Is AutoCAD stability getting better or worse?

The term “stability” is sometimes used as a euphemism to refer to how many bugs a program has. I don’t use the word in that way. To me, stability is a measure of a program’s basic ability to keep functioning without crashing or corrupting data. A program can have a thousand tiny irritating bugs and still be very stable. Another program might have only one bug, but if that causes it to crash a dozen times a day, taking down your data with it, then that is very unstable. So, given that definition, how stable is your AutoCAD, or vertical AutoCAD variant? How often does it crash, or mess up your drawings? How does that stability compare with your experience of earlier releases? How does the stability of plain AutoCAD compare with that of its vertical siblings? Please add your comments. If this proves a popular topic, I may run some polls.

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Dealing with blacked-out leader plots in older AutoCAD

Any drawing created in AutoCAD 2008 and later which uses Multileaders will present problems to users of AutoCAD 2007 and earlier. The users of the earlier release will find that rather than having leaders to deal with, they have proxy objects. As a result, it is impossible to edit these leaders in any way other than erasing them. Also, depending on the setting of the PROXYSHOW system variable in the earlier release, the objects may not display at all, or could display only as rectangles. If the user of 2008 or later used the background mask feature when creating Multileaders, they might appear to be fine on the screen. But when plotting, the text part of each leader will come out as a filled black rectangle. That sort of thing has a long history of happening with wipeouts in some cases, depending on the output device and driver. This problem is different because it happens every time, and with all output devices. What can be done if you are the recipient of such drawings? The -ExportToAutoCAD command, which can be used to create a version of the drawing with most proxy objects converted to standard AutoCAD objects, does not work with Multileaders. So I can see three options, in descending order of desirability: Upgrade to a more recent release of AutoCAD. Depending on your circumstances, this may not be a practicable solution. Forbid the use of Multileaders among your users and all parties producing drawings for you. This also may not be a practicable solution. Explode the leaders. This results in them becoming dumb text and lines, with no background masking. However, the masking can be easily re-established using the Textmask command that is part of the Express Tools. It fills me with horror to suggest something as awful as…

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Owning software – what you think

In February 2009, I ran some polls here that are relevant to the discussion regarding the US court system’s most recent backflip in the Vernor v. Autodesk legal saga. Here is a reminder of the results. In April 2009, I ran another set of polls that are also relevant, as they provide an indication of your attitude to license agreements. Here are those results. If you voted in these polls last year, have your opinions changed in the meantime?

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Vernor v. Autodesk – right decision, wrong reason

As I have stated before, I believe Autodesk to be in the right (morally, not legally) in its battle to prevent Vernor’s resale of old, upgraded copies of Release 14. In the latest installment, Autodesk has won its appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. There will be be further legal moves yet, but Vernor’s chances of winning this case are now more slender. So the right side has won (at this stage). I should be happy, right? Wrong. Although I think the latest court to look at this has picked the right side, it has done so for entirely the wrong reasons. (Again, morally wrong, not legally. I have no qualifications on legal matters, but I can spot an injustice a mile off). In a diabolical, dangerous, far-reaching decision, it has concluded that the doctrine of First Sale does not exist at all for products where the copyright owner merely claims not to sell its products, but rather to license them. So all those programs, games, maybe even CDs, DVDs, books etc. you have at home and thought you owned? How about that laptop with its pre-installed Windows? Or that iThing with its iOs? If you’re in the jurisdiction covered by this ruling, you quite possibly now don’t own them at all. Check out the fine print on each of those items; if it includes the magic word “license”, then you may not legally own it, or be allowed to sell it if you no longer need it. If you’re not outraged by this attack on your private property rights, you should be. What’s more, the Court ruling explicitly rewards companies for making the “license” terms as ridiculously restrictive as they can: We hold today that a software user is a licensee rather than an owner of a…

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Right of reply

From time to time, I have been known to be critical of companies, products, policies, publications, and even people (although I do try to “play the ball, not the man”). If somebody objects to what I write here, what can they do about it? They have several possible options. Post a comment in direct response to the allegedly objectionable post. Contact me by email to point out any inaccuracies or any other perceived unfairness in my post. If I consider the objections valid, I will amend the post and/or apologise as appropriate. If I disagree, I will explain my position. Such correspondence will remain private if requested. Contact me by email, requesting equal-exposure right of reply. If I consider such a request reasonable under the circumstances, even if I disagree with the objection, then I will either append the reply to the post in question, or create a new post containing the requested reply, verbatim and in full. Those with their own blogs, sites, newsletters or other media can of course use those to reply. Those without such facilities can raise objections using media controlled by others, such as discussion groups and other online forums. None of the above options apply to obvious trolls and other spammers; they have no rights at all here. I guess it’s also possible to threaten legal action, without first trying any of the above. That hasn’t happened to me yet, but if it does, it promises to be quite entertaining. I take an extremely dim view of those who use legal threats to suppress free speech and other legitimate activity. The gloves will be off. Any such threats will be deemed “correspondence for publication”, to be reproduced in full, with commentary (probably laced with heavy sarcasm).

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Executive summary of Deelip’s AutoCAD for Mac interview

Deelip has just published an extensive interview with several Autodesk people about AutoCAD for the Mac. Deelip had a good set of questions and I suggest you read the whole thing, but if it’s all too tl;dr for you, then here is the lazy reader’s version of what Autodesk had to say: The AutoCAD code was split up into 3 sections: the core CAD engine (platform-independent), the Windows-specific (MFC) parts and the Mac-specific (Cocoa) ones. AutoCAD for Mac is incomplete. Choosing which features to leave out was done with the aid of CIP (oh, dear) and Beta feedback. (Hang on a minute, I thought CIP said most people were using the Ribbon…) No comment on when or if AutoCAD for Mac functionality will catch up with its Windows counterpart. No comment on the stability or performance of the Mac version. Buying Visual Tau wasn’t a complete waste of money. If Mac users want Windows-level functionality, they should use Bootcamp. The Mac version is intended to expand the AutoCAD market to those Mac users who are frustrated by Bootcamp or who find it too hard. Some mind-blowing spin was attempted in a valiant but vain attempt to explain away the Ribbon = productivity, Mac <> Ribbon marketing problem. You will really have to read it for yourself, as I can’t do it justice here. But “just because 2+2=4 doesn’t mean 4-2=2” will give you some idea of what to expect. The Mac version is the same price as the Windows version, despite being incomplete, because Mac users won’t know or care about the missing stuff. There are no plans for a Linux port, or any other platforms. Autodesk will wait and see how AutoCAD for Mac does before porting any of the vertical products. (Very sensible). Autodesk closed off the AutoCAD…

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AutoCAD WS contest poll added

Thanks to all entrants in the AutoCAD WS contest. I have now closed the entries and added a poll (see right). Although I did state that there would be no prize for this contest, I have some exciting news! I am happy to announce that thanks to an exclusive* arrangement with Autodesk, the winner of this contest will receive a free** copy of AutoCAD!*** I will keep the poll open until I feel like closing it or the entry I like best is winning, whichever is the most convenient. * Exclusive to people with Internet access. ** Excluding any Internet access expenses the winner may incur. *** AutoCAD WS. If the winner is unable to use AutoCAD WS due to iThing insufficiency, browser-based access to Project Butterfly will be provided instead.

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AutoCAD 2011 Update 1.1

As I described earlier, Autodesk recalled AutoCAD 2011 Update 1 because it killed AutoCAD under certain circumstances (e.g. plotting with the layer palette open). Now there’s a fixed version available for AutoCAD and LT. There is no news yet about Updates for vertical AutoCAD variants. If you have installed Update 1 and the hotfix, you don’t need to do anything. If you have not installed Update 1, you should install Update 1.1. If you have installed Update 1 but not the hotfix, you can either install the hotfix or uninstall Update 1 and then install Update 1.1. For the full story, I suggest you read Tom Stoeckel’s Without a Net post. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (remember those?), make sure you read the readme before installing or uninstalling anything.

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AutoCAD WS Contest

Autodesk’s linking app to allow iThings to connect to Project Butterfly is called AutoCAD WS. Never mind the “AutoCAD”, that’s just there to confuse matters. What does the “WS” stand for? William Shatner, perhaps? There’s no official answer, but I thought it might be fun to run a contest for the most appropriate and/or amusing answer. I have some ideas of my own, but most of them are rude so I’ll keep them to myself. Please just add a comment with your idea(s), up to 3 per person. When I have enough responses, I’ll run a poll. No prizes, this is just for fun.

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Apple – Autodesk history revisited

In a post on WorldCAD Access, Jay Vleeschhouwer makes some reasonable observations. However, the timing of the 1990s Autodesk / Mac history looks all wrong to me. Jay quotes himself from a 2008 note: …until about the mid-1990s Autodesk did have a reasonable presence on the Mac … commitment waned when Apple’s fortunes faded a dozen or so years ago The last of the original Mac AutoCADs was Release 12, a 1992 product. Apple market share continued to increase after that; indeed, 1994 was a bumper year. However, Autodesk’s commitment had already vanished by then, and its 1994 product, Release 13, had no Mac version. Apple’s fortunes did indeed fall away “a dozen or so years” before Jay’s note, largely as a result of the success of Windows 95. But this decline could not have been the cause of Autodesk’s lack of commitment to Apple; by that time the parting of the ways was already well in the past. What did cause Autodesk’s commitment to vanish? According to what Adeskers told me at the time, Apple did. Because of the relatively tiny Mac market share, Autodesk relied on Apple to effectively subsidise the Mac AutoCAD development work by providing significant development resources. Apple, which in the early 90s was in a state of internal turmoil, decided to cut back on those resources and expected Autodesk to go it alone with Mac development. Instead, Autodesk killed it off as an unprofitable distraction. Although at the time I was critical of Autodesk orphaning its recently-acquired Mac customers, it was almost certainly the right thing to do from a business perspective. It would be interesting to know how much Apple is subsidising Autodesk’s current Mac development effort, but I guess we will never know.

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iPad, iPhone app – good and bad news

Good news! Autodesk has announced an app that will link iPads and iPhones to Project Butterfly. This provides viewing, markup and limited editing facilities. Bad news! Autodesk has decide to call it AutoCAD WS, which is bordering on the fraudulent. It’s not AutoCAD, is nothing like it, and is unlikely to ever be anything like it. I can call my dog Prince, but that doesn’t make him royalty. Unfortunately, much of the mainstream media appears to be blissfully unaware of this. This is gaining Autodesk some short-term column inches, but at the longer-term expense of furthering the myth that “AutoCAD” is going to run on iPhone and iPads. People will start using Butterfly, think it’s AutoCAD, and then, if they need CAD for their Macs, wonder why they should spend thousands on something so basic and limited. Good news! It will be available Real Soon Now, and you can sign up for it at http://butterfly.autodesk.com/mobile/. Bad news! You can’t sign up for it using your iPhone or iPad (unless it’s jailbroken). Apple may be convinced you don’t need Flash, but Autodesk disagrees. The Butterfly signup page requires Flash, you see. It wants to send you off to adobe.com. Ouch! You have to admit, that’s pretty funny. Cluelessness? There’s an app for that. I guess iUsers will just have to use their Macbook Pros to sign up.

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AutoCAD for Mac – what’s missing?

According to Autodesk, the forthcoming OS X version of AutoCAD has “many of the powerful AutoCAD features and functionality.” So what doesn’t it have? What are the holes? Autodesk hasn’t bothered to let me know a single thing about this software, so I guess I’ll just indulge in some irresponsible and uninformed speculation, based on what I can glean from marketing materials and various better-informed sources. I could have just asked, but who knows if I would have ever got any real answers? Besides, this way is more fun. First, here’s a quick list of some things that don’t appear to be missing, but which might have been lost in translation: Command line (in fact, the Mac one appears to be better than the Windows one). Xrefs. 3D, including visual styles and rendering. Some kind of Quick View Layouts and/or Drawings feature. Navcube. Constraints. Dynamic Input. Selection highlighting. LISP (at least some form of it). Now for speculation on things that are possibly missing or not fully functional (based largely on screenshots, which is not a reliable indicator): I don’t see a Communications Center, but I do see an Online Contact pull-down. Maybe that gives access to the same functionality, maybe it doesn’t. Navbar. Coordinate display in status bar. Layout tabs (there’s a control instead) The layer palette, in its docked form as shown in screenshots, looks very cut-down and would be tricky to use productively in complex drawings. It’s not clear if the old layer dialogue box is supported, but it needs to be. Action Recorder? As this is a “brochure feature”, it’s no great loss if it’s absent. Visual LISP? It’s not mentioned, so maybe it’s missing, or lacking the ActiveX bits. That would be a big problem for many organisations. Edit: I have since seen it confirmed that the Visual LISP…

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When is AutoCAD not AutoCAD?

When is AutoCAD nor AutoCAD? When it’s AutoCAD WS. But it’s not quite that simple. I’ve been correcting people for months when they say things like “Project Butterfly is AutoCAD on the Cloud.” No, it’s not. It’s a DWG editor of sorts, but anybody who has used both will know that it’s not AutoCAD or anything like it. Although it’s useful for viewing and markup and is improving all the time, Project Butterfly is still very restricted and is likely to remain so for a long time. You wouldn’t want to spend a significant portion of your day drawing with it. OK, so Project Butterfly isn’t AutoCAD. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up. But wait! Now it is AutoCAD! AutoCAD WS, that is. AutoCAD WS is the recently-announced free iPod/iPhone/iPad app to access Project Butterfly. But it’s not really AutoCAD either, despite being named thus. Confused yet? AutoCAD is Autodesk’s strongest brand name, but it has been diluted a great deal in recent times. Let’s have a look at things that are called AutoCAD or somehow based on AutoCAD, and try to make some sense of it all. Here they are, in alphabetical order: AutoCAD – the real thing AutoCAD Architecture – AutoCAD-based vertical AutoCAD Civil – AutoCAD-based vertical AutoCAD Civil 3D – AutoCAD-based vertical AutoCAD Electrical – AutoCAD-based vertical AutoCAD for Mac – AutoCAD with a few bits missing AutoCAD Freestyle – a cheap and simple DWG editor, not much like real AutoCAD AutoCAD Inventor Suite – this is basically Autodesk Inventor, which is neither AutoCAD nor based on AutoCAD. But a real AutoCAD and AutoCAD Mechanical also comes in the box. AutoCAD LT – AutoCAD with some features disabled to make it fit into a lower price bracket AutoCAD Map 3D – AutoCAD-based vertical AutoCAD Mechanical – AutoCAD-based vertical AutoCAD MEP – AutoCAD-based…

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