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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Repost – how to get your picture next to your comment

This is a revisit of a post I made about three years ago, and repeated a year later. This has become more relevant recently because I changed the default avatars displayed next to comments to use random faces rather than random patterns. If you object to being portrayed as a grinning loon, read on. You may have noticed that some people’s comments have an avatar picture next to them (no, not the film with the Roger Dean visuals), while others have a randomly assigned pattern. On this blog, the avatar picture is a gravatar (globally recognised avatar), and you can have one too. Once you set it up, you will find that it works in all sorts of places, not just this blog. Some other blogs may use other avatar standards, though. Here’s how to do it: Visit gravatar.com and pick a sign up link. Provide a valid email address; the same one you provide when adding comments to blogs. I have not received any spam as a result of doing this, which is no surprise because Gravatar is owned by Automattic, Inc., the highly reputable WordPress people. You’ll be sent a confirmation email; click on the link in that and follow the prompts to set your password and so on. Choose your gravatar image from your hard drive, the internet, a webcam or a previously uploaded image. You can point to any size photo and will be prompted to select a cropped square area to display. That’s it, although you can manage your account to provide multiple email addresses and images if you wish. Wait 5 or 10 minutes, then check out this or other blogs and web locations where you have made comments in the past. Those blogs with layouts that support gravatars should now display the picture…

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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 won’t allow you to buy tools, only lease them. Except the manufacturer can change the lease terms or end it any time it likes, and then come into your workshop and take all your tools away. Oh, and this take-your-tools-away right also applies to the company that delivers the tools to your door. Using Cloud storage requires yet further levels of trust. It’s not tool manufacturer trust, it’s bank safety deposit trust. Will your carefully crafted creations be kept safe? Or will they be stolen or damaged? If they are, will you be compensated? If you can’t afford to pay the bank fees or want to use another banker because the teller was rude to you, will the bank politely return your valuables to your safe keeping or transfer them to the new bank? Or will they end up in the dumpster at the back of the bank? Trust is vital.…

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Why do you comment here?

One of the things that most pleases me about this blog is the amount of comments it gets. I’m sure there are several AutoCAD-related blogs that are much more frequently visited than this one, especially the Autodesk ones. However, I’m not aware of another AutoCAD blog with the volume of comments I see here. On average, each post here receives just under 5 comments, and the most popular subject for discusssion is now not far short of the 100 mark. I recently went four complete calendar months without making a single post, but comments kept trickling in anyway. When I returned to normal posting, the commenters returned as if I had never been “away”. What’s up with that? I’m curious. Why do you comment here and not so much elsewhere? Or am I mistaken and there’s an AutoCAD blog I’ve forgotten that’s a hotbed of commentary?

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Had any problems with this site lately?

A couple of days ago, my web hosting server was down. This is pretty unusual with the hosting company I use, but these things can happen to the best from time to time. This site was up again after a couple of hours, during which I received the excellent customer service that is par for the course at Saratoga Hosting. It’s when things go wrong you really learn how good a company’s customer service is. Saratoga’s customer service is the best I have seen from any company in any field, ever. I have had one person email me to let me know that they could not add a comment yesterday. Anyone else have such issues over the past 48 hours? Feel free to use this post to mention any other issues you have with commenting, reading, navigating, searching or otherwise using this site.

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AutoCAD 2011 Help system is not popular

My poll on this subject is still running (see right), but so far about 2/3 of respondents rate AutoCAD 2011’s new browser-based Help system as 0, 1 or 2 stars out of 5 (total fail, very poor or poor). Frankly, I’m surprised it’s doing as well as that. Have a look at this discussion group thread to get an idea of the sort of reaction I was expecting it to receive. (Kudos to Autodesk’s moderators for allowing the discussion to continue with relatively little obvious censorship, at least so far). There are many good new things in AutoCAD 2011, but Help isn’t one of them. Even if you like the concept of online help, this implementation of that concept is a failure. Even when used offline, this release’s browser-based Help is manifestly inferior to its CHM-based predecessor. Yet another victim of the 12-month release cycle, this feature is horribly undercooked and should not have been included in the finished product. As an advertisment for Autodesk’s ability to provide efficient cloud-based and/or platform-independent software, it could hardly be worse. I intend to pull Help to shreds in more detail in a later post, but feel free to add your own observations.

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What would you ask Autodesk about Subscription and upgrades?

My post on Autodesk’s new upgrade pricing regime attracted a fair amount of comment, much of it critical of Autodesk. So, let’s follow this up. Let’s say, just hypothetically, that you had an Autodesk high-up in front of you who was willing to answer questions about Subscription and upgrade policy. What would you ask? Please add a comment here with your question. If you want to do so privately, use the Contact link at the top of the page. I would ask that you keep your question civil, relevant and reasonably concise. Other than that, anything goes, so let’s have ‘em. I’ve done this before and did get some answers. Although not all of you liked the answers, they were better than no answers at all. I can’t promise that all your questions will be answered this time, but I’ll see what I can do.

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AutoCAD 2011’s new Help system – what do you think?

With all this talk of clouds in the air, it is interesting to note that Autodesk has moved AutoCAD’s Help system to a browser-based format, with online access as the default. So, how has Autodesk done with this first dipping of its toes into the cloudy waters with its primary mainstream product? I’ve already had a couple of unsolicited comments on the subject, and I’d like to hear from you. How do you rate the following, compared with previous releases? Performance (online) Performance (offline) Search results Content completeness and accuracy Ease of manual browsing Efficiency of user interface Concept of online Help Anything else you want to mention Please comment to express your views and use the poll on the right to provide an overall rating of the new system.

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Repost – how to get your picture next to your comment

This is a revisit of a post I made about a year ago. You may have noticed that some people’s comments have an avatar picture next to them (no, not the film with the Roger Dean visuals), while others have a randomly assigned pattern. On this blog, the avatar picture is a gravatar (globally recognised avatar), and you can have one too. Once you set it up, you will find that it works in all sorts of places, not just this blog. Some other blogs may use other avatar standards, though. Here’s how to do it: Visit gravatar.com and pick a sign up link. Provide a valid email address; the same one you provide when adding comments to blogs. I have not received any spam as a result of doing this, which is no surprise because Gravatar is owned by Automattic, Inc., the highly reputable WordPress people. You’ll be sent a confirmation email; click on the link in that and follow the prompts to set your password and so on. Choose your gravatar image from your hard drive, the internet, a webcam or a previously uploaded image. You can point to any size photo and will be prompted to select a cropped square area to display. That’s it, although you can manage your account to provide multiple email addresses and images if you wish. Wait 5 or 10 minutes, then check out this or other blogs and web locations where you have made comments in the past. Those blogs with layouts that support gravatars should now display the picture that you associated with the email address you supplied when you made your comment. If the image doesn’t show up, do a reload/refresh and/or clear your browser’s cache and try again.

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Comment censorship

I want your views on how much control I should exert over the comments that people make here. I’ve been led to thinking about this by a couple of things. Mostly by the occasion of the first troll comment on this blog, and to a lesser extent by Shaan Hurley turning off comments on posts older than three months on his Between The Lines blog. (I am not complaining about this; it’s Shaan’s justifiable reaction to mass spam attacks and it has nothing to do with censorship. There are some Autodesk blogs that don’t allow comments at all, which may in itself be justifiable). I’m a proponent of freedom of speech and don’t want to restrict your ability to say what you think. I’m perfectly happy to see you express your contrary opinions and would never dream of removing or editing a comment simply because it contains viewpoints with which I disagree. There are plenty of comments on this blog from people who disagree with my stated views, and at least one containing an insult aimed at me personally using a variant of a word that many people would consider very offensive. I haven’t touched those comments. I haven’t even touched the troll comment. Spam, on the other hand, is mercillesly dealt with. The vast majority of it is automatically excluded by Akismet, a handful I have to remove manually, but in all cases the comment is deleted and the sender’s IP is banned from accessing the site. I can do that with other commenters too, but I have not yet done so. My question to you is where do you think I should draw the line? If a discussion leads to a vendor commenting to let people know that his company provides a service relevant to the discussion, is…

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These messages are brought to you by AutoCAD

Over the past few releases, and particularly in AutoCAD 2009 and 2010, I have noticed an increase in the number of information notices (bubbles, warnings, task dialogs, Communication Center notices, etc.) being displayed. Shaan Hurley has pointed out that 2010 Update 1 introduces a balloon notification that periodically makes you aware of how much time remains before your subscription expires. Is this a good thing? There’s a poll on the right that asks a specific question about the default state of AutoCAD 2009 and 2010, but I’d also like to see some comments on this. What do you think of these messages? Are they useful? Do they get in the way? Do you take any notice of them? Are there too many? Do we need any others? Do you turn them off? Is it easy enough to control them?

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Gravatars – how to get a picture next to your comment

After some recent site maintenance here, you may have noticed that the comments look a bit different, and that some people’s comments have a little picture next to them. This little picture is called a gravatar (globally recognised avatar), and you can have one too. Once you set it up, you will find that it works in all sorts of places, not just this blog. Here’s how to do it: Visit gravatar.com and pick a sign up link. Provide a valid email address; the same one you provide when adding comments to blogs. I have not received any spam as a result of doing this. You’ll be sent a confirmation email; click on the link in that and follow the prompts to set your password and so on. Choose your gravatar image from your hard drive, the internet, a webcam or a previously uploaded image. You can point to any size photo and will be prompted to select a cropped square area to display. That’s it, although you can manage your account to provide multiple email addresses and images if you wish. Wait 5 or 10 minutes, then check out this or other blogs and web locations where you have made comments in the past. Those blogs with layouts that support gravatars should now display the picture that you associated with the email address you supplied when you made your comment. If the image doesn’t show up, do a reload/refresh and/or clear your browser’s cache and try again.

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(Don’t) Ask Autodesk a question

If you had a real live Autodesk development person standing in front of you right now (an AutoCAD Product Manager, for example) and were allowed to ask one question, what would it be? Please add a comment here with your question. I would ask that you keep your question civil and reasonably concise (one or two sentences), and bear in mind that the development person in front of you isn’t going to have a useful answer to policy questions about pricing, license agreements, customer service and so on. Other than that, anything goes, so let’s have ’em. I can’t promise that your question will get answered, but I’ll see what I can do. Note: comments are now closed, as this post keeps getting mistaken for an ongoing mechanism for asking Autodesk questions.

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AutoCAD 2009 – Do you use the menu bar?

You may have noticed that I’ve added a poll to find out if the AutoCAD 2009 users among you are using the menu bar (i.e. MENUBAR = 1). I’m also interested in hearing your comments about your usage and the reasons behind it. If your menu bar turned on, why? Do you use it all the time or do you just need it for those less-frequently-used commands that you don’t have handy at your fingertips, on toolbars, palettes or the Ribbon? Do you need it because your own custom routines are on menus, or third-party commands? Does the vertical AutoCAD variant you’re using need it? If your menu bar is turned off, why? Do you never have any need for the stuff in there? Do you use the Menu Browser instead, sacrificing an occasional extra click for the sake of a permanent strip of screen space?

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