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 important to retain access in the long term. This is because it removes the significant possibility that the owner may eventually terminate the agreement for reasons of their own, or make the relationship financially impractical. Control. If I rent my home, for example, there are strict limits on what I can do with it. I can’t just install an air conditioner if the place gets too hot in summer. The owners or their representatives can come calling to make sure I’m looking after it as they desire. If I want to keep pets or smoke in the property, my options are severely limited. Cost. There’s a reason people invest in property to rent out to others, or run profitable multinational businesses hiring out cars. It makes sense to be on the side of the relationship that’s taking the money rather than the one that’s paying it out. In other words, it usually makes…

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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. I did this for a while, but eventually got very bored and looked around for something to read to keep myself amused. Ignoring what was probably a lot of highly confidential paperwork, I discovered a Dilbert book and proceeded to read it. I became a fan right there and then. I also found myself respecting a manager who could see the funny side of the sort of management stupidity that is so effectively and bitingly satirised by Scott Adams. Somebody who buys a Dilbert book, I thought, is the sort of manager I can happily work with. When he eventually returned, I thanked him for the uninvited use of his book and asked him what he thought of it. It turned out that he hadn’t bought the book himself. It had been presented to him as a gift. From his underlings. Oh dear. Fortunately, he hadn’t yet read it. I…

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Australian Fencing Championship 2011

I have been away in Sydney for a while, attending the Australian Fencing Championships. I fenced in five events with uneven success (I came 52nd out of 70 in the Open Foil, for example), but a few things made me happy. First, I was able to fence for Western Australia in the Team Foil event as captain of the WA ‘B’ team, which put up a decent performance in going down to a strong ACT ‘A’ team. Next, I came 6th in the Veteran Foil; down from last year’s 2nd, but quite respectable given the strength of the field. The event I was really concentrating on, the one in which I most wanted to do well, was the Veteran Sabre. I fenced pretty well through the pools and direct elimination bouts and got through to the final. There, I faced an opponent who had beaten everybody else that day, and I had trouble maintaining the same level of performance. Who would come through to be crowned national champion for 2011? Watch the video (YouTube, 3:02 long) of the Veteran Men’s Sabre Final to find out: I’m on the left. If a red light goes on, I’ve hit him. If he hits me, it’s a green light. If both lights go on, we’ve both hit each other within 120 milliseconds and the referee awards the hit based on right-of-way rules. Veteran direct elimination bouts are fought until one fencer scores ten hits. Link to results.

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Cloud discussions generating interest

This is one of those self-indulgent posts you probably hate, so feel free to skip it and just read the more interesting stuff. Last month, my site statistics went through the roof. Here’s a graph that shows the number of unique visitors and the number of visits per month since I started the blog in February 2008. Page views, hits (a pretty useless statistic) and bandwidth all spiked in a similar fashion. I remember being very surprised when over 1,500 people visited my blog in the first month, as I would have been very happy with a few hundred readers. I was astonished when more than 5,000 people visited here on the second month. Last month, there were 30,921 unique visitors who visited 58,342 times, viewing 129,206 pages. I’m sure there are other CAD blogs with many times the traffic, but for this blog, October’s numbers were crazy. The mentions on upFront.eZine didn’t hurt, but the daily statistics were already high and didn’t show a huge leap afterwards. So what’s going on? Well, just posting anything rather than little or nothing (as has happened here from time to time) obviously helps a lot, but I think it’s more than that. I think it’s the Cloud generating interest. While it might be tempting for Cloud proponents to associate interest with excitement, that would be a mistake. Judging from the comments and poll responses here and elsewhere, I’m convinced that many more people are interested in CAD in the Cloud because they are concerned about it, they fear it, they even hate it. Given that atmosphere, I think CAD in the Cloud is going to be a very hard sell.

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Fencing in Canberra – video

It’s about time I posted about something other than the Cloud, or even CAD. Every year, there are four national-level fencing competitions in Australia. As they are almost all held on the other side of the continent, I don’t get to compete in them as often as I’d like. However, a couple of months ago I did have the opportunity to compete in the third of these competitions for 2011, held this year in Canberra. This was very special to me because my mother and sister were in the audience and it was the first time either of them had ever seen me fence. It was also special because my sabre coach, Frank Kocsis, flew out to be with me and his other students. Frank has taken only two years to move me from complete sabre novicehood to being competitive at national level, particularly in the veteran (over-40) events. This is not an entirely Cloud-free post, because this video of me fencing in the Veteran Men’s Sabre Semi-Final (2:49 long) is hosted on YouTube: I’m on the right. If a green light goes on, I’ve hit him. If he hits me, it’s a red light. If both lights go on, we’ve both hit each other within 120 milliseconds and the referee awards the hit based on right-of-way rules. Veteran direct elimination bouts (like this semi-final) are fought until one fencer scores ten hits. If you want to see how the winner of the semi-final did, here is the Final (4:46).

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Will Autodesk have to explain itself to the SEC?

The observant among you may have noticed that for many years, Autodesk’s free patches, service packs and updates haven’t added any new functionality. Bugs may get fixed, severe performance issues may be addressed, but design errors generally have to wait for the next release (at the earliest), and new features definitely don’t get added. The last time new functionality was added to AutoCAD in a free maintenance release was Release 13’s c4 update which shipped on 12 February 1996. (There was a public beta available some months earlier; I picked up a copy at Autodesk University 1995). That free update contained not only a host of bug fixes, but also more useful new features than some later full-price upgrades (e.g. AutoCAD 2000i). In an outbreak of outstanding customer service, a c4 CD was shipped free to all registered users. Maybe Autodesk was trying to recover from disastrously shipping Release 13 prematurely, but issuing such a comprehensive update free of charge was still highly commendable. Why did Autodesk stop providing new functionality in free updates? While it involves more work for Autodesk and hardly encourages paid upgrades or Subscription, the reason we’ve been given over the years is that there are accounting regulations that prevent Autodesk from providing new functionality in free updates. This does not apply to benefits from paid Subscription, and various new features for Subscription users have indeed appeared (albeit in fits and starts) over the intervening years. I have to admit that I have always thought that this accounting thing was a pretty unlikely-sounding excuse for Autodesk’s inactivity. This attitude was reinforced by a lack of Autodesk response to my requests for further information about the alleged regulations. Until recently, I didn’t care enough about this matter to bother finding out for myself, but something extraordinary just happened…

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Why do you comment here?

One of the things that most pleases me about this blog is the amount of comments it gets. I’m sure there are several AutoCAD-related blogs that are much more frequently visited than this one, especially the Autodesk ones. However, I’m not aware of another AutoCAD blog with the volume of comments I see here. On average, each post here receives just under 5 comments, and the most popular subject for discusssion is now not far short of the 100 mark. I recently went four complete calendar months without making a single post, but comments kept trickling in anyway. When I returned to normal posting, the commenters returned as if I had never been “away”. What’s up with that? I’m curious. Why do you comment here and not so much elsewhere? Or am I mistaken and there’s an AutoCAD blog I’ve forgotten that’s a hotbed of commentary?

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Fencing at the Commonwealth Championships

This blog has been a bit quiet over the last couple of weeks, as I have had other things to occupy me. I have recently returned from the Commonwealth Fencing Championships 2010 which were held in Melbourne from 30 September to 5 October. There, I was representing my country in the veteran (over-40) events. Which country? Read on. Fencing is one of the few sports to have featured in every modern Olympic Games, but at Commonwealth level it has been held separately from the main Games since 1970. Although not part of the Commonwealth Games currently being held in Delhi, fencing is a Commonwealth-recognised sport and the Commonwealth Fencing Championships is a sanctioned event. It is a fairly large event, with representatives from 15 nations. There were 51 fencers in the England squad alone. You may recall me mentioning my participation in August’s Western Australian International Tournament, where I managed to snag a win in Veteran Men’s Sabre and a third place in Veteran Men’s Foil. At that time, several people raised with me the possibility of national representation. After some thought and with the support of my family, I nominated for Australian selection in Veteran’s Sabre at the Commonwealth Fencing Championships, where there were still a couple of places available. However, I was eventually knocked back and others were chosen for those places. Not entirely content with the way in which this had been handled, and with just a couple of days to go before the deadline for entries, I contacted England Fencing. That organisation was happy to find me a last-minute spot in the team representing the country of my birth, England. This was the place where I had learned to fence and spent most of my fencing life. As a bonus, I could fence in both Foil and Sabre…

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I got into a fight. Caught on video.

Last weekend, I competed for the first time in a national-level fencing competition, the “Be Active” Western Australian International Fencing Tournament (AFF#3). Most people compete in one or two events within a competition, but I thought I would challenge myself and had a go at all six of the individual events available to me. I set myself what I thought were realistic goals for each event. Here is how I did at chasing those goals: Open Men’s Foil – goal: top 32 – result: 22nd – achieved. Open Men’s Epee – goal: top 32 – result: 42nd – failed. Open Men’s Sabre – goal: top 16 – result: 16th – achieved. Veteran Men’s Foil – goal: top 8 – result: 3rd= – exceeded. Veteran Men’s Epee – goal: top 8 – result: 6th – achieved. Veteran Men’s Sabre – goal: top 4 – result: made the final – exceeded. If you are interested, have 5 minutes to spare, and your access is not blocked at work, you can have a look at me competing in the final of the Veteran Men’s Sabre using this YouTube link. Hopefully, you should find it a pretty entertaining contest, even if you don’t entirely understand what’s going on. If I hit him you will see a red light, if he hits me it’s green, and if both lights go on that means we have both hit each other within 120 milliseconds and the referee decides the point based on right-of-way rules. I have only been fencing sabre for about a year, so I was very happy to reach the final. That I did so is all down to my sabre coach at my club Excalibur, legendary Hungarian master Frank Kocsis. You can see him briefly on the video as he approaches me during the…

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What proportion of Autodesk customers really are on Subscription?

In my recent interview of Autodesk Subscription VP Callan Carpenter, he made these statements: …there is a very small fraction of our revenue that comes from upgrades at this point in time. We’re down to very low single digits of customers who upgrade, and of those only half of those upgrade 1 or 2 years back. So we’re talking about approximately 1.5% of our revenue that comes from customers upgrading 1 and 2 versions back. …[customers who upgrade] 1 or 2 [releases] back, a very small percentage of our customer base, less than 2% of our customer base that was buying those upgrades. Others are calling those numbers into doubt. Deelip Menezes (SYCODE, Print 3D) estimated the numbers of AutoCAD users not on Subscription at 66% (or 43%, depending on which bit of the post you read), by counting the AutoCAD releases used by his customers and making assumptions about their Subscription status from that. That’s an extremely suspect methodology, as I pointed out: Your numbers don’t really tell us anything about Subscription v. upgrade proportions. All they tell us is that large numbers of people wait a while before installing a new release. We all knew that, surely. However, Deelip’s post did prompt me to point out this: …there is a fair point to be made about people on earlier releases who have hopped off the upgrade train altogether, or at least for a significant number of years. How would they be counted in Callan’s figures? They wouldn’t exist at all, as far as his income percentages are concerned. Owen Wengerd (ManuSoft, CADLock) asked a random sample of his customers and came up with 82% of them as non-Subscription customers. He also noted that he could come up with a 3% non-Subscription figure if he cooked the books by…

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The Machine that Won the War

I just wanted to get on the record that I don’t trust claims based on statistical data without being able to review in detail the methods used to obtain and interpret the data. Even with the best intentions, full integrity and honesty, it is not difficult to come to completely the wrong conclusions based on apparently compelling statistical evidence. This isn’t just theory, I’ve seen it happen. Detailed percentages presented at upper governmental levels, based on huge sample sets, giving a totally false impression because of errors and assumptions that occur at various places in the process. The exact same question asked twice in the same survey, giving very different results depending on the section in which the question appeared, providing an unstated context to the question. The devil is in the details, and the details can be extremely subtle. I have a “put up or shut up” rule that applies to anybody who makes claims based on unrevealed statistical evidence. It applies to corporations, news outlets, bloggers, government ministers, everybody. Without allowing scrutiny of the full details, all statistical claims are null and void, as far as I’m concerned. “Trust me” doesn’t cut it. Sorry, no exceptions. What does this have to do with the title? Those familiar with Isaac Asimov’s short story of that name will understand. I’m sure Robin Capper worked it out immediately.

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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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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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Some meaningless AutoCAD 2011 numbers

According to David Cohn, at yesterday’s blogger event in San Fransisco prior to the 2011 launch, Autodesk provided the following figures: 76,000 man hours spent on Q/A of the new release 6,000 total code reviews of new release 2,000 commands tested 4,600 Beta customers involved in AutoCAD 2011 1.4M lines of old code were removed Well, that’s all very nice, but those numbers are completely meaningless without context. Autodesk may as well have just published the equivalent numbers for Release 13; I’m sure they would have looked impressive in isolation. Did anybody in the blogger audience ask the obvious question? How do these numbers compare with previous releases? If so, I’d be interested to see the answer. If not, why not? I’d like to think that I would have asked such a question rather than sitting there unquestionably accepting whatever was being presented. I’d like to think that, but I can’t. I’m in no position to throw stones. I had a similar opportunity at the equivalent event last year and failed to take advantage of it. I was operating at a very sub-optimal level for a variety of reasons (some of which were entirely of my own making, so no excuses there). It was a small, fairly informal event at which Autodesk actively and repeatedly encouraged two-way communication. But sitting there absorbing what I was told was pretty much all I did. I even caught myself on video doing this (i.e. very little), so I have absolutely no right to expect anything better from anyone else this year. Still, it would have been nice to have had that question asked. It would be even nicer to have it answered. Otherwise, the numbers will remain meaningless.

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Interesting times

The past few days haven’t been so great for me. Here’s what has happened lately: A family member had an expensive musical instrument case burned when it was placed too close to a stage light. As I was driving home on Monday to escape a major oncoming storm, my car was hit out of the blue by a single golf-ball size hailstone. This caused damage on a styling crease, which will be difficult to repair. As a single dent, it’s probably not worth getting fixed, and will therefore remain to irritate me every time I see it, until the car is sold. Our lovely big Protea tree was blown over and uprooted, and the top half of our lovely flame tree was sheared off and dumped some distance away. The trees took our overhead power cable with them as they died, leaving a live cable end on the wet ground. This was isolated but not fixed the next day, just before parents started dropping off their kids in our street (we live near a primary school). We were left without power for most of two days, during which we had no idea when the power would be restored, and which made meal planning a little tricky. This outage resulted in the spoilage of a fridge-freezer full of food, and left me unable to work from home or prepare some planned future blog posts. My wife bashed her nose and eye this morning when a heavy washing machine lid fell on it. In addition to her own pain and suffering, this will probably come up in a lovely bruise and leave people wondering if I’m a spouse abuser, a form of life for which I have nothing but contempt. All in all, not the best time of it. But I’m OK.…

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This is what I do in my spare time

Fencing. With swords, not pickets, barbed wire, etc. I gave it up 25 years ago, then took it up again about 18 months ago. I now fence all three weapons, having started Sabre about six months ago. Fencing is a very aerobic sport, and participating in it has done wonders for my fitness and mobility over the past year or so. Here are a couple of videos of me fencing foil in a Masters competition last year. YouTube link. YouTube link.

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Comment censorship

I want your views on how much control I should exert over the comments that people make here. I’ve been led to thinking about this by a couple of things. Mostly by the occasion of the first troll comment on this blog, and to a lesser extent by Shaan Hurley turning off comments on posts older than three months on his Between The Lines blog. (I am not complaining about this; it’s Shaan’s justifiable reaction to mass spam attacks and it has nothing to do with censorship. There are some Autodesk blogs that don’t allow comments at all, which may in itself be justifiable). I’m a proponent of freedom of speech and don’t want to restrict your ability to say what you think. I’m perfectly happy to see you express your contrary opinions and would never dream of removing or editing a comment simply because it contains viewpoints with which I disagree. There are plenty of comments on this blog from people who disagree with my stated views, and at least one containing an insult aimed at me personally using a variant of a word that many people would consider very offensive. I haven’t touched those comments. I haven’t even touched the troll comment. Spam, on the other hand, is mercillesly dealt with. The vast majority of it is automatically excluded by Akismet, a handful I have to remove manually, but in all cases the comment is deleted and the sender’s IP is banned from accessing the site. I can do that with other commenters too, but I have not yet done so. My question to you is where do you think I should draw the line? If a discussion leads to a vendor commenting to let people know that his company provides a service relevant to the discussion, is…

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If you admire somebody, please let them know

This post has nothing to do with CAD or the other subjects I occasionally cover. Last month, I unexpectedly lost two of my colleagues to cancer. Wayne was a loud, larger-than life character, full of life. Paal (pronounced like Paul) was a quieter, more reserved man, but very friendly, funny and positive. Wayne occasionally rubbed people up the wrong way with his robust manner, but everybody who knew Paal liked him. I thought he was a great guy, but I never told him that. Now I wish I had. I never even knew he was ill, so when I read the email telling me he was dead it was quite a shock. It’s not my place to tell you what to do, so please take this purely as a suggestion. If you know somebody and you admire them for whatever reason, let them know it. They will feel better, you will feel better, and if you come in to work one day and find they are gone, you won’t be left wishing you had said something positive to them while you had the chance. As for cancer, I can’t prevent or cure that, but I have a little idea for something I can do to help. More on that later.

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