Can you work without a command line?

On the Project Butterfly blog, a recent poll gave these choices: I can’t work without the command line I think it’s time for a new way to draw without the command line In a follow-up post, the observation was made that “We thought that only a few people would work without a command line, but the results were refreshing.” Apparently, only 66% of respondents selected the first of the available options. To this I respond, “Beware the trap of the biased sample”. The poll asked people who are largely users of a product that involves drawing without a command line if they can work without it. In response, an amazing 2/3 of them say “I can’t work without the command line”, i.e. they can’t possibly do what they are currently doing, every time they use the product on which the blog is based. How is that “refreshing”? 34% is an incredibly small number when the only alternative answer is self-contradictory. It should be very close to 100%, surely? Every poll has a biased sample, including my own polls here. The trick is in working out how strong the bias is and determining if it invalidates the results. In this case, readers of the Butterfly blog are largely users of a command-line-less product and therefore likely to have a strong bias against the command line. So that 66% number would be a bit bigger if addressed to a more general population, I reckon. I’ve added my own poll for my own biased sample (that’s you lot out there, largely users of a command line-based application) using exactly the same question format. I’m not entirely happy with the way the options are worded as it is not entirely neutral, but I’ll stick with it for the purpose of the comparison. While I…

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This is what I do in my spare time

Fencing. With swords, not pickets, barbed wire, etc. I gave it up 25 years ago, then took it up again about 18 months ago. I now fence all three weapons, having started Sabre about six months ago. Fencing is a very aerobic sport, and participating in it has done wonders for my fitness and mobility over the past year or so. Here are a couple of videos of me fencing foil in a Masters competition last year. YouTube link. YouTube link.

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Autodesk Subscription support – how is it?

I’d like to hear your experiences with the support that is part of the Autodesk Subscription package. My own experiences have been mixed, but I’d like to hear from you rather than push any particular barrow. Have you used it? Good, bad, indifferent, all of the above? Is it timely, efficient, knowledgeable, clearly communicated? Please add your comments!

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Celebrating Douglas Bader

As I am currently re-reading Reach for the Sky, I happen to know that yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Douglas Bader, a inspirational man who lost both legs (one above the knee) in an air crash while a trainee RAF pilot. A sporting hero and natural pilot, he used his immense self-will to overcome this setback and mount several other obstacles placed in his path. Retired from the RAF as 100% disabled, he relearned how to walk on tin legs (never using a stick), drive a car (he needed the clutch pedal moved), play squash (with much falling, crashing and banging) and golf (to a very high standard). When World War II started, he used the force of his personality and his old contacts to overcome official resistance and become a pilot again. He was passed as 100% fit (while simultaneously being classed as 100% disabled) and took to Hurricanes and Spitfires alongside the mostly younger men who became The Few. He and his colleagues protected his nation from an unspeakable evil. Following many airborne successes in the Battle of Britain and more crashes (one of which would have probably cost him his legs if they had not already been lost), he had a meteoric rise through the ranks. In 1941 Wing Commander Bader was either shot down by, or collided with, a German fighter over France. Unable to extricate himself from his plummeting tail-less aircraft, he only survived because the straps that were holding on his trapped leg broke free. Captured, taken to hospital and reunited with his leg (repaired by respectful German airmen), he escaped out of an upper-storey window on knotted sheets! Although recaptured and deprived of his legs for a while, Bader made it his business to make life as difficult as possible for his…

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AutoCAD does a Cheshire Cat

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat gradually disappears until nothing is left but its smile. The AutoCAD packaging has done the same thing over the years until now nothing is left but the 0s and 1s. In Release 13, one box was not enough to keep all the materials, but Autodesk gradually slimmed it down until in recent years your slab of upgrade or Subscription cash gets you nothing but a DVD in a case (with or without a pack of cards). However, you can go cap in hand to Autodesk and ask for a real manual of your choice, which will be shipped to you free of charge. A few days ago, Subscription customers in 37 countries were all automatically opted in to a download-only upgrade mechanism for all Autodesk software, not just AutoCAD. Here are Autodesk’s stated reasons: Convenience—It’s more convenient than installing software from a DVD or CD and is available 24 hours a day. Sustainability—Because there’s no printing, packaging, or shipping, it’s a more sustainable choice. Central control—Software Coordinators can provide users with electronic access to upgrades and manage software permissions centrally. So this has nothing to do with increasing Autodesk’s profit margins, it is for your benefit and to help save the planet; that’s nice to know. However, depending on your circumstances and the available bandwidth at both your end and Autodesk’s, downloading a couple of GB or so for each product (double it if you need both 32 and 64 bit versions) may not be convenient. If you want to receive an actual disc containing the software, you will need to change a Subscription setting. You should have seen an email about this containing a convenient link to a page containing that setting. If you haven’t taken care of this yet, I suggest…

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Comment censorship

I want your views on how much control I should exert over the comments that people make here. I’ve been led to thinking about this by a couple of things. Mostly by the occasion of the first troll comment on this blog, and to a lesser extent by Shaan Hurley turning off comments on posts older than three months on his Between The Lines blog. (I am not complaining about this; it’s Shaan’s justifiable reaction to mass spam attacks and it has nothing to do with censorship. There are some Autodesk blogs that don’t allow comments at all, which may in itself be justifiable). I’m a proponent of freedom of speech and don’t want to restrict your ability to say what you think. I’m perfectly happy to see you express your contrary opinions and would never dream of removing or editing a comment simply because it contains viewpoints with which I disagree. There are plenty of comments on this blog from people who disagree with my stated views, and at least one containing an insult aimed at me personally using a variant of a word that many people would consider very offensive. I haven’t touched those comments. I haven’t even touched the troll comment. Spam, on the other hand, is mercillesly dealt with. The vast majority of it is automatically excluded by Akismet, a handful I have to remove manually, but in all cases the comment is deleted and the sender’s IP is banned from accessing the site. I can do that with other commenters too, but I have not yet done so. My question to you is where do you think I should draw the line? If a discussion leads to a vendor commenting to let people know that his company provides a service relevant to the discussion, is…

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Open Letter to James Cameron

James, you don’t know me, but I see you have been getting involved in CAD events lately, which is my area of interest. Autodesk University 2009 attendees got a sneak preview of Avatar and you were a key speaker at Solidworks World 2010. I absolutely loved Avatar. It’s the only film I’ve ever seen where I immediately wanted to watch it again. Yes, it’s possible to poke holes in the plot, but that applies to 99% of films and anyway, this film isn’t about the plot, is it? It’s about the breathtaking visuals. I was dreaming about Pandora for days afterwards; good job. I grew up in the 70s with the music of Yes and the artwork of Roger Dean. That the visuals of Pandora are based on Roger’s artwork is undeniable, and the film benefits immeasurably from the floating mountains, spectacular arches, dragons and even skin patterns that are so obviously lifted from Roger’s work. Why then, when I stayed to watch the credits at the end of the film, did I not see Roger Dean credited? I understand that Roger has received no monetary credit for his contributions, either. James, you know the right thing to do. Please do it. Otherwise, instead of thinking of you as the guy behind the most visually impressive film ever, I’ll think of you as the jerk who ripped off Roger Dean. Over to you.

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How will you react to Autodesk’s new upgrade pricing?

As I reported early last year, Autodesk is going to discourage you from paying for upgrades as and when you see fit. It is doing this by charging you 50% of the cost of a full license to upgrade from the previous release. The same 50% cost will apply if you crossgrade [edit: crossgrade from an non-current release, that is] (say if you move from AutoCAD to a vertical). If your product is more than three releases old, you can’t upgrade. This change takes effect from 16 March 2010. There were some discounted upgrade offers to get you signed over early, but these have now expired. If you are thinking of upgrading or crossgrading, I suggest you contact your reseller, get out your calculator and consider doing it in the next few weeks. There is some laughable doublespeak in the Autodesk marketing of this change, such as “streamlining our upgrade pricing based on feedback from customers and resellers,” but I can’t imagine anyone being fooled by such nonsense. It’s obvious that Autodesk is not doing this because you all asked for upgrade prices to be trebled to make a nice predictable percentage, it’s doing this to force upgraders on to Subscription. Once you’re on Subscription, you’re paying a year in advance for an upgrade (bonus cashflow!), and you’re something of a captive market, theoretically providing Autodesk with a more regular source of income. (The financial crisis has knocked something of a dent in that theory, as many companies have chosen not to renew subscriptions for products that were previously used by now-retrenched employees). If you’re already on Subscription, you may be feeling pretty smug right now. Don’t be. Once Autodesk’s user base is effectively converted to the Subscription model, Autodesk will be free to do all sorts of things to…

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If you admire somebody, please let them know

This post has nothing to do with CAD or the other subjects I occasionally cover. Last month, I unexpectedly lost two of my colleagues to cancer. Wayne was a loud, larger-than life character, full of life. Paal (pronounced like Paul) was a quieter, more reserved man, but very friendly, funny and positive. Wayne occasionally rubbed people up the wrong way with his robust manner, but everybody who knew Paal liked him. I thought he was a great guy, but I never told him that. Now I wish I had. I never even knew he was ill, so when I read the email telling me he was dead it was quite a shock. It’s not my place to tell you what to do, so please take this purely as a suggestion. If you know somebody and you admire them for whatever reason, let them know it. They will feel better, you will feel better, and if you come in to work one day and find they are gone, you won’t be left wishing you had said something positive to them while you had the chance. As for cancer, I can’t prevent or cure that, but I have a little idea for something I can do to help. More on that later.

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CAD International interview on drcauto and other subjects

This morning I spoke with CAD International‘s Nigel Varley. Here is a paraphrased summary of the interview. SJ: When did CAD International buy the drcauto intellectual property rights? NV: About two weeks ago. SJ: You are currently helping drcauto customers with authorisation codes, is that correct? NV: Yes, masses of them. It’s taking up a lot of our peoples’ time. SJ: Are you charging for this service? NV: Not at present. SJ: Do you intend to charge for this service in the future? NV: Maybe. We may need to, both to pay for our time and to recoup our investment. I don’t particularly like the idea of annual renewals for software, so we may do something different in future. SJ: If somebody wanted to buy drcauto products such as LT Toolkit now, could they do so? NV: No, we’re still processing the materials we were given when we bought the rights. It wasn’t left in a well-organised state. I’m not sure if that was done deliberately or if it was just like that. SJ: Do you have any plans to continue development of LT Toolkit or the other drcauto products? NV: It’s too early to say at this time. I understand it doesn’t work right now with AutoCAD LT 2010 with Update 2 applied, or on 64-bit Windows, or on Windows 7. It’s not clear at this stage how much work is involved in making it work. It should be doable, but we can’t make any commitments at this stage. SJ: So do you have a timeframe for doing any of this stuff? NV: No, it’s too early. We’re still processing it. SJ: What about former drcauto employees helping people out with authorisation codes? NV: They have no rights to do that. They don’t own the intellectual property, we do.…

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More on drcauto, LT Toolkit and CAD International

Things have moved on since my first post on this subject in which I passed on the information that Leonard Liang (a former drcauto employee) could help with codes for LT Toolkit orphans. In recent developments In a comment in a WorldCAD Access post, Nigel Varley from Australian company CAD International stated that they had bought the intellectual property rights to the drcauto software, and that drcauto codes and software obtained from former employees are illegal. Another comment on the same post from former drcauto employee Kevin J Secomb lamented the demise of Gary D’Arcy’s dream and criticised CAD International for indicating in an email to users that they would charge for authorisation codes. CAD International created a web page describing the situation with regard to drcauto products, including a statement that it would “offer immediate assistance to those needing new authorisation codes”. Deelip Menezes made a blog post on the subject, followed by another one containing a reaction from Autodesk’s Jim Quanci. Poth posts are worth reading, as are the comments from various observers. The first post went off at a bit of a tangent about Autodesk’s apparent benevolence towards resellers that don’t toe the corporate line (drcauto is still listed as an Authorised AutoCAD reseller a decade after being dropped by Autodesk). The second post included words from Jim that the late Gary D’Arcy was a great character, albeit a pain to Autodesk. Having met Gary many years ago and followed the story of LT Toolkit with interest, I can confirm the truth of both statements. I thought I would have a chat with CAD International’s Nigel Varley to see if I could clear up the situation as he sees it. It was a very interesting interview, the results of which I will publish very soon.

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