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 “Big Bang” Answer Day online event on Wednesday, May 18th from 6:00am to 6:00pm Pacific Time. Pacific Time is currently UTC (GMT) -7 hours, so for people outside North America, that means UTC 1 PM Wednesday 18 May to 1 AM Thursday 19 May. To calculate the times in your own location, I suggest using the very handy timeanddate.com site or thetimenow.com.

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Autodesk shows Dassault how to treat customers

There are areas of Autodesk’s treatment of customers that leaves much to be desired, and I will most likely continue to be critical of that until a) I die; b) Autodesk dies; or c) the bad stuff stops happening. One thing for which Autodesk deserves praise is the distribution of bug fixes to its customers, without imposing the sort of conditions that SolidWorks customers have to put up with. Do Autodesk customers need to be on Subscription to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. Do Autodesk customers need to have purchased the software within the last 90 days to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. Do Autodesk customers need to have reported certain specific bugs to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. Do Autodesk customers even need to be running the current release to receive bug fixes? No, they do not. AutoCAD 2010 Update 2 (that’s Service Pack 2 in the old language) has just been released for the users of last year’s software. This includes the Update 1 changes. The usual caveats apply, including reading the Readme first. As usual, Autodesk’s oddball numbering system means that after installation, Update 1 shows up as Version 2 and Update 2 shows up as Version 3 in the About screen. This Update applies to straight AutoCAD (and LT), not the vertical variants. I have no news about non-English versions. Patrick Emin informs me these updates are language-independent.

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Autodesk Subscription – it could be worse

I’m still looking for your questions about Autodesk Subscription and upgrade policies and pricing. No matter what you think about that, you have to admit that Autodesk’s current policies are less anti-customer than those inflicted on SolidWorks users. Disallowing bug fixes for non-subscription customers is reprehensible, no matter what kind of spin is put on it. Not only that, it’s clueless. So you’re annoyed at Autodesk for whatever reason and are looking for alternative software from a company that doesn’t mistreat its customers? You know not to even bother looking at SolidWorks, don’t you? Edit: more relevant links and customer comments from Devon Sowell and Matt Lombard’s blogs.

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Autodesk Subscription support – how is it?

I’d like to hear your experiences with the support that is part of the Autodesk Subscription package. My own experiences have been mixed, but I’d like to hear from you rather than push any particular barrow. Have you used it? Good, bad, indifferent, all of the above? Is it timely, efficient, knowledgeable, clearly communicated? Please add your comments!

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Hope for Autodesk FM Desktop orphans

For those of us who have been following Autodesk for decades, it’s a familiar story. Autodesk buys a company or its technology, makes an Autodesk product out of it, and initially promotes it as the best thing since sliced bread. Autodesk subsequently ignores it to death, before finally killing it off and leaving customers in the lurch. Autodesk FM Desktop suffered this fate, and if you go looking for information about the product on the Autodesk site you’ll find only a few dregs left over from the days when this was a viable product. At least in this case Autodesk has belatedly arranged a path out of the mire for its customers. FM:Systems will be taking over Autodesk’s FM customers, and your Autodesk FM Desktop licenses can be converted to FM:Interact Workplace Management Suite licenses. There is no data transfer mechanism yet (other than a DWF import), but something is supposed to be made available in the next few months. (Edit: Marty Chobot from FM:Systems informs me that they will help customers who need to transfer data immediately). For more information, see www.fmsystems.com/fmdesktop, especially the FAQ.Edit:

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New Autodesk blog for AutoCAD support

I’ve added a link to Without A Net, a new blog on support issues, technical solutions, fixes, and tips for AutoCAD. It’s run by Tom Stoeckel, global technical lead for AutoCAD product support. In my limited experience, I’ve found Tom to be a fine fellow with his customers’ needs at heart. This blog promises to be a worthwhile addition to the existing AutoCAD support mechanisms, and I commend Autodesk and Tom for introducing it.

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Death to robo-responses!

The responses to Carol Bartz’s blog post are an interesting read, and not just because of the astonishing amount of attention being paid to her language. One person pointed out how irritating it was to be “helped” by Yahoo’s dumb automated “support” system: I have never – repeat, NEVER – had a human response to ANY email or form-submitted help request that I’ve sent to Yahoo! NEVER! All my experience of communicating with Yahoo! customer ’support’ is characterised by exchanges such as: Me: Hi, I need help with Messenger on the Mac Y!: Thankyou for contacting customer support. Here are some tips for getting Messenger to work on Windows. Me: Uh, thanks, but I’m on a Mac. Can you help me with Messenger on the Mac please? Y!: Thankyou for contacting customer support. Please follow these steps for uninstalling Messenger and re-installing it on Windows. Me: Um.. haha… good one. No. Really. Can you help me with Messenger on the Mac please? Y!: Thankyou for contacting customer support. Here are some tips for getting Messenger to work on Windows. And so on… I’d like to think the people who actually work in customer support are just as amazing as you say they are, but I’ve never had contact with one so I have no way of really knowing. Not long after reading that, I had a similar experience myself. I had ordered something worth several hundred dollars from the UK, and it was sent via Parcelforce. I used the on-line tracking system to check its progress, and late on 28 February I was surprised to see the following line had been added: 28-02-2009 17:00 Delivery Agent – AUSTRALIA Parcel delivered I was surprised because no such delivery took place. I had been at home at the stated time and there…

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Why do you think Autodesk isn’t listening?

I frequently see people remark that Autodesk doesn’t listen to its customers. I’ve made that remark myself in relation to certain specific items, most recently the botched discussion group update. Of the six Rate Autodesk polls, the Listening to its customers poll shows easily the biggest bias towards the wrong end of the graph. Now I happen to know that Autodesk goes to some lengths to find out what its customers are thinking (more on that later), but still this feeling of being ignored persists among its customers. Why is this so? Why do so many of you hold this view? I have my own thoughts about this, but right now I’m more interested in yours. I’d like to see some examples that make you think that Autodesk doesn’t care about your viewpoints, wishes and desires. If you can suggest ways in which Autodesk could do things better, let’s hear them. On the other hand, if you believe that Autodesk is listening, please provide examples that show that to be the case. I will be asking some Autodesk people the same question very soon, in addition to any questions you pose in my Ask Autodesk a question post (more questions, please!). I will report back on the answers, so it will be interesting to compare your comments with what the Autodesk people have to say.

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What a crock!

Just when I thought it wasn’t possible for my Autodesk discussion group experience to get any worse, it has. Much worse. I stated before that in the 15 November update, some Einstein decided it would be fun to copy my private work email address over the top of my public user ID, automatically making it visible to all and sundry in many places. I should note at this point that publishing somebody’s email address without consent is illegal in some locations, including here in Australia. So to the best of my knowledge (not that I’m a lawyer), Autodesk is not only perpetrating a grossly irresponsible breach of privacy, it’s also breaking the law. Attempting to fix this myself failed, because of some new introduced bug in the login system. When changing my user ID from my email address to “Steve Johnson”, the screen falsely claimed that the data entered was invalid. I have reported that here, on the newsgroups themselves, and as an official top-priority Subscription support call. During one of my user ID fix-up attempts, a popup screen asked if I was changing the password (I wasn’t, I was trying to change the user ID) for user “Steve Johnson” or user “my email address”. I tried both in turn, but neither worked. That got me thinking that maybe the update may have created two versions of me; one with the correct name and one with my email address, with the latter being associated with my discussion group messages. So I tried changing the email address one to a name that wasn’t my email address and wasn’t Steve Johnson (SteveJohnson-blognauseam), in the hope that this would at least remove my email address from public view. I was pleasantly surprised when this change was accepted, but my elation was short-lived. The…

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Autodesk discussion group maintenance failure

I must admit that I wasn’t really expecting the November 15 Autodesk discussion group maintenance effort to come up with the goods and make everything all better again. However, it appears that even my lowly expectations were nothing but naive optimism. Here are the changes I see: The old messages and Plain Text new messages that had their paragraphs stripped out have had them returned. This is the end of the good news, as far as I can tell. If you only ever like reading positive things, particularly about Autodesk, I suggest you stop reading now. Rich Text messages have had superfluous paragraphs introduced, and other formatting issues. The more you edit a message, the worse it gets. Try switching back and forth between Rich Text and Plain Text a few times, it’s a crock. My email address has been newly exposed to the spambots as my user ID, and I’m not alone. WTF? Totally unforgivable! Heads should have rolled the first time this happened. Doing it again is way, way beyond endurance. The Edit Account page refuses to allow me to make changes, falsely claiming that several fields contain incorrect data. This means I can’t fix the email exposure problem myself, and have to wait for Autodesk to fix it. Never mind, I’ve done a lot of waiting for Autodesk over the past few months, so I’m kind of used to it. Other than that, the discussion group system looks like the same old pile of garbage that it has been for weeks. For example, Search is still broken. Paste is still arcane. Using the indent or bullet items in Rich Text results in text above the selection being indented too. The question evaluation system (of dubious value in any case) causes threads to start with such nonsense as “This question…

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Autodesk discussion group maintenance this weekend

According to a notice on the Autodesk discussion groups, they will be down for maintenance for a while this wekend. The scheduled downtime period (in terms of GMT/UTC) is 7 AM Saturday, 15 November 2008 to 5 AM Sunday, 16 November 2008. Fingers crossed for some big improvements, they are desperately overdue!

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Autodesk discussion groups – signs of life?

After an extraordinarily long period of total silence about the dreadful state of the appallingly-updated Autodesk discussion groups, it seems that the sleeping monster has raised an eyelid. Although it unfortunately indicates that Autodesk intends to try to patch up the new system rather than throwing it away, there is now a “sticky” post at the top of each forum containing the following text: Your continued patience is appreciated as we work to resolve the discussion group issues you have been reporting. We understand the impact these issues have on your productivity, and want to assure you we are continuing to troubleshoot and resolve. We’ve posted an update under “Help” to provide awareness and status of the issues we are working on. We’ll regularly update this as improvements are made. Never mind the glacial nature of the response, it’s good to see that an acknowledgment has finally been made of the problems. However, picking on the Help link reveals that there’s a long way to go yet before all the problems are even fully understood by the team responsible, let alone fixed. Only three “Known Issues” are listed, and four issues are allegedly resolved. At least one of those, shown as resolved on 7 October, is still very much broken right now. At least one of the FAQ items, “Why can’t I stay signed in?”, gives false information. Discussion group team, you will find a lot more than seven issues listed on this blog alone. To see them, just click on the Newsgroups link in the Tags section on the right. Alternatively, you could use the Search box at the top and enter something like “discussion groups”. A search that actually finds everything? There’s a novel idea.

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The three Fs of customer service

I had another interesting customer service experience at the weekend. We had booked an electrician well in advance to service our air conditioner and change a bunch of light fittings. He was due at 9:30 on Saturday morning. At 9:00 I went round making sure everything was ready for him and sat down with a book while I waited. At 10:15, there was no sign of him so I rang him to see what was happening. He said he had been having weather troubles on the first couple of jobs that morning (it had been sprinkling with rain a little) but he would be there as soon as he could. I accepted this readily enough, although it would have been nice to have received a phone call. The weather was fine from that point on, so I was expecting him to turn up pretty soon after that. Foolishly, I kept expecting that all day. Now, my family and I had pretty much arranged our whole weekend based on having no power on Saturday morning, postponing various things such as housework and washing to fit in with the time we had been given. When he hadn’t turned up by 11:00, it was time to think about preparing the kids’ lunches before he turned up. He hadn’t turned up by 2:00 when I had to take the kids out somewhere, and he had given up answering his phone, so I just went out. He hadn’t arrived when I returned, and still hasn’t arrived, so I think it’s fairly safe to say he’s never going to turn up. You might think that this piece of total non-service represents some kind of low point, but it’s actually only the third worst customer service experience I’ve had this year. I have had two much worse…

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Customer service – filling a hole

Two weekends ago, I bought a cheap plastic outdoor table and chair set from Clark Rubber. It came complete with an umbrella hole for which I have no need, but I didn’t particularly mind. I was just pleased to find something that was made locally rather than in China. A week later, I decided to buy another set just like it. When I got the new one home, I noticed it came with a blank to fill in the umbrella hole. It is likely that the first blank went missing when they removed the table from its box, at my request, so it would fit in my car. I thought it would be nice to have the tables completely matching, so I rang the store, explained the situation and asked if they had a spare blank. The manager took my number and said he would have a look and get back to me. Ten minutes later, he rang to say they had been unable to find a spare blank in stock, but that he had taken one from his display table and I could have that. A quarter of an hour later, I had it in my hand. Take a bow, Clark Rubber in Cannington. You displayed several important traits of excellent customer service. Making yourself available to listen to the customer’s wishes. Understanding those wishes. Acting on those wishes. Responding promptly. Putting the customer’s needs above your own. Showing flexibility in dealing with an issue that fell outside the usual set of circumstances. It’s only a little piece of plastic, but it reveals a lot. Every time I look at my perfectly matching set of tables, I will remember Clark Rubber, and I will remember it in association with great customer service. I will undoubtedly be back for more…

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The Autodesk discussion groups are awful

Yes, the Autodesk discussion groups are still awful. In other breaking news, the Pacific Ocean continues to be wet. I seldom visit them any more, but I just hopped on to the Autodesk discussion groups to see what progress had been made in fixing the many problems that have been pointed out here, on the groups themselves, in official problem reports, and elsewhere. Little or none, it seems. Search? There are still apparently only 188 uses of the word “autocad” in the tens of thousands of posts in the AutoCAD groups, ever. Editor? It not only still vacuums, when I just tried it out it vacuumed even harder than before, with delays of over a minute when switching between tabs and nasty screen formatting issues when the switch eventually occurred. Attachments that can’t be viewed? Check. Visible email addresses? Yup, still there. Everything I looked at was just as bad as it was last time I looked. Maybe something has been improved somewhere, but I gave up looking. I know there’s an Autodesk cultural tendency to pretend problems don’t exist for the sake of saving face, but that just doesn’t cut it here. (Actually, it doesn’t cut it anywhere, but that’s another story). What kind of face does this debacle present to the world? What does it make Autodesk look like? A company that doesn’t understand the Internet. A company that doesn’t know how to write software that works. A company that fails to seek user feedback on changes until it is too late. A company that can’t fix things that are broken. A company that doesn’t care about its customers’ privacy. A company that refuses to listen to customers who point out problems. Now I happen to know that this is not a fair and accurate representation of everyone…

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Why I won’t buy another Canon all-in-one printer

Last year, I bought a Canon MP830 printer/scanner/copier/fax/tea maker/whatever for my home office. I chose this particular device because it had all the features I was after, including CD printing, duplex printing, printing to the edge of the sheet, decent photo printing quality, and great document handling including automatic dual-sided copying. It also had theoretical high speed operation and ink economy with 5 separate tanks. It also looked like a sturdy piece of kit that wasn’t going to wobble all over the place in use, and which might stand a chance of lasting a long time. It was at the upper end of the Canon range, but even then it wasn’t expensive. I was a little worried that when one part of it eventually failed, I would be stuck with a partially functional device, such as a scanner/fax that wouldn’t print, or a printer that wouldn’t scan, and be left with the dilemma of replacing all of it or part of it. But I had good experiences with long-lived printers in the past (albeit Hewlett-Packard ones), so I figured that if I had to throw it away in five years’ time I could live with that. In practical use, most of the device’s features turned out to be as advertised, and while it was working I was generally happy with it. But I won’t be buying another one, and it’s unlikely that I will ever buy another Canon printer of any description. Why not? Performance. This simply isn’t up to scratch. While it may theoretically print a 500-page document at 30 pages per minute, printing a single page is a different matter. Although it can look spectacularly quick in action, it takes one full minute from turn-on to get itself ready to do anything at all, then about 10 seconds…

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What is a reasonable amount of time to wait for license codes?

Software companies use a variety of differerent methods in their attempts to prevent piracy and restrict use of their software to legitimate paying customers. Yes, these attempts are generally futile. Yes, they can end up inconveniencing legitimate users and providing pirate users with advantages over paying customers. Yes, they add to development costs and detract from the main development aims. Despite all that, I still support the right of software companies to do this. Lots of companies spend money doing futile, counter-productive things; it’s their money, their software, their customer base, their choice. That doesn’t mean we customers have to like it, and many of us don’t. Some of us happily accept it as part of the price of using our tools, some of us tolerate it with varying degrees of grace, and some of us fume about it but do it anyway because we have no choice. Beyond that point, there are those who won’t put up with it at all, and who find various ways around it. Where a given user fits within that spectrum of views depends partly on that person’s personality, but also on the amount of inconvenience that the software throws up. I’ve started a new poll because I’m interested to discover what level of inconvenience people are prepared to put up with. What is a reasonable level of tolerance? The poll question refers to a scenario where you have the need to use a piece of software, and before you can do so, you need to obtain codes. The question is not specific to AutoCAD or Autodesk, it applies to any software that needs magic numbers before it will work. Software often allows grace periods before a code is needed, but there are also circumstances where such grace does not apply, so for the…

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My autodesk.com site survey experience

I just tried out the new discussion groups to see if anything has been fixed. After entering my password (yet again), instead of placing me back in the discussion groups with my 100-topics-per-page settings, I was transported to the main Autodesk page and given the chance to provide feedback. I was informed that a new browser window would be opened, and then… nothing. I waited a while, but still nothing. Or so it seemed. Actually, the new browser window appeared behind my existing browser window, so I found it eventually. I clicked on it, it opened another, bigger window and the survey started. Here are the questions and my responses: Which of the following best describes your primary purpose for today’s visit? . Other To see if the discussion groups are still broken How often have you visited Autodesk.com in the past 6 months? . 6 times or more A question about my industry group that didn’t want to copy and paste… . Other Question is not relevant Do you currently own an Autodesk product? . Yes Are you planning to make a purchase decision related to an Autodesk product? (I don’t know what choice to make here, none of them really fit. I’m on Subscription but that doesn’t mean I’m not involved in purchasing decisions; I am. I don’t know when the next purchasing decision will be, though. I picked:) . No. Which of the following titles best describes your role in your company? . IT Manager From which region are you accessing this site? (Can’t you tell?) . Australia / New Zealand / South Pacific How would you rate your overall experience with Autodesk.com today? . Very bad (Actually, I don’t really know because because I haven’t yet got to the discussion groups I asked for, so I’m…

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Slight improvement in discussion group search

While almost all of the problems with the Autodesk discussion groups remain, there are some signs of movement in one area at least. The search facility, which until recently refused to find anything from before the update, now finds some earlier posts. It would appear that some kind of search index is very slowly being built, but it’s a long way short of being finished. For example, if I do the standard default search for “autocad” in all the AutoCAD groups, there are 83 found in the last 90 days. This seems plausible, but I don’t trust it. Changing the time option to “All” now does actually return something rather than nothing at all, so I guess that’s an improvement. But 188 messages containing “autocad”? Since 1998? There should surely be thousands. Also, there are apparently no messages at all containing the word “it”. Or “is”. Ever. Some way to go there, then. If the people fixing the search happen to be reading this, please note that a maximum possible number of 30 results per page is much too low and makes it very hard to work with the search results. 100 would be better. There are still email addresses being exposed to the spam trawlers, but I guess by now that horse has well and truly bolted. Although I haven’t done a scientific study of post frequency, it looks to me as if the discussion groups are now significantly less active than they were before the update. Given the slightly functional search, the persistence of the awful editor, and the terrible runeverythingintooneline formatting of the existing message database (particularly important for the many posts containing code), I can’t say I’m surprised at the exodus.

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Here’s a couple I didn’t mention earlier

The Autodesk discussion group editor inserts spaces into URLs longer than a certain size (about 70 characters, it seems). It will insert spaces in one place for the URL that it says is displayed on the screen, in another place for the URL that’s actually invoked when clicked, and sometimes in even more places on the URL that really is displayed on the screen. Sometimes the space appears as a space and sometimes it appears as %20. The editor will cunningly allow you to apparently fix up these errors in the places they occur, and then the fun-loving little sprite will reintroduce the same or similar errors as soon as you save the changes. Multiple edit attempts will get you nowhere (except a padded cell, perhaps). Somebody must have had a wonderful time writing that one. Another bug relates to the display of quoted messages. Admittedly, this was always going to be a difficult task to get right in the new environment, because of the many quoting styles that exist in the messagebase. No surprise, then, to discover that quoted text frequently displays in such a way that makes the message author look like a clueless dolt. In related news, I’ve added a poll that asks what you think of the recent web update. I’m not making my usual attempt to remain neutral and avoid influencing the poll results this time, as it’s a bit late for that. Everybody knows my views by now, but I suspect it wouldn’t make much difference in any case. People are angry enough about this mess without any influence from me. However, it’s always good to see a wide range of views expressed; somebody thinks the update is “Fantastic”.

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