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 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,…

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Autodesk to kill NNTP discussion groups

As of 4 June, Autodesk intends to update its discussion group software to something that does not support newsgroup (NNTP) access. From an email by Autodesk’s Eric Wright to NNTP users: “As an active NNTP user, we wanted to reach out to you directly. We recognize this will change your experience participating in the forums and want to help you transition to the new web interface. Improvements include a simpler, more intuitive interface to post & reply, bookmarking and e-mail notification features to track favorite posts, and more powerful search tools and filtering. While not a substitute for the NNTP experience, the streamlined capabilities of our enhanced RSS feeds can also provide an alternative offline forum reading experience.” As you can see, we are significantly investing to improve the platform behind the web-based experince to address many of the shortfalls reported by users over the last few years. Rich text vs Plain text confusion, formatting issues (like I just experienced cutting and pasting this message), logout issues, search, in-line image support, and robust RSS capabilities are just a few areas of improvements in an update planned for June 4. A public announcement will be posted in the forums in a few days. I hope you will give it a try after launch, and provide any feedback or best practices to help in the transition. Eric Wright Product Manager – Support & Learning Web & eBusiness Autodesk, Inc. The public announcement mentioned above can be found here. As you might expect, this decision has been a hot topic of conversation. A survey has been set up (by Tony Tanzillo, not by Autodesk), and the running results are here. I’ve added a poll of my own (on the right). Feel free to express your views here, too. I have some sympathy for…

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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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Incoming link: “Important Revit information”

One of the things my blog’s WordPress dashboard shows me is a list of incoming links, i.e. who is pointing to this blog. One line intrigued me: unknown linked here saying, “318 random votes.. http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com/ …” Clicking on the link took me to the Autodesk Discussion Groups, but only as far as this message: Error: you do not have permission to view the requested forum or category. A Google search showed up the link as follows: Important Revit information Saturday, 3 April 2010 9:23 AM 318 random votes.. http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com/2009/09/09/ribbon-acceptance-in-autocad-and-revit/ Call me self-obsessed if you like, but I find this curious. If anybody has any more information about it, please let me know.

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AutoCAD 2010 – Turning off InfoCenter

I generally avoid the still-awful Autodesk discussion groups these days, but I do hop in from time to time in the vain hope of seeing some improvement. In doing so, I occasionally pick up a gem, and that happened today. I think this one deserves a wider audience, so here it is. In AutoCAD 2010, you can disable the InfoCenter toolbar by opening the registry, and going to the following key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Autodesk\AutoCAD\R18.0\ACAD-8001:409\InfoCenter In that key there’s a value with the name “InfoCenterOn”. Changing that value from 1 to 0 will disable the InfoCenter toolbar. Source: Tony Tanzillo in this thread. Note that the “ACAD-8001” part will be different if you use a vertical variant of AutoCAD. Why would you want to do this? To improve startup times and reduce annoyance. Autodesk should have provided a better mechanism for doing this. The absence of convenient, designed-in off switches for new features is something I’ve complained about on many occasions over the years. Autodesk’s response has been patchy. Edit: I just noticed Owen Wengerd has posted about this, including a LISP routine to simplify the process of turning it on and off.

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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 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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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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Discussion group search – partial workaround

The Autodesk discussion group search facility is still impersonating an industrial suction pump in a puddle. It sucks very hard and produces little useful output. In addition to the problems already mentioned ad nauseam (apparently there have never been any posts made containing the word “AutoCAD”, but 34 have been made in the past 90 days), here’s another one I spotted today: picking on Search Tips will give you a 404 error. However bad the discussion groups are, at least the Subscription site is working (for me anyway, I know there are still people with login ID problems) and my helpful Indian chappie came back to me with a workaround. It’s not a very good workaround, and it only applies to Subscription customers, but I thought I would pass it on anyway: Log in to the Subscription Center, pick Search in the top right corner, then fill in your search details or pick Advanced Search for more control. This search method does find messages that date back before the recent web update. However, there are a few problems with it. There’s no way to restrict it to just discussion groups. Even if I restrict it to just “Communities”, it returns results that include various blogs, and to threads that have been moved or deleted. If more than one page of results is found, there’s no way of going directly to a given page, it’s Next > Next > Next > Next > repeatedly. If I try to restrict the search to AutoCAD 2009, for example, it returns nothing. Finally, it’s obviously only any good for Subscription users. Another workaround is to use Google Advanced Search and set the Search within a site or domain field to discussion.autodesk.com. However, I know of no way of restricting the search to AutoCAD 2009, for example. Enough…

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How not to do a web update

If you’re a major company and your various web-based services have evolved over time, you may have a proliferation of user IDs and some other issues to tidy up. You may be tempted to have a major overhaul. If you think your reputation among your customers isn’t low enough and you desperately want this update to be an unmitigated disaster, what should you do? If you’re dropping subtle hints about moving towards a Software as a Service model, how can you remind people about the excellent reasons that exist for avoiding dependence on on-line services in general, and on yours in particular? Here are some suggestions: Do everything at once. Don’t be tempted to divide this task into manageable portions, or you may have some prospect of success. Close down everything for several days. If your customers might have to rely on some part of your web services to keep their products working, make sure you close down that part in particular. Let ’em stew. Give the update job to a clumsy intern in your office that has never been allowed near a computer before. Failing that, outsource the job to the lowest bidder. Ideally, have it done in a country that has a first language other than your own, to maximise the potential for misunderstandings. When the user ID merge is done, make sure it is still broken for some people. Have multiple users with the same ID and multiple IDs with the same user. Some people’s existing user IDs will fail, so encourage them to make new ones and then refuse to allow it on the grounds that they already have an ID. Make sure random people’s user IDs work in some places but not others. If they are paying for a maintenance contract, do your best to prevent them from using it. Update your…

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Autodesk discussion group links – feedback and bookmarks

The Autodesk discussion groups are currently working. They are also still irresponsibly displaying people’s email addresses as visible user names. If you’ve posted to the discussion groups in the past, I suggest you check to see if your email address is out there for the spambots to pick up. There is now a feedback form for the discussion group and Community sites, so if you’re having problems you could try that. Hopefully, Autodesk won’t need a thousand feedback reports to work out that it’s running as slow as a wet week, the search is broken and that people’s privacy has been violated. If you have links to product categories that no longer work properly, you can modify the format as shown in this example, which is for the AutoCAD category. Old: http://discussion.autodesk.com/index2.jspa?categoryID=8 New: http://discussion.autodesk.com/forums/category.jspa?categoryID=8

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Autodesk discussion group alternatives

As I’m typing this, the Autodesk discussion groups are down for maintenance again. Let’s hope that when they come back up, some of the problems are fixed. In the meantime, if you’re an AutoCAD user and have something to ask or say, where can you go? Here are a few suggestions. I like the AUGI forums. It’s an even more modern, more graphical and less space-efficient web interface than the new Autodesk one, but there’s a good community there and, hey, the search feature works. Mike Perry and colleagues run a tight ship, so please read the rules and be good. If you have something to tell Autodesk and want practically no restrictions in the way you say it, submit a new message on dear Autodesk, or vote for the existing messages you like. It’s looking a bit bare and empty at the moment, so go fill it up. As a Cadalyst person, it would be remiss of me to avoid mentioning the Cadalyst forums. The Swamp is biased heavily toward CAD programming, so if you have a LISP question then head there, but it also hosts general CAD discussion. In this community, you are expected to be courteous and professional. Old-timers like myself will remember that the CompuServe ACAD forum’s Take 5 section was carried over into the AutoCAD discussion groups. It was kept going for a few years before Autodesk felt it was getting out of hand and killed it. That community refused to be killed, and actually still flourishes for newsgroup (NNTP) users at the t5 dot dynip dot com server. R. K. McSwain suggests the CADTutor forums. If you wish to point out any other sites I’ve missed, please let me know and if they’re relevant I’ll edit this post to include them. While I was…

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More Autodesk discussion group angst

When you start using the new AutoCAD discussion groups, in addition to the broken search facility, you will have other issues to deal with. There’s a new editor with lots of features and lots of problems. Quoting formatted messages results in a mess. Switching from one tab to another messes up your text. Submitting your message results in an error page like this: Autodesk Discussion Groups Discussion Groups Oops! Server Error 500. The resource you’ve requested is not available.       © Copyright 2007 Autodesk, Inc. All rights reserved. Legal Notices & Trademarks — Privacy Policy Despite this, the message does actually get submitted. People are unaware of this (possibly because the list of topics, and the popular discussions pane’s “last post” displays are not being updated as new posts are made) and re-posting their messages, resulting in duplicates. There is some confusion about what constitutes a category in the discussion group structure. If you go from the top level to the AutoCAD level and then into AutoCAD 2009, picking the “Up one category” link takes you right to the top. The speed of the web interface varies from quite acceptable to something rather less than that. People are reporting problems with losing their old watched threads, and not being allowed to watch new threads without email notifications. There’s nowhere obvious for people to report problems, so people are just starting complaint threads in random locations. What if you report problems directly to Autodesk? According to a poster in one thread, this is what he got in reply to his report that search is broken (which it still is): Thank you for contacting Autodesk Support. Here is the recommended resolution to your Support Request: Discussion Group is just a BBS for all Autodesk Customer. This BBS is not product support…

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