By Eiren Smith, Axiom’s Director of Certification
The MicroStation world is going through big changes. Design files are getting bigger, level lists and cell names are getting longer and the design file format has undergone a deep overhaul with the increasing acceptance of the V8 generation. Added to all that, AutoCAD and V7 DGN files are being converted to the new V8 format on-the-fly without an explicit conversion process.
According to the whispers in the hall, multi-user simultaneous access to the same design file is finally imminent.
I am very familiar with what happens when one user can’t open his design file because of corruption. So my first reaction to the prospect of multi-user design file access is, “Great idea. But what’s going to happen when not one but many users are put out of work waiting for one design file to be repaired?”
This is going to make individual design files more important than ever, multiplying the cost of downtime by the number of users accessing one file. I want people to be prepared for this shift. For my part, I decided to write an article to stress the increasing importance of preventive design file repair.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
It may be banal, but it’s true. When talking about design file integrity in a tightly-scheduled CAD production environment, preventive maintenance is very relevant.
In my experience, the majority of FileFixer owners use it for emergency design file repair and do not have a preventive maintenance plan in place. While FileFixer as an emergency design file repair tool regularly saves the day in CAD shops around the world, I want to introduce CAD managers to the idea that things can get even better by executing a preventive design file maintenance plan. They need only leverage tools they already have: MicroStation, FileFixer and the Windows Scheduler.
About yesterday’s backup…
Probably the most common method of “repairing” design files in use in the world today is deleting the damaged file and reloading yesterday’s backup. The most obvious problem with this “technique” is that you can lose a full day’s work or more. Considering the cost of operator time, this should be a last resort.
But there is a more important reason for not going back to yesterday’s backup. The error that caused your file to become corrupted today might be dormant in yesterday’s backup. The safest solution is to analyze misbehaving or crashed design files with FileFixer and fully repair them — and then to keep them clean hereafter by using a preventive maintenance plan that fits your needs.
I’m not going to spend a much more space talking about why last night’s backup is barely a workable solution for today’s CAD shops, because it’s pretty obvious. If you’ve ever had to give up a day’s worth of work, you already know. And if you’ve ever restored from a backup only to have that design file predictably go corrupt again due to the latent corruption which caused the problem in the first place, you know firsthand why restoring last night’s backup should only be an act of desperation.
Even more important than helping CAD managers sleep better, when your design files are all kept clean with FileFixer, your users work better. They encounter less slows from minor corruption that they usually attribute incorrectly to “MicroStation bugs” and less lost work due to more serious dormant corruption which, left unhandled, can lead to data loss and unopenable files.
Design file cavities
Design file corruption is very much like a dental cavity. If you can already see the symptom, it’s too late for prevention – you have to go see the dentist for a filling (emergency repair). Think of running FileFixer regularly like brushing your teeth every day. There’s no question that that daily brushing is a good idea. Do you know someone who gets a lot of cavities but still brush after each meal? Running FileFixer for preventive maintenance is like brushing your teeth.
The most successful design file integrity strategy is one you don’t have to think about or remember.
FileFixer’s preventive maintenance plan breaks down into two major parts. The first part is setting up FileFixer to be run via MicroStation’s included msbatch.bat, which allows FileFixer to be run from the Windows command prompt without opening MicroStation in graphics mode. The second part is running FileFixer on a timed basis with the Windows Scheduler.
There are two chapters of the FileFixer User’s Guide dedicated to running FileFixer from the command line (known as “batch mode”) and at a predetermined time (using the Windows Scheduler). These two chapters are named “Batch Mode” and “Preventive Maintenance.” I don’t have enough space to repeat the entirety of those two chapters, so I will compromise by listing the FileFixer options that are most relevant to a preventive maintenance plan. With FileFixer you can:
- Set FileFixer to backup the original file, then repair the original so you don’t have to rename it afterward.
- Specify the directory in which to place your repaired files or your backup files, in case you don’t want to put them in the same directory FileFixer found them in. This is useful if you are processing a lot of files and don’t want to fill up your project directories or your file server.
- Automatically process reference files too. Don’t worry, FileFixer won’t process a reference file if it has already been processed in that job.
- Easily create a list of files to process that are a certain number of days old (since they were last modified.) This way, if you run a timed FileFixer job, say, every 14 days, you have FileFixer only fix files that have changed in the last 14 days.
- Create a list of design files that have only serious problems (you choose the severity) and then fix only those severely corrupt files.
- Run FileFixer in Automatic Design File Repair mode (to fix files automatically) or in “Search for Problems” mode, where it only creates a detailed report of design file corruption but does not actually repair the files.
Running FileFixer in the case of an emergency is incredibly easy. Just open FileFixer and press <Start>! Anyone can do it. But, setting up FileFixer for preventive maintenance is a bit more involved. It is more of a CAD manager activity. It requires some know-how, judgement and, possibly, administrative privileges.
The best way to set up FileFixer for preventive maintenance is to call 727-442-7774 or e-mail Axiom Support at Support to discuss your exact situation with a FileFixer expert. One phone call will save you a lot of time and ensure your FileFixer preventive maintenance solution is perfectly tuned to take advantage of every corner of FileFixer to fit your specific needs.