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

 
Links:

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.

Hot tip for Autodesk

Hey Autodesk high-ups, I’m sorry you’ve been having so much trouble persuading your customers to throw away their perpetual licenses and throw themselves on your perpetual mercy. It’s clearly difficult to persuade technical types to do dumb things like rent your software at enormous and ever-increasing prices. I feel for you. But there’s an answer.

Find dumber customers.

Lots of them. And fast, before the stock market notices that you’re no Adobe and we’re not buying it. Sorry, I mean not renting it.

Look no further! Simply buy this company, discard the product when you’re bored with it (you’re very familiar with that process) and get hold of the customer list.

Simplifying CAD Management the Autodesk way

According to Autodesk, one of the benefits of subscription (rental) is simplified administration. To prove it, Autodesk has provided a simple guide for CAD Managers called The Software Administrator’s Guide to Autodesk Subscriptions – How to Set Up, Install, and Manage Your Software and Users.

It’s 18.7 MB and 78 pages long.

Don’t worry though, this simple guide helpfully includes a simple guide on how to read it.

Among other things, this eBook provides handy hints on how subscription’s simplified administration regime for standalone licenses requires you to pre-emptively name all your users, set them all up with Autodesk accounts and define what software each is allowed to use. There’s a note to say that your Internet connection needs to be working at the time of installation (obviously) and also every 30 days (less obvious) or you won’t be able to use the software.

The guide …

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What’s in a name? AutoCAD 360 / mobile app confusion

Has Autodesk’s online DWG viewer/markup tool had yet another rename? It’s hard to tell. I suspect there’s a rename process going on that’s not yet complete.

Here’s the list of names so far. I think.

  • Visual Tau (when acquired by Autodesk)
  • Project Butterfly (Autodesk Labs name)
  • AutoCAD WS
  • AutoCAD 360
  • AutoCAD mobile app

The last two names appear to be interchangeable right now. What led me to this confusion is the very sub-optimal customer experience I had in attempting to try out AutoCAD 360. The best way to describe it is a wild goose chase.

I started from a point familiar to current AutoCAD maintenance and subscription customers, the Autodesk Accounts page. Like the majority of AutoCAD users, I accessed this using a browser on a Windows PC. Among the options in there was this. Hmm, AutoCAD® 360, free, Access now. Let’s try that out.

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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. …

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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 …

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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 …

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Magical disappearing AutoCAD 2017.1 crash information

In preparing to write something about the AutoCAD 2017.1 non-subscription-only update, I came across something slightly strange. Google AutoCAD 2017.1 crashes and you will probably see something like this:

autocad2017-1crashgoogle

What happens if you click that link? Nothing useful. You’re just taken to the landing page for the Autodesk Knowledge Network. The Google cached version of the link takes me to 404 land. Searching within the Autodesk Knowledge Network doesn’t produce relating to the crash in the original link, which seems to be language-pack related. The search wasn’t entirely fruitless, because I did discover that 2017.1 breaks linetype preview images for those of us who prefer a light user interface. But of …

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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 …

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Autodesk Answer Day – 27 October 2016

Autodesk is holding another Answer Day to encourage you to use the Autodesk Community (discussion forums). Hop along and get answers to your questions (hopefully), because this is a special day where Autodesk people will attend and be responsive.

Here is the announcement. When is this event, exactly?

Join us on Thursday, Oct 27th from 6:00am to 6:00pm Pacific Time.

Autodesk, if you’re promoting a “global event”, please try to remember that the globe extends beyond the West Coast of America and include UTC (GMT) times in your announcements. Most of us know where our time zones are in relation to UTC, but seeing something listed only in Pacific Time is likely to mean we have to head off to a site like timeanddate.com or thetimenow.com to work it out.

To save you all the effort, Pacific Time is currently UTC -7 …

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Dear Autodesk Recap 360 team…

…your software (3.0.0.52, 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):

autodeskrecap360cantsignin

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):

autodeskrecap360cantsignin2

I am connected. In fact, I’m so connected I’m typing this post online while reproducing the problem. …

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Polls and comments

As part of the site layout changes here, the polls were moved from the right sidebar to the left. The Polls Archive page remains unchanged. The new site layout is responsive, so if you’re using a narrow browser window (e.g. on a phone), the sidebars may be automatically suppressed. If so, you can still get at the current polls using this post.

Feel free to use this post to comment on any aspect of these polls. From the main page (or search results) where the comments are not immediately visible, you can comment by clicking the number next to this speech bubble icon:

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Microsoft demonstrates why automatic updates are a terrible idea. Listening, Autodesk?

I like Windows 10. After some investigation and with some trepidation, I have upgraded two Windows 7 computers and one Windows 8 (ugh) computer to Windows 10. In use, I’m generally very happy with it. It boots fast, works well and most of the more ridiculous aspects of the Windows 8 “let’s assume your computer is a phone” interface are gone. The fact that I can scroll windows using my mouse wheel without first clicking on those windows to obtain focus is a real productivity plus. I would be happy to recommend Windows 10 to all Windows 8 users and most Windows 7 users, dependant on individual needs. I would, but I’m not. Microsoft is entirely responsible for that reluctance; read on.

The one thing I really, really dislike about Windows is the way it pushes updates. With Windows 7 I was always selective about what updates I allowed through …

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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 …

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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.

ApplicationManagerReplaced

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, …

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Autodesk Answer Day – 18 May 2016

Autodesk is encouraging you to use the Autodesk Community (formerly know as forums, discussion groups, newsgroups, etc.) to get answers to your questions by setting up a special day where Autodesk people will attend and be responsive. I don’t know if this includes responding to people’s concerns over Autodesk ending the sale of perpetual licenses, but it’s worth a try anyway. The forum for discussing that particular issue is somewhat hidden. It doesn’t appear among the list of forums, so you would only know it existed if you happened to pick on the Installation and Licensing link and had a look at the header to see the Perpetual License Changes link. But now you know it’s there, you can go and ask your questions. Meaningful answers are not guaranteed.

Here is the announcement. When is this event, exactly?

Join us at our first …

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