The Big Idea


What’s the purpose of this blog?

Date:05/03/06, 9:34 PM

The idea behind this blog is to record items that I find interesting while travelling around the internet - a virtual travelogue in some respects.

Do I have a theme ?

I am interested in various topics and this will develop over time.

  • CAD (Computer Aided Design) is my primary interest, looking at developments in both software and hardware. The relationship with CAD may be tenuous in some cases.
  • Input and output devices.
  • Gadgets.
  • General advances in software programming and developments in programming tools.

Why is it called The Big Idea?

I am looking for items which may represent the next big break through, who knows what I will find.

To join me in this journey you should return here frequently.

U3 Smart Drive Computing

Date:05/03/06, 9:44 PM

Imagine carrying your favorite software, preferences, profiles and data on a device no bigger than a pack of gum. With a U3 smart drive, you can plug into any Windows XP or 2000 PC and be productive wherever you are.

Check out the potential at and check out the growing software availablity for these devices at

1 software item that sparked my interest is Pass2Go

  • Memorizes and securely stores your online and offline passwords, so you will never forget them again.
  • Automatically logs you into online accounts and completes online registration and checkout forms with one click.

I find this technology really interesting, perhaps one day all software will be supplied on USB sticks.

Back to the Drawing Board

Date:05/03/06, 10:28 PM

The Wacom Cintiq interactive pen display combines the advantages of an LCD monitor with cordless (battery free) pen technology.

This is an active matrix LCD monitor ( 21 inch giving a resolution of 1600x1200 - 17 inch providing 1280 x 1024 ) for sharp, flicker free viewing.

A version of an electronic drawing board perhaps, which could be useful for users of 3D Cad Modeling packages.

May be a better option than a Tablet PC - although you couldn’t use it on your travels - but you could invest in a powerful desktop machine and interface to it with this.

Now if it were only cheaper (21 inch is $2499, 17 inch is $1799) and wireless.


Date:05/03/06, 11:32 PM

Recent reports indicate that Microsoft is planning 6 versions of Vista, its next operating system, due for release towards the end of 2006, to match the differing demands of its users.

The versions will be known as:

  • Vista Business
  • Vista Enterprise
  • Vista Home Basic
  • Vista Home Premium
  • Vista Ultimate
  • Vista Starter

There’s a related article on the BBC website.


Photo-Realistic Rendering

Date:06/03/06, 10:51 PM

So you want to get a photo-realistic rendering of your 3D CAD model?

One of the best rendering packages I’ve seen recently is Maxwell at

Maxwell is a new render engine based on the physics of real light. Its algorithms and equations reproduce the behavior of light in a completely accurate way. All of the elements in Maxwell, such as light emitters, material shaders, cameras etc., are entirely based on physically accurate models. Maxwell’s method of calculation always converges to the correct solution without introducing artifacts due to the fact that it is an unbiased renderer. However, it can result in long render times.

Browse their gallery to see some of the results that are being produced.

Hopefully, they can produce a product which satisfies the claims being made. The current offering is a pre-release version of the final product. Although the pre-release price represents a saving on the final price (i.e. when the product is actually released) current users run the risk of having to wait for an undetermined period of time before the product is finished.

Plugins are available for a number of products including SolidWorks, Rhino, 3DSMax, Maya, Lightwave, Cinema4d, SketchUp, FormZ and ArchiCAD.

Talking about photos

Date:06/03/06, 11:34 PM

A colleague was recently bemoaning the fact that the media used to produce modern CDs was not suitable for long term storage needs.

Although I have not had a failure on cds written to back up my photo data, I was pleasantly surprised to see this site offering Archival Gold CD-Rs with a claimed storage life of 300 years.

So can I get a refund if I can’t read one of my discs in say 200 years time?


Date:07/03/06, 12:00 PM

Blender is open source software for 3D modelling, animation, rendering, post-production, interactive creation and playback available under the GNU General Public Licensing.

Currently at version 2.41 full detatils are available at their website

A frequently updated blog BlenderNation is also worth a visit.

Origami watch

Date:07/03/06, 4:37 PM

Still a buzz around about Origami, reportedly a new media device from Microsoft, a hand-held mobile device running XP.

There’s a reported picture of the device from ActiveWin …


Read the full article and view the full-size image at

Other sources include Engadget

and you can watch for more snippets on the “official” Origami project website

Apple iPod Hi-Fi

Date:08/02/06, 10:04 AM

Am I missing something here ?

You can buy a big portable, but heavy, speaker (6.2kg) for your iPod from Apple, or for the same price buy a SoundDock system (lighter 2.1kg speaker) from acoustic specialists Bose. I’d probably opt for the system from Bose if I was spending that sort of cash.

However, I just want to plug it into my existing hi-fi system, don’t I?

An Interview with the head of MITs Media Lab

Date:14/03/06, 2:17 PM

There’s an interview with Frank Moss, who was recently named head of MITs Media Lab, in Business Week Online.

The Media Lab has an annual budget of $30 million and has helped spawn many small innovative companies.

One of the interesting things he mentions is how innovation used to be driven by large corporate Labs but now is more likely to come from people working together in network based environments.

Disruptive technologies, rather than incremental change are more likely to generate successful entrepeneurs.

Autodesk Inventor Series (Tutorials)

Date:14/03/06, 2:54 PM

There are a number of “How To” articles available from Autodesk which provide information to assist people using the Inventor CAD system.

Google buys @Last Software

Date:14/03/06, 8:27 PM

@Last are producers of the SketchUp software, popular among the architectural community and thus used primarily by Architects, for modelling buildings and other architectural features.


Lots of news reports on this one, starting with the Official Google Blog

or read the offical announcement from @Last Software.

or a collection of News stories

So what will Google Do with it?

Perhaps incorporate the product to allow modelling of buildings from images in Google Earth? Time will tell


Date:16/03/06, 10:08 AM

SolidEdge is 3D CAD software from UGS.

Some recent articles …

There is an article in Desktop Engineering which concentrates on the transition from 2D to 3D using tools available in SolidEdge V18.

Cadalyst(Manufacturing) has an article Engineering Reference in Solid Edge

which describes the Calculation and Formula driven Design tools available in the product, which enable an Engineer to design by function using engineering calculations to create parts which are mechanically correct. This functionality is provided by the Engineering Reference user interface.

PhotoWorks Rendering Software

Date:16/03/06, 11:52 AM

PhotoWorks is rendering software based on the mental ray rendering engine from mental images which is fully integrated into SolidWorks CAD software.

It is possible to easily produce photo-realistic images of 3D models generated by SolidWorks without leaving the familiar SolidWorks environment.

Inventor wins top prize with the help of Catia V5

Date:17/03/06, 12:37 PM

Dassault announces that the 2 top awards at the British Female Inventor and Innovator of the Year Forum have been won by an inventor who designed and developed her idea entirely on CATIA V5.

_images/pre_vu.jpg offers a 60 second soundbite through a speaker which is small enough to fit into a CD record case.

Invented by Morag Hutcheon, Design Director of Quadro Consulting Limited, who co-founded Origgio Ltd, the company behind the development of She came up with the idea of creating an easier way to discover new music after being frustrated at not being able to listen to or access music on visits to her local record store.

Quadro Consulting Limited based in Buckland, Hertfordshire (15 miles south of Cambridge) design customer-focused products for the hi-tech, telecoms, healthcare and consumer goods markets. It was established eight years ago and has supporting facilities in Hannover (Germany) and Hong Kong.

Power Line networking

Date:19/03/06, 9:31 PM

Is this a preferred technology to wireless networking?

Power line networking enables you to use the electrical wiring system in your home to create a network. This is not a new idea, but could be a growth industry over the next few years.

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance is a not-for-profit corporation which has been established to provide an open forum for the creation of specifications for high-speed home power line networking products and services.

“HomePlug Standard Brings Networking to the Home” by Steve Gardner (HomePlug TWG Chair), Brian Markwalter, and Larry Yonge provides an in depth overview of the HomePlug technology.

Details of the 200Mbs HomePlug AV standard, a high-speed cost effective method of distributing audio, video (including multiple streams of HDTV) and data in the home using the existing electrical wiring system, was shown recently at CeBit.

The only question remaining is: When will the necessary hardware be available?

Vista - Another meaning

Date:22/03/06, 10:13 PM

Came across this interesting interpretation recently

A project to “Map the Underworld” also known as “Visualising integrated information on buried assets to reduce streetworks (Vista)” largely funded by the Department of Trade and Industry (UK).


The project is aimed at producing a 3D model of the pipes and cables which are buried under the streets in the UK and will look at constructing a unified database combining data available from the various Utility companies.

Read more about the project from one of the consortium members Leeds University


Date:23/03/06, 11:30 PM

ePaper (electronic paper) could come a step closer to reality following work on a new plastic material by members of a joint US-UK industrial and academic team of researchers, reports an article Chemists work on plastic promise from the BBC.

The new material can be printed using traditional inkjet printers or techniques similar to those used to produce magazines and wallpaper. This means it can easily be printed on large flexible surfaces, making it attractive for use in electronic paper where rigid silicon cannot be used.

I first noticed Fujitsu reporting on their developments in this area back in July 2005, must look to see how that has developed since then

Google Reader

Date:30/09/06, 1:44 PM

Google Reader is an on-line news feed aggregator and has recently been given a new appearance.

It constantly checks your favorite news sites and blogs for new content. Whether a site updates daily or monthly, you can be sure that you won’t miss a thing.

Read about some of the recent changes at the Google Reader Blog

Highly Recommended.

Image Labeling


30/09/06, 2:06 PM

Welcome to Google Image Labeler, a new feature of Google Image Search that allows you to label random images to help improve the quality of Google’s image search results

This follows a “game” format where an image is presented to both players. Each player enters a label which describes the image. When the label provided by player A matches the label suggested by player B points are awarded and the next image is displayed. Players are allowed a total of 90 seconds to label as many pictures as possible.

Partners are chosen at random and players only “know” their partner at the end of the 90 second period. Players can accumulate their scores between sessions.

This is a system that needs human interaction in order to help classifying the images. The requirement is to label all the images so that the search process becomes more accurate when trying to locate images corresponding to a requested search topic.

Give it a try but BE WARNED I found this strangely addictive for some reason.

Find out more at the Google Image Labeler

The Google Image Labeler is based on research work done at the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University by Luis von Ahn.

Philips 2006 Simplicity Event

Date:05/10/06, 10:32 AM

Royal Philips Electronics is previewing some of its new potential products nearing market readiness that demonstrate its “sense and simplicity” brand positioning at the Philips Simplicity Event in London (Oct 3-5).

Here’s the Press Release

or browse through some of the items at The Simplicity Event

Here’s just a couple of the items

Drag & Draw - the entire home becomes a virtual canvas for expression and play for young children, thanks to a magic brush, a magic eraser, a magic wand, and a laser projection bucket.


In Touch - an interactive touch-sensitive display as an alternative to voice mails and family messages stuck on the fridge.


ASSIST: A Shrewd Sketch Interpretation and Simulation Tool

Date:09/10/06, 8:42 AM


allows a user to sketch simple mechanical systems and see simulations of their drawings in a two-dimensional kinematic simulator.

Details of this and other projects available from Design Rationale at MIT.

Google and YouTube

Date:09/10/06, 9:06 PM

Amidst much speculation, Reuters UK amongst many others, are reporting that Google Inc has agreed to purchase YouTube for $1.65billion.