Autodesk on-line survey

As posted on Between the Lines, there is an Autodesk survey you may wish to complete in an attempt to have some kind of influence over AutoCAD’s future direction. Among other things, you will be asked specific questions about these issues: Interoperability Batch Processing in AutoCAD Custom Linetype Creator Custom Hatch Creator Transparent Fills You will also be asked to rank 10 possible future features: Batch process drawings in AutoCAD Draw order by layer Enhanced visual styles Visual compare two drawings 3D Dynamic Blocks Transparent hatch fills Convert PDF to DWG 3D enhancements Hatch Pattern Generator Linetype Creator Without knowing more details, it’s hard to make a rational choice. For example, does “Enhanced visual styles” mean that AutoCAD 2007’s nearly-done 3D display overhaul will be finished off, allowing the correct display and plotting of simple conventional mechanical engineering views with hidden lines? Because that would make it important and worth me pushing it up the list. Or does it mean something more glossy but much less useful, which from my point of view would push it near the bottom? Who knows? Never mind, I encourage you to have a go anyway. All you can do is your best based on the available information and hope it isn’t misinterpreted based on faulty assumptions. There’s a box near the end that allows you free rein to say what you like about AutoCAD’s future direction. I hope many of you use it, and I hope Autodesk doesn’t just “listen”, but acts based on what its customers say they want.

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Autodesk discussion group links – feedback and bookmarks

The Autodesk discussion groups are currently working. They are also still irresponsibly displaying people’s email addresses as visible user names. If you’ve posted to the discussion groups in the past, I suggest you check to see if your email address is out there for the spambots to pick up. There is now a feedback form for the discussion group and Community sites, so if you’re having problems you could try that. Hopefully, Autodesk won’t need a thousand feedback reports to work out that it’s running as slow as a wet week, the search is broken and that people’s privacy has been violated. If you have links to product categories that no longer work properly, you can modify the format as shown in this example, which is for the AutoCAD category. Old: http://discussion.autodesk.com/index2.jspa?categoryID=8 New: http://discussion.autodesk.com/forums/category.jspa?categoryID=8

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Autodesk discussion group alternatives

As I’m typing this, the Autodesk discussion groups are down for maintenance again. Let’s hope that when they come back up, some of the problems are fixed. In the meantime, if you’re an AutoCAD user and have something to ask or say, where can you go? Here are a few suggestions. I like the AUGI forums. It’s an even more modern, more graphical and less space-efficient web interface than the new Autodesk one, but there’s a good community there and, hey, the search feature works. Mike Perry and colleagues run a tight ship, so please read the rules and be good. If you have something to tell Autodesk and want practically no restrictions in the way you say it, submit a new message on dear Autodesk, or vote for the existing messages you like. It’s looking a bit bare and empty at the moment, so go fill it up. As a Cadalyst person, it would be remiss of me to avoid mentioning the Cadalyst forums. The Swamp is biased heavily toward CAD programming, so if you have a LISP question then head there, but it also hosts general CAD discussion. In this community, you are expected to be courteous and professional. Old-timers like myself will remember that the CompuServe ACAD forum’s Take 5 section was carried over into the AutoCAD discussion groups. It was kept going for a few years before Autodesk felt it was getting out of hand and killed it. That community refused to be killed, and actually still flourishes for newsgroup (NNTP) users at the t5 dot dynip dot com server. R. K. McSwain suggests the CADTutor forums. If you wish to point out any other sites I’ve missed, please let me know and if they’re relevant I’ll edit this post to include them. While I was…

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More Autodesk discussion group angst

When you start using the new AutoCAD discussion groups, in addition to the broken search facility, you will have other issues to deal with. There’s a new editor with lots of features and lots of problems. Quoting formatted messages results in a mess. Switching from one tab to another messes up your text. Submitting your message results in an error page like this: Autodesk Discussion Groups Discussion Groups Oops! Server Error 500. The resource you’ve requested is not available.       © Copyright 2007 Autodesk, Inc. All rights reserved. Legal Notices & Trademarks — Privacy Policy Despite this, the message does actually get submitted. People are unaware of this (possibly because the list of topics, and the popular discussions pane’s “last post” displays are not being updated as new posts are made) and re-posting their messages, resulting in duplicates. There is some confusion about what constitutes a category in the discussion group structure. If you go from the top level to the AutoCAD level and then into AutoCAD 2009, picking the “Up one category” link takes you right to the top. The speed of the web interface varies from quite acceptable to something rather less than that. People are reporting problems with losing their old watched threads, and not being allowed to watch new threads without email notifications. There’s nowhere obvious for people to report problems, so people are just starting complaint threads in random locations. What if you report problems directly to Autodesk? According to a poster in one thread, this is what he got in reply to his report that search is broken (which it still is): Thank you for contacting Autodesk Support. Here is the recommended resolution to your Support Request: Discussion Group is just a BBS for all Autodesk Customer. This BBS is not product support…

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Autodesk newsgroup changes

As I mentioned yesterday, the Autodesk newsgroups have been overhauled. After spending yesterday going up and down like a whore’s drawers*, the site is now up, albeit still not 100% of the time. At this stage, newsreader users appear to be generally unaffected by negative issues, which is a pleasant surprise. The space efficiency for Web users has improved since yesterday, and while it’s not as good as it was a week ago, it’s now good enough for me. I’ve now managed to log on, and was impressed to see that it had retained my old settings of 100 topics per page and no limit on the number of posts per page. Unfortunately, the new control panel imposes a limit of 50 topics per page and 50 posts per page, so I’m not going to be able to change any of my other control panel settings for fear of forever losing my long-page settings. Autodesk, please add options for 100 topics per page (more, if you like) and unlimited posts per page. The litttle blobs to indicate read and unread posts may look cute, but they’re not much use to me. Before, I could open a long thread such as this one and look for “NEW!” within the page using the browser search to find the new posts. Scrolling through the page looking for brown blobs is seriously inferior to the mechanism I had last week. Autodesk, can I please have an option to have easily searched words like “NEW!” instead of blobs? Oh, and “NEW!” is much more useful than “new” because the newsgroup is obviously scattered with large numbers of words that begin with those three letters. Search? Still broken. Autodesk, you know what to do. Also, it logs me off every so often. What’s up with that? So, what do…

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Some Autodesk web stuff now coming back on line

Right now, the Autodesk Subscription site is back up, although some people are experiencing problems. As an Aussie, I approve of the new Subscription slogan that starts with “No Worries”, even if it’s not yet accurate. Product Activation is requesting a logon, but I haven’t gone any further than that, so it may or may not be working. The Autodesk Discussion Groups are up and down by the minute. Links that once led directly to categories (e.g. AutoCAD) currently lead to pages with sub-category headings, but no links. The discussion groups themselves, while they’re up, have a new, much more modern look, but are unfortunately vastly less space-efficient than the old ones. My existing password no longer works and I haven’t seen an email about a replacement yet, so I haven’t been allowed to log on yet to see if I still have the option of improving the efficiency of the interface (e.g. by having 100 topics per page, not 15). The Search facility looks unfinished and fails to find stuff I know is there. There are various user-related issues, such as the user name links failing and multiple users with the same name. The Autodesk University site is up, but registration is still disabled. The Autodesk Labs site is up, but contains some links that no longer work. At a glance, the Alias Design, Civil Engineering, Impression and Manufacturing Community sites all appear to be up and running.

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Lots of Autodesk web stuff broken right now

Autodesk is in the middle of a big site overhaul at the moment, with many services unavailable. For example, attempting to log into Subscription Support gives me this: The Subscription Center is currently undergoing maintenance. You will not be able to access the Subscription Center during this time. Support Request is also undergoing maintenance. Currently, you are not be able to submit, view or manage settings for your Support Requests. The Subscription Center and Support Request will become available at the date and time shown in the chart below. Time Zone/Country Date Time GMT Tuesday, September 23, 2008 5.00 am Eastern Time (EST) Tuesday, Spetember 23, 2008 1.00 am Central European Time (CET) Tuesday, September 23, 2008 7.00 am Japan Tuesday, September 23, 2008 2:00 pm Korea Tuesday, September 23, 2008 2:00 pm Singapore Tuesday, September 23, 2008 1.00 pm India – Bangalore Tuesday, September 23, 2008 10.30 am We appreciate your patience while we work to improve Autodesk Subscription. That’s a relatively useful message; some direct links I have bookmarked give me this kind of thing: The server you are trying to access is either busy or experiencing difficulties. Please close the Web browser, open a new browser window, and try logging in again.[05:09:00] This also means your resellers are unable to provide you with license codes until the server is back up again. So if you were going to rely on that, don’t. The various Autodesk blogs seem to be unaffected at the moment, but links on those blogs may not work correctly. For example, signing up to be placed on the AU blogroll from the link at Between The Lines seems to work, but then right at the end gives me the message below, leaving me in the dark about whether I need to repeat the process…

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Is AutoCAD becoming more or less productive?

It seems that most of you are convinced that AutoCAD is getting slower, but I’ll leave the poll going for a while longer. But even if AutoCAD is getting slower, does that mean that it’s actually less productive? Do the new features introduced in recent releases allow you to produce more useful work in a given time, despite making you wait from time to time? I’ve added a new poll to see what you think.

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I like Adobe a lot more now

If you haven’t found the Dear Adobe gripe site yet, have a look. Some of the comments are moronic, most are strongly worded, some are sarcastic, and some are just precious. How has Adobe reacted to being publicly blasted like this? Very well. Read what John Nack, Adobe’s Photoshop Principal Product Manager, has to say about it on his blog. Also, see how he has responded to many of the comments on his blog posting. Good stuff! How would the good people at Autodesk react to dearautodesk.com? Would they ignore it? Would they pretend that the existing “constructive feedback only” mechanisms are adequate to allow their customers to get their points across? Would they send in a pack of lawyers, attempt to close it down and live with the inevitable consequences? Or would they, like Adobe, cooperate with the site owners and use it as a valuable resource?

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In which direction is AutoCAD’s performance going?

I see quite a few comments in various places that say that AutoCAD’s performance has been getting progressively worse by the year. Is this what most people think, or just the viewpoint of a few complainers? Let’s find out, shall we? I’ve added a poll that asks for your opinions. Feel free to comment, too. Note that this is a poll about raw performance, not productivity. It’s possible (though difficult) to make a program go slower but still allow you to produce more work in a given time, so I’ll cover the productivity angle in a later poll. This poll is purely about how fast AutoCAD seems to you. How often do you find yourself hesitating, or waiting, or even going for a coffee break, while AutoCAD does its stuff? Is this getting better or worse? If you compare it with an earlier release, does it seem faster or slower? It is to be expected that some things will get faster and some slower, but what’s your overall impression?

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Ease of use and the Ribbon

I have Office 2007 on my newest computer at home, which I bought primarily to familiarise myself with the Ribbon interface and allow me to discuss it from a position other than ignorance. I use Word and Excel 2007 on that computer, and find the ease of use about the same as earlier releases. Some things are easier to find and use, some things are harder. My 9 year old daughter recently asked if she could use PowerPoint at home, as she had started to use it at her new school for making little presentations and wanted to make her own at home for fun. I put a shortcut on her desktop and let her go for it, and she has produced some pretty impressive stuff with no help from me. Not only that, but my 7 year old daughter is now doing the same thing, having learnt just by looking over my eldest daughter’s shoulder. They don’t ask me for any help, they just get on with it. A vindication of the Ribbon’s ease-of-use claims? Not exactly. You see, they are using PowerPoint on my old computer, which has the completely Ribbonless Office 2000. I don’t hate the Ribbon. I just don’t see much benefit in it, even for novice users.

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Matt Stein’s Blog and Microsoft’s Mojave Marketing

Thanks to Shaan Hurley for revealing to the wider world the existence of Ribbon Man Matt Stein’s blog. I’m not sure it’s appropriate for a blogging n00b like myself to welcome somebody with a blog four years older than his own, but I’m going to do it anyway. Welcome, Matt (no pun intended). Some of Matt’s blog posts (particularly the early ones) make for, er, interesting reading, so don’t click if you’re easily offended. Please bear in mind that this is a personal blog, not an Autodesk one. Matt and I generally get on fine, but we have had some frank exchanges of view and often agree to disagree. One subject where we are unlikely to share the same views is the Microsoft Vista marketing exercise The Mojave Experiment. This is something I planned to post about some weeks ago but then something more important came up and I didn’t bother. Here’s what Matt thinks, and here’s what I think: While this is a cute marketing ploy and might convince the terminally naive, it pretty obviously qualifies as propaganda rather than any kind of meaningful study. Here’s how it’s done: Find a selection of people with no experience of a product but with ignorance-based negative feelings about it. Make sure the hardware and software you’re going to show them all works well. Fix up the settings for minimal annoyance. Present an expensively prepared, well-choreographed demo that presents all the best features and none of the worst. Result: oh wow, what a surprise, it’s better than they thought. A marketing company could reproduce the same results with practically anything if they set it up right. I bet I could do it with Linux, OS X, Windows Me, whatever. Give me Microsoft’s resources and open slather to present things as fairly or…

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What is loaded at AutoCAD startup, and when?

Warning, CAD nerd stuff ahead. This is a long and technical post and if you’re using AutoCAD in a largely out-of-the-box state you probably won’t care about any of it. If your modification of AutoCAD extends beyond the trivial, you may find it useful to know what AutoCAD loads, and in what order things are loaded. It is possible for LISP files in particular to tread on each other’s toes, so knowing what gets loaded when can be useful information for diagnosing such clashes. This post aims to provide that information. It uses AutoCAD 2009 as an example, but the same principles apply to all releases from AutoCAD 2006 onwards. On startup, the first things AutoCAD loads are its CUI files. It first loads the Enterprise CUI file, then the Main CUI file, then any partial CUI files attached to the Main, then any partial CUI files attached to the Enterprise. I have no idea of the reasoning behind this slightly strange order, but there it is. The order of the partial CUIs loaded in each case is determined by the order in which they appear in the parent CUI files, which is determined by the order in which you attached them. If you don’t like this order, you can attach and reattach them in the CUI interface, or you can do the same thing much quicker with a text editor if you feel confident enough. If there are LISP files associated with these CUI files, they are not loaded yet. You’ll need to wait a few paragraphs for that. Next, if you have created a file called acad.rx in AutoCAD’s search path, any ARX files listed in that file will be loaded. There are other ways in which developers can load their ARX files at startup, but I won’t go into…

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Has AutoCAD 2009 eaten your registry lately?

I’ve had a one-off report from a user of AutoCAD 2009 (actually, it was MDT as part of the Inventor suite pretending to be AutoCAD 2009, which isn’t exactly the same thing) and I’d like to know if anyone else has seen the same thing. His AutoCAD self-destructed and a little investigation showed that the section of the Registry that contains all the settings for that particular release had vanished without trace. This happened again later, but this time he had a backup of the Registry section handy and was able to avoid a second reinstall.  No Registry cleaners were involved. Have any of you seen this kind of thing happen?

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