Dimension the distance between arcs in SolidWorks

I was having trouble doing something very simple today, and learned an easy fix for it. In SolidWorks when making a drawing of your 3D CAD model, the default ‘Smart Dimension’ gives the dimension between the centers of two arcs, which is typically what you want.  But what if you want to dimension between the edges of the two arcs themselves?

In this drawing, if I choose ‘Smart Dimension’, it will grab the centers of the two arcs and give me the .75 dimension.


To get the actual edges, first create the dimension the same way as above, letting the ‘Smart Dimension’ get the centers for you.

Then click on the dimension again to bring up the “Dimension Property Manager” menu on the left.  Click on the “Leaders” tab, and scroll to the bottom. Under the “Arc Condition” header, choose “Max” and “Max”.


Now it will give you the distance between the edges of the two arcs.


Simple, but hard to find if you don’t know where to look.  Hope you found it useful!

Credit for this info comes from this article in the SolidWorks help documentation.

Reduce the size of Time Machine Backups

I found this great blog post by Hawk iMedia that details a very simple utility to compress or compact your time machine backups.  If you’re like me, Time Machine is way overkill.  I just want one viable backup that is fairly recent.  Not daily/hourly backups until my entire 3TB backup hard drive is full, as Time Machine will do by default.  So I roll with automatic backups turned off, and just manually backup occasionally.

Anyway, the Time Machine backup file (.sparsebundle) was taking up 1TB on my Time Capsule drive, even though my Macbook Pro only has a 500GB SSD hard drive.  So based on the aforementioned blog post, here is how to reduce the size of your Time Machine backup by compacting or compressing the .sparsebundle file.

Its basically just calling a “hdiutil compact” command on the sparsebundle file.

First, open Finder (or my favorite replacement, TotalFinder) and navigate to the folder where you’re sparsebundle file is located. Or in Terminal you can use the “ls” and “cd” commands to navigate through the folder structure. The “cd ..” command moves up one folder.  Here is what my Terminal commands look like:


If like me one of the directories or folders has spaces or special characters in the name, this nifty trick will help you navigate to that folder.  Now you also need to be root to run the “hdiutil compact” command, so sudo into root.  You will need to enter your admin password.  You should be aware that if you run the wrong commands in root, it is possible to mess up your system.  However, just type in the commands directly and you’ll be fine.



And, you’re done!  So easy!  Now, I know that it shows “0 bytes reclaimed” on my system.  But after I ran this command on both mine and my wife’s sparsebundle backup files and got that message, I checked my Time Capsule and found that it was reclaimed 800GB of free space!!  So it definitely works.  Try it out!

Terminal Directories with Spaces or Special Characters

I’ve been trying to reduce the size of the Time Machine backup on my Time Capsule with a nifty trick that I’ll share in the next post.  In the process I learned something very useful in dealing with Terminal commands, in particular with directories.

The name of the directory I was trying to ‘cd’ into had spaces as seen below.  I used the “ls” command to show a list of drives in /Volumes.


If I simply type “cd /Andrew Cockerham’s Time Cap” it will give an error “no such file or directory”.  So to get into that directory, the easiest way is to wrap it in quotes:


You can ignore the fact that I’m in ‘root’ to do this method, you do not need to be in root for it to work.

The second way to do it is using backwards slashes, ‘\’, before each space in the directory name:


Note also that back slashes must be in front of the special characters, in this case the apostrophe.

Now this leads me to the next trick.  Typing out this long directory name with all the back slashes can be tedious, so a great shortcut is to simple start typing the first few letters of the directory, and then pressing the “Tab” key, and it will autocomplete the directory name for you, automatically adding the back slashes where need.


and autocomplete…


I love neat little keyboard shortcuts, especially in Terminal.

Hope you found it useful!

Free From iTunes – RSS feed podcasts

I’m a big fan of the Freakonomics podcasts, and the books/blog as well.  I can barely wait a whole week in between episodes, and I’m always checking my TuneIn Radio app to see if there is an updated episode.  Which, by the way, I wish TuneIn would let you subscribe for notifications when new episodes of my podcasts are posted.  And why can’t I ‘favorite’ the Freakonomics podcast?

Side note, I just read that the TuneIn Radio app and others like Pandora can sync with your car using MyFordSync.  Unfortunately my wife’s 2012 Ford Focus isn’t yet supported, even though the 2013 model is.

Anyway, I wanted to listen to another one of my favorite podcasts on my phone, the Breakaway podcast. But since I have an Android phone, I of course don’t have iTunes on my phone.  And I wouldn’t want to anyway, as iTunes is far and Apple the most terrible product Apple has ever created (but we’ll leave that for another post).  So I was trying to figure out how to listen to podcasts on my phone, and more critically, how to get the RSS link for the Breakaway podcast on iTunes.  I use Podcast Addict. But to get the RSS url, that was a neat little trick.

Adam Schlitt made a sweet free website that converts the iTunes link into an RSS feed link for you.  Then the RSS link can be used to subscribe to the podcast in whatever non-iTunes software of your choice.

Hope it was useful to you, and happy podcasting!Image

Don’t go phishing

What do you call a woman who likes to fish? A ‘fisherwoman’? ‘fisherperson’? just ‘fisher’?  Language is fun 🙂

Anyway, I learned today how easy people fall victim to phishing, and how effective it can be.  This Onion story was really sobering, and depressing for me.  Basically with just a few cleverly worded emails, the Syrian army was able to completely infiltrate The Onion‘s accounts.

Its easy to say that other people do stupid things that we would never do, such as be fooled by phishing emails, but this article just reiterated to me that we all do stupid things, especially on the internet.  We use the internet so frequently, and usually only hear about other people’s horror stories, so the danger appears far away.  It’s kinda like driving, we do it so often we feel like its safe and there is no danger.  But many people die every day in car accidents, and most of us are only inches from an accident more often than we would like to admit.  We need reminders to be careful with our internet activity.

I won’t go into the whole hack and security features, because people smarter than me already have.  But one small trick I want to mention that I use all the time is knowing where a link is going to take you before you click it.  If you hover your mouse over a link in your browser, and look at the bottom left corner, you will see where the link is actually going.  My mouse is hovering over the “google.com” link, but the browser shows me it’s actually going to “apple.com”.

Those in this attack might have been able to use this trick to see that the links they were sent in their emails were not actually safe links because they had strange URLs.  Hope you find it useful.