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 … Full post →
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
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 them will be online.
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.
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 … Full post →
I’d like to thank Steve for the opportunity to write this guest post. My post doesn’t necessarily represent Steve, nor does it represent any company. It’s strictly a personal point of view. The purpose of this post is to prompt discussion and debate, and get your opinion.
Recent discussion on this blog has focused on Autodesk and its many changes over the past few years (upgrade pricing, policy changes, term-only aka rental licenses, move to the cloud, etc.), and there’s been a lot of skepticism. If we stand back and look at the landscape, though, Autodesk is not alone. True, they’re moving faster and more aggressively than their competitors, but many software companies are making similar changes.
Change can be disruptive, it can have positive and negative impact, and there can be winners and losers. But … it’s inevitable, and it’s better to understand change than to fight it. To … Full post →
…your software (18.104.22.168, 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):
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):
I am connected. In fact, I’m so connected I’m typing this post online while reproducing the problem. While this is going on, I’m able to sign in to Autodesk Account, A360 Drive, AutoCAD Beta forums, the Autodesk … Full post →
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).
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.
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, but the above message indicates Application Manager has suffered an … Full post →
Autodesk has just released the latest iteration of its free online CAD app, AutoCAD WS. It’s available directly via your browser or as iOS, Mac or Android apps. This is the closest Autodesk has yet come to showing us what real CAD in the Cloud can do. Autodesk has now had three years’ work behind it since buying the company responsible for this technology. I’d like you to put aside any Cloud concerns you may have and give it a fair go. Please try it out and report back what you find in a mini-review. How well does it work? The customer stories are all from organisations using it as a viewer or for simple markup edits. Is that all it can do, or does it come close to deserving to have CAD in its name?
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. … Full post →
Service Pack 1 for AutoCAD 2013 has been temporarily removed due to a newly discovered fatal error. The AutoCAD team is actively working on resolving this and a new service pack will be posted here as soon as it is available.
This is the sort of thing that Beta testing is supposed to prevent, but in this case it obviously didn’t. Somebody in a position of influence at Autodesk needs to investigate whether this is just a freak one-off, or if there is some systemic weakness within the Beta testing program.
One of the supposed benefits of Cloud software is that there are no updates for users to worry about. It’s all taken care of on the vendor’s server and you’re always using the most up to date version. OK, now … Full post →
I’ve made the point before that while Cloud proponents like Autodesk have been happy to talk big on the potential benefits, they have been conspicuously (suspiciously?) silent on the legitimate concerns their customers have raised. The best responses you have been likely to see regarding such concerns can best be characterised as “glossing over”.
So it’s good to see that Autodesk has put together a white-paper-type-thing called Autodesk® 360: Work Wherever You Are – Safely. This 275 KB PDF, with 5 pages of actual content, puts Autodesk’s point of view about one of the aspects of Cloud that people commonly raise as a concern. This is a good start, but of course there are quite a few potential dealbreakers that need addressing yet.
How well does this document address this issue? As you’d expect from Autodesk, it’s gung-ho positive, but there is at least some acknowledgement of Cloud … Full post →
In an email to Subscription customers, Autodesk made several announcements about its Autodesk 360 Cloud services.
Subscription users now get 25 GB per seat of Cloud storage, up from 3 GB. Non-Subscription users who create an Autodesk 360 account get 3 GB. The intent here, as with the trebling of upgrade costs, is to get you hooked on Subscription so you become a permanent revenue stream.
More services are now available, apparently, but the list of services looks about the same to me. The table that lists which services are available for which products can be found here. If you’re an AutoCAD user, the only service available is Autodesk 360 Rendering.
The services are now metered. You get a certain number of “cloud units”, and these are eaten up as you use the services. A standard AutoCAD user (with Subscription) gets 100 units. Each render costs you 5 units, … Full post →
…for some things. The other day, I amused myself by creating a video using a site called Xtranormal. You’ve probably seen 3D cartoon-like videos of people with stilted voices. It’s done by signing up for a free account, choosing a background and some characters, then typing in your script. This is converted, generally fairly successfully, to spoken words. The characters lip-sync to your script, you publish the video and you’re done. If you have a YouTube account, the site will upload the video for you. Video creation service provided on line, video hosting and viewing service provided on line. No problem.
Here it is; this blog’s readership is not the intended audience, so you probably won’t find it particularly amusing.
Could the video creation have been done using a standalone application rather than doing it on line? Absolutely. It may well have been quicker on … Full post →
As I mentioned earlier, any company that wants to move its customers to the Cloud is going to need the trust of those customers. Three months ago, I started a poll to try to get some measure of how trustworthy you consider Autodesk to be, in terms of doing the right thing by its customers. The results of that poll look pretty awful for Autodesk. Right from the start, the distrusters have outnumbered the trusters by three to one, with the current results showing an overwhelming majority of respondents (77%) not trusting Autodesk.
Why? What has Autodesk done in the past, or is doing now, that leads people to this level of distrust? If you have voted in this poll, I’d like to know your reasons, so please add your comments whichever way you voted. If you think there’s an issue with the question wording and/or its simple … Full post →
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?
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…
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):
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 →
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 Bauskis qualified, so it … Full post →
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 →