CAD on the Cloud – available anytime, anywhere except when it isn’t

One of the multiple reasons Autodesk has failed to win over the masses to its Cloudy CAD vision is fear of unreliability. Anything that relies on using somebody else’s computer over the Internet adds potential points of failure to those already there on a standalone desktop system. These additional vulnerabilities include:

  • Your browser or thin client software fails
  • Your modem, cabling or other Internet connectivity hardware fails
  • Your Internet service provider has an outage
  • Malware or DDOS attacks on your domain or service
  • Governmental Internet service interference
  • Internet connectivity infrastructure failure
  • Malware or DDOS attacks on vendor domain or service
  • Cloud vendor infrastructure disaster
  • Cloud-based CAD software down for maintenance

I voiced my concerns about this in 2011, but technology has moved on since then and surely things are running as smooth as can be these days, right? Most computer users use Cloud services … Full post

Huge PDFs? AutoCAD 2017.1.1 could be to blame

Autodesk has yet again demonstrated why continuous automatic updating is no panacea for avoiding CAD update disruption. On the contrary…

If you have noticed some of your PDFs exported from AutoCAD getting huge and unwieldy lately, AutoCAD 2017.1.1 could be to blame. Try uninstalling it using Programs and Features > View Installed Updates and see if the problem goes away. It may also be possible to work around this by going into PDF options and turning on Include Hyperlinks. Source: The Swamp.

Here’s one possible* install history:

  • You install AutoCAD 2017. This defaults to also installing Autodesk desktop app. If this works on your system and you leave it on there doing its thing and consuming your resources, it will attempt to automatically keep your Autodesk software up to date.
  • Autodesk desktop app installed AutoCAD 2017.1. You like this because it has added a couple of nice features. … Full post

Return of the bullshit – baked beans edition

In an October 2015 post I’ve only just noticed, snappily titled No More Software Like a Can of Baked Beans: Why Software Subscription Serves It Up Fresh, Autodesk VP Andrew Anagnost bravely attempts to sell Autodesk’s move to all-rental software. This is a rather belated response, but fortunately there is no statute of limitations on skewering spin so let’s get started.

How does he go? On a positive note, top marks for creative writing! The general theme is a strained and somewhat Californian analogy in which perpetual licenses are like canned goods (bad), and rental is like fresh produce (good). However, it’s presented well and professionally written. Among the highlights are:

  • Perpetual software licenses are like high-fructose corn syrup – no, I’m not making this up. Stop laughing at the back there!
  • This is a change that is simply a better experience for everyone – everyone who … Full post

Autodesk’s big Cloud failure

Back in 2011, Autodesk, some other vendors and many industry pundits were utterly convinced of the inevitable and near-imminent victory of Cloud-based CAD over standalone software. I wasn’t. I wanted to get a feel for how isolated my viewpoint was, so I started a poll and let it run for a while. Here’s how that turned out:

As you can see, this blog’s readers were less than convinced about the inevitability of that Cloudy future. Not so Carl Bass, who had this to say in an April 2012 TechCrunch interview:

I’d say two to three years from now, every one of our products will be used online. The only way to use them will be online.

Here’s what … Full post

Autodesk to pull the plug on 123D

The reason you should never rely on SaaS for anything important is that, well, you just can’t rely on it. If the software breaks, or the vendor goes under, or decides that line’s not profitable enough, or just loses interest, you’re screwed. More importantly, you’re screwed on a timeframe that’s out of your control, and probably much shorter than you would like. You can’t just go on using the software until you’re ready to move on, like you can with perpetual licenses.

Thanks for the latest lesson, Autodesk, regarding 123D:

Over the past few years, millions of people have unlocked their creativity with the Autodesk 123D apps and community. We’ve grown from one desktop tool in 2011 to multiple apps across desktop, web, and mobile.
We’re incredibly proud of these products, and even more proud of what you all have MADE with them. But we … Full post

BricsCAD startup LISP bug fixed

In my previous post I have a real problem with BricsCAD, I related my then-latest interaction with the Bricsys support system:

Steve Johnson
05-12-2016 05:30 UTC

I don’t know if this is a BricsCAD problem or a DOSLib one, so I am reporting it to both Bricsys and Dale at McNeel. I’m also not sure if this was happening in earlier versions.

If I load DOSLib during an S::STARTUP call and then use the (dos_msgbox) function later in that call, this fails the first time round because BricsCAD things the function is not defined. Opening a second drawing results in the call working as expected. I’ve chopped down our startup routine so you have an example.

; error : no function definition ; expected FUNCTION at [eval]

Awesome Bricsys Person
05-12-2016 12:32 UTC

Hi Steve,

There was a regression introduced in V17.1.10 that caused … Full post

Autodesk perpetual license owners to get screwed big-time

Hidden in amongst a bunch of the usual highly dubious subscription statements from Carl Bass is an announcement that spells doom for Autodesk perpetual license owners. I will resist the temptation to skewer Carl’s spin (for now) because this announcement is much more important:

Bass also confirmed that the company plans to converge the two existing subscription models — maintenance and product subscriptions — into a single offering over the next two years. “If you look out to fiscal year 2020, we want to be in a place where, first of all, we have a single kind of offering with a single back office and infrastructure to support it, one that will be a combination of product subscriptions as you see them plus a consumption model on top of it. That’s where we see the business heading.

“Along the way, it’s how do we motivate customers to … Full post

Autodesk has some great documentation people

The most heavily commented post on this blog is AutoCAD 2013 – An Autodesk Help writer responds, featuring Dieter Schlaepfer‘s response to posts and comments here about AutoCAD 2013’s Help. I don’t always agree with Dieter but I respect him enormously, and not just because he was brave enough to stick his head above the parapet in a hostile environment. Dieter is a principal technical writer at Autodesk with many years’ experience and is therefore responsible for large amounts of documentation content. You’ve almost certainly read his work.

I’ve been critical of AutoCAD’s Help system since it was broken in 2011, and I make no apologies for that. The Help system sucked then, it sucked even worse in 2013, and it continues to suck badly in 2017. None of that’s Dieter’s fault. It’s the Help engine that’s at fault, or to be more accurate the Help … Full post

BricsCAD V17 – the best AutoCAD upgrade in years?

I’ve been evaluating BricsCAD for a few years now, and have been looking at it pretty seriously as a DWG-based LISP-compatible AutoCAD alternative for a year or so. A couple of weeks ago, I flew to Munich for the Bricsys International Conference (at Bricsys’ expense – see the Legal page for disclosure) where I learned quite a few things I had failed to notice during my own evaluation of V17. As you may have noticed, I can be pretty hard-bitten and cynical about what CAD companies have to say about their products, but I came back impressed.

The conference and the product itself are not free of flaws, but I have to say the progress Bricsys has shown in developing the BricsCAD product is really quite astonishing. The rate at which serious, worthwhile-to-customers improvements have been made to BricsCAD over the last few releases is huge. Some of … Full post

How to download Autodesk software without the Akamai download manager

For reasons beyond my understanding, Autodesk chooses to make life difficult for customers and prospective customers who want to download its products by imposing the use of a download manager (DLM) by Akamai. You really don’t want to let such a thing loose on your system even if it works, for reasons that have been explained in previous posts.

Until a couple of years ago, Autodesk allowed prospective customers to get at a direct download link after jumping through a few hoops and ignoring a bunch of bullshit warnings, but in recent times even that small measure of semi-decency has been removed. It became impossible for anyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t use the Akamai DLM to try out Autodesk’s products! Here’s what you get these days; there is no direct browser download option to be found, just a downloader stub you’re expected to install and give open slather … Full post

Dear Autodesk Recap 360 team…

…your software (, came with AutoCAD 2017) fails to allow sign-in (a prerequisite to connection to the cloud) in a secure proxy server environment. This happens (see picture):


I am online. I did try to inform you about this problem using the feedback mechanism in the product. This allowed me to type my problem report, but on hitting the send feedback button, I got this (see picture):


I am connected. In fact, I’m so connected I’m typing this post online while reproducing the problem. While this is going on, I’m able to sign in to Autodesk Account, A360 Drive, AutoCAD Beta forums, the Autodesk … Full post

When is a subscription-only update not a subscription-only update?

Before I get started, I want to clarify the meaning of the word ‘subscription’. For about 15 years, the word Subscription (note the initial capital) meant something specific for Autodesk customers. It meant you had bought a perpetual license and instead of paying for periodical updates, you paid for a year’s Subscription in advance. In allowed access to any new release that appeared during that year plus various other benefits.

That thing that was once called ‘Subscription’ has now been renamed ‘maintenance’ (no initial capital) in Autodeskspeak. So what does ‘subscription’ (no initial capital) mean? Rental. You pay in advance for use of the product for a period and when you stop paying, you stop using the product. This is now the only way to obtain Autodesk software you don’t already own. In addition to access to any new release that appears during the subscription period, it provides other benefits … Full post

Props to Autodesk for supporting education

I have to raise a glass to Autodesk for supporting students and educators by making its software available free. Further props are due for removing the virus-like educational watermark.

A further program that Autodesk supports is the FIRST robotics competition series, helping to develop young people into technology leaders; a member of my family has benefited directly from that.

Credit where credit is due, Autodesk deserves praise for supporting education. Of course, Autodesk will ultimately benefit from this support, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Doing good and being smart are not mutually exclusive.

Autodesk excludes maintenance customers from AutoCAD 2017.1 update (Edit: actually, it doesn’t)

Edit: it turns out that when Autodesk said this was subscription-only, that wasn’t true. See my later post for details.

A mid-term update containing a bunch of useful stuff, AutoCAD 2017.1 is the first update made available exclusively to subscription customers (renters). I’d love to tell you about how great this update is, but I can’t because I’m not allowed to use it.

If you’ve been a loyal customer of Autodesk for 30 years and have paid countless thousands for your software, upgrades and Subscription (now called maintenance) over those years, even if you are right now still paying maintenance to keep that software up to date, Autodesk is rewarding that loyalty by waving a virtual digit in your general direction. If you’re not a renter, you’re now officially a second class customer.

Autodesk is going to progressively hammer in a wedge to try to separate … Full post

Any BricsCAD users out there? v.2016

Back in 2010 I asked the question Any BricsCAD users out there? and there were a few of you who had tried to replace AutoCAD with BricsCAD. Most who responded had made the change successfully, others not so much.

Six years on, the situation is different. The fact that you can’t buy a permanent AutoCAD license any more has prompted some Autodesk customers to look more seriously at alternative vendors who do provide that option. Bricsys is one of those vendors, and their DWG-based AutoCAD alternative BricsCAD has improved way more rapidly than AutoCAD over the same time period. No, that isn’t a guess, I’ve been keeping an active eye on things. BricsCAD today is by no means perfect, but it’s impressive in many ways. LISP compatibility and performance are excellent, for example. BricsCAD v16 superior to the also imperfect AutoCAD 2017 in several … Full post

Battle of the Bullshit part 4 – Bentley tells the truth

Behold, the latest episode in the Autodesk versus Bentley PR battle over perpetual licenses versus rental!

Bentley has issued a response to Autodesk’s response to Bentley’s response to Autodesk’s move to all-rental software. This is entitled Bentley Responds to Autodesk – You Have a Choice. I have already dissected Bentley’s and Autodesk’s previous responses and found neither of them entirely truthful.

So, how does the latest effort from Bentley shape up? Very well. It’s pretty much spot-on for accuracy. There’s nothing that could be described as disingenuous, misleading, or even exaggerated. I encourage you to read it and make up your own mind.

Bentley PR also invited me in on a press conference call, having first invited my questions. Although I was unable to take part in that call, I have listened to a recording of the event and that was similarly … Full post

When is a global offer not a global offer?

Confusion reigned yesterday when my post on Autodesk’s “FY17 Q3 Global Field Promotion” assumed that Global meant what it said, and the offer made to me in Australia was the same as in other countries. That was a mistaken assumption, and I have updated the post to reflect that; my apologies for the confusion.

That said, it was a not entirely unreasonable assumption given the superficial similarity between offers worldwide and the following in Autodesk’s fine print in multiple global Autodesk sites:

Offer available from 7 August 2016 through 21 October 2016 worldwide with the exception of the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria

The situation is not that simple. There are two very different offers that look the same at first glance. People in some countries get a much better offer than others. The offer I discussed in yesterday’s post allows you … Full post

Autodesk’s mixed rental and perpetual license offer

If you’re on Autodesk’s mailing list you have no doubt been receiving increasingly desperate offers aimed at tempting you into renting your software. None of those have really been worth a mention, but the latest Autodesk FY17 Q3 Global Field Promotion for Asia Pacific contains something noteworthy. It acknowledges the value of perpetual licenses and allows you to retain yours. Don’t get too excited though, it does not apply in other regions and only allows you to retain your old  license. Anything new is still rental-only.

Here’s how the offer works. Let’s say you have an old copy of AutoCAD lying around. This acts as a magic token allowing you access to cheaper rental. Autodesk halves the cost of a 3-year subscription (rental) of pretty much anything (doesn’t have to be AutoCAD, it could be something much bigger) and your old AutoCAD perpetual license remains unaffected. You can … Full post

How do I know most Autodesk customers don’t want rental?

In a recent comment, I was asked how I know Autodesk’s move to all-rental is the opposite of what customers want. Have I conducted research? This is an excellent question and deserves a proper answer.

So how do  I know this? Why am I so convinced? There are several independent sources of evidence, one bit of critical thinking and one undeniable proof. They all point in the same direction. First, a bit of evidence.

  • There are many public places on the Internet where this issue has been discussed, including Autodesk’s own discussion groups. The viewpoints expressed everywhere are overwhelmingly against Autodesk’s all-rental plans.
  • There are private places Autodesk customers hang out where I have access, and I receive private emails. Again, the overwhelmingly majority of the viewpoints I see expressed are very strongly against Autodesk’s strategy.
  • There’s a poll right here. How’s it going?
  • None of … Full post

Disaster in progress – Getting it wrong

No, not Autodesk getting it wrong, me  getting it wrong. In recent posts, I supported my arguments against Autodesk’s move to all-rental software with faulty evidence. As pointed out to me by several commenters, I completely failed to take deferred revenue into account. I would like to sincerely thank those who pointed out my error.* Although I included a disclaimer about not being a financial analyst, I should have gone further and simply not ventured into areas I am ill-qualified to cover. I got it wrong. I therefore offer unreserved apologies to Autodesk and my readers.

What now?

I have done myself a bunch of graphs that I think paints a fairer picture of Autodesk’s position, but there’s a reasonable chance I’m wrong about that too so I won’t be publishing them. Instead, In a day or two, I will remove the content of the offending … Full post