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Innovative Solutions _____December 2005
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In this issue
-- Feature Article: Online Engineering Resources – Part III: Engineering Forums
-- On a Personal Note:
-- On the Lighter Side:
-- Article Policy

Welcome to the December 2005 edition of Innovative Solutions, the monthly newsletter from Innovative Thermal Solutions. If you find this information interesting or useful, please share it with your friends and colleagues.

Word count approx. 1000
Reading time approx. 5 minutes.


Feature Article: Online Engineering Resources – Part III: Engineering Forums
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Here is the third part of my three part series discussing online engineering resources. Do you ever want to ask a technical question and get an answer from an expert quickly and easily? Then online discussion forums are for you.

Forums are the online convergence of bulletin board systems and user groups. The key thing to remember is that forums are communities. They are made of members who have specific interests, knowledge and experience in common and most importantly are willing to share that knowledge and experience with others of like minded interests. So the first step is to seek out forums that are of interest or that can be helpful to you and then join the community. Generally, joining a forum is simply a matter of registering a user name and password (at no cost). Members of many forums register with some nickname (handle) so don’t be surprised if you see these. But I have found that in most professional forums, members freely use their real names and identify the company they work for. After joining, I recommend that you just lurk for awhile. Read the posts (questions and answers), become familiar with which members on the forum participate regularly and are most active. Get a general feel for the members and how they relate to each other. After you have a feel for the forum, politely introduce yourself. Often this is done when you ask your first question, or post your first problem. In almost all cases, you will be welcomed into the group and the members will try to be helpful. After that, you are one of the gang. Don’t be afraid to jump in and answer a question when you have something meaningful to contribute. After all, this only works if people are willing to share information.

I have broken down the engineering forums into three main categories related to software/hardware, professional societies and general engineering.

Software/hardware Forums

This is truly the online equivalent of user groups, only much more convenient. Finite Element Analysis (FEA), Computer Aided Design (CAD), office productivity, etc. – whatever application you are using you can probably find a forum dedicated to that product. And almost always there will be a few users who are very knowledgeable and very helpful. Often this is quicker and easier than trying to contact the supplier’s technical support group. And it’s not just software; the same is true for hardware. Data acquisition systems, computer components, etc. – usually you can find a link to the forum on the supplier’s website. If you can’t find a forum on the supplier’s website, check on Yahoo Groups http://groups.yahoo.com/ , or Google groups http://groups.google.com/ . Google Groups lists over 100,000 groups. If you just can’t find that special interest you are looking for, then start your own group. That is what I did for the South East Michigan Cornhuskers Alumni Group. You can also search forum postings at Google Groups. Your question may already have been discussed and answered somewhere.

Here are some examples of software/hardware forums that I belong to: http://www.alibre.com/forum/ - One of my CAD applications http://www.mcadforums.com/forums/ - A wide range of CAD related topics http://groups.yahoo.com/group/algor-users/ - My Finite Element Analysis application. http://www.labjack.com/forums/index.php - Company specific data acquisition hardware and software
http://www.data-acquisition.us/forum/index.php - A wide range of data acquisition topics

Professional Societies

This category is pretty self explanatory. If you are a member of any professional organizations, chances are they have forums where you can post questions and discuss issues with your fellow members or non-members who are interested in your expertise. Here are a couple that I belong to.
http://www.ashrae.org/template/DboardForumList - ASHRAE, only members may post, but anyone can browse.
https://cop.asme.org/COP/Public/Home - ASME’s “Communities of Practice” is open to both members and non-members of ASME.

General Engineering

This category includes forums that cover a wide range of engineering and technology related sites.
http://www.eng-tips.com/ - A large site with a broad range of topics for engineering and technology professionals
http://www.refrigeration-engineer.com/forums - This is a UK site for refrigeration and air conditioning, but has US members also.

If you have a favorite engineering and technology related forum please share it. I’d like to hear from you.


On a Personal Note:
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The weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since I’ve really no where to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Just last week we finished running a water line over to the vineyard. No more dragging around 500’ of garden hose next year. But now winter has struck with a vengeance. It seems like we can’t have two days in a row without snow. Hopefully the “cold climate” grape varieties out in the vineyard really are cold climate capable. We’ll find out next spring.

As year end approaches and I wax nostalgic about the past – the past year that is, I’m grateful for the great year Innovative Thermal Solutions has had and I’m grateful for all the wonderful clients and customers we have gotten to work with. I wish each and everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!


On the Lighter Side:
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Please accept without obligation, express or implied, these best wishes for an environmentally safe, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, and gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday as practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice (but with respect for the religious or secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or for their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all) and further for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated onset of the generally accepted calendar year (including, but not limited to, the Christian calendar, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures).

The preceding wishes are extended without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee(s).

Now go forth and Enjoy!


Article Policy
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© 2005 Innovative Thermal Solutions. All Rights Reserved. You are free to use material from the Innovative Solutions newsletter in whole or in part, as long as you include complete attribution, including live web site link. Please also notify me where the material will appear.

The attribution should read: "By Bob Utter of Innovative Thermal Solutions. Please visit Bob's web site at www.innovativethermal.com for additional articles and resources on engineering services and new product development." (Make sure the link is live if placed in an eZine or in a web site.)



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