Don’t be a technology lemming

In response to Shaan’s variant on the old “if you question the value of any change you must be a Luddite” argument, I was going to write a lemming-based parody. I didn’t, mainly because I didn’t want to perpetuate the lemming mass-suicide misconception. Instead, I’ll answer the point more directly. Autodesk will acheive better success in convincing customers about Cloud computing and other concepts by actively and interactively engaging with them. Addressing their specific and legitimate concerns has a chance of success if the concepts have merit. Insultingly likening customers to allegedly stupid animals isn’t going to convince anyone. Besides, the point has little validity. Armadillos have 20 species, are currently dramatically increasing their territory in North America, and have been around rather longer than humans. Maybe we should wait until we’ve been around a few tens of millions of years longer before we get too cocky about how terrible those stupid armadillos are at surviving. Edit: Shaan has responded to this post on his own blog, deleted my reply and closed comments. He seems rather upset about something. Edit: …and has now restored my comment and opened comments again.

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AutoCAD Help suckage to continue – confirmed

In a recent post on Between the Lines, Shaan passed on the following response from the AutoCAD Team: There has been some recent discussions about the built-in help system in AutoCAD 2013, both positive and some criticism.  As our longtime users know, AutoCAD help has been through many evolutions. We are particularly proud of the new AutoCAD 2013 online learning environment we recently released (AutoCAD Online Help Mid-Year Updates.) This update addressed several user requested fixes and changes, and we will continue to take our direction from our user’s feedback. We do recognize that the online learning environment may not be the solution for every user, so while we are focused on creating a rich and personalized online experience, we will continue to maintain our current basic offline experience. (The emphasis is mine). This statement, although couched in marketingspeak, confirms what I’ve had to say on the subject. Here’s my translation into plain English: AutoCAD 2013 Help sucked, the customers said so, the recent update improved matters somewhat for online users, but the awful old system stays in place for offline users. The offline system is in maintenance mode, and the experience will continue to remain basic (i.e. it will suck long-term). There’s no mention of correcting this situation; it’s clearly a matter of policy rather than some unfortunate accident. Today, I was using Autodesk Navisworks Manage 2013. As you might expect from an Autodesk product, it’s powerful but unstable. In addition to the lockups and crashes, it has various bugs and annoyances. In looking for a way of working around one of the annoyances, I delved into the Help system. Strangely enough, this product (much younger than AutoCAD) uses something that looks remarkably like an old-fashioned CHM-based Help system. It worked offline. It was quick. It had contents, search…

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Ribbon poll roundup

Further to my last post, Here is a brief summary of this blog’s various poll results that relate in some way to Ribbon and CIP use. The most recent polls are at the top of the list. I have placed in bold those percentages that relate directly to the proportion of AutoCAD Ribbon use among the voters on this blog. AutoCAD 2010 users’  Ribbon use: 44% (AutoCAD 2010 users’ CIP on: 36%) Ribbon love: 28% AutoCAD 2010 menu bar non-users: 23% Inventor Ribbon use: 44% (Inventor 2010 users’ Ribbon use: 59%) Revit Ribbon use: 42% (Revit 2010 users’ Ribbon use: 58%) AutoCAD Ribbon use: 32% (AutoCAD 2009/2010 users’ Ribbon use: 38%) CIP on: 27% AutoCAD 2009 menu bar non-users: 21% AutoCAD 2009 Ribbon one of 3 best new features: 11% AutoCAD 2009 Ribbon turned on in some way: 29% (fully visible 13%) The polls were run at different times over the past couple of years with different questions being asked in different ways about different releases, and responded to by very different numbers of voters. Don’t expect consistent or directly comparable results; this is not a scientific study. As with all polls here, there is a self-selection bias; those people who feel most strongly about a subject are more likely to find these polls and make the effort to vote in them. The more recent polls generally have significantly greater sample size than the early ones. The smallest poll (AutoCAD 2009 best new features) has 37 voters, the largest poll (AutoCAD users generally using Ribbon) has 751. While the former certainly qualifies as Shaan’s “a few dozen”, the latter does only if you consider 62 to be “a few”. In which case, can I give you a thousand dollars and you give me a few hundred back? Here are the poll…

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Autodesk’s CIP data – massively biased?

You may have seen Shaan Hurley and I having a discussion (ahem) over the validity of his statement: I really do use the ribbon now with AutoCAD 2010 along with most users as evidenced by the CIP data we receive daily from thousands of AutoCAD users who choose to send the great data. So, now you know. Most of you use the Ribbon now,  Shaan said so. Shaan, as he always has done in the past, declined my invitation to back up this assertion with more details. He has vast amounts of data collected from huge numbers of users. How could that possibly be wrong? Here’s how. CIP data is biased. How can millions of data points be biased? Actually, all samples are biased. Only the degree of bias varies. The polls on this blog are no exception. I do my best to keep the questions and options neutral; the only leading questions you’ll see here in serious polls are the ones I copy and paste from Autodesk blogs. But readers of this blog are one self-selecting small portion of Autodesk customers, and people who vote in my polls represent another self-selecting portion of that portion. The question is, how biased is Autodesk’s CIP data? Without access to Autodesk’s data (which it won’t provide) and resources for alternative data collection from its customers (ditto), the best I can do is use my own biased sample (that’s you lot out there) as a cross-check. Let’s examine it in light of Ribbon use among AutoCAD 2010 users. In an earlier comparison of my 2009 poll figures and Shaan’s CIP data, I wrote this: But Shaan’s CIP users are also a biased sample, comprising those AutoCAD users who have CIP turned on. Are users who go with the flow and have CIP on…

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Shorn Shaan – you saw it here first

I was amused to see Shaan Hurley losing his locks at AU. Some of you may recall me suggesting this course of action a couple of years ago. How close do you think I got with my artist’s impression? Original images © 2008 and 2009 Shaan Hurley.

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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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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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Autodesk not listening? The response, part 1.

While attending the AutoCAD 2010 launch today, I took the opportunity to interview three Autodesk people: Eric Stover, Jon Page and Shaan Hurley. I raised the issue of Autodesk being seen as not listening to its customers, and was given a very comprehensive response. Here is the first of two parts of that interview. YouTube link. Disclosure: Transport, accommodation and some meals were provided by Autodesk.

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Autodesk on-line survey

As posted on Between the Lines, there is an Autodesk survey you may wish to complete in an attempt to have some kind of influence over AutoCAD’s future direction. Among other things, you will be asked specific questions about these issues: Interoperability Batch Processing in AutoCAD Custom Linetype Creator Custom Hatch Creator Transparent Fills You will also be asked to rank 10 possible future features: Batch process drawings in AutoCAD Draw order by layer Enhanced visual styles Visual compare two drawings 3D Dynamic Blocks Transparent hatch fills Convert PDF to DWG 3D enhancements Hatch Pattern Generator Linetype Creator Without knowing more details, it’s hard to make a rational choice. For example, does “Enhanced visual styles” mean that AutoCAD 2007’s nearly-done 3D display overhaul will be finished off, allowing the correct display and plotting of simple conventional mechanical engineering views with hidden lines? Because that would make it important and worth me pushing it up the list. Or does it mean something more glossy but much less useful, which from my point of view would push it near the bottom? Who knows? Never mind, I encourage you to have a go anyway. All you can do is your best based on the available information and hope it isn’t misinterpreted based on faulty assumptions. There’s a box near the end that allows you free rein to say what you like about AutoCAD’s future direction. I hope many of you use it, and I hope Autodesk doesn’t just “listen”, but acts based on what its customers say they want.

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AutoCAD 2009 – How many people really are using the Ribbon?

I was interested to see Shaan Hurley reporting the Ribbon usage figures from the Customer Involvement Program (CIP). Shaan’s figures show Ribbon non-users at 46%, my poll results show it as 71%. Why the discrepancy? Is somebody telling fibs? I don’t think so. First, blog nauseam poll respondents represent a biased sample, comprising people who are more interested in AutoCAD than average users. Dare I say more knowledgeable? More likely to be power users or CAD Managers, anyway. They are probably more likely than average users to make changes from the default AutoCAD settings. But Shaan’s CIP users are also a biased sample, comprising those AutoCAD users who have CIP turned on. Are users who go with the flow and have CIP on also more likely to go with the flow and leave the Ribbon on? Possibly, but I would have thought the CIP-on bias would be less significant than the blog-reader bias. Second, Shaan’s sample size is likely to be very substantially larger than mine. I currently get about 5000 unique visitors to this site each month, with only up to about a hundred bothering to respond to a given poll. Shaan’s numbers are likely to be in the hundreds of thousands, and thus much less prone to a few people skewing the results. Finally, the method of measurement differs. My poll is totally open and transparent, but requires active participation by the respondent. This means that the more strongly you feel about something, the more likely you are to be measured. Shaan’s measurement method avoids that pitfall. However, because the details of the CIP measurement mechanism aren’t public, its accuracy is open to conjecture. For example, if somebody spends 8 hours working in a Ribbonless session and then tries out the Ribbon in another session for a few…

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AutoCAD 2009 – Video from product managers

I generally dislike blogs that just regurgitate contents from elsewhere, so I’m going against the grain here to repost something from Shaan Hurley’s Between the Lines blog. Shaan has been a bit quiet over the past few weeks, but has recently made up for this with a vengeance. A flurry of new posts has pushed this video way down the page, so you may well have missed it. I’m always happy to see Autodesk communicating with its customers (even if I don’t agree with what’s being said), so I decided to bring it to your attention. Here, Autodesk product managers Eric Stover and Doug Cochran show off some of the new features of AutoCAD 2009. It seems Doug is very keen on the use of the words “quick” and “quickly”. Hopefully, that means we will see some serious attention paid to AutoCAD’s performance soon, because it could certainly do with it. This video may lack professional gloss, but I don’t care. In fact, I much prefer something that looks like it hasn’t been processed through a PR committee before we’re allowed to see it. I hope we see more communication like this soon from the real people behind the Autodesk corporate facade.

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Have you seen Shaan shorn?

I was intrigued to see Autodesk personality and fellow blogger Shaan Hurley posting a photo with his long-standing facial fuzz removed. Shaan may be moving in the opposite direction to myself (I’m getting hairier with age), but personally I don’t think he has gone far enough. I would like to see Shaan sporting a chrome dome. What do you think? Original image © 2008 Shaan Hurley.

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Thanks for the welcome

A belated thank you to Kiwi Robin Capper for his welcome to the CAD blog world. Here’s a snap I took of Robin at Autodesk University 2006: Similarly, thanks to Lynn Allen for linking to my post about her famous Cell Phone Story. Here she is, also at AU 2006, presenting me with a signed copy of her excellent book AutoCAD: Professional Tips and Techniques which I won by skillfully (ahem) waving my arms furiously at the right moment during her presentation. Finally, thanks to Shaan Hurley for welcoming me to the blog fold. Here is one of the more sensible shots I have of him at AU 2006. You really don’t want to see the others.

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Autodesk University 2006 Video

I didn’t make this video and it’s old news, but as I contributed some photos and I’m in it, I guess I’m entitled to link to it in my blog now I have one. If nothing else, you can use it to see what I look like (unfortunately). Except I now look different. By the way, I meant everything I said in this video. Autodesk University is an awesome event. Created by Helge Brettschneider, originally posted on Between The Lines by Shaan Hurley. YouTube Link

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