The big Bricsys interview 1 – why invite the press?

This is the first in a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

On April 26 and 27, I attended Bricsys Insights, a press event in Ghent, Belgium. Other attendees included Cyrena Respini-Irwin (Cadalyst editor in chief), R.K. McSwain (CAD Panacea), Ralph Grabowski (upFront.eZine), Randall Newton (GraphicSpeak), Roopinder Tara (Engineering.com), Martyn Day (DEVELOP3D), Jeff Rowe (AEC Café), Anthony Frausto-Robledo (Architosh) and Paul Wilkinson (pwcom).

Although Bricsys has invited some of these people (including myself) to previous events, this was the first gathering of such a significant number of illustrious industry press, bloggers and observers. So when myself, Cyrena Respini-Irwin and R.K. McSwain …

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Why owning stuff is still important (repost)

This post was originally published on 19 November 2012. What’s happened since then is that Autodesk has indeed ended the sale of perpetual licenses and gone all-rental even though customers remain reluctant.

Autodesk’s cloud push, however, is struggling. Many Autodesk cloud products are dying or dead. Others (mostly free) carry on but many have failed to live up to expectations.  Some paid cloud products (e.g. Fusion 360) are starting to generate some return on Autodesk’s huge investment. However, it’s all years behind schedule. We were supposed to be cloudy CAD users several years ago. It hasn’t happened. How much of that is because of technical blockages, how much is because we have problems trusting the cloud, and how much is because we prefer to own our software licenses? I have no way of telling, but I’m sure the latter factor is somewhere …

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AutoCAD 2018 – at last, something to praise

This isn’t supposed to be an Autodesk-bashing blog. Really, it’s not. Sure, Autodesk (and anyone else) gets criticism where deserved. There’s been a lot of that lately, but only because Autodesk has thoroughly deserved it. I don’t make up things so I can have a go; Autodesk provides the material all by itself.

Among other things, I’m a customer advocate. I don’t care who you are, act in an anti-customer manner and I’m going to slam you. Hard but fair. Dish up bullshit to your customers and I will gleefully point that out and heap derision on you. Deal with it.

On the other hand, act in a pro-customer manner and I’m going to praise you. I do praise Autodesk (and anyone else) where deserved. There are dozens of examples of that on this blog. Lately, the pickings have been slim. Time to redress the balance a little.

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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 – 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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Autodesk starts answering subscription questions, but many remain

Getting worthwhile non-rubbery information out of Autodesk on the maintenance to subscription push has been like pulling teeth. Well, one tooth has popped out now. There are a rotten mouthful still to go, but some progress is being made.

Here is the latest Autodesk communication on this subject. While it gives the impression of providing transparency, there’s still not enough there to provide enough certainty to convince any but the most naive customers to throw away their perpetual licenses. If you try pumping Autodesk’s numbers into my costing spreadsheet, you can get so far and then you’re back to guesswork again. If you guess low, it’s merely a bad deal. If you guess high, it’s an atrocious deal. For you, not for Autodesk; I’m sure Autodesk will be happy with whatever deal it decides to inflict.

There are huge holes in what has been stated that …

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Script for creating AutoCAD Classic workspace

Edwin Prakaso at the excellent CAD Notes blog has done something that, in hindsight, is blindingly obvious but nevertheless very useful to a multitude of people. He’s written a simple script file that sets up the Classic workspace (or something close to it). It works in any recent AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT. Here’s the blog post:

AutoCAD Script to Create Classic Workspace Automatically

Edwin uses Microsoft OneDrive to store the script file, so if your workplace restricts access to Cloud storage you might need to download it at home.

I’ve added a reference to this script to my post AutoCAD 2017 – Putting things back to “normal”.

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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 (edit – now CEO) 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 …

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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 …

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Restoring the Classic workspace in AutoCAD 2015, 2016 and 2017, etc.

One of the more common queries on my putting things back to “normal” posts is how to restore the AutoCAD Classic workspace in those releases where it is absent. Since Autodesk removed that workspace it has been too involved a process to fully describe how to do it in the context of my post. In the 2017 version of that post I’ve added a useful link, but as that’s a massive post and the link is buried near the end of it, this may have escaped your attention.

Here’s the link to Brazilian AutoCAD expert Luciana Klein’s step-by-step guide. It’s for AutoCAD 2016, but the principles apply to other releases and variants. Thanks to Luciana for going to the effort of putting this together.

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Battle of the Bullshit part 2 – Autodesk’s sophistry

In my last post, I gave Bentley a well-deserved slap for, er, saying things that perhaps weren’t entirely factual. Now it’s Autodesk’s turn.

What’s this about? Carl White, Senior Director of Business Models at Autodesk, wrote a blog post Not so fast Bentley: Separating fact from fiction responding to statements made by Bentley in its press release Bentley Announces Autodesk License Upgrade Program. Some of Carl’s observations on Bentley’s claims were perfectly valid, but unfortunately he went beyond that and wrote a few more things – “facts” – where he’s on shakier ground. Let’s examine Carl’s interpretation of reality, shall we?

Fact #1 – No Autodesk customer ever  loses the right to use the perpetual software license you’ve purchased, it is “evergreen”.

This is generally true. There are exceptions (read the EULA), but let’s not split hairs. In the vast majority of cases, we don’t …

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Battle of the Bullshit part 1 – Bentley’s terminological inexactitudes

I note with interest the blog post Not so fast Bentley: Separating fact from fiction by Carl White, Senior Director of Business Models at Autodesk. In this, he responds to statements made by Bentley in its press release Bentley Announces Autodesk License Upgrade Program, stating:

Earlier this week, Bentley announced an “upgrade program” for Autodesk customers. We found the offer to be disingenuous and mischaracterizes what Autodesk offers our customers.

OK, let’s have a look at what Carl is complaining about. Here’s one Bentley statement that could be considered questionable:

For consideration by owners of Autodesk perpetual licenses facing Autodesk’s imminent deadline for the write-off of the future value of their investment, Bentley Systems is offering recovery of the value otherwise subject to forfeit.

Carl has a point here. The “imminent deadline for the write-off of the future value” line is presented as fact, but at this stage it’s …

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Hotfix for AutoCAD 2017 SP1 Autoloader bug

As reported earlier, AutoCAD 2017 SP1 breaks third-party add-ins that use the officially approved Autoloader mechanism. Autodesk is to be commended for acting quickly to produce a hotfix for this. In order to make this hotfix available quickly, Autodesk has taken the very unusual step of allowing a third party to distribute it. See this post from Jimmy Bergmark, who pointed out the bug in the first place. Kudos to whoever at Autodesk made the call to think outside the box to do this. It’s a very un-Autodesk Corporate thing to do, and particularly commendable for that very reason.

It’s important to note that because of the way Service Packs are now handled in AutoCAD and the vertical products based on it, this SP1 bug affects all of those products, not just base AutoCAD. Here is the list of affected products*:

AutoCAD 2017 Service Pack 1 is out but you probably don’t want to install it

As reported by Jimmy Bergmark, AutoCAD 2017 SP1 will break add-ins that use Autodesk’s built-in autoloader mechanism. It looks like it’s a problem caused by third party applications, but it’s not. It’s entirely Autodesk’s fault. The only fix at this stage is to uninstall SP1.

It’s astonishing that Autodesk would release a service pack like this, introducing a nasty bug that will break customers’ existing functionality. This reminds me of the comedy of errors that was AutoCAD Release 13 with its multitude of updates, many of which introduced new bugs as well as fixing others. AutoCAD 2017c4a, anyone?

If you needed any more evidence that automated continuous updates from Autodesk are A Bad Idea, here it is. What a crock.

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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 …

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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 …

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AutoCAD Help suckage to continue – confirmed

In a recent post on Between the Lines, Shaan passed on the following response from the AutoCAD Team:

There has been some recent discussions about the built-in help system in AutoCAD 2013, both positive and some criticism.  As our longtime users know, AutoCAD help has been through many evolutions.

We are particularly proud of the new AutoCAD 2013 online learning environment we recently released (AutoCAD Online Help Mid-Year Updates.) This update addressed several user requested fixes and changes, and we will continue to take our direction from our user’s feedback.

We do recognize that the online learning environment may not be the solution for every user, so while we are focused on creating a rich and personalized online experience, we will continue to maintain our current basic offline experience.

(The emphasis is mine). This statement, although couched in marketingspeak, confirms what I’ve had to say on the subject. …

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Autodesk’s Kean about moving to the Cloud

Autodesk’s API guru Kean Walmsley is the second Autodesk person I’ve seen who has been brave enough to stick his head above the parapet by discussing the Cloud, in writing, and in a medium that allows for public comment. Kean has always seemed like a straight shooter to me. Please note that his blog represents his personal opinions rather than an official Autodesk position. He’s after your comments, so please go and let him know what you think on his post. Add your comments here if you’re more comfortable with that, and I’ll make sure Kean sees them.

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Repost – how to get your picture next to your comment

This is a revisit of a post I made about three years ago, and repeated a year later. This has become more relevant recently because I changed the default avatars displayed next to comments to use random faces rather than random patterns. If you object to being portrayed as a grinning loon, read on.

You may have noticed that some people’s comments have an avatar picture next to them (no, not the film with the Roger Dean visuals), while others have a randomly assigned pattern. On this blog, the avatar picture is a gravatar (globally recognised avatar), and you can have one too. Once you set it up, you will find that it works in all sorts of places, not just this blog. Some other blogs may use other avatar standards, though.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Visit gravatar.com and pick a sign up link.
  • Provide …

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