CADBlogWatch : More Automation Please!

I had someone recently ask me how to get their blog added to the @CADBlogWatch aggregation. My response is always, “Just send me the blog RSS feed and I’ll get it added”. This was a manual process to setup each blog feed. I’ve been using IFTTT for years. Creating a connection for each RSS feed with Twitter link to tweet out the content. You can copy a template and change the inputs but it always just wasn’t quite clean enough for me.

I’ve recently been interested in the capabilities of Microsoft Power Automate and wanted to see if I could clean up this process by using it.

The first thing I wanted to eliminate was having to create a separate job for each blog that I added. I accomplished this by creating an Excel spreadsheet with a list of all the blogs being aggregated. I setup Power Automate to iterate through the rows and grab the RSS feed based on a columns value in the row. It will only return those posts that are newer since the last time the job ran and tweet out only those.

Next, I wanted an easy way to add a new blog to the list. I wanted to use Microsoft Forms but it’s limited to only business or education accounts and I’m running this from my personal Office365 account.

I went the direction of using Google Forms to collect the data needed and save it to a Google Sheet. Power Automate then can copy the data from the Google Sheet to Excel.

But wait, I know better and knew once the spammers found the form it’ll be just junk entries.

So I added logic to filter out spam and the ones that do make it through, I still wanted to review before allowing them onto the list. I could just notify myself to look at the new submission in the Spreadsheet but that seemed like it wasn’t simple enough. I could also have used the built in approval functionality but it’s also limited to business accounts.

Power Automate does have an Email with Options function that allows you to send an email to yourself with choice buttons in the email body. This workflow just needed Approve or Reject.

Clicking on one of these options in the email will either add the new blog to the list, or delete it with a reply email back to the submitter.

 

So now my bot tweeter, is also fed by automation as well. The real lesson learned was all the Power Automate lessons learned. Now I want to automate as much as I can, both at home and at work!

 

Want your blog added? Use this Google Form.

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Permanent link to this article: https://cadtoolbox.com/2021/09/27/cadblogwatch-automated/

Configure your CAD Deployments

I’ve progressively moved towards less and less steps for a person to have to perform in order to complete a CAD upgrade. Over the years, I’ve been through CAD upgrades and have talked to friends where the upgrade has ben riddled with so many steps and instructions that it’s almost guaranteed to cause support questions. Download this from Vault, copy the file from here to there, change this setting from this to that. It’s numbing. Most people just want to get to work and not be bogged down with steps that should be automatic.

 I’ve been a big fan of Inno Setup and the add-on Inno Script Studio. This setup tool allows for easy creation of executable tools to perform all sorts of operations that would otherwise need so many manual steps. 

Inno Setup allows you to copy files and folders of files, create directories, update the registry, run auxiliary applications and do things like request user input through text fields. One of the cool things is also the ability to copy files to specific locations without having to compile the files into the executable. The external flag on a file allows for the file to be copied from a local or network location to its final destination. This allows an administrator to change files later if needed without having to recompile the executable. I’m now using this method for tasks like getting the latest Inventor Project file from Vault. A copy of the .ipj file resides in our Box Drive team share used to deploy the templates, styles, material libraries and everything else needed  to run the CAD applications. The exe grabs the ipj file and places it into the users Vault workspace folder. This saves the last step everyone always seems to forget of getting the updated project file from Vault.

I’ve also used Inno Setup to create patches for users to run when I needed to adjust settings. For a previous deployment, I opted to have a scheduled task created using Inno Setup that checked for new files on a network share and copy them to their computer. This worked great for a few years but as most users worked over VPN during the pandemic, it added extra burden to the network. Inno Setup was then used to delete the scheduled tasks from the users computer as a patch. All of these executables are also designed and intended to be run without our users having administrative rights to their own machines. Creating scheduled tasks and copying files into folders such as %appdata% does not require administrative rights.

Some of you may be reading this post and asking, why not just perform these operations using your software SCM tools? For many reasons. If your SCM deployments are for your entire corporation and you need to configure differences for just your division, department or team. SCM tools can require a time consuming sync to all locations. You want your CAD configurations to be nimble and flexible enough to make changes quickly if needed. If a material is requested to be added to the Inventor material library, you certainly wouldn’t want to have to wait days or weeks for this to happen. 

So, what tools or methods do you use to layer on your CAD application configurations? Find me on Twitter at @cadtoolbox and let me know!

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Permanent link to this article: https://cadtoolbox.com/2021/02/20/configure-your-cad-deployments/

Fusion360 in VR?

I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of taking your normal work to a VR environment. This is is why I was excited to try out Immersed VR for the Occulus 2. It allows you to see your computer desktop in a VR environment.  You can use the Occulus controllers or just your hand gestures to control your computer mouse. The keyboard can be completely virtual or mapped to your actual computer keyboard. A press of a key on your physical keyboard is directly mapped to the virtual keyboard you see on your screen.

This has some potential, especially the virtual collaboration tools but if you’re expecting to do some heavy work, it’s clunky and you most likely won’t get too far before you take your headset off and bring yourself back to the real world.

 

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Permanent link to this article: https://cadtoolbox.com/2021/02/07/fusion360-in-vr/

Time to reduce some clutter

Sometimes you have to take a step back and think about what projects you have outstanding, what you’re working on and what consumes your time in order to re-evaluate priorities. You can say this is a result of the pandemic, or the change in lifestyles with working from home, spending more time with family or whatever but it also can be attributed to wanting to cutout the projects that bring no more personal or professional satisfaction anymore. Reducing what’s not fun, what’s not important or not rewarding gives you the opportunity to fill your time with more challenging activities and more rewarding projects.

With all that being said, I’ve come to the decision to stop any further development or release maintenance on Swift Prints and Design Notes after the current 2021 release. Plenty of you have been using these apps and have found them valuable and that’s great but all good things eventually come to an end and it’s time to put these to rest. After the 2022 Autodesk products roll out, these apps will be considered depreciated.

These were designed to originally fill-in short term gaps in Inventor functionality. Now over 10 years later, it’s still lots of clicks to send a print. I would encourage you to post to the Inventor Idea Forums asking for what these apps provide if you enjoy using them. 

BatchLogic will remain as sandbox type project. I have some ideas for this I still want to try out that I think would be really cool if it all comes together as I want. You’re more than welcome to continue using this at your own discretion.

So what’s next? I have a few projects that are in a completely different direction that I want to pursue. Some are CAD related and some are not. I’ll be sure to post here or on Twitter any updates that’s worth sharing. Of course, CAD is still my passion and you’ll still find some new posts, tips and tricks and all sorts of random thoughts from me on here and on Twitter.

 

Thanks to all who have put some extra coins in my coffee cup over the years. I do appreciate it. Onward and upward!

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Permanent link to this article: https://cadtoolbox.com/2020/12/02/time-to-reduce-some-clutter/