Sketchup for floor plans

For my own future reference, plus anyone dealing with scale drawings from a pdf file.

How to go from an architect’s pdf to a Sketchup graphic in scale

Getting it into

1. Export .tif from Adobe Acrobat Pro using architect’s pdf of the furniture layout.

2. Edit out extraneous material using a graphic editor.

3. Import .tif file of floor plan into Sketchup.

4. Set Preferences.

[Windows tab] [Preferences] – [OpenGL] – Check to [Use maximum texture size]

Sketchup warns you of a possible slowdown if you check this, but suddenly the blurry graphic imported is much clearer (not perfect, but clear enough to work with).

To set the imported graphic to proper scale, use a known measurement and the Tape Measure Tool.  “Tape” the distance on the imported graphic, and type in the known measurement (example: 9′ 8″ ); press Enter.  You are asked if you want to resize the model; answer Yes.  Now everything is in proper scale.



[updated 2010.11.4]

I’ve been trying out something suggested by one of the librarian bloggers I read, called Prezi.  It’s an alternative presentation software, with a few different features than PowerPoint.

I think it would be a really good brainstorming method for presentations.  However, I’ve been trying it out with the ebooks presentation I’d already created on PowerPoint, just to see how I might do the presentation differently.

For starters, no sequential boxes or templates.  You get a big blank space, and you are intended to start throwing things on there, and eventually move them into groups, and bunch them by topic or whatever, and work down to frames from there.

Finally, you create a path from point or frame to the next, and you still show it sequentially, but it lets you at least appear less rigid than a stock PowerPoint show.

You can do cute stuff like taking a giant E for ebooks, and then zoom down down down to one place on the E’s top bar until you can clearly see the detailed frame there you want to show.  And then zoom out again, and back in elsewhere, and so on.  I did “Tip One” with the detail in the “O” of the “One” being the actual text for the tip, and a few like that.

Too much of that, and you give your viewers motion sickness, however, which the programmers acknowledge and warn against.  Still, it’s an eye-grabbing visual to use one in a while to pull viewers back in.  Wake up, you in the back!

You have a little controller gadget with the functions arranged around it.  When done with a function, click further into the middle of the gadget to move back to regular mode.

Prezi is web-based, but you can download a copy with the viewer built in, just as with PowerPoint, so you don’t need a separate program to run it.

Prezi Tips

So far I’ve learned a little that’s not exactly in the basic online info.  Here’s some of it, for whatever it might be worth:

* Log-in — if you have an .edu email, on the sign-up page look for the special link for educators and students.  That lets you bump up a level in privileges while still using it for free, and you can keep it private or restricted to just your students.  Otherwise, everything you do is in regular free mode, and is visible to everyone.  The education level also has more storage.

* Make the main title BIG, really BIG.  Then you can shrink everything down around it.  Some graphics just don’t shrink down past a certain point while looking good, and you need the title much bigger than that so the graphics won’t dwarf it.  You have loads of space.  Use it.

* Bear in mind that this is limited to only web-based graphics like .jpg, .gif, .png and so if you’re changing sizes a lot, use the better graphics for that rather than a gif.  The maximum size for imported images is 2880 by 2880 pixels.

* Path lets you click on each one in the order to show, and it puts a line to that with the order number.  Paths are touchy.  They seem to be all or nothing — you can do one, but you can’t UNDO a part of it once it has been saved.  So, save your Prezi to a copy, then use the copy to do the path.  Maybe even do a copy with only half the path saved.  That way, you can start all over or from the half-way point if you need to change anything.

* Frames are important.  They determine what shows up in each screen view.

*  Round frames work for groups, like a group of ideas or steps in a process.

* The other frames are good for grouping things, like a graphic with text.  Otherwise, the path just goes to one or the other, so if you want both to show up, frame them in a shaded or invisible frame and have the path go to the frame.

* Frames are handled like graphics.  They do not actually do much more, so if you drag a frame, the contents are left behind.  You can tilt a frame, change the size, etc., just like a graphic.

* Frames and paths — if you want to go back to the same frame you already have in the path, put a slightly larger frame around it and click on that when you get to that point.  It will treat the larger frame as the next step.

* Links will work if you copy & paste them from, say, a web page, into text.

* One catch — you don’t get the notes for your speech as in PowerPoint.  If you want to do notes for anyone reading later, you can do them off to one side and leave them out of the path, or make a copy and put the notes into the path.  There is a print to PDF capability but I haven’t experimented with that much yet.

[update: I’ve tried this by using the Print option while a presentation is open (in the upper right).  It lets you export to a PDF file.  The results will be one page for each step on your path (so do the path before you print).  If you then use a PDF editor, you can put in a text box and add your notes in that, before you print out your own copy of the PDF. ]

* Sound is clunky.  You have to add sound to a graphic outside Prezi, then import the graphic.  See the instructions.  Don’t plan on adding narration easily at this point.

I’ll probably try this out on the library staff here eventually, and see if they think it’s worth using instead of PowerPoint.  If you are doing something other than step-by-step instructions, something more like sharing concepts, this would be very useful.


The presentation is now available online and my PDF file with my speaking notes is also available through links in the library catalog record for Ebooks on Your Own Terms. I’ve opened these up so anyone can view them.

Please remember that this info will outdate quickly (the way things have been going, I had to update this at least once a week or more often), so please don’t contact me to “update” me.  I’m going to leave this alone; it’s too time-consuming to keep it up to date!  However, it may still serve as an example of a Prezi-tation, as well as some of the points to make in discussing ebooks.


SUPER-vising a video online

So, I was asked to get some videos online for everyone, including the public, to be able to access and view, for our campus chapter of the American Democracy Project.  We had an interview and a two-part video of the first Citizenship Awards ceremony.

I had DVDs that had been recorded by our people with permissions, so copyright was not an issue.

What to do next?

I checked my own blog Computer Helpers for video editing freeware.  Ended up with a freeware program called SUPER which stands for Simplified Universal Player Encoder & Renderer (got to love that acronym).

SUPER looks a bit intimidating, but a lot is just finding the information to adjust the settings.  I found that the software that came with my DVD drive just played the audio, not the video, of the recorded DVDs.  Apparently, this is not unusual for a lot of the DVDs that are copied rather than commercially created (including the copies vendors make of them).  So, I switched to my usual DVD software, Media Player Classic.

In Media Player Classic, I selected a VOB format file to open, and then right-clicked on the video and selected Properties.  The Details tab gave me:

Video: MPEG2 Video 720×480 (16:9) 29.97fps 9500Kbps [Video]
Audio: Dolby AC3 48000Hz stereo 384Kbps [Audio]
Subtitle: DVD Subpicture [Subtitle]

So, that covered most of the settings I needed to select the check boxes.  I decided to convert to avi format which should play readily on most PCs.

I set for the best possible conditions, as the interview was in a not-too-bright room, with older people whose voices might require the best possible sound.  The ceremony was in a large public room, with the platform at a distance, so I wanted the best resolution on that.  All this, I knew, would make for larger files and a longer download time.

Then I did a click-and-drag from the VOB format files into SUPER.  I found it went a bit faster if I copied the files from the DVD to my hard drive first, and then dragged from there.

I right-clicked on the file name and set the Output Location.

I clicked on the Encode (Active Files) bar and up popped a box to select a “rendered file optimizer”.  I left it with the default (DX50).

And away it went:

After I finished, I had avi versions of the files, which I then renamed appropriately but kept the avi extension.

Now — where to host them?

Turns out that most free hosts restrict you to 100MB or 10 minutes maximum.  One allowed up to 5GB but only in 100MB files.

The smallest file was just over 10 minutes, the ceremony files were longer and larger.  Free hosting for that didn’t seem available (at least on any site I could find that looked stable enough to stay up for a while, although I might have been over-cautious).

BTW: it would save a lot of time if hosting sites would post their maximums out front, instead of requiring you to register before letting you down with their list of limitations — but then, they wouldn’t get your email address, would they?  They would have fewer inactive members, as well.

Fortunately, our III catalog allows avi format video attachments to records, so I created records and attached them.

They play on campus, but the download from off-campus may be too slow for many people to use, especially for these large files.

Links are here at our American Democracy Project blog.

Backup from the wiki

I adapted my Backup Tutorial from the staff wiki and made it a child page of the Security page. There’s a link there.

I hunted for software that would be

(a) free

(b) free

(c) easy to use

(d) works with our network drives

(e) “set and forget”

(f) available for individuals to use at home once they learn to use it here (and vice versa)

and Cobian Backup filled the bill. The author has given it up for open source, but it seems to be actively progressing towards the next version, and it works up through Vista, so it should be around for a while.

Anyway, it’s here.

It’s not the only such software out there, but it works here on our network, it’s tested here, and I can teach it.

[posted revised with wiki link 2008/2/16]