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Sunday, March 3, 2013

AutoCAD Crashing when opening a file?


If AutoCAD is crashing while opening one of your drawings it may have to do with one or more of the Xrefs.  Sure, it might be the drawing itself, but often it is a corrupt xref. Either way, the steps below may help you to recover that file and make it usable again.

Try these procedures.

Simple Recover:
Type Recover or use the File > File Utilities > Recover command. Sometimes this will work, sometimes not.

Try another Machine or AutoCAD:
Sometimes you can just open the drawing on another machine or with a different flavor of AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT even.  You may have to do this if you can't do any of the following with your AutoCAD or on your machine.

Observe, then Audit / Recover:
While opening the drawing that crashes, watch the command line to see if it is crashing during the loading of an xref. See if you can open or recover that xref.

Recover with Xrefs:
File (or big A) > DrawingUtilities > Recover > Recover with Xrefs.  This should run a Recover on the drawing and all the xrefs.

Manually Audit/Recover everything:
Open each xref and run an Audit. Or, run a recover on each xref.

If you still have problems, open/recover the xrefs (you may have to use another machine) and Wblock them out as new, clean drawings. Rename your 'bad' xref and then rename the new Wblocked xref with the original xref name.

When you Wblock, make sure all your layers are Thawed, On, and Unlocked. Select the objects rather than Wblocking out the entire drawing. (These are options in the Wblock dialog box.)

Be aware that Wblocking by the selection method will not include any paperspace entities. Only the modelspace entities you select will be wblocked.   If you need the paperspace objects, you can use Design Center to drag the layout tabs back into the new file from the old file. Or you can Copy and Paste from old drawing to new drawing.  Just hope the paperspace objects were not the corrupt part of the drawing.

You probably should select by Window or Crossing or WindowPoly or CrossingPoly, (not All or Ctrl+A), to make sure only the visible things are saved to the new drawing. Crossing is the safer method in case there's an oddball block with a hard-to-see speck way off in space somewhere. That block would not be selected if you used the Window selection method and did not include that speck.

By the way, this Wblock method is just a great tool for really cleaning up any drawing.  Look at the file size before and after the Wblocking. It often will shave several Megabytes from the file size.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Comparing AutoCAD settings

The other day, I came across a situation where grip editing a WIPEOUT worked in Civil 3D, but not in AutoCAD.  After looking around the usual forums, I did not find a good answer. I still haven't. But, what I did learn how to do is to compare settings from one AutoCAD to another.

*** Edit:  The answer is to uninstall Autodesk Sketchbook. It somehow messes with the wipeouts in AutoCAD.  Also, I did end up finding the answer on the Autodesk Discussion groups. I'm not sure how I missed it the first time. ***

I figured it must be some variable that was different. But how do I (easily) compare settings between my Civil 3D and my regular AutoCAD?

Here's how I ended up doing it.

Using Express Tools System Variable Editor, I saved the variables to a file from both programs (Civil 3D and AutoCAD).

I opened up each .svp file in Notepad, copied the entire contents and pasted the contents into Excel.  I put ACAD into column A, and Civil 3D into column B.  No need to sort or split into columns because we will be checking the value of each cell. Not necessarily the value of each variable.

I ran up and down Excel to verify that all rows matched up and to make sure one program didn't have some variables in it that the other did not.  I was surprised to see that there were the same number of variables between Civil 3D and AutoCAD. Or, at least that's what the System Variable Editor spits out.

In column C, I wrote a formula to compare the two columns or actually two cells, one from each column.  The formula I wrote was =IF(A1=B1,ok,DIFFERENT).  Copy that formula down the entire column and viola! you have a quick way to find all the variables that are different.

The syntax is :

IF( condition, [value_if_true], [value_if_false] )

So I entered:

The results in Excel or Open Office (shown) look like this:

And there you have it. A reasonably quick and easy way to compare settings between two AutoCADs or drawings.

Oh. I still haven't figured out why my Wipeouts don't show grips in my AutoCAD.  Other AutoCADs in the office work fine. A user with Mechanical has the same issue. The Wipeouts work  in my Civil 3D.  I don't think the Express Tools > Variable Editor reports all the variables.

Stating this prompted me to do some more sleuthing. I turned on my LOGFILE and typed SETVAR ? * to list all the system variables. I turned off LOGFILE and opened the log file in Notepad. I removed all the "Press Enter to continue" and other junk (find and replace makes quick work of that kind of stuff). A quick Ctrl+A and Ctrl+C (to select all and copy) and pasting it into Excel shows that the Variable Editor pumped out 727 variables and the SETVAR command shows 880 variables. Maybe the answer is in there somewhere.

Thanks for visiting,

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Chkdsk Horrors

Well, as usual it's been a while, but since I'm waiting for a few thousand files to be recovered, I figure I'd share my woes with anyone who just might be having similar issues.

The hard drive in my old computer was failing. Windows occasionally would not boot up properly. I've been pretty good about keeping photos and movies on two, 1 Terra byte external hard drives but failed to do so with everyday "My Documents" kind of things.  I'm going to look into Raid storage now, so that may be a topic for a future post.

Today's post is what to do and better yet, what not to do.

The old computer finally would not boot. Windows repair disk did not work.
After several hours of booting, (or not booting) I finally just took out the hard drive and placed it into my newer computer thinking I would just copy the files.

Easier said than done...

I had to set the BIOS so the computer would boot from the proper hard drive and then had to tell device manager to find the old hard drive I just put in.  Sounds easy enough, but it took a few hours, some Googling and several boot ups to figure all that out.

When my computer and Windows Explorer finally saw the old hard drive, I found out I could not access the various Users folders I needed to get to. Access denied.  Really? Come on!  Upon one of the subsequent boot ups, Windows informed me that the old hard drive had errors and suggested running Chkdsk.  After ignoring that a few times I allowed Windows to do so.


After seeing page after page of "Deleting links to ....." it finally finished.  And so was my old hard drive. There were no files on it and there was 500 Gig free space. There was a folder named Recover.000 with nothing in it. Great.

After a bit more Googling, which I did find one post that said not to do a check disk, I discovered some restore or undelete utilities.

One that I'm using now and I rather like is "Active@ File Recovery".  I downloaded and tried the trial which will find all your deleted files but will only restore files up to 64k.  It worked for me and I purchased it using PayPal for $29.  A bargain.

I've now scanned my old hard drive after making an image copy of it with the same software.  Scanning took about 5 hrs and I can now browse through the scanned image and recover the files I want or need.

There were some glitches.  I first tried a Full scan which probably would've taken a few days. I let it run overnight, only to find my computer had restarted and I lost all the scanning work. I then chose a quicker scan and it did the same thing, but much, much faster.   I then decided to make the disk image and scan that. It would scanning the image just fine, but if I tried to search during the scan things would crash and I'd have to start all over again.  My scan of the original old HDD (not the saved image) worked fine and I've been restoring from that with good success.  I just tried to search for some *.dwg files and it has crashed on me again.   But, I think I now have everything I was looking for.

Thankfully, I've recently been placing most of my things on Google Drive so I don't really have to worry about this anymore. At least not this specifically. Who knows what will happen to Cloud storage over the years?

Best of luck to you if you've stumbled upon this post because you've lost files or messed up a hard drive with chkdsk!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

3D TVs - What I've Learned

LG Cinema Screen Cinema 3D 1080p 240 Hz LED-LCD HDTV with Smart TV and Six Pairs of 3D Glasses


Time to buy a new TV?   May as well go 3D!

After years of watching TV on a "little", cheap Emerson 32" HDTV I bought several years ago (for $500), we finally decided to buy something bigger and better.  

This blog will hopefully quickly summarize what I've learned in our research.  Since it's a quick summary, I don't go into many technical details, but you can and should verify what I'm telling you.

  • Most 3D TV's have better picture quality than their 2D counter parts, even if you don't use the 3D mode.
  • There is a difference in 3D delivery methods:
    • Active or Full - Uses battery operated shutter glasses. You view the entire 1080p resolution of the HDTV but some say the screen looks dimmer. The glasses cost $60 each and up.
    • Passive - Uses the same glasses you use at a movie theater and cost as little as  $5 a pair. These only deliver half of the 1080p resolution to you.
    • Here is a good article to explain the technical details.  
  • LED is still LCD.  It's just a method of 'back lighting' and LED back lighting makes the TV slimmer. LED uses less energy and produces less heat than LCD. There is also FULL LED that is really still LCD but there are more LEDs covering more area to produce a more continuous back lighting.  Here's another article for more technical info:

My personal experiences:

At a store, we watched the same 3D movie on Passive and Active TVs.  I think the Active looked just a bit better but not enough for me to justify the added expense of the TV and glasses.

Another reason the Active may have looked better is that we watched the movie on a 70" $4,000 TV while watching the Passive on a 55" $2,000 TV. So we couldn't really compare apples to apples. 

We opted for the Passive design so we wouldn't have to spend so much on glasses and worry about the batteries running out in the middle of a movie. Also, the Passive 3D image was still terrific and had we not watched the Active 3d, we would've never noticed the difference. It is still difficult to really describe the difference. I didn't notice what the link above mentioned. Now that I know it, I might notice it....


Conclusion and my decision:

I've always liked Samsung because of the picture quality. When you go to a store and see a wall of TV's, the Samsungs seem to jump out with their darker darks and brighter screens. But, at this time, Samsung only offers Active 3D. Samsung, also, is generally more expensive than other TVs. You get what you pay for.  If money was no option, I'd get a Samsung.
We ended up choosing LG.  The LG LM557600 specifically. It is a 55" passive 3D design. It has WIFI and a bunch of Internet features and a 'fake' 3D mode which attempts to make any 2D picture a 3D picture. I was skeptical, but it did a decent job at it. I doubt I will use that feature, though. It has a Wii type remote for browsing and menu selection which I liked. It also has a 'regular' remote. The picture is very good and it gets good reviews. The price was about $1500 on Amazon. There is also the LG LM558600, but it gets poor reviews due to lots of people having to return it. The only difference I saw in the specs was it has a dual core processor...

You should definitely go to a store and view the TVs yourself before just ordering on line based on reviews. It takes time and you should go to several stores and try to compare apples to apples. 

If you're in the market for a 3D TV and stumbled upon this blog, I hope it helped without getting too technical or too boring...


Oct 10th Edit:

Now that the T.V. has been here a while, I figured I'd update this post...
We ordered from The TV was delivered within a week and the delivery crew even brought it in and set it up. -ish... Really, they just unpacked it, assembled the stand and placed in on the cabinet where the old TV was.  I came home and wired it up. I have a wall mount I will install one of these days.

First impression: 
BIG. Wow, 55" is a big TV. At least for our room. The kids thought it was a perfect size and that we just need a bigger room.

Figuring Size:
My previous research indicated we need a 46-48" size TV. Maybe I should have stuck with that. We are sitting about 15' from the TV.  A general rule of thumb for sizing your TVs is to measure how far you sit from the TV in feet and multiply by 3. The resulting number is a comfortable size in inches for your TV.    So, in our case, 15' * 3  = 45.  I think a 47" would've sufficed.  If you sit 20 ft away, then a 60" TV would be good.   Get a 30" TV if you're only 10' away. You get the idea.  When the TV is too big, you actually move your eyes and even head to look around on the screen. It gets tiring. Bigger isn't always better.

But, I'm not going to take the 55" back because it is awesome to watch movies on! Regular TV, like Raising Hope or the News is a bit irritating when it's that large. With the size and 1080p you see every bit of makeup on actor's faces and fuzz balls on their shirts.

The 3D is pretty cool and definitely adds to the movie experience. I bought "The Avengers" in 3D for our first 3D TV Movie experience and it was a good one.  Today's 3D movies are not 3D for the sake of 3D. They are not gimmicky with things flying out at you or poking you. The 3D is more subtle and just a part of the movie. Nice. I like it. Doing what I do at work I'm going to have to figure out how to render images and animations for the 3D TV. That should impress the clients.  I have not tried the 2D to 3D feature to any great extent. I wasn't impressed with it at the store and I doubt a non-3D show can really be faked into a 3D show.

Other Features:
My 8 year old daughter is now experimenting with the games available on line through the TV. The Wii type remote is a nice touch too, both for regular TV remoting as well as the games to play. I still have to install and work with the LG Easy Share to hook my TV up wirelessly to my computer to listen to music and watch video and view pictures.  Netflix, Amazon and a host of other on line services are available. We routinely watch Netflix and Amazon movies through our DVD player but I've not yet tried it with the TV. Nor have I tried a 3D movie on line yet. Most of our on line movie experiences have not been perfect, with buffering and pixelation so I doubt the 3D would be that great on line. I'll rent or buy the movies for 3D. I have found out that Netflix nor Redbox rents 3D movies yet.

Overall, I'm very happy with the TV so far. I can deal with the 'too big' problem, I think.

That's it for now.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dimension Tips

I woke up this morning with an urge to share some dimensioning tips.  What a life, huh?

Many people issue a linear dimension command, then pick two points to dimension something and move on.

There is so much more.

Continue dimensions:
If you are dimensioning a series of items, use the Continue Dim command or icon after you have placed the first dimension. You can then just keep picking to place dimensions, all in a neat row (or column if dimming vertically). This works with Aligned dimensions also.

If you are dimensioning objects or actual lines, then you can issue your Dimlinear or Dimaligned command and instead of picking your first dim point, press return to select an object. Pick the line (pline, circle, whatever) you  want to dimension and it places a dimension on that object. No need to snap to both endpoints!

Add a Line or text:
Need to add a line of text under the dimension? Type in \X after the dimension and add your line. The \X will place whatever follows it under the previous text. The X must be a capital X.  Note that if you grip edit the dimension to move the text, all bets are off. You can use Hometext to move the text back where it belongs.

Rotate option to align:
Instead of using Aligned dims, try the rotate option while placing linear dims.This way the dims remain aligned to the rotation instead of the object they are dimensioning. Watch your command line as you place a linear dimension and try the rotate option. 

Dimasso variable:
DIMASSO  dictates how dims are associated with things.
0 will cause the dimensions to be individual lines, solids, and text. Yuck.
1 will keep each dimension together as one object.
2 keeps the dimensions associated with the object they are snapped to.  This will make the dimension move if the object moves. But, if you grip edit the dim, the association with that object is lost. You'll need to DIMREASSOCIATE the dimension. Version 2013 has an option that will visually warn you if a dimension is not associated with something.

I will just mention that annotative dimensioning is the way to go. It eliminates or at least greatly reduces the need for multiple dimstyles and placing dims on different layers. Read up on it if you're not using it.

Extension Lines:
Occasionally an extension line may cover up a center line or something. You can turn extension lines off and on with the properties manager. You might even want to change the extension line to a centerline linetype and remove the centerline itself.

I'm a believer of snapping to the object you want to dimension. Don't snap to center lines or use the perpendicular osnap to place dimensions. You are dimensioning actual objects like bolt holes, beams, columns, etc., not center lines. But, that's just me.

I'm sure I'll think of more after a bit of coffee.   Also my home version of AutoCAD 2012 has expired so I can't double check what I'm writing about. I guess it's time to bring my home computer up to speed with a home license of 2013. If you are on subscription, you can install your software at home with a special home license. 

Please don't forget I have a $0.99 Kindle Book full of AutoCAD tips and tricks based on my AutoCAD Weekly Planner.

The Kindle book can be downloaded from Amazon or directly on your Kindle (Search for ACAD) and the weekly planner is available through the Autodesk Apps store for under $4.00. Both are available by clicking the links above.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Boomerangs. Again.

25th Annual Gateway Classic

Waterloo, IL

Last weekend I attended one day (Saturday) of the 25th Annual Gateway Classic. It's a boomerang tournament held annually in Waterloo, IL which is just a short drive East of St. Louis, Missouri and organized by a guy known as Chicago Bob. I wish to thank Chicago Bob for keeping me on his mailing list all these years and finally convincing me to show up.

I've been throwing boomerangs, or 'rangs, since 1979 when I ordered my first few boomerangs from The Boomerang Man ad in the back of a Popular Science.  But I've always thrown solo. That is, no one else I knew threw boomerangs other than a friend of mine in High School.  I still throw while my kids are at soccer  or lacrosse practice and occasionally draw a small crowd of people who have never seen a 'real' boomerang.

The Gateway Classic was an eye opener to the variety of boomerangs and competitions.  Saturday consisted of workshops where people (mostly rookies) could learn about the different types of competitions. I didn't compete or really take part in the workshops, but the people that showed up were very helpful and friendly. I met competitive throwers from Houston and Wisconsin. I met recreational throwers like myself from Chicago and Tennessee. They were all outgoing and friendly and answered any questions I had about different types of boomerangs and throwing.

I met Greg of RoundTrip Boomerangs ( ).  He had a couple of milk crates of used boomerangs for cheap! I bought 4 used ones of different varieties and a new 30 meter rang.

I was intrigued by the 30 meter relay, a two team competition.  Two teams line up and one person from each team runs to the middle of a bulls eye painted on the field, throws their boomerang and if they catch it, they run back and tag the next team member. I liked the 30 meter boomerang itself as it is a quick throw and catch. I am used to classic wooden boomerangs that seem to float in the air. These 30 meter rangs are made of nylon or other types of plastic and are adjustable with a little twist or by adding rubberbands to weight them for windy conditions. They are faster than my wooden ones.  The image to the left shows a Shakti from Roundtrip.

Another interesting and fascinating competition was the MTA or Maximum Time Aloft. The 30 meter boomerangs will be back in your hand in about 4 seconds after a throw. My bigger, wooden rangs will return in about 5 to 8 seconds. These MTA rangs are razor thin, small, and are thrown to the heavens almost vertically. After zooming to altitude they flatten out and spin/hover back down very slowly, staying in the air for up to 20 seconds or more. Really a lot of fun to watch!

Alan Scott Craig of  Art of Boomerang was also there. He was showing (but not throwing) some of his artwork. Very impressive stuff. Actually, he did throw one of his Dolphin 'rangs a few times. Really neat!  He had a Dragon boomerang that he had some of us pose with. I was almost chosen for the photo op, but he chose a lovely young lady instead. Go figure. She was happy to help promote women in the sport. She was the only female throwing that day. The image of the lion is one of his creations. It consists of several throw-able pieces. See the Rhino?

I've had good luck with boomerangs from Colorado Boomerangs:  I like the E-rangs myself. See the image to the right. The center portion creates a dot as the boomerang spins making for an interesting show.

Next year I'm heading back with my kids and some of their friends to try to get more youth involved in this fun, obscure fun sport.

So go buy yourself a boomerang (not the plastic ones from the dollar store!) and go have some fun!  Yes, you can even make your own.

Maybe I'll see you in Waterloo, IL next year....


Monday, May 21, 2012


Do you work in Meters? Feet? Inches? Angstroms? Parsecs? Qell'gams?

Be aware of your UNITS.

The main units I personally work with are either Decimal for Civil drawings or Architectural for Mechanical, Structural and Architectural drawings.

In decimal units, one unit is usually 1 foot (Civil), 1 meter (metric Civil), 1 millimeter (metric Arch, Mech, and Struct), etc.

In Architectural units, one unit represents one inch. 

There are other Units settings in AutoCAD of course including Engineering, Fractional, and Scientific.

For now I'm just going to cover Decimal and Architectural.

You can set drawings to be Architectural, or Decimal (among others) and when you insert one drawing into another, AutoCAD will scale the drawing up or down automatically as necessary depending on the units and the INSUNITS system variable.
See Help > Insert Units. 
This automatic scaling can work well in an environment that deals with both Architectural drawings and Civil drawings. It can also be confusing for the older, uh, I mean seasoned AutoCAD users. While I admit the automatic scaling can be useful, we set all our drawings' INSUNITS to Unitless and allow the designers/drafters to scale up or down by 12 as they see fit. We have so many drawings that I feel automatic scaling would actually confuse people or scale the drawings the wrong way if the setting wasn't set right.

If you really have some interesting UNITS or have a lot of conversions going on check out the AutoCAD Unit Definition file in Help. I have to admit, I've not had a reason to mess with it that much... none at all, actually.

Many people (like us) just use Unitless for the Units setting. Type UNITS and check out the settings in the dialog box.

When Insertion scale is set to Unitless, (INSUNITS = 0) copying objects from a Decimal drawing to an Architectural drawing will require you to scale the objects up by 12 and vic-versa.

If each drawing's Insertion Scale or INSUNITS is set to its own units, AutoCAD will automatically scale the drawing accordingly when it is inserted or xreffed into another drawing.  

If you work in a multi-discipline office where you use a variety of units, get to
know the following variables.

Metric to Imperial has it's own scaling issues too: 25.4 or 0.3048, etc.

If you are designing in metric and printing to 11x17 or some other American paper size, your paperspace print scaling will have to be adjusted accordingly (like 25.4)  if you want to print a 1:5,000 metric drawing to scale on American size paper. 

We work in a multi discipline office where we pass drawings around and use xrefs that may be Decimal or Architectural. Many time people have questions about their measurements. A building on a site plan should not measure 6'-8" long. It's really 80' long and the units are just reporting that distance in Architectural units. The units for a Civil drawing should be set to Decimal. The dimension style should usually reflect the current UNITS settings. 

Long ago, I customized our menus so we could easily set up a drawing for Civil or Architectural drawings. With one click of a menu pulldown, all the UNITS, system variables, and dimension styles are properly set for the appropriate drawing by using a couple of simple script files.  This could be a topic for another blog. So, if anyone is interested in this please leave a comment.  I even taught an AUGI class many years ago on menu customization using this as an example.

When people have problems with their units or dimensions, I'll ask them to take a DISTance between two points. ...Note that was a distance, not a dimension....  If the distance does not make sense (like the 6'-8" long building mentioned above) change the units and take another distance. This is an easy method of determining what distance a unit is. Foot, Meter, Inch, etc. 

So, in short, when confused, take a distance (DIST) to determine what units your drawing is set up in. Adjust your UNITS and DIMSTYLE accordingly.

I hope this has helped anyone who may work in a multi discipline office like myself.  There is still much that can be discussed, but this is enough for now, I think. I don't want to bore you too much. (Too late maybe, eh?) 

By the way, this has been another expanded excerpt from my AutoCAD Weekly Planner available from the Autodesk App Exchange. There are two versions for under $5. You can also find my "52 AutoCAD Tips Tricks and Little Known Commands" book for the Kindle from or directly from your Kindle for only $0.99. See link below

'till next time.