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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Vernor v. Autodesk – right decision, wrong reason

As I have stated before, I believe Autodesk to be in the right (morally, not legally) in its battle to prevent Vernor’s resale of old, upgraded copies of Release 14. In the latest installment, Autodesk has won its appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. There will be be further legal moves yet, but Vernor’s chances of winning this case are now more slender. So the right side has won (at this stage). I should be happy, right? Wrong. Although I think the latest court to look at this has picked the right side, it has done so for entirely the wrong reasons. (Again, morally wrong, not legally. I have no qualifications on legal matters, but I can spot an injustice a mile off). In a diabolical, dangerous, far-reaching decision, it has concluded that the doctrine of First Sale does not exist at all for products where the copyright owner merely claims not to sell its products, but rather to license them. So all those programs, games, maybe even CDs, DVDs, books etc. you have at home and thought you owned? How about that laptop with its pre-installed Windows? Or that iThing with its iOs? If you’re in the jurisdiction covered by this ruling, you quite possibly now don’t own them at all. Check out the fine print on each of those items; if it includes the magic word “license”, then you may not legally own it, or be allowed to sell it if you no longer need it. If you’re not outraged by this attack on your private property rights, you should be. What’s more, the Court ruling explicitly rewards companies for making the “license” terms as ridiculously restrictive as they can: We hold today that a software user is a licensee rather than an owner of a…

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Hotfix available for Raster Design licensing issue

Thanks to Brian and Rick for pointing out the availability of a hotfix for Raster Design 2010’s standalone/network license incompatibility. As a bonus, it also fixes some Raster Design / Civil 3D stability issues. The hotfix is available here, and as always with patches, fixes, service packs and updates, read the readme first. Note that although this fixes the most common scenario where a network Raster Design needs to work on a standalone AutoCAD, it does not fix the opposite scenario. So if you have a bunch of network licensed AutoCAD variants available to you and you have a standalone license of Raster Design because you’re the only person in the office who needs it, you’re still out of luck. If you’re in such a position, I think you have a very strong case for a no-cost change from standalone to network licensing for Raster Design. If you ask for this and are refused, let me know and I’ll let everyone else know.

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Network/standalone clash is confined to Raster Design

Autodesk has been in touch to confirm that the failure to allow a mixed network/standalone environment is confined to Raster Design. I haven’t yet tested this myself, but I’ve been told unequivocally that you can mix standalone and network license models for the major products. Here is the official Autodesk response to the issue: We are very aware of the issue currently relating to the co-existence of an AutoCAD SLM (stand-alone license) and AutoCAD Raster Design NLM (network license) configuration. This was not an intentional “change of licensing policy” as expressed in some blog posts this week, but an unfortunate side effect of updating our licensing technology for SLM (stand-alone) seats to be in sync with our NLM seats for all AutoCAD-based products. We can only apologize for this new behavior experienced by customers upgrade to 2010 version products. We are currently pursuing a couple of options to rectify this situation. We do intend to provide a solution in the very near term and I hope you will join me in helping mitigate the frustrations expressed in various blogs this week. We have also heard of speculations that this issue also impacts side-by-side installations of different AutoCAD desktops. This is not the case. Both software development and QA have successfully installed many different AutoCAD-based 2010 desktops side-by-side in mixed SLM and NLM configurations without any issues.

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Autodesk plans to fix Raster Design licensing SNAFU

I have been in touch with various people at Autodesk about Raster Design 2010’s failure to work in a mixed standalone/network environment. These people have all been suitably apologetic, they assure me it wasn’t a deliberate move on Autodesk’s part, and that moves are afoot to provide a solution fairly soon. For example: Our intention was never to cause such inconvenience for our Raster customers with the licensing change. We are currently working on a solution and hope to have more information in the coming weeks. And: …we are very aware of the issue currently relating to the co-existence of an AutoCAD SLM and Raster Design NLM. This was not an intentional “change of licensing policy”, but an unfortunate side effect of updating our licensing technology for SLM (stand-alone) seats to be in sync with our NLM seats for all AutoCAD-based products. I can only apologize for this new behavior experienced by customers upgrade to 2010 version products. We are currently pursuing a couple of options to rectify this situation. We do intend to provide a solution (fix if you will) in the very near term… The jury is still out about whether this problem affects only Raster Design or is a general problem that prevents a mixed standalone/network environment of AutoCAD and vertical products. If it’s a general problem, it would be an unmitigated disaster for the 2010 product range. I’m getting mixed messages about this from the Autodesk people, but I don’t want to make an issue of that because the people involved are trying to help by providing what information they have as quickly as possible. As soon as I have accurate information available to me I will pass it on. I know of at least one person who is unable to get a mixed AutoCAD and…

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Should you read software license agreements?

Evan Yares has raised an interesting point about the insolvency clause in Autodesk’s End User License Agreement. Please read the whole thing, but the gist is that there’s a clause where if you get into financial difficulties, Autodesk will do its bit to help you out in times of trouble by taking away your software licenses. This clause extends as far as making an arrangement with your creditors, which is a common enough phrase but can mean several things and isn’t defined within the agreement. So, if your cash flow is a bit tight and you have to ask your phone company for another month to pay your bill, you’ll be sure to stop using all your Autodesk software, won’t you? Never use it again, because otherwise you’ll be a thief. OK, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but I’m sure it could be interpreted that way by an aggressive and/or inventive lawyer, and Autodesk doesn’t appear to be short of those. Who knows? Why would Autodesk put that kind of thing in its EULAs if there is no intention of ever using it? That’s an interesting aside, but it’s not my main point. Autodesk EULAs have traditionally contained unreasonable, unconscionable and arguably unenforceable clauses, so there’s nothing particularly remarkable there. My main point relates to reading EULAs in general, not just Autodesk’s. As a general rule, should you do it? Looking at the polls I’ve done on this subject, lots of you don’t read them. In fact, over two thirds of poll respondents either never read them, or rarely do so. It would be interesting to find the reasons behind that. Do you not have the time? Is it pointless because it’s all legal gobbledygook? Do you trust the software maker to be reasonable? Do you consider click-throughs to be unenforceable? Or are there…

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Autodesk messes up Raster Design 2010 licensing

I was horrified to learn (in this Autodesk Discussion Group thread) that Autodesk has changed the rules as far as the way Raster Design licenses are handled. It’s quite possible that Autodesk has also done this with other products that I’m not yet aware of. If so, please comment and let me know. If you’re not familiar with Raster Design, it’s an Autodesk add-on that adds raster handling capabilities to AutoCAD and AutoCAD-based products. The change that has been introduced is that the licensing method of AutoCAD and Raster Design now has to match. That is, if your AutoCAD is standalone, the network version of Raster Design won’t run on it, and vice versa. Why does this matter? Let’s say you’re a CAD Manager in this scenario: You have a hundred AutoCAD users, half of which are full-time users with standalone licenses and the other half who are mainly part-time users with network licenses. Let’s say that some of those users (of both types) have a very occasional need to use the features in Raster Design. You bought one network license of the product a few releases ago and have everything on Subscription, just the way Autodesk wants it. So far, you’ve been able to provide the Raster Design option to all of your users. Only one user at a time can use it, but as use of the product is pretty rare, this hasn’t been a problem to date. If demand increased, other licenses could be added as needed. Now, with Raster Design 2010, this is no longer possible. Your network license will not be available to your standalone users. You have the following options: Buy 50 standalone licenses of Raster Design 2010 for your standalone AutoCAD 2010 users, i.e. spend a huge amount of money on software that will…

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More on ODA, Autodesk and click-through agreements

Evan Yares has provided more information on the incident I mentioned in my last post. Here it is: It was years ago. My guess was that the person who did it was just trying to spider the website pages, for marketing research, and didn’t realize he got all the libraries too. In any event, I said hey you did this, they said no we didn’t, I produced download logs, they said there was no agreement and even if there was we hereby cancel it, I said if you want to see our libraries I’ll send ’em to you no strings, they said no thanks, then I just let it drop. Of course, I’m paraphrasing. I wasn’t going to get in a fight with Autodesk. Trying to trick them into joining the ODA would have been both futile and dumb. I’d been trying for years to get them to join (I was an optimist, once upon a time), and it caused no damage for Autodesk to be able to see the ODA libraries. There wasn’t anything in them that they didn’t know better than we did. Don’t read too much into Autodesk’s belief in the enforceability of click-through agreements based on this incident. I knew the guy who downloaded the files, and knew that he didn’t have the authority to bind Autodesk to an ODA membership agreement (it would have taken at least a VP to do that.) This is interesting for more than just the amusement factor; it raises a serious point about the enforceability of click-through agreements. In this case it was a web-based membership agreement, but I’m more interested in software license agreements. In most cases, the person doing a software installation is unlikely to be a Vice President or higher. It’s quite possible that the installer doesn’t…

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Evan Yares, ODA, Autodesk and click-through agreements

I’ve always found it entertaining when the lawyers of CAD companies do their best to make their clients look like total jerks. The opening shots as presented by Evan Yares in his proposed ODA class-action lawsuit indicate that there is another rich source of recreational reading on its way. I’m sure it’s no fun for the lawyer-paying people involved, though. You would think that Autodesk would be rubbing its corporate hands together at the prospect of the ODA being distracted like this. Or maybe not, if the bunfight throws up more little gems like this: Autodesk had at least once gone to the ODA website, agreed to the click-through membership agreement, received their access password via email, downloaded each and every library on the ODA’s website, then denied they did it. (The ensuing conversation about this, between the ODA and Autodesk, was pretty interesting, to say the least.) If that’s true (and I would welcome evidence from either party) it certainly puts an interesting slant on what Autodesk thinks about the enforceability of click-through agreements. On a related subject, see the polls on the right. There has been one running for a while about whether you even read such “agreements”, and I’ve added two more. They ask if you feel morally and legally bound by the terms that lie under that “let me get on with the installation” button.

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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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