For designing the observatory I really needed something a bit more “touchy-feely” than pencil and paper — my usual method of designing bits and pieces I build. A few people had mentioned Google Sketchup, but it’s only available for Windows and Mac and I don’t do either of those as a rule. I’m a UNIX/Linux user of twenty-five years or thereabouts and I just can’t get on with Windows.
The obvious solution was to try installing the Windows version under WINE. A fair bit of mucking about later and I was no further forward, but eventually I discovered “Winetricks” and it’s own installer for Sketchup. Another few minutes and I was up and running.
The learning curve is fairly steep, but Google’s video tutorials are very helpful at leading you through the basics. It’s entirely possible that attempting to design an observatory as my first project was excessively ambitious, but if what I wanted were that much simpler I’d never have bothered anyhow.
Thus far it’s been an excellent tool for visualising what I have in my head and making sure it stands a chance of working in real life. So much so that I’ve already started using it for other projects such as my ongoing bathroom build. I highly recommend it, but don’t expect to be able to use it as a CAD tool. That’s really not what it’s about.
Visit the 3D Warehouse to see what other people have got up to with it. I downloaded a number of things from that site to help out with and incorporate into my own designs.
I’ll post some images of what I’ve been doing with it shortly.