The Auxiliary Building

As much as I know we need a project management system to build the Geek Ranch I will leave that discussion for another day. But, my current experience illustrates a case when project management software doesn't solve the problems.

The first building we are going to construct is what I will call the Auxiliary Building. This is a 4 meter square building that will house a backup generator, batteries and inverter and act as storage for extra chairs and such when the main building is open. During construction, it will serve as a storage space for tools and equipment.

The building will be constructed from concrete block with a concrete floor and metal roof supported by metal 2x4s. All of one side and half of a second will be built using "decorative block"—one foot square blocks with a bunch of opening in them. This will serve to allow free air flow for the generator and batteries.

Sounds totally normal for Nicaragua and probably even fairly normal if you were doing the same thing in the U.S. But, we have a few local twists to make this at least amusing. Here goes.

  • We need to get the road repair work done so trucks with building materials can make it to the building site.
  • To repair the road, we need water to mix concrete.
  • We need electricity to run a pump to get the water.
  • The electric utility won't hook up the power until they see construction in process.
  • We can't bring in the generator until we have a building and a road.

Now, if you know of a project management program that can solve that problem, let me know. If not, I will make Gixia, my business partner, solve it. Her job is to do the impossible.

In any case, in her absence (she has been in the UK for a month) I have been trying to get some things sorted out and designed. The Auxiliary Building design was a good example. I can't say I went overboard with Linux on the design but it was used. First, I had to make a decision about roofing material. The choice was between Nicalit, pretty much like cement with fibers in it, or metal, commonly called a "zinc roof" here.

Nicalit offers a better thermal barrier and looks nicer (you can get it in red so it almost looks like clay tile) but it weighs more, costs more and, most important, requires a greater pitch. The greater pitch means taller walls on one end of the building. KCalc to the rescue.

In a past life I had a scientific calculator—in other words, one with trigonometric functions. Even my wife had one. But, mine has vanished and hers has gone to calculator heaven. KCalc addressed the problem just fine and I did remember enough trig to actually solve the problem. Zinc it is.

The next problem was to make some drawings so a bricklayer could actually make what I have in mind. Now, to give you some background, the only class I ever failed in my life was Mechanical Drawing in high school. While I think the major problem was a distraction in the classroom—I forget her name—it is still pretty clear that something other than me doing the drawing work was the best answer.

Enter CYCAS3, a program for doing drawings which includes great support for architectural drawings. It is available for download as a DEB, an RPM or a tarball and you get your choice of the English or German version. I uneventfully downloaded the DEB package and a quick sudo dpkg --install cycas3-en_3.80-5_i386.deb installed it. It appeared in the Graphics menu and all seems well.

Now, before I go into my specific experiences, let me talk about the license. What I downloaded for free is "CYCAS public". This is for non-commercial use. More important, it has no import filters, only supports one drawing layer, only exports to POV-Ray, PDF, EPS ans SVG and has a maximum print/export size of A4 or US Letter. The basic version is only about $100 and offers support for up to 1000 layers, DXF single-layer and 3DS import and a print size of A3 or US Tabloid. The final step up is the professional version that will do, well, most anything.

While I prefer Open Source software, after looking at the other Linux-based choices for doing the kind of drawing I need, CYCAS was the best fit. Should I actually need to do more drawings I will purchase the basic version.

While drawing lines and boxes in any program will be relatively easy, if you want to do a real architectural drawing, it gets a bit harder. For example, walls are not things with no thickness. Well, CYCAS knows about walls and even about different types of walls. Better yet, there is a tutorial which even includes an example of doing a garage plan. The building I am doing is not that far from building a garage. Quickly going through the tutorial is well worth it. After that, a few lookups in the reference guide and you should be well on your way.

This description is from the beginning of the tutorial.

CYCAS is used in a step by step, point to point mode of operation which gives you total control over every detail. The input of data in CYCAS is done by confirming each step and you have several input options. In order to illustrate this philosophy we urge you to try the following examples. The examples "Triangle" and "Square" are designed to briefly demonstrate the input of drawing elements in CYCAS. The third example "Garage" illustrates how you draw walls and openings and it shows up how to combine the input options in CYCAS. Finally we will guide you how you can create a perspective view of the garage easily.

Now, I have never used AutoCAD because it isn't available for my computer system so I don't know how much work drawing this building would be in AutoCAD vs. CYCAS. But, I do know that CYCAS works, did what I needed and didn't cost me anything. So, it gets a gold star in my book.

That's it for now. I'm still looking for that project management answer. I'll keep you posted.

Oh, one followup on LimeSurvey. The survey I wanted it for is about what a Gringo might want in the way of housing if he were to move to Nicaragua. If you have any interest, that survey is available here. On the list for the future is a survey of non-Nicaraguans who have lived in Nicaragua for two or more years. This was suggested by one of the people that took the first survey.

______________________

Phil Hughes

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

How much power does this

Anonymous's picture

How much power does this pump need, can't you just use a small freestanding generator under a tapaulin cover or an inverter in a vehicle (I hear some hybrids are good for running inverters because they can maintain charge without running the engine continously).

And you don't generally need concrete to make a servicable road that will pass trucks.

Is this a real problem or were you just contriving an example to make a point?

Real problem

Phil Hughes's picture

While a small generator can address the temporary needs (and probably will), that doesn't solve the road problem. In the rainy season (May to November), this area gets a lot of rain. In many places what is left of the current road is below the level of the surrounding land and there are ojos de agua (springs) in the area. Thus, the road is more like a swamp in places and/or washed out way beyond what a truck can handle.

While we could toss some dirt or crushed rock on the road today, as soon as it rains this temporary repair would be quickly washed away. The solution here is to build vados. There are cement "dips" such that the water can cross the road without destroying it. If we didn't build them now then we would have to interrupt construction later in order to re-repair the road. As we see heavy construction going on from March to probably November, now is the time.

Phil Hughes

PM Software

Sid's picture

Phil,

PM software primarily tracks progress. Good software will not correct bad planning. Make sure you plan your project completely before entering data; an outliner actually works quite well up front.

Phil, These are problems to

Anonymous's picture

Phil,

These are problems to have. I envy you. :)

Webinar
One Click, Universal Protection: Implementing Centralized Security Policies on Linux Systems

As Linux continues to play an ever increasing role in corporate data centers and institutions, ensuring the integrity and protection of these systems must be a priority. With 60% of the world's websites and an increasing share of organization's mission-critical workloads running on Linux, failing to stop malware and other advanced threats on Linux can increasingly impact an organization's reputation and bottom line.

Learn More

Sponsored by Bit9

Webinar
Linux Backup and Recovery Webinar

Most companies incorporate backup procedures for critical data, which can be restored quickly if a loss occurs. However, fewer companies are prepared for catastrophic system failures, in which they lose all data, the entire operating system, applications, settings, patches and more, reducing their system(s) to “bare metal.” After all, before data can be restored to a system, there must be a system to restore it to.

In this one hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for better disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible bare-metal recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.

Learn More

Sponsored by Storix