Cloud benefits – constant updates

One promoted benefit Software as a Service is that you are always up to date. There are no local applications to install and maintain. You don’t need to go through expensive and disruptive annual updates and/or install service packs or hotfixes; all this is taken care of for you. The latest and greatest software is always automatically available to you, and because everybody is always using the same version, there will be no compatibility issues. You won’t need to worry about your OS being compatible with the latest release, either. Bugs, if not exactly a thing of the past, will be quickly taken care of without you even being aware of them.

This is something you all want, right? What could possibly be wrong with this picture?

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 … Full post

Anybody go to the AU Cloud Innovation Forum?

At this year’s Autodesk University, Autodesk is running a series of Innovation Forums. There was one scheduled for Tuesday November 29 at 10:00 (Las Vegas time) called The Promise of the Cloud – The Implications of Virtually Infinite Computing for Your Industry. That’s about 12 hours ago as I type this. I was hoping to attend this event, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Did any of you attend that Forum? If so, what did you think? How did Autodesk address the concerns and promote the benefits? Did you feel any differently about CAD in the Cloud after attending it? Please add your own comments here, or if you wish to make more expansive observations, please contact me and I may publish a post dedicated to your review.

Cloud concerns – security again

It’s probably worth pointing out that if you you have no problem emailing your designs around the place without some form of protection or encryption, there’s little point in getting all worked up about Cloud security. Email isn’t remotely secure. FTP isn’t exactly watertight, either. If you’re still interested in Cloud security issues, this post includes some relevant links you might like to peruse.

First, here’s what Autodesk’s Scott Sheppard had to say about Project Photofly (now 123D Catch Beta) security last month: Project Photofly FAQ: What about the security of my data? This covers some of the same kind of stuff I’ve already discussed, but from an Autodesk point of view (albeit a pretty transparent and honest one, as you might expect from Scott). Here are some selected quotes:

In essence, we don’t want to accept liability when we don’t take money…

We intend to … Full post

How you feel about CAD in the Cloud

In February 2010, I ran a poll to gauge your feelings about CAD in the Cloud and left it going until October 2010. Just over a month ago, I asked the same question again and ran an identical poll. I have closed that second poll, and here are the comparative results (new poll at the top, old poll at the bottom):

Cad in the Cloud 2010 and 2011 Polls

I’m not pretending this is a scientific survey. There is bound to be some self-selection and other sources of bias, as there must be with anybody’s survey processes (very much including Autodesk’s CIP). Looking at the logs, I haven’t detected any obvious attempts to interfere with the poll, although there’s nothing I can do to stop people voting multiple times if they have access to multiple IPs (e.g. a work and home account). There … Full post

Autodesk Cloud-based structural engineering software review

As I’ve already discussed, one of the areas where CAD on the Cloud shows potential is in handling specific tasks that require performing intensive calculations that are suitable for sharing among many processors. That sounds great in theory, and a lot of Cloud marketing (e.g. Virtually Infinite Computing) emphasises that point.

OK, that sounds promising, but how does it pan out in real life? One problem dissuading me from finding out is that Autodesk is being very restrictive with access to many of its Autodesk Cloud products (I’d probably throw a few sample render jobs into the Cloud and compare the performance, but I’m not the right kind of Subscription customer so I’m not allowed). Another problem is that I’m not qualified to review things like structural engineering software where the greatest computational potential appears to lie. Fortunately, Alex Bausk is qualified, so it … Full post

Cloud concerns – trust

Using any software involves some degree of trust in the vendor. Using the Cloud requires a much higher level of trust.

Autodesk boss Carl Bass is a maker of carefully crafted things, so I’ll use that as an analogy. Using standalone software requires the sort of trust that a maker has in a tool manufacturer. Will the tools work properly and last a long time? Or will they break, potentially damaging the materials or even the user?

Using SaaS requires that same kind of trust, plus others. Will the tool manufacturer keep making that tool? If not, will spare parts continue to be available? Will the manufacturer change the tool design so it doesn’t suit your hand any more, or doesn’t work as well on the materials you use? Beyond that, there are some aspects of the relationship that stretch this analogy somewhat. For example, a SaaS vendor resembles a manufacturer that … Full post

Poll of evil

I have closed the Which of these is most evil? poll, which had been running from 20 February 2009. It attracted 2,351 voters, each of whom could distribute up to three votes among thirteen (yes, that number was deliberate) candidates. Here are the ranked results:

  • Satan (36%, 846 Votes)
  • Microsoft (31%, 721 Votes)
  • Apple (26%, 614 Votes)
  • RIAA/IFPI/MPAA (26%, 601 Votes)
  • Miley Cyrus (23%, 546 Votes)
  • Autodesk (23%, 536 Votes)
  • Disney (16%, 382 Votes)
  • Google (10%, 230 Votes)
  • Dell (7%, 172 Votes)
  • The Pirate Bay (6%, 147 Votes)
  • Sony (6%, 140 Votes)
  • Steve Johnson (4%, 89 Votes)
  • Gaahl (3%, 82 Votes)
  • That top three is not going to shock anyone (except perhaps some fanbois), but are some surprises in the list. For example, more than a quarter of voters were aware enough of the evils of Big Content to be able to decipher the alphabet soup RIAA/IFPI/MPAA choice and select it. More than … Full post

    Autodesk Cloud interview May 2010 – Part 3

    Steve: Another issue I have with Cloud-based environments is the lack of customisation. One of the things that makes AutoCAD so efficient for people is that they can get it exactly the way they want it. With a browser-based environment, we’re pretty much stuck with what you guys decide to give us. Can you see any solution to that in the longer term?

    Tal: From a pure technical point of view, there’s not a lot of difference in terms of the way you can customise an application on the desktop versus customising it on the web. I think AutoCAD, having a very mature application has a lot of functionality which has built up over the years to provide customisation capabilities to the nth degree. So I think it has less to do with the platform of your choice and more to do with the maturity of the solution and how … Full post

    CAD on the Cloud according to Autodesk’s Jim Quanci

    In all of the Cad on the Cloud discussion so far, both here and elsewhere, there have been a lot of anti-Cloud comments and very little in the way of response from the pro-Cloud crowd. Participation in the debate from Autodesk people has been minimal. In one way I can understand that, because given the current atmosphere, who would want to stick their head above the parapet? On the other hand, Autodesk wants to position itself as a Cloud leader and obviously needs to bring its customers with it. It is unlikely that many hearts and minds will be won over with press releases and other forms of corporate self-praise. Therefore, it makes sense for someone to get their hands dirty and engage with the plebs.

    Step forward Jim Quanci, director of the Autodesk Developer Network. In the last edition of upFront.eZine, Jim was brave enough to enter the fray … Full post

    The worst feature ever added to AutoCAD is…

    …the Ribbon, according to your selections in the What are the worst features ever added to AutoCAD? poll. As in the best ever poll, the winner (loser?) in this race had no serious competition. I’ve listed eleven top (bottom?) features here rather than ten, partly because the popular (unpopular?) choice Memory Overuse isn’t exactly a feature. But it’s mainly because I’d hate to see Action Recorder unfairly miss out on a well-deserved mention.

    • Ribbon (30%)
    • CUI (20%)
    • Help (on line / 2012) (18%)
    • Memory Overuse (17%)
    • AutoCAD Today (2000i/2002) (16%)
    • White / Cream Drawing Background (16%)
    • Unreconciled Layers (16%)
    • Nudge (10%)
    • Blipmode (9%)
    • Proxy Object Compatibility (9%)
    • Action Recorder (8%)

    Given the reception the Ribbon received when it was introduced, maybe it’s unsurprising to see it top the lists here. Cloud observers may find it interesting to note that that Autodesk’s … Full post

    Autodesk Cloud interview May 2010 – Part 2

    Steve: Autodesk is currently giving away these Cloud-based services, Butterfly for example. Presumably you’re not going to keep doing that for ever. Are you going to start charging for these services eventually?

    Guri: Again, you’re pushing us to talk about future. Currently, for as long as this is in a Labs environment, we’re encouraging users to use it and we’re giving it free in the Labs environment and we’re not putting any limits on it during the Labs experiment. Once we make it a commercial product we may change that.

    Steve: I put a poll on my blog asking readers what they thought about CAD on the Cloud, and most of them are either concerned or frightened. Solidworks users are in revolt about what they see as being forced onto the Cloud. Why do you think there is this fear or apprehension of CAD on the Cloud?

    Guri: I’m not … Full post

    The best feature ever added to AutoCAD is…

    LISP. I have now closed the What are the best features ever added to AutoCAD? poll, and the winner is AutoLISP/Visual LISP, by a long, long way. I don’t always agree with the majority view expressed in the polls here, but in this case I wholeheartedly agree. Adding LISP was the biggest and best thing that ever happened to AutoCAD. Autodesk owes an enormous debt of gratitude to John Walker for incorporating the work of David Betz, who was of course standing on the shoulders of John McCarthy. It’s a crying shame that Autodesk has been so terribly neglectful of Visual LISP for over a decade.

    Here are your top ten “best ever” AutoCAD features:

    • AutoLISP / Visual LISP (32%)
    • Paper / Model Space / Layouts (21%)
    • Xrefs (20%)
    • Copy / Paste between drawings (19%)
    • Dynamic Blocks (16%)
    • Object Snaps (15%)
    • Layer Visibility per Viewport (12%)
    • Undo (12%)
    • Grips … Full post

    Autodesk Cloud interview May 2010 – Part 1

    On 26 May 2010, I had the opportunity to ask Autodesk some questions about the Cloud in general and what was then Project Butterfly (now AutoCAD WS) in particular. The Autodesk people were:

    • Guri Stark,Vice President, AutoCAD & Platform Products
    • Tal Weiss, R&D Center Manager (Israel)
    • Noah Cole, Corporate Media Relations

    The interview was conducted by phone conference with no prior notice of the questions. Here is the first part of the interview, which I will be posting in three sections.

    Steve: Guri, are you responsible for all of Autodesk’s Cloud-based offerings?

    Guri: Tal and I are responsible for Butterfly, that’s the only Cloud-based offering that we are responsible for.

    Noah: Steve, you can put the cloud-based offerings into three categories, those that are related to current products and therefore come out of the same organisations and divisions that those products come out of. So Butterfly which is related … Full post

    Any Autodesk/Akamai people care to explain this?

    Akamai is an Internet/Cloud infrastructure company, used extensively by Autodesk. To be polite, my experiences using its services over several years have been somewhat negative. Back in March, when trying to download the AutoCAD 2012 trial, I went through the usual Akamai download manager struggles before being informed of the wonderful Opera workaround (thanks again, Helper). I thought I’d seen the last of Akamai for a while, but today, while left unattended, Windows threw up this warning:

    Huh? What is Akamai software trying to do here? I hadn’t asked it to do anything. I’m not downloading Autodesk software or even visiting an Autodesk site. There’s no reason for it to be running at all. Whatever it is, I don’t like it. Time to uninstall anything and everything Akamai, I think; something I should have done back in March. But … Full post

    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 … Full post

    All major Autodesk products on the Cloud by 2014?

    As reported by multiple on-line news outlets, Autodesk just announced that it is increasing its research and development budget (having slashed it last year), and increasing the percentage of that budget on the Cloud. Carl Bass:

    When there are technology transitions in place, you better be more mindful of that, or you become roadkill.

    That’s fair enough. Autodesk would be stupid to ignore the Cloud, and needs to bet at least some of its cash on anything that stands a significant chance of being important. This quote from Autodesk spokesman Paul Sullivan gets more specific:

    We are devoting a larger percentage of our R&D budget to cloud computing, with a significant portion of our new product investments going toward products that are cloud-enabled. We expect that all of our major products will be available in the cloud within the next three years.

    Now “available” … Full post

    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 … Full post

    Cloud concerns – tie-in

    One of the major attractions of the Cloud for vendors is that it ties in customers, providing a reasonably consistent revenue stream. It is an effective anti-competitive strategy. There are various technical and other methods that can be used to ensure that it’s difficult or even impossible for customers to jump ship. While that’s all very nice for vendors, it’s not such a wonderful thing for customers.

    Let’s say you’re a CAD Manager who persuades your company to use a great new SaaS service and Cloud storage. Let’s assume it performs well, is secure, has 100% uptime and offers functionality that is not available with standalone software. Your company is pleased with all this and uses it increasingly over several years, eventually moving completely into the Cloud. A good news story, right?

    Well, maybe. There are a few things that could go wrong. Very wrong. Wrong enough to get you fired. … Full post

    (so (long (and (thanks (for (all (the (parentheses))))))))

    A few days ago, John McCarthy died at the age of 84. He didn’t make a fortune selling gadgets, he just profoundly affected the world of computing. He will be remembered mainly as the father of LISP, without which it is quite possible that AutoCAD and Autodesk would not have survived beyond the 80s. However, his original thinking went well beyond the development of a language. For example, 50 years ago he came up with an idea that is very relevant to what we are actively discussing today:

    In 1961, he was the first to publicly suggest (in a speech given to celebrate MIT’s centennial) that computer time-sharing technology might lead to a future in which computing power and even specific applications could be sold through the utility business model (like water or electricity). This idea of a computer or information utility was very popular in the late … Full post