Thursday, January 12, 2012

January SFDD Meeting

Attendees: Dan Tsui, Jen Dameron, Victor Chu, Jackson Ng, Craig Goings, Mario Guttman, Nancy McClure, Bruce Madsen, Marla Ushijima

The topic of the day was mobile apps, mostly for the ipad. Dave Bleiman reports that Rutherford & Chekene has recently supplied all their principals and officers with ipads + accessories. He started off the discussion, listing the hardware and apps they're using.

A keyboard is essential for extended use. Dave uses a model by Zagg that doubles as a case and stand. For sketching and taking notes, he is very happy with a stylus by Nataal that plugs into the earbud port to help prevent loss. Nevertheless, he recommends stocking spares.

We discussed the following apps for business and/or pleasure:
  1. Penultimate: for writing notes by hand and sketching. Supports Dropbox and Evernote.
  2. Notability: best app for note-taking - handwriting, keyboard and/or audio with sync between sound and written notes. Can annotate PDFs. Boxnet or Dropbox are required.
  3. Dragon Dictation: speech recognition / transcription.
  4. IAnnotate: best app for accessing and mark-up of pdfs. This substitutes for Bluebeam, which R&C uses in the office but isn't available as a mobile app.
  5. Docs to Go: for editing docs, excel spreadsheets, and powerpoint. Supports multiple cloud services.
  6. Keynote Remote: Apple presentation app that can also run powerpoint presentations. Connects to an Apple TV box on the same wifi network, allowing mirroring of ipad screen to any monitor or display device. (Make sure you turn in off if you're outside the conference room or doing something private.)
  7. AutoDesk Review (ADR): improved, but still doesn't slice a model very well.
  8. Navisworks: app was scheduled to come out in December but hasn't yet. It will run the model off the server.
  9. Newforma: allows access to project database on the go. Mobile app needs server to be on version 8. Perkins+Will uses it, but Mario isn't familiar with it; he hasn't played with it much yet.
  10. iRdesktop: uses Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) natively to view and control a Windows desktop. It's free and works pretty well.
  11. Splashtop Remote: Jackson's preferred remote desktop app.
  12. Citrix Receiver : another remote desktop app, used by Modulus Consulting.
  13. Skype: video conferencing works pretty well on iPad.
  14. Flipboard: beautiful presentation of a variety of free and self-provided content: magazines, any website, RSS feeds, photos. Can handle pdfs, but doesn't run embedded content very well.
  15. NYTimes: for keeping up with news. Free with print subscription.
  16. Zipcar: easy access to wheels when you need them.
  17. Yelp: helpful for finding things while traveling.
  18. OpenTable: for making restaurant reservations.
  19. Netflix: watch movies on the go with subscription
  20. Outfit 7: fun talking friends app, for keeping small children (or bored engineers) entertained.
    In the course of writing up these meeting notes, I also came across a couple of blog posts on AECbytes (by the always articulate Lachmi Khemlani) that would be of interest. iPad Apps for AEC: Design and Visualization and iPad Apps for AEC: Project Information and Construction.

    R&C uses Anyconnect Secure Mobility Client to connect with their server remotely. Dave reports they spent about $2,000 on apps and the associated server software for 15 people. The principals are on 3G 150 MB, $15/mo plans. Data plans for officers are not offered; they use wifi. R&C considers the ipads a worthwhile investment as 80% of principals' time is spent on communications of some form; the ipad serves this function well and allows them to be productive while out of the office.

    The general consensus is that the ipad is not a device for originating documents, but is fantastic for email, viewing photos, and accessing the web.

    Dan has used Revit on an Android pad off of citrix. He uses an Android bluetooth mouse; a mouse is not an option for the ipad. Dan also is very happy with his Asus Zenbook, which is as light as the Mac Airbook.

    Dan and Mario discussed the app development software on the Mac OS. It's possible to develop an app on Mac and translate it over it to a mobile device, but Dan is not enthusiastic about that approach.

    Dave notes that staff over the age of 40 are often reluctant and question the need to learn new technologies, which we all agree is an unfortunate attitude which limits their ability to stay relevant in the current industry (and social) environment.