Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reviewing Reg Review, Part 1

A month ago, I walked into a hotel just south of Philadelphia. I had arrived only 5 minutes late, but one of the instructors had already begun. And no wonder, for she intended to cover in exactly 8 hours the whole of geological knowledge. Those unfamiliar with Reg Review’s mission may wonder why anyone would claim to do such a thing and why anyone would pay her hundreds of dollars to attempt it. The answer is simple: she was helping prepare students for the ASBOG, a licensure exam that featured a 55% pass rate in its most recent administration. Obviously, a lot of geologists need help studying. But does Reg Review really help? And who needs it most?

Reg Review claims that its students pass at a rates that range from 85% to 99%. While it wasn’t really possible to verify this, a friend of mine vouched for Reg Review’s study guide. Since my employer was generous enough to pay for the one-day preparatory course, I decided to give it a shot.

Reg Review supplies a study guide and a booklet of practice questions as part of the course, but these are also available for $145. In addition, students are issued another set of problems to answer prior to the class. Unfortunately, I did not bother to look at any of the materials before the day of the class. Here’s a tip, folks: look at the course notes at least a week before class starts. It’ll help.

The “Course Notes” were yet another set of sample problems, arranged to provide coverage of most ASBOG subjects. These notes formed the backbone of the day, as the instructors gradually worked their way through the answers and added comments and lectures as necessary. They also provided suggestion after suggestion for further reading, far too many textbooks to actually buy or study from. However, one feature of the class struck me most forcefully: a heavy dose of fear mongering.

To hear Reg Review tell it, the ASBOG exam is composed by a queer mixture of the devious and the incompetent. Furthermore, the sample questions given on the ASBOG website are completely misleading in regards to the breadth and difficulty of the exam. Certainly, Reg Review addresses the issue by supplying more challenging problems. This leads me to wonder if Reg Review’s statistical success is due more to the determination they inspire than to the quality of their materials. I have not finished reading the main study guide, but it seems like a good review so far.

Since I plan to take the ASBOG test in March 2010, I certainly can’t render any final judgments. However, I’m certainly looking forward to writing Part 2.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Q+A with VES, Inc.

Not too long ago, I asked a few questions about Geosystem LD4, some stupider than others. Since Geosystem doesn’t have a forum, I thought that I would share some of my problems and solutions here:

> Program presents: Could not read bitmap file. I checked your site and  saved it as a 24-bit file, but that did not help. The file is in 
C:\program files\geosys, which is where it should be. Any ideas?
Typically, if the logo file's placed in the proper directory, this message will result from adding a ".BMP" extension when adding the logo to the report form: The program's "Pictures and Logos" dialog needs to have the name of the logo file you're adding, *without* the file extension; e.g., MYLOGO instead of MYLOGO.BMP. (We're dropping that requirement from the next program release, as it tends to confuse people unnecessarily.)
Go back to the report form editor ("Tools" > "Report Form"), select "Search" > "Find", enter
into the "Search for" box, click the "Search" button, double-click on the first search result, then click on the "Edit" button of the following dialog. Finally, check what you've entered into the "Pictures and Logos" box and remove the .BMP at the end of the logo file name, if it's present.
If we haven't properly diagnosed the problem, could you e-mail us the logo file, along with the *exact* contents of the error message that you're getting?
Best Regards,
GEOSYSTEM Software Technical Support
Contact technical support at

Thanks, Geosystem, you nailed that problem. Now here are a few more questions:

Mr. Stanley,
Thank you for taking the time to write to us. We'll try to address your questions inline below. Please to contact us if you need further clarification on any response.
> * Why do horizontal lines on Subsurface Profiles occasionally appear dotted after being exported to .DXF format? (The lines correctly displayed as solid lines in LD4.)
We're not sure. Judging from the context of your next question, you're importing the .DXF file into MicroStation. Since the files import correctly into AutoCAD as well as many .DXF file viewing packages, there must be a specific oddity in the way MicroStation interprets LD4's files. We'll look into the matter.
> * Is VES, Inc. aware of any way to add .RSC fonts to the options in Geosystem?
No. The software uses Windows TrueType fonts only.
> * DelDOT is not among the agencies with forms posted on the Geosystem website.

Apologies for the oversight; DelDOT are clients of ours and we've built their boring logs for them. The logs have been posted to our website at:
* There is no import facility of any kind.
We've only encountered a couple of clients over 20 years who have had specific import applications in mind (as opposed to just thinking it might be a nice thing to have), so an official import tool isn't high on our list of must-add features. We do have in-house tools that can import data from spreadsheets, databases and text files, and, through the program's scripting features, easily add custom importers as needed, so please feel free to let us know specifically what you require in the way of data import.

At first I thought that they were kidding. Then I realized that there was almost no reason for anyone to move data into Geosystem, when you can do almost anything with Mathematica, Excel, or ArcMap.

> * Is there a way to trigger calculation of the values of a newly added field?
There isn't a way to force a calculation update. We're checking to see if that option can be ported into the current version of the software; we'll let you know within the next few business days whether that will be possible.
> * Changing the order of the columns of exported data should be easier.
You're right, the current method of deleting and re-adding the data is cumbersome. We've already rewritten the tool for the next program release, and columns can now be shifted using drag-and-drop.

Thank goodness.

> * Data export options are not saved in  configuration files.
Here again, we have corrected that in the next release of the exporter.

Good work.

> * The replace text tool is buggy, e.g. 9"
becomes -i9nches, not 9-inches.

Thank you for reporting that. We've been able to duplicate the bug (it only happens when the word to be replaced appears at the end of a line of text) and we'll try to get it corrected ASAP.

You’re welcome.

> * The limit of an 8.5x11 sheet of paper is very constraining. Custom sizes and shapes are desirable.
The option to create custom form sizes is on the next version's wishlist, but it's fairly low priority so it may not make it into the final release. Your current program *does* allow you to pick ANSI page sizes such as B, C, D and E. In particular,         ANSI D is 34x22, so that should work perfectly for your .DXF export. Make the change by selecting "Tools" > "Report Forms", then "Sections" > "Form Settings", and change the "Form Size" box. Finally, to avoid modifying your original report format, select "Report" > "Save As" and pick a new filename.
If you're exporting an entire form, with plate areas, etc., you'll need to completely redesign the form to fit the larger area, but if you're merely exporting a stick log consisting of, e.g., a stratigraphy column, blow counts, etc., this method will work great.

This was quite helpful, actually. Thanks.

> * Individual or customizable layers for .DXF export would be desirable. (For instance, one for each boring.)
Thank you for the suggestion, we'll add that option to the next version's wishlist.
> * Need an option for printing only one elevation scale.
Could you clarify your request please? We're not sure exactly what you're asking for.

The elevation scale prints on both sides of the page. I only want it on the left. I’ll have to contact them again.

> * Neat  corners are not formed between elevation scales and footers.
Could you clarify what you mean? If you could fax a sample that would be great.

I guess I’ll have to make a screenshot and try again.

> * Needs callout lines for overcrowded text.
The program has several callout line options. If you could fax a sample of your report, we could recommend a good option for you.

True, but not the useful kind. I need callout lines that can deal with text that runs past the starting depth of the next text line. Maybe I’ll ask this one again.

> * Does the Labsuite software have a total unit weight data field?
Do you want the software to calculate the unit weight for you? It does not currently have that capability; however, you *can* modify your boring log data entry form to perform the calculation.
Best Regards,
GEOSYSTEM Software Technical Support

My file  contained Labsuite data, but I only had an LD4 license. If the unit weight data field were created by Labsuite, it could be brought into LD4. However, it appears that there is no standard unit weight field. Not to worry. It’s an easy calculation.

Overall, it seems that Geosystem is  flawed and VES is willing to improve it. It’ll be interesting to see what happens over time.