Some meaningless AutoCAD 2011 numbers

According to David Cohn, at yesterday’s blogger event in San Fransisco prior to the 2011 launch, Autodesk provided the following figures: 76,000 man hours spent on Q/A of the new release 6,000 total code reviews of new release 2,000 commands tested 4,600 Beta customers involved in AutoCAD 2011 1.4M lines of old code were removed Well, that’s all very nice, but those numbers are completely meaningless without context. Autodesk may as well have just published the equivalent numbers for Release 13; I’m sure they would have looked impressive in isolation. Did anybody in the blogger audience ask the obvious question? How do these numbers compare with previous releases? If so, I’d be interested to see the answer. If not, why not? I’d like to think that I would have asked such a question rather than sitting there unquestionably accepting whatever was being presented. I’d like to think that, but I can’t. I’m in no position to throw stones. I had a similar opportunity at the equivalent event last year and failed to take advantage of it. I was operating at a very sub-optimal level for a variety of reasons (some of which were entirely of my own making, so no excuses there). It was a small, fairly informal event at which Autodesk actively and repeatedly encouraged two-way communication. But sitting there absorbing what I was told was pretty much all I did. I even caught myself on video doing this (i.e. very little), so I have absolutely no right to expect anything better from anyone else this year. Still, it would have been nice to have had that question asked. It would be even nicer to have it answered. Otherwise, the numbers will remain meaningless.

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Summary of AutoCAD 2011 features

No, I haven’t written a post containing a summary of AutoCAD 2011 features. I won’t be doing so, either. Instead, I’ll just point you at R.K. McSwain’s excellent AutoCAD 2011 in 3 minutes post on his CAD Panacea blog. I won’t be ignoring the new release; I will be covering selected AutoCAD 2011 features in more detail in future posts. I just don’t see much point in doing a “me too” post when somebody else has already done such a fine job of it.

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CAD International interview on drcauto and other subjects

This morning I spoke with CAD International‘s Nigel Varley. Here is a paraphrased summary of the interview. SJ: When did CAD International buy the drcauto intellectual property rights? NV: About two weeks ago. SJ: You are currently helping drcauto customers with authorisation codes, is that correct? NV: Yes, masses of them. It’s taking up a lot of our peoples’ time. SJ: Are you charging for this service? NV: Not at present. SJ: Do you intend to charge for this service in the future? NV: Maybe. We may need to, both to pay for our time and to recoup our investment. I don’t particularly like the idea of annual renewals for software, so we may do something different in future. SJ: If somebody wanted to buy drcauto products such as LT Toolkit now, could they do so? NV: No, we’re still processing the materials we were given when we bought the rights. It wasn’t left in a well-organised state. I’m not sure if that was done deliberately or if it was just like that. SJ: Do you have any plans to continue development of LT Toolkit or the other drcauto products? NV: It’s too early to say at this time. I understand it doesn’t work right now with AutoCAD LT 2010 with Update 2 applied, or on 64-bit Windows, or on Windows 7. It’s not clear at this stage how much work is involved in making it work. It should be doable, but we can’t make any commitments at this stage. SJ: So do you have a timeframe for doing any of this stuff? NV: No, it’s too early. We’re still processing it. SJ: What about former drcauto employees helping people out with authorisation codes? NV: They have no rights to do that. They don’t own the intellectual property, we do.…

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More on drcauto, LT Toolkit and CAD International

Things have moved on since my first post on this subject in which I passed on the information that Leonard Liang (a former drcauto employee) could help with codes for LT Toolkit orphans. In recent developments In a comment in a WorldCAD Access post, Nigel Varley from Australian company CAD International stated that they had bought the intellectual property rights to the drcauto software, and that drcauto codes and software obtained from former employees are illegal. Another comment on the same post from former drcauto employee Kevin J Secomb lamented the demise of Gary D’Arcy’s dream and criticised CAD International for indicating in an email to users that they would charge for authorisation codes. CAD International created a web page describing the situation with regard to drcauto products, including a statement that it would “offer immediate assistance to those needing new authorisation codes”. Deelip Menezes made a blog post on the subject, followed by another one containing a reaction from Autodesk’s Jim Quanci. Poth posts are worth reading, as are the comments from various observers. The first post went off at a bit of a tangent about Autodesk’s apparent benevolence towards resellers that don’t toe the corporate line (drcauto is still listed as an Authorised AutoCAD reseller a decade after being dropped by Autodesk). The second post included words from Jim that the late Gary D’Arcy was a great character, albeit a pain to Autodesk. Having met Gary many years ago and followed the story of LT Toolkit with interest, I can confirm the truth of both statements. I thought I would have a chat with CAD International’s Nigel Varley to see if I could clear up the situation as he sees it. It was a very interesting interview, the results of which I will publish very soon.

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Hope for drcauto LT Toolkit orphans

LT Toolkit from the now-defunct drcauto was an add-on for AutoCAD LT that provided LISP and other capabilities that Autodesk disabled. Autodesk hated this, of course, but the late Gary D’Arcy made sure everything was done legally so it couldn’t be stopped even by Autodesk’s hyperactive legal team. If you are a user of LT Toolkit and you want to keep using the software now the company has closed down, you may find this information from Evan Yares useful: I’ve gotten in contact with Leonard Liang, the former key developer at DRCauto. He’s asked me to send any Toolkit Max users to him, and he will help them. His website is www.cadsta.com. His email, at that domain, is “leonardl”. Source: a comment in this this WorldCAD Access post. If you don’t read comments, you may well have missed this, so I thought it was worth repeating. Edit: events have overtaken this news since it was written. Please see here and here.

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Ralph Lauren – genuinely dumb or trying to be clever?

One of the blogs I read regularly is Photoshop Disasters, which recently posted a picture of a Ralph Lauren ad. In common with many fashion photos, this showed a skinny model that appeared to have been further skinnified on somebody’s computer to the point that the poor waif was ridiculously deformed. Like this: Nothing out of the ordinary there, then. Under normal circumstances it would have received a few dozen comments and scrolled off the front page in a week or so, because there is no shortage of bad image manipulation out there for the blog to snigger at. The image was reposted at Boing Boing, but it would still have been forgotten in a week. Except this time, Ralph Lauren prodded its lawyers into action and demanded the image be removed from both sites, issuing a DMCA notice. The DMCA request was spurious, as this is a clear case of fair use of an image for the purposes of criticism. Photoshop Disasters is hosted by Blogspot, which automatically complies with such requests. Boing Boing is not, and instead went on the offensive. They refused to take down the picture, instead reposting it with biting sarcasm. Read it, it’s funny. Ralph Lauren, if you’re reading this, please send me a DMCA notice too. I’m feeling left out. This led to a flurry of comments, reposts and reports all over the Internet, including here. The comments (running at over a hundred an hour right now) are almost universally mocking of Ralph Lauren, its legal team, its models and its image manipulation propensities. The criticism goes way beyond the few snipes at a mangled-body image that would have been the case if Ralph Lauren had done nothing. It has moved on to the fashion designer’s ethical standards and those of the fashion…

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AutoCAD virus protection update

As I mentioned in my last post, I had some reservations about the code provided by Autodesk to deal with suspect acad.vlx and logo.gif files. Based on a suggestion from Jimmy Bergmark, I have written my own, safer version which you can download here: clean_virus_safe.lsp. The comments at the top of the clean_virus_safe.lsp file explain what to do with it, but I will reproduce some of the relevant points here. Purpose: Checks for existence of acad.vlx and logo.gif files, which are associated with virus AL/Logo-A, also known as ACAD/Unexplode, ACAD/Agent.A or ACM_UNEXPLODE.B. Written as a safer alternative to Autodesk’s code which deletes suspect files without prior warning. This code renames the files instead. Legal: Provided as-is with no warranty whatsoever, use at own risk. May be distributed freely. Usage: Append the contents of this file into a startup LISP file (e.g. acaddoc.lsp in your search path – create such a file if it does not exist). Autodesk’s suggestion to modify the acad20xx.lsp file should not be followed: this is bad practice. The acad20xx.lsp file is Autodesk’s file and any modifications you make to it are likely to be lost when updates and patches are applied. Effects: Any and all files named acad.vlx and logo.gif and located in AutoCAD’s search path will be renamed, e.g. “acad.vlx” will become “[Suspected Virus] acad.vlx0”. The name will end in a number starting with 0. If other suspect files are later found in the same location, those files will be renamed to end with 1, 2, 3 and so on. I don’t have a copy of the actual virus, and would like to get hold of one with a view to possibly improving this code. If you have a copy, I would be grateful if you could contact me so I can dissect it.

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Another AutoCAD malware warning

Shaan Hurley has posted some useful information about another AutoCAD-based virus that is doing the rounds, and I strongly suggest you read it. However, I have some reservations about the solution that is posted there and in the Autodesk knowledgebase. The LISP code suggested will delete any files called acad.vlx or logo.gif that are located in the current user’s current AutoCAD search path. There are a couple of problems with that. The search path will change depending on the user, the profile, the startup folder and the drawing folder. That means you can’t just use the code once and expect the problem to go away; the code will need to remain in place permanently to ensure it does not recur. That may not be a huge problem, although it will have a performance penalty (particularly where the search path is long and/or includes network paths) and it is one more thing to remember to carry over to future releases. More importantly, the code has no idea if the files it is deleting are legitimate or not. It is quite possible for a custom environment or third-party utility to make use of a file called acad.vlx, and there are all sorts of reasons you may have a logo.gif file floating around. The Autodesk code will just erase such files without prior warning, which is a bit naughty. I commend Shaan and Autodesk for posting this information and proposed solution. However, I recommend caution before using this code as suggested. Check with your CAD Manager (if you have one) first to ensure there are no legitimate acad.vlx files in your environment. Do a search for these files yourself and see if there is a legitimate reason for them being where they are. As with most malware attacks, taking care with incoming files is a…

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AutoCAD malware warning

There is a piece of malware out there written as an ObjectARX application, i.e. it will only affect AutoCAD users. It’s a China-based adware client, which Andrew Brandt at the Webroot threat blog has named Trojan-Pigrig. For full details, see here. Also, see here for AutoCAD-specific advice from the AutoCAD support team at the Without a Net blog.

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The 12-month cycle and shipping software with known bugs

In a recent blog post, Deelip Menezes appears to be shocked by the very idea that a particular CAD company (no, not Autodesk) would ship software that contains known bugs. I thought he was joking, because he’s surely aware that practically all software companies with highly complex products release software with known bugs. As Deelip points out, those companies with 12-month cycles are particularly prone to doing this. There is no possible way any company can release something as complex as a CAD application within a fixed 12-month cycle without it containing dozens* of known bugs (because there isn’t time to fix them after discovery) and dozens* of unknown ones (because of insufficient Beta testing time). Reading Deelip’s post and subsequent comments more carefully, it becomes clear that he doesn’t mean what a casual glance might lead you to believe he means. Deelip makes a specific distinction between “bugs” and “known issues”. He states that if a bug is discovered and the software is then adjusted such that it does not abort the software in a badly-behaved way, and this is then documented, then the bug ceases to be a bug and becomes a “known issue”. I disagree. Bugs can cause crashes or not; they can cause “nice” crashes or not; they can be known about prior to release or not; they can be documented internally or not; they can be documented publicly or not. As far as I’m concerned, if the software doesn’t act “as designed” or “as intended”, then that’s a bug. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say, and I concur: A software bug is the common term used to describe an error, flaw, mistake, failure, or fault in a computer program that prevents it from behaving as intended (e.g., producing an incorrect or unexpected result). That doesn’t…

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Autodesk’s Revit rebellion reaction

It’s time to examine how Autodesk has reacted to the widespread criticism of Revit 2010. Is Autodesk listening? To be more specific, is Autodesk’s Revit team listening? The Good It has been good to see extensive public participation by Autodesk people in various discussions in different places. The Revit team isn’t hiding. It is asking for feedback on the Autodesk discussion groups, the AUGI forums and its own blogs, and getting lots of it. Much of it is negative, but it is to Autodesk’s credit that I’m not seeing much in the way of denial, or demands that the criticism must be constructive. I’ve been trying in vain for years to convince some people at Autodesk that denial is counterproductive and that criticism doesn’t have to be constructive to be useful. The sort of messenger-shooting that I’ve seen some Autodesk people do from time to over the years (*cough* R13, CUI *cough*) is generally absent. I’m not seeing Adeskers arrogantly accusing users of their criticism being based on a failure to understand the product. I’m not seeing asinine comments that infer that the negativity is simply a symptom of the critics’ resistance to change. Actually, I’ve seen one such comment, but it wasn’t from an Autodesk person. Overall, the Revit team’s responsiveness, openness and level of public availability is impressive. It’s so good that it puts other Autodesk teams to shame. When was the last time you saw an Autodesk person respond to criticism of AutoCAD in the Autodesk discussion groups or AUGI forums? Revit people are doing quite a bit of it, and by looking back I can see that they have been doing it for a while. There was one attempt at a traditional corporate “the product is great, we just need to review our communications” message. Unsurprisingly, it…

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Revolt of the Revit Ribbon Renegades

I hesitate to cover this subject because my understanding of Revit is very close to nil. I’m going to cover it anyway, because it relates to the Does Autodesk Listen? theme that I’ve discussed here in the past. Revit 2010 has appeared with a Ribbon interface, and many users don’t like it. Some well-known Revit users, including bloggers, former Autodesk employees and Revit founders, have railed against the new release. Autodesk has been accused of ignoring long-standing wishlists and pre-release feedback. Autodesk has (it is said) wasted precious development resources by introducing a badly-designed and poorly-performing pretty new face at the expense of solving long-standing and much-requested improvements to the core product. The main complaint appears to be that Autodesk didn’t do much with this release, other than introducing an interface that doesn’t work as well as the one it replaced. All this will sound very familiar to AutoCAD users, but there are some significant differences between the AutoCAD 2009 situation and the Revit 2010 one. First, I think it’s fair to say (even based on my limited knowledge) that the old Revit interface was in some need of attention. It was basically an old NT-style interface that had been left neglected for some years. Revit users may have been mostly happy with the way the interface worked, but the way it looked must have been a bit embarrasing, especially for Autodesk. Second, AutoCAD 2009 left the old interface in place for those people who wanted or needed to use it; with Revit 2010 it’s Ribbon or nothing. There is no transition strategy. I’m not qualified to make a judgement on whether the complaints about the usability of the new interface are justified. I should also mention that not every Revit user hates everything about Revit 2010, and there are…

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Not another SpacePilot PRO review

This post is not about the new SpacePilot PRO 3D controller from 3Dconnexion (a division of Logitech). This post is about the Internet coverage of the launch of that new device, journalism, blogging, freebies and ethics. It has long been common practice for companies to give out free stuff to journalists. Free gadgets, free transport and other expenses for attending events, free beer, free lunch… oh, wait, there’s no such thing. As blogging has risen in prominence, that practice has been extended to providing free stuff for bloggers. It was traditional in the past for such freebies to go unmentioned in reports about the products of such companies. I think the first time I saw this kind of thing disclosed was by Ralph Grabowski, and I was impressed. Maybe it’s just the sites I read, but I see more of that kind of disclosure in blogs than I do in the traditional press (whatever that means these days). It seems that 3Dconnexion is distributing its US$499 SpacePilot PRO devices like confetti (particluarly at SolidWorks World), hoping to get as much coverage as it can. It’s working. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with that. If a company wants to let potential customers know about its products, and if those customers read blogs, it makes sense for the company to send samples to bloggers in the hope that they get reviewed. As long as there are no strings attached, I see no ethical problem with that. If a negative review led to a reviewer being taken off the freebies list then I definitely would have a very big problem with that, but I see no evidence of that from 3Dconnexion. Where I do see an ethical issue is when a freebie is received, a review is written, and no disclosure…

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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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Bartz the blogger

Autodesk’s Executive Chairman of the Board (who has one or two other little jobs, too) has made a Yahoo! blog post in which she promises to kick a donkey, or something. Yahoo! if of only tangential interest to me; I don’t particularly care if it thrives or if it dies. However, it’s good to see Carol communicating directly in this way, and it’s good to see her emphasise the importance of looking after the customer, placing emphasis on efficiency over innovation for innovation’s sake, and promising to do better at listening. Welcome to the blogsphere, Carol.

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A gaggle of geeks

Time to lighten things up a bit, I think. While attending the AutoCAD 2010 product launch in San Francisco on 5 February 2009, I conducted a series of micro-interviews with a collection of AutoCAD bloggers and Autodesk employees. One geek asks 14 other geeks if they are geeks; nothing too serious here. I hope Shaan enjoys my tabloid journalist editing job right at the end. YouTube link. Thanks to all the interviewees: Heidi Hewett, Autodesk blogger Lynn Allen, Autodesk blogger Melanie Perry, blogger Robin Capper, blogger Brian Benton, blogger Todd Shackelford, blogger Jon Page, Autodesk person Matt Stein, Autodesk person and personal blogger Shaan Hurley, Autodesk blogger Donnie Gladfelter, blogger Ellen Finklestein, blogger David Cohn, blogger Mark Douglas, blogger Guillermo Melantoni, Autodesk person (still waiting for that blog, Guillermo!) What is the collective noun for geeks, anyway?

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I’m supporting the New Zealand blackout

Thanks to Robin Capper for bringing this to my attention. http://creativefreedom.org.nz/blackout.html Disclosure: I’m a software developer, artist (of sorts), copyright owner and part of a company that sells software to allow copyright owners to protect their interests. I’m also the victim of clueless corporations counterproductively interfering with my art. Most of all, I’m a supporter of the fair use of copyrighted materials. This law in New Zealand needs to be turned back now. If it succeeds in Robin’s country, it will be mine next, then yours. I encourage you to support this viral campaign so it attracts some press attention. Excuse me while I go and turn my gravatar black.

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Adding Heidi

Although I want to keep my list of links reasonably compact, it should not have taken until now to add the AutoCAD Insider blog of Autodesk’s Heidi Hewett to the list. Heidi’s idea of going through the AutoCAD alphabet is a great one, and I wish I had thought of it. blog nauseam has been light on for AutoCAD tips and information lately. Although that’s going to change for the better soon, there’s plenty of that kind of stuff on Heidi’s blog to keep you amused in the meantime. It’s useful stuff for all AutoCAD users, explained well. Oh, and Heidi, the Boundary command was (kind of) added in Release 12, except it was called Bpoly at the time. It was renamed to Boundary in Release 13. The Bpoly command lives on to this day, doing exactly the same as Boundary.

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