If you’re a full time professional software developer, this is likely old news. For the rest of those who fall into the “Self-taught”, “Part Time” or “Recreational” category it may surprise you that Microsoft has a magazine dedicated to software development.
MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) has put out the MSDN Magazine for almost 2 decades. You can access old issues here…
Did you know Autodesk makes extensive use of several open source technologies in their products? If you’re curious, they maintain a list as well as the distributions. Click Here if you want to check it out.
It’s no secret that Autodesk regularly changes their pricing structure. Here are some upcoming changes you should be aware of….
NEW “Multi-User” Subscriptions for “Collections” will increase an estimated 33% on February 7, 2020.
NEW “Multi-User” Subscriptions for “Single Products” will increase an estimated 14% on February 7, 2020.
It’s my understanding that existing multi-user licenses that are renewed are not subject to the price increase.
Reading between the lines, it appears Autodesk is slowly trying to eliminate network licenses. Obviously, they would rather sell you two licenses as opposed to have you share onE between two users.
Based on over a hundred hours of license usage research in my last two employers in the MEP Engineering and Construction space, here’s the breakdown I’ve seen…
2 to 3 Engineers can share a single license (this is what Autodesk wants to reign in)
1 to 1 User to License ratio for trade detailers
1/3 of company users fall into the very low usage…”once or twice a month” or “once a week for a half hour” category (if you have enough network license capacity)
What Autodesk fails to realize (or ignores) is that there are a couple reasons network licenses are important even if you can’t share a license. Those are the last two of the above bullet points.
1) Very Low Usage
Users who “Would” use products but don’t “Need” then get access. This can lead to future sales if usage increases. It can also help promote product knowledge to a larger audience.
2) Licensing Usage Analytics
If you’re trying to migrate users from AutoCAD to Revit, or implement other product roll outs, analytics are important to gauge adoption. It also helps you plan for the future.
Yes, Autodesk has some analytics but they’re completely inadequate for anything truly meaningful. In fact, they’re often misleading which lends itself to over licensing…which they like. For a better reporting tool, check out JTB Flex Report.
A Word About Perpetual Maintenance Subscriptions
There’s still some folks hanging on to their old perpetual maintenance licenses. Let me tell you here and now that’s a waste of time and money. On August 31, 2019, Autodesk ended support for 2010 and older versions. There’s no guarantee your old products will activate into the future.
As a lot of customers are finding this year, 3 years in to subscriptions, it’s cheaper to convert to subscription than maintain a perpetual seat. Perpetual seats are anticipated to increase another 20%. Additionally, if you convert to subscription now, it’s still cheaper than a new subscription. Autodesk has announced that Perpetuals converted to Subscription will not have any more than a 5% increase every OTHER year through 2028. This means you’re converted seat will be cheaper than a new subscription for a long time.
Yet another reason is that Autodesk controls licensing. It’s 100% in their control. Let’s take Navis Manage as an example. You could keep hanging on to it but all they have to do is say it’s no longer a valid product…it’s ends of life. And your only option is to buy a full new subscription of this new “Navis Quantum” product (I just made that up….just like they can) that replaces it.
The last reason to switch to subscription now, it’s your last chance. I’m hearing that in May 2020, you’ll no longer be able to convert your perpetual license to subscription. This means they can jack up the perpetual maintenance as high as they want and if you don’t like it, you’re left dropping it and buying a full subscription seat. If you’v been around long enough, you know they’ll run a promotion here and there offering a discount to convert to the few remaining holdouts. But the promotional discounts typically only applies to the first year…every other year you’re paying the full subscription costs.
If you’re still on maintenance, consider switching before May. For more information on Maintenance to Subscription, check out this Autodesk FAQ.
PS: Autodesk’s Fiscal Year End is January 31. Now’s the perfect time to make the changes to your licensing. I always structure mine to renew in January for that reason.
My apologies for misleading headline, but I feel the issue is important enough to grab your attention with.
To start, I’m not aware of any upcoming enforcement action by Autodesk regarding their BIM360 Docs service. But that doesn’t mean it’s not coming. Project teams may get hit like a ton of bricks if they are not prepared. When it’s about to happen, nobody knows.
Dude! Why The Alarmist Tone?
If you’ve been around the Autodesk ecosystem long enough, you’ll know Autodesk has always supported enforcement of software licensing. It’s speculated the rise of AutoCAD’s popularity was because of the ease of pirating back in the day. But as Autodesk grew, so did their enforcement activities. These activities include software licensing audits of which I’ve participated in two (100% compliant I might add)
I’m a firm believer in Intellectual Property rights (IP) and applaud Autodesk’s efforts to protect their investment. With this I have no problem.
Times Have Changed
Things have changed in recent years. Typical pirating of desktop software was either an intentional or negligent act. With current subscription models and cloud based services, piracy is a much smaller issue now that it once was. This new economy of subscription licenses and cloud services should render licensing concerns a thing of the past right? Wrong!
If you were a user of the old A360 based Collaboration for Revit platform (C4R), you might recall about October 2017 (if I recall correctly) many project teams across the US were unable to work. Call it an “oversight” or “defect”, call it what you want. The issue was C4R was not properly enforcing licensing. To be clear, it wasn’t enforced at all…until it was.
To make matters worse, your company could assign licenses to your users, or another partner on the project could provide the licenses. It’s not real clear where you’re ability to “use” C4R was coming from because even without a license, you could view the files on the web. Inquires to Autodesk would always result in no help citing privacy concerns.
Needless to say, once Autodesk “flipped the switch“, project teams all over had users unable to work until they procured more licenses. Autodesk responded that a notice was posted in the public Autodesk forums. It also wasn’t possible to Email everyone involved despite having Autodesk ID’s be the user’s Email address. Not sure how they said that with a straight face.
In short, Autodesk has a confusing licensing model, was not helpful to customers trying to understand their compliance, allowed easy inadvertent over usage and then pulled the plug. Oops. Guess we won’t do that again.
Looks Like Déjà Vu(All Over Again)
Did you know, BIM360 Docs licensing is also NOT being enforced currently. Additionally, license usage and counts are not available in your accounts portal either like your other products. Simply put, BIM360 Docs licenses are automatically assigned/unassigned as you add or removed project members on your BIM360 Docs account.
The only place to find your current status is from the Account Admin page and clicking on the Analytics menu. Here, you can see I clearly added 61 users when there’s only 12 licences available. Each users had NO functional limitations.
And it only gets worse from here. Any Project Administrator can add anyone to your account they want. In fact, you Want project administrators so they can efficiently on-board your team members. You may even make other trade partners outside your firm Project Administrators so they can on-board their own staff. The issue is, Project Administrators have no access to view licensing usage, only the Account Administrator which you don’t want to give wide access to.
So here you have a situation where you can easily become over consumed and not realize it. Autodesk assures me they do routine audits and allow people to “true up” or they shut the licenses down. But given past history, are you confident the right person will get notice? Are you confident enforcement won’t be turned on and your project won’t get shut down for a couple of days while your order is placed?
The Bigger Issue
For such a large company so focused on software compliance (historically), it seems very odd to me that this is the second “oops“. And it seems ironic that for something that should be so simple like Cloud Service licensing, that it can be so horribly confusing.
“BIM360 Docs licenses are automatically assigned. They don’t stay with the user. However, you get one for free with BIM360 Design which a user can take with them.”
Does the person managing your licensing know what that means?
And it’s just disappointing that it’s so easy to become “over-licensed” with very little visibility. They let everyone into the concert with no security, shut the door and just as the band start playing, announce they you all didn’t have enough tickets.
Call me a conspiracy theorist but it is starting to appear like this is an intentional deployment and utilization strategy. Get teams dependent on the product, then pass around the collection plate.
One Final Complaint
If you’ve heard enough, you may not want me to point out that Autodesk likely collects revenue for multiple of the same licenses for the very same users. Seriously, stop reading if you’d prefer to remain in the dark.
BIM360 Docs licensing (to be “legal”) requires licenses for every active member in an accounts membership list. If I host a BIM360 project for the entire team and the team wants to use BIM360 Docs, I need licenses for the entire project team. Sounds reasonable. But there are other projects hosted by other firms. My team needs access to those as well. Those firms are paying for licenses (if they’re legal) for my team…who already has licenses from my account.
The Conclusion – I Promise
In my opinion, there is no excuse for the confusing, sloppy mess that is BIM360 licensing. It’s not hard. Others like Adobe and Microsoft have figured it out.
I’m not someone who’s against BIM360. It’s done great things for project teams and workflow. Seriously! But somebody really needs to start raising awareness to these types of issues. While we’re all giddy little nerds with a cool new toy doing neat things, as an industry, we’re neglecting the legal terms and other business risks. It’s not as fun but it’s just as important. I hope others start raising these types of issues or I’d expect more of the same from Autodesk.
Back in the day, I briefly worked for an Autodesk reseller. This particular reseller was classified as an “Education Reseller”. In short, this meant they were one of a few resellers that sold Autodesk products into the educational market (high schools, universities etc.).
As you can imagine, a school would likely have most of not all the products. Back then, Autodesk provided a complete list of all the products and their recommended install order. Fast forward to today, they’ve either gotten incredibly lazy or in all their massive layoffs over the years, the domain knowledge is gone. I suspect both.
Take a look at Autodesk’s current recommended install order from this link. which was last updated 6/6/2018 at the time of this writing. In the event the link changes, here’s what they say…
What’s wrong is that they tell you within the same product year, the install order doesn’t matter. This is outright false for many reasons. They try to note a couple “exceptions” stating that if there’s any add-ins, the base product should be installed first. But which products have add-ins to what other products?
CADmep is obviously running on top of AutoCAD so AutoCAD should be installed first. That seems obvious. But Navis also installs Exporters depending which products it finds and it doesn’t always show up in an Add-ins tab. So this is less obvious. Buy there’s also other dependencies that are even more obscure. Should you install Revit or Inventor? Should either go before or after 3ds Max? This is less obvious to most users.
This is really why someone would ask that question. It’s a real dis-service then to start out telling them it doesn’t matter. In fact, it matters most of the time, and it doesn’t matter as the “Special consideration”.
Determining The Real Install Order
There’s a few ways to handle this. If you’ve been around a while and had one of the old “Design Suites”, install in the same order as the Design Suite did. But note that this did change between product years and types of Suites. Plant Deign Suite 2013 for instance installed Autodesk before Revit where as Building Design Suite 2016 installed Revit before AutoCAD.
One of the other ways is to look at the install media folders to see if you can find any dependencies. Take for example 3ds Max. Look in the x86 or x64 folders and you’ll see references to Revit and Inventor.
This means we should install Revit and Inventor before installing 3ds Max. But what if we’re using both Inventor and Revit? Which of those goes first?
You’ll see the RXI folder in the install files. Hard to tell what it is. When you drill into the folder, there’s just a single MSI. If you right-click on it and select Properties and do to the Details tab, you can see it’s Revit Interoperability for Revit. Other folders deeper in the structure also confirm this by their naming,
Based on this findings, it suggests installing Revit first so Inventor can see it and install the Interoperability tools.
Here’s My Order
So, if you’re an Autodesk Fabrication user, here’s what I typically do (and why)….
Revit(doesn’t seem to depend on anything else)
AutoCAD(I can’t find a dependency for AutoCAD. But anything with an Object Enabler will want it here and it’s a core product so as a matter of safety, I install it early just in case)
AutoCAD based Verticals like MEP, Arch, etc.(These use AutoCAD as its core. I’ve not checked dependencies between verticals but it’s likely safe to install them in any order. I usually do Arch first if I’m going to include it as MEP is built on top of Arch but it’s really not needed as MEP installs what it needs)
Inventor(because of the Revit dependency covered earlier)
3ds Max (because of the Revit/Inventor dependencies)
Navis – Freedom/Simulate/Manage(Navis exporters only install for products already installed so we install this toward the end)
Fabrication CADmep(allows CADmep Object Enablers to install for Acad, Navis, etc.)
Fabrication – EST/CAM/etc.(order doesn’t matter)
If there’s anything on the list you don’t use, just skip it. If you happen to install Navis before some of the dependent products, just use “Add/Remove Programs” in Windows Control Panel to modify the install to include new exporters or download the Exporter installs separately from Autodesk’s web site.
For those running network licenses of Autodesk products, you can get a jump on your 2020 product roll-out by upgrading your FlexLM versions now.
Autodesk 2020 product versions will require FlexLM v126.96.36.199 or later. You can read more about it and download from Autodesk web site here.
To verify your version of FlexLM, browse to the install location on your license server and look for any of the following files…
Right-click on any of the files and select Properties. From the Details tab, look for the Product version line and verify the number is at least 188.8.131.52 or later.
If you have an older version, perform the following steps…
Download the proper MSI installer from Autodesk’s web site here.
Stop/Terminate the FlexLM service on your network license server.
Backup the FlexLM files listed earlier in the event you have issues.
Install the MSI locally on your computer and browse to location you just installed.
Copy the files from your local install to the network license server install location.
Verify the files properties to make sure they are the proper version.
Restart your FlexLM license service and check it’s status.
Test launching some Autodesk products to make sure licenses are being served properly.
Options: You can then uninstall the MSI you just installed locally as it’s only purpose was to extract the FlexLM program files.
That’s it. Your next step will be up update licenses once the products are released.
You don’t actually need to install the MSI files to extract out the FlexLM program files and daemon executable. There’s a free/open source utility called LessMSI which will extract files from an MSI file.
You can download LessMSI from here. Using this utility, you can use either a command line version or GUI to extract files embedded in an MSI file without installing it. An image if the program’s dialog is shown below showing the contents of the FlexLM MSI file.
If you use Revit’s Fabrication Parts, CADmep or any of the other Autodesk Fabrication products like ESTmep or CAMduct, you use ITM content. ITM files can be tricky and time consuming to build. If you don’t want to tackle it yourself or just done have time, I recommend Virtual Building Supply (https://itembuilders.com).
There are other companies that will build ITM content for you but their quality varies. Nibco as an example, is two companies removed from the firm that produces their content. As that firm has had some questionable business practices, I won’t get into detail other than to say I can tell just by looking at an ITM if they created it. If they did, I won’t use it.
There’s a few Autrodesk resellers as well who will build ITM content slightly cheaper but don’t put the quality or extra data associated with it into their work.
Virtual Building Supply on the other hand is run and operated by industry insiders. They’ve installed pipe. They’ve managed Autodesk Fabrication databases. They know their stuff.
If you browse to their downloads page, the have a few things you might be interested in…
PDF Catalog of Fabrication Patterns
IEZ Service Import File w/All Default Pattern Numbers
While applicable to my career over a decade ago, I normally wouldn’t cover news on ArtCAM. It’s not relevant in my current professional life. However I find this interesting and noteworthy which is why it caught my eye.
ArtCAM History 101
In 2014, Autodesk acquired a CAM software developer named Delcam. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delcam) Delcam was based in the United Kingdom and wasn’t as widely known as some of the big players like MasterCAM, Gibbs, Esprit or any number of others. Delcam was different. Instead of a few well selling products, they had a vast portfolio of CAM smaller solutions for niche markets like jewelry and footwear.
Autodesk on the other hand is a large volume software company. They don’t do “niche” very well. The smart play was to leave Delcam alone. This lasted for a few years but that recently ended.
One of their more popular products was ArtCAM. I supported it at one of my past employers over a decade ago. Earlier this year, Autodesk announced they were discontinuing ArtCAM to the dismay of it’s users. This was no surprise as Autodesk has a long history of acquiring software and companies and realigning or discontinuing products. You can see a list of most of them on Steve Johnson’s blog here…https://www.cadnauseam.com/autodesk-graveyard/
Departing from Historical Actions
What I do find noteworthy, and I’m just getting around to write about it now despite being month old news, is that they made the decision to sell it off. ArtCAM will continue but from a new company. This typically doesn’t happen. You either take the hit and migrate to what Autodesk wants or you find another product. This time, the product will continue but with a new company and name…Carveco. http://carveco.com/
Why do I find this interesting? It’s no surprise that Autodesk has pretty much abandoned new development of Fabrication CADmep, ESTmep and CAMduct. All their efforts are focused on Revit’s Fabrication parts. While that eliminates the need for CADmep for many, there’s still no clear public strategy on ESTmep or CAMduct. It would be nice if they took those products and found a way to spin them off. Granted, it’s harder in this case. They share a common data platform (the Fabrication Configuration) and content with Revit now. None the less, I’m sure there’s a lot of smaller firms that could make a good run of it. They’d just have to partner with Autodesk a little differently than in typical.
What do you say Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost? You’re company helped fracture the MEP industry with your purchase of MAP software in 2012. Only now do we see several 3rd parties emerging and targeting the MEP contractor. How about giving one or two of them a shot…to continue with the value we see in these products?
ActiveX is a framework developed by Microsoft in 1996 which adapts earlier concepts of COM (Component Object Model) and OLE (Object Linking and Embedding). Most people may think of this as Visual Basic (pre .Net era) programming.
This was supposed to fade away as Microsoft moved to the .Net based languages so Autodesk pulled support in the shipping versions of AutoCAD years ago. It was however still available as a separate download for a limited time but that time never arrived. Microsoft kept it around and still today, Autodesk supports VBA, a version of Visual Basic embedded within the Application over half a decade later.
If you’e not interested in programming AutoCAD in VB or VBA but do use AutoLISP, I’d encourage you to keep reading, this article is still for you.
Enabling VBA in AutoCAD
If you want to take a stab at VBA programming in AutoCAD, you’ll need to install the Visual Basic Extension. The extension can be downloaded for 2016 – 2019 versions of AutoCAD from this link….https://tinyurl.com/AcadVBAInstaller
VBA Help for the AutoLISP Programmer
Now, with AutoCAD’s help now Online, you might be tempted to think that it’s the most robust help you can get from Autodesk. Simply typing “F1” will bring up AutoCAD’s help and browsing through the developer documentation, you can find documentation of AutoCAD’s ActiveX Object Model like seen in the following image.
Looking at the above image, the graphic of the Object Model contains no hyperlinks. And there’s no documentation on the Methods, Properties and Events typically available for this type of programming.
If you’re programming in VBA, the VBA Editor has tools for helping navigate this model or provides a lot of Auto Complete functionality when typing code. This doesn’t help anyone trying to program ActiveX from AutoLISP.
This is where the Offline Help comes in. You can access the OffLine Help download page from within AutoCAD by clicking the down arrow next to the question mark in the upper right corner of AutoCAD and then selecting Download Offline Help to download and install the help system.
Once installed, you can configure AutoCAD to use the Offline version of Help by typing Options at the command line and clearing the toggle in the following image.
Once configured, typing “F1” will access the Offline help. One of several added pieces of Documentation which includes the ActiveX Developer’s Guide, is the ActiveX Reference Guide. You can see the graphic of the same Object Model documentation as before, but this one is hyperlinked to documentation of the Objects as well as lists all of the Methods, Properties and Events.
While all of documentation is written with the Visual Basic programmer in mind, the organization of the ActiveX object model and everything else is where you can get all the documentation you need to help translate the function calls to their AutoLISP syntax. When you make a call to (vl-load-com) in AutoLISP, you have access to over 2000 additional AutoLISP functions with a VLR- prefix. These functions are all documented here in the ActiveX Reference Guide in Visual Basic syntax.
In a future post, I’ll explain how to translate the Visual Basic documentation to AutoLISP syntax. If you don’t want to wait, review the ActiveX documentation found in the AutoLISP developer guides…it’s all in there!
One Final Note: You do NOT need to install the VBA Extensions in order to program w/ActiveX from AutoLISP. Just install with Offline Help and you’ll have everything you need.
It’s been a couple weeks since Autodesk University so I thought I’d reflect and recap some of my thoughts.
For starters, I don’t often toot my own horn but I was right. 5 Months ago, one of Autodesk’s Technical Marketing Manager’s posted to LinkedIn how Autodesk University was “Joining forces” with the MEP and Structural Fabricators be eliminating the Monday MEP & Structural Fabricator’s Forum Monday pre-conference with the rest of Autodesk University and replacing it with the “Connect and Construct” pre-conference.
I commented then that this was marketing spin, that there would be less focus on Autodesk Fabrication. I was right. I typically run into 120-130 people every year at Autodesk University. This year I don’t think I broke 80. I’d say only 10% of the MEP contractors I typically run into were there this year. As expected, there were many less Autodesk Fabrication sessions and a lot more BIM360 sales pitches.
You can read the original LinkedIn post and my comment here. It did get me a private Email from Autodesk asking why I was negative toward the event that I was speaking at. As I told them, I’m not negative, but I do feel obligated to correct misconceptions they’re spreading. My industry peers are expecting Fabrication technical content as they’d received in the past and they weren’t getting it this year. Most elected to go to Applied Software’s MEP Force conference instead or skip all together.
There were some compelling keynotes from what I heard (I skip most, too crowded and I can watch online after if I hear they were good), but if you’re a larger progressive MEP contractor, you really didn’t learn a lot from the Connect and Construct summit IMO. They still are trying to tell people that BIM is something we should be doing and we should be using BIM360 this or that. A lot of promises of what the future holds…mining intelligence from your models. I couldn’t help but think…”We had that with Autodesk Fabrication but you broke it by not finishing Revit’s Fabrication Parts and stopping development of CADmep, ESTmep and CAMduct.
Overall, I think the week as a whole was better than last year. I skipped many of my scheduled classes as I was busy talking with others in hallway conversations. This is really why I go and where I get the most value.
If you’re interested in reviewing any of the material presented at Autodesk University, all the 2018 sessions are now online at this link.
Seems to be a lot of 3rd party activity in the MEP contractor space finally after Autodesk’s acquisition of MAP fractured the market. Both GTP’s Stratus product and FabPro1 are making some compelling workflow applications. I’m also aware of about 5 or 6 different Revit based spooling tools either released or nearing release.
Biggest issue for 3rd parties in the MEP contractors space….Autodesk’s lack of enhancing the underlying Fabrication platform. They’e laid off anyone that knows what we need and why…only 4 programmers remain from the original MAP team rumor has it. Most of the 3rd parties have larger teams focused on MEP than Autodesk does now.
Seems to be some increasing acknowledgment by Autodesk that they screwed up a bit with the MEP contractors. It remains to be seen if they do anything about it. There’s several things in play that I can’t speak to (NDA) but I remain hopeful at some point things will start moving again.
Seems to me more people looking to get into the ITM content space. Iv’e had so many conversations I can’t recall what I can and can’t say so I won’t go into details. We’ll see how it goes….it’s a tough platform as the content is not agnostic and highly dependent on each company’s configuration. Recall what I said about 3rd parties hampered by Autodesk not enhancing the Fabrication platform? This is a perfect example.
Outside of the MEP Fabrication world, lot of talk about automation. Hailing from Manufacturing myself, I’ve seen parallels coming for years. Manufacturing leads construction by 10-20 years in just about everything…Parametric modeling, Lean, Product LifeCycle Management (Mfg’s “BIM”). Nice to finally see after spending most of my career working for Manufacturers of construction products and not working for a construction firm manufacturing.
Most striking takeaway….the large volume of contractors employing their own programmers. One General Contractor of about 3000 employees had 10 full time programmers. And it’s not limited to GC’s….a lot of my peers in larger MEP contractors have full time programmers. I suspect this trend will continue as Autodesk is moving too slow and the data each firm really needs is highly unique to their blended data (in and out of BIM).
Forge Devcon (formerly Dev Days) was interesting. The Monday developer conference Dev Days was always my highlight of AU. Then others started piggy backing onto Monday…Conceptual Design Forum, MEP Fab Forum, etc. Working in MEP I had to attend. While I’m disappointed the MEP Fab Forum went away, I’m also glad as I was able to attend some Forge Devcon sessions. That reminds me, I need to start getting back into development.
Less technical and more “Whitepaper” or “Customer Stories” than ever. Seems like a lot more sessions showing you what people are doing but not how they are doing it. Maybe this is what people really want but I really miss some of the hard core technical content you use to get. It’s still there but in less quantities….or I’m just bad at selecting sessions to attend.
Not sure I’ll speak again after over a decade of doing so. There’s less technical sessions…I prefer doing those as opposed to the philosophical “here’s how BIM should work” type of classes. The products our industry needs and uses Autodesk doesn’t promote and they audience is just not there. I could talk about Revit but it’s the same as it was last year with minor improvements. Nothing that would fill a 60 minute session unless I wanted to show all the 3rd party tools and custom code you need to write to finish where they left off. I’ll likely submit a few proposals next year anyway. We’ll see where it goes.