I like Bill Gates a little more now

I recently enjoyed reading what appears to be a genuine and not at all atypical internal Microsoft email from Bill Gates. I always enjoy seeing an honest opinion expressed in a way that cuts through the glossy corporate PR image, and this one certainly does that. Actually, it reminds me of the sort of thing I write in MyFeedback when evaluating pre-release versions of AutoCAD. It’s honest, it’s negative or even cutting where it needs to be, it represents a real user’s viewpoint, and most of all, it’s useful. I don’t think this sort of exposure does any harm at all to a company. It’s unlikely to change anybody’s opinion. Microsoft haters will still hate Microsoft, fanboys will still be fanboys. People like me who sit in the middle somewhere are likely to admire the honest self-evaluation shown here. Here’s the Big Cheese looking at things like a user. Great! I’m sure the spin merchants wince when something like this makes it into public view, but that can only be a good thing, right? I’d like to think Carl Bass fires off this sort of email within Autodesk from time to time. If such a thing went public, would it hurt Autodesk? Absolutely not. Autodesk haters will still hate, fanboys will still, er, fan, but there will be no lasting measurable effect on Autodesk. I bet a lot of real world users would like Carl Bass a little more, though. Frustrated users would probably like him a lot more.

Full post and comments

AutoCAD 2009 – How many people really are using the Ribbon?

I was interested to see Shaan Hurley reporting the Ribbon usage figures from the Customer Involvement Program (CIP). Shaan’s figures show Ribbon non-users at 46%, my poll results show it as 71%. Why the discrepancy? Is somebody telling fibs? I don’t think so. First, blog nauseam poll respondents represent a biased sample, comprising people who are more interested in AutoCAD than average users. Dare I say more knowledgeable? More likely to be power users or CAD Managers, anyway. They are probably more likely than average users to make changes from the default AutoCAD settings. But Shaan’s CIP users are also a biased sample, comprising those AutoCAD users who have CIP turned on. Are users who go with the flow and have CIP on also more likely to go with the flow and leave the Ribbon on? Possibly, but I would have thought the CIP-on bias would be less significant than the blog-reader bias. Second, Shaan’s sample size is likely to be very substantially larger than mine. I currently get about 5000 unique visitors to this site each month, with only up to about a hundred bothering to respond to a given poll. Shaan’s numbers are likely to be in the hundreds of thousands, and thus much less prone to a few people skewing the results. Finally, the method of measurement differs. My poll is totally open and transparent, but requires active participation by the respondent. This means that the more strongly you feel about something, the more likely you are to be measured. Shaan’s measurement method avoids that pitfall. However, because the details of the CIP measurement mechanism aren’t public, its accuracy is open to conjecture. For example, if somebody spends 8 hours working in a Ribbonless session and then tries out the Ribbon in another session for a few…

Full post and comments

Totally abysmal customer service from Autodesk

I’ve been dealing with Autodesk in various ways for 23 years and have had a variety of experiences as a result; some good, some bad. The provision of the license codes needed to keep AutoCAD running has historically been pretty good. No longer. I’m currently going through the worst Autodesk customer service experience in my career. I’ve been trying for many weeks to obtain a few codes, without success. I’ll spare you the details for the time being to give Autodesk one last chance to come good. For now I’ll just say that a combination of restrictive policies, inflexibility in the administration of those policies and downright incompetence has left Autodesk’s Subscription service looking very poor indeed. It’s a shocking abuse of legitimate customers; something that pirate users don’t have to put up with. Autodesk Asia Pacific Product Registration & Activation Centre, your efforts to date have not been anywhere close to adequate. Get your finger out and start providing some customer service. If you can’t do so, escalate it to someone who can. Now. Before I let on how I really feel. Update: I would just like to clarify that I have no problem with the service provided at a dealer level.

Full post and comments

AutoCAD 2009 – Why aren’t you using the Ribbon?

Following on from the earlier poll to find out what you were doing with the Ribbon (mostly turning it off, apparently), I’ve added a poll for those of you who are using AutoCAD 2009 Ribbonless. I hope I’ve covered all the bases with my 23 possible reasons! You can pick as many or as few as you like.

Full post and comments

Firefox 3.0 Download Day

I use the Firefox web browser when I have a choice. I’ve tried Safari and it’s fine once I turn off the horrible fuzzy text, but whatever I try I always come back to Firefox. Today, FireFox 3.0 is released and the Mozilla people are hoping to set a world record for downloads. I’ve done my bit (it was a surprisingly quick download), over to you. http://www.mozilla.com/

Full post and comments

AutoCAD 2009 – Why do you hate the Ribbon?

Judging from the results of the Ribbon usage poll (and the usual poll caveats apply), you are turning off AutoCAD 2009’s Ribbon in droves. I’m surprised. I thought there would be a significant minority of 2009 users who turned it off, but it looks I was wrong and it’s a large majority. The non-Ribbon numbers have hovered around the two-thirds mark right from the start and have now settled above the 70% mark. If nothing else, this validates Autodesk’s decision to make the Ribbon optional and keep all the old user interface elements. Now I’m curious about the reasons. Why do so many of you dislike the Ribbon so much? Is it an unwillingness to change, a reaction against Microsoft’s influence, or are there more practical reasons? Is it screen space, extra picks, performance, customisation difficulties, difficulty in finding things, or something else? Did you turn it off straight away or did you give it a fair go first? Is the whole idea a write-off as far as you’re concerned, or is there something Autodesk could do that might convince you to use it? Please comment and let me know. If I get enough responses, I’ll post a multiple-choice poll to get a better idea about how many of you have the various reasons for going Ribbonless.

Full post and comments

The Ribbon Man interview – fluff?

Looking at the comments, it seems not everyone is happy with the Matt Stein interview. If so, I’m sorry you feel that way about the piece. In my own defence, I would point out the following: I like to think my work at Cadalyst represents a balanced viewpoint. I pride myself on being fair. Whether Autodesk deserves praise or criticism for something, I provide it. But an interview isn’t really the place to do that. An interview is supposed to be an opportunity for the interviewee to say things, not a platform for the interviewer’s opinions. My job as an interviewer is to extract information, not provide it. In my opinion, the best TV interviewers listen a lot and say very little. Confrontational interviewers can be fun to watch, though. I have many other opportunities, both here and in Bug Watch, to express viewpoints that may conflict with what Matt had to say. Matt doesn’t have a blog or a regular Cadalyst column, he has this one chance to put his point across to Cadalyst readers. I think it’s fair to let Matt make best use of that opportunity and not beat him down with a confrontational style. I think it’s important for readers to understand the thinking behind the user interface changes. You may not agree with Autodesk’s thinking (in fact, I often don’t), but if you know what the thinking is, you can argue against it more convincingly. I don’t want to go into too much detail about this because it involves private correspondence, but getting this interview published at all was an effort and a half. Anyone who wants to get access to an Autodesk employee’s comments for publication has to go through Autodesk’s PR people. While the people I dealt with were pleasant and cooperative, the pace at which things happened…

Full post and comments

AutoCAD 2009 – Ribbon content for Express Tools

One of the many unfinished aspects of the AutoCAD 2009 Ribbon is the lack of Express Tools content. One enterprising user has put the effort into correcting this, and has posted an Express Tools CUI replacement in this Autodesk newsgroup thread. I have not tested this myself. As usual with CUI, be paranoid. Back up everything before you touch anything. While I wouldn’t normally suggest you do any Ribbon custom work in 2009 in its current state, it shouldn’t hurt in this case as it should be easily redoable once Autodesk has fixed up the worst of the 2009 CUI problems. Anything else you do should be considered as disposable. The problems with 2009’s CUI are so fundamental that it is quite likely a restructure will be required to fix them, either in a service pack or in 2010. That means your 2009 CUI efforts may need to be redone, just like your AutoCAD 2008 Dashboard modifications.

Full post and comments

The Ribbon Man interview – part 2

The second and final part of my interview of Matt Stein has now been published on the Cadalyst site. There were some other questions I would have liked Matt to answer, but some unfortunate logistical problems prevented that from happening. Never mind, I guess it ended up plenty long enough anyway!

Full post and comments