Autodesk shows Dassault how to treat customers

There are areas of Autodesk’s treatment of customers that leaves much to be desired, and I will most likely continue to be critical of that until a) I die; b) Autodesk dies; or c) the bad stuff stops happening. One thing for which Autodesk deserves praise is the distribution of bug fixes to its customers, without imposing the sort of conditions that SolidWorks customers have to put up with. Do Autodesk customers need to be on Subscription to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. Do Autodesk customers need to have purchased the software within the last 90 days to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. Do Autodesk customers need to have reported certain specific bugs to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. Do Autodesk customers even need to be running the current release to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. AutoCAD 2010 Update 2 (that’s Service Pack 2 in the old language) has just been released for the users of last year’s software. This includes the Update 1 changes. The usual caveats apply, including reading the Readme first. As usual, Autodesk’s oddball numbering system means that after installation, Update 1 shows up as Version 2 and Update 2 shows up as Version 3 in the About screen. This Update applies to straight AutoCAD (and LT), not the vertical variants. I have no news about non-English versions. Patrick Emin informs me these updates are language-independent.

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Autodesk provides CHM-based Help for AutoCAD 2011

In a comment in response to my AutoCAD 2011 Help system is not popular post, Autodesk’s Diane Serda acknowledged the problems, offered apologies and posted a link to a CHM version of the Help. From Diane’s comment: We have posted the zip file for download here: http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/ps/dl/item?id=15068206&siteID=123112&linkID=9240618 Instructions: 1. Download the AutoCAD2011CHMHelp.zip to your local drive (such as My Documents\AutoCAD2011Help). 2. Extract the zip file to this same folder. 3. To access the CHM Help, you’ll need to click on acad181.chm or create a desktop shortcut. You can also point to the locally installed HTML help by turning on the local help checkbox under Options, System. You can also access the PDF’s from the Online Help Home page under Online Resources. http://docs.autodesk.com/ACD/2011/ENU Thanks, Diane! That saves people from having to do inconvenient and dodgy things like downloading a demo version of an AutoCAD 2011-based vertical (Civil 3D 2011 has CHM-based Help for the AutoCAD bits) and grabbing the CHM out of there. Edit: when running under Windows 7 64-bit, the Search pane is blank, as it is in the CHM Help for earlier releases. That’s unfortunate, because searching is a major thing at which the browser-based system is currently very poor. The Index panel works, though, and it’s quick. The PDF link is currently broken for me, but I expect it will be working before too long. In the meantime, the direct link to the list of available AutoCAD 2011 PDF documentation is http://docs.autodesk.com/ACD/2011/ENU/pdfs/PDF Documentation.html (beware, space in URL).

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AutoCAD Internet Survey

I spotted this on the AutoCAD Research Twitter feed: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AutoCAD_Internet Autodesk wants to know your views on web content and how it relates to AutoCAD and your work. It’s a fairly big survey, but I encourage you to take part. You can also sign up to participate in user research sessions here. This is a pretty direct way of letting Autodesk know what you think.

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AutoCAD 2011 Help system is not popular

My poll on this subject is still running (see right), but so far about 2/3 of respondents rate AutoCAD 2011’s new browser-based Help system as 0, 1 or 2 stars out of 5 (total fail, very poor or poor). Frankly, I’m surprised it’s doing as well as that. Have a look at this discussion group thread to get an idea of the sort of reaction I was expecting it to receive. (Kudos to Autodesk’s moderators for allowing the discussion to continue with relatively little obvious censorship, at least so far). There are many good new things in AutoCAD 2011, but Help isn’t one of them. Even if you like the concept of online help, this implementation of that concept is a failure. Even when used offline, this release’s browser-based Help is manifestly inferior to its CHM-based predecessor. Yet another victim of the 12-month release cycle, this feature is horribly undercooked and should not have been included in the finished product. As an advertisment for Autodesk’s ability to provide efficient cloud-based and/or platform-independent software, it could hardly be worse. I intend to pull Help to shreds in more detail in a later post, but feel free to add your own observations.

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It’s not easy being green (and believed)

I know that some of you out there (unlike me) are pretty cynical about anything that Autodesk says on any subject. So when Autodesk makes a big thing about being environmentally responsible, such as its new Autodesk Sustainable Design Center site, it would be tempting to say “Yeah, right” and assume it’s just more spin to ignore. That would be wrong. Yes, Autodesk is using its green credentials as a marketing tool. No, that doesn’t mean it’s all bovine excrement. Autodesk is genuine about this stuff. It’s being driven from the top, and it’s being driven hard. How do I know? In addition to Autodesk backing up its assertions with a reasonable level of detail and independent scrutiny, I have a little first-hand knowledge. When I was attending the AutoCAD 2010 launch bloggers’ event last year, I was able to chat casually with quite a few non-marketing people. During those conversations, Autodesk’s move towards green issues was mentioned by more than one person, and in unscripted ways. It was clear to me that Carl Bass was serious about this and was strongly pushing a green culture within the company. Disclosure: when attending the AutoCAD 2010 launch in February 2009, Autodesk provided transport, accommodation and some meals. Yes, I am fully aware of the irony of learning about Autodesk’s green culture only because it flew me half way round the world and back again.

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What do I think of the Ribbon?

I’m curious. What do you think I think about the Ribbon, particularly in AutoCAD? Do you think I’m a hater, a lover, indifferent, or what? Now, on what evidence do you base that view? Feel free to quote back to me anything I’ve written on this blog or any other public place to support your opinion. If you can’t find anything that gives you any clues one way or the other, feel free to mention that, too.

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Autodesk Subscription – it could be worse

I’m still looking for your questions about Autodesk Subscription and upgrade policies and pricing. No matter what you think about that, you have to admit that Autodesk’s current policies are less anti-customer than those inflicted on SolidWorks users. Disallowing bug fixes for non-subscription customers is reprehensible, no matter what kind of spin is put on it. Not only that, it’s clueless. So you’re annoyed at Autodesk for whatever reason and are looking for alternative software from a company that doesn’t mistreat its customers? You know not to even bother looking at SolidWorks, don’t you? Edit: more relevant links and customer comments from Devon Sowell and Matt Lombard’s blogs.

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Autodesk Knowledge Base – rapid response converts fail to win

Credit where credit is due. Following my rant about the uselessness of using a 16-minute YouTube video as the AutoCAD 2011 system requirements resource, the relevant people at Autodesk quickly fixed it and let me know. Now we just need the other releases covered and we’ll be all set. Autodesk is still officially supporting AutoCAD releases back to 2008, and those people who parted with a big slab of cash a decade ago are Autodesk customers, too. I’m sure Autodesk would like potential new buyers of its current products to know that they will be at least minimally looked after in future. I commend Autodesk’s Leo Casado for reacting politely and constructively to what was undoubtedly harsh feedback. Some Adeskers (by no means all) have been known to get extremely defensive when faced with criticism, insisting that all feedback should be expressed constructively. That’s nonsense, of course. Frank expressions of viewpoints are essential in order to resolve problems. Negative feedback, including harsh criticism, can be among the most useful forms of communication. Congratulations to Leo for showing how it can be handled positively, to the benefit of all.

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Autodesk Knowledge Base – who thought this was a good idea?

This evening, I needed to know exactly which operating systems were supported by all AutoCAD releases from 2004 to 2011 inclusive. I have a pretty good idea, but I needed to confirm that my mental picture is completely correct. So I hopped over to the Autodesk Knowledge Base and entered “system requirements” in the search engine. Only one of the first 50 results was relevant, and that was for AutoCAD 2011. So I clicked on that. Did I get an easily digestible list of system requirements, including a list of exactly which operating systems were supported by AutoCAD 2011? No, I did not. What I got was this: So I clicked on the pretty picture, hoping to be taken to an easily digestible list of system requirements, including a list of exactly which operating systems were supported. Is that where I was taken? No, it was not. Instead, I was taken to a 16-minute YouTube video. As I was not being blocked by a business firewall at the time, I could watch a few stuttery, blurry marketing images flash past during the few seconds it stayed on my screen. There’s a technical term for this kind of thing. It begins with w and rhymes with bank. But I don’t need to tell you how dumb this is. Anybody who is smart enough to read this blog can work that out. But the people at Autodesk who thought this was a great idea? Really, what on earth were they thinking? What were they smoking? Strewth!

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What would you ask Autodesk about Subscription and upgrades?

My post on Autodesk’s new upgrade pricing regime attracted a fair amount of comment, much of it critical of Autodesk. So, let’s follow this up. Let’s say, just hypothetically, that you had an Autodesk high-up in front of you who was willing to answer questions about Subscription and upgrade policy. What would you ask? Please add a comment here with your question. If you want to do so privately, use the Contact link at the top of the page. I would ask that you keep your question civil, relevant and reasonably concise. Other than that, anything goes, so let’s have ‘em. I’ve done this before and did get some answers. Although not all of you liked the answers, they were better than no answers at all. I can’t promise that all your questions will be answered this time, but I’ll see what I can do.

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AutoCAD for Mac under construction

Despite it being A Bad Idea, it look like Autodesk is going ahead with making some kind of OS X variant of AutoCAD, as has been hinted at for a while now. Owen Wengerd has pointed out a few dead giveaways in the AutoCAD API. Another giveaway is the move to the browser-based Help system. OK, it may perform hopelessly and have terrible functionality, but hey, it’s platform-independent! If you still doubt my assertion that the development of AutoCAD for Mac would be a bad thing for AutoCAD, just go and search for a few things in the new AutoCAD 2011 Help system. Then go back to an earlier release (one that uses Windows-specific Help) for a comparison. Once you’ve seen how platform-independence has “improved” Help, just imagine that level of “improvement” applied to the rest of AutoCAD.

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We have a winner

Congratulations to Brian Benton from CAD-a-Blog. His alternative name for AutoCAD 2011, R.E.A.L. (Real Expensive AutoCAD License) was clearly the most popular among those who voted in the pin the name on the product competition. Brian is now the proud (or otherwise) owner of a virtual album, uniVers by Voyager: I’m not sure what Brian will make of the opening moments of the album, where accordion music leads into part-grunty vocals. Maybe it would be best to start with track 8, Falling, instead.

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Incoming link: “Important Revit information”

One of the things my blog’s WordPress dashboard shows me is a list of incoming links, i.e. who is pointing to this blog. One line intrigued me: unknown linked here saying, “318 random votes.. http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com/ …” Clicking on the link took me to the Autodesk Discussion Groups, but only as far as this message: Error: you do not have permission to view the requested forum or category. A Google search showed up the link as follows: Important Revit information Saturday, 3 April 2010 9:23 AM 318 random votes.. http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com/2009/09/09/ribbon-acceptance-in-autocad-and-revit/ Call me self-obsessed if you like, but I find this curious. If anybody has any more information about it, please let me know.

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Siemens 0, Autodesk (April) 1

Personally, I find most April fool jokes to be pretty lame. I considered doing one myself, and had what I thought was a pretty convincing idea, but finally decided against it. Maybe next year. This year, there was one definite exception to the lameness rule. It was well set up, clever and funny. Siemens killed it. Or, to be more accurate, they foolishly attempted to kill it. Fortunately, the Twitter CADville app is still alive and even now being tended by somebody with a fine sense of humour, as you can see from tweets like this: Sometimes you will see duplicate messages. That can happen after downtime. You want better, write your own CADville #cadville. Sometimes, the cloud is a big server farm. Othertimes, is a crappy laptop that needs to go to the programmer’s girlfriends house. Back in 1h Once Siemens pulled Mark Burhop’s corporate blog post, in an attempt to protect Mark, Deelip removed his own related post (edit: now restored). But the very idea that you can hide stuff like this once it has been blogged about is plainly ludicrous. Returning wine to a shattered bottle would be much easier. Ralph describes the CADville story here, you can also see it on Twitpic here, and the original FAQ has been reposted here. Now I’m posting about it on a blog that gets about 90,000 page reads a month. I expect there will be a fair bit of comment buzzing around the CAD community for a while, none of which will reflect well on Siemens. If this gag had been left to run, I would have either not heard about it at all, or would have noticed it as a funny little episode that showed how cool it was that Siemens doesn’t fit the ‘humourless German’ stereotype. The…

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