your next interview.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

ANSYS, Inc. Investor Conference Call

For those of us who make our living off of the ecosystem created by ANSYS, Inc., you follow the health of the company as closely as you can. I'm not much of one of "wall street speak" and all the second guessing involved in the whole world of investments. But a few years ago I started listening the quarterly conference calls that Jim Cashman (CEO) and Maria Shields (CFO) do every quarter right after they release their quarterly numbers. If I kind of glaze over the the financial minutia and the difference between GAAP and non-GAAP multi-year distribution of acquisition costs, there is some useful information there.

I just listened to the 2Q call and thought it would be a good blog topic, and I'm running a little CFX model on my machine so about all I have the horsepower for right now is typing in this editing window... Hopefully others listened to it and can add their observations as comments. Let me state: These are my oppinions, not PADT's or ANSYS, Inc.'s.. yada... yada... yada.

The first thing that struck me about this call was that Jim Cashman's normal high level of enthusiasm was at almost the giddy level. For those of you who don't know, Jim is an engineer. He may be the CEO of what is now a major company, but he is still an engineer and he is stoked about features coming in 12, the further integration of FLUENT with other ANSYS products and the ANSOFT acquisition. I think his enthusiasm for the product is fantastic and the fact that he was most enthusiastic about the high-end capabilities is what made me the happiest.

The numbers were good, continued strong growth that beat what the rest of the industry is doing, and growth across geography and product line. They have gotten back to the level of operating efficiency that they had before the FLUENT purchase (FLUENT had a more people and expenses per dollar of revenue than ANSYS, Inc. did before the merger). But what do numbers mean to those of us who count on ANSYS, Inc. technology to make our living? Well basically more money for R&D.

I really think this is true for two reasons: 1) in the past they have always kept a high level of spending on R&D, often around the 20% range, and 2) what seems to be selling and giving the ANSYS, inc. product line its advantage is the breadth and depth of capability that is offered. We see this in our sales here in the Southwest as well. People want a tool that works and has no dead ends or limitations. FLUENT, CFX, ANSYS all deliver on that and the Board of Directors and senior management seem to be stressign high-end capability and integration of high-end tools more and more.

So, the little lines on my convergence graph have flattened out, which is as close to "finished" as a CFD run can get... so in conclusion take a listen to the confernece calls. I think they give some great insight into why ANSYS, Inc. makes the decisiosn they make and even gives some pointers to what their technical direction is. Just don't listen when you are tired - the numbers can get a bit booring.

The older calls are archived on the ANSYS, Inc. investor relations site:

And you can get the latest from any of the standard portals like iGoogle, myYahoo, etc...
I use the "Events" section of the Google Finance page for ANSYS:

The Q2 call can be found at:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Feature matching in Abaqus & Ansys

On occasion I run into features of ABAQUS that would like to see on the ANSYS side. Case in point, my recent post on XANSYS regarding the modal transient dynamic analysis. The problem arises from ANSYS' inability to apply base motion (acceleration in my case) on structures w/ non zero boundary conditions when the modal superposition method is used. Why modal supeposition you'd ask if the the FULL (default) method (TRNOPT) is fully capable of doing what I need ?? Simple, MSUP is the only option that will allow me to save modal coordinates in jobname.jcf that in turn can be used for further number crunching (fatigue or other postprocessing).
My only recourse is to go back to ABAQUS or Use NASTRAN. Ansys seems to be a fully capable program with an arsenal of capabilities spanning many disciplines.
This 'deficiency' made me think that ABAQUS has features that most likely will not make it on the ANSYS side especially now that the development dynamics within ANSYS Inc are pro-Fluent and more or less neutral-ANSYS. Version 12 is not out yet to make the latter argument stonger or weaker so I'm little reserve as far as what goodies are in our stockings fron Santa-Ansys....

I'd like to know what other features of ABAQUS (if an ABAQUS & ANSYS user) you miss when working on the ANSYS side. By the same token, ANSYS has some real big guns like APDL that Abaqus users would like to have instead of learning python for their scripting. {{python is a very powerful language but not as intuitive as APDL in my opinion - Expect flaming about this from hardcore & seasoned python users}}

Sure, the luxury of having dual super number crunchers like ANSYS & Abaqus doesn't put you in the position of thinking 'Hmm, ANSYS/ ABAQUS doesn't have this or that. What if ... "

Well, not everyone is that lucky and has to make do with one code {{what a life !!!}}.

Your thoughts ???

Paris Altidis

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hiring a Receptionist

OK, maybe not the correct forum but I have to share this. We posted an opening for a receptionist here at PADT. We got 551 responses (the recession hit Arizona a while back). We did our typical thing of sorting and choosing. When I had picked the people we wanted to interview, I thought it would be nice to send out a bulk e-mail to all those that responded via e-mail, letting them know they would not be interviewed. I got two responses that made all of us here laugh and cry at the same time. First, here is my bulk response to the applicants:

Dear Applicant,

I want to thank you very much for applying for the Receptionist position with PADT, Inc. We received over 400 resumes in 7 days for that position! As you can imagine, it was a bit of an effort to sort through all of those and decide who we wanted to interview. Unfortunately you were amongst those that we decided not to interview.

I wish we could give feedback on each applicant, but we just don’t have the time. We also apologize for sending you this rather impersonal bulk e-mail, but we can’t send 400+ individual responses.

Please do not call or e-mail us asking for a second chance or for feedback. We understand that many people are currently in a bad place and could really use a job, but in order to keep our profits and pay our employees, we have to focus on our long-term needs.

Thank you for your interest in the company and we wish you the best of luck in your job search.


Eric Miller
Director, HR (Acting)

I got a reply from one of the 6 Tiffany's that applied (I have not altered any punctuation or spacing):

I really do think you might be upset with not trying out an effort with me because I have over 5yrs experience as a receptionist and I am a mother so I have alot of patients and undergarment with anything and everything. So if u are not satisfied with anyone you are interviewing,please let me know

Then I heard from another person who did not like my form letter:

Dear Mr. Eric Miller(Acting) Hr Director,

I am so sorry that you did not pick my resume. BUT, after reading this very RUDE letter that you have sent out to all who did not get picked. I must let you know that I would have rather not heard any feedback from your company then to have received this horrible letter. I would never lower myself to email you to give me a second chance, or come asking for any feedback, as far as Iam concerned you are the one who just lost out not me. You are suppose to be professional and this is what you send out to applicants! OH MY GOD you and your company are very impersonal and I myself would never work for a company that would even consider sending out this horrible response. So in the future I would suggest you not respond to any applicants.

Thank You

Insert your favorite "people today" "texting and myspace are ruining the English language" "the school system is broken" rant here.

The good news is the 5 people we picked to interview are intelligent, well poised, well spoken and used something approaching proper spelling, grammar and punctuation when in their e-mails. It will be hard to choose amongst them. So there is hope for humanity.

- Eric

Thursday, July 31, 2008

First Posting

XANSYS has been around for a long time and is doing a great job as a way for the community to share knowledge and make the ANSYS user community strong. One thing long term subscribers will note is that it is not a place where opinion or ruminations take place (or at least not often). Instead of changing XANSYS we here at PADT thought it would be a good idea to start an XANSYS blog where key members of the XANSYS community can post their thoughts and observations.

PADT will moderate this, and we will decide who can post and who can not. Everyone is welcome to comment, but we will delete inappropriate on unprofessional comments.

This will only work if people publish good content. Let's see what happens!

- Eric Miller
Principal and Director, Analysis &
Design Technologies
PADT, Inc.