The Cloud Broke – a poem

The cloud broke
And teardrops fell
On the desks
Of those who fell
For the lure
Of a cloudy hell.

The landlord laughs
To see such fun
Collects his rent
From web he spun
He still gets paid
When things don’t run.

I said t’would be
It’s come to pass
Surprised? Not me
With or without Bass
Autodesk’s cloud
Can kiss this SaaS.

Another one bites the dust – Autodesk sheds Seek

Following on from Autodesk’s announcement of the impending demise of 123D, the shedding of Cloudy applications and services continues. This time, it’s BIM content service Autodesk Seek. Here’s what Autodesk has to say about the reason for this change:

Autodesk… does not consider the Autodesk Seek service to be strategic to our core business at this time.

The timeline went something like this:

  • 16 January 2017 – Autodesk transferred the operations and customer support obligations related to the Autodesk Seek business to Swedish digital content company BIMobject.
  • 18 January 2017 – Autodesk posts a notice to that effect on its Knowledge Network.
  • 18 January 2017 – BIMobject posts a notice to that effect on its own site.
  • ~23 January 2017 – Autodesk customers attempting to use Autodesk Seek find out about the change when they are automatically … Full post

Video lulz with AutoCAD 360

Thanks to Hans Lammerts on Twitter for pointing out this amusingly cringeworthy AutoCAD 360 YouTube ad:

The guy spilling his coffee and falling over reminds me of the people in those infomercials that can never get the simplest things right:

OK, so the ad’s bad, but how’s the product? I had a look for myself at the browser version of AutoCAD 360, which is the current name for what has been Visual Tau, Project Butterfly and AutoCAD WS in previous iterations dating back before Autodesk’s acquisition of the Israeli technology in 2009.

It’s a while since I tried it, so I was interested to see the progress that had been made. After all, CAD in the Cloud has been Autodesk’s focus for a long time now, and as this is likely the first product people try out, you’d expect it to be pretty dazzlingly … Full post

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

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 … 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

The Times They Are a-Changin’ (guest post)

I’d like to thank Steve for the opportunity to write this guest post. My post doesn’t necessarily represent Steve, nor does it represent any company. It’s strictly a personal point of view. The purpose of this post is to prompt discussion and debate, and get your opinion.

Recent discussion on this blog has focused on Autodesk and its many changes over the past few years (upgrade pricing, policy changes, term-only aka rental licenses, move to the cloud, etc.), and there’s been a lot of skepticism. If we stand back and look at the landscape, though, Autodesk is not alone. True, they’re moving faster and more aggressively than their competitors, but many software companies are making similar changes.

Change can be disruptive, it can have positive and negative impact, and there can be winners and losers. But … it’s inevitable, and it’s better to understand change than to fight it. To … 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. … Full post

AutoCAD 2017 Feature – Share Design View

An interesting new feature of AutoCAD 2017 is Share Design View, which is invoked using the leftmost button on the A360 Ribbon tab or the ONLINEDESIGNSHARE command. The idea behind this command is to create a web-published snapshot of your drawing that can be accessed by anyone with a browser (they’ll need a fairly recent one).

This command works as advertised and provides another option to allow limited access to your design information without providing access to your DWG files. It creates a web page containing a view of your drawing and lets you have the URL (link) so you can access it. You can then share this URL with anyone you want to share the design with. They just follow the URL and can view the design using the Autodesk A360 Viewer (no download required).

Heidi Hewett wrote a fuller description of how it works on the … Full post

Autodesk desktop app. Worst. Name. Ever. Is the product better than the name?

Autodesk wants your software to be automatically updated so you’re always running the latest version. Let’s pretend for a moment that this is a good idea and have a look at how Autodesk now attempts to do this. For the previous couple of releases (2015/2016), this has been done using Autodesk Application Manager. For 2017, this has been replaced by Autodesk desktop app. Even if you haven’t installed any 2017 products, you may have already seen this kind of thing pop up. Repeatedly.


Note how there’s no obvious “stop nagging me and leave me alone” option. Autodesk Application Manager’s settings page does include an Alerts tab which allows you to turn off all desktop alerts, … Full post

Don’t be a technology lemming

In response to Shaan’s variant on the old “if you question the value of any change you must be a Luddite” argument, I was going to write a lemming-based parody. I didn’t, mainly because I didn’t want to perpetuate the lemming mass-suicide misconception. Instead, I’ll answer the point more directly.

Autodesk will acheive better success in convincing customers about Cloud computing and other concepts by actively and interactively engaging with them. Addressing their specific and legitimate concerns has a chance of success if the concepts have merit. Insultingly likening customers to allegedly stupid animals isn’t going to convince anyone.

Besides, the point has little validity. Armadillos have 20 species, are currently dramatically increasing their territory in North America, and have been around rather longer than humans. Maybe we should wait until we’ve been around a few tens of millions of years longer before we get too cocky about how … Full post

Let’s have your AutoCAD WS 1.6 reviews

Autodesk has just released the latest iteration of its free online CAD app, AutoCAD WS. It’s available directly via your browser or as iOS, Mac or Android apps. This is the closest Autodesk has yet come to showing us what real CAD in the Cloud can do. Autodesk has now had three years’ work behind it since buying the company responsible for this technology. I’d like you to put aside any Cloud concerns you may have and give it a fair go. Please try it out and report back what you find in a mini-review. How well does it work? The customer stories are all from organisations using it as a viewer or for simple markup edits. Is that all it can do, or does it come close to deserving to have CAD in its name?

What do I want you to try? It’s up to you, … Full post

Carl Bass confirms Cloud-only future for Autodesk – or does he?

As reported by Joe Francica (via WorldCAD Access), Carl Bass has confirmed, in a somewhat ambiguous way, that his Cloud-only vision rules at Autodesk.

I do believe that everything is moving to the cloud.


There are a lot of applications that will [still] be done on the desktop. Whether Autodesk does it or not, I can’t think of a single function that won’t necessarily be done in the cloud.

Still a bit confused? Me too. It’s not clear where this leaves his underlings who have been rushing to contradict Carl’s earlier statements by unambiguously reassuring customers that Autodesk would continue to provide desktop software. Will they now come out with “clarifying” statements that fall into line with whatever it is Carl’s saying here? I doubt it, that would be just too embarrassing. I suspect we’ll see things go very quiet on this subject for a while.

Now we … Full post

MDT users and other Autodesk orphans, let’s have your good news stories!

I was going to ignore this subject, but I’ve changed my mind because it allows me to post something positive about Autodesk. After all, I do try to post positive things; it’s hardly my fault that Autodesk has a habit of making it difficult.

In upFront eZine #756, Autodesk’s Andrew Anagnost (or was it Clay Helm?) had the following to say, and must say I agree totally with the first sentence:

The best evidence is how we have behaved historically. When we included Mechanical Desktop with Inventor, the media complained that we were killing Mechanical Desktop; you were probably one of them. But we didn’t; we came out with six, seven more releases of it, completely free.

So, MDT users, you’re the poster child for how Autodesk looks after its customers. You’re also evidence for how wrong those nasty media naysayers … Full post

Autodesk’s social media consultant spills the beans

Ever wondered why Autodesk is putting so much emphasis on social media these days? Why AutoCAD needs Facebook and Twitter commands? It’s because Autodesk pays social media consultants lots of money to tell them about the importance of social media, and how to be social and media-ish. In this video, one of those consultants explains the process:

Who is telling the truth in Autodesk’s Cloud PR trainwreck?

Does Autodesk intend to move all its applications exclusively to the Cloud? That is, online only and no longer available on the desktop? Autodesk people who say yes:

Carl Bass, CEO
Phil Bernstein, Vice President, Building Industry Strategy and Relations
Scott Sheppard, Autodesk Labs Software Development Manager (with private Cloud caveat)

Autodesk people who say no:

Kenneth Pimentel, Director, Visual Communications Solutions Andrew Anagnost, Senior Vice President of Industry Strategy and Marketing
Clay Helm, Public Relations Manager for Manufacturing, Cross-Platform, Sustainability, and Consumers Various other underlings who make reassuring but non-specific noises about expanded choice, or who admit to inconvenient impracticalities

There’s huge irony in the way Clay (or Andrew) attempts to paint the shafting of MDT customers as a we’ll-look-after-you example, but I think that’s a deliberate distraction tactic; other than this … Full post

Why owning stuff is still important

Let’s start with a few questions:

  • Do you own your home or rent it? Given the choice, what would you prefer? Why?
  • Do you own your car or rent it? Given the choice, what would you prefer? Why?
  • Do you own your TV or rent it? Given the choice, what would you prefer? Why?
  • Do you own your computer or rent it? Given the choice, what would you prefer? Why?

If you’re like me, you answered the same for most or all of those questions. I own all of the above and rent none of it. I prefer owning all of the above. Why? Three Cs:

  • Continuity. If I own my home, there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll be able to go on living in it as long as I like. There are exceptions (wars, natural disasters, etc.), but ownership is generally much safer than renting if it’s … Full post

Why Autodesk’s Cloud push will fail, part 1 – failure defined

It’s probably unwise to make predictions about what is going to happen in technology. If so, I’m about to be unwise. So be it; if I’m wrong you can taunt me about this post in a few years. Here’s my prediction:

Autodesk’s attempt to move CAD users onto the Cloud is doomed to failure.

This is the first of a series of posts that will examine what I mean by that and the reasons behind it. The first thing that’s important to lay out is what I mean by failure. What I mean is that reality will not match Autodesk’s expectation of what will happen with its products moving to the Cloud. What expectation is that?

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.

Carl Bass, April 2012, Full post

Dilbert and the Cloud

I have an Autodesk-related Dilbert story to share. Back in the late 90s, I was visiting Autodesk’s San Rafael offices (at Autodesk’s expense) and had an appointment to see a product manager. There was some confusion when I arrived at Reception, but after a few phone calls I was shown into a meeting room containing the manager and a lot of other Autodesk people. However, the open mouths told me that they were discussing very confidential stuff. They were clearly shocked and horrified that an outsider had been allowed into that particular room at that particular time, even though I had signed an NDA and was due to spend that day giving some important future software a very thorough going-over.

The manager quickly shuffled me off to his own office and let me know he would be back as soon as the meeting concluded. I waited a while, staring into space. … Full post