Bentley marketers love Autodesk

Bentley Systems marketers are currently taking advantage of Autodesk customers’ distaste for the Big A’s rent-or-GTFO business model.

For any Autodesk competitor, this is a fairly smart move. Autodesk has offered a free kick to its competitors and is betting on them all kicking the ball wide of the net. How accurate is Bentley’s shooting?

In this case, AutoCAD customers are being encouraged to take up MicroStation. Via the Cadalyst Direct opt-in advertising list, I received an email entitled AutoCAD Users, you need options. We listened:

Talk about feeling trapped (which has many Autodesk customers angry), options and flexibility (which Autodesk has removed) and listening (which Autodesk really sucks at) are clearly taking advantage of Autodesk’s self-inflicted subscription …

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AutoCAD 2018 licensing crash – another reason to avoid subscription

Autodesk has released an update to fix the following AutoCAD 2018 problem:

Product users of version 2018 Autodesk single-user subscriptions may experience an intermittent crash. The crash occurs when it has been more than 24 hours since the last successful authorization check and there is intermittent or no internet connection, or the licensing authorization server is unavailable. The licensing authorization check occurs in the background and is completely unrelated to activities the user is performing at the time of the crash.
A fatal error message may be shown by the product. For example:

FATAL ERROR: Unhandled e06d7363h Exception at ee563c58h


Note that this crash only afflicts subscription (rental) single-user (standalone) customers. People with perpetual licenses don’t have to put up with the multiple additional points of failure caused by the subscription licensing system insisting on phoning home every 30 days. Yes, even if you pay for three years’ subscription up front, you’ll still need a working Internet connection every 30 days if you want to keep using the product.

At least, Autodesk has been saying it’s only once every 30 days (as if that wasn’t bad enough). The information provided with this hotfix tells a different story. What is the license server doing phoning home 24 hours after the last successful authorization check? Enquiring minds want to know.

No criticism of Autodesk is implied for providing this hotfix. As always, I commend Autodesk for fixing up problems as they arise. The basis of my criticism is the hotfix being necessary in the first place. It’s caused by Autodesk inflicting unnecessary complication on its customers for its own internal reasons. This one fails the “how does this benefit the customer?” test big-time.

The single-user subscription licensing mechanism has been a crock from day one, especially for CAD Managers of multiple users who have to deal with its onerous requirements. It’s an astonishingly poor design, very badly implemented. Even with this particular crash fixed, it’s still a crock.

BricsCAD documentation – a tale of three systems – part 3

In this third post in what was supposed to be a two-part series, I have more to say about the BricsCAD documentation system. See here for part 1 and here for part 2.

Developer Help – Addendum

In this comment from Bricsys API person Torsten Moses, he informed me about the availability of the Lisp Developer Support Package (LDSP) in the Bricsys Application Catalog. As always, when presented with new evidence I am prepared to re-examine my position on anything. Therefore, I will now further discuss the BricsCAD developer documentation.

The first thing to mention is that the existence of the LDSP package is not obvious. To somebody who uses BricsCAD as-provided and as goes burrowing down through the Help system looking for information, that system is still broken. The …

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Autodesk acquires Angry Birds developer Rovio (repost)

This post, originally published on 1 April 2012, brings back fond memories. That’s mainly because of this tweet from Carl Bass:

Autodesk announced today that it had welcomed Rovio Entertainment into the Autodesk fold. Following a US$2.6 billion acquisition, the publisher of mega hit video game Angry Birds is now Autodesk’s Mobile Entertainment division based in Espoo, Finland. “This is a tremendously exciting development for Autodesk going forward,” said Autodesk CEO Carl Bass. “Rovio is the world leader in mobile entertainment software,” he added, “so for Autodesk to have access to that market and that technology opens up a whole new world for us.”

Bass was effusive about the synergistic benefits of the merger and the benefits it …

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BricsCAD documentation – a tale of three systems – part 2

In this pair of posts, I describe the BricsCAD documentation system. Click here for part 1, where I describe the general Help system and the descriptions in the Settings command.

In this part, I discuss developer documentation and draw my conclusions.

Developer Help

If we count the Settings descriptions as a system, there’s a third documentation system for BricsCAD. The Developer Reference isn’t offline and included in an install like the main Help. Instead, it’s online, just like Autodesk’s default. Unlike Autodesk’s system, it works pretty well.

Being online means the performance suffers, of course, but it’s generally not too bad. It appears quicker than Autodesk’s. A link within the main Help system takes you to the Bricsys Developer Reference which is just accessed using your default browser. Of course, that means your mouse buttons work correctly and you have all other the advantages of whatever …

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BricsCAD documentation – a tale of three systems – part 1

Because of the great similarity between BricsCAD and AutoCAD in terms of commands, variables and most aspects of usage, you would expect the BricsCAD documentation to be about the same too. But it isn’t. Much of the content covers the same areas and due to BricsCAD’s command-line compatibility, there must be a lot in common. But the Help system is very different from Autodesk’s. How so?

In this pair of posts, I describe the BricsCAD documentation system. I assume you’re familiar with the AutoCAD one. In this first part, I describe the general Help system and the descriptions in the Settings command. In part 2, I will discuss developer documentation and draw my conclusions.

General Help

The general Help system in BricsCAD looks a lot like the excellent CHM-based system that AutoCAD had in 2010 and earlier (thanks, Dieter). BricsCAD’s Help is offline by default, included with the …

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Bloatware – a tale of two installations

In a previous post, I showed that AutoCAD is bloatware by comparing the size of its downloads to that of BricsCAD. Obviously, an application that’s ten times the size it should be is going to cost you a lot of unnecessary bandwidth, download time and drive space. But maybe you don’t care about that. What practical difference does it make?

Well, for one thing, the blimping-out of Autodesk’s former flagship product has a big effect on installation time. Vast and ever-increasing amounts of time are wasted by users of Autodesk products, just waiting for the things to finish installing. But isn’t this just the inevitable price to pay for the functionality provided?

No. Again, BricsCAD proves it.

The installation comparison is shown below. These installations were performed on a mid-range Windows 10 i7 PC with 8 GB RAM. The downloaded files were executed from a local hard drive …

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AutoCAD 2018.0.1 mystery deepens with silent withdrawal

As I mentioned earlier, the release of AutoCAD 2018 was followed almost instantaneously by the first update, 2018.0.1. At the time of writing, there was no official information about this update. Some information was later made available, but questions remained.

Now the update has been silently withdrawn. Go to Autodesk Account > Management > AutoCAD > Downloads > Updates & Add-ons and you will no longer see this:

The infamous Autodesk desktop app also shows no sign of this update. So why has it been withdrawn? Autodesk isn’t saying, but thanks to Jimmy Bergmark, we know that installing the 2018.0.1 update re-introduces a bug from AutoCAD 2016 (pre SP1) where …

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Bloatware – a tale of two CAD applications

You may have seen me mention in passing that AutoCAD is bloatware. That’s not just the general grumpy-old-user moan you see from long-term users like me, who can remember when AutoCAD used to fit on one floppy disk.

Yes, programs get bigger over time as new functionality is added and old functionality needs to be retained. Hardware gets bigger, better, faster over time to compensate for that. I get that. Understood.

The AutoCAD bloatware problem is much more than that. AutoCAD is literally ten times the size it needs to be, to provide the functionality it does.

How do I know? BricsCAD proves it. Here’s what I mean.

BricsCAD V17.2 64-bit Windows Download

Downloaded File Size (KB) BricsCAD-V17.2.03-1-en_US(x64).msi 248,812 Total (1 file) 248,812 (100%)

Equivalent AutoCAD 2018 Downloads

Downloaded File Size (KB) AutoCAD_2018_English_Win_64bit_dlm_001_002.sfx.exe 2,065,829 AutoCAD_2018_English_Win_64bit_dlm_002_002.sfx.exe 328,277 AutoCAD_2018.0.1_64bit_r2.exe 120,663 AutoCAD_2018_Product_Help_English_Win_32_64bit_dlm.sfx.exe 180,013 Total (4 files) 2,694,782 (1083%)

Which dog is which? They’re both …

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Bricsys shows Autodesk how to do mid-term updates

BricsCAD V17.2 is out. Although there’s nowhere near as much new and useful in this mid-term update as in the full upgrade from V16 to V17, there’s more here than in Autodesk’s last mid-term update, AutoCAD 17.1. There’s even arguably more than in the uninspired AutoCAD 2018 upgrade, including those 17.1 features.

But that’s not the main reason I say Bricsys is schooling Autodesk in how to do mid-term updates. While Autodesk is restricting such updates (including the bug fixes and security updates included in those updates) to subscription and maintenance customers, Bricsys is doing no such thing.

BricsCAD V17 customers who have a perpetual license, even without maintenance (called All-In by Bricsys), will be receiving V17.2 free of charge. Bricsys still considers such users as customers who have paid good money and still need to be looked after, rather than a non-paying irritant, …

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New Autodesk subscription offer to perpetual license holders

Don’t get too excited. Autodesk’s recent attempt to price-force perpetual license maintenance customers onto subscription (rental) remains in place, unchanged and just as unappealing as before. If you’re one of those customers, there’s nothing new here of interest to you.

This new offer, at 30% off the normal but extremely high subscription price, is at first sight even less appealing than the approximately 60% saving that the above offer provides. But it’s aimed at different customers, and there’s the remote possibility that such customers might find it worthwhile.

The new offer is called FY18 Q1 Autodesk – Global Field Promotion and is aimed at bringing into the rental fold those customers who hold old perpetual licenses that are not on maintenance. If you have an old AutoCAD Release 14 lying around that has never been upgraded, or an AutoCAD 2007 license where you allowed the maintenance …

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AutoCAD 2018.0.1 mystery partially resolved but questions remain

As I mentioned earlier, the release of AutoCAD 2018 was followed almost instantaneously by the first update, 2018.0.1. At the time of writing, there was no official information about this update. Some information is now available, but more questions have arisen.

If, like me, you don’t/won’t/can’t have Autodesk desktop app running on your systems, the only current official way to get at the download is using Autodesk Account (but read the whole of this post before you go there). That’s also how you get at information about the update. Go to Management > AutoCAD > Downloads > Updates & Add-ons. From there, it’s not obvious how to get the information, but it’s under More options.

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AutoCAD 2018 – why did the DWG format change?

In my review of AutoCAD 2018, I had this to say about AutoCAD 2018’s changed DWG format:

Why does AutoCAD 2018 need a new DWG format? It probably doesn’t. The 2013 DWG format is capable of holding pretty much anything you want… Although Autodesk cites performance reasons with certain drawings, I strongly suspect the new DWG format was introduced purely to make life difficult for competitors, and to encourage wavering customers to stay with Autodesk for fear of losing compatibility. In other words, it seems likely this is an anti-competitive change rather than a technical one.

In a recent blog post, highly respected Swiss-based Autodesk development and research person Kean Walmsley had this to say on that subject:

The main reason for the break in compatibility is some longer-term work that’s going on inside the AutoCAD codebase. For now this is really only surfacing …

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AutoCAD 2018 – disable InfoCenter

Here’s another AutoCAD 2018 download, just in case you haven’t had enough.

If you want to disable AutoCAD’s InfoCenter (and you should, unless have a specific reason for keeping it – here’s why), go get the updated download from uber-expert Owen Wengerd’s ManuSoft Freebies page. It works for AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT.

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AutoCAD 2018 – there’s already an update

If you downloaded and installed AutoCAD 2018 yesterday and don’t/won’t/can’t have Autodesk desktop app running on your systems, you may already have another download to do, because AutoCAD 2018.0.1 is out.

At the time of writing there is no sign of this update on Autodesk’s main site, but you can get at it using Autodesk Account. Go to Management > AutoCAD > Downloads > Updates & Add-ons.

All that’s downloaded is an executable. No readme, nothing. There is currently no official information about the reasons behind this update, what it includes, what it might affect, how to include it in a deployment, etc. You’ll need to make up your own mind whether to install this update now or wait for information about it. I suggest the latter.

Of course, if you’re using desktop app and allowing automatic updates, you don’t need to worry about …

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AutoCAD 2018 – bear this in mind

Given the dearth of new functionality in AutoCAD in recent years, it’s understandable that Autodesk has taken to claiming credit for the same thing twice. The same features have been touted once for the 2017.1 mid-term update and again as 2018 new features. Even I fell for it, listing linetype gap selection as a 2018 feature in my original review.

For the purposes of reviewing the earlier AutoCAD releases and AutoCAD 2018 as upgrades, I have included the 2017.1 features in 2018, not 2017. Some of those features are praiseworthy, and there have been some minor improvements to some of the 2017.1 features in 2018, but let’s count them just once, please.

Blogs and sites that just regurgitate Autodesk’s take on what’s new in AutoCAD 2018 might inadvertently repeat the double-dipping. Bear that in mind when …

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AutoCAD 2018 – 2/10, would not rent

It must be March, because another AutoCAD has just been launched. Despite this one being codenamed Omega, I’ve been assured it’s not the final AutoCAD release. The good news is that AutoCAD 2018 is twice the upgrade that 2017 was. But hold your excitement, because the bad news is that 2017 was only a 1/10 upgrade.

Autodesk has continued the well-established tradition of acting like a low-quality sausage machine, reliably popping out consistently unexciting products at regular intervals.

Here’s what’s in this year’s underwhelming sausage:

  • Xrefs now default to relative path attachment and there are a few associated tweaks including find/replace path
  • You can select objects off-screen (handier than it sounds)
  • File dialogs remember settings
  • A couple more dialogs can be resized
  • There are a couple more tiny user interface tweaks
  • The stuff from 2017.1 is included, of course, some seeing minor improvements since then
  • iDrop …

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Autodesk license costs options – summary 2

This is a revised version of the Autodesk license costs options – summary post, where I examined various payment options for CAD software and compared them with the cost of staying on your Autodesk maintenance contract long-term. This version is based on limited new information from Autodesk. While this post can be read alone, to better understand the context you may wish to check out that summary and the preceding posts in the series:

1. Autodesk license costs options 1 & 2 – stay on maintenance, subscription now
2. Autodesk license costs options 3, 4 & 5 – bait and switch
3. Autodesk license costs options 6 to 10 – abandon maintenance or Autodesk
4. Autodesk license costs options – summary

In this post, I will examine the validity of the various assumptions I have …

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Autodesk license costs options – summary

Note: an updated version of this post is available, using new costing information from Autodesk that was unavailable when this original summary was written.

In this series of posts, I have examined various payment options for CAD software and compared them with the cost of staying on your Autodesk maintenance contract long-term.

In this fourth and final post, I will examine the validity of the various assumptions I have made; lay out all the data with best/worst options lists; provide combined graphs; and sum up.

However, that means this is a very long post. I want to ensure one essential point doesn’t get lost, so I’ll state it right up front. I will fully justify it later with objective evidence, but for now, here it is:

DO NOT switch from maintenance to subscription.

Just don’t do it. It makes no sense to do it on any level. You …

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