Not answering the question

Here in Australia, we’re in election mode, so I have even more reasons to avoid watching TV. On those occasions when I do watch it, I am often annoyed by what I see. This is not a novel observation, but one of the things that annoys me about many politicians is their habit of sidestepping questions when interviewed. It also annoys me when interviewers fail to follow up these non-answers and let them slide. Depending on the circumstances (e.g. limited timeframe, more important questions to ask, etc.), there may be valid reasons for journalists failing to chase after legitimate answers in a live interview situation. But I would much prefer to see a non-answering interviewee tied down and not allowed to wriggle free. Squirm, baby, squirm!

For on-line journalists and bloggers, there are few excuses for letting non-answers go unchallenged. There is virtually unlimited time, opportunity and column space in which things can be chased down. With that in mind, this post is an analysis of the response Callan Carpenter gave to the four specific questions I raised, and three points of dispute raised by others and passed on by me for a response. I have marked each response (or non-response) out of 10.

Questions

Please clarify in as much detail as possible exactly how you arrive at your figures.

Answer: none given. 0/10

A percentage is derived by dividing one number by another; what exactly are you dividing by what to come up with 1.5%?

Answer: none given. 0/10

Please explain why your statements appear to contradict Autodesk’s own published figures.

Answer: Callan explained that he did not intend to suggest what it seemed he was implying, but didn’t clearly explain exactly what it was that he actually was suggesting. 5/10

How large is Autodesk’s total installed base?

Answer: none given. 0/10

Points of dispute

Because Autodesk made Subscription cheaper than upgrading, it is no surprise that upgrading became less popular. This doesn’t indicate that customers prefer doing business in that way, merely that Autodesk made it the cheapest alternative.

Response: this statement was pretty much repeated back as if it were an answer: “the majority of customers buying over the past few years have opted to leverage the Subscription program…the most cost effective way possible”. 1/10

If the idea of Subscription is such an attractive proposition, why do you need to sweeten the deal with tools that you don’t allow upgraders to have?

Response: this statement was also pretty much repeated back as if it were an answer: “…there is much more to the program than cost savings…just some of the value-added aspects of the program”. 1/10

Your assertion that the 12-month cycle is driven by the product teams is incorrect. It was chosen for business reasons and the product cycle was forced to fit the Subscription model.

Response: none given. 0/10

Overall “answering the question” mark: 7/70 or 10%.

Callan, thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to provide some kind of a response. If you want to have another bite at the cherry and actually answer what you’ve been asked this time, you are welcome to do so. You know where to find me.

Readers, am I being too harsh here?

Studying Autodesk’s productivity study

Heidi Hewett just reported the following on her blog, about a productivity study:

According to a recent independent study, AutoCAD® 2011 can help you work up to 44% faster with the latest productivity enhancements.

I have a couple of problems with that sentence. First, it’s not an independent study. It’s a study conducted by long-time respected CAD figure David Cohn, but it was specified and paid for by Autodesk:

This productivity study was performed at the request of Autodesk Inc., which funded this work.

That’s not exactly independent then, is it? Second, the study does not state that AutoCAD 2011 is responsible for a 44% improvement. That’s a figure that combines both the effects of AutoCAD 2011 (over AutoCAD 2008), plus the effects of using a newer, faster PC. Just stating that figure wthout such a disclaimer is misleading.

Now to the study itself. Let me make it clear that I have no problem with David Cohn, who is respected, experienced and honest. I do not doubt that his study accurately describes his observations of the time taken to perform the chosen operations on the chosen drawings. The problem is that the study is designed to concentrate purely on a set of AutoCAD operations that benefit from the changes of the last three releases. In other words, the dice are very heavily loaded. To David’s credit, he states that very clearly in the study report:

Each drawing was chosen based on a number of criteria designed to showcase one or more features of the software that did not exist in AutoCAD 2008 but were added in subsequent releases. While each drawing could certainly be produced using the features and functions available in AutoCAD 2008, the advanced capabilities added in subsequent releases would likely enable a typical user to produce the drawing faster using AutoCAD 2011.

Since the premise of the test was to determine how much time could be saved by using a new feature, the test itself was already predisposed to show that using AutoCAD 2011 is more productive than using AutoCAD 2008.

A quick skim-read shows that there are several other problems with the study. For example, it doesn’t attempt to measure the productivity of those operations that are common to both releases, which are much more likely to be used in bulk by typical users. The report states that the Ribbon interface is likely to be more productive, but makes no attempt to justify that by comparing the exact same operations performed using the two interfaces.

In addition, both AutoCAD 2008 and 2011 are measured on a typical middle-age PC using XP, but only 2011 is measured on a modern PC running Windows 7. The report states that the latter tests were performed after the former tests, so the times will also be biased by familiarity with AutoCAD 2011, the drawings and the operations required. That’s where the 44% figure comes from, and it doesn’t mean anything.

What’s the point of studies like this, that are self-evidently designed to produce a good-looking outcome? Who are they supposed to fool?  Come on Autodesk, either do these things properly or don’t do them at all. Please.

Magic vanishing images

In a thread in the Feedback & Questions about the Discussion Groups section of the Autodesk discussion groups, somebody called ACADuser contributed what I thought was a highly amusing bar graph as a test image. Inspired by this, I contributed a couple of test images of my own.

A few hours later, the whole thread magically disappeared! It seems a shame that I went to the effort of making those images, and all for nothing. The handful of people who would have seen them on the discussion groups have now missed out on the experience. So I’ve decided to make up for that by posting them here, where thousands of people can look at them instead.

Here’s the first one (not that amusing):

Discussion group upgrade poll results

Here’s the second one. Given the circumstances, it seems somewhat prescient:

Clue train pie graph

If ACADuser wants to get in touch, I’ll be quite happy to post his image too.

Autodesk’s Callan Carpenter responds to Subscription follow-up

You may remember a month ago I raised the question What proportion of Autodesk customers really are on Subscription? Shortly after that, I sent Autodesk Subscription VP Callan Carpenter these questions following up on the interview:

I have a request for follow-up information arising from this interview. I hope you can find the time to provide some answers.

Preamble: Several people have called into doubt your assertion that the simplified upgrade policy affects only a tiny minority of your customers (you seemed to imply a figure of around 3% non-Subscription customers, with 1.5% who upgrade within a year or two). My own calculations based on Autodesk’s latest published financial results indicate that of upgrades represent 21% of the combined income from Subscription and upgrades, which is 7 times greater than the impression you gave in your answer. Please see this post for more discussion.

Questions:

  • Please clarify in as much detail as possible exactly how you arrive at your figures.
  • A percentage is derived by dividing one number by another; what exactly are you dividing by what to come up with 1.5%?
  • Please explain why your statements appear to contradict Autodesk’s own published figures.
  • How large is Autodesk’s total installed base?

Other points of dispute have been raised by various commenters, which I have paraphrased here. I invite your response.

  • Because Autodesk made Subscription cheaper than upgrading, it is no surprise that upgrading became less popular. This doesn’t indicate that customers prefer doing business in that way, merely that Autodesk made it the cheapest alternative.
  • If the idea of Subscription is such an attractive proposition, why do you need to sweeten the deal with tools that you don’t allow upgraders to have?
  • Your assertion that the 12-month cycle is driven by the product teams is incorrect. It was chosen for business reasons and the product cycle was forced to fit the Subscription model.

After a few follow-ups, I received a response yesterday. I reproduce that response here verbatim and without comment:

My sincere apologies for the delay. I have been travelling quite extensively, and this response has been sitting in my drafts email folder, and I just kept getting sidetracked with customer matters.

Nonetheless, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to some of the feedback you received after our discussion last month. During that first interview we discussed, among other things, the rationale behind the Simplified Upgrade Pricing program. I argued that SUP impacts only a small subset of our customers, and quoted figures to support the case. It appears those figures have been challenged by a few of your readers who feel their experience is different. Is it possible that both points of view are right? I believe it is.

By my prior statements I do not mean to suggest that the vast majority of all customers are on Subscription. Autodesk has a very large base of customers that has grown over the past 28 years. The subscription program as it exists today is only about 8 years old, so we had 20 years to develop a large base of customers, many of whom are not on Subscription. (Yes, there were forerunner programs like VIP, but they were structured quite differently and never generated an appreciable amount of business.) This is important because the SUP program only really impacts those customers upgrading from one and two versions back, which is a very small percentage of the already small upgrade revenue. Subscribers and customers upgrading from four or more versions back see no change to their pricing, and customers upgrading from 3 versions back see either no change or a very nominal one (up or down) depending on their specific product or country.

Most of the non-subscribing customer base does not purchase upgrades one or two versions back. In other words, most of these customers either haven’t bought anything from us in a long time, or when they do, they fall into the 98.5% of the revenue that includes upgrades from three or more versions back.

History is one thing, but the current trend line is another. For 8 years the Subscription program has coexisted with the Upgrade program. During that time our customers have been free to chose either strategy for keeping their technology current. Based on the results, their choice was clear: the majority of customers buying over the past few years have opted to leverage the Subscription program to stay on the latest technology in the most cost effective way possible. Only a few have elected to stay current through one and two version upgrades. The rest upgraded from older versions – three or more back. Of course Autodesk still offers all those choices going forward, albeit with a slimmed down price sheet.

There is one last point that I would like to make: While we believe Subscription is the most cost effective way to stay on the latest design technology, there is much more to the program than cost savings. Direct access to Autodesk product support specialists, Advantage Pack© bonus features, and free software for home use are just some of the value-added aspects of the program. In short, we are committed to an ongoing, continuous reevaluation of both the cost and benefit components of the Subscription value equation in order to make it an attractive option for as many customers as possible.

Thanks, again Steve for allowing me the time to speak with your readers.

This spam amuses me

Any Internet resource that allows public comment has to deal with spam. Fortunately, Akismet takes care of the vast majority of the spam on this blog so I don’t have to worry about it. Most spam is just moronic and I’m saddened that there are still some people around who are clueless enough to fall for it, making it worthwhile for the spammers to continue their evil ways.

Today, Akismet caught the first spam I’ve seen for a long time that actually made me LOL. Here it is:

HELP! I’m currently being held prisoner by the Russian mafia xyzrxyz pxxxx enlargement xyzrxyz and being forced to post spam comments on blogs and forum! If you don’t approve this they will kill me. xyzrxyz pxxxx enlargement xyzrxyz They’re coming back now. xyzrxyz vxxxx xyzrxyz Please send help! nitip vxxxx

I removed the bits that would make this useful to the spammer, so I guess I’m now responsible for some poor schmuck suffering a hideous fate at the hands of the Russian Mafia. Oh dear, what a shame, never mind.

Missing language pack fixes compared

Having tried out the cleanup fixes from both Autodesk and Owen Wengerd, they both appear to work fine. Here are some points of comparison:

  • Owen’s utility will work with any AutoCAD variant from 2007 on; Autodesk’s fix is currently restricted to Civil 3D 2009, 2010 and 2011. As this problem is definitely not confined to Civil 3D, and may need to be dealt with by non-Civil 3D users, that could be the dealbreaker right there.
  • Owen’s can be installed by anyone by simply copying a file and loading it when needed or in the Startup Suite; Autodesk’s requires admin rights to either run an installer program or manual replacement of a program component, depending on the release.
  • Owen’s loads and runs as the user requires; Autodesk’s runs automatically when opening and saving a drawing.
  • Owen’s provides some information about what is getting cleaned up; Autodesk’s operates in total silence.
  • Owen’s utility can take a while to scan through everything in a complex drawing; Autodesk’s appears to take no longer to open the drawing than normal. To give you some idea of the times involved, in one test in Civil 3D 2011, opening a blank ( but 2.2 MB!) drawing based on the Civil 3D template took 3.6 s with or without the fix; Owen’s cleanup took 0.7 s. In another test on an oldish PC with AutoCAD 2010, cleaning up a drawing with 2.8 MB of real content took Owen’s utility about 15 seconds.

For my purposes, Owen’s utility is what I need, because the users who need to clean up these drawings use AutoCAD, not Civil 3D. I’ve set up a batch process for these users, which opens each selected drawing, runs Owen’s utility and saves the drawing. However, I suggest Civil 3D users install the relevant updates and patches anyway, as they fix more than just this problem. In addition, in Civil 3D 2011 without the Autodesk fix, one of the problems fixed by Owen’s cleanup (a AeccDbNetworkCatalogDef one) is then immediately recreated by Civil 3D.

The upshot is that Civil 3D users should at least apply Autodesk’s fixes; everybody else should use Owen’s.

Using Owen’s fix, it is interesting to see what it reports as being the problem in particular drawings. Here’s what one of my non-Civil 3D problem drawings shows up:

Command: cleanlanguage
Scanning drawing for corrupt objects...
Corrupt object AecDbScheduleDataFormat<2F84> CLEANED
Found 1 corrupt object

Here’s what the Civil 3D 2011 ANZ template shows up when cleaned:

Command: cleanlanguage
Scanning drawing for corrupt objects...
Corrupt object AeccDbNetworkCatalogDef<8B7> ERASED
Corrupt object AeccDbLegendScheduleTableStyle<1619> CLEANED
Corrupt object AeccDbLegendScheduleTableStyle<161B> CLEANED
Corrupt object AeccDbLegendScheduleTableStyle<161A> CLEANED
Corrupt object AeccDbLegendScheduleTableStyle<161F> CLEANED
Found 5 corrupt objects

It looks like every Civil 3D 2011 drawing based on these templates has been going out corrupt in 5 different places. Hopefully, Autodesk will quickly get on to fixing up the Civil 3D template situation, and will incorporate the automated open/save cleanup in future updates to AutoCAD itself and all the other AutoCAD-based verticals.

Another language pack cleanup solution

My CADLock, Inc. colleague, Owen Wengerd has posted about a fix utility he has written to help clean up drawings infested with the language pack problem discussed here. I have not yet tested Owen’s utility*, but as this should run in any AutoCAD-based product from 2007 on, it could well be a better partial solution than Autodesk’s Civil 3D-only (so far) patches. Autodesk still needs to sort out its dodgy templates, of course, and should probably provide its own non-Civil 3D fixes, if only to maintain a little corporate self-respect.

As Owen has a long and distinguished history of being consistently and demonstrably better at AutoCAD programming than Autodesk’s own programmers, I’d be tempted to try this one first. However, Civil 3D users should probably apply the patches and updates anyway to help resolve other issues.

To find Owen’s utility, go to the ManuSoft ARX freebies page and look for CleanLanguage.zip. While you’re there, use the Software menu to check out some of the other stuff Owen has done.

* Edit: I have now tested it, and it works beautifully in both AutoCAD 2010 and Civil 3D 2011.

Partial fix for language pack problem

The Civil 3D group within Autodesk has moved impressively quickly in providing a partial solution to the language pack problem I described earlier. What has been provided so far is a set of patches for Civil 3D 2009, 2010 and 2011 that allow Civil 3D users to remove the spurious language pack flag by opening and re-saving the affected drawings. I have not yet tested this, but I am informed that it works.

What’s left to do? Obviously, not all recipients of these drawings are going to have Civil 3D. In fact, prior to isolating Civil 3D as one definite source of the problem, I had spent a lot of time helping out AutoCAD users clean up language-pack-infected drawings, using awkward and dangerous copy-and-paste methods. So Autodesk has AutoCAD and all its vertical variants to work through yet as far as a cleanup mechanism goes. Also, the problem needs resolving at the source end. All “infected” templates (in Civil 3D and any other verticals that may have the problem) need fixing and distributing to users as quickly and effectively as possible, in order to reduce the number of drawings being created with the problem. I know individual users can do this for themselves, but large numbers of users won’t do so if left to their own devices, causing problems for everyone else. As the originator of the problem, Autodesk has a duty to do its very best to resolve it.

Thanks, Autodesk, for quickly getting started on fixing the problem and providing a partial solution in a timely manner. I hope you can provide the rest of the solution equally efficiently.

Civil 3D 2011 ANZ comes complete with “virus”

If you install Civil 3D 2011 using the ANZ (Australia/New Zealand) profile, when you start it up for the first time, you will see a large warning indicating that the drawing requires an Asian language pack to be installed. It also warns that this is a symptom of the acad.vlx virus:

Language Pack warning

Now I know that in this case it’s not an actual virus causing the problem, but rather the ANZ template drawing being “infected” with this Language Pack requirement. I have had to deal with quite a few incoming drawings in this state, and that’s painful enough without Autodesk also infecting every Australasian Civil 3D drawing with the problem. Other profiles may be similarly infected, but at the moment I don’t know. Edit: Matt Anderson reports that the problem occurs on US systems too.

Autodesk, I suggest that as a matter of great urgency you create a clean ANZ template file, post it as a hotfix and warn all your Civil 3D customers of the SNAFU. Neither “install the language pack” nor “turn off the warning” are adequate workarounds. Your customers do not want to send out or receive any drawings in this state.

Beyond the immediate issue of Autodesk shipping software that on first use warns the user that they may have a virus (and encourages the creation of drawings that spread that warning far and wide), I would appreciate some assistance in dealing with “infected” drawings, whether in Civil 3D or plain AutoCAD.

First, I need to be able to detect such drawings using LISP so I ensure they are rejected rather than allowed into our drawing management system, and this detection will need to work in releases at least as far back as AutoCAD 2004.

Second, I need a mechanism of cleaning up such drawings. The only thing I have discovered that works so far is the manual, time-consuming and dangerous process of recreating the drawings by starting from scratch and Copy/Paste in each layout. With big jobs using nested xrefs, this is fraught. I need to be able to provide a LISP-based cleanup mechanism that I can set up to work in batch mode on a set of drawings.

I would be grateful for any clues anyone might have about the above detect & cleanup needs.

Edit: see the comments for further important information.

Any Bricscad users out there?

I would be very interested to hear from any of you who have adopted Bricscad (either partially or fully replacing AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT in your organisation), or at least seriously investigated using the product. This post is aimed at users and CAD managers rather than third party developers, who I expect to cover in future posts.

Why did you investigate changing over? How far have you gone? What are your experiences? What are the pros and cons? How is performance? Reliability? Bugs? Ease of use? Familiarity? Support and other aspects of customer service? Total cost of ownership? Are you experiencing interoperability problems when exchanging drawings with Autodesk software users? How did you go with incorporating in-house customisation and third party tools?

Please add a comment, or if you prefer, email me using my contact form.

Edwin’s 100 tips, plus my own

Over at Edwin Prakaso’s CAD Notes site, he has collected 100 AutoCAD tips and published them in a highly useful post. Very nice job, Edo.

While you blog readers are collecting tips, you might as well have a look at mine, too:

 http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com/tag/tip/ (and page 2)

I was surprised how many tips I have posted over the couple of years this blog has been running, although not all of them are for AutoCAD. Anyway, I hope you find some of them useful. If you don’t want to wade through all that lot, maybe you can get started on this five and five more tips from the early days of this blog.

Autodesk discussion group changes – user reaction

I will be airing my own views on the Autodesk discussion group changes in a future post. In the meantime, I have collected some reactions from other users. For the record, there has been only a little censorship in this area. Here are some of the comments that made it through unhindered:

  • I’ve given it a fair shake and it’s just as bad as I imagined
  • Goodbye, people. It was nice while it lasted
  • it sucks
  • it doesn’t look like you have any intention to meet the expectations of these people
  • not [as] much traffic as there was before the change.  I hope things improve
  • I’m sure you’ve noticed the sourness many folks are having with this interface
  • What a f’in f-up
  • This is so aggravating that I am resorting to posting questions that may have already been answered vs. trying to find them via the search tool
  • Very annoying
  • We use NNTP because it’s easy and fast, and better
  • very slow, compared to “other” html forums
  • This was hyped as a “state-of-art web experience”. It is clearly not
  • Extremely slow compared to the previous web forum
  • we are screwed with this interface
  • This is like having your high performance vehicle (NNTP) stolen and having to take the bus to get to your destination
  • 4 days later, still sucks
  • Still very slow, cumbersome, difficult to track and navigate, unintuitive
  • It took me literally 30 seconds to get that smiley to insert
  • I really was expecting something better
  • I see too many people who may not be around anymore. In most cases their expertise far outweighs any improvements to the forums
  • Welcome to the new and improved Autodesk forum brought to you by high school students near you
  • You keep using that word [“upgrade”]. I do not think it means what you think it means
  • Better? Wanna bet? It’s cumbersome, at best
  • Another annoying thing here is that I can’t seem to find a way to show threading
  • Very, VERRRY slow, compared to forums using PHP and the like
  • Why even have an edit feature at all, when it’s virtually useless?
  • the “experts” are being alienated and having a harder time contributing to aid the beginners
  • I don’t like reading this forum in a browser. NNTP was and is much better
  • This sucks
  • about 40 unanswerable questions that have popped up in the first 30 (wasted) minutes of trying to “give it a chance”
  • If we aren’t going to get our newsgroups back at least attempt to make this forum professional
  • Sorry folks but I just don’t have the time to log in and browse thru all the different pages required now
  • Map 3d is “losing” its best contributor because of a dumb forum update
  • Autodesk prove again if something works  they will find something to make wrong
  • I stopped posting here after the change for the same reasons.  Just logged in for this
  • since the demise of the NNTP feed I rarely visit several of the forums I used to watch
  • It is just too time consuming now. This is really discouraging
  • I cannot be nearly as productive as I could with a newsreader…it takes no less than 4-5x longer
  • getting rid of the NNTP server was one of the worst things Autodesk has done in years
  • Goodbye
  • your update and support policy really force me into alternatives to Autodesk

That’s going down well, then. To be fair, there have been a few people who are relatively supportive of at least some of the changes. As usual with any unpopular change, there are a couple of asinine comments attacking the critics as just a bunch of old whiners who are resistant to all change. But the selection of comments above reflects the overwhelming negative sentiment, and that’s from those people who bothered to stick around long enough to make their views known.

I would have thought Autodesk would have learned its lesson after the well-deserved thrashing it got the last time round, but apparently not.

Automated anti-telemarketer script – brilliant!

Annoyed by telemarketers? Too polite to abuse them or just hang up? Can’t be bothered wasting their time in person? Then you need AstyCrapper. If you’re using the open-source Asterisk PBX, it will crap on for ages on your behalf. It works by detecting responses from the telemarketer and silence gaps and responding with a series of recorded samples. It’s pretty convincing!

OK, maybe that doesn’t apply to you, but you can still have a good laugh at the example calls.

Raster Design 2011 due out on 20 July?

After an interminable delay and a complete absence of information from Autodesk (no, “contact your reseller” doesn’t count, especially when they don’t know anything either), it seems Raster Design 2011 is going to be released on 20 July. If that’s correct, those of you who use, say, image formats not directly supported by AutoCAD (e.g. ECW, MrSID) are finally going to be able to start using AutoCAD 2011, “only” 117 days after its release.

Don’t worry, I’m sure Autodesk will be refunding 1/3 of this year’s Subscription fees for both products. (Yes, that’s a joke).

I only hope the delay has given Autodesk enough time to fully fix the network/standalone SNAFU that blighted the Raster Design 2010 release. It’s still broken for users of network AutoCAD 2010 (or related vertical) and standalone Raster Design 2010. As there appears to be nothing new in the product except Windows 7 and 2011 support, and 2011 support should have been very easy to add, what else could Autodesk have spent all this time doing? Unless it’s related to this law suit?

While this unannounced delay isn’t much of an advertisement for the 12-month release cycle, it does indicate the need to keep the release dates for AutoCAD and its related products closely aligned, regardless of the cycle length.

Disclaimer: it should go without saying, but just in case anyone’s wondering, none of the content of this post is based on privileged information. My source is this document (181 KB PDF), mentioned in this thread.

Censorship on the Autodesk discussion groups

The Autodesk discussion groups have quite a few problems at the moment, which I will discuss at length in future. One unnecessary problem that has been added to the mix is censorship. Having praised Autodesk in the past for allowing discussion to go unhindered, it’s only fair to slam heavy-handed moderation when I see it.

Before I get started, let me just say that Autodesk is entitled to moderate its discussion groups as it sees fit. The forum belongs to Autodesk and it can do what it likes with it. But just because Autodesk can censor its forums, that doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea to do so. Neither does that it mean that Autodesk is immune to public criticism of that censorship. There is no First Amendment obligation on Autodesk, but there are many other places that censored viewpoints can be repeated. Here, for example.

In this particular case, a section was deleted from a reply I made in a thread about the educational plot stamp. In that section, I mentioned that the educational plot stamp is very easy to remove with an everyday AutoCAD command. I didn’t name that command or give any details of how to use it to remove the stamp.

Now I understand that Autodesk gets the twitches when people discuss circumvention of its educational stamp “virus”, but I didn’t mention anything that isn’t already public knowledge. I discussed this issue at length in Cadalyst some five years ago, again without giving away the details. If you really want to know the details, please don’t ask me because I won’t reply. Google it, it’s out there. You probably don’t even need to do that. It’s a pretty obvious thing to attempt. It was, in fact, the very first thing I tried when I first saw an example of an infected file. It worked perfectly.

Back to the censorship. My post was edited, and I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t contacted about it, so it was not possible to have a reasoned discussion about it with the moderator (as I have done in the past on the AUGI forums and elsewhere). Annoyed, I made a further post, this one objecting to the censorship. In that post, among other things, I pointed out that the Autodesk position on the plot stamp was fictional. Here is what the Autodesk knowledge base item TS63668 (which I can no longer find) had to say on the subject:

Issue
When you plot a drawing that was created in or that contains drawing data that was created in the Educational (Student and Faculty) version of AutoCAD® or AutoCAD-based software, the following plot stamp or watermark appears in the plot:

For Educational Use Only

Solution

There is no way to circumvent the plot stamp. This is as designed to discourage the commercial use of an educational version of an AutoCAD product. Autodesk sells educational versions of software on the premise that the software will be used for educational purposes only.

The statement above in italics is a blatant lie. Hopefully, the knowledge base item is now missing because somebody sensible at Autodesk decided that it’s not a good look to have such fraudulent nonsense on its site, dishonestly masquerading as technical support. Or maybe it’s not missing but I can’t find it because the search engine is bad. After all, Autodesk really, really sucks at search. Perhaps it should buy a search engine company?

I digress; back to the censorship issue again. My post objecting to the first censorship was deleted. I was not contacted to discuss this deletion. I made another post objecting to the second censorship of my objection to the first censorship. This post made no reference whatsoever to the plot stamp issue itself. This post was deleted, too. In a surprise development, I was not contacted to discuss this deletion. Three levels of censorship to cover up an Autodesk lie. I can’t see a problem with that, can you? Except for this:

The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. — John Gilmore

Discussion_Admin, you were entirely within your rights to perform this censorship. Your moderation guidelines may even require it. But as a result, my statement about the plot stamp being easily removed has been read by a much larger number of people. So it really wasn’t such a good idea to censor it, was it?

Readers, if you have your own Autodesk censorship tales to tell, feel free to tell them here. It should be a fun read.

More Autodesk research – Groups

Here’s an announcement from the AutoCAD Product Design & User Experience Team:

AutoCAD User Research Study: “AutoCAD Groups”(AutoCAD Group command)

AutoCAD Product Design & User Experience Team is looking for your input regarding the AutoCAD GROUP command usage.

The GROUP command (Object Grouping Dialog) in AutoCAD allows creating a selection set of objects called a group.
When an object belongs to a group, if any object in the group is selected, all the objects in the group are selected.
Groups can be named or unnamed. Groups can be ungrouped/(exploded), which removes the relationship between the objects in the group.

Autodesk wants to better understand how you use Groups so we can improve the feature.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AutoCAD_GroupCommand

Go to it, people. It’s good to see some attention being given to some long-neglected parts of AutoCAD. What next, LISP?

Autodesk discussion group update – what do you think?

On 4 June 2010, Autodesk turned off NNTP access to its discussion groups as part of the process of updating its software to use a different engine (the new one is from Lithium – here are its own forums). I am preparing a large post about what I think of the new web interface, but for now let’s hear from you on that subject. Please vote in the poll on the right, and add your comments once you’ve had a chance to put the “state-of-the-art web experience Autodesk customers have come to expect” through its paces.

In related news, I have now closed the short-lived poll about the end of NNTP access to these groups. The results were:

Should Autodesk shut down NNTP access to its discussion groups?
Yes (8.8%, 5 Votes)
No (59.6%, 34 Votes)
Don’t care (31.6%, 18 Votes)
Total Voters: 57

This is a small sample and must have some self-selection bias, in that those who cared about this move were more likely to read my post on the subject and vote about it. I attempted to temper this by including a “Don’t care” option, but some bias is still bound to be there. There is also likely to be some bias in the opposite direction, because people are less inclined to bother voting to try to fight a decision that had clearly already been set in concrete and which was never going to change.

That said, it does seem remarkable that only 5 people could be found who supported Autodesk’s decision to drop NNTP access. According to my long-running What is your relationship to Autodesk? poll, There are at least 25 (claimed) Autodesk employees who are active enough on this blog to respond to its polls! Without wishing to compromise the private nature of my polls, I can reveal that the 5 Yes votes included Autodesk employees and at least one non-Autodesk person (that’s as specific as I will ever get). There did not appear to be any attempt to distort the voting from either camp. I mention this because the survey mentioned in my previous post was disrupted in this way.

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 selectively choosing a convenient time slice. Owen doesn’t state the numbers in his sample, or indicate (or know) how many of the non-Subscribers are also non-upgraders.

I’ve added my own poll (see right) just to add to the mix.

Nothing we can hang a conclusion on yet, then. But Ralph Grabowski (WorldCAD Access, upFront.eZine) uses Autodesk’s own figures to point out that upgrade revenue has increased 18% and Subscription revenue only 7% in the last year. I’m not qualified to perform an analysis of the 2011 Q1 fiscal results, but I can find the figures listed as Maintenance revenue ($195 M) and Upgrade revenue ($51 M). That looks to me like about 21% of the Subscription/upgrade income is coming from upgrades.

Also, according to the published figures, Autodesk has 2,383,000 customers on Subscription. If that represents about 97% of customers, does that really mean Autodesk has only about 2.5 M customers? If I’m looking at these figures in the wrong way, feel free to put me right.

So, what’s the truth? What proportion of Autodesk customers really are on Subscription? 3%? 21%? 43%? 66%? 82%? I’m going to ask Callan a follow-up question about this and will report back on what he has to say. In the spirit of this post, I’ll be asking him for a lot more detail. Watch this space.